Regret and Failure Fuel Inspiration: Writing Process

My dreams are of no interest to anyone but me, and yet they do tap into my essential understanding that life is an odyssey replete with failure and regret. I’m not saying this is anything new – the Greeks figured it out thousands of years back – but it is the fuel.

And so when I dream of being humiliated by administrators or being rejected by someone I love or trying to take a shit in front of a crowd, I am reminding myself not only of my fears but, more importantly, gaining access to something more universal. I am alone and know that will never change.

Anori is about that. And that’s what I want. Dee Sinclair is stoic in her isolation, eyes wide, furiously ready for what is to come. My job is to make her someone that people will want to know. And I am working on that.

The Thing About Writing

The thing about writing is the fluidity of the act, getting the thoughts out, sharp and immediate. At the edge of that. Sacred & divine/Drunk & stupid. Between those lines.

Jet Rockwell orates by the fire

No plumbing of the depths. None of that. The story, just the story, simple and direct. Anything more is drivel. Pablum. A brouhaha.

Character Development: Keeping It Real

I blogged three days ago on the importance of a character being nebulous. I then watched Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

Handheld screenshot from I’m Thinking of Ending Things

While I’m fan of Kaufman’s work (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Anomalisa, et al) and admire a writer’s attempt to pry open the meaning of self, this film makes nebulous look adamantine. Characters swimming in vagaries of subconscious angst. All that. And…no.

A story can’t be all dreams and poetry and philosophy because there’s no place for the reader to hang their hat. Definable characters are needed. Without them, we’re nothing.

Developing Character: Writing Process

Writing builds character. Or is it the other way around? The sad thing is that too many characters are caricatures that fulfil an odd addiction of an audience to do as predicted, to make everyone satisfied in knowing what is done next.

Author’s father burning brush on Ahmic Lake

The core of real character is outside the details and patterns we project. Characters are inconsistent. They must be. They must be what is not expected. (And then not.) That is how we behave, what we need to understand our traumatized self.

Author with construction hat and gas tank at Ahmic Lake

As predictable as we might think people are, we aren’t. And if we are, that is death. A character needs to be nebulous. It is in that that a story spirals light.

Writing Hideout: Writing as a Mask

I hide in my writing. It is clear in my notes for The Young Chronicles series. I didn’t write about things that happened – seeing Beatlemania in Saskatoon, not even the guy who offered me a blow job – but instead about drivel that would embarrass an illiterate.

Reading through my notes from my Canadian Hitchhiking trip in 1983 is squirm-worthy.

Much of my writing is like that – everything from my bullshit poetry to my first attempt at prose – a lowlight reel proving I should have stopped long, long ago.

A thankfully brief extract from a story I wrote in 1984, Ulvand’s World. Even the titles…God.

I went on to write about prostitutes, 9/11 and outer space, everything but me.

Detail of a cover design from a story written in 1994

So why blog about it now, you ask? I’m getting to that. (I hope.)

Pretend I’m a Writer: Writing Process

Martin Scorsese’s Pretend It’s a City features Fran Lebowitz declaiming on her writerly life, stating that no writer enjoys writing. Which makes me think that I am no writer because I do, enjoy writing that is. And then there is Raymond Carver, who exposed the secrets of his life with honesty and makes me realize that I’ve never come close to that.

Title page for second part of The Buzz Trilogy

My modus operandi has been the sensational subjects – prostitutes, 9/11 and outer space – which I’ve consumed through the media. I feel unglued and half done. I want to think again and write something that people will read and think, “What a guy!” Yes, I need to get a grip

Writing Process: Moment of Clarity

I have an affinity toward Ilulissat, Greenland where I am left alone in the light with iceberg cubes in my drink.

It can feel like there is no time, no morning, no afternoon, no night, just light and more of it.

I was out on my little terrace at 3 am as a continent of ice floated down from the glacier and into Disko Bay.

It felt oddly like the end of the world, and not only because of the scotch. It was that right.

Writing Process: Knowing Thyself

I don’t know who I am. I pretend to have it crystal clear at times. I even proclaim that I know things and might even really think that I do. But it is fleeting.

I haven’t confined myself to a career. While I might have taught for many years, I don’t identify as a teacher. I snuck into the profession and messed around. And that is all.

The United Nations International School, a place where I used to work.

I have also had no success as a writer, and so neither am I constrained by the limits of thinking that. Nobody reads what I write, and so I don’t really do that. It isn’t real.

I know people and talk to them, but I don’t actually know anyone. I don’t live in the country of my birth and hide out in a city of faux intellectuals. Drunks, I mean.

33rd Station on New Year’s Day

I am on a great clipper ship with nothing but clouds all around. And I think that I am clever and creative because I am writing that. But I don’t know who I am and never will.

Arguing The Arc: Writing Process

While there are many aspects of the story arc that make sense in terms of pacing and development – like good old hamartia – the arc is a dated idea, limiting our understanding of who are to exacting plot points that only satisfy writing coaches and network executives.

Stream of consciousness is not the answer nor is it supposed to be all higgledy piggledy, but a style that reflects a understanding for ourselves. Reality television is the bald ugly version of this or the latest insanity of Trump’s dying days.

Tierra’s Eyebrow might be reality television’s greatest work

An amalgamation is needed of the two, an arc that that follow a path and yet simmers and U-turns with significance. That is my aim in The Cx Trilogy, to guide readers into a world and leave them there to look around.

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.