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Posts Tagged ‘Calvin and Hobbes’

III. Pretentiousness (PRIDE)

calvin-and-hobbes-the-purpose-of-writing

Ambiguity in writing; seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? Writing so much to say so little, hiding meaning in vagueness and sneering at those who can’t see it… if it’s even there. How much more impressive I find it when so much is said in few words!

So, what’s the point of this post, to which you’re about to commit five minutes of reading between all sorts of lines and not-so-witty remarks in order to decipher it. And after I’ve put so much effort in turning my words into obscure references to their meaning! How very inconsiderate of you. You’d like to pick my words apart and discover that there is little more rational thought than a house fly, that my reasoning is no more than needless sophistry (as you can tell I have a very broad vocabulary, unlike most writers I presume).

Well, you’re going to be disappointed, I’m afraid to say, for I am about to expound a most complex and thought-provoking observation on the art of writing.

There is no cunning or subtlety of mind in writing that is derived from ambiguous intentions; there is only the mundane  — Me

Confused? Good. I can only assume by your obvious lack of understanding, and of any cognitive function for that matter, that you were unable to keep up with my thought process. Don’t feel ashamed, I am assured by my colleagues that this afflicts most readers (not that I needed to be told!) I mean, how can anyone expect to understand what is written except for the author… that just wouldn’t make proper sense now would it?

What I meant to say is that you shouldn’t rely on subtlety to help gloss over what you can’t put into words, nor to make yourself appear talented or intelligent. If anything, it makes you boring, stale, and, unfortunately, just like the rest of us (and by “us” I mean you lot of course, didn’t want to single any one out!) Being long-winded is tedious; being long-winded with nothing to say is infuriating.

What? Why didn’t I just say so to begin with? Why, then we wouldn’t have had this inspiring conversation! Because I’m sure you’re inspired to read the rest of my blog now that you know exactly what to expect: a candid observation of my human condition.

7 Sins of Writing (Part II)

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If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing it badly.

When we make mistakes, we learn from them. When things go wrong, we remain resolute. When faced with certain failure, we still try… not because we wish to define ourselves by our success, but because we wouldn’t be who we are if we didn’t. We’re defined by the things we do, by the risks we take and by the places we end up in because of it.

Cheers to everything that will go wrong this year, because if nothing goes the way I’d expected, I’ll know I’m finally doing something right.

 Calvin and Hobbes - Snow Days

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II. Procrastination (Sloth)

Well I suppose the 18-day hiatus may render this post self-explanatory, but I’m going to write it nonetheless. So what is it that’s kept me from even looking at a word processor for the last two and a half weeks unless I absolutely had to? To be honest, I couldn’t say. It may have something to do with the new film internship I’ve started that has me writing new story editing reports and film treatments on a regular basis, or just sheer exhaustion from having to work full-time in retail as well. But I have a feeling it’s more than that.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m no stranger to procrastination. Putting things off till the last minute and performing under pressure was my method as a writer throughout my entire academic career. There are lots of reasons writers think up to justify procrastination. Our ability to bull shit, which we’ve so painstakingly cultivated in school, is now convincing even us!We persuade ourselves that we’ll write it when we’re more inspired, after we’ve done more relevant research, after we’ve watched the next episode; you can find anything to stand in your way.

Calvin and Hobbes

When I was in school, I really felt I performed best in the frantic creative mind-set of the last minute rush, but now there’s nothing really forcing me to write other than my own personal drive. I simply can’t find that same creative mentality that only a forty-page term paper due in 3 1/2 hours can bring. I definitely don’t enjoy the stress or the anxiety that comes with it, but I somehow find a flow of ideas, an understanding of how things should come together. I haven’t yet found a way to surpass my own mental roadblocks really… but that’s just another excuse.

Writers can’t forget that their ability to weave the threads of fiction could lead to their own ruin. Procrastination is essentially how good you are at persuading yourself to put things off. Rationalizing is a dangerous skill, yet one I pride myself on having. Some say the worst the procrastination, the stronger the writer… god I hope that’s right. All I know is that whoever said “you’re your own worst enemy” has got it right. But when you’re a writer, they’re an evil mastermind.

 

7 Sins of Writing (Part I)

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There are some days, amongst the mundane and mediocre, where the world seems impossibly vast, so large and comprehensive that you could never fathom to discover all of its mysteries. There are other days however, where the world is so small you can feel its walls surrounding you. You realize that you have nowhere to go, that the earth itself is but a part of an even vaster universe that expands towards the edge of some unknown event horizon.

On these days, you stay indoors, shut the blinds tight and hold onto whatever dreams you’ve manage to save for a rainy day. Not realizing that it’s on those days, when the sky seems to bear down above you, when the earth is but a pinprick in the vast nothingness of space, that this seemingly insignificant world is at your doorstep, and all you have to do to discover it is take a single step out the door.

It’s amazing how significant a spec of stardust can be.

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On the eve of a very daunting assignment, my high school writing professor came up to me in class with a concerned expression. “You don’t look well.” She said, to which I replied, “Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m exhausted, my face is flushed, and I feel inexplicably angry. On top of it all, I have a blinding headache!” She placed a hand on my forehead and tisked “I’m sorry to say that you have contracted a very serious condition.” “What’s that?” I asked.           “Being a writer.”

As someone who has, dare I say it, become a master of procrastination; writer’s block can be a particularly troublesome affliction. Writer’s block is more than just not being able to think up what’s going to happen next, it’s a full-blown psychological malady! The symptoms include high irritability, self-deprecation and a seemingly insatiable urge to throw your computer out your second story window. The bad news: there is no cure. If you want to be a writer, you’ll have to suffer through some severe bouts of writer’s block, sometimes regressing to a whimpering mess, spouting threads of incoherent gibberish. The good news: it’s treatable. You may not be able to rid yourself of this maddening disease, but you can definitely manage it when the worst comes about.

My advice is to take a heavy dose of self-realization. Take a hard look at why you are having such a difficult time; usually I find that I’m my own deterrent. Lack of confidence and self-disparagement are the leading causes of writer’s block. In these cases the patient chooses to create  a condition that makes success impossible in order to avoid what they think is inevitable failure.

The treatment: Make it a habit of writing something absolutely terrible everyday.

Write something without thinking about it, without planning it out, without stopping to fix sentence structures or to use a thesaurus (we all do it). Really dig into it and force yourself to keep typing even though you realized halfway through that this may very well be the single worst piece of writing ever written in the history of the printed word. And when you’re done, sit back and read it. One of two things will happen: you’ll either say “Well this is a complete load of shit!” or you’ll say “Well this isn’t as bad as yesterday’s, now that was a load of shit!” You’ll begin to realize that your worst isn’t so bad, and with time you may even get better.

When you are faced with writer’s block the most important thing to remember is that the only way you can over come it is to write. Victor Hugo used to have one of his servants take his clothes and leave him stranded naked in a room where he would have no alternative but to write. But what do you write when you have writer’s block? Write something beautiful, write something awful, write something you want to write. You don’t have to write naked, but you do have to write. Because if you stop, if you let your block become an excuse, you might not be able to start again. There may not be a cure for writer’s block, but that doesn’t mean you have to die from it.

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I often feel that coming up with an idea for a story can be remarkably challenging. Inspiration can be found in the simplest thought, the most fleeting impression, and if we don’t grasp it in time, can be lost forever as it takes flight into the ether of our mind. When they do manage to hold onto it, some authors claim to become consumed by its very design, unable to do anything until it has been laid out on the page. I, on the other hand, don’t find it so easy to keep the fires inspiration going.

I guess I consider myself to be a fickle writer, something that I’ve been doing my very best to rectify (this blog being a good start). I suppose I’m so addicted to Story that I can’t get enough of it, I need a constant outlet for my insatiable appetite, be it by reading novels, watching a series or even playing video games. I consume Story in all its forms. But on some unconscious level, I also feel that this capricious state of mind is caused by my own insecurities. I fear that I lack the ability to write as coherent and enticing a story as the ones I relish. I become anxious and very critical of my work, even in the early stages of the story’s development, and become my own inspirational deterrent.

In school, I found that deadlines helped focus my attention, though I was definitely no stranger to procrastination. I often worked late into the night, finding that as the deadline approached I became more engrossed in my writing. Though anxious due to time constraints, my writing was always of good quality, these late night forays into my creative mind sometimes yielding some of my very best work.  This is similar to the inspired state of mind; they simply have two different stimulus. While one creates out of need, the other creates out of desire.

As I no longer find myself in school, and since I don’t want to pit the success of the ‘last-minute panic’ approach against a publisher’s deadline, I need to find a way to fuel my inspiration. I need to stop writing from a place of anxiety because I fear that I may lose that inspirational spark at any moment, and instead write out of a desire to uncover its infinite potential.

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I think that every writer has a compendium of works that they would prefer never to see the light of day. A hidden trove of half finished novels, embarrassingly bland poetry and plotless short stories that remain untouched since youth. I for one was a spirited writer when I was younger. I remember propping my binder up in 7th grade social studies to hide the stack of loose leaf papers on which my furious scrawl expounded stories of fearsome dragons, time shifting amulets and ancient prophecies. I was consumed.

While my teachers thought I was taking notes, I filled binders and notebooks with character sketches, chapter outlines and story research. I believed, like I’m sure many writers did at that age, that I would be the youngest person to have written such a captivating fantasy. So confident was I in my writing that I never stopped to second guess myself. All that mattered was getting my ideas out on paper before my fickle adolescent mind moved on to the next. Don’t get me wrong; upon re-reading it today I see how juvenile my writing really was. Horrendously childish dialogue, unabashed character exposition and a staggering amount of run on sentences that would make Robert Jordan’s head spin. I kid you not, the first sentence of my novel was:

Cling Clang, the clash of dueling swords echoed through the empty corridors of Providence Academy.

Indeed I have shown you a glimpse of my embarrassing past, now please keep it to yourselves! 😉 I can only classify my youthful exploits as cliché-ridden drivel, a shameless amalgamation of every fantasy, psi-fi and supernatural story I had every read, watched or heard. But despite all this, there was a hint of something that was irrefutably mine. A voice, amidst that of my literary idols, that could be none other than my own wild imagination running free across the page. I think that writing contained more of myself, with my imperfections and flaws bumbling up as grammatical chaos.

A writer is a whirlwind of thoughts, feelings and opinions that soar freely in our boundless imagination. As we mature, we learn to contain it within grammatical structures and story guidelines. But in our fervent search for some all-inclusive formula for success, we forget the roots of our own imaginations. We forget how to be spontaneous, and wild and outrageously childish. In turn we lose sight of who we really are, of what drives us to sit down and write until our fingers are smudged with lead. A writer must find that inner self, and never let it go.

Now, I think twice before I put something down on paper, I re-read and re-type every single sentence. I put so many limitations on my imagination. I look back to my 13 year old self, hunched over my desk, writing as fast and my pencil could form the letters, and wonder how it must have felt to have nothing to fear.

Calvin and Hobbes

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