Tag Archives: Writing Crises

Fog and Rain

It was a rainy, misty, foggy day here today and that feels pretty appropriate for writing this blog entry as I have no idea what to write about. That, in turn, is in keeping with how writing has been going the last while for me – it has been a struggle. This book is now, I feel quite certain, the most difficult thing I have ever written. Some of that is because I know I’m challenging myself in what I’m trying to pull off with it, some of it is just … things not coming easily.

I know my energy is very divided between trying to write fiction and trying to do a good job at the day job and trying to make sure I do other things beyond those two. It’s still easy to get down when the time goes by and the words won’t come.

Yesterday I did reach a bit of a milestone in that I believe I have written all the major scenes for the book I’m working on, and now “all” that needs to be done is to shuffle them into the right order and patch over all the transitions. Experience tells me that’s a fair piece of work to go, but it’s still good to have all the main pieces blocked out.

So I have been making progress, it’s just that every time I sit down to write, even when I know exactly what it is I want to do, it has been really very difficult. Every word I’ve written has been a struggle, and I’ve only hit those stretches where things start to really flow and come easily for very brief times.

I’m not writing this to complain or to fish for encouragement. The reason I decided to write about this today (barring, of course, the lack of another good idea) is that a lot of times when I look around on social media I see posts from writers about how they wrote 4,000 words this morning or just finished the third editing pass on their book and meanwhile I’ve just written and deleted the same sentence for the eighth time.

It often seems, I think, and we are often told, that creation is effortless and easy, and so it’s easy to feel discouraged in those moments when it’s not. Must be doing something wrong. Must not be a real writer. The thing is, that as far as I can tell, everyone has these times when creation is, in fact, super hard. It’s just as important (although less fun) to be forthright about that as it is to talk about the times when things are going very well. Difficulty is part of the process. It’s neither a surprise nor a sign that something has gone wrong, near as I can see.

The thing that I am trying very hard to teach myself is that the most important thing is not to abandon the project at times like this, but keep plugging away, scratch out 113 words in an afternoon if that’s the best you can do, and eventually, things ease up.

This is all dangerously close to advice, so I’ll stop for this week. I trust I’ll have something a touch more engaging for you next time. Thanks for reading.

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In Praise of Readers

Late last week I sent out another (by which I really mean ‘the second’) chunk of the current WIP to some Eager Volunteers to see what they thought. I’ve been finding the writing hard going of late and I hoped this might help.

It did.

The Volunteers emailed back almost right away, one having read the piece while plagued by insomnia (which is a decision that’s possible to read in a couple ways, but never mind) and sent back their usual thoughtful response, which included some useful criticism, some questions, and some compliments.

On some level the praise is most obviously useful to me in my current situation. Everyone likes a pat on the head and having someone whose opinion I respect say that they’re enjoying what I’m working on will probably always feel good. So that’s a nice shot of positivity to encourage me to keep working away. It also helps to hear that someone wants to learn more about a particular character, or to know what’s going to happen; I guess obviously a writer is always hoping to generate interest and it’s both pleasing and a relief to know that in at least a couple of cases, I’m setting the hook okay.

The criticism is very nearly as useful, though, because concrete areas where the story needs work are better than a sense of generalized unease where I know there are things that aren’t right but not exactly what they are, much less how to fix them. It’s always easier to have something like a bullet list (har) of things that need to be taken care of than a vague idea that Stuff needs to be Fixed. Having people where there’s a strong enough trust that they tell me what they really think, and they know that I really do want to know what they really think, and not just get a pat on the head, is (as I am discovering) both rare and incredibly valuable.

The questions never cease to fascinate me, because the things readers are intrigued by and want to know more about seem always to include things that I never anticipated. I wrote a while ago about how a character in The King in Darkness that I didn’t think anyone would have any particular interest in ended up getting a scene added to the final draft to finish their story, because readers kept asking about it. So it already is with this piece, and what it mostly does is make me happy that what I’m writing can be interpreted and understood in a variety of ways (because if a reader understood it exactly the same way as I do, writing it, they wouldn’t have some of these questions), which is something I always enjoy when I’m reading and very much want to create when I’m writing. It also gives me ideas for things to do next, which is also very valuable.

All of which to say that the responses I get from my Eager Volunteers is a treasure to me as a writer, and makes my task in creating the story so much easier and the final project immeasurably better. I have had a good number of genuinely well-meaning people offer to take on the task and had it not work out (which I completely understand – if nothing else, it’s not easy to devote some of one’s precious store of free time to reading something they may not even like), so that makes the people who are willing to put in the time struggling through a rough-hewn story and then also take the time to share their responses and reactions to it with me a very special breed.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank them once again, because I appreciate what they do more than I can say. Perhaps I’ll pay my debt some day. Thank you very much indeed.

I am also aware that I owe a similar debt to each and every one of my readers, without whom my stories would be silent words on the page and none of my characters, who I love very much, would ever have a chance to live. If you’ve read one of my stories, and thereby given some of my made-up people a home in your imagination, at least for a while, I thank you as well.

It is, of course, a truism that without readers there are really no writers in a meaningful sense, but sometimes it’s the obviously true facts that need to be acknowledged. I’m grateful to everyone who has ever taken the time to read one of my stories; I can think of few better compliments for a writer than ‘I would like to spend some time with your imagination’. I am especially grateful to the readers who let me know what they thought about what they read. A lot of it makes me better, and all of it helps me want to write more. Without writers, people have nothing to read, and without readers, it would be the next thing to impossible to call oneself a writer.

So once again, I thank my readers.

Now to try to do some more of my half of the bargain.

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Evan vs. Time

Last week I wrote about struggling to get my brain to decide which idea we’re going to work on through the summer. I, uh, haven’t really settled that one yet because of another issue. I have recently started a new job (which is good) but adding it to my schedule along with the other job and things like getting to the gym and other necessaries of life has meant that it’s been difficult over the past while to find time to get writing done on anything at all.

This is all basically all fine and I certainly have nothing to complain about, not really, but I do need to determine where I can rope off some parts of my days to devote to creating new work. Part of the problem is that I am a person who tends to like routines. I like to be able to move through a regular, predictable schedule and know in my mind that ‘it is now time to do X, and then after lunch, do Y’. I also know it’s not particularly realistic to expect life to be that way forever, when one of my established routines gets flipped over, I run around with my head on fire for a while trying to figure out where to put all the pieces again. During that time I’m not super productive.

It takes me a while to see the gaps in my schedule and then figure out what to stick in them, whether a particular chunk of time is going to make sense for going for a run or writing some junk or petting the cat. Because the whole thing is a bit stressful for me it’s very easy to give myself more ‘petting the cat’ time than is really necessary rather than fill time with something challenging. I need to consistently remind myself that although writing sure does take energy, it is a net positive in terms of my mental state and energy level, because of how good it feels to get a piece of it done and to have created something I think is pretty good.

(I scribbled off the skeleton of a little scene in between things yesterday, and I think it works pretty well, and that made me head off to work with a smile.)

Another part of the difficulty with just grabbing a spare hour here or there and getting some writing in is that it often seems to take a while for me to get into writing ‘mode’. I’ve written about this before. When I first sit down to write, I will often spend a significant chunk of time writing a few words, erasing them, writing a sentence, fretting about it, checking Twitter for a second, then coming back and erasing the sentence. Then, and I never know exactly when this is going to happen, there is an almost audible ‘thunk’ inside my brain as the mind-gears shift over into their creative writing configuration and I can start to produce something useful. I have never figured out what the trigger is, and if I ever do I will get immensely more productive. As it stands, it means that ‘just sit down and write for a half hour’ doesn’t always work out as well in practice as it does in theory, because I may spend most of that half hour waiting on the mind-gears.

Going back to the ‘routine’ issue, it does seem that if I have established a certain time as ‘writing time’, the mind-gears do their clunk more quickly. I rather doubt that this is anything particular about my brain and the way it works (although I’m the first to admit that it is a very odd little brain) and that somewhere out there is a very nice person who works in psychology or something screaming ‘OF COURSE’ at their screen.  I also know that finding time for art is something every creative person struggles with, and there’s nothing special happening with me, but this is, after all, my blog and so I guess I’m gonna write about me.

This entry is really just me fumbling through figuring out what works and doesn’t work for having me be a productive writer, as I continue to try to do that more consistently and more seriously than I have in the past. It’s useful for me to articulate all this in writing, as it usually is for me with whatever ideas I’m wrestling with currently, so you get this blog entry today. Maybe it was interesting or useful on some level. I hope so.


Down here below the line I have something rather more exciting for you – I can now confirm that I will be at Ottawa ComicCon later this month! Renaissance Press will have a table there through the whole weekend, which sounds like it will a super rad couple of days of SFF-y indulgence. I will be at the table on Sunday if you would like to say hi and get a copy of King in Darkness direct from my grubby wee paws. I’d love it if you did.

I also want to thank all of you who came to CAPE in Cornwall a couple weekends back; my spies tell me that a good number of you took my book home with you or had nice things to say about it and I’m very grateful for both. I hope to be able to make the trip down next summer.

As ever, thanks for reading.

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Return of the X-Files

Just a couple weeks ago I wrote about my affection for the old X-Files series, as I’ve been rewatching them on Netflix and in anticipation of the new miniseries, which has now aired its first two episodes (as I write this – by the time it’s posted #3 will have shown as well). I also did a little reaction thing to (finally) seeing the new Star Wars film, so I thought I would do the same for the return of X-Files this week.

On the whole, I liked the first two episodes very much. I have seen a lot of criticism for the first one for being heavy on the monologues and for unreeling an immense convolution of plot, and some of that is probably fair. On the other hand, from the first scene where we got Scully’s ‘oh this is bullshit’ expression back again, the X-Files had returned and it was, for me, like having some old friends visit for a little while.

These kind of things are always a little risky; I mentioned a while ago about how much I had looked forward to a new Star Wars, only to have Phantom Menace appear. It could not have been such a heavy disappointment if I hadn’t wanted it to be good so very much. It’s kind of like a favourite musician on a comeback tour or an athlete trying to come out of retirement; you have great memories of them, you want them to do well and to give you some more magic, and yet you can’t help but be a little worried the whole time about it not being quite the same.

I think X-Files has – so far – done about as well as they could have in giving fans More X-Files, which is probably all they intend to do. I don’t expect any bold new direction for the series at this stage of the game. It was probably a bit of a gamble to plop the tangled coils of the show’s Alien Conspiracy plotline down right out of the gate, but the intricate strands of the schemes that enmesh Mulder and Scully has really always been part of what you sign up for when you watch the series. You either dig it or you don’t, and most of the time I find the scope and scale of the plots our agents find themselves up against joyfully fantastic, and as I said in my previous blog on this, that they match themselves up against these apparently titanic opponents is part of why I love these characters.

We did get classic Mulder and Scully back, too – Duchovny still has the boyish enthusiasm for the wild ideas Mulder wants to believe in that comes bubbling out from an understandably weathered demeanour. Gillian Anderson’s performance is everything I could have wanted; Scully the sceptic is still there, but you can also see the affection and concern she has for her butterfly-chasing partner that she’s been through so much with. Mitch Pileggi has somehow gotten younger.

After only two hours (ish) of TV the new X-Files has already given us stealth UFOs, amphibious babies, Cancer Man, telekinesis and suicide by letter opener. Again, it’s not anything that breaks the mold for the show, but it certainly uses the original mold to cast some new stories that sit pretty comfortably on the shelf next to the old ones.

Along with the delightfully gonzo stuff that X-Files has always, at it’s best, dished out, we also got some moments of perhaps surprising poignancy. In the first new episode, there was a wonderful spot where we watched Scully slide into a sort of resigned despair as she realizes that Mulder is, once again, flipped over into True Believer mode and isn’t seeing anything other than what he wants to.

One final thing that struck me that did seem to me different from the original series experience also came in the first episode where Mulder is unspooling the grand conspiracy as he sees it, and suddenly there were right wing standbys like the FEMA camps thrown in there as well. I half expected him to say the government was coming for everyone’s guns.

Conspiracy as an idea is in an interesting place these days; with the revelations about NSA monitoring (along with their various accomplices) people are more apt than ever to believe that there really are things being done by their government that they’re not aware of and might not approve of. I know people in Canada are far more suspicious of government than I ever remember them being in the past. So it may be that a show like X-Files has to go pretty far to come up with a conspiracy that sounds like it goes beyond what a lot of the audience might suspect is going on in real life. It also seems to me that this vein of explicitly right-wing conspiracy is something that has grown a great deal in the years that X-Files was away. It’ll be interesting to see what the writers do with that, as one of the assumptions about the motivations of the people behind the scenes seems to have changed.

I also realize now that I may have quite a bit to write about this, so I’m gonna leave it for its own entry.

Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased to have X-Files back, at least for a brief while. I’m not sure how long they can continue to make the old formula work, but it’s been fun spending time with these old friends for at least this short visit.


A while back I wrote about George R. R. Martin’s delay in finishing his latest book (I hope reasonably sympathetically) and now I appear to have had my own Martin moment sneak up on me. I had hoped/planned to have the sequel to King in Darkness done by the end of November or beginning of December, and now here we are at the start of February and it still isn’t quite finished.

There’s been some disruption from holidays and other Real Life issues going on and I think that’s the problem more than anything else. I still feel quite positive about the book (which, if you remember my Statler-and-Waldorf issue, is good news) and the feedback from my Eager Volunteers has been encouraging as well. I just need to ruthlessly rope off some time in which to Sit And Write and get this thing knocked out.

So, I’m not quite prepared to call this a Writing Crisis, but flipping the calendar over was a bit sobering. Gonna get to work.


Bit of a short entry this week, for which I apologize to those of you who prefer something more long form. I’m a bit under the weather and also should probably go Write A Thing.

I’ll try to do better the next time.

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Geese and Things

So I have finally gotten a chance to start reading Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning short story collection (and what a treat) and in his Introduction he kicks around the idea of whether or not fiction should be ‘safe’ – whether we should be able to read stories without taking any risk that we will be frightened, upset, or disturbed by what we encounter in them. This is a pretty interesting question and also dovetails so nicely with what I wrote last week about the anti ‘my story made a swear’ app that for a minute I thought about writing this week’s blog entry about it.

Then I remembered Writing Crisis #2 (see previous entry if you’re interested) and that Doing the Same Thing as Neil Gaiman does not end well.

So I won’t do that, but will suggest you go read the Introduction to Trigger Warning, and while you’re at it you may as well read the rest of it too.


I did think about that question and another book I finished recently, Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands With the Devil. If you’re not familiar with it, it describes General Dallaire’s experiences as the commander of the UN mission to Rwanda that was originally tasked with facilitating the implementatin of the Arusha peace agreement and ended up bearing witness to an unspeakable genocide.

This was not an enjoyable read, in any conventional sense of the word. A lot of it was deeply distressing and frustrating and enraging to read, in part because of how saturated the work is with Dallaire’s own pain about what happened in Rwanda. So this was not a ‘safe’ book to consume. I am very glad I read it, though, because I think the issues Dallaire raises about the global community’s collective failure in Rwanda, and the fundamental mistakes in the world’s approach to the crisis in Rwanda, deserve to be heard and are clearly (it seems to me) immediately relevant to problems we grapple with today.

I think it’s an important book, even if it isn’t a safe one. Sometimes it’s fun to read something that isn’t very safe (think Neil Gaiman’s stories), and sometimes it may be good for you. Sometimes the unsafe has something to tell you. Obviously safety is a good thing, but I don’t think it can be the only thing we ever look for. So read something unsafe, I think.

I don’t have much else to say about it, though, so that’s not really going to make a blog entry either.


So still flailing about for something to write about this week, that is kind of uniquely mine, I latched on to something I said on Twitter. About geese.

What? No really.

It is the time of year here when the Canada Geese are doing their big spring migration northwards, so the skies over my house are periodically, but consistently, filled with these immense formations of birds, on their way to various destinations. From time to time you will glance at the sky, and see something there that seems impossibly huge, to be up there, and it is moving and what can this be, and then you will realize that it is not one Big Thing, but just That Many birds, travelling together. If you step outside you can hear them calling to each other as make their pilgrimage; to me it is a pleasant wilderness kind of sound in the middle of my urban world, although obviously your taste may vary.

There has always been something about this that has stirred something in me. When I was small(er), I would run outside the house when the geese were going over, just to hear the sound of it. The birds are quite large (if you haven’t seen them) and they travel in real armadas of the air (which is not at all the right term) and the sight and sound of them rushing overhead, twangs something deep inside me with a sense of Going Somewhere. Time to go, let’s go together. It’s very compelling. If I could fly I’m sure I would have followed along, and ended up in some marshy spot or other, deeply disappointed.

At times it is even reassuring – sometimes there will be only a scattered few geese, perhaps broken off from one of the really big squadrons of birds, still travelling on. It especially strikes me when it is getting dark, and these three or four birds are still going, and still calling to each other. It’s ok. I’m still here, you’re still there. We’ll get there.

(There’s a comparison to be made here, maybe, between this and social media, which I am not up to this morning)

I don’t know how they choose which ‘there’ to head for, how they choose who goes where in their great ragged Vs, or even really how they know and agree that it is Time to Go. I do know that there are great untold adventures in these journeys, stories that we will never know, and just guess at as we watch the sky.

Whatever you were expecting when you came to read the blog today, I bet it wasn’t that. My apologies.


I feel like I should say something about the Hugo Awards ruckus, since I am arguably ‘in the field’ (albeit in the brambly, fence-posty periphery part of it) although I also know I don’t have much standing therein. I am also not deeply familiar with the process whereby the Hugo Awards happen, nor the recent history that has (apparently) brought us to the controversy around this year’s nominations.

So perhaps best to say nothing.

However, to say nothing seems cowardly at best and at worst might appear to endorse a particularly hateful agenda, so I decided in the end not to do that.

All I’m going to say, in the end, is that I firmly believe that the people who oppose diversity in writing, in characters in fiction, and in the world in general, are on the wrong side of history. I suspect that in the roots of their souls they know this, and that is why they lash out in the ways with which many people are familiar. This doesn’t excuse it; no-one should receive death threats for writing a story while being a woman, or having a particular sexual orientation, or belonging to a particular ethnic or cultural group. Trying to silence these voices is flat out wrong and it diminishes us as a people. However, I believe that love really is stronger than hate, that this old world keeps changing, and that history will eventually tell the story of the triumph of diversity.

And yet, if my years as a history student have taught me anything, it is that history is nothing but the actions of people. It is, really, just what people do. So what to do. I don’t have any ideas about what could or should change about the Hugos or the industry or anything along those lines. But, what to do as people who love amazing stories – read works by all kinds of different and diverse authors. When you find ones you like, tell people about them. Give someone the gift of a wonderful story, which is to me one of the best gifts you can ever receive. Give an audience to writers who deserve one and help them find a bigger one. That’s how we, as fans of speculative fiction, can best foster a plurality of voices in the field. To me that might be more important than who wins an award, anyway.

Peux ce que veux. Allons-y.

Anyway, that’s it. I know this week’s entry is a bit of a mess. I’ll try to do better the next time.

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Today I’m going to write about arguably my biggest problem as a writer, even bigger than the Statler and Waldorf thing. It is something that frustrated my PhD supervisor, and frustrates me no end. I live in hope that it may Go Away, but given that it hasn’t yet, I grope around for coping strategies. I imagine every writer has their issues that they struggle with; more than anything, this is mine.

I don’t like to talk about it because it makes me sound like a huge flake, but it has come back in force the last while and maybe writing this will help. Maybe there will be something here that is useful for someone else. So here we go.

The root of the issue is that I am, many experts would agree, one of the all time champion procrastinators. I can put things off virtually forever, especially if there is no hard deadline. And this is where I really frustrate myself, because if you give me a deadline, I do not miss that deadline. I have never handed in an assignment late, as far as I can remember. When someone says, hey, I need this thing by X day, they get it on X day. So I’m perfectly capable of working at a steady pace and working to a schedule and producing work in a limited amount of time. It’s just that without that deadline, whatever parts of my psyche that I engage to do that stay on idle.

So you’ll probably immediately see why this is a problem for writing, especially freelance writing. There is no deadline for me to finish the new project that I’ve started work on in the last while. So, while it shouldn’t be put off, it theoretically can be, essentially forever. I don’t have to work on it today. Tomorrow will be fine.

This was a problem when I reached a certain stage of my PhD, at which there were no more assignments and no more weekly meetings and no more papers to write. It was just ‘go write your thesis’. Initial progress was, to put it mildly, slow. I did even ask my supervisor to give me a deadline for part of it, which she reluctantly did while explaining that it really didn’t work that way any more.

You reach a point where you have to self-motivate, and self discipline. I found it for the dissertation in the end, and got it done, but it was hard. I had to create a bunch of rules for myself (must be working by X time each day, and work at least until X time) to make it happen. Maybe everyone does that. I needed to.

This is not to say that I don’t love to write. I do. Writing is immensely good for my mood and state of mind, and when I get a good piece of it done, I take a kind of satisfaction from it that I get from literally nothing else. The problem is that I am not good at persuading myself to start writing if I’m not in the mood. If I’m tired. If I’m grumpy. If there’s laundry that needs to be done. Again, somewhat frustratingly, even though I know writing will improve my state of mind, I still tend not to do it if I don’t feel myself in ‘the right mood’ to write.

As a result, I haven’t gotten nearly as much done on the new project as I would like. I know what I want to do next, but I keep waiting for the perfect time to get at it, which means not much has happened. Well, a lot of laundry has gotten done. Not all that much writing.

I have read in a couple of places that this is the primary difference between an amateur and a professional. As someone who takes pride in being a professional in my teaching job, gotta say that stings a little. But it’s probably correct. Like most things, though, recognizing that the problem exists is the first step (got that down). Then you try to work on it, which I am.

It’s ok to not solve our problems (whatever they may be) right away. You do your best, you make a conscious effort to change your behaviour in the way that you want or need it to. Every day. Some days, you’ll screw it up and (say) spend the day shooting aliens instead of writing. That’s ok. Recognize that it wasn’t a good idea, give yourself a break for being human, and do better the next day. Day by day, you get there.

I’ve done this successfully with other issues in my life. Still working on it with some others, the procrastination thing prominent among them. I know I have to get a lot better with it if I’m going to be the best writer I can. Working on it every day.

For this project in particular, I’m going to give myself some help with a coping strategy. For the next week, I have some demands at work that are going to keep me pretty busy. However, I’m going to commit to writing 1,000 words in that time anyway, which I should easily be able to get in around the other stuff.  Then, once these work obligations clear up a bit, we’re back on the 1,000 words a day thing, at least until I build some momentum.

Which means I better go write something.

I’ll let you know how it goes next time.

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Well, astonishing in a way to see that this thing is still here.  I had (I swear) intended to get back at this come summer, again, but things happen.

Galvanized into action by a PK Subban tweet (of all things) – you don’t find time, you make time – I am going to make a concerted effort to finish this project ASAP.  To update, I have a very nearly completed first draft of the novel.  It needs (I think) 1 more scene plugged in, and of course scads of work on everything written up to this point.

I don’t think I can realistically commit to 1000 words a day during term, and saying that I will and then not doing it will only be 1) discouraging and 2) motivation to shut things down again.  However, let’s set some short term goals for now:

-Write the final scene over the course of the next 2 weeks. (I have an ace in the hole on this one, and it is called Study Week)

-Updates on the blog at least once a week.

Yeah, that I can commit to.  The good part is that I don’t think the writing I have done so far is entirely horrible, which is so contrary to my usual process that it seems a shame to stop now.

Thanks for reading, anyone that still is.  More updates cometh, including one by the end of the week.


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Neil Gaiman and Writing Crisis #2

The Project forges ahead.  This past Friday was a tough one – I had a long day at work and seriously did not feel the least bit like writing by the time I got home, but fortunately the spectre of horrible public failure was not something I was prepared to confront quite this early in the effort.  So the public accountability part of this thing is working!  I think this might already be the largest piece of fiction writing I have ever done.  In order to check, I’d have to be able to open some of those arcane lost files, so I can’t be sure – but I think so.  I guess the good news is that I still feel like I know where I’m going and I don’t even hate this thing too much yet.

Anyway, by way of content, some thoughts on another of my favorite authors.



I don’t really remember how I got into Neil Gaiman, although I think Commander Rick of the much-lamented Prisoners of Gravity SF/fantasy/comics show is to blame.  That show definitely introduced me to Clive Barker and his cigar, the revelation that Tate and Velasco in The Difference Engine are self-inserts of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, to Gotham by Gaslight and other evidence that comics writing was not necessarily seeing how many terrible cliches you could cram into the dialogue, and may have infected me with Neil Gaiman.  Man, I miss that show.

Anyway Neil Gaiman, however I got the contagion, was like the sudden arrival of a new planet.  Holy crap, where was this before and wow it’s astounding.  I read Neverwhere about a billion times.  While I was in England I bought the entire run of Sandman in trades and read the heck out of that.  I liked it to the point that I paid ridiculous rates to ship it all back across the Atlantic.  I still think Stardust is about the most charming book I have read, and that’s without getting into American Gods or his short stories which never fail to amaze on some level or other.  I’ll confess to not having tracked down his stuff on Hellblazer or Swamp Thing but since Gaiman is also on the short list of authors whose work I just assume is good … well, I just assume it’s real good also.  Even stuff I haven’t liked quite as much, like Anansi Boys, it was like watching your favorite pitcher throw a mere two-hit shutout instead of a no-no.  It’s still pretty darn good by any standard.

However much all of the above is true, Neil Gaiman also led directly to Writing Crisis #2, which was essentially this – Gaiman writes exactly the kind of stories I would like to write.  His stories of the bizarre, the magical and the horrible interspersed and intersecting with the ordinary are more or less exactly the kind of thing I am interested in creating myself.  So given that he already writes this stuff, and does it at such a high level of sheer badassery, is there any reason at all why I should write stuff which is basically the same, but not nearly as good?  My answer was, again, ‘no’, although how I explained it at the time to at least one person was that I didn’t need to write because Gaiman was writing exactly what I wanted to write but better than I could.  What I really meant, though, was that I didn’t see any point in writing things that were basically in Gaiman’s demense except far crappier.  Essentially, if not as good as Gaiman, Surrender Dorothy.

Writing Crisis #2 has only recently been overcome, I have to say, and in part because of the Stephen King intro I started the blog with.  Basically I now think that not writing because my writing is not as good as Neil Gaiman (or whoever) is like not playing the guitar because you’re not as good as Jimi Hendrix or whichever Guitar Hero you want to substitute in.  Presumably one should write because they enjoy the process of creation and they feel like the end product may be enjoyable for whatever reader(s) there end up being, wherever they are on the scale of relative quality.  I’ve been a bit reluctant to put this theory into practice (for reasons which will probably make another update post) but part of the thinking driving The Project, here, is that even if (if?  Fuck it, it’s my blog, we’re going with if) the work is not as good as Gaiman or whoever would produce, someone may still enjoy it.

So writing this thing is vaguely (although here again I set sail boldly into territory I know nothing about, hurrah!) like taking your guitar down to open mic night and seeing if people have a good time or throw vegetables.  And if Neil Gaiman doesn’t like it, well, I bet I’d kick his ass at Ultimate.


Word Count: 15, 309.  So there.

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