Can’t talk. Writing. Back tomorrow.
“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”
- Neil Gaiman
Can’t talk. Writing. Back tomorrow.
“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”
- Neil Gaiman
Yesterday, we talked about procrastination, and why it works. Because when you get down to those last few minutes, you know you have to write, you have to finish. This works great for me, but that is because I have a hero complex. Come along. We’re about to geek out.
I know a lot of people who cannot handle the pressure of a last-minute deadline. I was one of them when I was small. The thing is, I need an impetus, a push. I need a reason to write, and I realize that there are a good many romantics who consider breathing to be a good enough reason to write, and I hope that they all make lovely poetry somewhere, preferably at the top of a tree where I can’t hear them. I choose to not be a poet. I think the whole pen-and-sword thing started because writers need to believe themselves heroes in order to get any work done, ever.
If you don’t get the writing done, horrible things will befall you. The rent won’t get paid, you’ll starve, you’ll have to subject yourself to the horrible tyrant at the Widget Factory and be chained to a cubicle and have fluorescent lights shined in your eyes forever. The weight of the world is on your shoulders. You are the only one who can get it done. You are the chosen one. You are the ring-bearer, Frodo. You are the hero. You are the child, Bastion. Save us. The force is strong within you. There is no one else. You, and only you, can keep your world spinning.
You have to think. Shutting your eyes and jumping only works at the very last moment, just before the explosion happens and you’re shot across the atmosphere in a very cool movie still. Before that happens, there’s a moment of inspiration. Listen to it. What are you going to do? What are the first words going to be? You have to decide, and you have to decide now. There’s just no more time.
Make the decision and stick with it. No time for waffling. If you figure out something brilliant halfway through, you can change tactics, because that is the privilege of the hero. If some magical connection suddenly clicks into place, spin around and go in that direction. You’ve already started. You’re a man of action. (Or a woman, but seriously, being all PC totally ruins the rhythm of these things. We have to GO, people. There’s only five minutes left.)
The girl is crying, the sidekick is babbling, lightning is flashing, big explosions are exploding and someone nameless is screaming in the street. There’s probably an adorable puppy whimpering somewhere. Don’t look up, don’t you dare. No distractions matter at this moment, because the clock is running out. Whatever you do, don’t look up. Don’t check Twitter, don’t look at your email, don’t answer the phone. There’s no time for that. You’re writing.
If you stop, you’ll fall down. If you stop, you’ll stop forever. If you stop, Mount Doom will open cracks below your feet and it will always be winter in Narnia and the Nothing will eat Fantasia. You cannot stop. Keep writing, keep putting words one after another. Your words are your footsteps. You can correct them to keep yourself from falling down, but don’t ever stop putting one foot in front of the other. One word, another word, keep moving, keep going.
I swear, nothing was ever so powerful as being a hero, ever. I got myself a big hourglass at the Z Gallerie just because it was the coolest, most romantic thing I’d ever seen. It measures out, shockingly enough, one hour, which is a good unit of time to get something significant done. A press release, your web content, the first five pages of your short story. Reach out. Turn the glass over. Start running, start writing. This is your world, and you save it every day. John Steinbeck said something amazing that is my official writer’s mantra. It goes:
“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.”
My time’s up. Subscribe now, or the world will end.
Rogues, scoundrels, fiends, vagabonds, renegades, rebels, down-at-heel heroes, kitchen lads and lasses, and, of course, artists . . . .
I give you the submissions for the Bad Journalism Pun Joke Awards.
The insanely awesome prize for winning this contest is a drink of the winner’s choosing, bought by the owner of the Lusty Weevil (that would be your Rogue truly), cash. Well, not cash. PayPal. Because this is a virtual pub, people. You gotta roll with it. The virtual component of the prize means that the drink retains the magical ability to change form AFTER IT HAS BEEN ORDERED AND BOUGHT. It is a web-based goblet of liquid that transmogrifies upon the winner asserting his or her will. Yes, I just got all geeky on ten dollars sent via PayPal. Pay no attention to the rogue behind the curtain.
Without further ado, I give you: Bad Journalism Pun Jokes.
Our First Contestant: Kelly of Maximum Customer Experience
Kelly wins points for not only being the first person to make a joke, but by sending me a link to Cover Letters From Hell, giving a nod to Pheonix Way, and referencing both lederhosen and a cloak of invisibility. She also entered this contest twice, giving her two shots at the title. Starting off strong. Kelly’s two entries are:
“Okay, so the other day I walk past a solid-body on Pheonix Way, getting a nice kicker out of scratching his nut graf right through his lederhosen…”
“There’s a reason for the cloak of invisibility. Maybe they’re each afraid their nut graf isn’t quite the kicker it’s supposed to be.”
Our Second Contestant: Janice Cartier of Painting a Day
Janice gets points for picking up on the storytelling vibe not once, but twice, and contributing to the ongoing tale of our beloved Lusty Weevil. She also used all four of the given words, and gets extra credit for her creative use of the word ‘lede’. (Note: the Rogue does not advocate Coors, lede or otherwise.) She also entered twice (sort of) by getting into the swing and using ‘nut graf’ as an expletive, which tickled the Rogue, and incorporated the phrase ‘shaking the salmon’. Janice’s entries are as follows:
“Harrison enters the pub…’Walk this way, walk this way”…. a swagger in his kicker, he tosses a fresh tie die to Brett, some jeans. “Ladies getting rowdy again?” Brett, grabs the tee out of the air, puts on the pants. “Nothing I can’t handle, bro”. One solid body follows the other over to the bar as every female eye in the place follows. “Two Coors lede, barkeep.” The Viking hands one to his friend. They turn and look around, survey all Tei’s friends, ” Ahhhh, nut graf, just the way we like’ em.” “Could get kind of messy”….”Ahhh, we’ll mop it up.”
“Allison, seriously, hold the blade right there. And quit shaking the salmon, Every nut graf in the universe will be calling you up.”
Our Third Contestant: Wendi Kelly of Life’s Little Inspirations.
Wendi gets points for using the word naked many times over, for mentioning viking hats and bravely making the first undeniably sexual visual of the night. Bonus for referencing bestiality. Go, Wendi. We didn’t know you had it in you.
“OMG! Now Brett is naked, naked naked.
oh wait…now he has a viking hat hanging from his lede on his solid body.
Um..Brett watch out for those horns, there is a mis-behaved dog jostling things around in here. You don’t want to get a kicker in your nut graf.”
Our Third Contestant: Rebecca Smith of Smithwriting
Rebecca gets points for using all four of the words in a single trail of thought, as well as using the word ‘nut graf’ as what sounds like a painful medical problem. Also, for being the only person to go for the obvious pun on ‘lede’. Her entry also references collegiate sex, of which I have fond memories. Her entry:
Rebecca Smith: “I dated this guy in college who had a real solid body, but here’s the kicker: He had a nut graf. Funny, he still ledes the pack of my ex-boyfriends …”
Our Fourth Contestant: Matt Tuley of This Laptop for Hire
Matt gets points for defending his own nut graf. However, he has unfortunately disqualified himself by tagging me in a meme for which Brett had already tagged me, leaving me to come up with sixteen MORE random facts about myself that I have not already referenced at the Lusty Weevil. And since this pub is a ball of random, that takes some doing. Extra work for Tei = no soup for Matt. Here’s his entry anyway:
Matt Tuley: “I knew a guy once had to get a nut graf. Was out of commission for a week. There, but for the grace of God…”
Our Fifth Contestant: Karen JL of Storyboard Blog
Karen started off crazy strong, by referencing a comment I made, talking about booze, giving all the journalism words creative alcohol-related references and inventing what sounds like the best Writer’s Brew ever. Unfortunately, Karen went and shot herself in the foot by claiming Aquarians rock more than Sagittarians. With totally unjust prejudice from the judges, she too is disqualified. Here’s her recipe for Writer’s Brew though:
“Yes, fresh booze all day long. BUT when you get here early, you get to give the keg a good little kicker, which gives the lede a solid body and you get lots of head on your nut graf. Mmmm…”
Brett Legree, in a surprise Pingback entry.
Brett wins for the following reasons:
He took the lede by dragging the game on over to his own blog, where he referenced his very own nut graf, a bold move no other contestant took. The kicker? He offered up a solid body with nut graf on full view. In a shocking turn of events, the pornographic entry wins the favor of the judges. Brett, send me your PayPal address. I’m buying you a beer.
And a tablecloth. That peanut bowl is see-through. It’s like covering yourself up with a giant magnifying glass.
Unless that was the point.
Subscribe. It only gets better.
I have a confession. I frickin’ love The Prophet. It is the best holy book ever, and yes, I say this fully aware that it is, in fact, a book of poetry. I say this knowing that an entire community of hippies, my parents included, thought it was totally righteous because it had a lot of advocacy of nudity and free love in there. Yes: I endorse a book my parents loved when they were hippies. I don’t care. It’s great.
For those of you who are wondering what the hell this has to do with anything, The Prophet is a long story that has to do with a single wise guy (that would be the Prophet) telling everyone in his village the essentials about the important stuff in life. So some villager will say, “Hey, tell us wise stuff about marriage,” and he says, “You betcha,” and begins to spout.
I’ve been listening to it while doing the laundry, if you must know, and there’s a whole section “On Labor.” Which I shall now proceed to quote at length, because I am still deeply plague-ridden, and I have to go to bed early, and all of me hurts. Also, because it is really quite beautiful, and I’ve been snarky all week, and I could use some beauty.
Then a ploughman said, “Speak to us of Work.”
And he answered, saying:
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?
Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.
But if you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written.
You have been told also life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.
Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, “he who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is a nobler than he who ploughs the soil.
And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet.”
But I say, not in sleep but in the over-wakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;
And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.
Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.
Love what you do, that simply, that absolutely. If you don’t know why you are doing what you are doing, stop it. I mean, really, stop it right now. That’s a poor way to spend a third of your life, without knowing what you are doing, or why, or for whom.
One of the reasons I do what I do, one of the deepest reasons I decided to write for a living and to write only for heroic people, people who did good work, people who dreamed of doing something they loved and went out and started the business, started the life.
The reason I started my own business was that I couldn’t bear working for heroes who seized their own lives and did work imbued with love without joining them. What kind of sad little existence would that have been, admiring people and never doing that admirable thing?
Love. Love is a good one to remember. Work for people who love what they do, and work hard for them. I’ve got a woman for whom I may be taking on a project who sounds terribly hurt, because the last company who wrote for her didn’t write for her, didn’t write in a way that reflected what she did and how she loved it. And that’s a strange kind of blasphemy, working counter to someone else’s love. I’ll probably work harder in my life than a lot of people, but all my work will be good work, and I’ll be glad of that.
Tomorrow, prepare yourselves for some bitter, bitter thoughts. All this contemplation is getting to me. Don’t worry, it’s the NyQuil talking. This will not be the normal state of affairs.
What is the normal state of affairs, you ask? Subscribe. Find out. Tell me when you do.
My dear friend Tessa is distressed with me lately, because she was evidently unaware of this blog’s existence and she is of that ken of kindred who needs to be aware of all my doings, lest our bond be withered into naught but cobwebs and false promises. To make it up to her, I’m quoting a poem I just wrote her, line by line, over IM on Gmail, because that’s the depth to which romance has deteriorated in this day and age, and giving her a little more of the tidbits from Anne Lamott‘s Bird by Bird, which is where I got the poem in the first place (she didn’t write it, a guy named Philip Lopate did; Lamott quoted him) because I think it will make her laugh.
We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting,
as a group,
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.
Your analyst is
in on it,
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective.
Anne Lamott is the only person who has ever made that particular comparison to writing before, and I appreciate it immensely, because here is the other thing she said, actually about writing itself, and more specifically, how to go about it:
You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on your computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind – a scene, a locale, a character, whatever – and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind. The other voices are banshees and drunken monkeys. They are the voices of anxiety, judgment, doom, guilt. Also, severe hypochondria. There may be a Nurse Ratched-like listing of things that must be done right this moment: foods that must come out of the freezer, appointments that must be canceled or made, hairs that must be tweezed. But you hold an imaginary gun to your head and make yourself stay at the desk. There is a vague pain at the base of your neck. It crosses your mind that you have meningitis. Then the phone rings and you look up at the ceiling with fury, summon every ounce of noblesse oblige, and answer the call politely, with maybe just the merest hint of irritation. The caller asks if you’re working, and you say yeah, because you are.
This is perhaps the most accurate portrayal of what happens when a writer sits down to write that I have ever heard. Many writers will tell you that writing is not fun, that nobody sits down gracefully, head held aloft and hair pinned back by a pencil stuck crossways through it, settles fingers on the keys with the air of a concert pianist and begins to craft art in words. Most writers will tell you that. What most writers won’t tell you is that writing is actively painful, for most of us, that it is all we can do to sit down every day, and that the only reason we go through it is that there seems to be no other way it is right to live.
Being a writer is a lot like what I used to imagine it would be like to be a medieval knight. There’s the romantic image of dragons slain, glory won, riding back into town triumphant with the sun on your armor and the townsfolk cheering. What it actually looks like is mud, and mud, and more mud, and finally a small pool of water just before the dragon, which you then fight in the midday sun until you are nearly half-dead with exhaustion alone, not to mention the raw cord of muscle you can see grinning at you through the wound in your arm, and when the scaly creature before you finally succumbs it vomits blood and bile all over you as it goes down, and you lie there in the field smelling feces and copper and your own filthy body, until you can summon the will to drag yourself back to that pool of water, and when you manage to slog your way back through all the mud to the town it is long past midnight, and all the townsfolk are asleep, and you fall asleep on the doorstep of an old woman, who might give you an apple and a soft word of thanks in the morning, if you are very lucky, if she is kind.
That is what writing is like. A lot of mud, and pain, and a kind word here and there like balm, like grace.