Thursday, June 25, 2015

Now, before it's too late

About a year and a half ago, I had the terrible and unwanted honor to write my father-in-law's eulogy.  I didn't even mean to write it, not really, I just did what I always do when everything seems overwhelming and impossibly heavy: I wrote.  It is what I have always done; I tried to capture the scattered wash of feelings and organize them into something that seems to make sense to me.  It was not my intention to write what would ultimately become his eulogy that night, I had no claim to that;  I just wrote and shared it with his family, all of them more scattered and devastated than I was, and they wanted me to read it at his funeral mass.

It was... difficult.

I have been thinking of him a lot recently, partly because Father's Day has just passed, and partly because we miss him terribly still, his absence comes up in unexpected ways, even still, and I find myself shocked again, and for a minute I have to blink my eyes hard, act like I'm OK...

The other day, I found myself wishing I had a chance to read it to him.  Not because he didn't know how we all felt about him, because he had to have known that he was loved immensely, that he was appreciated and cherished.  Holding back feelings is not a problem my extended family generally has.  I just thought it was a nice testament to a life well lived, and maybe it would have made him smile, made him give me a hug, maybe it would have

I think he would have liked to hear what I wrote.  I think he would have liked what I wrote after it was too late.

Damn, Eddie.

Damn.

This world can be cruel and cold and unflinchingly, impossibly difficult. And I wish there was more time.

So.

It is in this spirit that, for my next trick, I fully intend to eulogize people that I love, people that have had an impact on my life, people that are still alive, that might be able to smile and give me a hug still, now, before it is too late.  I do not intend this to be as grim as it sounds.  I swear it is an expression of my love and appreciation.

Maybe I better ask first, see if people would be uncomfortable to be publicly eulogized while they are still alive.

Nah.

Look out people, treat me too well, you might find your name here, and have my love for you exposed on the least private place on the face of the earth.

Bless.

Still Writing,

RP

Oh, and I'm now on Facebook (gross!), and have started an Antiartists page there for news and updates and thoughts and other nonsense.  Check me out, like my stuff (as if you don't already).
 Also the usual: Twitter @RDPullins, email dissent dot within at gmail dot com, comment here if you wanna.  Cheers!   

Monday, June 15, 2015

Idea Seeds

One of the more common questions a writer gets is one that is pretty much impossible to answer.

Where do you get your ideas?

It is impossible for any of us to definitively answer because it is different for everyone.  What happened with me was, I was playing in a creek when I was a kid, and I found a stone, beautiful and perfectly smooth, shimmery red and gold.  I took it home and put it under my pillow.  That night, a tiny red and gold dragon came in through my open window, and whispered to me the idea that would become my first story.  He had a British accent.

He still comes, that dragon.  We have both gotten older, but still, most nights he whispers ideas into my sleeping ear, and sometimes I write the stories he suggests to me, and sometimes I do not.

 If you want to know where writers get their ideas, I'll tell you a secret: it's magic.  As I understand it, it is different for every writer.  For some, a stork delivers them, others, it's elves.  One of my writer friends is getting concerned; he bought a bag of idea seeds from an old gypsy woman and he plants them one by one, where they sprout into manuscripts.  He is concerned, he says, because he is almost out of seeds.  "That was a really long time ago," he tells me, "and she was pretty old even then.  I guess my career as a writer is basically over.  I should have taken the 'buy two bags get the third bag free' deal she offered me, but I was young and dumb, and pretty broke too."  Poor guy.  Makes me glad my dragon doesn't seem to have a limited number of ideas.  Though come to think of it, I have never asked; maybe one day he will just stop showing up.

Makes sense right?  It has to be dragons, or seeds.

I think the people who ask this seemingly simple question want a simple answer.  They think that there might be a way to tap into the idea stream, and then they themselves can have great ideas and write awesome stories, too.  My advice to those people is this: do like I did, and find a dragon egg.  Otherwise, like anything else, it's work, it's thinking about it, it's observing the world around you and wondering about why things are the way they are, and what would it be like if they weren't.  If you don't know any gypsies or wizards or druids or whatever, you're just going to have to come up with your own ideas, folks.  Sorry.   

Really though, the simple answer, if there is one, is just two words: What if?

I was driving home from work one day, and I thought, what if there was a flaw in the marble of the David?  What kind of person, if they knew about it, would try and break it?  What would drive them to that point?  That's the idea.  That's the What If.  The rest was work, framing a story, developing characters, finding motivations, you know the deal.  Writing. 

That's it.  It's not magic, it's not elves or storks.  Sorry. 

There were times writing Antiartists that I felt constrained by reality, by what I believed would really happen.  I wanted better for some of the characters, a nicer ending for them, but it didn't work.  I didn't believe it, and if I didn't believe there was no way that anyone else would.  There were times that the characters were at real places that I have never been, real, physical visitable places.  I had to look up pictures on the internet, browse people's vacation photos, and then write around reality, and it kinda sucked.  I wanted the thing to look like it did in my head, not be constrained by the bullshit truth.  I didn't become a writer to become anchored to reality.  I live a good portion of my life lost inside my own imagination, daydreaming and wondering and imagining something different.  I live a lot of my life in What If.

There is no magic here.  I wish there were, but I can only tell you what I know to be true.

Read a lot, write a lot.  Work hard, try to not get discouraged, never quit hoping.

Have a little perspective.  There are worms of some kind in the drains of the urinals here in my office building.  They spend their entire day in the dark, getting pissed on, getting flushed further down the drain, but still, every day a couple of them manage to crawl out of the drain and spend a few glorious minutes out in the light and gleaming white porcelain.  Then, of course, they get pissed on again and flushed down the drain, but for a few minutes they get to live in the light.

Take a moment today for gratitude.  Say to yourself, at least I'm not a urinal worm.

Still writing,

RP

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

After the Shine Has Worn Off

I'm at the point in writing the new book where I suspect most people quit.

It is big now, and the end is within sight.  I have just the last section, maybe a third of the novel, including the denouement.  It is clear that I can finish it.  It is within reach, which is some of the problem.

When you first start writing, you are filled with bright shining optimism and inspiration.  It is this that drives you onward, the beautiful vision.  It is similar to falling in love; at first everything is awesome, you're being careful with one another, you wear nice clothes go out to nice places.  Then things get a little comfortable down the line, you stay in, watch movies, cuddle on the couch.  Then after that you've been together a long time, you let out your farts unabashedly, you sit around in your sweat pants and play video games and yeah it's comfortable, familiar, but it is a far cry from the excitement and passionate fire of the beginning.

I bet it is at this point that people walk away.  I've done it.  I walked away from 45,000 words of what was to be my first novel because I heard the siren song of a new idea, a new project.  Things were getting kinda stale.  I dropped it and started the manuscript that would become Antiartists.  I told myself that I'd be back, but I haven't touched it.  It's worthwhile, I think, maybe I will revisit it.  Maybe.  But probably not.

I want to walk away from the new book.  I'm struggling to remember what the whole point is.  Why did I start this thing, why should I finish it?  And what about that other idea, about the brothers and the road trip and the punk rock and the cancer?  Shouldn't you do something about that?  Maybe just start the outline, it really doesn't mean anything, you're just messing around, right?  It's harmless, just a little touch of the keyboard here, a little punctuation there...  But it does mean something, it's not harmless.  If you fuck it all up, lose focus, there's no going back.

The big difference between writers and other people is that we write.  The difference between successful writers and failed writers is primarily this: successful writers finish their shit.  They finish it, even when the shine has worn off, even when it sucks, they finish.  I want to be one of those people.  I will be one of those people, which means I have to finish my shit too.

I'm not going to quit, but sometimes, I damn well want to.

I know people that have been married two, three, five times.  Decent, good people that just couldn't face the shock that relationships take a lot of work, that it's going to suck sometimes, that the other is a person that farts and doesn't want to shave everyday, that in fact, the one that they are so enamored by is pretty much like themselves, not some magic panacea for loneliness.

 It is, I admit, a commitment.  It is a lot of work for no guarantee of reward.  It is something that requires your care and attention and time, and often is isn't fun.  I would be willing to bet that all writers at one time or another in the process consider abandoning their work, just walking away.  It's just that the good ones don't go through with it. 

Starting is easy; it's finishing that is the hard part.  Sticking with it when the honeymoon is over, that's the trick.

Still (STILL!) Writing,

RP

Reach me via the usual methods.  Comment here if you wanna, or email me, or find me on Twitter @RDPullins
Things are happening with all this stuff.  I'm interested to find how it all works out.  Cheers.