Friday, November 15, 2013

Your Writing Task For Today

I have a job for you. I want you, as a writer, to experiment. I want you to do something new. I say a lot of things on this here blog, I give lots of tips and explain a lot of ideas in the craft of writing. But something I should probably stress a little more is the need for you, Mr Write-Pants, to break free from time to time. Do something different. Leave your comfort zone. Go crazy. No, not that crazy. Put the chickens down.

Okay. So here's an exercise for you. It'll only take you five minutes. Go for longer if you like but at least go for five minutes. Alright. Now get your pen and paper or open up your word processor and start a new file. Now write. There are two rules.

Don't think, just write. Some folks call it stream of consciousness. Some folks call it free association. It doesn't matter, just start writing. Don't think about plot or character or setting. Just start hitting the keys and making words. Your five minutes begins from the last letter of the first word.

The other rule is you are not allowed to use a copula. That means no "to be" verbs. No is, was, be, will be, am and so on. You've got to make your sentences with all those verbs that create actual movement.

That's it. Those are the conditions. Have a shot. Post it on dA, or not. I'll do it to and post it in scraps or something. Remember this isn't about creating art, this is about flexing the writer muscle. This is about doing things differently. This is about broadening your horizons. The point isn't write well or write poorly, the point is to write differently.

(I did do it myself. It can be seen here. Due to strong language, only dA members can view it, however.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Soap Box: Climate Change

Alright, so you and I are in a room. A small, empty room. It's a room with only one way in and out but to get out you have to pay a toll. It's not cheap so you really have to want to get out.

So you're standing there at one corner of the room, beside the toll booth and the door and I'm over here in the opposite corner. And I have a machete. A big machete I'm going to use to hack your leg off. It's going to be painful. You're going to be crippled. There's nothing you can do to stop me or slow me down. I'm coming and your leg is mine. The only thing you can do is pay to leave the room.

But then you start to think maybe I don't have a machete after all. Sure it looks like I have one and I've told you I have one but maybe it's an illusion. Or worse, maybe it's a scam between me and the toll booth guy. Or maybe the machete is blunt. It looks a bit rusty, after all. Yeah, that must be it. It's a real machete and I am coming for you but at most it'll be a little inconvenient or leave a small bruise.

On the other hand you might be wrong. And if you are wrong, you save some money but you've lost your leg. Your leg is gone and you are never getting it back. Assuming you don't die a painful and agonising death from having your leg hacked off, you've got to drag yourself to the hospital. Bad news is, as I said, this is an empty room. There's a hospital that might be able to save you outside the room but you've got to pay to get through that toll booth.

Oh yeah, and it's not a free medical service, either. You want to live, you've got to pay. So now you're not just paying the toll to get out of the room, you're paying a whole lot more for life saving treatment because I just hacked your leg off. And there's no guarantee you live. It could well be all over for you even when you get to the hospital, no matter how much you spend.

Alright. But as we've said, it might not come to that. Maybe you feel lucky. Maybe you want to play the odds. I'm afraid I got some bad news for you. Remember how I said the room was small? Well it used to be bigger. Seventy years ago it was a pretty big room but it's been getting small. It's going to keep shrinking, too. Even if I don't actually hurt you, you are going to have to pay to get out of this room eventually because it's only a matter of time before you don't fit in here, anyway.

You're going to have to leave the room eventually. You're going to have to pay the toll. Not paying that toll isn't an option. You do it now or you do it later. So do you want to pay it now or is this room really worth wagering your money on? How about your life?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Time Is A Beast That Must Be Tamed

It's November. November means, for many people, NaNoWriMo. Not for me. I've never done NaNoWriMo. I'm not interested. I've got other stuff I'm doing, I don't need a month to tell me to write fast and write often. I don't need a month to tell me to work on a project. I'm covered. Thanks but no thanks.

Others, however, really get into it. Good for them. I can see why. But what I really like about NaNoWriMo is that they chose November specifically because it is a busy time of year for a lot of people. The closer you get to the end of the year, the more things pile up in life, at work, at school. It can be hard to find that time.

Which brings us to something I hear all year, but especially around November. "I don't have time to write." or "I just can't find the time." I sympathise, I do. I've been a bit time short this year, too. I've had all kinds of time-sucking black holes open up and stealing what used to be prime writing real estate on my clock. Damn.

But let me share a few things with you about my life. Sometimes I have to travel for my job. On any given day it's different and I might have to spend anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours on a train to get where I need to be. I love those two hour train rides. That, friends, is great time for writing. Sure I could watch some movies on my phone, listen to music or read a book but I stash my laptop in my bag and I use that time to write.

Lunch times. I get about 45 minutes for lunch on a standard day. That's writing time.

I've usually got other commitments in the evenings. Two or three nights a week I practise martial arts so that my brain does not rot. One night a week I've got a gaming group I'm a part of. Great fun. Writing is important but so are these. I set aside time for these things and I'm sure you've got hobbies and friends you do and see (respectively) regularly.

At various times in recent history I've had the opportunity to be a part of another gaming group, learn to play an instrument, pick up another language and be a part of various other activities and groups that would have been fun. But in the end I decided not to. I love playing video games but I rarely finish them and I'm usually a good six months behind in what anyone else is playing. I love movies and I love going to the cinema but I usually only see a handful of films a year. There's a lot more I'd like to see, I just don't.

 You might ask why. Why deprive myself of these things?

Because it was cutting into writing time. I made the decision what was important and what wasn't and whenever I do that, writing usually wins.

If you're struggling to find time, you're doing something wrong. But relax, because I can tell you what it is. Your problem is you're trying to find time. If you want time to write, MAKE time. You look at your schedule and you gut it of all the things that are getting in your way. Find out how important writing is to you and anything that's below it goes under the axe.

I'll say it again. You don't find time to write, you make time to write.

Or you stop complaining. If being the top Call of Duty Deathmatch player in town is more important than writing then you've got no problems. You've got all the time to write that you need.

Okay. Now before you get carried away, let me make a few things clear. You NEED time for other things, too. You need time to do some kind of exercise. Your body needs to be healthy to function so get up and do some yoga or something. You also need other people. How much time you need to be with other people so you don't go insane is up to you. I, personally, don't need much. I get more than enough between my martial arts classes and my gaming group. But you need to be around friends. Not only does it keep you sane, you learn how to write people by being around people. You also need at least one other hobby. Bonus points if it is creative. Bonus point if it puts you around other people. But something that you enjoy that isn't writing.

There's a lot of hours in the day. Don't tell me you don't have time to write every one of those days. You do have time, you're just spending it on something else. There are times when you genuinely do not have time to write. That's okay too. It will happen. "Write every day" is a bullshit rule. But write often. As often as you need (note I did not say want) to so you can reach you goals.

You don't FIND time to write. You MAKE time to write.