Digital Polyphony

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Thoughts On: Writing

Posted on July 27, 2010 at 1:42 AM




When someone says “writer” what images crop up in your mind? I’m betting a guy at a computer or typewriter in some secluded house, sitting in complete silence in a wood-paneled den as his fingers move furiously across the keyboard. He suddenly stops, leans back, and smiles at the masterpiece he’s just completed. He prints out all the pages, ties a rubber band around them and puts them in a box addressed to his editor. 


He grabs a cup of coffee and stands outside on his balcony and sips away as the sunlight cascades onto his face and a gentle breeze causes the trees to dance. Or maybe you imagine him in a loft, with a tape recorder as he listens to his thoughts and types to the wee hours of the morning. The film Adaptation probably captures the process of most writers, I’m thinking. It shows a bombardment of ideas and thoughts and the struggle to put them in an order. It comes and goes with rare moments of clarity.


I suppose each writer has their own methods to their madness. What I’ve noticed with the internet and this blog, though, is that it really unleashes the various ways you can explore the process for yourself. In my case, I veer towards the “write it all now, figure it out later” process than anything with a focus or linearity to it, yet I still try to get it as perfect as possible – even adding and changing stuff after it’s been put online. Think of it as a strange combination of ADD and OCD.


If you look at any of the stuff I’ve written on this site, including this thing you’re reading now, you probably think I just wrote it in one sitting. Maybe I spent an hour or two putting it all together. Well, that’s just not the case. Usually I have three or four things in draft form going on at the same time, from articles to movie reviews to blogs, and within each of those have probably written the third paragraph before I wrote the first, or stuck in a bunch of bullet points and a conclusion before even having a clue as to how I will get to that point beforehand. One article might be a top ten, with numbers 2, 3, 6, and 9 missing, for example. I don’t know what will go in those slots, I just know I’m confident on the positions of the things in slots 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10. At that moment, I probably have two or three reviews in draft form, some with the “Good” areas put in, some complete, and some with just an “Ugly” section filled in. It’s all over the map. Throw in a blog or two of ramblings over the course of the day (or three), which probably explains the tonal shifts and mood swings because every day is different, along with a couple of drafts of articles, one nearly complete as I started from the concluding paragraph first and the other one with just the phrases “Ugly Green Screen,” and “Who made this?” to remind myself to check along with a picture of Mario as the entire body of it at this point. It's fifteen minutes here, thirty seconds elsewhere, and a list of "to do" things always in the back of my head. On top of that, I write fiction and scripts as well. But don’t even get me started on fiction writing, that’s a beat of its own and battling against this blog and movie review stuff I’ve been doing for a year is a way to get away from it.


Now take a breath, and realize that’s going on every day in my head.




Of course, that’s just the writing aspect of it all. You see, while I’m writing a majority of these things, I’m not sitting in some room bombarding my head with ideas and developing calluses. In fact, right this minute, as I’m typing this sentence, I’m rolling calls at the office, checking some meeting schedules and have a chat window open that’s about five chats behind. I work. I not only work, I work full time Monday through Friday from about 9AM to 7PM. How the hell do I even do laundry?


My desire to write stems from a need to constantly “do” something. I can’t just sit at home and not do anything just as I can't at work. The only time I’m ever in any sense of “calmness” is when I sit to watch a movie. Even then, especially if I’m at my desk while the movie is on, I’m online, writing, clicking around, organizing something or playing guitar or piano. Then you have all the other, mundane stuff. Laundry I mentioned, then groceries, going to the bank, and if I’m lucky I can cram in a bar visit for some liquid inspiration or a game or two to play....oh, and sleep, can’t forget sleep.


Writing, though is always apparent. I always have a window open, as I do now, and just let the fingers do the typing. My brain can manage to write even while something else is going on, such as listening to co-workers chat or go over my notes for next week’s business and meeting confirmations. I think that’s the “zone” writers talk about and that “zone” is different for each person. For me, it’s a bit of a constant – like a math problem that always has a remainder at the end of all the work. I can do twenty things at once yet continuously write, which probably explains the 500+ movie reviews because I find those, more often than most things I write about, the easiest to get into and relay. Having an easy system and layout for them helps in a “zone” full of all-over-the-place ramblings, asides and off hand blathering that, hopefully, covers up the fact that I probably have no idea what the hell I’m saying half the time. Just throw in some big words. That’ll do it. You know, like accoutrement or some non-English word used in English diction, like oeuvre which I still can’t pronounce correctly. Oh, and “Pontification.” I’ve always liked that word, it sounds like a word to be used for a children’s book, “Mr. Pontification Goes to the Market” or “Titillation of your Pontification” by Dr. Seuss.




I pontificate a lot. As much as I’d like to say there’s a method to the madness, there really isn’t. In his memoir On Writing, arguably the best book he’s done since Needful Things, Stephen King wrote “...when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”


I like that quote, because it briefly explains what any person does when they’re passionate about something. Some love to paint, others play music, then there’s us writers that are all over the place. Even we wish we were in those wood-paneled dens sipping coffee and tea, but writers are also realists – I think the fantasy and fleeting thoughts are saved for the paper.


It also notes something I agree with: an artists tends to do something for themselves first, others second. Don’t get me wrong, a writer WANTS you to read his work and a painter WANTS to share his paintings with you. They want feedback (they should, at least, otherwise they’ll never grow) and they want validation. Yet, if that doesn’t come, they won’t suddenly stop doing those things. They’ll continue on because that’s what drives them. I don’t write and put stuff online for people to read. I just put it up, and if people somehow fall into a blog post here or a website there with the material on it, then that’s even better. I do a lot of these articles and reviews because I need focus for the madness even if there is no general method to it. It’s an outlet. An open door that won’t shut because its off its hinges and scrapes on the wood floor. I keep trying to shut it, but I know it never will, so I just leave it open and let the draft in.




So, now, it’s been over a year with this little experiment. I enjoy it and I like putting things up whether people like to read it or not, though I am always welcome to feedback. Although the tediousness of organizing a website makes me wish I had my old Blogspot site back, I like to toy around with it and mess with peoples’ minds to direct them where to go and predict how they’ll think or where they'll click. It’s kind of fun. For instance, the human mind likes things itemized and categorized, which is why there’s a lot of countdown articles (even at the end of regular ones) and lists of various things or why everything's put in neat little packages under various sections. Well, it’s either that or that OCD half of the OCD versus ADD battle kicking in. It's fun - a good way to take a breath from all that writing, which is itself a breath taken from reality with work and so forth. 


I thought I’d just share the musings of the process in hopes that, should there be other writers, bloggers, reviewers and the like out there pondering their desire to do so, to take the leap. You need the outlet. You have to give direction to creativity – something I’m a great supporter and proponent of at any level and in any manner or medium. You can’t just bottle it all up. Otherwise, you’ll never get that fancy wood-paneled den and nice cup of coffee as you stand on a balcony with a smile on your face – also known as that satisfaction of stopping for a moment and feeling you’ve achieved something.

 


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