Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How Are You Going To Keep Them Down On The (Server) Farm?

Once you find what you love to do, it's painfully difficult to go back and do what you need to do.

Engineering pays the bills. And I'm good at it. Not the geeky kid building flashy video games good, but the older bearded Unix guy with the ponytail good. And it (usually) pays quite well, which writing doesn't. But now that I've tasted the joys of writing, I just can't find the passion to write software anymore: been there, done that, take a nap.

Yesterday, I was practically bouncing in my chair. Was it solving the impossible problem that was dropped in my lap with no documentation that had me doing a Tigger all day, or was it that I conceived and wrote a 100 word short story (a form I've been meaning to try for a while) on my drive to work?

I've seen Paris, and now the farm looks like so much dirt.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Taking a Dip

It's time to get back to journal writing again. I've set it aside recently, concentrating on fiction writing, but journal writing has the advantages in that it's a little something every day, so you're always writing, and it's private: you don't have to care what it says or how well it reads. It lets you write when you can't otherwise write, and any writing is a good thing.

For journal writing, I always go very low tech. For those who haven't tried using bottled ink with a dip or fountain pen, I'd highly recommend it. There's an elegance to liquid ink that you can't get with the paste ink of a ballpoint. It's smooth. It flows.

Using a dip pen is a ritual. It's not something you do on a whim. You select the ink that suits your mood: inks are as different as wines, and each has it's own character. Next you select the nib. Are you wanting a fine point, or is your mood more suited to a broad stroke? Finally, comes the act of writing itself. You open the bottle, dip the nib, and set it to paper. You write a sentence or two and pause--you collect your thoughts as you refill the nib, and start again. It's a deliberate act, and makes you feel connected to what you're writing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Finding the Write Time

Engineering pays the bills, but it really screws up the time I have to write. It's not just the work hours: it's the commute. Oh, but to be able to write and drive at the same time!

I've tried dictating to myself using a tape recorder, but that just ends up frustrating me to no end. I don't think and work in a linear manner, and tape is nothing if not linear. Voice recognition, converting spoken words to text that I could read later might be interesting, but I'm imaging the transcription now...

The round should as the meter hit no that's no good don't right that oh crap it's recording this two how do I watch where you're going when will people learn two drive oh it's still recording how do I stop it what the move already people it's the pedal on the right...

Yeah, let's skip that idea for now. I'll have to find other ways to make some time to write.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Luddite Goes Electric

Writers start off as readers. Good writers read a lot. Who the hell doesn't like new toys?

As odd as it might seem for someone who has spent a career working in leading edge software design, I'm really a luddite at heart. I love firelight over electric light. Give me a bottle of ink and a dip pen, and I'm happier than I could be writing on a high-end computer. So when the e-book buzz started getting louder and louder, it was easy for me to dismiss it out of hand.

Until I saw the Kindle.

Damn. They did a nice job on the design of that thing. A screen made of electronic paper. EVDO wireless capability so you can buy books directly from the device anywhere there is cellular service. It's small, light, easy to use...

I bought one. Yes, the luddite bought an e-book reader. And I'm loving it! In addition to the wireless, I can convert all my own material to e-book format using MobiPocketCreator and transfer it to the Kindle via a USB link. The annotation feature on the Kindle lets me proof my work and make notes in a more comfortable environment than sitting in front of the computer. I can't say enough good things about the device.

It's not all perfect (the power button is hard to reach when the Kindle is in it's cover and I'm always afraid it'll fall out of the cover since it's only held there by a small plastic tab) but it is a well-conceived, well built gadget, and I love it.

Even if you're a luddite like me, but someone who loves to read, don't dismiss the latest e-book readers. They've arrived.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Filling out forms

Should there be a test required to get a poetic license? I've been reading all I can find about different forms of literature. Perhaps it's the engineer in me, but I'm of the mind that in order to deviate from formalism well, you need to understand formalism. Writing should be deliberate, not accidental.

In my searches I've come across a lot of poetry on the internet. Some of it is quiet lovely. So much more of it is not. Far too much of it is free verse. Not that free verse is necessarily bad, there's been a lot of wonderful free verse published, but whatever happened to meter and rhyme?

I could probably slap together some free verse and call it poetry, but I want to understand what I'm doing. I want to craft my work, not simply let it spill from my pen onto paper. Does doing that inhibit creativity, or enhance it? Does it take more creativity to shape your feeling to fit a form? Does it take extensive knowledge of the various forms to allow me to choose a form suited to my ideas?

Formal poetry is work; no question about it. It's not something I, personally, can do off the cuff. It's a very deliberate act of shaping expression, but that's what I think makes it so much greater: it's not just the idea being expressed, but the form it takes, and that adds to the expression.

Am I ready to try my hand at formal poetry? Maybe. But I think I may need to find my feet first.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I've got the whole world, in my head...

It's getting rather crowded in there, and it's only going to get worse before it gets better.

I've started working on a few more short stories. Two of them exist only as ideas, and titles. Another seems to be expanding, taking up more and more idea space in my head. I suspect it isn't a short story after all, but a novella or even a novel.

It's quite daunting. Thus far I've been content to write short stories and examine other short form fiction. Now one of my creations has taken on a life of its own, but it's not yet fully formed. That's frustrating me. I'm writing page upon page of notes as ideas come, but nothing cohesive has presented itself yet. I can see images of the world in my story, but I'm not yet living there, or able to take an extended vacation there as yet. I need to be able to see that world as well as I can the one I spend most of my days inhabiting.

The idea if having a story that might lend itself to a longer work is exciting, but terrifying as well. I'm a rather harsh self-critic, and don't wish to screw up a good idea, and I think it might be a good idea. Neither to I want to over analyze and kill it that way. It's a tricky balancing act.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Shifting a Paradigm

My desk yelled at me this morning. It's annoying when your desk, one you consider your most silent partner, starts nagging you and won't let you get any work done.

"I'm wrong. Fix me."

Wrong? It's the same desk it has been for years. Little about it has changed, so why is it suddenly wrong? I looked it over, carefully examining the manuals and software CDs cluttering the shelves. They are just as they were. Why is that wrong?

"I'm wrong. I wasn't before, but I am now. Fix me."

What's that silly hunk of wood babbling about--Hold on! It hasn't changed. It hasn't changed!

I have.

I hate it when my desk knows more than I do, or at least is more attentive than I am. Nothing for it but a makeover. Now, instead of stacks of CD and software manuals, it's :The American Heritage Dictionary; The Highly Selective Dictionary for the Extraordinarily Literate; Roget's Thesaurus; The Chicago Manual of Style; The AP Stylebook and Libel Manual; Strunk and White Elements of Style; The New Oxford Guide to Writing; Woe is I; Eats, Shoots & Leaves; and Lapsing into a Comma.

Now, it's a writer's desk. And it's quiet again.

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