What Do You Do When A Writing Deadline Approaches?

You either barricade yourself behind a wall of completed work…or you retreat into excuses – both are perfectly valid.

The first means that you have not disappointed your readers – at least not any more than you normally do. If your entire readership is composed of disappointed people, you have my sympathy.

But by fulfilling your obligations or promises, you only make a stick for your own back. Do good and they’ll expect it of you all the time. Keep topping yourself and one day you’ll be over the top.

On the other hand, if you retreat into whiney excuses for non-performance people will be disappointed in you…oh, wait…they were disappointed in the first example as well…

Have you thought of getting a better set of readers? People who are less judgemental? Might be a thought…

But anyway, let them down occasionally and they will not be on your ass so hard each day. This will give you time to gather new material for a glorious comeback. Because that is the real secret – if you cannot break a writing block you need to go out and find something that breaks it for you. It can be any person, event, place, or experience that makes you mad, sad, glad, or bad. If you are sweating internally, you have a live topic. And you can make it go for ever so long as the powerhouse for your work.

As you explore it and draw from it, the readership will respond. Some will agree, some will not, and some will be disappointed. That is the best indication that you are back in the groove. Go on – give ‘em what they don’t want. They’ll love ya for it.

The Wonderful Weblog Column

Allow me to pour praise upon the WordPress organisation and the wonderful works of charity they do. They have enabled me to have the time of my life for the last six years for essentially nothing at all.

I write four separate weblog columns. I’m paid in money for one of them ( not a lot, I assure you ) and in pleasure for the other three. I’ve tallied the statistics from them and find that I’ve been able to bend people’s ears, so to speak, 5260 times, and on each occasion I have been given the floor exclusively – no one has interrupted me. I hope I have not abused the privilege.

I am a little saddened to read other weblog columns that seem to have gone nowhere – ventures that looked to be so promising, yet faded within a month. I guess there may have been good reasons, but it is still frustrating to see someone who probably has something good to say go silent. Unfortunately it leaves the Facebook parrots to meme whatever they find on the net and then think that they have made an intellectual statement of it. I have never been so glad of a snooze button in my life, and the unfollow lever is kept greased and in good working order too.

People decry weblogs as minor affairs…but they then praise other artistry that may be just as obscure  – merely on the chance that it eventually will become known. Goodness sake, people – read and praise what is fresh before your eyes and recognise the talent that is out there. I’m not saying that the talent is me, but occasionally I get off a good one and it’s worth wading through the rest of the stream to be there when it happens.

The future? I will still write using the free themes until the picture storage capacity is used up – then I’ll pay WordPress for an elegant revision and combine all three columns into one. It will not be a case of cutting down on content, but it will have multiple sections each day. No-one will be deprived.

I receive prompts to ” monetize ” the columns, together with impossibly complex social networking plans and strategies. None of this interests me, as I have nothing to sell but thought. And that is generally going at very low prices anyway. Bring a paper bag and I’ll fill it up for you…

I Talk And We Listen

I’ve been taken somewhat to task recently by a reader of another weblog column who complained that I did not write what he wished to read. I suspect that what he wanted to read was what he had written – and that if I had written to his mind I should equally have displeased him…for I should have stolen his story and portrayed it as my own.

And there it is for many authors…if they write their story they risk the wrath. And yet, in the end, their own story is the only one they can honestly tell.

This is no bad thing. Consider – if I tell something I know to you, you are not required to hear it – you can turn away unheeding. But I can’t tell you without telling myself, and in many cases I am the person who needs to hear that story. I need to get something straight in my own mind…to remember or to understand. The rehearsal of the facts helps me where it might just bore you.

The WordPress weblog columns can be therapeutic instruments for many people and I am impressed that they are made available to so many for such a little cost. I think mine have done me a world of good in the last six years and I would readily recommend the writing of one to anyone upon a trial basis. There may be no more Hemingways out there, but there are certainly writers who can toll their own bells.

 

Taking Back Life – Part Two – The Write Stuff

How do I spend my time?

I am retired from surgery and shop work. Oh, I help out at the camera shows and write and illustrate my daily column for Camera Electronic here in Perth, but that is as much a pleasure and hobby as it is a serious job.

I am happy to say that I am discovering better how to balance what that column is and what it should be as time goes on. I initially thought I needed to tout everything that the shop had to sell, and that the various wholesalers were to be my constant companions. Nothing of the sort – I now treat the column as a daily essay in photography and find topics and interest in my own view of the art*. I do oblige if someone wants a particular product featured, but I really have to like it to make a great deal of it.

The two private columns – this one and my photographic one – are also pleasure in print. And I can be a little more acerbic if I feel the need…but there is a danger in getting older that one may lose sight of the fun of life and start to growl at everything.  I now have to monitor my posts for a couple of weeks before I launch them to prevent the level of spleen from being too high. I’m happy about this – I think it will serve me better in the future to be less critical of the world.

It has been suggested that I’m wasting time in writing these private columns. The person who said this pointed out that they might be going out to less that 1000 people in the world and that less than one percent of those would read them completely. I was delighted – ten people paying attention daily is a better audience than many borscht-belt comedians get. Ten people reacting to them is more notice than many schoolteachers get on a regular basis. Heck, I couldn’t get ten people in a group of relatives to even stop talking.

There was also the suggestion that I’m wasting my time by not earning money through this writing – that I am not commercializing it. I countered with the fact that I had plenty of money for small purposes – and as they are my own purposes, no-one need tell me to do more. Indeed, one of the ambitions of my life now is to live unbidden – free of unnecessary let or hindrance. To that end I have given up some activities – firearm shooting, dental practice, and other government-regulated affairs. I am chary of entering into other things that need rules, permission, and ritual.

I am greatly encouraged in this view by a friend who has, so far, avoided the clutches of the social media network on the internet. He maintains a good iMac computer, and derives as much benefit from it as any of us do looking for facts and entertainment…but no Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. He reads and watches television, and has so far managed to balance these sources of information admirably. An evening’s conversation with him is a pleasure, and he does not force memes or foolish ideas upon me unbidden.

And I’ll bet there are more like him out there.

*  Science? Craft? Sport? Trade? Racket?

The Fountain Of Pen

When I retired from retail trade my employers were gracious enough to present me with a fountain pen – a rather nice Visconti model – as a going-away present. I kept my end of the bargain – I went away. I treasure it as the best writing stick in the drawer, but I have recently been shocked to discover how many more of them there are in there.

Yep. All mine and all functioning, albeit spottily in some cases. Some were bought for me, but most were bought by me…and in most cases they never really measured up to the standard of my own particular industry: the Parker cartridge pens I used in high school.

This is not going to be a ” I remember that crispy bacon we got before the war ” post. Pens are pens, and there are undoubtedly pens out there that are as good as crispy bacon. And they may be as cheap as the old Parkers – but so far I have not found them. The Visconti comes closest to it, and it is too dear to give to a high school student.

The old Parkers probably succeeded due to the fact that they had soft nibs that would quickly wear into the writer’s hand position. That they then continued to wear out was the flaw – the lines got wider and the ink lasted less…and one day the inevitable clumsy fall dropped the pen on the nib and it could never be recovered.

The other flaw of the Parker was it crude nature of the cartridge seal, A standard pack of cartridges were fine as the pen pierced them and drew the ink. The flaw arose when I tried to refill the plastic cartridge from what I thought was going to be the same Quink ink via a hypodermic syringe. I could fill it, but not seal it to take to school for use later in the day – Scotch tape would not keep the ink in, and my school bag or shirt pocket told the tale eventually. Also my chest, but as I chose Washable Blue, I didn’t have to play at being Braveheart for longer than the day.

” Why not use a ballpoint or rollerball or sharpie? ”

Because they simply do not give the control, line texture, and feedback of a fountain pen. Even the mighty quill or school nib pen does not do what a good fountain does. If you want to merely communicate, use a keyboard. If you want to create verbal or visual art, use a fountain pen.

” Why Blog? ” I Was Asked

And it was not just a snotty question – the person I spoke with was genuinely puzzled about why I sit here tapping away at a keyboard. I could tell from their questioning that I was not going to get away with an answer like ” ” ‘Coz I Can…”.

I temporized, searching for time to give a good answer. To distract the questioner I hit  him in the head with a turnip and then wandered away thinking about the question. Here is the answer as best I can figure it out:

a. Weblog writing is a way of releasing tension. Admittedly retirement doesn’t build a lot of stress but there are always in-laws lurking somewhere in the week and you can feel your back muscles tightening just thinking about them.

b. Weblog writing brings you into contact with people who you would otherwise never meet. So does attendance at religious meetings and bar-rooms but writing involves less passing of the hat or passing out.

c. As you get older, fewer people are willing to listen to you. Weblog writing restores the chance to address an attentive crowd. You find out just how attentive when you put in lunatic messages or smutty typo errors. THEN you get listened to.

d. Weblog writing is a way to fame and fortune. And allows you to fly by tucking a kitten under each arm and making magical sounds. It said so in an article I read at the side of Facebook. As soon as I can gather the tuition fee to the Wabash Institute Of Liberal Arts I should be set for life.

e. All the time you spend writing on the web is time that you do not have to spend reading click bait on Facebook.

f. You can make lists with the sure and certain knowledge that people will read them. People ALWAYS read lists, possibly in the hope that they will get better eventually. Sadly…

g. No-one can say you nay. They may say a great many other things that bums used to write on the side of boxcars, but if they do they have to use the reply section of your blog page and that boosts your figures. You can always dump them in the spam if they are too bad or too good.

h. Weblog writing is largely free – the simple WordPress themes let you launch forth at no cost other than your time. If you are the CEO of a major oil company your time is worth a lot more than anything you can write, so this keeps you from getting on WP and ranting away. We all benefit.

i. Keyboard warriors who pop up and pop off on shorter pieces like Twitter or Facebook are forced to come up with more complete posts here in a regular column. It may still be noxious garbage but at least it is more developed. If they are going to make asses of themselves, we all get to see the beast in full view.

j. You can settle many things in your own mind if you write them out in an essay form. You can settle things in other parts of yourself with Gaviscon and Lomotil.

k. Weblog columns provide your enemies with ammunition to use against you in the future. Think how many presidential or prime ministerial candidates may already have been rejected for pre-selection based upon their web writings. There are probably auto-bot programs that seek this sort of thing out all the time. We may have lousy politicians now but think how much lousier they might have been.

l. On the other side of the coin, weblog columns also flush out the unreasonable amongst the readership. If you can get someone to explode into incandescent rage over a meme or cartoon, you can be pretty certain that the explodee is going to be unsuitable for marriage, monetary dealings, or minding the nuclear codes.

m. You can do it in bed – all rugged up and propped on a pillow. It is less effort than sex and unlike eating soda crackers, does not scatter itchy crumbs. If you itch after sex, you are sleeping in the wrong bed.

 

Are We Having Fun Yet?

dscf5061That’s akin to asking the question: ” Did you have fun? ” They are innocuous enough thoughts for the average punter…but it really becomes serious when you ask a weblog columnist these to questions and they give the answer: ” I don’t know – I haven’t written it up yet… ”

Well, you can pray for us writers, if you are inclined that way. We have gotten caught in the trap of never perceiving things in a pure form – every experience we go though eventually becomes either grist for the mill or grit for the gears. And once we have realised it, we are in even a worse way – we write mental reports about ourselves to  ourselves.

It is not really a case of overthinking so much as thinking in paragraphs and subheadings. We write an account – humorous, cynical, serious, scientific, or whatever – in our heads as we are doing whatever it is we are doing. I do it at model shows and car shows – I do it while listening to trade presentations and looking at art shows. I daresay that if I fished or rode a horse or painted pictures I would be composing a third-person account of it. It would be like being haunted by myself all the time, and not in a good way…

The really dangerous part is when you suddenly come across a recording medium in the midst of the musing. I keep a Moleskine book in my daily bag to write down inspiration. I do, but sometimes find later that it is of the most cynical and acerbic nature. While it is safe in the Moleskine as long as no-one sees it, if I were to pass a laptop, tablet, or computer in the heat of the moment, I might be tempted to blurt out over the aether. Nothing bad that is internetted ever really goes away – it always arrives where it can do the most harm.  I dread to think what might have happened if I had posted many things in the heat of the moment – some of them have a scorching half-life.

But there is a good side to this – the weblog column does vent internal pressure that might otherwise consume the writer. The slightly surreal aspect of it is we sometimes do not know what we have actually experienced until we read what we have written. We are real enough, and reality is real enough, but we need to glue ourselves into it. I prefer Weldbond white PVA glue myself – it is a Canadian product that seems far superior to other glues…