The artist, drunk, talking about how awesome he is, at a bar

Heya,

I talked the other day about the Lonely Garret Writer, and I mentioned that there was another type of writer that I called the Gregarious Barfly Writer.

First, for the sake of continuity, some definitions (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online rather than Wikipedia this time, because Wikipedia was less helpful on this one).

Gregarious

a :  tending to associate with others of one’s kind :  social
b :  marked by or indicating a liking for companionship :  sociable
c :  of or relating to a social group
Basically, these are the kind of writers that are chatty and like people. They’re the ones who are good at networking, who are good at self-promotion and have no trouble tweeting. They can talk about their books, love talking about their books. And about running with bulls and fistfights and stuff. They’re the kind of people who think they look good in hats and read a lot of Hemingway.
And there’s anything wrong with any of that.

Barfly

:  a person who spends much time in bars

An explanation of the barfly thing—it’s an extension, a connection to the gregariousness of this kind of writer. It’s something that I’ve noticed from going to writer’s conferences. You don’t have an actual conversation with a writer at a panel or at a signing. You have a conversation with them at the bar afterwards.

You could argue, and rightly so, that drinking is hardly exclusive to the gregarious writers. I know that. LGWs can also be found congregating at the bar after an event (and possibly before an event, just to get some Dutch courage) just as much as GBWs can, but there’s a different tone to it.

Writer

: someone whose work is to write books, poems, stories, etc.

: someone who has written something

This other kind of artist, what it sometimes seems that social media wants all artists to be, is good at doing their work in public. They’re good at talking about themselves and their work. They can discuss their work in progress without angst, existential or otherwise. They have a philanthropic bent that goes along with their gregariousness. They like to write in coffee shops. They liked to be asked about what they’re writing in coffee shops. Usually.
They can post a chapter of their work online, get a tepid response, and take it in stride. They can rework, or put aside, what they’re working on based upon audience response. Their skin is thicker, or else they’re not as … enmeshed. Committed. I don’t know. I don’t understand them as well, not being one of them.
Not really.
I reiterate that I think that no writer, no artist, is completely LGW or GBW, and that there is often a great deal of crossover. I can and often do talk to anyone about anything. But when it comes to my writing, I’m a bit more hesitant, a bit more uncomfortable. I feel a bit more like I’m revealing fragile secrets, that I’m going to break my story by talking about it.
Maybe GBWs just understand instinctively that they can’t do that.
Anyway…
Symmetry!
Love,
B

Done with that

Heya,

I had my final exam today. Potentially my final final exam. Ever.

So … that’s exciting.

But it feels sort of anticlimactic. I walked out of that final reasonably confident that I had done well but also … at loose ends.

I sometimes do theatre. Only very occasionally now, but in high school I was involved in most of the school’s theatre productions in some capacity for about three years. And after every performance came to a close, we would be told that we might feel a little lost, a little empty. We were told not to make any important decisions in the time immediately following the close of a show. Don’t decide to go with that pageboy haircut, you’ll regret it, that kind of thing.

I never felt that way following a show. I always had other stuff to do, post-show, so there was never any void-y feeling.

And I have stuff to do now. A lot of stuff, actually. I have no lack of things to do.

But I do feel a little void-y. The thing that was taking up most of my time, almost every day for the last eight months, is over. And I think maybe I was expecting more from the (near) conclusion of my academic career. A greater sense of finality and satisfaction. I want to be able to say, “Done with that,” and carry on unencumbered to other things.

Maybe I’ll feel that way when I get my grades back? Maybe it’s that I’m not actually done with my masters, I’m just done with the in-class part. I still have my internship to complete over the next few months, and then my project report (ie. mini thesis) to do in the fall. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel as free as I hoped I would. Because I’m done but not quite done.

Maybe I’m feeling like the whole thing is a little bittersweet, because now my cohort is going to scatter to the wind and they’ll be another group of people that I have to plan to see, rather than just seeing them because we’re in the same place at the same time every single day.

Maybe I’m just not good at celebrating the little moments. I should buy a party hat and a noise maker and carry them around with me, and make a concerted effort to celebrate the little moments.

God, that smacks of effort. And it would probably be off-putting to strangers. Or it would lead strangers to talk to me.

You know what? Whatever. Finals are done. Classes are done. I’ve got work. I’ve got personal projects and hopefully I’ll have the time to work on them now. I’ll see who I see. One of my friends has decided that this is going to be the summer of Groupons, so I’m probably going to do some weird stuff this summer. Added to that, I’m going to try and see how many places I can get into for the child rate.

I’m going to go buy/make a party hat and a noise maker.

The party hat will have to be easily collapsible, so that I can carry it around with me and put it on when I feel the need.

I’m almost mostly joking about this.

Though I do think celebrating the little moments is important, and something that I personally don’t do enough of.

Love,

B

P.S. I also rewatched How I Met Your Mother following the [SPOILERS] disappointing finale, and while I see more of the precursors, I am still disappointed and might just pretend, in my in-my-head version of the story, that the finale didn’t happen. I can definitively say that I’m done with that.

The benefits of regularity

Heya,

This is not going to be a post about incontinence.

At least, I don’t think it will be.

It probably won’t be.

I’ve talked before about forming habits. I’m not good at forming good ones, but I’m trying to change that.

It’s been difficult lately to form new habits because of the demands that school makes of me, but at the same time I know that to be a giant fucking cop-out. Life makes demands of you. It will demand, and take, as much of your time as you let it, so you’ve got to be as much of a dick as life is if you want to have any time at all.

Or if you want to form new habits.

The habits that I want to form aren’t really that new, they’re just habits that I gradually fell out of. I used to write every day. Recently I’ve gone through a bit of a phase where I barely write at all. I make a lot of notes about things to write, but when I sit down to actually work on things, I inevitably get distracted by the internet, or my dog, or (horror) an upcoming paper.

I think it ultimately comes down to priorities, and for a while there writing wasn’t as much of a priority as it’s been in the past. Which has, at times, made me feel unbelievably anxious. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. Am I still a writer if I’m not writing? My feeling is no, but it matters enough to me to write that I feel vast quantities of existential angst about the thought of not doing it.

Here’s the thing about vast quantities of existential angst, though.

Existential angst is essentially useless.

Realizing that doesn’t meant that I’m not still going to have it from time to time, but I think it’s an important realization to have.

So how do you get started after you’ve been in a rut of not starting.

You just start.

I’ll repeat that, because it’s simple enough to seem like a trick.

Just start.

Do whatever you have to do so that you don’t take yourself and what your doing so seriously as to cripple yourself. Sort your head out. And just fucking start.

Because I firmly believe that half the effort in doing anything is beginning it. A friend of mine had a very simple writing goal that he set himself every day, and it was to just write one sentence. He inevitably wrote more than one sentence, usually a lot more, but the one sentence goal was non-threatening enough that he never felt like he couldn’t achieve it. His life was never so overwhelmingly busy that he couldn’t write a single sentence.

I’m prone to super-sized goals and letting myself get carried away. I think that’s part of the problem. I don’t just want to write a book. I want to write a series of books that interlink narratively with another series of short stories, all under the pseudonym of a character in a graphic novel which is itself the past of a video game.

I really need to calm the fuck down and just write my 1000 words, or my sentence, or my whatever. I need to just start, and start regularly.

Forward momentum is the secret to walking in heels. It’s the standing still that kills you, and I think that could be said to be true of lots of things in life. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stop to look around once in a while, I wouldn’t dare argue against the credo of the Bueller, but you’ll notice that he didn’t do a whole lot of stopping in that movie.

Just start today. Just start tomorrow. Just start the next day.

Just fucking start.

Love,

B

Joining Camp Nanowrimo late

Heya,

What day is it today? It’s April 5th? Okay, I’m not that late.

I’ve decided to attempt Camp Nanowrimo again. I tried to do it last year at some point (I can’t remember which time period it was, they have two different intake periods, I think), and it sort of fell by the wayside for reasons I’m not going to get into right now (mostly because they’re personal and I don’t really want to, but also because I’m not entirely confident of their validity).

I think that I’ll focus on Runaway Lane, just to add weight to the general “stop thinking so much you think too much freak” nature of that story. Also, having no real plans might make it easier for me to engage more with the community. I will have no plans, so I can have no secrets. There is nothing to be precious about with this story. I have no trajectory, so I can easily ask and accept input.

Maybe. Hopefully. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’m on there as brittanyelina. If you’re there and you feel like it, find me. Or not. Whatever. I’m not your mom friending you on Facebook. No obligation.

Love,

B

All of the thoughts

Heya,

Okay, I talked before about Runaway Lane and using prompts for it, and I got really excited today because I had an idea.

There’s a game I used to play when I was younger called Once Upon a Time. I still have it. It’s basically a card game where everyone is given 10 cards (the number of cards changes depending on how many people are playing) and the cards have different story elements on them. Some have characters, some have locations, some have events, you get the picture. The idea is to create a story using the cards in your hand, but the story can be redirected by the other players, who want to use up their cards and so will try to take over the story. There are a couple of ways that they can do this—if you pause too long, if you lay down cards without those cards being relevant to the story (ex. if you have a ladder, a cat, and a horseshoe in your hand, you can’t just say that your character has a ladder, a cat and a horseshoe to get rid of the cards), if you forget something that has already happened in the story. Any of those things happen, and they can swoop in and redirect the story.

So I was thinking that instead of using prompts, which can be prescriptive, every time I sit down to write, I’ll draw ten cards from my Once Upon a Time deck and try to use at least … I don’t know, half of them?

Or I could just sit down and think about it a little and try to make a rough outline from what I’ve already got.

I don’t know.

What do you think?

Love,

B

WattPad update: I have no idea what I’m doing

Heya,

I finally posted a segment of that impromptu prompt story, Runaway Lane, on WattPad. I was able to use the first of the Nick Bantock prompts, although I ended up having to break it up a bit/restructure it a little.

It’s weird, I’m not a hardcore planner or anything like that, but I usually have some sort of plan. I know where the story is going to end, I have some points on the plot graph to work towards or discard as I go along.

I’ve got nothing here. I have no idea what’s happening in the story beyond what I’ve written on WattPad and here. And that’s not much. I don’t know where this story is ending. I don’t know any characters other than the ones that exist right now, here on this site and on WattPad.

It’s weird. I guess I’m used to going in with more information. Or, if not information, at least a kind-of-sort-of-maybe theme or idea to build towards.

I kind of like it. I don’t know, I feel like I spend more time languishing over thoughts than I would if I had more of a plan, and I don’t know that the results are quite what I usually expect of myself, but it is sort of freeing to not have any kind of plan. Maybe I’ll use prompts for every chapter. Though they’ll have to be prompts that aren’t super prescriptive…and I should probably have a schedule for working on the WattPad stuff, in addition to my other writing.

I am scared that the whole thing is going to fall apart somewhere in the middle, or that I’m going to have to craft some terribly contrived, Deus ex machina bullshit to have any kind of ending to it.

But that’s future Brittany’s problem.

Love,

B

The artist in a lonely garret

Heya,

I referred to myself as a Lonely Garret Writer in my last post, and I feel like I should explain myself a little, and what that means, since I fully intend to use that term in the future. I’m fairly confident that I’ve used that term in the past.

First, some definitions, copy-pasted from Wikipedia because they seemed right to me:

Lonely

Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness or communality with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental or emotional factors.

Which sounds admittedly less than super, but I’m kind of thinking more about this part:

The existentialist school of thought views loneliness as the essence of being human. Each human being comes into the world alone, travels through life as a separate person, and ultimately dies alone. Coping with this, accepting it, and learning how to direct our own lives with some degree of grace and satisfaction is the human condition.

Which may also not sound that great, if you’re not a LGW. Or, sometimes, even if you are.

Garret

A garret is generally synonymous in modern usage with a habitable attic or small (and possibly dismal or cramped) living space at the top of a house.

Which seems flat, but the origins and connotations of the word have greater depth:

Like garrison it comes from an Old French word garir of ultimately Germanic origin meaning to provide or defend.

A garret may be small and cheap, but it’s safe. It’s defensible. And it can exist as a living model of the writer’s mind, depending on the degree of clutter and isolation. (I realized as I was writing this that the room where I do the bulk of my writing is strikingly similar to a garret. It’s over the garage and the ceiling angles inwards. There is one window. I have tacked a lot of shit to the walls.)

Writer

A writer is a person who uses written words in various styles and techniques to communicate ideas. Writers produce various forms of literary art and creative writing such as novels, short stories, poetry, plays, news articles, screenplays, or essays. Skilled writers are able to use language to express ideas and their work contributes significantly to the cultural content of a society.The word is also used elsewhere in the arts – such as songwriter – but as a standalone term, “writer” normally refers to the creation of written language.

Okay, now I’m just being a dick. You know what a writer is, I just felt like I needed to put it in for the sake of symmetry.

Anyway, the LGW is the writer who finds fulfillment and inspiration in communion with their own psyche. Or, not necessarily through communion with their own psyche, but people who take in the stimulus that the world throws at them and then process it in solitude in their own space. Talking about their work makes them feel (and act) awkward. They’re more likely to balk at calling themselves a “writer,” and prone to doing it with a one-shoulder shrug. They’re the poised (or not so poised) introverts who like but don’t need people. People are distracting. They ask you to go places that aren’t in front of your computer, working on your story. And if you let them, they’ll make you feel like a weirdo for not going. Bit of (possibly bad) advice: don’t let them. Be boring and get shit done. In your lonely garret.

This isn’t a remotely new idea. Virginia Woolf talks about the idea of this in A Room of One’s Own (she also talks about the need for money, which … I’m working on it, don’t rush me, Woolf, I’m not scared of you!)(yes, I am, don’t haunt me). I just felt that I should define it because I feel like writers fall somewhere between two extremes, one of them being the LGW. The kind of person who, in another age, wrote until their fingers bled in tiny, drafty attics, succumbed to tuberculosis and died. We’re more advanced now. The spaces are still small, but the doctor’s are better, and since our mom’s can easily call/text/email us to make sure we’re still alive, we’re more likely to go to them.

The other type of writer is the Gregarious Barfly Writer, which I will talk about at some point.

I should preface this—I don’t think either one is better than the other, and I don’t think any writer is entirely one or the other, just as I don’t believe that there are any complete introverts or extroverts. We’re all an amalgamation of different tendencies. But most of us tend more towards one or the other.

And I’m a Lonely Garret Writer.

Love,

B

Crowdfunding, patronage and authorial voice

Heya,

Just a heads up—there will be no closure in this.

I’ve been thinking lately that crowd-funding is a bit like the old systems of patronage, where people gave money to artists to keep them afloat and keep them producing things and, sort of, how that effected the sort of things that were written and painted and otherwise created.

At the moment, grants can be seen as patronage. Rich people and corporations hiring artists to produce pieces for them is fairly commonplace. But the kind of patronage that I’m talking about, the kind of patronage that crowd-funding seems closest to for me, is the kind of patronage that Michelangelo had from the Medici family. The kind where there’s kind of a relationship between the artist and the patron.

But I feel like that kind of relationship is problematic. Because while Michelangelo was reliant on the Medici’s, the Medici’s were a handful of people that he was able to speak to face-to-face, and their good opinion could be cultivated or ignored as he chose. Crowd-funding is problematic because you are reliant on others but cannot really address their opinions, affections, and dissatisfactions. And it would be impossible to respond to all of the varied responses to a piece of writing or artwork if crowd-funders are patrons. On top of all of this, the nature of the artist as an independent creator has evolved to a point where the “sole creator in all their madness” is a state of being that some artists think they have a right to. There are some obvious arguments to counterbalance that but they don’t really have anything to do with patronage, and I’m trying not to stray to far from my main point here.

There’s a problem is authorial voice. Imagine writing one single email to your mom, your sister, your best friend, and your boyfriend. What would the tone of that email be? What would the voice be? In patronage, if you know that your patrons want … I don’t know, they want your main character to fuck the hot guy, say, and you want to kill the hot guy, you might be influenced to not kill the hot guy, just because you knew enough about what your audience wanted from you that it interfered with your ability to tell the story. And sometimes the reader doesn’t really know what they want. For example, Game of Thrones.

This paragraph has spoilers, if you haven’t read or seen Game of Thrones (by the way, why the fuck haven’t you read/watched Game of Thrones? Get on that shit, dude!) so unfocus your eyes and scroll past. Eyes unfocused? NO, THEY CLEARLY ARE NOT, CAUSE YOU’RE READING THIS! You’re doing this to yourself, now. When I read Game of Thrones for the first time, and Ned died at the end, I nearly threw the book across the room. But I can’t see how that story would have sustained itself if he hadn’t died. I doubt I would have continued reading if he had. Or I might have, but I wouldn’t have felt the itchy junkie need to keep reading without his death. I would never have said that I wanted him to die. But he needed to die for the rest of the books to matter, or for them to be any good.

I’m not saying that external influence can’t be good or important or worthwhile, just that authors making use of crowd-funding and building platforms in this way need to know that it exists and that, when it’s immediate and linked to your fiscal survival, it can carry a weight that it can impact the story, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. Maybe that doesn’t make people as anxious (again, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way) as it makes me. I’m a Lonely Garret Writer (which I think will be a term that I use from now on, since I think I’ve used it a couple times now). If something is wrong I want it to be all my fault and if something is right I want it to be all my doing.

One of my professors thinks that crowd-funding is a flash-in-the-pan sort of thing. I don’t know. I feel like crowd-funding is just another facet of patronage, which has been around since time immemorial. As a species, we are continually deciding that we want art or stories or music enough that we’ll pay for it to be made. It’s interesting when compared to the continuous devaluation of the written word that we see in eBook pricing and the competitive efforts of print publishing to keep prices on par (cheaper paper, cheaper ink, shittier product that costs less money and has less added value and which, as a result, becomes less valuable in the social psyche). Maybe part of the crowd-funding successes lay in the fact that people are paying for what they want. Publishing is in the business of trying to charm the uninterested because, somewhere along the line, we convinced ourselves that everyone wants books. And they don’t. It’s a small, weird subsection of people that is interested in reading for pleasure. And those are the people that you have to be reaching out to. Those are the people who will pay more than 99 cents for something that they want, something that they like.

But you’ve got to get them to like you first. And I suppose that could be seen as another problem of crowd-funding—it’s still the culture of personality at work, at least to a certain extent. You have to sell yourself to sell your work for crowd-funding to really work for you.

Love,

B

P.S. An instance of quasi-patronage that I find endlessly entertaining is the George Harrison/Life of Brian patronage.

I’m definitely doing this wrong

Heya,

So remember, about a week ago, I talked to you about my idea for writing on WattPad?

Runaway Lane has gotten away from me a little bit. Appropriately enough. It has expanded somewhat and is now developing something that looks alarming like structure. Usually this would be a great situation, but right now it’s kind of … pissing me off. Because the plan with this had been to write small increments of a story that I didn’t have any plans for, every day. I’m talking … like, 200 words, max. I was thinking that I’d write them on my phone while I did went about my morning routine.

In case you’re interested, my morning routine: wake up at 6am, put on clothes I laid out the night before, unless inclement weather makes them ridiculous. Make tea and watch the news until 6:30, while also checking my email on my phone and dorking around on Tumblr. At 6:30, text Dusty “just finishing my tea,” finish my tea, then do my makeup. Pick up Dusty from her house or vice versa by 6:45, carpool. Get to school by 8am and work on whatever I forgot to do the night before while I wait for class to start.

So I’ve got about half an hour at home and an hour at school. More than enough time to write 200 words, even if I do it on my phone, or so was my plan.

Then I received a copy of The Trickster’s Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity by Nick Bantock (of Griffin and Sabine fame). It’s a book of art exercises. One of the exercises involved filling in the ending of a sentence, and then writing the sentences that bracketed it. You were supposed to write as quickly as possible, whatever came into your mind. This is what I got:

1. The horse felt obliged to express itself by …

“It was a beautiful beast, but the alchemists insisted that the ether would make it even better, and Master acquiesced to their request without much pushing. The horse felt obliged to express itself by vomiting up the ether. The Master was displeased; each ether infusion was a great expense, whether the treatment took or not.”

2. She could not help herself, the date was waiting there for her …

“The Matchmaker tapped long, lacquered nails over the calendar, and murmured, “As you can see, there are really no dates available.”

She could not help herself, the date was waiting there for her, a single white square in the vast scribbling expanse of chosen wedding dates. She reached across the vast expanse of the Matchmaker’s desk and tapped the blank square. “What about this one?””

3. Elvira looked at her brother’s fast-growing collection of …

“Benedict looked up, eyes wild with panic before he realized who was there. Elvira looked at her brother’s fast-growing collection of stolen trinkets and grimaced. He was going to get all of them in so much trouble.”

Once I was through with the exercise, I thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll use these for Runaway Lane, that story that I haven’t started on WattPad.” And I liked that idea.

So now, I’m working with:

  • The story is about a leader on the run from the law. It starts in a world-spanning nation on a forest planet. The story climaxes with someone visiting a doctor.
  • Runaway Lane
  • YA
  • The above paragraphs
  • A strong desire to not name anyone in this story “Lane” because that would just be too on the nose for me

And then I had a little moment of existential angst as I remembered that I hadn’t done anything with that WattPad story yet.

That was my day.

How are you? What did you write with those starts of sentences?

Love,

B

P.S. It’s an interesting book, I recommend it. Get’s you out of your head a bit.

What’s awesome about fanfiction

Heya,

I mentioned this in my last post and a friend in my program did a presentation on fanfiction the other day, so I feel like now is the time, while I still have someone else’s brilliance and my thoughts on it rattling around in my head.

So, what is awesome about fanfiction, you might ask (especially if you’ve never written fanfiction)?

I should mention that I don’t write fanfiction. I attempted to write fanfiction a couple of times when I was younger and super into Harry Potter, but it always felt too much like playing with someone else’s toys. Oh, quick digression here: I have never liked playing with other people’s toys. It always felt weird to me, like there were rules that I didn’t know. And sometimes they had marks on them that I didn’t understand how they got there, what the backstory was, and it made me feel weird to make up a story about what had happened because they weren’t my toys.

Yup, there’s something weird about me. Do with it what you will.

Anyway, here are some of the things that are awesome about fanfiction

  1. It can be a great way to learn the ropes of storytelling. Yes, there are some terrible fanfics out there, but a lot of these people are just getting their feet wet. It may be the first thing they’ve ever written that wasn’t for school. So if you’re not a fanfiction reader and you brave the waters of fanfiction, be kind. They’re probably doing their best.
  2. For the most part, readers of fanfiction understand and accept that the writers are at the novice level. As a result, they are often very good at bolstering confidence.
  3. It shows an engagement with characters and stories that I can only applaud. I’m not going to claim that every piece of fanfiction is good, but every one is the work of a person who really liked something. And I like when people like things. As long as they don’t try to make me like the thing, too. I will watch Apocalypse, Now in my own damn time, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop pushing me, okay?! … Sorry.
  4. When you write fanfiction, you don’t have to worry about finding your audience, finding your niche. You are in your niche already, and you know your audience well because you probably belonged to it before you started writing for it.
  5. There’s miraculous freedom in fanction, whether freedom from the constraints of genre, form and structure, social taboos. As long as you tag your shit, you can do whatever you want.
  6. It gives people who aren’t fluent in a language an opportunity to practice.
  7. Strong communities are grown in fanfiction.
  8. Some book series and TV shows have giant gaps between books/seasons, and sometimes you really just need some Sherlock Holmes right NOW.
  9. Everybody loves a remix. Well, no, not always, but remixes can be really cool. But maybe that’s just me.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I think it’s enough. Not every list needs ten items.

So, what are your thoughts on fanfiction?

Love,

B