The Restless (and Ranting) Writer

Ever feel like you’re just not in “the club?” I’m feeling downright ranty about the closed door of the publishing world today. Even as a member of a professional writing association, I’m the unchosen at kickball. Critique groups in your area: Click to page. Scroll. Open to new members? No. Or maybe if you send us a sample of your writing and we decide you might fit our writing style. What? Now I have to query to join a critique group? $#%##!&%$#.

Okay, I feel better now. Sorry you had to see that.

Writing is hard. Darn it, it’s a slow, lonely, frustrating, beautiful and very individual process. It’s even harder if you *gasp* write fantasy.

I’m trying to be in the trenches but I’m often overwhelmed by this social media world that demands that I connect on every share your stuff site, do cool things and take pics of my amazingly pinable creativity, snark my way into the hearts of millions, and lead a life besides all this. Can I just go into my little hole, create, then come up with a precious gem that I’ve hacked out of the earth after years of refining?  I don’t know.  I’m told writers need a brand.  But I wonder if my particular cereal will ever sell.  When I say I’ve had some great rejection letters from agents, my non-writing friends look at me like I’m crazy.  But even good rejection wears on the soul.

Conflicting information abounds in the “How to Get Published” circus. Don’t compare your book to other books in your pitch; give an editor or agent a comp (comparison) so that they can get a quick idea of how your book is like what’s already selling. Include a synopsis; a synopsis is evil! I’m not making this up people! but I’m trying to stop my head from a get-out-the-holy-water-spin-fest.

I have writer friends in the area and right now I feel like I need to do what my daughter does with stuffed animals: pull all of them close to my face and smother my sweet little cheeks into their softness. I need a giant support/critique group hug. I should be noveling right now but that pesky writer’s itch has struck again. And despite my Gollum-like love-hate for social media, I get sucked in because it’s easier to watch other people’s stories than to write your own. It’s easier to say “it’ll never happen” than to hunker down and do it.

That said, there’s a tenacity that I and perhaps most writers have and after these periods, be they long or short, we slap ourselves in the proverbial face, dust off our fingers and type, scribe, tap or speak our way out of a “woe is me” slump. Even if it’s a paragraph and it isn’t that good. Because somebody, someday might read my words. And that makes it all worth it.

 

Here’s a brief bit of something I’ve been working on. Comments are welcome.

 

“The Faceless,” Wynn whispered to Finn. “They’re after me.”

Finn’s eyes grew wide and she redoubled her speed, pulling hard on the ropes with other sailors to unfurl the main sail. The ship began to glide away from the wooden slats and posts, its ropes dangling in the seawater.   “Jonah!” Finn cried, pointing to the end of the dock.

The Faceless were crowding onto the dock, their ceaseless walking undeterred by cries from other sailors. Most backed away but didn’t run. The Faceless weren’t interested in them. They advanced down the long boardwalk, hands at their sides, blank faces turned toward their prey.

Wynn felt cold pinpricks all over her body.   The pirates kept hurrying around the deck, lashing ropes and encouraging sails to collect wind. Balton, at the helm, kept his gaze on the horizon, guiding them out of port at a snail’s pace.

“We’ll never make it,” muttered Wynn. She backed up to the hold, hitting the knobs of the doors to the captain’s quarters with her back. She watched, helplessly as Jonah untied the last of the mooring ropes. The Faceless were within feet.

The Captain unsheathed his sword and swung at the Faceless as the nearest grasped at his throat. His blade cut right through its hand, dropping it with a thud to the dock. The creature made no sound and no blood ran from the wound. Wynn found this more terrifying than seeing the gore of severed flesh. The rest of the Faceless horde converged on Jonah. He swung madly but deftly, chopping limbs and kicking their bodies back, but they kept moving, like slugs over a log, toward the ship’s ropes.

“Haul in the lines!” Finn cried.

Jonah struggled, visibly tired as he fended off the Faceless bodies. He fell back against the dock, pressed down by two of the creatures. Others wrenched his sword from his hand and flung it clattering back down the dock. Jonah kicked and thrashed, but they held him fast. The Faceless not holding Jonah began to jump into the water and swim out to the Sleep in a steady track.

Suddenly, one of the Faceless holding Jonah slumped over, a dagger protruding from the back of its neck. Jonah struggled against the other, flipping both of them off the dock and into the sea. For endless moments, nothing surfaced until the Captain broke, gasping, to the surface.

Advertisements

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Pixar

creativity animated

creativity animated

My father is my personal Pinterest of old fashioned newsprint and glossy pages. He’s always finding the best tidbits of life wisdom, geeky news, educational insights and a plethora of other blips to keep me reading in those moments I catch between work, caring for my little princess and the business of doing life. Sometimes he strikes gold and I find a piece of writing so inspiring it stays tucked beside my bed or in my pile o’ stuff (okay I really have lots of those, but the one for bits of reading I want to save), like the one I found today: “Creativity Inc.,”a feature in Fast Company about Pixar’s behind the scenes leader Ed Catmull and his business philosophy.

Pixar is an inspirational organization. When the movie industry became a proud peddler of mediocre, if not appalling scripts, along came this humble animation company that reinvented the precedent for storytelling on the big screen. One example: the first 39 dialog-free minutes of Wall-E tell more story and give deeper character development than the entire franchise of Transformers. Still not convinced? Toy Story 3 grossed $1.06 billion. Adults cried. I saw it three times in theaters.

The article reminded me that Pixar originated as a part of the Lucasfilm animation department, so it’s no surprise that groundbreaking is in their nature. What I didn’t know was that Pixar counts failure as a part of their creative process and relies on a system that embraces candid reworking of an idea until it’s as right as it can be. They don’t tie anyone to a project unless they were a part of its inception and they don’t let one person’s creative process overwhelm the entire venture. What a concept.

If I remembered this when I get single-minded in my pursuit of a writing career, my forest-for-the-trees storytelling would be strengthened. “You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when challenged,” Catmull says.

If we applied this to education, the pundits demanding higher-level thinking would be sated. “There is this notion that fewer screw-ups is always better, so the tendency is to say that zero is the optimal number of defects. But in most industries, that is completely false. The notion of zero errors in our industry is completely false. Zero errors in educating a child is not meaningful,” Catmull tells in his interview.

If more companies allowed failure and think-tank sessions, perhaps the human capital would be worth more dollars in the long-run instead of tight-fisted budgets that eke out a profit. Imagine if creativity ruled more of the adult world. I love the way Pixar embraces creativity –with unique passion. They succeeded at being creatively different to the point where the Disney giant stooped to beg their forgiveness when they realized that animation without story doesn’t work (Walt would surely have shouted that from the rooftops). But story doesn’t come from a machine or some perpetually rehashed franchise, it comes from people; and good stories come from people who are given the freedom to think and rethink.

I believe creativity is innate in everybody. Somewhere along the way we form inhibitions that wall in or choke our creative processes. Sometimes this comes from management, sometimes it comes from ourselves. In either case, creativity is too often stifled before it can bloom and so the same old, comfortable routine becomes the norm.

Ultimately, those who long to be creative will. However, this is a monumental task. Life gets in the way. It’s easier to sit on the couch and suck in entertainment than to sit at a computer and tell stories through the keys. Adults have too much to worry about right? Clean the house or write a blog? I get to feeling like I’ve let my adult-self down if two hours have passed and I’ve done nothing but rewrite a few paragraphs or look up craft ideas online. “We can’t spend time doodling about projects,” our programmed conscious tells us. Strangely enough, Pixar’s next movie addresses just that-the inevitability of growing up but still retaining a child-like spark in our minds. Inside Out tells the story of Riley’s emotions and how they help her cope with a move to San Francisco from their position at “headquarters.” Ticket fees are a small price to pay for inspiration.