Writing as Ritual

I think there’s a little mysticism in every good writing process. The little tics and superstitions that we pursue that help us enter that proper state for ultimate wordsmithing. The act of creative writing involves a bit of tearing into our subconscious, and it’s very unlike mentally painless processes like changing a tire. We’re are taking advantage of our fragile psyche, and so we need to get comfortable first.

Here areĀ  a few of my rituals:

  • Location: A public venue, like a coffee shop, with a busy, but relatively quiet clientele works best.
  • A beverage: Lately this has been a red bush tea.
  • The right spot at the right angle. This is probably some mental residue from having read one of Carlos Castenada books and his discussion around places of power. See, I told you: Mysticism.
  • A review of what’s been done before, usually to include the last paragraph or so of prose and my notes on plot and character.

Many years ago, I was compelled to write everything longhand and then transcribe back to the PC. Obviously, this is terribly inefficient, and through pure consideration for the time I have on earth, I trained myself out of this. Although, I must say, I still compose most poetry by pen first.

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Your Environment: The Other Character

Today’s blog post was inspired by this excerpt from the comic, Breaking into Comics The Marvel Way. The passage from which it is taken focused on advising new comic book artists:

Include more backgrounds to give us a better sense of place. Think of your background as another character in the story and use it to help enhance the storytelling and the world your characters are inhabiting.

While the writer, C.B. Cebulski, was talking about comic art, his advice could just as easily apply to fiction writing. It’s so easy to forget the importance of the background. When developing a story, we’re often trained, formally or informally, to think about sentient characters and their development.

But the background, and here I mean the environment or the setting, is critical to your story in that it provides that layer of texture that grounds the more ethereal qualities of dialogue and action. Not only that, but it’s also a key element in differentiating your story from all other stories. And by thinking of your environment as a character, you can really flesh out its nuances and peculiarities.

I suggest writing up a character persona on your environment. And finally, think about how that persona interacts with the other characters in your story. What do each do for the other?

Why Write When You Can Relax Watching the Latest J. J. Abrams Concoction?

I’ve heard other writers say, “I write because I have to. ” A lot. And maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s some universal truth among writers. I even used to buy it of myself. But I don’t anymore.

I’ve had dry spells where I wasn’t writing. Turns out, I didn’t self-implode or shrivel up or anything equally horrible. I survived. I’m here writing this to prove it.

But what I do know is that when I’m creating, I’m happier. I’m more alive. And I see the world more poetically. Things are more magical. Those things of value are amplified and those of insignificance are diminished. And I know, intuitively, that it’s just a better way to live.

I think I must be an artist first, and a writer second. If my talents lent themselves more to music, I would have followed that path. I think we must all find that one thing that makes us burn with life and follow that thing, with a vengeance. If we could all do that, I’m certain the world would be a better place.

The Inevitable Impressions of Good Writing

How often has this happened to you? You’re working on a novel, and simultaneously you’re reading a good book or story. And as you’re reading, you start thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should do something like that in my story.”

It happens to me constantly. I’m considering changing the entire genre/sub-genre of my novel just because I read a couple of good short stories. It’s crazy, right?

My excuse his time is that I’ve never read this particular genre/sub-genre, but still, it seems a bit drastic. Of course, I usually advocate drastic, so I’ll do it.

I never plagiarize, but I do tend to zero in on emotions, moods and character relationships. I was just reading a story about this group of friends who were a team with one, aristocratic leader. It was done very differently from what I was used to reading, and I became inspired.

Here’s a completely different thought I had recently. The word “unspeakable” is horrible, isn’t it? Because it’s non-specific, it calls on the worst possible thing you can think of, which is, of course, horrendous. It very much reminds of Lovecraft, who often referred to things so dark and horrible that to just know of them would drive a man insane.