changes in direction

Monday, April 5, 2004

I have made a list of topics I want to discuss today. According to my battery meter, I have four hours and twenty-seven minutes to muse on those topics. In a normal musing, I start babbling until either I have nothing more to say or (more usual) I have no energy to say more. Today is different. I’m going to plow my way through the list. This has the advantage of forcing me not to give up until I say everything I want to say regardless of my dedication. I’ll even share the list with you so you can judge my success. The list has changed a bit as I’ve added topics that popped into my mind, including this introductory paragraph (which, come to think of it, doesn’t appear in the list), and changed the order to make the organization a bit more consistent. The list: consternation, writing to write, emotional musing, video games, fish, Passover. I’ve also started a list in a different document of topics that I think of as I’m writing. This will give me ideas for later musings when I can think of nothing to say (more about this later).

To start, I wanted to discuss my second favorite topic, the improvement of David. There are actually two improvements today, but we’ll get to the second, less important one in a bit. The first improvement is a change in the direction of my musings. To understand this change, I need to discuss my (hopefully soon-to-be-former) favorite topic, consternations about writing.

I write about writing often, usually in different forms and with different goals, but my writing musings group is rather crowded. There’s a reason for this: I aspire to write best-selling fiction. Another time I’ll analyze the two parts of that aspiration: the best-selling part and the fiction part (the first topic in my musing ideas file). Today, I wanted to concentrate on whether my musings on writing help me write my stories.

These thoughts originated after reading part of Chuck's last post, in which, somewhat as a joke, he said that he was “writing about writing about writing.” It came into focus yesterday while I was reading Nick Hornby’s How to be good. Nick is a skilled writer. Through only dialogue and his (female) narrator’s thoughts, he builds a family of interesting characters, introduces a family conflict, and examines the morals of good versus evil. He describes almost nothing in the book. He reminded me why I wanted to write: to tell interesting stories and touch emotions. I started wondering whether writing about writing (about writing) was helping me achieve this.

I have kept my quasi-New Years resolution and stopped writing endlessly about how I am incapable of writing anything of value. If you thumb through my older musings, you will see plenty of these consternations. Regrettably, I have replaced these consternations by different consternations on writing. The purported purpose of these new musings was to synopsize my ongoing story, but I have gone beyond synopsizing. While the volume of complaints about writing has decreased, I am spending an inordinate amount of time discussing not the actual writing, but my failings on writing.

Some of these discussions are valuable. For example, my discussion relating to writing something I want to read, and another musing relating to writing stories that touch emotions are valuable insights for me. But in writing these musings, I am sacrificing actual writing. I’m not sacrificing in the sense of writing musings instead of stories (which is also a point of contention, but not something I want to dwell on today), but sacrificing by not writing about my thoughts and theories that I can use as fodder for my stories.

Right about now, you must be asking yourself: if this is a problem, isn’t this musing just another symptom of that problem? Aren’t you doing the very thing that you’re complaining about in this musing? Actually, I’m doing something worse. If the musings I’m complaining about are writing on writing, then this musing is about writing on writing on writing. This reminds me of the Simpsons’ episode in which Sideshow Bob uses a nuclear bomb to blackmail Springfield into destroying its television stations. He uses a large television at an airshow to present his demands, and acknowledges the irony of using a television to decry television.

There is madness behind my plan. Proposing and implementing changes are important steps for me. I have given up television (with a few exceptions), stopped playing video games (more about that later), improved my website, spent more time reading, and become more focused on my writing. It sometimes takes me a while to realize my problems—I have many problems, and it’s sometimes hard to identify the important ones. And it can take me even longer to implement the solution. But that’s one of the purposes of this musing. To fix another perceived failing and get me back on track in my writing.

This does not mean that I won’t discuss my writings. Because writing fiction is so important to me, I will still discuss it, probably often. What I will also do, however, is reveal more of my ideas, theories, and daily experiences. I will then use these musings as fodder for my stories. My second story, Loud Neighbors, is based almost completely on experiences I wrote down during my Hawaii trip. The more I understand my experiences and ideas, the more I can apply those to my stories.

So, if you see the same ideas and theories in my stories that are in my musings, you’ll know that I have succeeded. It has taken me a long progression to get here, but I think (for today) this is the right path.

I have three hours and fives minutes to discuss the other topics in my list.

My second David-improvement relates to video games. I have a confession: I have been playing video games quite a bit, especially Jedi Knight: Academy. It all started when Jason, one of the OGGers (my secret gamers organization), finally agreed to actually play a video game (this is something rare, which is surprising since the group was designed to play video games). My resolution was not to play video games except with friends, which seemed a fair compromise, since my friends normally don’t play video games (losers). Jason and I dueled for a few hours and he kicked my ass in the game. Because of my humiliation, I decided to improve my play by playing on the public servers. To make a long story short, I became rather good and started playing more, spending entire days and evenings playing the game.

This morning, I decided to do something about it. I took the Jedi CD out of my computer and placed it in the trash. This is the second time I had to do something this drastic. The first time was for Dark Age of Camelot. As I discussed before, that didn’t work. I actually went out and bought another copy. This time, my addiction is less severe. I play more because I don’t know what else to do than because I really want to play. I’m hoping that now that I don’t have the game, I’ll spend the time writing or (something I decided to pick up again) meditating. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Looking over the list, I wanted to discuss a number of other items. I’m going to fail. This is a rather long musing, so I won’t feel too guilty. I will try to edit my emotional writing musing I wrote a few days ago. No promises on whether I will post it. I don’t like it because I think it panders to get cheap, emotional feelings. On second thought, I promised myself I wouldn’t edit my thoughts and I would post what I write. So here it is.

Oh yeah, Happy Passover! (You can now check off one more item on my list. I wanted to talk a little more about Passover, but you’ll have to wait on that.)