Brain Dump

April 6, 2015

Part of the fun of having your own writing outlet on the web is that you have the freedom to conduct “experiments.” I put scare quotes on that word because 1) I do not wish to suggest that I am doing anything that would resemble a scientific experiment and 2) I’m using the word loosely even in a colloquial sense. Instead of saying experiment, it would be more accurate to say “do whatever I feel like.”

The first thing I did that I considered an experiment was to begin writing a short story and to publish it in serialized fashion without having written the whole thing. This meant that I was effectively stuck with whatever I had already posted as I wrote subsequent sections. It was super fun, and you should totally go read it! It’s called “Witness,” and you can find part 1 of 5 here.

Today I am conducting a different experiment. I am simply going to write until I’m done. I have no theme, no agenda, and (possibly) no point to make. It’s not a story. It’s a brain dump. It’ll be lightly edited, but it’ll be pretty close to stream-of-consciousness.  I’ll admit off the bat that this is probably not as interesting of an experiment as the story one, but it feels like something I need to do today. Read on if you’re wondering why that’s the case because I’m pretty sure I’ll get around to it.  But maybe not! Who knows?!

Accurate. Courtesy of The Oatmeal. Click image to go to full comic.

This is accurate. Courtesy of The Oatmeal. Click image to go to full comic.

Decisions, Decisions

I am in a bit of a weird spot with my writing at the moment. The first few months after I quit my job, I flailed about like a fish on land. I had prepared reasonably well for the transition, but it’s just plain confusing to go from having nothing but external direction telling you what to work on to having to make 100% of those decisions yourself. See the image at the right from The Oatmeal comic “Making Things” for a good synopsis as to why that can be, um, overwhelming.

Have you ever seen someone either incredibly high on drugs or with a concussion? He wanders around, not quite sure how to process his surroundings, utterly confused about what to do next. That’s how I probably looked from about August 1st until October of 2014. I was working, but I was sort of lurching from one notion to the next about where I should focus.

I spent time trying to pick out a domain name because I wanted a web presence. Should I just use my own name? Well no one cares who I am now, so what’s the point of that? How should I “brand” myself if I’m not going to use my name? Also, am I now the kind of person who says things like “brand myself?” Yes, apparently.

Or should I ignore all that and focus on my fiction writing? After all, the web stuff is just a distraction, right? I can worry about that when I have something meaningful to share. WHY WON’T SOMEONE JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

Obviously I did decide on having a web presence, and I decided to use something other than my name for the site, and I have not focused exclusively on my fiction. I’m glad I made those decisions because Lost Caws has accomplished some of the critical things I hoped it would.

It has:

  • Given me an outlet where it feels like I have total freedom. I can tackle any topic I wish, and that’s more or less what I’ve been doing.
  • Started to give me an identity in my writing. This is where I think in public, so to speak. When you read a post, it feels like a reasonable approximation of what I’m like in person.
  • Created some level of discipline in my writing. Back in December I committed to two blog posts per week, and I’ve stuck to that while continuing to work on my novel.

Stuck

But lately…lately my novel has been a bit of a slog, and I’ve worked harder and harder on each blog post. This is not a bad thing! I like writing here and have no intention of changing that anytime soon. The problem that has arisen is that I’ve avoided working on the book at times in favor of the blog, and the only reason for that is because the book rather suddenly became hard.

I gave an update back in January on where things stand with my book. It’s now early April, and it’s not a lot different if you were to look only at what’s on the page. Ignoring the rewrites I need to do, I don’t think I have that much more to actually write for my first draft. I’ve got roughly 95K words, and probably 85-90% of the story. But I used to think I had 100% of the story. I have fought with some tricky decisions about plot points. Do they belong in this story or do they go into potential sequels? Do I even want this story to have a potential sequel?

I’ve been stuck, quite frankly, and getting unstuck is hard. As a result of feeling that way, my focus shifted to this site. Writing here was different and fresh compared to the book. It seems now that I was experiencing a bit of burnout. When I recapped the short story experiment I referenced above, I talked a little about why I did it, how I wanted to write some fiction but not the actual book project. This should not be entirely surprising, I suppose. Part of the reason I wanted to leave the corporate world was that I wanted to have room to let my mind wander, to explore my whims.

New Day Rising

This is mostly an excuse to put a cool Hüsker Dü song into a post.

The good news is that today feels different from most Mondays for the past three months. For the first time in a long time, I woke up and didn’t want to write for Lost Caws. Well that’s not quite right…I did want to and obviously I am doing that. What really happened was that I woke up and did want to work on the book. It didn’t seem like so much of a burden. It still seems hard and sort of scary to try to figure out what I need to do with it, but I’m excited to engage with that process in a way that I have not been lately.

So that’s what I’m going to do, and that’s the reason for today’s quasi-experiment. Some stream of consciousness writing is just what I needed to figure out that I’m ready to refocus on the novel.

Plus I’ve got my blog post done. And it’s early! This is exciting.

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