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Wednesday: Palpably fake apathy vs. poorly-oaked syrah.

Meanwhile, I was all, bugger National Novel Writing Month.

Don't get me wrong. It looked fascinating from the outside. I wasn't going to discourage anyone from doing it. It's probably a valuable tool. Some people could even get a useful, publishable novel out of it. Some lucky person may even swing a iPod Nano out of the deal. The buggery wasn't meant for them at all. I wasn't even approaching them with the pitchfork, although I would quite like to play with the adorable gadget.

What I mean to say is that I chased NaNoWriMo out of my room with fourteen marital aids.

When I say "fascinating from the outside," I mean, "There is a window here made of transparent aluminum. We can see each other. I can do my best puppy impression, but all I'll leave are smears. This is four inches deep. This will never, ever break."

(Also, my inability to describe my emotions without referencing both puppies and Star Trek means that I should never, ever, ever be allowed to write a novel. Or poetry. Or even one of those God damned "postcard stories" that my "creative" writing teacher was so keen on, back in the day, really.)

I can't write prose fiction to save my life. If I'd figured this out when I was much younger, we would all have been far safer, I assure you. I won't deny that I've written novels, or large chunks of novels. A few times, in fits of youthful optimism, I managed somewhere over the NaNoWriMo word count during my free time. The first stab was destroyed in a tragic hard drive failure; subsequent ones... well, someone really should have told me how bad the short stories from the same period were, say, and done so months before I'd generated a couple of hundred more pages on something new. The manuscripts went straight into the trash once the point finally got driven home.

Nothing better ever came out.

I stuck to newspapers after that. Newspapers, pseudonyms and locked diaries. Much easier that way. At least, when the editor tells you that your article's worthwhile and it just needs some work, they're usually not lying to you. If they are, you figure it out pretty fast.

I have friends who tell me just to generate output, and not to care if it sucks. That way lies disaster. You may have read pamphlets, once, on clinical depression in all of its many forms. Some of them explain how telling a person to just "snap out of it" is not only bound to fail, but likely to be counterproductive; if they could turn off the depression, well, they wouldn't have clinical depression. Tell the afflicted depressive this, and they'll not only remain depressed, they'll feel worse because they can't snap out of it. Same goes for telling people not to dwell on their problems, or not to think so much. Same goes for reminding them that, down in Methylparabenia, there are folks with far greater problems than yours; you should be happy.

I can't shut off that sort of creative terror any more easily than I can flip a switch and make major depressive episodes go away. Trying to make myself not care exacerbates matters; I don't even know how one forces oneself not to have an emotion. NaNoWriMo was tempting, and has been tempting for a couple of years running now. I'd love to pretend again that I could write a book. But I know better than to think it would be helpful, or fun, or likely to generate anything better than a daily panic attack. I have enough things going on right now, in any event; playing the Red Queen's Race with wordcount wouldn't work, because all I'd be able to do is remind myself that I'm no good at this sort of thing. I wouldn't be able to do this any more than I can straighten my hair, or change the wind's direction, or calculate the tip.

This is not to say that I don't compensate, where I can. I'm just inclined to respect my own personal limits. I know what I can write, and where I'm capable of improvement. I can give myself permission to suck if I know that I can get better, but I'm always going to care. I have to have some idea of where to channel the energy so that it's not exclusively self-destructive.

I'm not bad at short pieces.

[National Drunken Writing Night: 5 November 2005]I'm also not bad at choosing wine. Not great; I made a horrible mistake the other night with a Rhone syrah that really should never have seen the barrel. But I know from wine, and I know well enough to have an enjoyable night with it.

I've written while intoxicated on a number of occasions. It was the only way to get through the last disc of Broken Saints without undue emotional trauma, for example, especially given that Hunter S. Thompson had just shot himself and it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. I won't pretend that the results are any better or worse than what you get out of a sober writer, or that it's something anyone should rely upon for more than the occasional piece. (I felt differently when I was younger, but I was also stupid.) The fallacy of the writer who's Always Better When They're All Messed Up is usually exactly that; HST aside, I suspect that most such folks are good in spite of the alcohol. But, if you can't actually distance yourself from your anxieties very easily, and there's something that you need to do, a glass of wine is a good jumpstart. Three quarters of a bottle of wine is a calculated risk. (Anything else, and you're probably on your own.)

Writing while tipsy is actually kind of fun sometimes. And I like not having anxieties for a little while.

So. Y'all can go off and write a book. I'll bet your book will totally kick ass. I, meanwhile, intend on partipating in National Drunken Writing Night on the evening of 5 November, and I make no guarantee as to the results.

They'll probably suck. I'm okay with that.

Posted by Wednesday Burns-White at October 26, 2005 9:56 PM


Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at October 26, 2005 10:29 PM

The whole thing about "not caring if it sucks" has more to do with not trying to get it perfect the first time. I can't tell you how many times I tried to start "writing a novel" and quitting because I couldn't get it "just right" on the first pass.

Two years ago I went insane, did my first NaNoWriMo, and churned out 100K in text. And lo and behold, I found that I'd actually FINISHED something. What's more, after I went back and edited the damn thing, rewriting a few chapters that desperately needed rewriting, I actually had something that wasn't bad. I'm now trying to sell it.

There were parts during that process where I wrote complete, unmitigated shit -- but I also had pieces of it that worked really well. If I'd got hung up on the crap I'd never have got to the good stuff.

Before NaNoWriMo, I didn't want to have to deal with the rewriting/editing process of novel writing... and I didn't, you know, actually write any novels. So kudos to that bit of insanity for forcing me though that.

Which isn't to say it'd work for you, necessarily. It might, though!

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 26, 2005 10:40 PM

The whole thing about "not caring if it sucks" has more to do with not trying to get it perfect the first time.

<emo>Then my incompetence extends to not being able to communicate the problem to others.</emo> :)

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at October 26, 2005 10:40 PM


That sounds awesome.

While we're at it, I also propose the 24-Beer Comic. I could get behind that, I think. If I didn't, you know. Die.

* - (It's been pointed out to me today that I use this word entirely too much (and by 'pointed out' I mean 'laugh when she says it, wait for a pause, stare at her until she says it again, laugh some more, etc.'), and I think it might be a bit y'all's fault. 8'P )

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 26, 2005 10:44 PM

Maybe 24floz. beer comic?

24floz. Whiskey Comic!

Comment from: kirabug posted at October 26, 2005 10:55 PM

If I'm planning to participate in NaNoWriMo can I still participate in NaDruWriNi?

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 26, 2005 10:58 PM

kira: That's between you and your wordcount. :)

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 26, 2005 11:25 PM

not to care if it sucks
I completely understand. It's why I don't do anything, y'know, serious with my painting. I love to paint, but know that I'll never be a real Fine Artist. I don't have it, that special something that turns a picture into an experience. I'm creative. I have a good eye for color, and for fun little twiddles, but I long ago realized that my work would always just be.. well, fun. Bold, maybe, perhaps even dramatic or striking... but never breathtaking.

Of course I care! How could I not? But the "little twiddles" are fun, and they scratch the itch to create something without embarrassing me too much. They're always well-received, since they're usually created as a gift or part of a gift, with the recipient firmly in mind. And, well, they make me happy.

But to attempt to create Art, with the capital A? Nope, don't have it, and long ago I decided not to continue to beat my head against that particular wall, for that way lay madness. I had a choice, either to "not care," and be a complete hack pretending to be something else, or take a different road, and actually get some joy out of my hand, holding the paintbrush. I chose the joy.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 26, 2005 11:27 PM

Unfortunately, I can't participate in Drunk Artist's Day.. alcohol knocks me out, and that's not exactly conducive to making even fun, silly, pedestrian little crafty-things.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 26, 2005 11:37 PM

I worked on a novel for a coupla years once. I finally realized that the novel isn't my medium, and that the daily comic strip - you know, that thing I'd already been doing for twenty five years - was. Ergo, Arthur, King of Time and Space.

Wednesday, how do you get pointy brackets to show up on an HTML screen?

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 26, 2005 11:46 PM

Paul: they're HTML character entities. Here's a set of charts -- scroll down to 24.2.1 to start; angle brackets are further down. (It's quarter to five and my arm hurts, so I'm not really thinking, "dude, comb the Google results." ^^ )

Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at October 26, 2005 11:58 PM

When you say, "It's time for drunken blogging," and others say, "You have my beer."

"And my forty."

I'll be the short hairy dude to chime in...

"And my Shot Glass!"

Weds? I'm very doing this. This sounds like some damned fun.

Comment from: occultatio posted at October 27, 2005 1:16 AM

Man, I would *totally* do this, except I don't drink. Maybe I'll just stay up really, really late, eat a bunch of pixy stix, and *then* write!

Although I actually do have this serious essay about Achewood that's been at the back of my head for a few weeks...

Comment from: sqbr posted at October 27, 2005 1:17 AM

Theres a world of difference between knowing you could be good if you could just start, and knowing you just don't have it in you no matter how hard you try.
Of course a lot of people think they're in the second category when they should really be in the first, which has the unfortunate side effect of well meaning people trying to encourage those in the second category to "just give it another go". Having been on both sides of that equation I can't get too narky about it :)

Anyway the real reason I had to post was to say: transparent aluminium? That is so cool! Also NaDruWriNi makes me wish I drank :)

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at October 27, 2005 1:37 AM

I suppose I am fortunate in being rock-solid aware that I cannot write prose of any length, and thus am never tempted to try for more than 5 or 10 seconds at a time. (Go find any of my comments on Websnark that are longer than, say, 100 words. I averaged 20 minutes writing each one. Because words suck.)

I also don't drink. I gave myself a terrible headache last night from trying to read way too much on the Internet before I went to sleep, though. I couldn't stop thinking. I was Scott McCloud.

Comment from: escapegoat posted at October 27, 2005 1:48 AM

Used to be able to bang off pages and pages (complete with ten-dollar words and cohesive sentence structure) when completely snockered...but that was then. Yeast feces aren't my drug of choice anymore. But...

Is there a National Stoned Writing Night?

I'd be more into that. Duuuude.

Comment from: Sean Duggan posted at October 27, 2005 1:55 AM

I totally understand Wednesday. While I do Ok with writing, there are some activities in life which I am not good at, which I probably never will be good at. Dancing in any kind of hip style is one of them. Give me the "hep", ballroom dancing, and I do Ok, but the whole "bop to the rhythm" thing? I've been told that I do for dancing what Cthluhu did for architecture.

As for blogging while intoxicated, I've done that a few times. The biggest problem is remembering to hit the save/post button when you're done. *wry grin* That and you often say a lot more than you ought to and you have to make hasty revisions in the morning, praying no one archived a copy.

Comment from: Darth Paradox posted at October 27, 2005 3:29 AM

Yep. I'm writing my Nov. 5th portion of my novel while drunk. Damn skippy.

Luckily, my typing skills are relatively unaffected by alcohol. We'll see whether I can actually make my sentences coherent, though.

Comment from: Merus posted at October 27, 2005 4:51 AM

Fuckin' Ulysses is OSX only. Real shame.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 27, 2005 7:29 AM

Thanks for the chart, Wednesday. Didn't mean to keep you up.

Comment from: Michael Nehora posted at October 27, 2005 8:44 AM

Wednesday: At least you tried. Ask published fiction authors what's the comment they're the most sick of, and chances are it'll be, "Oh, I've often wanted to write but I just don't have the time."

That, and "So is [Character X] you?"

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at October 27, 2005 8:58 AM

Is there a National Stoned Writing Night?

I think that works best if you have someone there to take dictation.

I should know. ^_^

(I didn't partake, but I was an excellent stoner-stenographer in my day. Pages of comedy gold. The best part was waiting 10-30 minutes and then quizzing everyone on who said what.)

Comment from: Merus posted at October 27, 2005 9:24 AM

I wonder how many authors write themselves, quite clearly and deliberately, into their own stories just so can they answer, "So, is [main character] you?" with something like, "No, I'm me. [Main character] is fictional."

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 27, 2005 9:45 AM

James Clavell's self-insertion character once complained that people ask him whether he's the wrong character.

Comment from: Meagen Image posted at October 27, 2005 11:04 AM

While we're admitting to literate shortcomings, I can't write verse. Like, at *all*. I can't write a poem, I can't write a filk, I can't even come up with a lymerick on my own. (This saddens me because I love lymericks, but I'm reduced to memorising other people's instead of writing my own.)

I can't think of any but the most obvious rhymes. I don't know the difference between various types of verse until it's pointed out to me. I don't *think* in verse.

I accept this shortcoming of mine in full, along with my extremely low blood pressure and my inability to experience motion sickness.

Comment from: DarkStar posted at October 27, 2005 1:03 PM

I think that works best if you have someone there to take dictation.
Now this is where we step to the side and create a new thing. I'll borrow a word from the October 21st installment of Anacrusis (found here and redefine it thus:

Buzzcast: Gathering a small group of people, getting them drunk, stoned or otherwise high, recording the result and posting it to the net.

This is probably the worst idea ever. Who's up for it? I want to hear some drunk and stoned podcasts.

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at October 27, 2005 1:39 PM

Buzzcast: Gathering a small group of people, getting them drunk, stoned or otherwise high, recording the result and posting it to the net.

This is probably the worst idea ever. Who's up for it? I want to hear some drunk and stoned podcasts.

And by worst idea ever you surely mean best idea ever.

Seriously. 3 AM con hotel room conversations? Sobering up at Waffle House? This is where the magic happens.

Comment from: Steven E. Ehrbar posted at October 27, 2005 2:10 PM

See, I got through the first three paragraphs, and went off on a tangent of imagining the novel "Wednesday White and the Fourteen Marital Aids".


Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 27, 2005 2:20 PM

Oh, no, no, no. "Wednesday White and the Fourteen Marital Aids" would be a bedtime story.

You'll understand if that one doesn't get posted.

Comment from: quiller posted at October 27, 2005 3:40 PM

It has kind of that Arabian Nights feel to it, too. Or would that be a Roald Dahl feel?

I'm a decent poet, but I'm not sure about novels. I read plenty of novels, but I'm not sure I pay attention enough with my speed reading to have a good grasp of the format.

But hey, if I participate in drunken writing night, maybe I can see just how bad my stream-of-consciousness can be. Perhaps I should do it on Halloween and see if I can scare myself.

Comment from: gwalla posted at October 27, 2005 4:00 PM

You don't want to write fiction? That's too bad. And here I thought you'd be the perfect person to write a shojo-manga reboot of Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld!

Comment from: bartles69 posted at October 27, 2005 4:01 PM

I'd express my disappointment at missing out on this bedtime story, but it might get me in trouble. Although if it does get written, have Phil Foglio illustrate.

I'm just sayin'.

As for the inability to write X [insert desired style here], if you can't write what you love, love what you write. You're very good at "A Day In The Life Of" writing, a style which lends itself well to short fiction. If you were so inspired, you might try A Day In Someone Else's Life.

Then again, I'm a coward. Most of my songs and stories were never intended for anything but the desk drawer. I have a great deal of respect for all those here who fearlessly publish their words/art. I'm way too insecure to perform publicly. And I hate to speculate about what it says about my love life, but my music folder is entitled "Songs To Suicide By".

Funny how now that I'm happily married I'm not writing nearly as much as when I was single and miserable. But it does leave me more free time to read bedtime stories.

Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at October 27, 2005 5:10 PM

DarkStar: BuzzCasting? Sounds like a FENSHMASTIC idea. I'm totally down for it.

I'm skypeable. PhilKahn is the handle.

Comment from: miyaa posted at October 29, 2005 11:16 PM

This is probably how literary styles like stream of consciousness (or in this case, streams of unconscisouness) get started.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 30, 2005 1:13 AM

Just so long as streams of unconsciousness are the only kind of streams. Drunken folks.. well.

Sorry, had to be the one to make the pee joke.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at October 31, 2005 1:05 AM

Dude... stream of altered consciousness.

Then again, I've never actually *read* any Hunter S. Thompson, so what do I know (as to whether he's already covered all of that territory or it's even appropriate to bring him in on it)?

I like the term, though!

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