Monthly Archives: June 2019

Hatewords

Yesterday I wrote about 1,300 words and hated all of them.

Well, most of them, anyway. I was working on the WIP, and generally felt like everything I was writing was pretty crude and clumsy. I’ve written a lot here about how sometimes it’s ok to just decide the day is not going to be a good one for creating, and sort of pull the ripcord on it. I still think that’s an important thing to give yourself permission to do, sometimes.

This wasn’t *quite* one of those days, though – I was banging the scene I was working on into some kind of shape, kind of roughing it out, and even though I’m pretty sure when I go back and give it an editing pass that a lot is going to change, it wasn’t quite ‘throw in trash’ bad. I am not proud of what I wrote, and it’s certainly not something I would share with anyone else, but it was a step towards something that I’d give to a reader.

Obviously it’s a fine line. I wasn’t feeling great in terms of what I was producing, but I was *producing*, and in the end much as I felt pretty hostile to what I created (thus the ‘hatewords’ label a friend of mine assigned to them on Twitter), I know it was a step forward that I wouldn’t have taken if I stopped entirely.

Remembering to give myself permission to also produce stuff that isn’t immediately perfect is also important, because it’s obviously easier to fix something that is written but has issues than start from nothing. All stuff I feel like I should know, but obviously need to keep relearning.

Thanks for reading.

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Push

Consider yourself adequately forewarned: this is another running analogy.

Late last week, I had – in terms of time – probably my best run of the summer. (I was also largely fuelled by a payload of fury, but that’s probably not highly relevant. Case in point #9283 that ‘keep your emotions in check’ is a heap of bullshit) I do think it helped that I was Very Angry, and it probably also helped that it started raining a bit partway through (motivation!) but what both of those things really did was get me in a mindset where I was willing and able to push myself.

Yeah, I was getting a bit tired, and yeah, legs a little sore, but that doesn’t necessarily mean slow down. Maintaining max performance necessarily means that it’s going to feel like you’re doing as much as you possibly can. Especially for something that I essentially do for enjoyment, that’s not always the easiest thing to do. Slowing down is both the response my body appears to be angling for, and the one that comes more easily. Which is basically fine – except that it won’t lead to my best running – because running is a hobby. I don’t, however, want my writing to be just a hobby.

I mean, this is far from an earth-shattering observation, but it’s one I do need (apparently) to remind myself of periodically. We can do hard things, but they are still hard. That means both that yeah, it’s ok to find them difficult to do, but also that they’re going to require some perhaps uncomfortable effort to get done.

That’s true for getting the best time out of a run that I can, and also true as I try to get back in the writing groove now that I’m done teaching for the summer. I would really like to get a complete first draft of the WIP knocked out by fall, which is going to require a significant amount of work to achieve. It’s not going to happen if I take it easy and write when I feel like it. I’m going to need to push.

I’ve written before that I also think the ‘write every day’ rule is goofy and that there are times to admit that writing is not going to be a thing that happens on a particular occasion and let yourself off the hook about it. As with most things, there’s a balance to be struck here, between pushing yourself to get the work done and also recognizing limits.

I thought Rich Larson put it well when we had him on Broadcasts from the Wasteland (what is that, you ask? Well, go here) – basically you have to show up for work as a writer, i.e., sit down at <whatever writing technology> and try to get the words going. Some days the answer will be ‘no’ and that’s ok. Most days, you’ll get at least something done. Some days will be outstanding.

The thing is that just like I need to push a bit on the runs, I also can’t just wait around for the days when I feel absolutely overflowing with inspiration to write. Not if I want to be my most productive and have writing perhaps be more than a hobby. (I should say that some of this absolutely depends on my writing friends who are good enough to tolerate writing in the same space as me. 🙂 )

So: pushing myself, to write, and to run.

Thanks for reading.

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Questions and Answers

Every so often, I have one of those days that leaves me with a lot of questions.

Am I any good at what I’m doing?

Do I accomplish anything?

Does any of it matter?

So, reasonably typical bad day. One of the things I often do when I get into that kind of headspace is go for a walk in the woods (which I’m reasonably sure I’ve mentioned before). I find it peaceful and relaxing, and it provides a different perspective, which is always useful when I’m reminded of it.

Today I saw a lot of turtles. In particular there was this one turtle that was very close to the boardwalk I was on and it looked at me, and I looked at it, and there was my reminder. Not that the turtle had any answers – it is, after all, a turtle.

But it also doesn’t have a lot of questions. It’s just doing its thing, enjoying the late afternoon sun on a log, waiting to find something to eat in a minute, possibly wondering what the weird shape looking down at it is. But mostly just being a turtle.

The woodpecker crashing around in the branches shortly afterwards, in all honesty I can’t tell you what the heck it was up to, but it was similarly going about its business. Same for the cedar waxwings, the heron, the chickadees. They’re just doing what they’re capable of doing within the situation that surrounds them.

I find that a useful thing to try to come back to. Ultimately, I do the best that I can and I do what is in me to do. I will probably never have a nice neat, satisfying answer to what that amounts to or means, and I can let that make me unhappy or I can try – best I can – not to worry on it. I can only do what I can, whether that makes me a slick looking heron or an apparent disaster area of a woodpecker, or a serene turtle on a log.

Anyway, this is quite far from the notional purpose of this blog so I’ll try to get back a bit closer to ‘home’ next week. Thanks for reading.

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Kerr Avon

Yesterday, we got the sad news that the actor Paul Darrow passed away. I never met him, nor did I see very much of him out of character any place, so I can’t say I knew him. And yet, the news was very saddening to get, because Paul Darrow played Kerr Avon on the show Blake’s 7, and my, did I love that character.

I wrote a bit about Avon and Blake’s 7 once already, but I’m going to dig a bit more into it today, because Avon is truly one of my very favourite TV characters ever. (Only a very little bit because young, not-experienced-with-accents me really thought they were saying ‘Evan’ for the first couple episodes) It’s a bit odd, in a way, that I have so much affection for Avon, because in some ways he seems to be the kind of character I don’t have a lot of patience with, these days.

To explain – the basic premise of Blake’s 7 is a bunch of escaped criminals in a battle against a totalitarian Federation that rules the galaxy with an iron fist; basically Robin Hood in space, or a cynical flip of Star Trek. Most of the titular Seven are more or less as you’d expect: idealistic to differing degrees, fond of each other, and definitely dedicated to the idea of the Federation’s overthrow.

Not so Kerr Avon, computer crook and embezzler, who is clear enough that his goals are survival, and getting rich. He’s derisive with gusts to contemptuous towards the others, especially as regards any lofty goals. Avon is a cynical pragmatist with, it seems, no time for anything other than what’s best for his own self. Not, in general, the kind of character I dig very much.

The first reason I do enjoy this one is that whatever else is true about him, Avon is fun to watch. The writers gave him a lot of great lines. (Watch this compilation and see if you don’t have at least a little affection) I think this is where people sometimes go wrong with anti-heroes or bleak characters: we’ve gotta at least want to follow them around on some level, and Avon was always worth watching for the next line he might drop on some unsuspecting twit.

The other reason I think the character works is that there’s just enough hints dropped that it’s possible that some or all of the above is an act, or partly an act. Avon talks a good game about ditching the others, but never does it. In fact, he’s always there when needed. He definitely thinks he’s the smartest one in the room, but in terms of actions, he’s always there for the group when it comes down to it. Again, I think there’s a lesson for dark characters, here: there needs to be something that makes us want to be on their side, at least a little.

With Avon, it was relatively easy to do because he was on the team, in the end. Exactly how much, well, that was harder to say. That brings me to one of the things I love about the whole Blake’s 7 series. Wonky as the sets often were, the writing was very well done, and they had the confidence in their audience to deal with some ambiguity. Exactly how much of a selfish jerk was Avon, and how much of it was an act? Hard to say. The final episode, with its gloriously grim ending, with Avon’s ‘Have you betrayed me?‘ (this to Blake, who for much of the last act has seemed to be working for the Federation) can be read in different ways: is this Avon’s arrogance, unable to believe that he’s been outwitted? Is he shocked at the idea of it being Blake who’s the turncoat, rather than the other way around? Or, is he horrified at the idea of betrayal of a friend (a friendship Avon would never have admitted existed)?

We never know, for sure. We never know exactly how much ‘anti’ there was in Avon’s anti-hero, and I love that ambiguity. You genuinely never know exactly what to make of him, and puzzles are always enticing. In sum, although Kerr Avon was undoubtedly a darker type of character than I usually enjoy, there was a lot done right in his creation and performance, and so I liked this particular one a great deal.

Anyway, although I didn’t know Paul Darrow, I am still deeply sad to hear that an actor who gave me a character I loved has gone. I shall enjoy Kerr Avon forever, and think about him – and, of course, Darrow’s performances – whenever I need one of those tricky ‘antihero’ types. Perhaps there was a little Avon in my prickly druid Gwriad, from my D&D game. The good thing about fictional characters is that they do stay with us forever, and so in at least a little way, so do the people who created them and brought them to life.

Thank you, Mr. Darrow.

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