August 3, 2017

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I like Stu Larsen for a number of reasons. The first is his music, which is acoustic and folky, and ticks all kinds of boxes for me, the second is his backstory. Before becoming a professional musician Stu worked for heritage building society, spending 9 to 5 in a shirt and tie, clean shaven with a neat haircut. Then something happened, possibly his friendship with another musical hero, Passenger, and Stu left it all behind to hit the road and play his songs to whoever would listen. He became a literal vagabond (also the title of his first album), traveled the word on a dime, grew his hair and beard out, and wrote some fine music. The courage of this act is one I think about often, choosing to explore both the world and his art at the expense of his security; and I consider if I will ever choose the same path.

This song comes from his new album, Resolute, and is entitled Going Back to Bowenville; an ode to revisiting his hometown after a lengthy absence.

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Current chain of writing days: 4

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Our brains love connecting dots. Finding patterns. In fact, we’re incredibly good at it, mostly without thinking. The reason, arguably, is that it helps us survive. Being able to spot generalisations, that most of the time a leads to b leads to c, means we’re able to predict occurrences before they happen. Of course, this can have a negative effect. Where the pattern we create is false, or the dots connect to look like a rabbit when it is in fact a duck. Any kind of bigotry could be (partially) blamed on this effect, as could the mistaken belief that people think they can text and drive just because they’ve managed to do it before. Basically, lots of dickish moves could be back grounded by seeing a pattern that doesn’t exist.

However, when a pattern does prove to be correct it can be a joy inducing discovery. This is definitely true when a piece of writing comes together. For anyone who’s ever read a screenwriting book, or had structure preached to them, they’ll know how much pattern recognition resides in writing. While I am a fan of using structure with my writing it is by no means a must, it’s simply one pattern that’s been recognised, and no doubt there are more. The reason I’m a fan though is because there is something in the oldest part of my lizard brain that enjoys the pattern. Something about the structure feels right. It’s the same feeling that comes from watching a movie that’s well rounded, where every thread gets tied up. We’re recognising a pattern, and in story that can be immensely satisfying.

As a writer I believe this feeling is doubled, if not more so, when a story comes together. When you start to approach the finish line it can begin to feel like the story is writing itself, it’s amazing. Resolutions start to line up perfectly with throw away lines you wrote earlier, never planning for them to be more than a detail, but now they’re the perfect call back to you evolving ending. It’s moments like this that feel like you’re discovering a story rather than writing it, but what you’re really doing is recognising a pattern and exploiting it. The pattern in question is an ink blot. It’s an image on one side of a page being mirrored on the other. Knowing this however, doesn’t mean it’s easy to exploit, nor that you should even force yourself to try and do so consciously. My general feeling is that we’re going to write in patterns whether we want to or not. We can’t help it. Our brains love connecting dots.

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The above text was a thought that wouldn’t leave me alone last night as I tried to sleep, so I thought I would try and get it out today; one) to see if it was a valid thought, and two) so I could have a more restful sleep tonight. It came about due to the novella I’m currently writing. As mentioned in previous posts I’ve had some issues getting through the meat of this story, but just this week I seemed to have turned a corner (literally, as I’ve managed to stumble past the midpoint).

With this corner turning has come the above mentioned effect of an almost unseen force setting up pieces in the first half of the story that I can now exploit in the second half of the story; which I really think is just my brain going, ‘Hey, if we make this thing join with that thing it’ll make a pretty pattern.’ Thanks, brain. Whatever it is I’m glad for it because it makes the second half of the story a lot easier to write, and this week alone I’ve managed to average over a thousand words a day.

The novella is far from complete. Apart from the roughly twelve thousand more words I need to write it’s also very much a first draft, one that will benefit greatly from a few outside forces looking at it and pointing out all it’s faults (in a nice way). The second draft will likely be as much work as the first, but hopefully come October (when we’re planning to publish this puppy) it’ll be in good shape, with an underlying pattern that’ll make all our ancient lizard brains smile.

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Remember, you have the power to turn someone’s day around simply by doing a silly walk.

Talk soon

Damian

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