Saturday, June 30, 2007

Writers are emotional babies

We really are. We lap up every drop of praise as if it's the best thing we've ever tasted, and we fall apart inside at the slightest bit of criticism. Some of us do a better job than others at hiding this behavior, but it's right there, under the surface, in every writer I've ever known.

I, of course, am an exception, a paragon of maturity, secure and unshakable in my self-confidence.

Oh, yeah. Definitely.

I warned you not to write.

I haven't previously warned you not to associate with writers, because that bit of advice should be self-evident, but I'm warning you now. After all, why would anyone want to put up with them?

If you choose to ignore either of these warnings, you do so at your own peril.

Don't blame me.

Ellison's advice for writers

The dread is heavy upon me tonight, so I'll keep this short and get back to the novel.

I've heard Harlan Ellison say on more than one occasion that if you can possibly do anything other than writing, do it, stop writing, move along.

I used to think he was too harsh.

Now that I write every day, I completely agree with him.

You've been warned.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Passion or skill?

Tonight, we attended Sarah's end-of-camp celebration, at which many of the young writers, including Sarah, read poems and story sections they had written during the camp. As I have each year, I found the writing of extremely variable quality but the passion uniformly high and admirable.

It's easy to poke fun at teen writing, and there's certainly plenty of bad examples. I know I contributed more than my fair share to the world when, as a young poet, I churned out a few hundred poems, most of which were heartfelt and poorly executed. Many folks also like to decry teen writing, especially teen poetry, for its raw, direct, and frequently unskilled nature.

And yet.

And yet there's a passion in a great deal of teen writing that I find powerful and alluring and praiseworthy.

All of which made me confront one of those hypothetical questions that is useless in any real sense but nonetheless interesting, at least to me, as a sort of directional guide:

If you absolutely had to choose one, would you pick passion or skill?

I'm talking about writing here, but the question extends naturally to other areas.

I know that skill will produce the better product. I also know that reading extremely passionate but unskilled work can be downright painful.

All that said, if I had to pick one, I'd go for passion.

Passion every time.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fireworks are my friends

Each Fourth of July, we have a big party in the country and set off a lot of fireworks. I'm not talking the little stuff you buy at roadside stands; no, we shoot 500-gram aerial repeaters and a lot of them, almost 1,200 pounds this year.

Today, we moved the order from the pallets where the shipping company left it into its secret hiding place. The names of the devices are amazing: The New Hotness, Crazy Exciting on Steroids, Sweet Thing, B.C. Extreme Freestyle, and many more. How can you not want to experience The New Hotness?

I can hardly wait for the Fourth!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I love thunderstorms. Their sound, wind, driving rain--the entire experience is wonderful. A huge storm hit our office for a while today, and I found myself having trouble concentrating and staring out the window in awe at the dark sky.

When I was growing up in St. Petersburg, an early evening storm meant a cooler evening, something we much prized. Maybe those memories are why I'm such a fan of storms.

What strikes me most, though, is the primal energy they unleash. Like standing under the fireworks each Fourth of July, being out in a powerful storm puts you both in the midst of and at the whim of forces beyond your control. We all live that way every day, of course, but something about gusting winds, darkening skies, splits of lightning, and explosions of thunder connect to my core more than any intellectual understanding ever will.

More ways to tell I'm a geek

I want an iPhone even though it may not be the best phone for my needs. (I'm not enough of a geek to camp out or even fight lines to get one. I just want it.)

Each time I sit down in front of one of my 30-inch monitors, I think, "Cool."

Each time I sit down in front of one of my 30-inch monitors, I think, "Wish I could get a bigger one."

I want to upgrade my computers at least twice a year. At least.

Sitting in a bookstore can calm me down and excite me at the same time.

I get excited talking with my friend Kyle about code optimization work he's doing.

Each time my company gets some new piece of technology to test, I go look at it and think it's cool.

I could go on, but you get the point: I am such a geek.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The dreaded middle

Almost every novelist I know hits a point while writing a book at which he or she realizes, with a deep and deafening certainty, that the book is crap, utter rubbish. This point occurs about a third of the way into the book and lasts until the last ten or twenty percent of the book. No reassurances will help the writer stuck in this pit. No knowledge of past accomplishments will remove the dread.

The only path out is to forge ahead, knowing that what you're writing sucks but doing it nonetheless because, well, what else is there?

I'm in the middle of Slanted Jack right now, and the dread is keeping me company. I work from a fairly detailed outline, and once upon a time, lo these few months ago, the outline seemed to me to represent a good book, a book I'd like reading, that possibly others might also enjoy reading. Courtesy of the dread, I know now that I was only fooling myself, that the book sucks, that I suck, that it's all hopeless.

Still, I'll keep writing, day in and day out, every day, no days off.

What else is there?

Bad movie vs. bad time

A bad movie does not necessarily yield a bad time. Tonight, we went to see the new Fantastic Four film. It was definitely a bad movie: terrible acting, a wardrobe and make-up team that clearly hated Jessica Alba and was determined to make her look terrible, no real explanation for the resurrection of Doom, and on and on.

I still had a good time. Part of my fun came in watching a character, the Silver Surfer, whom I loved when I was a kid. Another part stemmed from my joy in comic books. And simply going to the movie theater is a treat. I love the experience of the lights dimming, trailers rolling, and so on.

Mind you, this movie wasn't bad enough to turn the corner to good; it took itself too seriously for that.

Still, I had a good time at a bad movie. Go figure.


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