Thursday, August 5, 2010

More Than You'll Ever Know

Because this thing has sat vacant for a month, and my first post wasn't the most substantial, I figured I'd sacrifice some of my short story writing time (possibly all of it today) and try to provide some more substantial information.

To start with, is this blog. Underneath the header is a tag explaining what I want to do with this blog (which, if you read this section of this post and find it to be untrue, don't be surprise. What you see before you is not the final version of this blog), but I figured I might address that a little further. To start with, in theory it does take 10,000 hours of performing any specific activity to master it, and I have no idea how long I've spent writing in earnest. Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 if I had to hazard a guess, but I really have no idea. So when I write here, I plan to post at the bottom how long that particular thing took me to write. What you'll see is the final amount, after all the editing and drafting, so sometimes the number might seem larger than it should, but that's because you're only seeing part of the process. I hope I continually remember to do this part. We'll see.

And I might post anything. Anything like a plain old blog post like this, or a short story, or it might be something I had to write for school, although those might be less so. I dunno though. Now that I'm in my (finally!) senior year of college (good Lord boy, what took you so long?) I find myself being prouder more often of the things I write, even if it's for a literature instead of writing class. Like my paper on wisdom in William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell? Quite possibly one of my finest pieces of writing. My paper on Charles Williams (as hinted at in the banner) was a colossal let down. Colossal. I'd be hard pressed to imagine a larger let down.

Perhaps something on my process? Writer types tend to be interested in that stuff. First, I need lots of distraction. I'm listening to music on my headphones up loud enough that I can't hear anything other than what comes from my computer. I have Firefox open (cool to see that blogger recognizes that as a real word), as well as AIM, Facebook, and Google Chat. I also have something like ten tabs open in Firefox. Unfortunately, at eleven in the morning, there aren't many people around to distract me, but I wish there were someone to chat with. I find that smallish semi-frequent distractions like that keep my mind loose and adaptable. When I do the freewrite (mentioned in the previous post), I only have the music on, almost as a purely auditory queue about my time situation. There are no other distractions with that for two reasons: 1. Because I hand write that, and it's too irritating to switch mediums like that, and 2. The purpose of the freewrite is to make your brain loosen up its own process; to learn to stop obsessing over things like grammar, spelling, punctuation, whether or not you're coherent or have the right word. It's just supposed to make your brain think quicker and freer. It's supposed to make your writing smoother, which in turn makes the piece stronger. It also divorces writing from editing so that when you're doing one, you're totally devoted to that one instead of trying to juggle the two simultaneously.

As for actual writing: there's a difference between scholarly (or what I do for school) and what I do for myself. Sometimes with school writing, if I'm caught on a particularly tricky thought, I will have to pause the music. I think of it like a computer in a way. A chaotic computer. When I was in high school, there was a computer game I loved that was a side-scrolling shooter, and it ran fine on my old computer (it was a DOS game), but on my new computer it would run way too fast. So I would have to run other programs in the background to slow my computer down enough that it would play this DOS game at the proper speed. On the other hand, when I ran the benchmarking software, I'd have to shut down every other program to devote as much processing power to the benchmark. That's how I feel. If I'm only ever doing one thing at a time, I feel fidgety and like I'm wasting time. So if I'm watching a movie, I try to have something to do with my hands (like crochet, which I do). Similarly, if I sit down and only try to write, I find that my mind wanders and I don't get much done. On the other hand if I have music to take some of my focus, as well as various chat clients to keep checking on mentally, it takes away some of that extra processing so that I can get something done. Sometimes though, when I get stuck on something really tricky, like with Charles Williams or William Blake, I have to use extra processing and then have to cut out some of the other things I'm keeping track of. Apart from that, however, whether I'm doing personal writing or scholarly writing, the two are virtually indistinguishable.

I do have a different idea making process for each, however. If it's a personal project, I usually just spend tons of time thinking about it. When I worked at Xpedx, while I was doing whatever stupid retail thing I had to do, I would devote all but the meagerest of thought power to idea making. So, before I ever commit something to paper, I've spent ridiculous amounts of time thinking about it. With school, however, it's different. I can't seem to generate ideas the same way unless it's something I'm already intimately acquainted with, which is rare. In fact, my graphic novel class is the only time that happened, and only because I've invested myself in different forms of comic book since I was seven. Lots of time to think on the topic.

When I write for school, without fail I always try to tackle it the same as personal reading. I'll try to think on the topic before writing about it, but I always draw a blank. Inevitably, I have to write down thoughts on the topic and usually talk to one or two people about it before I can write anything on it. Sometimes my brain leaves me hanging until the last possible second, as in the case of my Odyssey paper, in which I didn't start writing the sunday before it was due because I couldn't simply think of anything. It's both nerve wracking and exhilarating. As exhilarating as school work can be.

From there, they both look the same. Ish. I'll find some thread of thought and follow it to the very end, either staring so intently at my fingers as they type like I'm trying to start a fire, or closing my eyes and looking up, like the inspiration's up there. Which it might be. With school writing, I'll write as fast and hard (that's what she said) as I can, until the thread's exhausted. Then I'll reread what I wrote, editing as I go, and by the time I reach the end, I've found a new thread. Repeat. With personal writing, I don't really have those starts and stops. It's just go go go until I can't anymore. Then I reread, edit, revise, and so on. I do try to stop at a point where I know what's going to happen next so that when I come back the next day, I have a good place to start. It was Hemingway’s method of avoiding writer's block.

I don't think I really have anything else to say on the topic. I'm sure as I write more, more things will come up, and I can always revisit this topic. But I'm cached for right now. I'll close by saying how amazing I think it is that when I listen to headphones, I don't hear the music on either the right or left sides of my head, but rather, it feels like it's coming from the center of my skull, with perhaps a few parts that spike out onto either side.

Oof. A final final note: when I posted my music list on the first blog, my plan in arranging it was that all the louder stuff would be up front, and it'd get slowly softer until it ends with a piano piece. The last three go soft, soft with a loud middle and soft ending, and then the softest. I figured it'd be an auditory cue almost Inception style in which my brain would know that it's getting close to wrapping things up time. And with that, the first of the soft songs (Schism by Rockabye Baby) has started playing. Onto other writing, I guess?

This Post: 40 Total: 50/60,000 Minutes

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