Welcome

The not-entirely-random thoughts of Chris Brecheen about writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blog's August Demands

Blog burst in on me in the bathroom this morning with one of its harebrained schemes.

Blog: So about August!

Me: Uh....Blog, I'm kind of in the middle of something.

Blog: Uncanny how frequently that happens isn't it?

Me: "Uncanny" was not the word I was thinking of.

Blog: Whatever, this can't wait.

Me: Okay, well then you might want to light that candle then.

Blog: So we didn't hit May's goal of 1000 hits a day....

Me: By only one day.

Blog: And I was really sweet to leave you alone while you were doing that summer school thing....

Me: Thanks...I guess.

Blog: And we just nailed 15,000 followers on your Facebook page yesterday.

Me: Yeah, that was cool.

Blog: But now that that's over, I've been thinking about August.

Me: Oh God.

Blog: Okay picture this... (pause)

Me: (pause)

Blog: (pause)

Me: (pause) Are you going to say something?

Blog: Fifty. Thousand. Hits.

Me: No.

Blog: Wait hear me out.

Me: No.

Blog: We can do this.

Me: No, I won't hear you out and we can't do this. We average 1000 hits a day. That's it. Some days it's more, but not a lot more. And we still sometimes have those lousy 850 days. You're talking about making 500 extra hits per day. You're talking about a day and a half worth of page views every single day. Your passion is compelling, Blog, but it's also useless.

Blog: Don't be such a chicken shit. Like what are you afraid of? Success?

Me: It's not possible. It can't be done. That's not fear. That's the cold ice water of lubeless anal reality.

Blog: That's your uncle talking....and mixing metaphors, apparently. Lily Sloane said the warp drive would never work. They told Han he'd never find Luke in that snowstorm OR successfully navigate an asteroid field. No one could possibly fight an agent until Neo did. No one could survive Voldemort's death spell until Harry Pott-

Me: Wh--? That's a bunch of sci-fi bullshit. It's not even real!

Blog: (Lawrence Fishburne voice) He's beginning to believe!

Me: Shut up.

Blog: Come on, Chris. If you had a bunch of sports metaphors stuffed into your brain, I'd use those. I work with what I've got. Now are you going to go to your room and cry that the target is only two meters wide and no one can hit that with proton torpedos, or are you going to pull up your big kid undies, get in your motherfucking X-wing and show that Bechdel hating, nuance-free, prehistoric douchenozzle galaxy how we do things downtown.

Me: I dunno....this seems overly ambitious. Even for you.

Blog: But you're back! You can write good shit. You don't have to teach twelve year olds how to manage their time and make flashcards. Whip out some good articles and let the hits flow.

Me: I go back to teaching at the end of the month.

Blog: Pfffft. Like one day a week. That doesn't even count as a job. That's like a cancer survivors meeting.  ....with grammar.

Me: That's kind of fucked up.

Blog: (Lawrence Fishburne voice) He's beginning to believe!

Me: Shut up! Burning Man. I won't even be here the whole month. There's no way I can do this when I'm out of it for that whole time. Days of inactivity--no social media promotion. You don't even understand how slow August usually is for this blog.

Blog: You mean like last August when you got 53,318 page views?

Me: That was because of Creepy Guy!

Blog: But you can do it. You already know that. Schedule the posts. You'll only be gone a few days. Better yet, nail it before you even leave. Write something viral. Ask a friend to promote the posts for those few days. You could totally do this. Don't be a negative Nelly Mr. Can'tdopants.

Me: It's very unlikely.

Blog: But possible.

Me: Theoretically, I guess, it's technically conceivable. Maybe.

Blog: Gee whiz, Chris, don't sound too fucking confident.

Me: I just don't want to get my hopes up.

Blog: (pause) Why on Earth not? Where else would you want them? Don't be that guy, Chris. Don't get comfortable. Don't tread fucking water making two dollars a day because you've convinced yourself you can't do any better. I'll go be someone else's blog if that's the limit of your ambition.

Me: I dunno....

Blog: Look....I'm not asking you to believe it will be easy. You're going to have a month that you will talk about for years. I just want you to believe it will be possible. Because shit, man, EVERY month should be like that. You only get one of these lives.

Me: Did you just use YOLO to try to sell me on this?

Blog: (clears throat) Maaaaaaybe. Did it work?

Me: (sighs) I'm going to regret this.

Blog: YES! FUCK YES!!! It is on like TRON!!! Look out world......or....like 50,000 of you anyway. We are going to do this thing. I didn't even have to sing Rent lyrics! There's only now...there's only this..... (Lawrence Fishburne voice) He IS beginning to believe.

Me: SHUT UP!!! God.

Blog: (pausing and sniffing) Jesus how much garlic did you eat yesterday.

A Quick Note

A quick note to all my breathtakingly generous patrons:

You are not forgotten. You are not ignored. I have been positively derelict in my duty to thank you all in a proper way. However, I have not, at any point, forgotten that I am being derelict.

I owe a number of people of spectacular generosity an e-mail of thanks for their often jaw dropping contributions. (And it seems as if the Patron Muses shall have at least one new inductee.)

My world got tons easier when I finished teaching summer school, but it is still pretty much wake up, be handed a kid, watch kid for six hours, write like the wind, clean the house, fall into bed, do it all again the next day. I do all my extra stuff on the weekends, and since last weekend I needed to recover from teaching, I didn't get to the small mountain of stuff that's been accumulating for the last two months.

I won't be promoting this post on social media, but I figure you all are following in a way that you'll see it somehow. I just wanted you to know in the meantime that each and every one of you is spectacular.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fortune Cookie Wisdom VIII


Even staler fortune cookies. 

The problem is that we live in a world where most people think ideas are worth money and work doesn't matter instead of realizing that everyone has ideas and it is the people who work to make them real that do matter.

Live a new schedule for a few days before figuring out where your writing is going to fit in. No schedule will ever really be quite how it looks on paper.  

No writer is immune to the effect of people not respecting their writing time. The trick is to pack a flamethrower and flash your best crazy eyes.

Creative writing programs are not a waste of time, but be ready to deal with a lot of things that aren't actually writing, and be ready to spend a lot of money for things you could have reproduced with self-motivation, 100 hours on Google, and some sincere fellow writers' feedback.

A generation of writers exists now who fetishize the physical book as the pinnacle of writing success. Despite the fact that physical book publishing is descends into greater obsolescence, market shares have shrunk, and it has become far more difficult to achieve success through traditional publishing, they still believe physical books, book deals, publishing contracts, agents and such are more "legitimate." I'm not here to judge their route but I am here to cheer that there is no longer just ONE route, and I will not stop pointing out that unless one is fabulously well established as a writer already, traditional publishing will lead to fewer readers, more logistics, less writing time, and less money. It is no longer the path.

Agents might be strange writer-hating creatures who live in caves with booby traps and acid pits, but if you're going through traditional publishing, you need one.

If you don't think a million page views and a semi-regular paycheck takes the curse off of people who insist I'm not a "real writer," you're wrong.

If you want to be an elitist, classist, ablist, (and often racist) anal sphincter, be a pedantic jerk about "proper" grammar and assume things about people's intelligence based upon the fact that their dialect doesn't match yours or their eduction wasn't as stellar as yours. On the other hand, if you want to be a widely-read writer, it's in your best interest to learn which rules the group in power favors and break them only with care and consideration.

Every writer you envy (and most you've never heard of) have sacrificed something for their writing. Family. A "real" job. A social life. Something. It's not that you'll never publish or never make money doing something casually for a few hours on the weekend, but the writers who fill our bookshelves have all had to put something on the altar of writing.

People will Google your name the minute you hit the public sphere. Make sure they don't find your Friendster account from ten years ago with the Emo Julia Moore™ poetry phase.

If the answer to "Why do you write?" is money, fame, groupies, really hot birthday threesomes, or basically any reason other than "Because I love the act of writing for its own sake," you might want to quit now. There are better and easier ways to get all that other stuff.

I need more fortune cookies!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Prepare Fingers for Massive Key Bombardment!


And we're back!

Yesterday was the last entry consumed by Project Sanity. I meant to write overdue thank you letters to patrons, fix a couple of menus, and update the Cast and Crew with it's latest character, OG. Instead, I ended up on the business end of one of those uber-naps that starts out innocently giving the cat some scritches and ends up with you waking up four hours later wondering what time zone you're in, and the cat is looking at you like The Emperor from Star Wars and meowing "Good! GOOD! Give in to your lethargic feelings. The sleep is swelling in you now."

No problem, right? Just get to it after the nap, right?

Wrongo.

Then everyone and their brother started crawling out from under the stairs and air vets and up through plumbing to try and get me to do things. Unsupportive Girlfriend scheduled a lunch with me but then got angry when I said I had work to do afterwards. Fortunately after a few bites of food she must have slipped off while I was looking away and Supportive Girlfriend showed up who was much more understanding and enjoyed my company but knew I had to get to work when we got home.

So I could just do that stuff when I got home, right?

Still wrongo.

People started crawling out of the woodwork to get my attention, since I finally had it to give. They came through the plumbing and out from under the stairs. They even started squeezing through the air vents.

I'm not immune to the effect of people not respecting my time as a writer. I just usually pack a flamethrower and flash my crazy eyes. Today I left Bessie (that's what I named my flamethrower) at home. But it doesn't matter. I have serviced the auto-tracking 50 cal dual machine guns (like in the Aliens movie) and set them up outside the junk room that doubles as some Macgyvered office space. Because if a writer doesn't respect their writing time, sure as shit no one else will. Today I write!

I want to thank everyone for sticking with me through the madness of these last six weeks. I don't like shirking my writing commitments, but with the kid and the housework and the lack of domestic ninja backup, it was just too much.

Writing About Writing will hit the ground running today. Back to five or six updates a week and "brunch posts" many days. We will get back onto the update schedule, and now that time management is combined with finding sea legs in the baby routine and the unimaginable time boon of not teaching summer school, I plan to get back to quality articles and even fiction.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

I Will Share My Experiences in Real Time

Part 2 of my Mission Statement

So I’m fresh out of a creative writing program and ready to set the world on fire! But once I’m out of prison for the arson charge, I will rock the party that rocks the party.

And while I'm at it, I'm going to find out what that even means.

And when I do, I’m going to post it right here.

Sometime around nine years prior to this writing, I hung up a sauce-stained tie, stopped managing The Old Spaghetti Factory in Concord, and gave up the USDA, public service announcement recipe for Happiness And The American Dream, and struck off on my own path. I had tried the "real" job, "real" life, "real" responsibilities, and even saved up for a "real" house and was talking about "real" kids with my "real" wife.

All that realness sucked balls. Sadly, not in the way that is vaguely tantalizing.  More like in the way that an overenthusiastic teen with braces does it.

So I dumped all that "real" crap (except the "real" wife; she did the dumping in that case) and I started writing. I got a flip over haircut and I told my mom I just really needed to focus on my art.

This was after I visited Esma's secret lab.
Why does she even HAVE that other lever.
Unfortunately, what I produced was little more than a steaming pile of crap. That is when I began my mission.

Well, really I began a quest.

Many years earlier I had become "A Writer"....Dorothea Brande style...but I needed help with the craft itself. My prose was rough around the edges. My grammar was pretty atrocious. I liked writing about farm boys fighting dark lords. I had to learn to do with quality what I loved to do with quantity.

And so I began my quest. I was told the location of an ancient, magical sword by this venerable dude who looked amazingly like Burgess Meredith. I had to kill a troll. (There was even witty banter.) I got the sword. I went back to the guy and asked him how this was supposed to make me a better writer, and he kind of stared at me blankly and blinked."

Writer?" he said. "Who the hell would ever want to be a writer? There's no money in that. What you need to do is lop the heads off of dragons. The bigger the dragon, the better. Lots of money. Pussy too. You'll be drowning in that shit. And not that second rate stuff either; I'm talking the ones with the legs that go all the way up! Chicks dig dragonslayers."

 Turned out I we’d gotten our wires crossed somewhere. And when I said “learn to write” he had heard “kill the hydra.” (Not sure where the hell that came from. They barely even rhyme.) I left him the sword, in case he found the right sort of hero, and headed off.

 Fucking sexist kook.

Without a wizened old mentor cliche, I didn’t see how I was ever going to learn to write. I kept putting on montage music and then sitting down to the keyboard, but by the end of the song, I was still looking at mediocre writing. (What do you expect, those songs are only like two minutes long.)

I tried to catch a chicken, but even when I did, my prose did not improve. I also had a horrible case of histioplasmosis from fungus in the droppings. That put me in the hospital for like a month.

So I decided to quest for the secret to craft myself. No mentor.

Perhaps I would assemble a rag tag group of misfits along the way--hopefully including a ninja who is looking for his father–a ninja who can pull fish right out of a river. We would hopefully be joined by a talking firedog, a gruff dude with a machine gun for an arm, and a giant stuffed animal ridden by a cat with a megaphone. And if I was very, very lucky, my team might also have a Mandroid.

Each of them would join me for their own purposes. But we would face the Dark Lord together.

The....um...."dark lord" of shitty writing.

Regardless, I was going to walk this road, mentor or no. Nothing was going to stop me. I even queued up "Break My Stride" I looked to the horizon, where the sun was setting, and dragged a blade across my palm (different blade—I gave the enchanted sword back to Burgess remember; try to keep up). As I did, with wind whipping my hair, I cried, “I swear by my blood, I will learn to write.”

And it was pretty dramatic except for fucking Matthew Wilder's voice.

  If we never ever again–as a culture–permit the combination of hippie mustaches and leather pants it will be too soon. 

To this day, if you go to that spot, where the wind tousled my hair, and my blood spilled to the ground, and you look where my life fluid touched the fecund soil beneath me, you will find.....nothing of any particular significance.

My quest led me to college....where some said mentors still lived. But where the demon to be defeated was college itself.

Thus I battled with college. For seven years we fought. College smashed me, beat me, slammed me into walls, threw me to the ground, chewed me up and spit me out, and once swallowed me and digested me. But every time it thought the fight was over, every time I looked well and truly dead, and it turned away, I would stand up, grab my Trapper Keeper and mechanical pencil, and say, “I’m not done. I’m going to be a writer. Is that the best you've got?"

College lays dead at my feet.  Yet the quest goes on.

I found that college (even a creative writing degree) had very little to do with being a writer, and a lot more to do with a firm basis in general education, literary analysis, and following directions. It had some to do with writing (though not as much as I'd have hoped), but almost nothing to do with being a writer. It also probably wrung out the desire to write from more writers than it ever taught the craft. Now I had to fuse the knowledge of how to write with the love of writing itself, and combine it with one serious fuckton of work.

That's where you tuned in. And even though most of this post is about the past, what I'm trying to get at is that you found me still gathering up my motley crew on my way The Black Fortress (even though neither they nor my sentient ninja star will be nearly as useful at defeating The Beast as the Flamethrower of LOVE™). I haven't even found the firemares yet.

Damn, Colwyn, you can really make your "love" shoot far...and hit faces with amazing accuracy.

Here is my pledge, however. Whatever I discover, I will share here. If I learn a trick, I’ll put it here.  If I discover a sure fire way to network, it’ll be up here by the next weekday. If I hit pay dirt along one avenue or hit nothing but walls along another, you will know it happened. If there's a wait involved in an acceptance process, I'll detail every agonizing day of it.

It will also show you the banal in excruciating real time. No overnight success stories. If I start to carve out something, you will see how it took me years of writing every day to get there. You will watch me improve from old articles to new. You will see my career as it happens. You will know what to expect.

The new leg of my journey begins, and I’m going to chronicle it here. And if any insight I glean helps you in your own quest--be it the weaknesses of trolls, the fact that kingsfoil stimulates creativity (because that shit is the best medicine ever, for anything, even though only one person seems to know it), or that publishers have a weakness for silver and cold steel--I will rejoice. And if any place I point out troll droppings, ogre sniper rifle laser sight dots, or vampric agents, because I went through it and was able to warn you off, I will also rejoice.

The tricks and the pitfalls: I will share them all. And we can take the next part of this fantastic quest together.

Best to imagine me as Madmartigan looking at Arik with an impish smile. "Wanna come with us?"

Or if your bent is a little more sinister and Sithy, you can imagine Darth Vader at the end of Empire: "Join me! Together we can rule the galaxy."

You know...whatever bakes your churro.