Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: literature

Writing Foreplay

No, not writing about foreplay.  That’ll be a different sort of post altogether.

You ever have a feeling of drudgery when you sit down to do your thing?  You love writing.  You always have.  But these days when you try to actually get down to work, you feel overwhelmed and utterly intimidated.  You can’t remember how you managed to write two and a half novels.  You feel like you don’t know where your story is going, despite your detailed outlines and plans.  You stare at the computer screen and feel such a revulsion toward your task that you are afraid you were never supposed to be a writer.

You’re not in the mood.

You have a headache.

You’re tired.  You have to wake up early the next morning.

You’ve forgotten how fun writing can be.  You need some foreplay.

Open a fresh document.  Write these words:

Writing can be such a drudgery.

And then write some more.  Tell the page what you think of it.  Tell the page how pissed off you are about your lack of inspiration.  Rail and complain.  Beg and plead.  Pour out all the negative feelings in your soul onto that page.  Don’t stop.  Don’t think.  Let it go.  Just let it go.

Until you stop.

Then open your novel again.  Go to the scene you have to write.  You’ll feel better.  You’ll be in the mood.  You’ve had your foreplay.  Time to take it home.

A Billion Stories to Tell

     I’m about 18,000 words into book two. And I’m dry inside.
I had another idea for a book. A great idea. Just as good as the series I’m on now. So I thought that my dryness in the sequel meant that my muse wanted me to write the other idea first. I got 2,800 words in before I turned dry again.
     Then I had another idea. And another. And then I remembered.
     The muse has a billion stories she’d like you to tell. And she couldn’t give a rip which one you do first. If she had her way, you’d be somehow writing them all at the same time. And then you’d have a nervous breakdown because muses don’t care much about human frailties and the like.
     I haven’t written much in about a month. Maybe more. And I’m starting to feel it.
     When the creativity doesn’t seep out, things get stale inside. It’s like a pool with no stream running out of it. It stays still and grows stagnant. And it stinks like poop. It needs to flow or else nothing but mosquitoes and parasites will live there.
     Stop blogging, Matt. Go write a story. Write about the Bard and his wife. Write about the Chronicler and his god. Write about the people of the Expanse and call their tragic stories into existence. And when you feel the wells of self-pity rising up within yourself, think about the blinded Skotons and the doomed men and women of Al Ryaal. And count yourself lucky.
     Write, Mr. Cook. It is your calling. Your well-being is at stake. And the world wants to hear your story.

Ontario Writer’s Conference 2012

     I asked my mom to come with me to the Ontario Writer’s Conference this year.  Not because it was Mother’s Day.  Just because I like hanging out with my mom.  So there.  My brother came as well.  Because I like hanging out with my brothers, too.  I’m one of those strange people who enjoys sitting around with each and every one of my family members.  I think that’s nice.

     The conference was gold, of course.  I did a workshop with Canada’s premier sci-fi author, Robert Sawyer.  I listened to a passionate talk from Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner in Tehran.  I chatted it up with other people in varying stages of their writing walks.

     Before arriving, though, I was a little apprehensive.  I’ve been writing steadily since 2005.  I’ve been to conferences and read many how-to books.  I had that deliciously arrogant thought that maybe there was going to be nothing for me to learn at the conference this year.

     Now, it wasn’t that arrogant for me to think that.  Most writing resources are pretty much identical.  They give you a list of things to do or things to avoid doing.  Avoid adverbs.  Use descriptive words.  Avoid telling.  Use showing.  Avoid flowery, complicated words.  Draw from life experience.  And then, at the end of the list, the last point is always to ignore the rules and write free.  Which is kinda like saying, “I have no idea how you should write, but I needed something to blog about today.”

     And it’s not just blogs.  Most books on writing are just the same thing repackaged and dusted off.  Except, of course, for Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write.  Those books are the cat’s meow and every single writer and artist ought to read them.  Like, now.

     So I wasn’t sure what I’d get out of the conference this year.

     Thankfully, it turns out I am just a very arrogant dude and there is still a good deal of stuff for me to ingest.  I came away from the conference with a notebook full of ideas and a burst of optimistic energy.  Because this sort of conference doesn’t give you lists of dos and don’ts.  Conferences give you real people who are doing what you do, only better and for a longer time.  And talking with people who do what you do is always helpful.  Even when you can’t make a list of why it was helpful.

     Thanks, OWC!  It was a great time!