Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Evolution of Magic

Christmas has always held a special sort of magic for me, especially when I was a child, but even now into my adulthood. There was a certain myth and mystery to the idea that a magical elf-burglar would break into my house while I was sleeping and leave me a large quantity of loot I did not remotely deserve. When the first snow fell I would get a small tingling that would last up until Christmas Day, which would only grow with every light display I passed, or Christmas special I saw on television.

I have never been particularly religious, but the Yule traditions of good will towards your fellow man always appealed to me and do now.

Now, as I am older, the magic of this season still affects me, but it has evolved. Instead of waiting for the sound of sleigh-bells, I look forward to my Staff Sergeant giving me a few days so I can scoot off and visit family who are going to feed me until I grow fat. Instead of hoping for ill-gotten loot from the North Pole, I open a good bottle of scotch with my Uncle John and drink the entirety of it while we talk about things that matter.  Instead of watching “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Garfield’s Christmas”…no, wait, I still do that.

The Christmas and Yule-tide seasons still mean just as much to me as they did when I was ten years old, but the structure of that meaning has changed.

The same thing happens, I think, with our writing. During one of our scotch drinking sessions in the last couple of days, Uncle John asked me what I hoped to achieve with my writing. If you’d asked me this question five years ago, I would have said that I wanted to sell a whole lot of books and get really rich. I would still like to do that, like every other writer, but that desire for fame has been tempered by several years of experience and a genuine love of the craft. Where before I expected that everyone was going to love everything I ever wrote, now I hope that a few people like one of my stories enough to publish it.

I write, now, not for any hope of gain, but for the love of the story I’m writing, and the hope that it will affect someone else the way it affects me.  I have grown to think of myself as a craftsman, pounding away at a piece of writing until it does exactly what I need it to, so I can give it to someone else and it will do what they need it to, as well. The way I look at a story has changed, but it does not mean any less to me. In fact, it might mean a little more.

As we grow, our perspective of things is bound to change. Some people take this is a bad thing. They grow bitter with life, and let the magic of things slip away. Others will refuse to evolve, and spend so much time trying to cling to their past that they forget to enjoy what they’ve got going on now. To grow as writers, and as people, we have to let go of our old notions, and let our views change with the world around us. This is the only way to get better.

I know I said there would be no new posts until the new year, but this came to me as I was laughing at one of my old man’s jokes today and wanted to share it with you. I hope you currently have somewhere you want to be, and someone there to make you laugh.

As always, thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas.

 

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Judgment and Change

There is a man that comes into my gym on a regular basis, and I enjoy judging him.

To those who don’t know me personally, I’m a bit of a Meat Head. I lift often and heavy, and enjoy imagining I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger as I smash and growl my way through my deeply sweaty workout. You can deduce, by the fact that I don’t show people pictures of myself with my shirt off, that I do not, in fact, look like Arnold, but this is one of my favorite lies to tell myself, among many others.

Anyway, there is a man who often comes into my gym; at least as often as me, because I see him every time I’m in there. Each time he comes he does the exact same thing: Shrugs and Bicep Curls. Endless sets of the bloody things. His workout, which is already silly and ineffective, has not changed in the last year, and so his body does not change. He does not grow. He accomplishes nothing.

And I, as I look at myself in the mirror, checking carefully to see if anyone else is around to catch me in my self-adoration, enjoy judging his lack of growth. I shake my head as I think poorly of his routine and roll about in my free-floating feeling of supremacy, much like a pig rolling in its own shit.

This feeling was shattered several days ago, however, when I realized that, much like my bicep curling friend, I was getting nowhere. I walked past my office on my way to the couch – that’s right, I didn’t even sit down at my desk and stare at the cruelly blinking cursor, I just glanced at the bastard as I walked by – and I recognized that my writing life had stalled. I was not growing. I was accomplishing nothing.

People in glass houses shouldn’t take their shirts off and pose in the mirror…or something.

November was a dismal, disappointing, ridiculous month for me. Freshly armed with a bucket-full of new knowledge from the Surrey Writer’s Conference (www.siwc.ca), I approached November with a heap of swagger, intending to take on NaNoWriMo and kick its ass. Instead of kicking anything, I wrote three thousand words in a story I didn’t particularly like, then spent a significant period of time picking my nose and flexing at myself in the mirror. A couple of times I wrote blog posts, talking about how I’d found some inspiration and I was back on the track to awesomeness, only to find myself once again examining the contents of my nasal cavity while I watched You-Tube videos of CT Fletcher and thought about making tacos for dinner. November, largely, was a wasted month, and I feel like the momentum I gained from SiWC was pissed up against the wall like a belly-full of beer after closing time at the pub.

Once I had some self-realization – and put my shirt back on – I thought about why it was that I was doing nothing. Why had all my momentum dried up? I wrote a blog post a couple weeks ago about Making an Impact with your writing, and doing absolutely nothing makes even less of an impact than something that sucks. So what should I be doing?

In the gym, when your progress has stalled, you have to make a change; change your routine, your diet, your schedule, anything. You have to change things up and keep your body guessing so that it responds to the stimulus and is forced to grow.

Perhaps, I thought as I slunk back into my office and sat down at the computer that I’d so often neglected in recent weeks, that your writing muscles are the same as your gym muscles: you have to change things to make them grow.

With these thoughts in mind I’ve been doing some different things. None of them in itself is Earth moving, but I hope that several small shifts will equal one medium sized step, and be just enough to get me going again.

I’ve started reading a book that I wouldn’t normally give much attention to: JK Rowling’s “A Casual Vacancy”. There is no magic, no swords, no hard-bitten detective who pistol-whips people, nothing that would generally catch my attention. It was a certainly a departure from the established norm for Rowling, so perhaps reading it will affect some kind of change on me.

After a good piece of tutelage from Jack Whyte, I’ve started drinking scotch (single malt). I’ve never had much of a taste for it before, but people who drink scotch consistently always swear by it and insist it tastes wonderful. I’ve not gotten to that point yet, but the building of my palette feels like a progression, and right now any kind of progress is good.

I’ve also set aside the story I was working on, that I felt so frustrated by. It is another urban fantasty/horror, based in policing, which is exactly the kind of story I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. And because it’s so similar, perhaps its familiarity is killing my progress. Instead I started re-reading/editing a partially completed piece that I worked on a number of months ago. I have no idea why I abandoned it then, because when I look back on it I find that some of it was actually good and it is certainly a line worth pursuing. I can’t say that I’ve got any real work done on it yet, because I’ve not finished the read-through and put any new copy down, but I think I might get there.

Another thing I’ve decided, as I sit here writing this, is that there’ll be no new blog posts until the New Year. I’m relatively certain the dozen or so people who actually read my blog can probably get by without my foolish rants for the next four weeks, so I’m going to turn my energy away from here for now and try to get some new words down. Hopefully when I return I’ll have some story done, and perhaps something intelligent to say.

There are a lot of reasons why we might get stalled in our writing, or anywhere else in our lives. It happens to everyone. The important thing, I think, is to realize that you are stalled, and then do something about it. I’ve got some things going to affect my own change, and plans for a few more. I hope they work.

At any rate, I’ll let you know how it goes after the New Year hits.

Merry Christmas (Happy Yuletide), and as always, thanks for reading.

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