And Angry Hordes Stormed the Castle Walls, Yet Not One Lived

2166885-helms_deep_2It’s so funny how things work out sometimes. Just yesterday I wrote about how I need a place of solitude, a writer’s cabin, to go to so that I can be productive and finally get ye olde novel down on paper. Today…I came across this.

I’m not knocking the writer for having an opinion. I’ve got one, you’ve got one, all God’s children have an opinion. But it does rankle me how a person purports that he knows what I need or don’t need in order to write…when he has no idea who I am. It irritates me when he avers that there’s no place in my life for the writer’s cabin that I’ve always known that I need because I should just be able to ignore everything around me and write. That is his opinion. And this is mine…

Not every person can tune out the world to the point of being able to produce a complete literary work, and many, me included, don’t want to tune out the world. We want to conceal the world. Silence the world. Shut the blinds on the world. If it were possible, climb aboard a one-person spacecraft and leave the world while writing. Some people need solitude in order to be creative. Some people are introverts, and I proudly identify as one. Any presence around me when I’m trying to be productive is an annoyance and a distraction. No one should feel like a person of lesser quality if their mentality aligns in this way. Every perspective is valid.

And a larger part of my opinion is that when I write I want it to be the highest quality writing I can produce. One reason that it won’t be the highest quality now is because I’m not a great writer yet. But in itself, that fact is a great point…if there are multiple things hindering my writing (lack of skill and distractions), shouldn’t I strive to eliminate the ones that I can practically do away with (distractions)? Writing skill is something you can’t buy or fix instantly…it’s going to have to just come as I master different things.

But really, do microchip manufacturers build their product under a shed in a hay field? No, they work in clean rooms where there are zero outside contaminants that might screw up the works. Do you brush your teeth with dirt or wash your clothes in stagnant pond water? The best way and only good solution is to eliminate all impurities. What the article’s author appears to be saying is that it’s a good thing to handicap yourself because the cure for your handicap doesn’t really exist.

From a literal standpoint, the writer’s cabin is not a myth because it does indeed exist. Hemingway loved his. And do I have to drag Picasso into this from my last post? The writer’s cabin exists because there is a real need for it, philosophically and physically.

It exists because I say it exists.

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Build Something In Order To Build Something

Sometimes I really wish I wasn’t so organized.

Cue the raucous laughter from the next room where my dear wife sits watching her mystery shows.

She sees the “organized” surface of my desk. Well, the area above the surface of my desk, said surface not having been seen since before Dwight Shrute demonstrated how funny a desk could be.

She walks outside and retrieves something from my “organized” garage/workshop (which is piled high with organization). After six hours I call the Mounties to go find her. She always gets a laugh out of those rescue operations, many involving tetanus shots, and she laughs in a different way than you or I.

She trips and falls into my “organized” closet where I keep my shoes…in a highly “organized” manner. I don’t like that they take up too much space when they’re all pointing in the same direction…monotony is so monotonous, so I “mix things up”.

But the root of my pain over my organization obsession isn’t based in external world settings. This pain’s source is in the miles and miles of endless corridors of itemized everythings in my mind. If you’ve read the last post or two, then you know I’m plotting out a book-like project with a nebulous future completion date. And the thing that’s dogged my progress to that end for nigh on twenty years now isn’t a lack of effort…it’s the endlessly frustrating obsession I have with, “measuring twice and cutting once”.

In the either/or world of author identity, I am a Plotter and not a Pantser. I thrive on organization to the last jot and tittle of every factoid of the writer’s craft, which I am compelled to ingest, coordinate, and organize into A Plan before I can even touch the tip of a finger to the keyboard in actual writing. It’s come to the point where it’s beginning to be a crippling thing. At times I sincerely believe I’ll end up plotting out and writing the entire novel, (which today is just a vague cloud of mist and a distant yell here and there), in my mind before I can feel prepared enough to write it down.

In a Google Community centered around journaling I came across a fitting name for this disease: analysis paralysis. Simply, that’s when you spend so much time designing and refining your plan of attack that you never show up for the battle. Ugh. I’d credit the person who coined that phrase if I could locate the source again.

I blame this issue on philosophies from my youth. Things I dwelt on then that became part of my psyche. I always wanted to be a boy scout, but never got the chance. That didn’t stop me from studying a Boy Scout Handbook that my dad gave me until I knew every section, every page by heart, to the point where, “Always be prepared,” might as well have been tattooed across my forehead.

Later on in years when I got out in the world and began having to finish tasks of many kinds for employers, I honed every skill I used in my work to eliminate “do-overs” so as not to waste time. I hate do-overs!

As I became a family man and learned the value of every dollar, I grew to abhor waste. Remember the day you realized your dad was a direct descendant of Ebeneezer Scrooge? When I became that dad I realized the truth in what Darth Vader said. Yep, I became the Master of Inner Obsessive Compulsive Turmoil.

All of these facets of my psychology that grew and developed as I came up in life combine to cause me to edit too much. To look back too much. To take an hour to do a ten minute task because it’s got to be right, and I don’t want to have to do it again. Sometimes that’s a good, responsible way to be. It’s saved me a lot of wasted $$$ over the years. But in writing it sure does gum up the works.

I’m always looking for the next great instructional tool, or the next device to increase my productivity, or a new way to help me focus. Why have I become so obsessive? Heh…I’m obsessing over being obsessive. 🙂

Well, I’ve drawn a line in the sand. For years I’ve found this or that “reason” that delineates why I can’t write my book and get published. I’ve pointed out every tragedy that’s taken my hopes and dreams and ground them into fine powder, and patted myself on the shoulder in sympathy. Now I’ve decided to get to the bottom of things so that I can finally move on.

I need to cross the last horizon beyond everything that I’ve believed has pulled me down. So I’m building a writer’s cabin.

Okayyyy, you might murmur. I like the sound of it, but what does he mean by that?

Let me begin with a word from a man we all know and love, Pablo Picasso. “Without great solitude no serious work is possible.”

Pabs, you read me like a book, and that ain’t no easy task because, this. But really, it’s a pretty simple concept…

Whether you notice them or not, there are SO many distractions in a home. With everyone’s best intentions there are always going to be voices and noises, vacuum cleaners and cats, tv’s and blenders, all vying for some little piece of your attention. It’s a sunny day so she wants the blinds open, but all the light and moving wildlife out there distract. The phone rings, and even though you aren’t going to answer it anyway, it started jangling right at the climax of some perfect point of plotting and you lost the thought. The focus goes so easily! And it’s so hard to get back.

So I went back to an idea I’d had years ago…a private place to write where I can go and shut the world out and bang a keyboard. I took a look around the internet and there are apparently a lot of other people with the same idea…

This is the site where I found the Picasso quote. “A getaway for work, not play.” HmmmHere’s a rustic Tennessee location. I do like the mountains…  This one is up in Minnesota, so not really for me, but they’re all based on the same idea…get focused, get productive, write the book. There are scads of these sorts of web ads out there.

And I don’t need much. I’m planning a simple eight feet wide by twelve feet long room where I can put a desk, a chair, my laptop and some whiteboards on the wall for visual planning, and go get it done.

My wife and I looked at some of those prefab storage buildings that look like little houses…you have to wire and insulate and panel the insides, but it’s a big jump on getting the thing finished. The problem is that they’re so expensive! $3500 for a shell, basically, so by the time you put in a little air conditioner and a heater and get it all comfy, how much would you really sink into one of those?

So, I got on Home Depot’s website and began drawing out a simple little plan based on some pics I took of the inside of those storage buildings. I think I can have it all complete and turnkey, even with some nice floor covering and a really comfortable setup for around $2500. That’s doable, even if I have to build it section-by-section (foundation, walls, roof, etc.) to spread the expense around.

Like a wise person once said, “I’ve done so much for so long with so little that I’m now qualified to do anything with nothing.” The poor man’s anthem, and one to which I heartily subscribe.

I’ll share more details on this project once it gets rolling. Pictures and all that. In the meantime, it’s a lot later than I thought, and I want to look at a few more pictures of cabin getaways. G’night.

***OH! By the way, Happy Birthday, dad! 70 years, my how time flies…***

Scrivener Is My Novel Writing System…For Now

Back in September of 2015 I came upon a bargain sale on the Scrivener writing program. I enjoy the MakeUseOf tech website, and they have a section here where two or three times a year Scrivener is on sale for only 20USD! My purchase was for the Windows version, but I believe the Mac version is the same price because Scrivener was originally developed for the Mac. I can’t see Literature and Latte (the company behind Scrivener) preferring Windows over Mac.

In the realm of authoring I’m primarily what you’d call a Plotter, though I slip over into Pantser methodology (there’s an oxymoron for you!) when I blog or get into subjects that are only rightly approached with the Pantser style, like Christian teaching. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit should never be confined to guidance from Self…He should always have free reign to guide the writer!

Identifying primarily as a Plotter, I began searching several years ago for software that would help me get all my ducks in a row because I’m scatterbrained. When projects begin to sprawl, I lose track of where specific items are. When I lose track, I lose momentum. When I lose momentum, I stop writing in disgust.

So, for the sake of ever finishing anything of Great Consequence, I needed organization. I could always fill in the middle parts by Pantsing…

I came across a wonderful little program several years ago (10?) called yWriter by Spacejock Software. The creator, Simon Haynes, bills it as, “A word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create”. Sounds a lot like Scrivener, huh? Well, you’d be impressed with how similar the two products are.

He did a fantastic job on yWriter, and he’s up to version 6 now. I think I originally got into it with version 2. This newest version is specified for Windows from Vista up to Win10. And do you know what’s cool? Since yWriter hasn’t been converted to work on the Mac, Simon actually advertises Scrivener on his site as being more appropriate for Apple fans. 🙂

I’ve got to say that yWriter does a pretty great job in comparison to Scrivener, if you want to consider Scrivener the top of the heap. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Scrivener has, but for Simon to be a one-man-band developer…it’s pretty amazing.

When comparing the two, Scrivener comes out ahead because of one great resource: a massive fan base. What does that do for you? Well, there are seemingly endless online resources showing the user how to do this or that in Scrivener. yWriter just doesn’t have the groupies…but it certainly deserves a screaming horde of fans.

Unfortunately it’s beyond my scope right now to reacquaint myself with yWriter’s many capabilities, so this post is necessarily going to do it an injustice. The only fair thing I can tell you is that you owe it to yourself as a starving artist to check it out for yourself because it does have one screaming advantage over Scrivener…it’s 100% free!

yWriter didn’t become a success story for me, but that was my fault, not the program’s. It was really no more difficult to use than Scrivener (both programs have time-consuming learning curves), but at the time I was using it I wasn’t dedicated enough to dig deep and become proficient. If I had only just discovered it last week, things would be very different. Shoot…I bought Scrivener in September of ’15 and I’m just now inspired to figure it out! Priorities, you know. Life changes.

I’ll move on by saying that you can only help yourself by trying yWriter6. It really will change your writing life, and you can thank Simon Haynes for developing it. Oh, and by the way, even though the program is designed for Windows, I suspect that you Linux users out there could run it by way of the Wine emulator. And doesn’t the Mac ecosystem have a Windows emulator too? I’ve had good luck running Scrivener on my Linux Mint (based on Ubuntu) laptop using Wine.

Now, my next step was another free program called Plume Creator by a gentleman in France named Cyril Jacquet. In referencing for this post I discovered that he has just released an Alpha version this month for a completely new version. Cyril’s project is very much along the lines of yWriter and Scrivener, but I’ve got to say that the version I used three or so years ago was a little more…not clunky, but I had to jump through just a few more small hoops to use it properly compared to yWriter. That’s no detraction from the product. It’s just that Cyril wasn’t as far along in development as Simon at that point.

I actually corresponded with Cyril over a few emails back then, and was able to offer some suggestions for an updated platform which is apparently the new release he speaks of here. He sent me some illustrative messages on how he was going to approach the UI and such, and if the new version reflects what he told me, it’s going to be wonderful. I regret that I don’t have time nowadays to dig into his project and do a proper review, but who knows? One day I may be able to.

I noticed that Cyril stated that Plume Creator will run on Windows or Linux systems. Mac users, again, may be able to use it through an emulator.

You know, software is always advancing unless the developer simply abandons a program, so I find myself wishing I could burrow into both yWriter6 and Plume Creator and just see what I could do with both. But there’s a fact of human psychology…or at least, my psychology…I’ll give preference to the software I actually had to pay for. 🙂 So, for now at least, I’ll go all in with Scrivener. But speaking as one who has been broke more times than he’s had cash…you’d be financially crazy to bypass these two for Scrivener if you’re just getting started. Free is good, especially when the free product is excellent.

So I guess that for now, Scrivener is my Writing Medium. As I tinker with it in setting up a general novel writing template, I’m learning more and more of the hidden nuances to its makeup. And it has a lot of behind-the-scenes features. So much so that if I were flush with cash (maybe after I actually sell a novel?), I’d get this. I’m not shilling for this fellow…I don’t have a financial arrangement with him for endorsing the product. However, it does appear to be the end-all and be-all for learning Scrivener. But $300??? Maybe MakeUseOf will come up with a half-price deal on that.

How the Creative Muse Clipped Mah Toenails

I’d like to state that each and every link, video and/or picture within this post and all preceding and following posts are the property of the entities in possession of said links, videos and pictures, and in no way should I be recognized as the source or creator of this content. I just ain’t that good.

I have wanted to be a published author since I was twelve years old. At that age, when I was in the sixth grade, I began to write short stories about the adventures of a group of boys (my friends and I, naturally). This was during the initial flights of the United States Space Shuttle program, the height of the Cold War era, and the beginning of the Reagan Years, so I was influenced mightily by the spirit of adventure, conquest and technological know-how that saturated life back then. All of that colored my stories greatly.

They generally revolved around very young yet incredibly intelligent minds crafting larger-than-life combat machines that were sometimes disguised as exploratory vessels (thank you, James T. Kirk for the template that was the U.S.S. Enterprise), and setting out with the blessings of the U.S. and its sitting President to challenge and conquer every nefarious foe that came blundering along. No job was too big, and neither were the warships we…uh, they…piloted. Three-hundred-foot-long land battleships? No problem. Four-hundred-foot-long arctic-traversing death machine? Already halfway built. A constellation of geosynchronous factories spurting out prefabbed components in precision drops to surface destinations? Boooooring…. The things that we…dang it!…they!…designed, built and flung into battle were as huge and endless as the rivers of tax funds pouring into black budget programs that paid for them.

Looking back I smile at the many sources of inspiration for my ideas back then. I mentioned Kirk’s Enterprise, but I was fortunate to see OUR Enterprise, the Space Shuttle number OV-101, up close and personal at Huntsville, Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center. That was during one year that I can’t remember with my brother and my parents, and it was also a big influence on my young imagination. It was linked in my mind to the space shuttle that Gil Gerard got all time-lost in, and that led to a whole host of other imagination motivators. Weird little R2-D2 derivative, anyone?

Those hundreds-foot-long land ships were inspired by a much smaller sorta’ hippy-ish survival RV television personality that I really wish I’d got to see more episodes about before it disappeared forever. I say inspired by, and that’s true. But the ideas that germinated and grew into what would later be huge story props with personalities as big as anything on TV, actually began with a pair of…nail clippers.

Yes. Nail. Clippers. The slightly larger-than-normal kind. My dad always carried a pair. I suppose it should be called, “a pair of nail clippers” like it’s, “a pair of pants”…in his pocket, and when I would get bored in church I’d get them and just like a stick floating in a stream becomes an ocean liner, the nail clippers became a roaring death machine financed by the U.S. government. The flights of fancy I dreamed up playing around like that became the stories that I’d write later. You may be laughing, but inspiration doesn’t care how or where it strikes.

nailclipperstartpoint_t2050_aft_view_copyright_startpoint

Not so crazy when you see them side-by-side, huh? How many ideas have I lost to reality…my wife just shakes her head every time one of them becomes “real”.

For the full story on the real nail clipper battleship, click.

I guess the kick in the teeth award for stealing my thunder on a future invention-turned-reality is based on the TIPS-N and TIPS-C ideas I came up with back in the early 2000’s. Those ideas saw the light of day in a “real” story entitled, The Mysterious Cargo, that I began flirting with in November, 2003 and finished up back in July, 2014. I write kinda’ slow. Good thing they pay a million dollars per story nowadays.

The acronyms stand for Transitory Image Projection-Navigation and -Camouflage. Have you ever seen this? That’s TIPS-N in action. Or maybe you’ve heard of this? That’s TIPS-C travelling right along into someone else’s invention bag.

Oh, well. We all have problems.

weird-captain-kirk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crikey.

As my retinas slowly burn away like Fourth of July sparklers, I’ll put it out there: I’m trying to wrangle thirty-some-odd years of ambitions into an actual novel. You know, the kind that gets published and that people read. Henceforth and hitherto I’ll be a-walkin’ you through the cow pasture of my mind, guiding you around the steaming landmarks and mushroom-sprouting idea piles therein.

And I’m even still on theme…there’s nothing more mechanical than the book writing procedure. It revolves around machinery. The typewriter, the word processor, the computer. The every-man tablet and pen. Even the Craft is a device in which the reader is transported across worlds. But it’s a harsh taskmaster to the author. It demands satisfaction that can only be achieved by pouring the soul through the sieve of a pen barrel. My favorite writing quote of all time is by the wonderful Roy Blount, Jr.:

Twiddle-twiddle away at my softly clicky keyboard for a while, making twiddly adjustments all along- and then print what I have twiddled. Glare at the printout and snarl and curse and scribble almost illegibly all over it with a ballpoint pen. Go back to the machine and enter the scribbles. Repeat this procedure until I hate the very meaning of every word I know.

Ah, good times.