Writing Pains

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - 8:50 PM

I've been doing a great deal of writing lately, but I'm afraid none of it would be interesting except to scholars of literary criticism. Though it is certainly good practice, it doesn't scratch the creative itch very much. As a result, my writing brain is feeling increasingly restless, as if it just had a very large dinner composed entirely of popcorn. It wants something rich, fulfilling.

Work on my various projects has been slow, largely due to new workloads and some changes in schedule. Part of writing is always about schedules, and I'm afraid my creative outlets are just going to have to suffer a bit until I get back into a decent work rhythm. The small random bits of fiction I've been doing to whet my inspiration's appetite haven't been bad, but they really don't go anywhere for me.

However, as a very pleasant bit of news, I recently sent a copy of Dungeon magazine to writer Richard Pett for an autograph. My friends had so much fun with the dinner party for 'Prince of Redhand' that I wanted Mr. Pett to know about it, and it remains one of my absolute favorite adventures in any publication. Mr. Pett was very gracious about it all, and along with the autographed magazine, he sent his regards and thanks to all of you who participated. He was very entertained with my account of how things went, and very pleased that we enjoyed his work so much. If I'm ever in England, I'll have to be sure to stop in and cook for the man.

So, hey, all you players who made the Redhand dinner party happen? Take a bow.

That is one of the most rewarding aspects of creation for me; the trading of inspiration, and the wonder of seeing what other people do with the works you create. Of course, sometimes you run into the horrors of bad fanfic, but there is always going to be someone out there who sees a vision in your vision that you have never seen. When they describe it to you, your own breadth of vision is amplified and enhanced, and you add another color to your palette. Creative interplay of this sort occurs very often in RPGs, which is one reason I keep on playing them, and I am thankful for knowing as many clever, imaginative players and GMs as I do.

More when the sparks light up the kindling.

On Being a Cynic

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 - 5:29 PM

One of the natural drawbacks to being a cynic is the inclination to recognize the worst in human beings and to generally accept the worst as status quo. As such, I really don't need the world to keep reminding me of this fact, but the world isn't listening.

One of the natural drawbacks to being a writer is that people tend to assume that you are unprofessional, unreliable and generally not much of a contribution to society. As the emphasis on profit margins continues to grow, the low opinion of writers also increases. People see little value in the art of language, and I find it ironic that in putting aside the importance of good writing, they are also putting aside the value of good communication.

Previous entries have addressed the book 'Twilight', by Stephanie Meyer. In these entries, I defined a good AUTHOR as someone who successfully reaches an audience with their work, regardless of whether or not they intended their writing to do so. A good WRITER is someone who writes with technical skill. I continue to maintain that, voluntarily or not, Stephanie Meyer is a good AUTHOR. She communicates the feel of adolescence so well that it has created a chord of powerful sympathy in thousands of readers. This is a form of communication. If the purpose of literature is to generate an emotional reaction from the audience, Stephanie Meyer is quite successful in creating literature, because most people seem to either adore her work or absolutely detest it.

Interestingly, I notice that very few people offer up a way that she could have made the story better. Mostly, they just shoot down the notion of sparkly vampires, denigrate the sexual-stalker-dysfunctional over (and under) tones in the book, and so on. And on. Of course, this is similar to how much the fans of the book rant on about how beautiful the book is... because it is beautiful.

So, is it society or human nature that makes the population tend to polarize their opinions? People get so caught up in wanting to prove someone else wrong that they don't really address the issues outside of their own context. They don't want to offer a solution to a problem, they just want to point out that someone else's solution isn't going to work. We're seeing a lot of this in the government today; old grudges in the political arena are getting a lot of play, in my opinion, and I am heartily tired of the constant wrangling between people who use 'liberal' and 'conservative' as insults.

What words mean and how they are used is essential to communicating very clearly, and clear communication is essential to creating dialogue. Without dialogue, there is no true conversation. You only have two people making statements about themselves or their experiences at each other, and responding in the same way. When you boil down arguments, the majority of them come down to the fact that one person thinks the other person's experience is wrong. That's really all there is to it... but the thing is, if you don't understand the other person's experience, how can you really call it wrong?

Do I like Stephanie Meyer's writing? No, I sure don't. Do I like her main character? Absolutely not; she's a self-destructive, whiny, melodramatic adolescent who uses her intelligence to justify her own actions to herself. And yet, I recognize that point of view. I've seen that point of view, and I've been that adolescent. I also recognize that her writing reaches the lives of more people than mine probably ever will, and I can give her a nod of acknowledgment for that. It is an accomplishment, voluntary or not.

Similarly, do I like Obama? Not so much. He's just another politician, playing at being a politician. Do I like him better than McCain? Yes, I do, largely because I feel Obama is actually looking at things from a standpoint more appropriate to our changing circumstances. I will give him credit for his drive to follow through with ideas for health care and so forth. If nothing else, his attempts to create change have exposed a powerful undercurrent in the American public; the reactionary mess of the public health care debate is evidence that people are looking to find something to be angry at. Something concrete.

Whether you are outraged at 'Twilight' or ranting about 'bed wetting hippy liberals' or 'fundie warmongering conservatives', I think you're going to have to accept that these little items you are fixated on really don't matter so much. There is so much that needs cut out and replaced in how we live that if you focus all your energy on these tiny outrages, you're not paying attention to the big picture, and I don't think we can afford to ignore the big picture these days. The world is moving faster than we are, in terms of population, technology, social change and many other fields. The world is shrinking very quickly, and the shaky foundations we've built under us are showing their flaws.

Our flaws.

Sure, be angry. Be angry at the authors who get printed and make huge amounts of money. But rather than complain about them, or spend all your time writing forum posts about how awful they are.... write a better book. Write something that shows a related perspective in the positive way, and read that author very carefully so you can explain why other people LIKE the book as well as why you hate it.

Is that a metaphor? Why, yes it is.