Writing late

Today I wrote around 2,000 words on a small chapter. The biggest problem I am having lately is with my process. I’m wasting a lot of time throughout the day not writing. Then late at night, I sit down, put words to paper, write a decent amount of stuff and before I know it, the clock is telling me it is 2am and I am still wide awake.

Then I lie in bed, feeling my body shaking from exhaustion. I pull myself out of bed, my feet hitting the floor all wobbly like those of a newborn deer. I reach out for my phone and open the Notes app. There is where I sketch other scenes I want to work on later. Sometimes it is exchanges of dialog, sometimes it is just a note of something I remember that I want to get down before it is lost to exhaustion. This can go on for hours.

Tonight I got over 3,500 words down, excluding this blog post. I’m getting braver about what I write about, taking greater risks, cutting deeper and deeper to the marrow of the story. The solitude and quiet and cool night air help. Once I get the words down in the Scrivener document, anything left over gets jotted down in the notes and then the next day moved from my phone to the main document via Airdrop.

I’m not letting myself think about who is going to read this. It feels good to get the words down. The story is coming through, like big and small blogs of ink on a page, which expand outward, creating the mosaic of a story as I go. I’m beginning to feel a theme, and a plot of some kind come together too.

I’m going to try to rest now before the ideas come beating at the door of my brain, demanding to be heard.

The Writing Process

Recently, I used a foolscap method to plot the entirety of my book.  This was cribbed from Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art which isn’t only a guide on creativity and writing, but also getting out of your own way in life a lot of the time.  Though I didn’t use the Big Chief tablet itself, I did use an Excel spreadsheet, which is more akin to the method Heller used for Catch-22.

Here’s a copy I borrowed from the interwebs for reference.  As you can tell, it isn’t anything more than a spreadsheet with all the plot points listed in bite sized chunks.  Since my handwriting is awful, you’re probably a seasoned teacher if you can decipher any of this.  Believe me, I can hardly read some of it, which means that when I transfer it to electronic format, I get to be even more creative! (Because I have to make stuff up that I cannot decipher).

So, you can imagine if I did an entire foolscap of this, it would just look like one of those Magic Eye posters and instead of seeing the plot and connections, I would wind up seeing a sailboat or the spaceshuttle emerge from the collection of squiggles and lines.  This is what years of disuse and arthritis do to your penmanship, kids!

Onto my point, sometimes, regardless of all the motivation, inspiration, time on my hands, and black inky squiggles, sometimes I need a minute to just let the ideas percolate and collect, redistribute, marinate…and I must be getting hungry with all the food descriptors here.  So, lately, I have let the plot sit in its little boxes and I have been writing some flashback chapters.

When I wrote Song of the Cinder, I kinda danced with a formula, or really it’s what happened.  For most chapters something happened, there were chapters which mirrored them that were flashbacks.  It was a good way for me to keep the story fresh as well as delve into the history of the world and characters as I went along.  Sometimes a chapter would break and the juxtaposition of what had happened would be revealed in either a flashback, dream sequence, or a POV shift of the past.  I have steered clear from dream sequences lately though.  In literary devices, dreams are too literal and reliable.  Real dreams aren’t like that at all.

Dreams are usually crazy and non-sequitur.  That’s why people roll their eyes usually when you want to tell them about a really cool dream you’ve had.  By the time the accountant that is a giant squirrel shows up and demands you order him a pizza from Shakeys, you start to realize just how crazy it all sounds.  But in books, dreams might as well be video evidence and treated as Truth.

But sometimes you can just take a chapter and write it as something separate from the events that are contained in the main plot.  It’s a nice diversion and actually something I have always enjoyed as a reader.

So, I’ve been working on flashback chapters.  The story is progressing and if I decide to get rid of the flashbacks, at least the rest of the story is infused with a tincture of what those chapters contained to give it life and flavor.

Day Three of No Facebook

It’s laughable that I’m treating social media like a substance addiction.  But I don’t know if it is all that much of a stretch.  In many ways, the prevalence of Facebook is said to have been influencing the last few Presidential elections, that algorithms and how information is distributed among groups of friends, lending itself to bias is how this is being orchestrated.

Twitter is the voicebox of a Presidency that seemingly has no filter, no restraint, and is making a lot of things worse, because the information is coming directly from the mind of someone, without delay, who should be one of the people on this planet who take a long, long time to think before they speak.

People’s lives are being affected in ways that they have never been before.  The worst thing about social media, the internet, information, etc. is there are no ethics behind any of it.  People can take your picture, post it online for anyone to see without your permission.  Your words can be removed from context, even private conversations, and shared with others in damaging ways.  Facebook itself has become a resource lawyers use in court to influence the rulings of judges, in civil and criminal cases.  Posts to Instagram have resulted in job terminations, jail time, and worse.

Twitter is often used to communicate secretly, out in the open as it were, for protesters, terrorists, and even law enforcement who counter activity originated there.  It used to just be for flash mobs of people swarming train stations to do the Thriller dance.

Net neutrality would be a wonderful thing, that is if anyone had any idea what responsibility was in our world these days.  Electronics, social media, texting, etc. are rewriting how people interact socially. How children spend their time, socialize, respond to stimuli outside their own heads.

Due to what has become 24 hour a day bullying, suicides are on the rise from social media.  It used to be you could just go home from school if someone was tormenting you.  Now you carry them with you in your pocket wherever you go.  And if not them, their friends, your mutual friends, and complete strangers looking to dog pile you.

Kids are sending naked pictures of themselves to each other. There’s an app that will help them do that.  It’s called Snapchat.  Everything “goes away” after it is viewed.  Right…idiots.

The proliferation of easy to get pornography is so much more different now than 25 years ago.  Not only does the easy access to porn mean that the audience of watchers can have greater exposure to this kind of addiction, but also I feel that violence towards women, especially in regards to rape and murder, are spurred on by people being eager to act out these oftentimes violent theatrics.

YouTube algorithms are influencing teens in ways that are making them question ideas of gender, possibly needlessly so.  Combine that with the echo chamber of nearly anonymous peer groups spread across the country, and you have a recipe for ultimate confusion.

So, does it cheapen the idea of addiction to say that social media is bad?  That Facebook was slowly causing me to slip into a state of depression?  I mean, it’s not booze, pills, opioids, or meth, it’s just the computer, right?  Who can’t just step away from a computer?

What’s my point?  I’m not trying to get attention for battling some kind of addiction. Honestly, I know it’s my own damned fault if I’m on social media and wasting time on it.  I don’t want to pull out the victim card just yet.  I’m not looking for pity.  What I do know if the world is a lot quieter without it.  I’m getting more done.  In spite of the reflex whenever I get bored to see what my Facebook friends are up to, I don’t really miss it too much.

Last night, I made changes to a chapter in my book.  I wrote five paid blogs.  I did some reading.  I went on a walk for an hour and put in 12,000 steps.  I watched a movie.  Facebook is a massive waste of time.  In some ways, it was a nice place to escape.  But when you are escaping your life, you aren’t living it.  Anymore than you are living your life at the bottom of a glass, needle, mirror, or hot piece of foil. Or card table, porn site, refrigerator, or cross-fit class.  Addictions come in all shapes and sizes.  The way to recognize them is would you rather be doing that than anything else?  What is it costing you?

I think I’m at the preachy part of my recovery.  It’s a nice way to convince myself that changes like these are good.  It’s also a good way to be held accountable for my decisions.  It’s harder to ignore these decisions when you write them down.

Maybe I wasn’t addicted to social media so much as I was comfortable with the routine?  Well, what I know is the routine left me feeling empty and worthless.  That’s not healthy.  It made me covet lives of people, things they have that I won’t, it made me less of the man I want to be.  It left me feeling alone.

The funny thing is yesterday, I chatted with about half a dozen people, having actual conversations in person, in text, etc. outside of social media and it felt great!  Eventually I realized I had a lot of work to do and had to excuse myself.

People are still out there.  You don’t need social media. In fact we might find ourselves closer to each other without it.  In no time at all will it no longer be Life without Facebook.  It will just be “life.”