Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Exorcise Video

by Chris McGinty

Nathan discussed his demons in Monday’s blog post, and I thought I’d deal with a few of the points, because it gives me something to write about. Nathan discussed how hard it is for him to get motivated lately. It’s about like pulling teeth. Oh yeah. I have an appointment in an hour. Systematic Mouth Injury (Part Two.)

Nathan needs to go read my column from a few weeks back about forced creativity. And now that I think about it I still haven’t emailed it to him.

Ok, well. Here’s the thing. We haven’t got together in a couple of weeks. Nathan is letting his feeling of blah seep over into our weekly meetings. The first week he simply wanted to use the evening to encode footage to meet a quota or deadline or something. And this was probably ok. Although sometimes getting a good break from a hard task can be helpful. The second week I just don’t even know what the problem was. This week I already know what the problemswill be. My new post starts at 9 pm, which will limit our options for getting together. Tonight is my night off, but my mouth will be numb and my brain will be zombie. Maybe we can get together on Saturday or Sunday a little earlier than 5 or 6 pm.

About Nathan’s writing to align his stories to meet the submission standards of some publisher. The reason why “Chris isn't too big on AT ALL” is because doing that kind of thing can kill the creative part of the creative process and leave you unmotivated. Ok, I’m just taking advantage of Nathan’s emotional state. The truth is that I am a fan of using limitations of what you can do in order to force creativity and to focus your efforts. In that way sitting down and saying, “I will write a story that fits Pill Hill’s submission guidelines,” can be a good thing, if like any other scheduled narcotic it’s used in moderation. If any of you wish to be a writer then you have one thing in common, which is that you should be writing everyday. Even on my least creative days, I write a page or two of my journal. Or I do a brainstorming session. Or I write a throwaway poem. The point is just to sit down and write. I do have my own demons in this department, which have more to do with not focusing my efforts where they should be. I start more ideas than I complete. I don’t suggest getting yourself into that habit.

We don’t really have a blog post a day, not individually anyway. We write seven blog posts a week between the two of us. But I do understand where Nathan is coming from. I find myself at times unable to think of something worth writing. I have recently posted three, not time sensitive, posts into the draft section, and it’s a very freeing experience creatively. Nathan you should really set yourself a goal for the daily blog to do this. Here’s the rule though, and incidentally what I’m doing. Once you have those three ready, you treat them like zero. Basically, in order to use one for an emergency posting, you have to replace it with another draft that can be posted up in an emergency. What this does is it forces you to write something before you post one of the emergency ones. Then you look at the four you have ready and decide which one you like best. It’s freeing because you know you have decent ideas ready to go if you need them, so you don’t feel as much pressure to write something worth posting up. Since three is zero, by the way, anything over three drafts can be posted up in an emergency without having to replace it.

I’m all for finding other people to work with, but not as a medicinal fix. My first wife would get into these slumps. She didn’t want to work. Sure she went through this occasional manic high where she would try to get a job and then get bummed out, because she didn’t want to have to learn to drive to get back and forth to work. She would get into slumps as far as being a homemaker too. I only ever bitched her out once, when we had maggots in the sink because she hadn’t touched the dishes. She seemed to think I should be helping sometime in between my two full time jobs. I didn’t find this reasonable. The point is that she said that all she needed was to live someplace where she could feel proud of where we lived. And we should get a more expensive apartment. I didn’t recognize the pattern yet. We had moved many times during out marriage up to this point, mostly because of financial circumstance. I was finally in a position where I had jobs and people didn’t want to lay people off left and right because of some supposed recession. So we moved, and it helped briefly, for a few months even. And then she let the house go again. I was still working two jobs because in order to afford the new rent, I had to. Her fix: “We need a nicer place.” Realizing the pattern I put a stop to it right there. You either make where we’re living, which is nice enough, a place worth living, or you just sit here all day miserable. The problem is not where we live it’s how you feel toward it. In this way, I would suggest that Nathan look inward first to what is causing him to feel unmotivated. Once you’re clear there then you’ll be getting other people for the right reasons. [Initially, I put a mesage here about not having time to do a quick read through before my appointment. Upon reading back though this, I will try to never do that again.]

8 comments :

  1. Interesting points of view on the creative process. May I venture to say you guys might be putting too much emphasis on creativity as your driving force? I am lucky enough to write for a living and in my estimation creativity is as fleeting as it is overrated. Every writer loves the feeling of coming to the blank page; this is when creativity boils over. But once you've committed yourself to a narrative, be it fiction or otherwise, creativity can only take you so far. What your left with (hopefully) are the skills you've developed as a writer. The nuts and bolts of creating something (again, in my own estimation) rest more on a writer's ability than their inspiration. Chris, your point about writing every day is a common refrain preached to writers, and journaling is certainly one way to hit a daily word count. But I think trying to meet the submission standards of a publisher is an infinitely more valuable exercise, even if rigid guidelines constrict the writer. Creativity might get you started, but discipline cannot be overstated. Banging out something great can be completely vacant of creativity (see anything written by Cormac McCarthy), but doesn't happen without skill and the day-to-day drudgery of going to work.

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  2. Lance!
    Its nice to have a comment that isn't generated by SPAMBOT 2000. Thanks!

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  3. I know for a fact I have no 'skills' when it comes to writing. I mean I have never had proper schooling. Chris has to fix a lot of my errors. Lance, did you go to college for writing? How did you learn what you know about writing?

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  4. It always makes me laugh how Nathan equates formal education with knowledge or skill set. Thank you for your comment, Lance. You do have a great point about creativity. There is a part of the creative process that relies less on imagination, and more on implementation and reeling in the line once you have your hook. I don't discount the importance of this part, but I seem to have neglected it so far as subject matter for the blog. Perhaps I'll tackle it in the near future.

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  5. I have an english degree, but most of what I know about writing comes from having done it most of my working career. I left school in 1999, which was a magical time when the ability to string two semi-coherent sentences together usually could get you a job offer. I went into public relations, not really knowing what it was, and I found myself gravitating to projects that were writing-intensive (news releases, speeches, newsletters, etc.) After a few years working for the man, I struck out on my own as a freelance writer and eventually got myself hired as a copywriter for one of my clients. So, no real training, but lucky for me you don't really need it. I read a lot growing up and that was probably the thing most directly responsible for me being able to earn my bones doing it. I couldn't diagram a sentence if my life depended on it, but I can usually come up with the words someone else is looking for to describe something.

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  6. Hey, Lance. When you got your first job doing public relations, did your ability to get the gig depend on your English degree? Or was there a different kind of vetting process where you submitted numerous writing samples? And if so, what kind of stuff did you submit?

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  7. Having a degree in a discipline at least remotely related to the communications industry helped get in the door. I started as an intern right out of school, so the barrier to entry was kind of low. I had some samples of stuff I'd done, class projects, that kind of thing, but nothing I'd call professional quality. If I were an experienced hire, they probably would have expected to see some writing samples and I know I've given candidates writing tests as part of the interview process. Samples a PR hiring manager might expect to see include news releases, articles related to the particular industry, or press clippings from where you've gotten media coverage for a client.

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  8. When did you have time to read as a kid? All I remember was torturing your sister's dolls and being forced to box eachother by our brothers! :)

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