The Where Matters

I’ve been thinking lately about writing.  Not about the how, nor even about the why, but about the where.  The where matters.  Well, to me, at least, it matters.  It matters a great deal.

0C2242BA-2FCF-4416-8D51-B4F3762EAE78Now, look, I’ve talked before about my…uhh…questionable writing habits.  Talked especially about the fact that I write best and most in coffee houses and taprooms.  I am, I should probably add, a creature of habit.  While I can — and do! — walk into any coffee place, brewery or bar and start banging away on my keyboard, I very much tend to go to the same places, at the same times, and do the same things when I write.  

I’m pretty damned sure I’m not alone in having friends and acquaintances come up to me and say, “Writing must be so cool!  You can sit at home and work whenever and however you want!”

Umm…no.  Not even freaking close.

If I stay at home and try to write, both I and my story are fucked.  Oh, I can sit down and start trying to work…but, well, home is not for work.  Home is for distractions.  Whether I end up with the cleanest shelves in Colorado, or a record-breaking winning streak in Football Manager, Screen Shot 2019-02-13 at 9.51.16 AMI will pretty much end the day with anything and everything but actual…you know…writing.

And, no, I do not need you to tell me that I’m weird.  I can do that just fine on my own, thank you very much.

*sigh*

I wish to hell I could write at home.  Life would be much simpler if I could stay at home and work. Unfortunately, even if I somehow could manage to resist the lure of Formula 409 and my current Reading FC save, whatever words I manage to turn out are…flat.  Lifeless.  Boring.*

*None of those things, in case you were wondering, are good when describing written stories…

Okay, look, I do admit that writing just steps away from a limitless supply of beer does help in the creative process — ahem — but that is not, believe it or not, the reason why I love taprooms.  Nope.  It’s counterintuitive as hell, but I need the noise and chaos and distraction that comes with a busy place.  More than that, I need the energy that comes with all that…I need the life.  

Even when I lock myself away behind my earbuds and far-too-loud music, I need that taproom, and all the people in it.

IMG_0728Living up in the mountains, then, is a mistake for me.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love the quiet, and being surrounded by the Rockies, but…

…but it ain’t helpin’ me to write.

It is, in fact, hurting me.

A lot.

Hell, I can barely bang out 600-word blog posts at this point, let alone plan and write a 125,000-word novel…

Drinking beer and writing in the midst of dozens — hundreds, even — of folks is one thing…but when you do the same thing at home alone?img_0032

Err, yeah — All Aboard indeed…

So my question and challenge and thought to all the other writers out there is this: where do you work?  What crazy, unexpected, weird place helps you to really write?

The Bear Got Me

Sooo…I reread my post from Monday.

I reread it, and decided I should probably expand/explain…or at least give a glimpse into how I create (screw up) posts.

Now, I’ve talked before — many times — about the fact that, when an idea comes to you, you don’t try to “save” it, you don’t try to remember it, you don’t assume you can build on it “later,” you write it…you write it right then.  Right-freaking-then.

I don’t care how good you are, I don’t care how hard you try, you will not remember that idea you thought (hoped?) could be “saved.”  Monday’s post is a good example of that; over the weekend, I came up with a couple of different ideas for the coming week.  Those ideas were related, yes, but they very much needed to be separate posts.

I…umm…err…

Well…I screwed up.  I didn’t follow my own advice.  I didn’t write them.  Nope, not me!  I’m good enough, I can ignore my own advice!  Of course I tried to “save” them.

So when, on Monday morning, I finally sat down to turn out a piece for that day, those two ideas weren’t there anymore.  Nope.  Instead, those two separate, individual ideas had got together, drank a bottle of tequila, and spawned the muddled mess that became Monday’s post.

*sigh*

I wish I could say that failing was a one-off — or that it was rare, at least — but I can’t.  Of all the common-sense and effective “rules” I try to follow in my little corner of the writing-universe, “you write it, right then” is the one I screw up the most.  It is also the screw-up I pay-for the most — pay in regret, and in lost opportunities.

But that’s how you learn, people will tell you.  You learn from your mistakes.

Shit, I’ve said that often enough to others…said it so often, I don’t really hear the words anymore.  All too often, those mistakes that are supposed to teach…they don’t.  They do nothing but accuse.  They are that relative that looks at you, even after years apart, and says before even a hello, “Let yourself go a bit, have you?”

I wanted to write a piece, over the weekend, about work and life, about how the “workday” is becoming a thing of the past, a thing surrendered to the gods of “productivity” and “commitment.”  Even as I thought about that, however, another post came to me, this one about our personal enslavement to our screens.  Everyday, seemingly, new stories and studies come out illustrating just how damaging is our addiction to our screens.  Crap, even the freaking Pope is talking about social media and screen-time…

Two pieces, each with something to say.  Two pieces that I (pretty unsuccessfully) shoehorned into one.  

Grrr.0242bd5d-57ba-4872-94ec-34e55141b4a8

Some days the bear really does get you…

Revisiting Those Old Stories

Sooooo…

Well…

I don’t if it’s just me, but…from time to time I feel the need to go back and re-read my old stuff. That is an urge that is, I hope, far less narcissistic than it actually sounds…

Now, for the vast majority of the stuff I’m talking about re-reading, it has been long enough for me to lose that intimacy with the story that makes it so hard, as the writer, to look at things with a distant and unprejudiced eye.

That…umm…ain’t always easy, by the way, and it certainly ain’t all that comfortable. “What the fuck was I thinking?!” is not an uncommon excla…err, question that I scream…err, ask myself.

But, honestly, if you can’t learn from yourself, who the hell can you learn from?

The thing is, I have stuff going back a very long time, and most of it has never seen so much as a hint of the light of day. For very good reasons those stories have never seen that light. But you can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t revisit them.

None of my friends, I should probably add, have to do this. Accountants, managers, sales reps, even brewers for the love of all that’s holy, don’t feel the need to go back re-live their failures and mistakes…

But writers do. We have to.

Of course, most of us are also freaking nuts, so make of that what you will…

All of that is a long-winded way of saying I went back to an old story of mine over the last week or so. I didn’t go back to edit or revise — although the urge to do so was strong — but just to read. To read, and to study and think, and to learn.

I picked this particular story mainly because it was the original one for which I created the basic universe & milieu in which my current sci-fi series is set. I wanted to revisit some specific elements and dynamics, and to re-learn some of what I had  been thinking back then. Even more, I wanted to compare the vast difference in tone and intent I had in that story with what I have now for DockRat.

The process has been…well…humbling is the best word, I think.

The hard part for me is that there are the bones of a good story buried in this piece. I would have to do a total re-write, admittedly, but there is still a good story in there, a story worth telling. Unfortunately, I just don’t know if I have the (masochistic) drive to revisit a 127,000-word story in order to rewrite 60+% of it, no matter what potential it has.

An urge spawned this post, an urge to pick out a scene from that piece and share it here. A scene that still had impact and meaning, a scene that still worked. But…but…

But, I didn’t do that. I didn’t do that because it’s harder than you might think.

Oh, it’s not that I can’t find a scene to use — quite the opposite, in fact — it’s just that, well…I can’t stop revising the damned things. I can’t see past the flaws. Far, far worse, for me, is the fact that I’m not sure the emotional center-of-gravity of the story is where I thought it was when I wrote the damned thing. The “important” scenes I was thinking about appending to this post are somehow less than I once thought, while others have grown in weight and import…

Remember what I once said about doing an “After Action Report” when you finish writing a story? Yeah, this is yet another example of why that whole concept works. I’m still learning from a flawed and broken story that I first envisioned and started writing ten years ago.

Okay, so…well…crap…

Humbling sounds all good and nice in theory, but it can also sometimes make it hard to remember why I chose to give up the paychecks and position I used to have in favor of scribbling stories about the ghosts fluttering around the dark spaces of my mind…

Bad-Beer-Karma, Dysfunctional Heroes, and Ranting Squirrels…

It was a busy weekend in the mountains.

No, I mean that — it was freakin’ BUSY.

This afternoon, I walked into my local watering hole for lunch, only to find the list of crap they did not have to be far longer than what they did. Even worse, they were all-but out of beer. Do yo have any idea just how much penance I will have to do if I drink a Bud Light?*

I’m not sure there’s enough forgiveness in the universe for THAT particular sin. I mean, crap…I’m still paying off my bad-karma from drinking PBR all last summer in Yellowstone, and I’m not sure my beer-soul can handle anymore bad news at this point.

Yeah, yeah, I know…nothin’ but first (mountain) world problems. But they’re MY first-world problems! I demand more, goddammit!

8AA00F9D-7CA9-4FE4-B818-51E2DEFB0817Ummm, wait, what was I saying? Geez, talk about your random ranting-squirrel moment! All I can offer as excuse is brain-numbing frustration. I’m trying to work up a freelance writing piece at the moment, one based on the (crappy) job I took to make ends meet for the moment, and I can’t find the right freaking tone to save my life.

Uhh…

Ahem.

Never mind.

So, I made a joke a while ago about a “potential” fantasy story about a hero who was great at clearing dungeons, but absolute crap at everything else. It was flippant and off-hand and never meant to be anything more than a throw-away line in a blog post…

But I like the idea.

God help me, I really do like the idea.

Which — of course — means that, while I was supposed to be working on my freelance piece, I jotted down a few lines of story intro…

“Gods, Vyr, I stopped the damned goblins. They never laid a finger on you!” Remniras — Remmy, to his friends — complained. “Why are we still talking about this?”
Vyr — Vyrtutus, more properly — just shook his head. He paused to sip at the cup at his elbow, and then to sip some more. He took an unreasonable amount of time to sip, Remmy thought.
Finally, Vyr cleared his throat and explained, “Look, Remmy, it’s not you…it’s me, okay? I just can’t do this anymore. You’ve been a great partner and all that, but I just think I need to try a different path for a while.”
“Wait…you’re dumping me?!” the big, dark-haired warrior roared.

Crap…I have no developed characters, no plot, and no real story…

AB40A58B-257C-4E3F-A8FF-6CCDEA06817BWhat I do have is an urge to work on this darkly comedic/satiric story about a semi-dysfunctional, socially-awkward hero with relationship problems…

Err…sorry…gotta go, now…I got me some characters to work out!

*I ended up drinking Fat Tire, by the way…which, honestly, is nothing more than over-priced Bud Light for hipster assholes. I hate the entire Universe right now.