Posts Tagged ‘Harlan Ellison’

I am not afraid to admit it: I am a man, and I am a fan of Project Runway. It shouldn’t be a surprise, really, because what I like about the show, and what I admire about the contestants, is their ability to create something out of nothing in almost no time. Their  parameters are like the guidelines of a magazine. Every week they try to transcribe those parameters into a story that says something about themselves. The fact that they tell their stories in cloth and other (usually) wearable materials is irrelevant; they are creating something out of nothing. And they do it in two days. It’s like a mini-Nanowrimo every week.

I’m not one of those authors who can produce something quickly and on demand. When I was at Taos Toolbox, I was petrified we were going to be required to come up with something fresh in the space of a day, and I knew that was never going to happen. It didn’t make it any better that one of my roommates was doing that very thing–and he did it pretty much every day. It still amazes me, that quickness of mind and creativity. It’s like when Harlan Ellison wrote stories in the window of Change of Hobbit bookstore back in the 1970s. I wouldn’t know how to do that if you threatened to arrest me.

One of the things I like about novels is that you don’t have to come up with new ideas all the time. Well, you do, but they fit into a pattern you’ve already laid out. I’m just not the quickest creator on the block. It’s taxing me to write a novel in ten weeks. (Spoiler: It may not happen.)

The answer, of course, is that I don’t have to be the quickest. I have to be as quick as I can be, work as hard as I can work, and write the best story that’s in me. Because it’s not about who’s fastest, or even who’s best, for that matter. There are seven billion potential readers out there; there’s room for more than one “best” writer.

Don’t ever try to put me on a show called Project: Writeaway, though. (“If you want to win, you have to create a story ‘write’ away!”) I’m not going to run around the room asking, “Has anybody got any extra metaphors? I didn’t buy enough!” or crying, “I should have learned to type faster!” That is not going to happen.

Although, I suppose I could write a story about it…



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Sitting in my car at a light today, a guy crossed the street in front of me, totally intent on his screen. No, he was not texting on his phone. He was typing one-handed on his laptop. Maybe he left his iPad at home? Perhaps he was hunting for Pokemon?*

Whatever, I just hope he wasn’t a writer, because no deadline is worth getting, well, dead.(And that goes for whatever project he was working on.) I suppose it isn’t surprising, considering that multi-tasking is de rigeur these days; everyone has to be somewhere or do something in a BDH. (Big Damned Hurry.) That’s why red lights don’t mean what they used to. I’ve been in two accidents in the past few years, both because of distracted drivers running red lights. Based on my experience, I have this advice: Put down your damned phone when you drive unless you’re planning to use it to call the hospital!

But I digress. What I meant to say was that I have a question: When did writing become a spectator sport? Go into any Starbucks (in LA, anyway), and at least one person will be plugged into a wall, tucked away in a corner, headphones on and laptop open. He obviously doesn’t want to be disturbed, because he’s got headphones on. Why doesn’t he want to be disturbed? Because he’s writing. Why is he trying to hard not to be disturbed that he must do it in a public place? Beats me…maybe he can’t afford to buy coffee for home? (Writers are notoriously pecuniary, after all.)

Writing is supposed to be a solitary pursuit, i.e, you stay home and do it all by yourself. Writers only go out when they’re in a writers’ group, and even then they’re hunched over in their tightly-circled chairs, armored against outsiders. In some climates, heating and A/C are required, and maybe you’re too poor to afford them–the classic remedy here was to go to the library (where you don’t need headphones to be left alone), although there are some notable exceptions to the rule.

But the library isn’t good enough any more. Now you have to multi-task: Not only do you have to write, but you have to be seen to be writing. Harlan Ellison once made writing an actual spectator event, but he’s Harlan Ellison (and he didn’t wear headphones). So why must so many write in public? That coffee is expensive. You never know who’s going to sit next to you. And it takes up space for other paying customers after your latte has gone cold.

Personally, I write alone. I have written in coffee shops, but only when necessary (like waiting for someone), and not extensively. I realize I’m not everyone, but still. As far as I’m concerned, the room is full enough with just me and my cast of characters. You want to multi-task? Try juggling three different viewpoint characters.

Believe me, it’s not as entertaining as it sounds.

*Speaking of which, if you are into Pokemon Go, try my friend Will Macintosh’s Burning Midnight for another take on the whole “treasure hunting” concept.


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