Hey everyone. Currently on vacation with my family. I’m getting a lot of writing done and some good exercise. With luck, I’ll finish my first draft of my first book this weekend.
Here’s to being diligent!
One of my heroes growing up was the grand-daddy of skateboarding, Rodney Mullen. This is the guy that invented the ollie. The most basic move needed to launch every other move you can imagine.
Just last night I stumbled upon a TED talk he gave. I was taken aback by his eloquence and ability to speak in public. Mainly because if you look at him, he doesn’t seem to have that kind of ability. He’s a 46 year old that still skateboards. But man does he have a lot to say about innovation.
So I’ll pass this along. Enjoy.
There is one concept–across all art forms–that stays true. The power of Observation. When I was at the Art Institute, one of my very influential teachers was very adamant that we remain constantly observant. Of people, animals, and the general world around us.
His point–concerning drawing and animation–was to learn how people moved, how they stood, how they sat, and their general appearance. We were supposed to be mentally cataloging these people so that whenever we needed to draw something, we could call on these memories and bring believe ability to our work.
And this thought process works precisely the same way for writing. As you go through life you should be constantly watching the world around you. Studying how other humans interact with one another. For instance, a creepy thing I do but love is watching people have hushed arguments in public.
There is something very intense about the situation. Here you have two people trying their best to remain calm, to not make a spectacle, but they want to scream and shout and get red in the face. Watching that pent up anger is very fascinating to me.
Weird, I know, but go to a mall sometime and sit in the food court. People watching will be one of the best exercises you can do as a writer. Find someone of interest and start making a back story for them. Why are they wearing the clothes they are wearing? Are they in a hurry? Why? Before you know it, you’ll have a character sitting in your mind bank ready to go.
One day my brother and I were at lunch. We sat down at a Bar-B-Que restaurant and looked over the standard meals. Sliced Pork Platter. Pulled Pork Platter. BBQ Chicken and slaw. When our waiter came up to get our drink orders.
And he was Indian.
It was incredible. Here we have two worlds crashing together. Two cultures that are incredibly different from one another. So then the big question comes, what brings that guy to work there? Is it a second job? Maybe he just really likes BBQ. Or he’s a recent immigrant that’s actually a doctor, lawyer, or programmer, waiting to get whatever certification he needs to get back to his true love in life.
Observation can be that step that hurtles you to the next level. Working on it. Start opening your eyes and watching everyone and everything around you. So that next time you’re stumped for a name, face, or place, you’ll have a flash back to that afternoon eating BBQ with your Indian waiter.
Yesterday I stepped through the doors of a Shaolin Kung Fu school. My wife has been on me to start being more physical. And she’s right, I need to be more active as I spend more time sitting behind a computer than any human should. I’ve tried doing the videos at home or just doing personal workouts, but nothing has stuck.
It was time to get serious. The last time I had stepped into any dojo or martial art school of any kind was some fifteen years ago. But I really love martial art training. I did some online research and that’s where I found the Shaolin Institute.
You see, I love martial arts because of the discipline. Of which I lack a lot of. It is very easy for me to shrug off my responsibilities in favor of something easier or more fun. Which I think a lot of us are like that. Our natural state is to find the easiest path to whatever we’re doing. If it becomes too hard, we will find something else to do.
So we fight that urge with discipline.
How do we do that? Change of habits, constant dedication, and repetition.
This works for all aspects of life, especially when becoming an author. For those of us starting out, we have to really fight against ourselves. We find it easy to come up with excuses. I’m too tired. I don’t have any ideas. Maybe I’ll just watch some T.V. first.
These excuses are you sitting on the couch in our martial arts scenario. So it’s time to make a drastic change. Get up and join the school.
In my case, that was blocking a site called Reddit from my home machine. Using a Chrome extension, I obliterated that time waster. Now, when my fingers reflexively–out of so much habit–type in the address, a screen pops up that says, “Shouldn’t you be working?”
Yes, yes I should be working.
And I tell you, it’s been great. I’ve been sticking to my discipline.
Right now, a fellow writer that goes by beatbox32 has been chronicling his own struggles and victories with the discipline of writing on a daily basis. It’s been a great read, check it out if you have the chance.
Plus, it will show you that we all struggle with it. Even a lot of published authors still struggle with it. GRRM is notorious for getting sidetracked talking about football, rather than writing the next book in A Song of Ice and Fire.
A quick aside–screw what Neil Gaiman says about readers feeling entitled. I want my next book before the decade is out!
I want to encourage all my fellow writers, whether you’re just starting or have been published many times over. If the discipline that works for you. Do whatever it takes to get yourself writing. Make the sacrifices, whatever they may be.
Believe me, it’s worth it.
And we’re back. SIGGRAPH was an interesting experience. It has always been one of those conventions that I heard a lot about but never had the chance to go. When I was in college, it was the convention to go to. The potential for making professional connections was said to be huge.
Well for this excursion I was there on company time. In my day job I’m an animator for a slot machine developer. We’ve been getting into newer technology lately so they sent our art director along with another coworker and myself to see what was up and coming.
We spent three days there and sat in on many panels. Listening to how the developers at ILM and Weta brought “The Avengers” to the big screen was awesome. There was also a panel on “Brave,” “The Amazing Spiderman,” and “Hotel Transylvania.” Each of these went into great detail on their production problems and solutions.
On the writing side of things, not much happened. I had a total of eight hours flight time that I spent a good deal of sleeping, reading, and outlining. I was able to finish a book titled “The Tomb” by F. Paul Wilson that I’ll review later. Along with that I was able to get a good deal outlined for my Defy the Dark entry.
That particular short story is being a bit troublesome. I have a solid idea and how it will flow, but the ending just isn’t what I want. I figure at this point I’ll begin to write it and see what happens. Many times when I hit these points it means I have to dig into the meat of the story and see what’s there.
In the mean time my novel is kind of on a hiatus. Which sucks because I’m nearing the end. But there are some other projects that are taking priority. However, I feel that as long as I’m writing I’m not wasting my time. Each new page is a lesson learned.
Oh, and I’m still waiting to hear back from Asimov’s on my short story “Retire.” Checking on it now, it still says it is open. Hopefully I’ll hear something within the next week or so. My brother said his took 8 weeks.
Well, time to put pen to paper. See you all Monday.