Stewing and Simmering

Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter anymore, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledly-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awkful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done. I am a basher. Most men are bashers, and most women are swoopers….

Writers who are swoopers, it seems to me, find it wonderful that people are funny or tragic or whatever, worth reporting, without wondering why or how people are alive in the first place.

Bashers, while ostensibly making sentence after sentence as efficient as possible, may actually be breaking down seeming doors and fences, cutting their ways through seeming barbed-wire entanglements, under fire and in an atmosphere of mustard gas, in search of answers to these eternal questions: “What in heck should we be doing? What in heck is really going on?”

— Kurt Vonnegut. Timequake

I have a problem committing to a story. I don’t necessarily consider this a bad quality, because a lot of my ideas are terrible. I get an idea, get excited about it, get a few pages in and realize that all I had was an idea. I’ve got no plot, and after a month or so of chewing on it, I’ve still got no plot. There’s no sense in pushing it any further.

Put there are some, a rare few, of my ideas that do start to work out. Right now, I have 3 new ideas for which I’m lacking a plot, and I’m hopeful on those. But I’ve got two others that are really beginning to feel solid. One of those I’ve been sitting on for about 5 years. The other, about 12.

It’s weird, this growing sense of rightness and security. In general, I feel very insecure because I haven’t been producing my work. I haven’t been writing. But I have been doing a lot of thinking, and a bit of note taking, and a lot of crossing out and throwing away. Some of the water is boiling over the edge, and I’m worried because I’m losing the water… but the truth is that you’ve got to boil some to make the stew. It needs to thicken up a bit. That is, so I am told, how these things work.

So, I’m getting closer. It’s not happening on the time line I want it to, but I’m coping with that. I’m also coping with the sometimes depression of not meeting goals I’d set and of not being the person/writer I want to be. Let it simmer, let it stew… hopefully something good will come of it.

Ideas a’plenty

I’ve been reading some web comic artists going back and forth about whether writer’s block really exists or not, and I think I get where the originator of this discussion is coming from. He maintains that when someone says they have “writer’s block,” what they really mean is that they don’t know how to proceed with their current idea, but what they communicate is that they have no ideas or even ability to move forward–they are completely stymied. He argues that’s simply untrue; ideas abound, and the “blocked” person isn’t applying themselves to use those ideas.

The art, and this is my favourite part, is in the crafting of those ideas. Whether the ideas are good, bad, or mediocre, what makes a writer good is if they can take the idea and make something out of it. That skill should be developed independent of inspiration or feeling, and we should work to apply it evenly.

I get an idea a minute, it seems, but regularly find myself unable to apply them. Yesterday morning in the shower I had an idea for a story about a girl starting high school that I thought it’d be neat to explore, but instead I needed to put my clothes on and go to work. Between work, class, and stuff at church, I had a twelve hour day yesterday (without a break), and the somewhat worrying part is that I thought at the end, “Well, twelve hours, it’s not too bad.”

Regardless of how many ideas I’ve got or my desire to move forward, it simply can’t happen with this schedule, not with me working full time and going to school part time. I can’t complain of writer’s block though, not when my notes folder is overflowing, spilling onto the floors and into other rooms, threatening to consume us all with its hate and indignation. It ought to be nurtured and loved, rather than ignored, but that’s just the way things are.

There may be ideas I don’t feel like writing about, but we can’t let that keep us from writing. It’s a craft that takes work, and I want to work at it. Soon, soon I shall.

This post brought to you by kittens who desperately need attention at 1 a.m. and therefore meow outside our bedroom door until we consent to getting up and scratching their backs vigorously.


After the mass export/import process, I then converted a ton of categories to tags in order to reduce redundancy and the size of my sidebar. Overall, the process went smoothly, but it left me with a lot of uncategorized entries that had to be fixed manually. Thankfully, the process isn’t too arduous, so I already have it fixed, and it gave me the good opportunity to skim some old entries.

It also put me in the frame of mind to remember that I’ve written a fair amount of stuff in the past. Therefore, when faced with Lorelle’s challenge of the week, I realized that I could simply link to an older article I’d written that addresses her question without having to invest time in writing a response. Of course, I had to add a disclaimer to the entry, and go through to update some things and correct grammatical mistakes, but it was a pleasant realization that the work was already completed.

I am on vacation all next week and quite excited about it. Most of my time will hopefully be spent at the Mudhouse where I will drink copious amounts of coffee and write-write-write. I did some more research on self-publishing today because I’m finally going to start on a book next week, though I haven’t decided which. I have four options on the table.

  1. Somewhat auto-biographical work that seeks to relate my conversion from paganism to Christianity, my experience with withcraft, why I made the decisions I have, and how Christians can address witchcraft in America.
  2. Editing together a book from about a year’s worth of theological writings by me (mostly from my sophomore year), geared towards college students and addressing the struggles of incoming freshmen in addition to the problems college students often encounter throughout their undergrad (in regards to their faith).
  3. A discussion of spirituality in America and how “spirituality” is not good enough titled Reconnecting with Religion (subtitle to be decided).
  4. A book about the Ten Commandments, one commandment discussed per chapter, that attempts to relate the historical context and meaning of each commandment, its application in modern society, and to do so in modern, easy-to-understand language.

Of these four, which appeals most to you? Where do you think I should invest my energy next week?