What this page is about
My keen observations on the writing process and some tedious lectures on developing self-discipline. There will also be whining and moaning about a whole new set of stuff.
I am a voracious reader of all sorts of fiction – particularly genre fiction – and an emerging writer of same. I am also a fledgling comedian. You can find my comedy calendar here. To pay the bills, I am currently designing websites. Info about my web design packages can be found here. Get in touch if you need one and mention AYD for 10% off the bill. For the past eighteen months or so, I have been co-organizer of the metro Detroit-based All Writers’ Group; I am also one of the fiction editors for Third Reader.
Tedious lecture on developing self-discipline #1*
*This blog also appears on A Scene A Day.
If I only had the time…
For years, I told myself that lack of time was the primary reason that I wrote only rarely. Between work and family obligations and my occasional foray onstage, it was legitimately difficult to set regular time aside daily – or even weekly – for fiction writing.
In June, I quit my day job to spend more time working on my comedy and my writing. The plan was for me to design websites and offer support to nonprofit agencies to pay the bills, and to spend my remaining time developing my literary and comedic talents. This hasn’t really worked out as I had hoped.
World enough, and time
Prior to quitting, I had rented a studio and set about creating a workspace that would be the perfect writing space for me. After quitting, I spent a few weeks getting my health back on track. This was absolutely necessary: after a hellacious 11-day travel marathon for my day job, my lupus was acting up and I knew I would be utterly useless without a respite. Finally, I thought, for the first time in nearly twenty years I had a space that was just for me and enough time to produce the timeless prose and insightful humor that I knew was just waiting to emerge. I would write every day and every word would be, if not gold, at least high-grade silver.
Or maybe not
Once my rest period was over, I quickly found myself spending nearly every waking hour either drumming up enough business to pay the bills or reacting to days-long web design marathons by zoning out courtesy of addictinggames.com. Comedy and writing were both neglected; as of this writing, I have been onstage only once in the past six weeks and have written about two pages of execrable fiction that will probably wind up lining the mouse cages. Those of you who know me well, know how little it takes for me to get disgusted with myself. Normally, a situation like this would leave me creatively paralyzed for at least another six weeks. Fortunately I was able to take the aforementioned respite. Because of this my health really is much better, so my mental state is much improved over previous years. I am learning to avoid the temptations of addictinggames.com and am beginning the Fall season with a renewed enthusiasm for my creative pursuits.
Congratulations and all that, but so what?
The point of all of this is, when I came across Skull-A-Day I was able to not only think, I’d like to do something like that one day but to put the thought into action (believe me, two years ago it simply would not have happened).
It did take a while for me to decide exactly what I could produce each day that might be both worthwhile to me creatively, and interesting enough to share with the world at large. The sharing is important: by holding myself accountable to an audience – even a hypothetical one – I am much more likely to remain committed to my goal.
At first I thought, why not just write a sentence a day? I’ve done that in the past and have generated quite a few story ideas. That didn’t seem interesting enough to keep an audience coming back, though, and I quickly discarded the idea. I found a concept a day to be too vague, and too open to the possibility of abuse – the idea behind this whole thing is to develop self-discipline, and with a concept a day I could easily see myself tossing off something like: Woman decides to stalk a local used-car salesman and then immediately forgetting the concept because I didn’t really have to work at it.
Character was suggested by my SO, and I seriously considered it. Creating one well-developed character a day would give me an amazing cast from which to choose when writing future stories. It’s very rare for me to create a character that stands completely alone from a scene or setting, though, so I didn’t feel that would ultimately be very useful to me in the long run. And again, I could easily see: twelve-year-old boy whose parents have divorced; straggly hair becoming acceptable to me during a lull…once more, not really useful and not really within the spirit of the exercise. I was stuck.
One of my best pals ever then suggested a beer a day.
Naturally, nothing else got done for another couple of weeks.
I finally decided upon a scene a day, because a well-developed scene offers great opportunities for expansion. It should also include strong characterization or action and/or have a well-defined setting. It gives me enough to play with to keep me interested, offers a challenge to me to expand my range and refine my voice, and hopefully will be inclusive enough to keep an audience coming back for more.
If pressed, however, I have to admit that I don’t really have to work that hard to come up with a decent standalone scene; if it doesn’t have to read well within a larger piece, anyone can probably write a fairly interesting snippet most days of the week. The challenge-within-a-challenge, then, is this: to select one out of every ten scenes to expand into a completed work. The resulting stories, one-acts, whatever, will not be posted on this website, since one of my other goals this year is to have at least three stories accepted for publication. Instead, every work I produce from this exercise will be submitted to magazines and ezines until accepted. If I can find homes for my work, I’ll let you know where to find it.
Readers of this blog are encouraged to comment on the scenes. Feedback is an important part of the creative process, and I welcome your input. Four times over the next year I will also ask readers to vote for one of the scenes that I haven’t already selected; I will complete the work for that scene and share it with you on this site.
My hope is that this exercise will force me to write for at least an hour a day. If anyone else has ideas on how to reinvigorate one’s creative life, I’d love to hear them.
Update on A Scene A Day, or: Why I Sometimes Suck
Okay, this is exactly why I sometimes suck. If you know me out in The World, then you’ve heard a little bit about the not-so-minor electrical problem that blew out most of my major appliances, forced a move, and caused a hell of a lot of ridiculous drama. You also know the sequel.
If you don’t know me in The World, then you’re just out of luck on most of the inside scoop. If we happen to meet, though, buy me a coffee and I’ll give you an earful.
A Scene A Day and lots of other really cool projects fell apart at the same time for a number of reasons. I should have kept up with it no matter what and I didn’t, which truly blows…
…but I didn’t spend ELEVEN YEARS in Catholic school for no reason at all, because I truly repent of my lackadaisical attitude toward this project in recent months. Since I’ve repented, I also therefore forgive myself. And I didn’t need to enclose myself in a box with a septuagenarian to do so.
Of course, there is penance involved. The Catholics are good at doling out penance, as I learned in grade school, and man did I get good at whipping through the Hail Marys.
NO MORE HAIL MARYS
…which, by the way, is one of my favorite pages from Stray Toasters. If you haven’t read ST yet, check it out. Sienkiewicz deserves a much larger audience. This book got me involved in graphic novels in a way that the stack of Silver Surfer comics I found in 10th grade utterly failed to do. Utterly, completely, and totally. Sorry, SS fans, but I just couldn’t get into it. At all.
NO MORE HAIL MARYS take 2
So, yeah, I’m not Catholic anymore but I still have a need to do penance when I’ve committed sins of omission such as failing to keep up with a blog for more than two weeks. I am therefore kicking off A Scene A Day – The Scenecond Try with a 24-Hour Marathon: 24 scenes in 24 hours. This is, by the way, a fairly obvious rip-off of the incredible Scott McCloud‘s 24-Hour Comic, which is a great exercise and easily adaptable to multiple art forms. The official 24-Hour Comics Day website is here.
The rules for my marathon are simple: 24 complete scenes, following the guidelines above (so no first drafts and no scenes that are purely character sketches) to be completed within twenty-four hours. The clock begins ticking at 2:00 p.m. on January 20th and the last period needs to be in place by 2:00 p.m. on the 21st. The bulk of the writing will be done at my studio. If you know where that is and you’re a fellow writer you’re welcome to come by and participate. If you’re not a fellow writer you’re still welcome to swing by with moral support and beer. I’m partial to Guinness and Mad Hat #9.
The scenes will be posted on A Scene A Day beginning on January 22nd. The scenes will be revised and posted daily, and once those 24 are complete I should be in the habit of posting regular updates.