Tag Archives: Personal

Making Good Use Of Feeling Bad

There’s a piece of common wisdom about writing:

Some of the best creative moments are when you’re frustrated, angry or sad. The key is to channel those emotions into your work.

I don’t emotionally channel. I compartmentalize.

It’s been kind of a rough week (especially the weekend). Have I gone on a creative bender?

No.

Mainly I’ve played a lot of System Shock 2 and watched King of the Hill. When I’m at work, I’ve been diving into tough development projects, keeping my brain busy solving engineering problems that have a solution.

I’m not saying that emotional experiences can’t be the inspiration for good work. But I don’t like the idea of using writing as a coping mechanism. I have used writing, including several pieces on this blog, to express thoughts and feelings I’ve been mulling over for a while. But when I write those pieces, I’m not doing it in the midst of the feelings I’ve been having. The closest I ever came was a year ago when my character was saying a prayer that at the time fit what I was feeling as much as it did for him. That might have been half a page.

Emotions should play a role in understanding how your characters are thinking and feeling in a situation, but the writing process itself is a fairly unemotional process (at least for me). If I wrote based solely on my moods I wouldn’t write at all. Discipline and daily exercise are what make for better writing (among other things).

Maybe there are pieces or projects that make sense to sink one’s emotional energy into. For me, that energy is better spent shooting cyborg ninjas and wondering when a scary female AI is going to betray me.

Do you “channel” your emotions onto the page?

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Focus!

So, ironically enough, I just got paid to give my political opinion.

Last Thursday I was invited to take part in a focus group on political and civic issues. We met on Monday night. Normally I don’t go in for this sort of thing. I don’t do surveys over the phone, and even less of the ones I get in my e-mail. I generally think that we poll too much as Americans, that we’re always asking for opinions before people have really had a chance to form them.

But $100 to sit in a room for two hours and talk, I’ll bite.

Aside from jokes my wife was making about the name “Harvest Research” and how she’d worry they’d taken my brain if I didn’t come home (a real nice joke to make to someone who’s been playing System Shock 2 for the last week), I was worried that I was going to be thrown in the midst of a fairly confrontational and controversial setting.

It’s one thing to be listen to extremist views of Facebook and the like, it’s quite another to be dragged into a conversation at work, or to choose to sit in a room with people who don’t agree with you.

I enjoyed it.

There were definitely a couple of early cringe moments, particularly when playing word association games with current and potential Presidents. There are a couple of the classic attacks of both sides that when I hear them causes me to have to use all my will power not to vent in frustration. However, the same could equally be said  of some of the things I say, and I was impressed at how civil and even convivial the conversation was.

We were a surprisingly diverse group, even with just eight people, all guys around my age. While we had been told to let every one talk and finish their sentences, there was no real disincentive preventing us from debating with one another, or even going on the offensive. We’d get paid either way. But we didn’t fight. Instead everyone displayed fairly sophisticated opinions and emotions regarding the election, the various political parties and the candidates. I felt comfortable sharing some of my own mixed views and disappointments, as well as my aspirations and hopes.

Additionally, we experienced a phenomena that I (perhaps this is biased) think is unique to men. Within less than two hours, a group of men who had little in common, and in fact openly disagreed with each other on important issues, were cracking jokes, both about ourselves, the situation, and our fellow focus group members. We took what I thought was going to be a kind of stressful situation, and made it fun.

It was the typical weird focus group experience. There were one way mirrors, and everything was being taped. But it was also a surprisingly vibrant and interesting discussion of the issues, without trying to make converts of the other people in the room. It was refreshing, at a time when I’ve been seeing a reacting to vitriol that is being spewed in so many other places on the web.

We need to do this more. Find people who disagree with us and invite them to dinner. Talk honestly about our feelings and our beliefs and really listen. Maybe it was the formalized setting. Maybe we felt we should behave because we were getting paid. But I actually think it was more than that. We can be better versions of ourselves if we just make a little effort.

And yes I still have my brain, though I think one of my kidneys is missing.

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It’s All Coming Back To Me Now

I’ve been retreading some old ground lately.

Some of it’s nostalgia. Watching old TV shows I like to watch, remembering things through chance find that I had almost forgotten (like Making Fiends). But more than that, I’m going back to some of the ideas and passions that fascinated me a number of years ago.

I guess it started with NaNoWriMo. I made my novel project for that month the redrafting of my high-school first novel (which holds the place as my first or my third book depending on when you ask me). It had been years since I had thought about those characters, those scenarios. Some things were familiar, and played out as they had before. Others changed, grew deeper or at least different. The reasons are obvious, I’m not the same guy I was in high-school. I’ve had more experiences, refined my writing process, and have new ideas about what’s interesting to explore.

And yet I still find myself coming back to a few old standbys.

Recently it’s been Fractals. It’s been years since I’ve seriously done any fractal programming or research but as those who follow the blog regularly will know, I’ve gotten back into them with a vengeance. I’m even considering having a Friday Fractal of the month (or fortnight) feature on the blog to showcase some of the behind the scenes work I’m doing at the moment. I don’t know what brought me back exactly (a NOVA special and a certain ridiculously tall writer friend of mine might have had something to do with it), but I find that even though that particular passion has laid dormant for so many years, it has lost none of its vigor.

There’s always a push as a writer and as a person to keep trying something new. To embrace a new project, or new TV show, or a new passion. But revisiting old thoughts is necessary as well, and can often lead to new ideas and projects. Nothing is ever too old to be reconsidered.

What things do you keep coming back to? What is that experience like for you?

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Filed under Faith + Life

Where Do I Focus?

I’m thinking about taking on a new project.

I have this thought at least a couple of times a week.  99% of the time I tend to dismiss these thoughts, reminding myself that I want to focus on a couple of things, rather than dabbling in everything.  When I started this blog a few months ago I was trying to draft new material for one book, revise two others, search for literary agents, write query letters, all while reading and writing short fiction and this blog. The first casualty was the new book, then one of the revisions, the agent search, the reading and the short story writing until I’ve winnowed it down to revising one book and blogging.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Trying to switch between narratives of three different novels was getting confusing, and the agent search is still something I’m doing from time to time. The blog affords me the opportunity to write on a variety of subjects, and even try out some short stories while getting useful feedback. And it integrates well into my life remaining (for most posts) confined to the hour I spend every lunch writing it.

But I am always thinking of new ideas, or revisiting old ones.

Sometimes I can integrate a new project into an existing one. Before I started this blog I had been giving some serious thought to starting a blog on one of my favorite hobbies, getting old games to work in new systems. I would call this blog AGFV or “A Game Forever Voyaging”, an allusion to the famous Infocom game “A Mind Forever Voyaging”. Knowing a little better now the amount of energy that goes into maintaining one blog, it’s unrealistic for me to try to do two and continue to revise. But that doesn’t mean I can’t stop from time to time to cover the topic here. Starting tomorrow and recurring every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month I’ll cover either a game, an emulator, or something else relating to old PC games (hope you’ll enjoy).

But sometimes you have to choose.

I’m thinking about a non-fiction book project, one that might take me (and possibly a collaborator) 5-6 months to complete. It would involve programming, research, and learning more about eBook publishing formats, all good things to know for my eventual fiction publishing goals. For reasons I’ll get into another time, this moment seems like a better moment than others to work on this project, but it will mean my novel revision schedule will slow down considerably or grind to a halt.

I’ve been working for about 4 months revising my latest novel and have (for the most part) been enjoying that process. I just recently started typing in my hand revisions and even have the first chapter in Kindle format as a bit of a reward to myself. I don’t really want to stop, but I’m excited about the prospects this new project might have, both for expanding an audience, and for filling a void that I think someone should address.

For the moment I’m not sure what I’ll do. Maybe this’ll be like the other 99% of my ideas, but maybe not. I’m praying about it, and in the meantime trying to get work done on the things I know I need to do. There are moments in all of our lives where we have the opportunity to stop what we’re doing and do something else, whether it’s changing jobs or deciding to exercise, or pursuing an interest. Sometimes we’re right where we should be, and other times we need to take a detour to get where we’re going.

If I figure it out, I’ll let you know. Thanks for riding along with me!

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Filed under Internal Debate 42, Writing