The Mother of All Writing Advice

A story can’t be self on self. Avoid the Uber Voice. Seeing someone else through another’s eyes just might be the highest level of interiority.

Looking down a cold tunnel at a mother

Omniscient first person, that’s the thing. Whatever you decide, modern literary theory states that it’s all about what your mother says you didn’t write.

Writing Process: Knowing Something Clearly

I feel like I know something now, something with clarity. Or just not so lost. Might have even got somewhere. Probably not. But I feel like that.

I’ve never known who the hell I am, and now I’m thinking that I just might. I am a white male, and an older one at that. But that’s not it. I’m not even an asshole, like so many people have said. I know that’s just them being lost and new.

I have come to somewhere and I know something about that. It’s not much but it feels like it might be something. I just hope that I can sell and then get that Malibu estate, be surrounded by beautiful people and complain about the masses.

And how great it was getting to where I got.

The McPhedran Way – A Typical (Bad) Day in My Writing Process

6:30 am Play Fishdom and Words With Friends. No thoughts on writing.

8:30 am Play Fishdom. Read emails, watch YouTube videos and search for “inspiration” by porn surfing. A general malaise dominates thinking.

11:00 am Half think about writing but retreat from that, afraid to start.

12:30 pm Lunch. Watch random bits of film – anything from Battleship to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

2:00 pm Ride stationary bike and listen to intense music (Rage Against the Machine, Cheap Trick, Nine Inch Nails, etc.) in an attempt to get brain moving. Watch birds flying past, beds being changed in hotel rooms across the street and people working in adjoining business. Writing problems do not come to mind.

Entertaining things can occasionally be seen in Artezan Hotel.

3:00 pm Read more emails, watch more videos and porn. Snack.

4:30 pm Open the Anori document. Close it. Play Words with Friends and Fishdom.

8:00 pm Think about what I might do tomorrow

So it goes on a bad day. Which oddly enough can lead to a good day.

My Tendency to Overwrite

I push hard to get my point across and, to make that clear, write the thing again. I might write it in another way. Or maybe not. I repeat myself to make sure that my point is getting across. It is the point, as simple as that. And I have to make that clear.

Modified excerpt from Anori

This veers toward a tendency to overwrite, filling a cup well beyond its capacity, thus defeating the purpose. The trick is to find the right words and use only those.

Excerpt tightened up…but too much?

The right words. That’s the rub.

Fear of Writing the Perfect Thing

Death cannot be far once you have realized the purpose, right? I had that feeling, of having realized my purpose, in the early 1990’s.

I was in the basement dark room of our house on Marlborough Road in Toronto. I was in the midst of writing Wreck of Dreams, an autobiographical snippet written at age of 28.

Cover design for Wreck of Dreams

It was earnest at best, but mostly trite, like the feeling. And yet, oddly enough, the feeling has seeped back. I am older now, 30 years hence, and so it seems that may be the real issue. Vain and dumb, all I know is that I’m still writing

The Cx Trilogy: Visions of the Apocalypse

The apocalypse isn’t a gloriously massive event, although that’s what we would like to think, with colossal tidal waves, mountains collapsing into valleys, cities vanishing into dust, the wicked witch waving her squadrons of monkeys over all. 

The Wicked Witch of the West waves on the forces of destruction

It’s more of the hiding in a wooden teepee without walls (Lars von Trier’s Melancholia), a face buried in the dirt (Terence Malick’s The Thin Red Line) or the burning of a solitary house (Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice).

The end of the world for one man in Andrei Tarvokshy’s “The Sacrifice”

No matter your vision – be it annihilation or silence – the drone sounds of Ekca Liene’s Sion Suspension will give full effect. At least that’s what I have on repeat as Dee Sinclair contemplates finalities in Anori.

Writing Process: Too Much Talking

The writing process can be hard, especially in what is left behind. I had to remove another scene from Anori. The dialogue was strong but it didn’t move the story. And so…expunged.

The set-up: Dee has just arrived in Greenland (where the space ships are being launched) and has dinner with Val, one of the pilots, who confesses a dark moment from her past.

“Yeah, this, I don’t know, trapped in a prison from cradle to…what?” Dee laughed. “What do you die in?”

“Death bed, I guess.”

“Grave! Cradle to grave. Trapped in this existence.”

“Try not to think about it and then move on.”

“Better than thinking about being raped.”

Dee waited.

“It was someone I had known for years. The whole thing, I mean, the whole thing was such a nightmare. We were friends. He was laid back, a decent guy. And then, I don’t know, he just turned into this asshole Mr. Hyde.”

“He was drunk?”

Val shook her head violently like she was trying to not be drunk. “Everybody drank. I had too much. But not pass-out drunk, nothing like that. Just hanging out, relaxed. And then he was on me. He had me pinned, with my arm behind my back.” She half acted it out. “He was going to break my arm. I could feel it. He pushed me backward and tore my dress. He fucked me like that on the floor. I kept trying to move my arm but I couldn’t. he pushed down on that side of me like he had practiced it or something. It lasted two minutes, if that.”

Dee gripped her chopsticks tightly.

“He actually called me with this bullshit confession later, fucking crying on the phone. I don’t know why I listened. He wanted to stay friends. He kept saying that.” Val ground a chopstick into the wasabi. “I left my dress under the table in the living room floor. I came home and threw it there. I didn’t touch it. It sat balled up there for weeks. I couldn’t look at it. I would veer to the other side of the room when I walked through, all of that.”

“You don’t talk to people about any of this?” Dee asked.

“Why bother?”

Writing Process: Characters of the Covid Age

This Covid Pandemic is carving pieces of people away. In an attempt to maintain a semblance of normalcy through posting images, completing puzzles and asserting that all will be well, a feeling of identity loss dominates instead. Or thinking that anyway.

The need to belong somewhere – friends, family, a team or bar – has been eroded by life being moved onto the screen. This has created a sense of mutation, a half-shell of selves turned sideways into paper-thin abstractions with cartoon broken arms, modules and warts sloping out in disturbing and hopeless directions.

This isn’t a one-dimensional thing, but a sputtering prick into the bubble of self-awareness where one thinks of being half-asleep in a dream, shruggling (shrugging & struggling) with the accusations and denials of one’s most obvious flaws made obscene and dull. And it’s only getting louder.

Writing Process: Need to Pause

A pause is needed in writing. Otherwise it’s just going straight ahead with half things trundled out, the ride getting faster, the wheels getting wonky, leaning to the side and then the other, into an impossible turn which spins so tight that it becomes a centrifuge. And the reader has long since gone.

The writer needs to take a break and breath, step back to make sense of it, find what is working and what is not. Think about other things. And then, bang! Fewer conversations about assault and misery, and more things happening. Best to go with that.

The Dim Malaise In Us

As much as everyone likes to moan about the Trumps or Kim Jong-Uns of the world, it is more about those who allowed them in, not the bullies as it were but the crowd that watches. In other words, our essential malaise is not the jowly hate-filled monsters but the chubby ones who do what they’re told so they can rule their sector.

Franz Kafka, best know for elucidating what is to be trapped in this all-too-real dystopia, put it like this in The Trial: It’s no use. The Examining Magistrate has sent for me. What are you thinking of? It would be the ruin of me. Let him alone. He’s only obeying orders of the Examining Magistrate and carrying me to him.

I have begun the outline for my auto-biography on my days as a teacher, Fuck Pedagogy, which has a similar grim focus. Although lacking Kafka’s literary acumen, it does focus on the same ilk in the education racket, the ones who love the seminars and hate the kids, whose lives are ruled by machinations and maneuvers and who are quietly destroying our world. And like Kafka, it’s supposed to be a comedy. Ha ha.