Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Importance of Encouragement

When one normally things of a writer, they imagine someone sitting in a dimly lit room, staring blankly at the sickly glow of their laptop while reels of paper and emptied coffee cups lay strewn about the workstation and floor. To most people, the art of writing is a solitary task; done far away from the prying eyes of those who would critique and deconstruct the master's opus. In many instances, that is the case. From experience, I find it nearly impossible to work if other people are home, or if I'm out in public or otherwise unable to have a private moment. The very fact that people are around me puts me off the process, and makes me worry about interruptions and their little conversations.

On the other hand, I cannot live without sharing my project with people. There's an intoxicating sense of pride in one's work when you sit down with a friend and not only talk about your brilliant idea for the next great American Bestseller, especially when they seem to want to hear what you have to say. It's usually when they start to ask questions, throw suggestions about character relations or plots that most writers would probably become worried and clam up - I was guilty of this myself when I started. But now, as I've grown and become more involved with writing to the point that I wish to make it my profession, I can't help but feel validated and accomplished when my writing sparks the imaginations of my friends.

Whether we like it or not, eventually writers who wish to make money doing what they want to do more than anything else, will need to show people their ideas. After all, the whole point of writing professionally is to make a profit off your story, and in exchange for their money people will want to read something that grips them and makes them want to pick up your next work. While editors are always great sources for tips on how to improve your story, friends and family you trust can become an irreplaceable source of strength and confidence.

Why do we need a source of strength and confidence? Even the most powerful idea loses strength if we dwell on it for too long, or find ourselves intimidated by the mammoth task of putting it down on paper. What's worse is when we eventually fall victim to "Marty McFly Syndrome": where we ask ourselves what if we finish our novel, submit it to the publisher, and they tell us it's no good? What if they tell us "get out of here kid, you got no future"? I don't think I could take that kind of rejection!

Rejection is inevitable, but this is again where that network of support and encouragement comes into play. Whenever we feel depressed by rejection letters or feel the pressure of writing wearing us down, we know that those who truly care will back us up and cheer on. To know that there is someone is in your corner and wants to see you succeed is often just enough to remind us of why we write. Of why we fight.

Those who encourage us are our first - and perhaps most important - fans. As entertainers, we have a responsibility to not let our fans down, especially when they won't let us down.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Time Management and Updates

I think that one of the hardest things for me to do when it comes to writing is staying committed to a set schedule. Growing up, one of my biggest challenges when it came to projects and reports was always doing them on time. Not that I was lazy - I often did the bulk of the research and work in a timely manner, but getting the work done and handed in on time was always a hurdle to cross. Unfortunately, this bad habit has seeped into my writing as well, though I have been working on it even more now. The fact that I'm writing reviews on a biweekly basis has helped discipline my mind and gotten me used to working with a deadline. 

Technically speaking, the root of my characteristic procrastination is not laziness, but rather time management and organization. I'm a substitute teacher, a tutor, and a part-time pharmacy technician, which means that my week-to-week schedule is extremely fluid and changes from day to day. This means that I could have one day where I can totally devote my energies on writing, or barely an hour between jobs in order to squeeze in a page or two. Naturally, this means that my own energies and attention fluctuate wildly. If one suffers, so does the other. Although I have found that having those short sessions forces me to concentrate more and get the work I intend to finish done.

Another topic which lays directly over my time management is that dreaded word that all spontaneous people and procrastinators fear: Organization.

I doubt you could meet a single writer who would ever tell you that writing is a static and orderly process that does exactly what you want it to do. Writing a novel or short story is, if anything, the equivalent of trying to tame a wild animal. We know the nature of the beast, we seek to make it our own, but once you try to take control you find yourself struggling to direct it to go where you want to. The story goes west when you want it to go east, and you sit atop it debating whether to hold the story back and force it to cooperate, letting it run wild and ignore your commands, or help guide it to where it wants to go. If one is unorganized and without the proper tools and knowledge to tame the beast, then we are doomed to be kicked off by the violent life beneath us.

Tackling the twin monsters of Time Management and Organization is a risky venture, though the tools that can defeat one will also master the other. Whenever feasible, I intend to use my mornings to write down outlines and plot ideas. My afternoons (or early evenings) will be devoted to writing a chapter each day, while the nights will be spent mulling over previous chapters in order to add polish and cleanliness. Every evening, I will also be composing an entry for my own personal journal, regardless of my own fatigue. This is to keep my mind focused on the task and my fingers constantly working. During breaks and just before bed, I'll be curling up with the next book I shall be reviewing in order to work through that as well.

How does this affect the blog, one may ask? I'm glad you did.

Starting this coming Sunday: March 27th, I will be making a point of writing a weekly blog entry. That's right: sometime during Sunday every week, expect to see a blog entry posted from here on out. If there is a time when I cannot meet this commitment due to other reasons, I will be tweeting about a make-up date or perhaps posting two in a week to make up for this.

I hope this week is full of fun and excitement for all of you, and that you'll stay tuned for my future updates.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Proper Introductions

Looking back at my inaugural post, I see that there is something seriously lacking. Something that would make for a better, perhaps more palatable way of bringing people to the fold. Something painfully obvious that we all need when starting a new venture:

An introduction.

In that case, let this serve as my introduction, and my first post as but the prologue to my foray into the world of blogging.

My name is Chris, and I am a writer. At least, I am in the sense that I spend every waking moment either thinking about the characters, plots, and little details that take up residence in the free spaces of my mind, or transcribing them onto paper or word documents. Over the course of my life, I've wanted to be a scientist, a game designer, a member of the United States Marine Corps, and a teacher. But all through those ambitions, I have always had a pencil or pen in one hand and a stack of paper in the other. At the age of eight, I was influenced by a steady diet of Disney cartoons, Transformers, sci fi, and other things that we generally loved as children, and wrote my own series about a group of superheroes. It was around this time that I also wrote my first ever serious piece: a romantic Power Rangers fan fiction, which I rewrote at least four or five times. Without knowing it, I was introducing myself not only to the concept of fan fiction, but also the process of outlining, plotting, editing and rewriting. Although it would be years before I would properly, seriously write, my desire to tell stories never waned, especially when I took on other influences.

As I grew and matured, so did my influences and interest in the subjects of history and fantasy. At the age of twelve, I began writing my own fantasy series called Cinina, which was heavily based off my love of the medieval period. Over the next ten years I would constantly rebuild and reform the concepts of Cinina without truly writing more than a few words about it. It was not until my days as a student teacher for a history class that, at the behest of a friend, that I would create Ghosts of Eternity: a roleplaying game that would evolve from a simple adventure game with some friends into a serious piece that has become more focused and organized than anything I've ever written before. As I write this post, I'm still hard at work writing what I hope to be the first installment of the first of several series.

In addition to fantasy, I still retain a passion for science fiction and zombies, which are two subjects I love incorporating into my worlds.

So now we come to the reason that I have emerged out of my shell and into the world of the internet, and what you can expect from this blog as time goes on. By no means do I intend to strictly adhere to a set guideline, as interests and desires are as fluid as the currents of time that move us along. As the title suggests, this blog is about a mind set within two worlds: one of the tangible, and one of the imagination and subconscious. At times, my focus will be on one, at times, there will be offerings from the other. And even other times then there may be a slight blurring of the two. I'll be experimenting with short fiction, excerpts of long fiction, perhaps the occasional poem and even the rare script page if I'm feeling ambitious. As much as I love writing, I am still new and constantly learning the process. The art of writing is as varied and beautiful as any other median, and I intend to explore them all.

At times I will be funny. I will most definitely be serious, and I would hope to occasionally be thought-provoking. Try as I might to avoid it, I may in the future travel down the paths of the personal, as we become more familiar with one another. For now, we shall see where our journey takes us, and make the proper adjustments to the GPS as necessary.

For now, as I said in my prologue, let us take this path together. I welcome all who wish to follow, and I wish all of you the best in achieving your own goals, regardless of what they are.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

From Out of the Matter and Onto the Net

Writers are creatures of duality. On the surface, we seem as normal, healthy, functioning members of society. We go to jobs, we love our families, hang out with friends, pay our taxes and enjoy the most microscopic of life's little pleasures whenever we can. Yet scratch the surface, and you will find that the mind of a writer is constantly working in a world quite different from the one of the body. For even as we function in the normal corporeal world, our minds work furiously on crafting realities of their own imaginations. Bits and components of our life experiences are broken down, scrutinized, and cannibalized to form the mortar of a world we create all within our minds. It is in these worlds that the writer creates life: and for that life the experiences that go with them. As we progress and mature, suffer heartache and headache, pleasure and pain, they do as well. It is a world the writer needs to be connected to in order to survive. To everyone else, it is a world totally of the imagination, but for the writer it is as alive and tangible as any other.

The problem with this world is that it becomes overcrowded so easily. We only have so much mental landscape at our disposal before it becomes necessary to turn our denizens and their homes and worldly possessions into the curves of an ink line or the rapid tapping of keystrokes. It is a strange, therapeutic ritual that eases the mind and yet stimulates it to make new creations. So even in their work, writers live in duality.

That is the way it feels as I write this post. There is so much I wish to say, yet I feel conflicted in how to say it. Like the exclusive group I have talked of, I too live in two worlds: my mind standing as a gateway between the reality of my being, and the reality of my imagination. Yet, I do not know if I have yet to earn the right to include myself in that special group.

Writing has been a part of me since I was old enough to pick up a pencil and put thought onto paper. My fondest, early memories are of lazy summer days, scribbling fan fictions and original works years before I would even know the words "fan fiction", "rewrites", and "outlines". All I knew was that my mind existed in another world, and that my eyes were always focused on two images at once: both as real as could be. Today, though I am more rooted and aware of which is real and which is fantasy, I cannot live in one without acknowledging my citizenship in the other.

For reasons as yet unknown to myself, I find myself sharing what has always been a private and personal journey. First, with my friends. And now, with you, dear readers in parts unknown, who I may never know except from the writings and musings of your souls. Perhaps it is from the most basic and selfish instinct that all writers feel: the instinct to write. The need to be heard.

Here are my words. Let them be heard.