September 23, 2016

23092016

Yesterday I managed to write a lot. I had to bin all of it. There are a number of competitions hitting my inbox at the moment (why they’re all coming through now I’m not sure – I haven’t seen a good one in months), so many in fact that I had to set up a proper schedule to make sure I had something for each of them. There’s five main ones I want to enter, all of which are due across October. The first is due on the 1st and the last is due on the 31st, with the rest scattered somewhere in between. Four are for screen, one for prose. I plugged when each one was due into my calendar then made a spreadsheet for when they’re due, what the competition is, what it entails, and what project I’m planning on entering for each competition.

Luckily, for a few of them, I already have some stuff written than I can throw their way, making entering a matter of filling out forms and maybe writing up a treatment or two. For the others they’re more specific in the theme of the competition and so I’ll have to write something new to match it, which is fun but puts me on a timeline; hence the spreadsheeting. The one that’s due on the 1st is in the latter category and so naturally I started with that one. I had two ideas for it that I spent most of yesterday outlining, first one, then the other. This was the writing that got binned. I can’t necessarily say why but neither idea fit the bill, and neither were exciting me much beyond the original spark, meaning they were unlikely to excite anyone else. So, I binned them. When I say binned them I mean left them in the digital folder they were born in, as well as the mental folder in my mind, where hopefully they’ll get better with age and I can maybe come back to in the future.

Funnily, when it got to the end of the day and I reviewed how I felt about this I found I wasn’t overly upset. This was because I realised I had achieved what I set out to do; sit down for a few hours and try to outline those ideas. Yes, the writing I did in that time turned out not to be my best, but that wasn’t my goal. It’s taken me awhile to learn this, and I think past ventures in other creative fields have helped, but my goal is only ever to attempt the thing I’m trying to do. Not master it, just try. For writing that means my goal isn’t to write the best thing that’s ever been written, or even write the best thing I’ll ever write, my goal is only ever to write. Simply that. To be disciplined enough to sit down, put my hand on the keyboards, and do my best to get some ideas down onto the screen. In other words do something, not nothing; that’s a victory. If I can do that the rest will come with time. Perhaps not me writing the best thing ever written but definitely me writing the best thing I’ve ever written. I’m a big believer in the idea that you’ve got to write the equivalent of ten crappy novels before you can write one good one. That’s just part of the process. Which means that no words written are ever wasted, they’re just the crappy words you’re getting out of the way before you get to the good ones.

++++

Now for some internet bits that I’ve come across this week.

First up is a novella called The Night Cyclist by Stephen Graham Jones that was published on Tor.com. It’s a horror story involving chefs and cycling that I found wonderfully written and engrossing.

+

Next is another video from Futurism about how drones are being used to fight deforestation. That’s got to be one of the best uses for drones I’ve heard so far.

+

Finally, this quick video from TED-ed which uses a number of examples to give an easy to understand visual of what one part in a million means.

+

I’ll leave you with a thought of the week: We are made up of squishy bits so complex that our main squishy bit can’t understand them.

Talk soon

Damian

August 30, 2016

30:08:2016

Currently I am very tired. Tired to the point of my eyes being somewhat bloodshot. There are two reasons for this. Firstly because my day yesterday started at five thirty and ended at midnight, and secondly because once I did go to bed my brain and body refused to sleep. Mostly this was because I had had a really good night recording some podcasts with the guys from Sanspants Radio.

While they host a number of programs the one I participated in is called Movie Maintenance and involves taking a movie, tv series, book, whatever, and basically laying out where you think it did well and where it could be improved. Sometimes even pitching an entirely alternative plotline of your own making to either add or replace the canon of whatever it is you’re doing maintenance on. It’s a lot of fun. I was called in last night to do one on the Wheel of Time series, a sprawling fantasy epic written by Robert Jordan that goes for fourteen books. I’ve been reading and rereading this series since I was in high school and so felt well equipped to sit around and chat about it for a couple of hours. In fact that describes a near perfect evening, which it was. One the adolescent version of me would have been very jealous of. For this one we were looking less at how to improve the series – which doesn’t really need me messing with it too much anyway – and more at how you would adapt it to screen. Mostly though we just talked about what makes it the great series it is. It won’t come out for probably a month or more, as the guys already have a fair back catalogue of pre recorded episodes to upload first, but when it does I’ll relink it here.

My only complaint about the night was that I enjoyed it too much. My brain kept itself awake bubbling with ideas for what other content I could rework. I think what I like most about the practice, other than it’s just fun to sit around and talk about the things I love with like minded people, is that it’s a really good way for me to improve my own story writing. Not only does it cause me to critically analyse other successful stories but it also forces me to fairly quickly try and come up with an alternative plot line that will still hit all the major story structure markers. This kind of quick story generation is great, and allows me to train my brain to take that original spark of an idea and then pass it over to the analytical side of my brain that can tease it out and find the beats of the story within it. A process I currently find challenging, but that will only be improved by practice.

All in all I give it an A+

++++

In other writing news, I had a post recently talking about how I wanted to get simultaneous projects on the go in order to jump from one to the other whenever I found myself flagging, thereby getting the maximum effort from myself on a given day. I didn’t really manage it last week but so far this week it seems to be working well. As of right now I have three writing tabs open (including this blog) and am finding that moving from one to another is keeping my fingers flying. I’m replacing the usual distractions of email or facebook with writing something else, basically tricking myself into writing more. Sneaky.

My major project is still my most recent short story which is coming along really well now and which hopefully I’ll have the first draft of done by the end of the week. I’m pretty excited about this one because I know I’m not going to try and shop it around, instead I’ll record an audio version which I’ll release in mini chapters on this site. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for ages now so it’ll be nice to actually make it happen.

++++

And that’s probably enough of me writing about myself for one day. In order to cleanse the pallet here’s a video from futurism about a company that has designed a floor to harvest the kinetic energy from our footsteps. Which means a dance floor would become some kind of super generator! It truly is an amazing age when you can harness the power of boogie.

Talk soon

Damian

August 21, 2016

P1050052

I was going to share some songs that I’ve been enjoying lately at the end of this blog but instead decided to move them to the start so you can listen to them while you read.

I’m all about the multitasking.

First is a song from an English band called Amber Run. I’ve been really enjoying their sound lately which has elicited more than one steering wheel drumming session while I’ve been driving.

Second is an Australian singer songwriter by the name of Dustin Tebbutt who’s been on my radar for a few years now but who has just recently released his first LP.

++++

The cherry blossoms around my neighbourhood have started to bloom which means that not only will they look gorgeous for the next few weeks opposed to the barren and bare look they exhibit for most of the year, but also that spring is coming; and it’s about damn time. The other side of the globe has had their turn at sunshine and warmth and days that last a full twelve hours, and it’s just about our turn again. I’m very happy about this. It’s about a week and a half off from the calendar version of spring but I feel like it’s already upon us. The last few weeks have provided some sun as well as slight increases in the warmth and duration of that sun and because of this I feel like my motivation and energy levels are beginning to thaw from their winter chill. I’m excited and enthused about being more productive and filling my non-work hours with greater activity – opposed to my more recent endeavours to maintain warmth, eat a lot, and move as little as possible.

The cornerstone of this burgeoning hyperactivity is to write more. I did okay at maintaining a not terrible level of this interest over the winter months (even if this was somewhat interrupted by outside forces as described in my last post) but now want to take it up another notch. I read an interview with the fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss recently and he had a line about how all the time other people spent watching tv, he spent writing. That’s my new goal, to spend as much non-work time as possible writing. To really cut back on my other entertainments and put that time into embedding letters into a digital page.

Part of my plan to achieve this is to start working on multiple projects concurrently. As I’m still very much a novice this is something I haven’t attempted before, only ever working on one project at a time. Pretty much any expert in the field will tell you that to get the most from yourself it’s a good idea to have multiple projects on the go so that when you become stalled with one you can work on the next one, rather than wait around until inspiration hits. So that’s what I’m going to do. When I hit a wall with one project I’ll start on the next one, tasking my subconscious with the job of solving the problem with the first one while I do so. I’m also going to try and vary the type (prose, scripts, blogs, and even some plays) and tone (drama, comedy, children’s etc) of these multiple projects so that when I move from one to another it feels actually feels like I’m doing something different.

The second part of this plan is to continue to educate myself in all things writing. Firstly because when I’m too brain dead at the end of the day I can still move forward with my writing experience by watching a video or listening to a podcast on the topic rather than actually by writing. Secondly because it’s just a great habit to keep. It can seem obvious a thing to do but often I’m so into the practice that I can forget about the theory, and it’s my opinion that you’re never really ever done with the theory. It’s especially a foolhardy thing to neglect when we’re living in the information age, and you can learn just about anything thanks to wonderful people who are willing to share their expertise on the internet. Just last week a Kenyan man won a gold medal at the Olympics in javelin and learned how to throw by watching youtube videos. If that doesn’t inspire you that you can learn real skills through the internet and self educating I don’t know what will.

++++

Finally for a bit of entertainment and amazement a quick video from the people of futurism about roll out solar panels that can be used in disaster areas, and realistically also a number of other situations.

Talk soon

Damian

June 10, 2016

10:06:2016

I have a problem with writing. Mostly, with my feelings towards it. I’ve found I love writing, it’s a challenge, it’s creative, it allows me to turn intangible thoughts and ideas into a form that is not only tangible but shareable and understandable by others; that’s magic. My problem comes from a uncontrollable and frustrating fear associated with it. This fear doesn’t often come on at the start of a project, when an idea hits me and I’m all jazzed about getting it down; it comes later, after that early passion, when the real work starts.

Let me try and explain it. I’ll be a certain percentage into a project, let’s say twenty percent, and mostly I’ve happy with what I’ve written so far and I’m enjoying writing it, when something shifts, and all of a sudden when I think about writing more of the project or I’m sitting at my laptop and have yet to begin, there’s a weird fear in my chest. A pressure.

Annoyingly it’s because I am happy with what I’ve written so far that this pressure exists, because I know exactly what the cause of that pressure is, and it’s me. The fear is one of failure. The failure to write the story as well as I know I can, or believe myself to be able to. It’s a weird combination of arrogance and self doubt. On one hand I have this arrogant belief that I have the talent to write this amazing story, that at my best I’m capable of blowing audiences away with my words, on the other I don’t believe I can live up to and achieve this level of talent that I have put on myself! I’m sure psychologists probably have a term for it, ego fighting your super-ego, or something like that, all I know is it’s confusing.

The worst part about this fear is that sometimes it’s powerful enough to stop me from writing. I distract myself with other things, or start a new project (which is really just a different form of procrastination), or write one of these blogs (as clearly that pressure doesn’t extend to smashing my thoughts down into a post), or just do nothing; all the while a small voice at the back of my head is saying just get over it and finish the project. If I’m lucky I’ll listen to that little voice, who will also remind me, in a calm and friendly tone, that ‘Writing is meant to be fun, so just have fun. Nobody is expecting a masterpiece from you, or really anything from you, so why be afraid?’ Unfortunately there’s also that other voice that speaks with a mean and gravelly tone and says ‘Nobody else may be expecting anything from you, but I am, so be better!’

Clearly I don’t have an answer to this problem, or to those voices, that’s why I wanted to write it down here, and I expect the problem will continue indefinitely, as putting pressure on myself is part of who I am. I also think it’s part of the reason why I can achieve some of the things I do; there’s always pros and cons. I’ll just have to manage it. Coffee helps. I think I’ve created a pavlovian conditioning in myself where now even the smell of coffee puts me in the mind to write. Maybe I’ll just drink more coffee.

++++

To share something more positive than my self doubts I thought I’ll show you this great little video that popped up in my news feed the other day from Futurism about a very cool and, unsurprisingly, futuristic device that allows you to type on any surface, with just your hand, and have it work as a keyboard.

Isn’t the future cool?

++++

Two steps forward and one step back means you’re still moving forward.

Talk soon

Damian