Tag: Friday 500 (page 2 of 9)

500 Words on Carving

No, we’re not carving you up, little calf. It’ll be okay. Here, have some sprouts.

We cool?

Okay, then.

Last night, I went to see Chuck Wendig. He’s an author I’d had the privilege of meeting once before, way back in 2009, at a tiny game convention in Philadelphia. We played a role-playing game together, jammed about writing, and I tried not to make an ass of myself. No small feat, back in those days. He was excited to see me again, and we talked about Seattle and writing with another man I’m very glad to have finally met, Phil Brucato, mastermind of Mage: the Ascension and a game I’m dying to try out called “Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy“.

All three of us, at one point, talked about carving the time out of the days in order to write.

“In large, bloody chunks,” I recalled Chuck writing at one point.

Both men gave grim nods.

From professional novelists to fanfic enthusiasts, writers cannot merely find the time to write. We have to make the time. That’s just as difficult as the writing itself. The world at large makes all sorts of demands on our time and energy. There’s always another chore, another commitment, another distraction. We want to give ourselves a break, try to get other things done, clear our decks to do nothing but write.

The insidious truth is that such a state of being, where nothing but writing happens, rarely if ever exists.

Writing happens in a particular space, a conflux of physical, mental, and emotional states, and we writers need to assure ourselves that we can, and should, ask for that space. It’s possible to think that you don’t deserve it, because you haven’t been writing anyway, or those dishes have been stacking up, or seriously I need to spend more time with my partner. It’s also possible to feel that you’re somehow entitled to it, and shirk everything else just to write, which is arguably worse than the former possibility.

Bottom line? You have to carve out the right slice of time, and make the most of it before you balance it with something else.

We cannot, and should not, exist in a vacuum. We have our writerly spaces, sure, from libraries we prefer to sheds we build just for writing — and perhaps slugging whiskey and howling and throwing poo at the walls. What happens in the Mystery Box stays in the Mystery Box. Thing is, we can’t always be there. How can we relate our words to the world if we’re not in the world more often than not?

“Carve the time,” Chuck admonished me when he wrote in my writing journal. A reminder that while the world makes its demands, I deserve to make the time to write. I shouldn’t seek to let writing dominate my time, either. I can strike the right balance, with my sharpened metaphorical knives. That’s a skill in and of itself.

He wrote something else, too.

“Finish thine shit.”

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Photo courtesy The Dodo.

500 Words on John McCain

Courtesy Stars & Stripes

This has been quite a week in the United States as far as politics is concerned. Let’s leave aside the three-ring circus shit-show that is the Executive Branch, from its stereotypical 80’s Wall Street douchebag communications director to the systematic self-destruction of the egotistical compromised blowhard supposedly running things. I want to talk about the Legislative Branch.

There’s quite a bit to say about Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who steadfastly held their ground in the face of ham-fisted Presidential bullying. They have a long career ahead of them of standing up for the American people and leading the Senate into a future that is less obstructionist as a rule and more focused on the people they claim to represent. These paladins kept the healthcare debate going, kept the fight alive and, in no uncertain terms, saved it from destruction.

However, most of the attention has, of course, been on an old white man. John McCain, in this case.

I’ve been worried about McCain. He’s always been a maverick, but more and more often he’s made remarks or asked ambling questions that have raised my eyebrows. When his diagnosis came, I was unsurprised. He’s served this country for a very long time. He’s more than earned an honorable and peaceful retirement. I haven’t always agreed with him, but his record shows that he leans towards following his own code of honor, which I respect. There’s evidence that said code lines up with the long-term best interests of the country at least 50% of the time. Maybe more, maybe less, I haven’t run the numbers, and I’m not super-good at math.

He voted for the debate of the latest iteration of the Republican party’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Then, when the whole world was watching, he broke ranks and voted the bill down. Was he grandstanding? Or did he suddenly remember where he was and what he was doing?

Like so many of the rapidly aging senior Congresspeople around him, it’s time for him to step down. Unlike them, he’s done more good than harm in the long run, and considering this is Congress we’re talking about, that ain’t nothin’. His family should be able to spend as much time with him as possible while he deals with his cancer. While I respect his desire to power through it while continuing to serve, that’s going to end up causing more and more harm to him and his family.

I’m just not sure that this particular instance of hyper-American bootstrap-pulling is going to ultimately benefit himself, his family, and his constituents. I’m not sure if Capitol Hill, in its current state, is a hill worthy of John McCain dying on.

I believe that Collins and Murkowski will make that hill better, and move it forward, probably in spite of itself.

John McCain may want to help, but he can’t be relied upon to do so. He’s earned his rest. He should take it. For his sake, and for ours.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

500 Words on Elite Dangerous

Courtesy Frontier Development

When I finally get home from long commutes down to and back from the home in which my start-up employer operates, I tend to be tired and mentally drained. It’s difficult for me to muster the juices I need to fuel my writing — a fact I try not to be too hard on myself over. Still, between the fatigue and my growing disgust over the situation in this country and on this planet, I prefer to wind down my day by going to space.

For a while, this was facilitated through Star Trek Online. Star Trek is one of my favorite sci-fi universes, and I’ve met some wonderful people there. However, I slowly came to realize that in terms of gameplay, I was unfulfilled. Like all MMOs, the world is mostly static; no matter how many times to beat up a certain enemy faction, the missions in which you do so never change. It’s hard to feel like you’re having an impact on the world around you. There’s still a hard divide between your reality and that of the game world, unlike something like Skyrim.

Then, I started playing Elite Dangerous.

Digging out my old Attack 3 joystick and G13 game pad, I quickly found myself immersed in one of the best space sims I’ve ever played. A few years ago I played through a few Wing Commander games for charity, and when I was younger, spent hours upon hours in Elite Plus and Wing Commander: Privateer. In addition to the nostalgic feeling of having my hands on a “throttle” and stick, the more I play the game, the more incentive I feel to keep playing. The galaxy is truly vast, with a plethora of options of how to play. Trading, combat, mining, exploration, even hauling tourists to exotic locales — all of these are profitable ways to make your mark on the galaxy. And you can truly make a mark; the game’s background sim and Powerplay functionality mean that if you choose to, you can influence system control, shifts in allegiance, and even the course of superpowers.

I’m trying a bit of everything. My Commander has made his way far from his home system, has joined up with a like-minded group of spacefarers, and I’m fictionalizing the journey. I’m finding more and more ways to make my time in space more rewarding, more immersive, and more challenging. I’m upgrading my joystick, adding voice commands, and I’m very much looking forward to earning enough cash to fund true exploration endeavors to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. I also want to contribute more to the cause of Princess Aisling Duval, the only member of the galactic superpowers outspoken on the idea that owning people is inherently wrong.

The only drawback, so far, is a relative lack of roleplaying. However, I know that storytellers are out there. I hope we’ll run into one another eventually.

Space is, after all, quite big.

Which is why I can lose myself in it for a while.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

500 Words on Grunge

Courtesy Easybranches

When I was growing up, and going through some bullying and shunning in junior high, grunge was on the rise. Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden… these names were surging through the airwaves, videos playing on MTV, the sound was all around. For my part, I listened, but I found it difficult to really interface with the content of the songs. I was much more engaged by faster-paced acts like Green Day and the Offspring. I wasn’t quite ready to fully examine the meaning and thrust of grunge; the more obvious punkish sounds underscored my unexpressed frustrations and anger. It felt, at the time, more cathartic. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Since moving to Seattle, and especially in the last year, many of these bands and their music have come back into my life, and I find myself having a newfound appreciation for their messages and meanings.

Chris Cornell’s sudden and inexplicable death struck a melancholy chord deep within me. I feel that I missed some great opportunities. The more I listen to Soundgarden, Audioslave, and his side projects and solo work, the more I can see parts of myself and my inner struggles in what Chris conveyed in his words and his singular voice. I find myself in another situation where I feel I didn’t appreciate the influence and power of someone enough until they were gone from my life; now, I can’t deny a desire to say and do so much more, to this person and on their behalf, because they made the world, and my life, better for their presence; both are now the poorer for their absence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve handled my head weasels and the ways in which I’ve been pushed around by my errant thoughts and rampant emotions. While it’s good to know I’m not alone in this, it also breaks my heart at times — why would a thinking, feeling human being wish these things upon another? When I listen to grunge with the ears I have now, I find myself understanding the music and its motivations so much more, and wishing peace for those who feel the same, from the artists to their fans.

Mental illness is not something to be taken lightly. Even when things seem ‘okay’, the victim may simply be projecting an illusion of normality. Worse, something may appear out of nowhere to tip the scales into disaster — one unanticipated phone call, one bit of bad news, one pill too many. When these are conveyed to us, in speech or in song, we cannot take it lightly; we owe it to those we love too imagine them complexly, and offer love and support whenever we can.

We have the music of the artists who’ve left us; we have the good memories of the loved ones we’ve lost. There have been so many casualties — Kurt, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, Ian Curtis, and now Chris — but we can hear them, and we can remember.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

500 Words From Heinlein

Courtesy floating robes
Courtesy Floating Robes

I lie. Not all 500 of these words come to you from the pen of Robert A. Heinlein. But most of them will. Mostly because, after several years, I once again picked up (or, in this case, began listening to) The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, a seminal book of my early teen years and the one that pushed me towards this writing business in which I engage.

… I have this one nasty habit. Makes me hard to live with. I write …

At the moment, writing is not my primary profession. But it’s always there. In the back of my mind, a prodding need persists. I’m a storyteller. I have to tell stories. It’s a basic imperative, like my need to eat and breathe and gallivant as urbanely, responsibly, and respectfully as possible. Those things cost, and writing, at least in the stage I linger at, does not pay.

… writing is a legal way of avoiding work without actually stealing and one that doesn’t take any talent or training.

I’m in a perpetual state of “I’m working on it,” with a few projects. I am, hopefully, in a place where I can carve out more time to do it. And none too soon, because it’s really started to bug me.

… writing is antisocial. It’s as solitary as masturbation. Disturb a writer when he is in the throes of creation and he is likely to turn and bite right to the bone … and not even know that he’s doing it. As writers’ wives and husbands often learn to their horror …

I of course am not so ignorant as to blame my writing for the skeletons hanging in my closet. My mental illness and prior emotional instability were the impetus for several bad decisions, but as any storyteller would tell you, a good character becomes aware of their shortcomings, and seeks to overcome them. So it is with me. And yet, if writing is a shortcoming, I do not seek to overcome it.

In a household with more than one person, of which one is a writer, the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private, and where food can be poked in to him with a stick. Because, if you disturb the patient at such times, he may break into tears …

If nothing else, writing is a way for me to express my emotions in a safe environment. The lines of journals become a padded room. And as plotlines and characters take shape and grow over the course of my writing, parts of myself and my experiences and emotions flow into them. I have professional therapists — and a battery of medications and vitamins — but my pen, perhaps, is the best tool for how I continue to get better.


There is no way to stop. Writers go on writing long after it becomes financially unnecessary … because it hurts less to write than it does not to write.


On Fridays I write 500 words.

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