Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Writing is hard. In my experience, it involves squinting hard at a screen then typing a handful of words, only to immediately delete most of them. Rinse, lather, repeat until braindeath. It’s nice when it comes easily, when you get into the flow of it, but that’s pretty rare for me.

That’s where writing exercises come in. I need to engage in these more often. They’re a way of flexing brain muscles that I’ve been letting atrophy. A drabble here, a stream of consciousness there. It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I write.

One of my favourite exercises is the Six Word Story. The aim is to write a self-contained story that says everything it needs to say in just six words. The most famous one is attributed to Ernest Hemingway, though there’s doubt as to whether or not he actually wrote it : “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” There’s a whole story’s worth of sorrow in those six words alone.

I find it difficult to get a whole story in six words, but that’s why it’s a challenge. Here’s a few I came up with :

What goes up sometimes comes down.

I thrash, I flail, I sink.

I aim my gun. Still miss.

Since you left, I’ve been sleeping.

“Please don’t,” she said. I did.

“Please don’t.” I did it anyway.

Do Not Push? What could possibly-

No experience? No job for you.

Play it again, Sam. No? Ok.

Sad songs, empty glass. She’s gone.

Screams. Heart pounding. Crying. Baby boy.

“Look out for-!” SPLAT. “… never mind.”

My stomach hurts. Get it out.

Ate Dad. Could have tasted better.

Got super powers. Jumped. Couldn’t fly.

Dead on arrival. Why’s he moving?

Where’s the holy water? Oh shit.

I loved her. Now she’s gone.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Click.

Now cut the red NO WAIT

I should write. What’s on TV?

The stench of death. How lovely.

The words won’t come. Blank screen.

Plastic bottle, plastic bag, plastic flesh.

I bite down and drink deep.

The hunger burns. I eat more.

Feel free to share your own in the comments!

I haven’t updated this in a while, mainly because I’m rubbish at keeping up with journals and diaries and anything that requires an attention span of more than a few oooh a butterfly.

I recently had a bit of twitter whinge (yes, I’m on the twitters, find me here) fuelled by frustration at lack of time, energy, money and self-discipline to write, film and generally seek out the creative life I want for myself. I need my dayjob to fund those little everyday things like eating, clothing myself, paying bills. But it eats up a lot of my time and a lot of my energy – time spent not at work should be time spent writing, but it seems I spend it either doing chores or recouping energy from working and doing chores.

Then my turn to write an installment of The Working Barbarian (seriously, check it out, it’s fantastic) came again. I forced myself to sit down, to relax and to write. And it felt good. Really good. I hadn’t written creatively since the end of the film-making course, and I didn’t realise how much pressure was building up behind that dam. I won’t say much about the quality or the quantity of the writing (which can be read at that site on Monday), but I will say that any writing is better than no writing at all. It was nice to be able to have a hand in sourcing the artwork for the chapter, to see a talented artist bring my words to life.

I’ve also been reading Bruce Campbell’s autobiography and the Guerilla Film-maker’s Movie Blueprint in an attempt to keep up creative momentum. Filmmaking is something I want to do, and right now it’s likely to stay a hobby and a dream. I just need to keep at it so I don’t fall into the ‘some day’ trap. Some day I’m gonna be a writer. Some day I’m gonna be a movie maker. Some day I’m gonna be a contender. You know the one.

In an attempt to avoid creative atrophy, I will keep writing. I will try to go back to the Pictonaut Challenge. I will try to write scripts, or at the very least ideas and outlines for scripts. I will try and write stories, not worrying about their length.

Stories like the tiny little one I wrote this afternoon. I call it The Planet Business, and it can be read below. I hope you like it. And if you don’t … er, that’s fine. I like it.

The Planet Business

No, no, no! Round, Carl! They need to be round! Why? Physics, of course. You can’t very well have a big flat plate of planet spinning around in space, that’d be stupid. It just won’t go. No, you can’t balance it on the back of anything else. Stop fooling around, smoosh it back into a ball and start over. That’s better.
Oh stop whinging, Carl. It’s rocky because rock is the best material for planets. Oh really? And what would you prefer, O Mighty Apprentice? Hah! You can’t make a solid object out of gas. No, it’s not worth a try. I said no. Gah! Fine, if it’ll shut you up, you can try making a giant gas one after we’re done with this one, ok? Ok.
Right, so what have we got? Molten core, check. Stick a few layers of rock around it. More. Little more. Ok, now spread the outer one nice and thin. It’s got to be crispy. It’s easier to make mountains if it’s crispy. Ok, pass me that tenderising mallet. A few good whacks should do it…
There, nice and lumpy. Ok, you remember how to make sea beds? Have at it, young man! Good. Oh, very nice. Watch yourself there, careful, CAREFUL oh bugger. No, no, don’t worry. If anyone asks we’ll call it a trench and say we meant to do it. Trade secret, that. Now fetch the hose.
Ok, that’s the water filled in. Lovely. Fetch me an atmosphere out the box. Hmmm? Methane, I think. Ok, hold it at that end and and peel the film off. Right, good. Stretch. Keep going, you’ve got to fit it round the whole thing. No, it will fit. It WILL fit, you just need to CAREFUL oh bugger. Well, there it goes. I bet that was the last one, right? Right. Hmm, looks like we’ll have to bodge one up. Hand me the cans. Let’s see, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon wotsisface, mmhmmm, yes, oh no none of that one, ok, yes. Hand me the empty bubble and the bellows. Aaaaaaand nice and slooooow…
Ok, now grab the other end and CAREFULLY pull it over and yup yup yes you’ve got it! All sorted. Looks nice, doesn’t it? It’ll make a nice home for the little settlers. Carl? Carl, you’ve gone very quiet and very red. Oh, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the settlers. Carl? Carl, you IDIOT. The whole point of this bloody planet was to put the bloody settlers on it! Where are they? Oh for goodness sakes, that’s billions of years away! No, stop. I’m not interested in your excuses. This planet’ll just have to keep until we can fetch them back.
Right, pack up the tools. Stop crying, I’m sorry I called you an idiot. We’ll fix it, just – whoa! Bless you. You should put your hand in front of your face when you sneeze, Carl, you’ve just covered the planet in mucus. Hmm? No, I’m sure it’ll be fine. It’s not like anything can evolve from snot. Come on, let’s go.

Yes, I know I’ve used this before. No, I don’t care. Shut up.

Well! It’s been a little while since I dared show my face around here, isn’t it? Believe it or not, this lapse was accidental rather than the usual apathy and laziness creeping in and hiding all my productive thoughts.

I’ve moved house, see. Nothing drastic, just down the road. But it came with all the usual inconveniences – packing, organising, putting off unpacking. And, of course, transferring utilities. Like the internet. Which I’ve not really properly had for about a month now. I’ve been like a junkie, scraping by, getting my hits when I could through hooking my laptop up to my phone and using mobile internet. I’ve gobbled up data in huge slimy chunks. I think I’ll stop now before my imagery breaks down entirely.

While this has been going on, I’ve been settling in to my new role at work, which is rapidly moving from my new role at work to plain old my role at work. Which is nice. It’s nice to feel some self-confidence, professionally speaking.

Another area I’ve been treated to some self-confident is in my writing. Remember my last blog post? “Barely?” “Way back in the mists of time?” Cheeky bastards. Anyway, I mentioned I’d had an idea for a little film, one scene, couple of minutes. Something light and fluffy and geeky and romantic.

Well, not long afterwards I came across the 50 Kisses competition.

2 page script. Set on Valentine’s Day. One kiss.

I’d already written it. Two minor edits later and it was suitable.

I took a deep breath.

I took a plunge.

I emailed it in.

I also approached James ‘Gus’ Boucher, a good friend of mine, about potentially directing it. You may remember him from such shorts as Tea Leaf and Jeremy (you know, that one wot I wrote). He entered the competition and we filmed it on the off-chance that the fates would smile on us and my script would be considered worth a damn.

Well, 50 Kisses started the reading process and I don’t envy them. They had over 1000 scripts to sift through. They whittled it down to a longlist of just over 500.

And my script was one of them.

At least one person has read it and thought it merited passing through to the next round. I’m under no illusions, I’m not expecting to see it win, to get my name up there on screen. Hoping, yes. But not expecting. Cliche as it may seem, winning isn’t the important thing, not really. Having had the confidence to send it in, that’s the important thing. That’s the big important thing.

I’m getting there. One day I’ll believe in myself the way others seem to believe in me. This isn’t the first step, but it’s one of many, in the right direction.

The Shepherd’s Dream by Johann Heinrich Füssli

Yesterday morning I awoke with a jolt. After a moment’s thought, I clambered out of bed and plodded my way round the upstairs of the house, looking for pen and paper. In the depths of the previous night’s sleep, I had had An Idea.

This was not a particularly amazing idea; no cure for cancer or solution the world’s energy crisis here. No, it was just An Idea for a short film. Short enough to be a sketch, really. It was a simple, one-scene film with a lighthearted tone and a sweet ending. Best of all, it made sense.

Most ideas that come from dreams seem amazing to the sleeping mind. Widly creative and endearingly wacky, you’re sure that they’ll set the world ablaze in all their original glory. You wake, and from the moment you wake the dream starts to fade, as dreams are wont to do. Slowly but surely, vital elements begin to fade away like Marty McFly’s family photograph. Soon it is gone. All that remains is a niggling feeling that there was something you dreamt that was good, but what? Something about aardvarks? Car parks? Bard wargs? What was it?

Even worse, though, you could capture the idea, wrestle it down and trap it on paper. There, spreadeagled and naked before your scrutiny, you can see it for what it really is: a mess. An utter farce of an idea. Point C doesn’t follow on from points A and B at all, and why does the protagonist suddenly become a Volkswagen made out of cheesestrings halfway through? Dream logic has little in common with that of the everyday world, and the sad truth is that when lifted straight out of a dream and inspected closely, dream ideas are a bit pants really.

But dreams can provide inspiration. A haunting phrase, a persistent image, a recurring location. There are elements that can be taken and woven into a tapestry. James Cameron reckons that ideas for The Terminator and Aliens came straight out of his nightmares. Paul McCartney allegedly dreamt the tune for Yesterday. They are not alone

My dream idea is no Terminator or Yesterday, but it got me up, got me moving, got me writing. In the end, that can only be a good thing.

A month ago, Crazy John (known amongst some as The Rogue Verbomancer and amongst still others as Glempy) issued an intriguing challenge; each month he’ll post a picture over at his blogmatron space and his readers will be charged with writing a 1000 word story using said picture as a basis. Thus was born the Pictonaut Challenge.

September’s challenge was a picture he dubbed Grenade in the Rain. It is the (quite superb) work of artist Marek Okon and looks somewhat exactly like this:

A very powerful image indeed.

Naturally, I responded with enthusiasm, a few clichéd yet interesting ideas setting my brainmeats a-vibrating. Just as naturally, it’s not done yet. In the immortal words of the late great Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing noise they make as they fly by.”

You know how it is. Creativity needs to take a back seat when work and various other adultly commitments make their presence felt. Rest assured, it’s a work in progress and when it’s ready enough to be presentable I’ll post it here. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be something I can polish and possibly adapt into a longer work.

So, yes. Watch this space. In the meantime, John has linked to others’ completed stories (including, of course, his own) over on this page. Check them out!

Some Garbled Nonsense About Writing

Posted: September 11, 2011 in filler, writing

Writing isn’t easy, you know.

I know what you’re thinking; “Here comes another whingefest from an overprivileged bugger who doesn’t know the meaning of ‘not easy’ – what does he know of suffering?”. Well, in all honesty, not a whole hell of a lot. But troubles are uniquely troubling to their individual troublees, so while I’ve never experienced famine nor plague nor crippling head injuries I can still legitimately claim to have troubles.

Sadly, the intermittent inability to write is not the biggest of my problems. I won’t bore you with those, mainly because they’re not very interesting. Instead I’ll focus on the problem of writing.

Writing isn’t easy, you know.

There’s nothing harder than looking at an empty screen and deciding which words to cover it with. The staring part is easy – I’ve got that pretty much down pat, I think. No, it’s the deciding part that gives me trouble. It’s a tricky process.

First you have to decide on a topic.  The reason this post was so long in coming is because I wasn’t sure what it should be about. Vague half-formed ideas floated through my head but none of them were interesting enough for me to want to expand on. The only reason I’m writing about writing is because I want to write about something and it was the first thing to pop into my head as I loaded the blog up. There’s always the worry that whatever’s chosen will be of no interest to anyone and will go unread.

The next problem is that of the words themselves. I like to think I’m not too shabby at turning the occasional phrase, but it’s not something that comes easily. There’s a certain amount of self-censoring involved. I’ve deleted several not-quite-right sentences from this post already. For me, editing is an as-you-go-along process. See that word there, ‘process’? That used to be ‘activity’. I killed ‘activity’ and replaced it with ‘process’ because it just sounds better. You’d never have known if I hadn’t have pointed it out. Fascinating, no? No? Please yourselves.

Another problem is when and how to finish. Providing there’s enough substance to the topic at hand, I could keep waffling on and on about nothing in particular until long after the readers’ eyes have glazed over and they’ve gone off to look at pictures of cats or videos of sloths. I tend to have the opposite problem more often, though. Sometimes I’ll say everything I have to say all in one babbling go, have nothing left to say and then end up finishing the whole thing far too

Well This is Going Well.

Posted: September 3, 2011 in ambitions, resurrection, writing

Ahah! Nobody expects the resurrection of the long-dead blog!

I think I’m going to try a different tack here and try to think of this blog as anything but a journal. Soapbox, maybe. Opinion-dump, certainly. Article/fiction practice, no doubt. But not a journal or a chronicle of the events in my life. That just doesn’t seem to work.

Perhaps it’s because my life is fairly run of the mill; I don’t go hitch-hiking in India, bungee-jumping in Chili, vampire-slaying in The Congo. I work in a call centre. I watch geeky films and occasionally go to a pub. My lofty aims of being exciting and interesting and creative have long since seemed to fall by the wayside. But perhaps I can try and rescue at least the last of those aims, and in doing so rekindle my desires to be a wordsmith of note.

Or perhaps I’ll fail and this blog will once again slip into disrepair, ignored and forgotten by all. Is there a place where unread and poorly-updated blogs go to die? Do they slip away in the dead of night, sticking their virtual thumbs out, hitching a ride with cybertruckers to The Big Blog Graveyard in the Digital Sky?

No. Of course not. That would be silly.

Unless I write about one, of course.

Hmm…

But I digress. Sorry about that. I do that occasionally. It’s in my nature. Where was I? Ah yes, this blog.

I intend to revive this blog, to zap it with 1.21 jigawatts of creative juices, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor. It won’t be easy; my natural state is one of laziness, inertia and well-intentioned apathy. I’m going to need Help. Help from You, dear readers. Yes, both of you.

I would greatly appreciate the occasional poke, nudge or karate chop to remind me this thing exists and that I need to update it.  To be honest, I have a nasty habit of putting myself down and telling myself I’m not strong enough to accomplish things. This needs to stop, but in typical me fashion I’m not sure I can do it on my own. With the odd reminder from you, I know I can somehow drag myself out of the creative funk I’ve slipped into and maybe gain a permanent sense of confidence about my abilities into the bargain. Help me, Reader-wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.

That said, I know I’ve got to put in a lot of work myself if I want to make anything of myself. To that end, I will (not ‘intend to’, ‘must’ or ‘should’, but will) set a creative schedule for myself. It won’t be strenuous or elaborate; as a teen I spent far more time crafting study schedules than actually sticking to them. Yes, I was a Rimmer. But I need a framework, something flexible and attainable that I can work around.  X hours a day, y hours a week, z hours a month, maybe. Something I can hold on to as a routine of sorts, to get me back into the writing habit and to stop me wasting my time. Life is too short and precious to spend it wishing I were doing other things. It’s time I finally made things happen.

That’s all from me for now, though. Do please feel free to comment, especially if you’d like to offer suggestions for future post topics; I’m more likely to keep coming back to a lively blog than a desolate word wasteland. It’ll also feel a lot less like shouting into the wind that way.

tl;dr : Go back up there and read the post, you lazy sod, it’s not that long. The gist of it is I’m going to try and write more, write here and generally better myself creatively-speaking & I’d quite like you to remind me of this when appropriate.