Further Songs

Howdy!  A couple nights ago my sisters and I got together to write a song.  I told them it would take less than twenty minutes, but we took about five times that.  Nevertheless, we emerged from the darkness with a song which, out of the two I’ve written, might be my favorite musically.  You know that cool thing they do in musicals where everyone’s singing a different tune at the exact same time?  Yeah, we kinda did that.

Anyway, that’s me.  You can listen to the song at the end of the post.

A lot of things have come together for this project in crazy ways.  A friend gave us a pretty high-quality microphone several years ago, which we had never used until now.  Only a couple days after I wrote my first song, a graduating senior gave me— completely free— a used computer.  Immediately I set up Audacity (a sound-editing program) and LMMS (a program similar to GarageBand, but for Windows, meant for actually creating music).  Even better, one of my brother’s old guitar pedals connects to a computer and can record to it fairly easily.

In short, I can record anything I can play, and I haven’t spent any money on it.  I’d call that a blessing. Continue reading “Further Songs”

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Stuff To Which I Am Up

Fun fact: when you arrange “Stuff I’m Up To” in order to remove the preposition at the end, you still end with a preposition.

Anyway, I told you I was going to fill you all in on my productivity plans, and here I am.  I don’t usually do this, because sometimes I can’t be as productive as I’d like to be and I never get to the things I say I will.  But that’s human, and I hope you all understand that I, too, fall into that category.

So let’s jump in.  Here, in no particular order, is the Stuff To Which I Am Up. Continue reading “Stuff To Which I Am Up”

Sprint, Battle, Party

NaNoWriMo Week One is nearly complete.  You might be behind (like me), on track (as I have been in the past), or zooming ahead (as I often have been in the past).  No matter where you are in the fleet, your goal is the same: to get as many words in as quick a time as possible.  Now, you could order robotic hands that type faster than you can think— those are sometimes fun.  You could grab another person and have them type at the same time, theoretically doubling your output (but producing two separate novels).  Or, you could participate in a word war.

Word war, word sprint, word fiesta— they’re all the same thing.  You and anyone else participating make a pact, a pact to rid the world of procrastination, and fight to the death the war of words.  Or party the heck out of it, if you’re doing a word fiesta.  Your choice, bro.

Write as many words as you can in fifteen minutes.  Try not to stop until the time is up.  Force your brain to work overtime as your fingers speed over the keys, thinking barely faster than you can type.  You might not know what the next sentence will be, but you’ll run with it.  This is the essence of a word sprint.

Compete against others.  Compete against yourself.  Set records for how many words you can write in fifteen minutes.  Discover your word-per-minute rate and try to make it faster.  Compare your final count with others and feel that sense of pride that comes with winning, or the sense of despair and desolation that comes with second place.  Decide to do better.  Take a break, and start again.  This is the essence of a word war.

Write crazy plot twists and strange dialogue, because you can’t think of anything else to do!  Often, these spur-of-the-moment ideas and terrible thoughts bring about big changes to your story.  The plot twist nobody expected— it’s more of a surprise if you never expected it either.  Waltz through the story with a blindfold on, stepping in unimaginable kinds of goop and splattering it onto the page.  This is the essence of a word fiesta.

No matter which type of activity you choose, they all have the same basis: write as much as you can in fifteen minutes.  Where do you find companions with which to sprint, battle, or party?  That’s the easy part.  You can battle while someone else parties.  You can party while they sprint.  All it takes is someone to say Go and Stop, and a place to communicate in real-time.

Ta-da, the word war chatroom, which has existed since basically forever.  We started it three years ago for just this purpose.  Since then, it’s gone through some changes and seen some people come and go, but its purpose is the same.  Come in and write in company. Continue reading “Sprint, Battle, Party”

Another Project

I told you it wasn’t my last post.

That last post still applies.  Everything in it is true except the part where I say farewell.  I learned how much I missed the blog about 24 hours after posting that.  24 hours after that, I realized how much time exists in a month and how much fun we can have together.  And here I am, writing another blog post because honestly, if I really wanted to, I could write my 700th post before I leave.  (This is #669, so I’m not sure I really want to, but it would be amusing.)

In trying to be dramatic and serious and stoic, I accidentally gave myself a five-month absence instead of just four months.  Now I’m taking this month back.  (To be clear: July, August, September, October, I’m still gone.  June?  Nope.)

Let me tell you about a project I started a couple months ago, and truly got working yesterday.  I’ve been a pianist for a long time— it was my first musical instrument, at age 4, and I took lessons for a good ten years.  Since I stopped, however, I’ve kept noodling.  I’m particularly good at playing by ear, but I also enjoy improvising.  In fact, if I have sheet music for a song, I will still improvise, by ear, that song.  At this point I’d rather make my own version than be restricted.

If you think about it, that sums up my writing process too, at this point.  I make a story up as I go along, to fit imperfectly the image I have in my head, rather than follow a set outline, even if I wrote it myself.  I’d rather improvise an imperfect, but fair, solution than hammer down and get a perfect one that doesn’t allow for mistakes.  At least, that’s how I feel about it. Continue reading “Another Project”

What’s Important? Artist Edition

Writing is hard.  At the beginning, everything is NaNoWriMo and instincts and blissful ignorance.  You begin to learn about the craft and get better, and while your first novel was truly terrible, you can laugh about it and move on.  You take pride in calling yourself a writer, among all those people who want to write but never do.  Then it begins to fade.  You keep making the same mistakes.  Words start coming slowly, and a bestselling author publishes two books in the time it takes you to get out of your slump.  The real world tries to pull you out of your fictional one.  Writing is hard.

Drawing is hard.  You start out doodling, and it turns out well, so you look into what else you can do.  It’s fun to experiment with colors, papers, and tools.  You start learning the glories of shadows, shapes, and (what a thrill!) crosshatching.  You’ve got your own sketchbook, and your doodles are getting more and more sophisticated.  Gone are the days of simple stick figures— you’ve got dragons and your friends’ faces and every good thing.  Then it begins to fade.  You begin to realize your circles are lopsided.  People look a little too noodly for your liking.  You’re still working on depth.  People want to see your sketchbook and start comparing you to other people.  You start drawings but don’t finish them because they don’t look right.  Drawing is hard.

Music.  Crafts.  Cooking.  All of it is hard.  Creating stuff is hard.  Words, sounds, sights, tastes, smells…  Well, anyone can make smells.  But good smells!  Creating is hard.  You have to think it up, gather materials, put stuff together to make different stuff, and throw it out for the world to judge.  When they get it, they might or might not like it.  If you don’t have to redo it, you get to start all over again, using none of the same things you just used!  Hurrah! Continue reading “What’s Important? Artist Edition”

The Three Stages of Creativity

I’ve had the opportunity to see many creative people at work recently.  I’ve begun to see a pattern: they all go through the same stages to achieve their success.  These people are writers, composers, and artists, people who create for a living.  When they first begin, they go through the same mindsets and cycles as everyone else– the same cycles as I am still going through.  This isn’t a road map to success, but it gave me an idea of what I need to work on and how much work I still need to do.

The original idea that drives anyone to create anything is the thought that they can write, or compose, or paint, as well as everyone else– in fact, since they’re unique, their works will be unique as well.  The world needs more originality.  Thus, beginners start out wanting to create original stuff; they want to write, draw, or compose in a way completely separate from everything anyone has ever seen.  They throw all their big ideas, the ones that Tolkien unbelievably missed, into their work.  They’ll have fun with it.

I wrote my first two novels with this in mind.  Wise was medieval fantasy, but it had brilliant characters– fourteen protagonists and no antagonist.  Fathoming Egression had an original world, with talking rocks and assassin ducks and plenty of fun stuff.  I had fun with both. Continue reading “The Three Stages of Creativity”

Arson and Tchaikovsky

Last July, I wrote a novel.

I called it “A Little Arson Goes a Long Way” at first, but now I’ve just shortened it to “Arson”.  I wrote it for Camp NaNoWriMo, but it only took 13 days to write, which is a new record for NaNoWriMo (Wise was written in 16 days).  It was 64k words long.

I wrote it in a peculiar style for me.  I tried to outline it, but I didn’t know quite where I was going, so I stopped after the first few chapters.  I discovery wrote, mostly, but I kept in mind the structure I wanted– mainly the Hollywood Formula.  It worked pretty well, in fact– I’m happy with the results.

The pitch is this: “A boy finds a village of people trapped in the forest in his backyard, but is freeing them the right thing to do?”  I had a lot of fun with the idea, and the characters were great. Continue reading “Arson and Tchaikovsky”