Push It Along | On Writing

There’s nothing more aggravating than experiencing a flood of inspiration and ideas while in the midst of a work shift, completely separated from any means of giving concrete form to thoughts. So, try as you might, you attempt to hold these racing, fluctuating processes inside your head until such a time is reached that pen can be placed against paper (or fingers against keys, as you do).

But, of course, when at last you are able to reach a place of quiet and there is time enough for those thoughts to decompress from within your brain, you find that nearly all traces of plot designs and character developments have escaped you. What’s worse, usually at this point you’ll find that all of your focus has evaporated, your mind exhausted from dealing with the  doldrums of the day-to-day grind. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of working (grateful as you may be for a job in this climate), the mental and spiritual recovery time cutting so deeply into time that should be spent on creativity.

For myself, I run into this problem on a seemingly bi-weekly basis. There’s a cycle, it seems. Sometimes it’s hard to determine where it ends and where it begins. At one point, there is complete and utter hopelessness, a feeling of despair that the current Work-In-Progress will never be completed or that, in its current state, will never amount to anything of worth. Then, during the most inopportune time, sudden and complete Inspiration will strike, and the flood of ideas and mental rewrites will ensue, often with no mode to transcribe in sight. Next, finally the transfer of idea to written word can begin once time and space allows it. Sometimes, this transfer actually does work out, a new direction achieved, and for a brief amount of time, it seems that the flow of work is fully pressurized and perhaps unceasing. This is a temporary state.

Eventually, snags are hit, sentences begin to dry up, and before long the mind takes dark and twisted turns, believing that all the work achieved is actually trash. And thus, the despair once again sets in. All progress banished to the scrap heap.

I guess what I’m getting at is… I need a new modus operandi when it comes to my personal writing process. As many lists of “Tips for Beginning Writers” will tell you, relying on Inspiration is generally a recipe for disaster, or actually, stagnation (which is definitely worse, at least disaster is dynamic). The problem I have is that I look at the project as a mountain to summit, thinking that the peak must be reached as quickly as possible or at not all (lest I freeze to death?) when in reality, the quest for completion is a journey across a variety of terrains. At times the road will be flat and even and at others, the way will include steep ascents as well as descents – some perhaps subterranean.

The point is, writing a novel is not a one-shot sprint or even a marathon, it is not a non-stop achievement that must be pulled across the finish line at all costs so as to avoid any damaging self-reflection. Writing a novel IS a journey, one that will have many rests and setbacks along the way as does any proper adventure. The important distinction here is that a setback should not amount to descending the entire mountain and beginning anew every time something does not read right or a potential story thread leads nowhere or nowhere good.

Even if it isn’t easy, even if progress seems to be moving at a speed just barely above a halt, I must embrace the idea that it is still moving toward completion and that it is definitely not in reverse.

As the abstract Q-Tip once said:
If you can’t pull it, all you gotta do is Push It Along…

They Look Like People | A Review

To call this a horror film is a bit disingenuous but at the outset, They Look Like People (2015) sets the viewer up to expect a creature feature. However, to say this indie film does not deliver when viewed as a horror film would also be a misleading statement.

We are presented with the story of Wyatt, a man suffering from unspecified crisis in his life. Seemingly at the end of his rope, Wyatt visits an old friend, Christian, revealing to his friend that his previous marriage engagement has been called off. The relationship completely dissolved. Agreeing to spend the night at Christian’s place, we soon learn that Wyatt has been witness to demons masquerading in the guise of humans, walking freely on earth. More importantly, we learn that he is now wrapped up in a plot to save humanity from evil.

If you go into this film expecting a gory monster vs. humans romp, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed. But in place of on-screen effects and action-filled set pieces, we get the far more effective use of unsettling sound design and a story that slowly boils up a sense of bubbling dread that adds weight to each scene as the film progresses.

Without giving the plot away, I will say that this film did a good job of obscuring the truth behind the narrative. We are offered an increasingly unreliable perspective given to us by Wyatt, a character who is portrayed as teetering at the edge of a mental breakdown. Often, the tension in this film is created not by what we can see, but by the murky promise of what terrible entity might be hiding around the corner or, rather, in plain sight.

Northwest Side Night

Outside, the night is suffocating, air heavy and hot though the sun’s been down for hours. The street is awash with motion: cars flash by, rushing to make the next light, young couples moving from the bar on the corner to the pizza parlor across the street, gangs of high school kids hover in the convenience store parking lot down the street. Behind us, a kid on a BMX bike rides up, knees hitting handlebars. In soft-spoken Spanish he asks us if we want to buy any weed. Luis laughs and says no, his shoulders tense as we watch the boy ride away.

“Alright, you had your walk, got your pop, let’s go home.” I say.

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Perspective | On Writing

It really is amazing how dramatically different a given landscape can appear depending on where one is standing.

But even two people standing in the exact same spot will have unique responses to an identical scene, each interpretation shaped by his or her personal experiences and interests – what might appear like a mundane, everyday occasion to one person may seem spectacular or even horrifying to someone else. And within an individual, any particular sight can have varying reactions depending on current mood, on recent events or distant unlocked memories evoked.

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Redux

Here we are again, (he says to no one in particular other than himself and the perhaps two other readers following this blog) another day, another blog. This time though, it’s going to be different. Maybe.

Seriously though, my intentions this time around are a little more concrete, a little more focused. I hesitate to use the word “professional”, as I am still far from being a professional writer, but I would like to make this space feel more like a portfolio and less like a random jumble of hastily written posts space months or even years apart. That’s the ideal anyway.

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