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Echoes and Mirrors » Uncategorized

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It finally happened

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Some people despise the word “moist,” which I’ve never understood, because it’s really a great word to describe well-prepared foods like cake and turkey.

Moist is good.

There are countless others, but I’ve never in my life recoiled at the sound of a word before. Connotation, usage, definition, meaning…sure. but never the sound of a word.

That is, until tonight, when it occurred to me just how much I loathe the word “shmear.” I think it’s always bothered me, but as I don’t spend too much time in bagel shops, I haven’t encountered it very often (nor would I encounter it in any medical sense, generally speaking).

Ugh. It certainly doesn’t sound like something I want to put on my bagel, that’s for sure. Just call it cream cheese or lox and we’ll be fine.

So, I found the word I hate. I’m fairly annoyed about it because I love words, too.

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What You Can Get Away With

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

From The Illuminatus! Trilogy, The Eye in the Pyramid:

The sculptures were unlike the work of any culture George knew, which was to be expected, after all. They were at once realistic, fanciful and abstractly intellectual. They bore resemblance to Egyptian and Mayan, Classical Greek, Chinese and Gothic, combined with a surprisingly modern-looking note. There were some qualities in the statues that were totally unique, though, qualities doubtless lost by the civilizations to which Atlantis was ancestral, but that might have been found in known world art, had there been other civilizations to preserve and emphasize them. This, George realized was the Ur-Art; and looking at the statues was like hearing a sentence in the first language spoken by men.

(257)

It took a few more pages before it dawned on me that the only really good line in the passage. The rest of it is vague in the extreme. This is a prime example of telling instead of showing. But that last sentence is almost poetic enough to make you ignore that.

This is less a critique of the book than it is a lesson in What You Can Get Away With If Your Novel is Strong Elsewhere™. Sleight of hand, as it were. The strong point of this book is certainly not in it’s descriptions or language, but in the plot and ideas. Nothing wrong with that.

The Goldfinch was quite the opposite; I found it to be a really poetic, language-rich work that sort of suffered from a weak plot that just meandered and wrapped itself up. Again, nothing wrong with that.

Writing really is about what you can get away with.

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I shouldn’t be laughing

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Because all the hubbub about Junot Díaz’s This is How You Lose Her being very misogynistic seems to be (to a degree, at least) true.

But, damn, it is a funny book. And the humor undercuts the drama in just the right way — not to devalue it but to highlight it while still letting the reader breath.

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Writing!

Friday, August 8th, 2014

I’m doing it again. The masochism has bubbled up from the depths.

I hadn’t meant to take as long of a hiatus as I had, but the summer ended up being mostly awful and entirely too stressful to even consider it. Not that I’m any less busy now. I’m definitely less stressed, though.

But what’s noteworthy is that after a couple of months wherein the only writing I did was a few tweets and emails (and no small number of resume/cover letter combinations) I slipped back into it like I had never stopped. I feel better about it, in fact. Looking back over old manuscript drafts, I recoil in horror (drafts, which, in May, seemed fine). The break, I think, was good for my brain. It needed some downtime.

The adage about “write every day” has always struck me as being, to a degree, crap. While I can’t deny that writing is like working out and requires pretty regular exercise, I suspect that there are thousands of writers out there banging out shit manuscript after shit manuscript because they won’t take a break. Like any other muscle, you need to let the brain recover, too.

Unlike any other muscle, the brain does not need to merely rebuild some tissue. It has to flush out a lot of bad ideas, generate new ones, rethink old ones, absorb and integrate new facts, experiences and skills.

I’ve more and more (especially during grad school) become a burst writer — I will take notes for weeks, months sometimes, and then just dump it all out in a relatively short period of time. My master’s thesis was probably written in three or four sessions (100+ pages, all told). The editing time wasn’t any longer than when I used to write daily. It may have actually been shorter because the bulk of the work was coherent. Sadly, my mood and style and general ability to write is not consistent day to day (nor hour to hour, but that’s somewhat irrelevant).

Unfortunately, with a full-time job comes the necessary writing schedule. I think I used to take two or three hours “warming up” — typing a sentence or two, deleting them, turning the television on, wandering off for a beer, typing a little bit more, etc. — before I was able to just do the damn thing.

I don’t even have time to “warm up,” let alone get a good session in now. Adjusting is difficult.

Which is why I’m so happy that it seemed to just come back without any real hiccups. It’s slower, sure, but it feels okay.

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I’m just gonna go ahead and leave this right here…

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

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Been Out of the World for a Bit

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Well, the job market world that is. Six years in the military, four on the GI Bill, and two more on a TA stipend. Generally, the pay was always a bit low, but it was secure and reasonable for what I did.

I have no idea what constitutes decent pay these days. Apparently minimum wage hasn’t changed since I was in high school (13 years ago), and I am aware enough to know that doesn’t make for reasonable paychecks.

This is making the job hunt much more difficult.

I do know, roughly, how much I want to make, how much I need to make, and what’s reasonable for the jobs I’m applying for. Yet sometimes this doesn’t seem to add up.

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The Return of the Boner Bill

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

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I’ve been drawing the B and R onto dollars for years and spending them freely. Handing boners out to cashiers all across our great land.

Only today, I got one back with my change at a 7-11. The cashier couldn’t help but laugh and apologized. I laughed and told her that it was just crazy weird how I’ve been handing these out for years and only just now got one back.

It’s kind of a landmark moment, somehow. For what, I don’t know.

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The Future, Redux

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Remember this little gem? Yeah, it was apropos and clever, at the time.

But now, as my wonderful little grad school idyll is unceremoniously coming to a close, I really am having to job hunt. And it sucks.

That is all.

 

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How I Feel About Graduating With a Master’s in Creative Writing on Bad Days

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Maybe I’ll be in school forever, though.

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Rewriting

Friday, December 20th, 2013

It’s a real pain in the ass.

I’m looking over this rushed but finished novel I wrote over the summer and I’m simultaneously glad I wrote it and unspeakably disappointed with it.

It’s like reading a poorly novelized film. The plot and the movement aren’t unbelievable, but the prose is underwhelming. It lacks voice. It meanders.

But the story, for me, more or less works.

I’m really just looking through it to see what I can salvage. There’s a good deal of description and dialogue that I like, which is surprising. The meditations and half-baked philosophizing isn’t, which isn’t much of a surprise. I dislike that stuff anyway; I probably just wrote it to get it out of the way at the time.

But it feels like it should maybe be a screenplay. It would be neat, but I have no idea what to do with one of those. They’re even harder to sell than a novel.

So, what I’m thinking is that I really was working on two different stories and sort of trying to see if they could coexist. They can’t. One is incredibly pretentious, the other really fun.

Maybe I’ll work both out one day.

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