Category : creative process

It Takes a Thief

Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist has been a huge influence on me, helping me get past a lot of creative blocks I’d set up for myself long, long ago and then hit my head against ever since. But after reading this post quoting David Bowie, I had one of those flashes of insight that feels like the walls of the house in your head are being blown apart, an explosion of clarity.

Why do I have such a difficult time coming up with plots for stories? I’ve long said it’s because it’s just hard for me to come up with plots, but what I meant was that it’s hard for me to come up with original plots, rather than copying the plots of other people’s stories. Why do I have such a difficult time creating characters? Because it’s hard for me to come up with original characters that aren’t clearly other people’s characters with the serial numbers (barely) filed off. Why can I be zipping along with my writing and suddenly slam into a barricade of “what words do I use next? OMG I CANNOT WORD AT ALL!”? Do I really have the oh-so-dreaded Writer’s Block? No, I’m just afraid of using other people’s words instead of being original.

When I was a little kid, I was so much more un-self-conscious about my creativity, and I cheerfully stole from everything that excited and inspired me. I traced comic books, renaming the characters and rewriting the dialogue. I stole characters, situations, and plots wholesale from comics, novels, movies, and TV shows, and I didn’t care, didn’t even think twice about it. And nobody told me I shouldn’t do that…until I got older, to that age when society starts hammering into you that stealing is bad and originality is good. (It’s the same age when society starts telling you that art is something only special people do, not something anyone and everyone can do.)

It’s monstrously stupid and a big, fat lie. But it’s a lie that is very powerful in our society’s narrative about creativity, and even after reading Steal Like an Artist, it’s been hard for me to truly see that narrative embedded within myself and break free from it. (more…)

NaNoWriMo 2015: The Wrap-Up

National Novel Writing Month has come and gone. Well, today is the last day, so it’s not really gone yet, but I finished yesterday, so it’s over for me. I did better this year than I ever have, not just in terms of actually finishing for the first time in years but in learning more about what works for me and what doesn’t when it comes to sitting my tush down to write fiction and learning more about letting my own voice come out in my writing. Here are some notes, in no particular order, on what I learned about my process and techniques. (more…)

NaNoWriMo 2015: Shaking Through

It’s now the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month. Actually, that day was yesterday, except I’m writing this yesterday and posting it today. Because I have mastered time travel. Or something. The point is, NaNoWriMo is half over and I’d like to talk about how it’s going. (more…)

NaNoWriMo 2015

Once again, I’m going to do National Novel Writing Month this November. I’ve been doing it off and on since 2005. I’ve only made it to the end and finished my novel once and that was 10 years ago. I’ve gotten frustrated and disappointed with myself when I haven’t finished, but this year, I’m going into it giving myself permission to not finish if I just can’t hack it. The attempt is more important than reaching the finish line. At the same time, I’m more determined than ever to finish. Here’s my plan for November:

  • Start with no words written. This is starting completely fresh.
  • This is a first draft. This is me telling myself a story, so don’t worry about what other people might think of it. Throw whatever’s in my head onto the page.
  • Don’t get attached to the writing. Don’t worry if the writing is kind of (or very) sucky. Don’t edit while writing. Just keep moving forward.
  • Don’t try to be original. Steal from anything and everything.
  • Don’t think bigger than the month. This isn’t the first part of a multi-book epic. This isn’t going to win multiple awards and turned into a major motion picture. This isn’t even going to get me a publishing deal. I’m just doing it to do it.
  • In the past, one of the big reasons why I’ve quit was because I was getting bored with the story. This year, if I start to get bored, just change the story to be less boring to me. Again, throw whatever’s in my head onto the page.

This also means this blog may be fairly (or completely) inactive during November. Which might be bad news for the 3 or 4 people who read it, but I’m sure they’ll cope.

Some Random Thoughts on Writing

  • I’ve always thought of writing fiction as creative play (even when it’s difficult and feels like work), but it’s been too long since I thought of writing stories as an act of mischief, something to disrupt the thoughts and feelings and cultural programming of myself and others. Time to get back to that sense of mischief.
  • (Poetry, however, always feels like making mischief to me. I wonder why I haven’t felt the same way about fiction?)
  • As an adult, my tabletop role-playing game play has always been done in regular sessions (or semi-regular, thanks to the various adulty things that get in the way of fun). But in middle school, my friends and I played RPGs and did collaborative storytelling whenever we had some free time–at school, after school, on weekends. There was a driving excitement in suddenly jumping into imaginary worlds and playfully creating stories wherever, whenever, as often as possible. I want to get back into that mindset when it comes to writing fiction.
  • Diving into imaginary worlds and playing with imaginary characters with jetpack enthusiasm and mischievous abandon–that’s what it’s all about, is what I’m saying.
  • Art is mischief. Mischief is magic. Magic is craft.