swan's sililoquy

A bad case of writer's blog


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A Measure of Progress

Writing is hard; it is not an easy thing to do.
Deciding what words to use, what sentences to commit, what meaning to impart and themes to explore. Hard. That’s what she said.

Writing is a trial.
You can spend three hours going nowhere, going in circles, or on the Internet. You can write for days only to realise it’s all garbage (or process writing as it’s sometimes called – i.e. It’s important, but none of it belongs in the final product). I’ve done a lot of this.
It’s frustrating but apparently necessary, at least for me.

Writing is also test of patience. It takes months before you see any visible progress, a couple of years before you finish a draft (especially if you have a day job). Stephen King takes roughly three months per book, but that is his day job, and until recently I had one too.

So writing was never centre stage and never got my full attention, it got blurred eyes and a drained mind at the end of a long day. It got the worst of me. So I’m somewhat proud simply to have said I wrote something.
But still, it took me nearly two years to get my first rough draft done. Two years! All the time thinking is this worth it? Because it’s hard to find the time to write unless you make a few sacrifices elsewhere.

However, since I quit and started doing this nearly full-time I realised one thing.
I realised that unless I had taken this mad break, I never would have finished this at all.
It would soon be a case of life imitating art. I would end up being Brian from family guy. Three years later, with nothing to show for it but idle talk and empty hopes.

It would have driven me mad.

So years or months of writing aside, then once you’re ‘done’ writing the initial draft, well then you start editing.
And that I’m discovering is a whole different type of process, it’s hard reading your own words, two years later, being subjective, and accepting that a lot of it is crap and needs to go. You become less of a writer and more of geologist, the job now is to find the diamonds amongst the coal, and then somehow extract them and make them shine. And if you find some hard nuggets of crap instead, then no polish is going to make them look any better. You cut, flush, delete, and move on.
Now, some people go through eight or nine drafts. Hence the editing component itself can take months, I’ve only been going for three weeks.
Publication (if the manuscript is picked up) can take a year, maybe longer before you actually see it on shelves.
And as of today I’ve only just finished my first review, and by that I mean reading it from cover to cover and identify (colour coding) all the major issues / problems, crap and dead wood I need to cut. And there are a lot. So by my estimate, I have maybe 6/8 months before I can even begin to expect sending query letters.
I need to do it in half that time.

So it’s time consuming, and it’s hard. The payoff is uncertain, and a long way off, if ever…
In effect the whole process is challenging, and somewhat demoralising.
Yet it all pales in comparison to writing the story itself.

Writing a story is a nightmare, a story of self-doubt – beset by questions like – which perspective should I use… first, or third and why? Whose perspective should I use? What plot line should I follow? How many plots is one plot too many? How do I tie it all together? Is there an underlying theme?
It goes on an on, and there’s no one to bounce ideas off. It just doesn’t work that way.
So it’s a thousand possibilities at once and for some unknown reason, you have to pick just one.
Every writer has this problem (I’m not calling myself one yet), but the problems I’m facing are new / the same. New in that these are problems of my own making, this is a project born entirely of my own imagination.
The same in that they are problems faced in most people’s day jobs, especially those in which they do any sort of writing, sales, marketing, etc. You’re tying to tell a story, whether it’s fact or fiction, and it needs to be clear and concise. So you need to choose your words carefully. And if you screw up, or come to realise you’ve made a wrong turn somewhere. Then you have to go back, and decide whether it’s worth trying to salvage, if it can be salvaged at all. Or if you have to simply cut your losses, and start again.

So whether it ‘s business, a book, a blog, or life, it’s a challenge and the same kind of problem.
If you realise you did in fact made the wrong choice somewhere along the line. Then how long do you wait before you do something about it? Years?
Now I’m not one to reference quotes much, if ever (especially not meaningful ones).
But I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research of the last couple of years. Especially prior to this whole crazy ‘change’ and one quote (by C.S Lewis – Witch and the Wardrobe author) caught my attention, mostly because I found it particularly relevant to the choices I was delaying in regards to my career.

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

I had followed the wrong career path. That was the wrong road I found myself on. But I wasn’t doing anything about it. Too scared about losing everything I had worked for over nearly five years and simply because I was measuring progress in terms of the $$$.
Not that I was going to strip clubs and making it rain, but I was comfortable.

But instead now.
When I finish this book, submit it to publishers and then move onto the next one. Then I will consider that progress.


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Failure = The Learning Process

Michael Jordan

We learn from our mistakes.
Slowly. But we learn, well most of the time and we don’t always learn the right lesson. Which is sometimes the problem. But our failures at least teach us something… right?
Take for instance the first time I tried to write a blog.
I began this exercise last September. I barely told a soul, maybe two / three people, why?

  • Fear
  • Doubt

and

  • Because one of the three people I told suggested that I write about  cat porn…(for the hits and traffic). Clearly bad advice. I think. Perhaps a different blog under another name.

Anyway…

I wrote perhaps five, maybe six posts.
I didn’t advertise, I didn’t acknowledge them, and I didn’t make much progress.
I was learning. I was experimenting, and I wasn’t ready. Wasn’t ready to make what was / had been, until then – private, suddenly very public.
I wasn’t ready for judgement. Ridicule. Failure.
Then life came along and made it all redundant anyway. I got too busy, I drowned in the noise, three months passed, and the blog died.
I kept writing the books, but as for developing a voice. Connecting with people. Working out a message.
It all got put on hold.

Which was both good and bad.
I failed.
But I learnt from it, I learnt that I had no idea what I was writing about.
And I learnt that at least on the surface, I didn’t even know what or who I was writing for, and in doing so I learnt that I didn’t much care for what I had already written.
It was crap. It was meaningless, too much of a lecture, too little feeling. No character development. Not much of a narrative, no real beginning middle or end.
I was thinking too hard, placing too much pressure on these simple words, too much expectation. Too much hope perhaps, and I was this close to developing Kevin Costner Syndrome. A kind of “if you build it they will come” attitude.
No they wont.
They will read it once, get bored and go back to Imgur. Mybook, Facespace or redtube.
Add to that another basic truism – The Internet (and so too any blog) is like high school: ‘you have to consistently put out to be popular.’
Which if anyone reading this went to my high school and knew me would understand, that might be a problem…
So I learnt my lesson, or tried to.
I made some changes and I began again with the goal of writing more, and trying to write about this process in a way that matters.
Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. But I’ll just keep trying until my words resonate with someone.
But this worry, this hesitation made me wonder, just when had I become so concerned with succeeding on my first attempt. Where had such an idea even come from?
Was that how I grew up? Was that how I learnt anything in life?
Was success always instant?
No.
So what had changed?
One thing springs to mind, Facebook. Because of course this is the medium by which I would eventually advertise my blog, it’s my friend circle, a support network, and the only people most likely to care at this point.
At least initially.
But it is also the medium by which I view the highlight reels of everyone’s Instagrammed, airbrushed, glossy lives. Perfect pictures of their perfect cars, their parties, DD boobs, and phat asses. Mostly ass and titties. Pretty sure some of it is just downright soft-core porn.

Anyway…

What I’m trying to say is that these images, these messages, they aren’t real.
They are the implants, the highlights, the posters, and ads for the lives they want us to believe they have.
I’m no different.
No. I don’t have implants.
What I mean is that it’s simple human nature.
No one advertises their failures; we only see their successes and their wins. Very very rarely do we see the uphill battle, the countless problems and pitfalls people encounter on their way to the top. Very rarely do we see people take their hat in the hand and admit how hard its all been to strike out and do something new.
I will try do that. I will make mistakes, fail, learn, get better and share the experience.

That is half the point of this exercise.
To make this process more visible. To ask people for their time, their industry contacts (if they have them) – agents, editing, and publishing.
To get my friends to read my ugly, rough drafts. To get it edited as many times as I can before a pay for a professional edit– at $4k for 80,000 words it gets expensive quickly.
So I need critics and I need champions.
I need to gather what support I can. I need to ask for help, to save time, and to make less mistakes, to learn faster.

So if you can help. Or you have a contact to share, if you know someone who might have been through this, or a number for me to call. Just write a comment below, give me your two cents, give me a pat on the back.

motivation
I’ll ask you all for money later.
Kidding, but maybe not… Kickstarter anyone? But we’re not at that bridge yet.
One day. Hopefully one day soon.


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The first step is the hardest. More like a leap.

I have four months.
Four months and then the money runs out.
Four months with no distractions, and no competition for my time. Four months where I have no excuses. Four months where I don’t have to hide what I’m doing anymore.
I don’t have to deflect when people ask me what I’m working on, and it will be four months without the odd looks and sideways glances I drew when I stole time at lunch to work for myself, and got caught.
It’s four months without guilt.

That time gives me a window, a shot in the dark, a chance to bring my dream to life, or at least give it the attention it needs.
Now my dream wont be your dream, your goal. But I bet it’s both as clear and as opaque as yours may seem. That unreachable star you want to hold. That fragile hope you’re too scared to breathe on.
My dream is to write. To spin stories, steal hearts and speak beautiful lies.
My dream is to write for myself, to finish a book. To learn from the mistakes I will make, and do it better the next time.
Not for fame, or fortune. These are foolish things to aim for, and terrible things to dream of. My dream is to write for a living (one day), anything else after that is providence.
I have no doubt I will fail.
I have no doubt I will try again. I have no doubt I will fail a hundred times before I find success. And success in writing is a fickle thing, an unlikely thing.
I know the math. I understand the math. Believe me I do, but even knowing this I still I want to write. I want to write because now that the dam has burst I cant’ stop. I want to write because it’s a challenge, a puzzle, and a riddle, all of my own making.
And hopefully as I get better at it, the failures will become less, the successes will come more often.

These four months give me a chance to finish a book I have been thinking about for years, a book I have been writing for two years. A book I have been writing in fits and starts. Stealing minutes here, hours there. Trying to put those words I was hearing in my head on paper, that story worming its why out of my mind into a manuscript.
It gives me four months to work on one book that over the last two years became three. I have four months to clean it up. To at least finish one, now that the noise is gone and my mind is my own again. Four months to get it to a state I would be happy submitting to agents and hopefully publishers.
But most importantly I have four months without the guilt.
Four months without the guilt that I should be doing something else.
Guilt that I should be staying at work later, exercising less, living less. Stupid guilt that I still had dreams, that I wanted more.
Guilt that I was wasting time on a fool’s errand, fearing it was nothing special, fearing I was nothing special.
But you know what that guilt and fear is also called?
Doubt.

So now I have four months with no excuses, just the book and myself.
Don’t get me wrong. I still have the doubt. But now it has another name. The inner critic, and I have four months to silence the bastard.

As for these magical four months?
I can’t say it was easy to get to this point. Saying it was hard would be an injustice.
But that just makes me realise I’m must be on the right path.
And maybe I don’t end up where I planned, but a least I’ve rediscovered that motivation that went missing, I’m closer to finding the meaning again.
And I’m doing something I love.
Whether I ever succeed, whether I ever get to do this as a career.
Whether I’m even any good…
Only time will tell, but at least now I’m going to find out.
I took a leap.

Now time and hard work will decide where I land, and doubt?
Well… doubt can go suck a dick.

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Take the Red Pill. Take the Blue Pill.

On Jan the 10th 2014 I quit my job.

I escaped the office, took off the monkey suit, threw chance and caution to the wind, gave myself a deadline, and started working for myself.
I like to think I’m bringing sexy / unemployment back, but I’m not JT, this is simply my last chance.
After this, there is no turning back. No more excuses.
I chose to take the red pill – I chose to stay in Wonderland and see just how deep this rabbit-hole really goes.

So support me, dismiss me, join me, judge me, applaud me, laugh me off, love me, or hate me.
Either way. I’m already doing something crazy, or perhaps the only sane thing I’ve ever done. I’m doing something that feels like air after drowning, like light after darkness, like hope after despair.
It feels like change, it feels like risk, it feels like I’m alive again.
And you know what?
I’ve never been happier; so clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do.