Throwback Thursday – Free Your Fireflies of Imagination

793ae-fireflies_orangeThis is from April 2011. I had been on a writing hiatus here for some reason. I noticed a big slowdown in posting here as well.  I have learned a lot since I wrote this, and realize that relying on the muse is not something a professional writer can afford. When things aren’t sparking and you have a deadline you still have to write. There is where understanding how the craft of writing comes into play. The are no hard fast rules for writing, but understanding structure and story design are a must.

Writing regularly does spark ideas. Think of it as a lubricant. It does create a more fruitful mind for creativity.


Not writing has been a weird place for me.  I think about the act of writing during most of my free time now, but my muse has been strangely silent.  I think about the fact that I am close to finishing and know I have a few scenes left to put together, but there is no spark.  This leads me to believe that writing, the actual act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard actually sparks the muse and keeps the creative juices flowing.  The more you write the more these creative pathways open up and tap into that right side of the brain and free the little fireflies of imagination.

I have often heard people ask writers where they get their ideas.  I’ve had people ask me that very question, but from everything I’ve read or every time I talk to other writers they all say the same thing, ideas are the easy part.  Writing seems to snap into place a cable in your mind that lets the creative side of your brain be heard over all the stuff the left side of the brain is dealing with on a daily basis, trying to get you through your work day. (unless you are an artist of some sort of course).

The answer to where do the ideas come from is, they come from the writer’s brain.  It’s almost like a muscle though, it needs to be exercised.  You need to read…a lot!  You need to actually write, not just think about writing or talk about writing.  You need to actually do it!  World building is fun and is a nice creative outlet, but don’t stop there.  Create some characters and give them a problem to solve and write some scenes.  You will be surprised what your mind will come up with if you give it a chance.  The more you do this the more other ideas will pop into your head, stuff you never dreamed of.  Then you get to connect the dots or rearrange the puzzle pieces to make a story outline.  It’s really that easy to get started.

Good luck with your writing!

 

Clear Ether!

Impacted by Concept – The Quantum Thief

This is not really intended to be a book review, but more the impact the book is having on me as a writer.  I’m reading a book by Hannu Rajaniemi called The Quantum Thief.  It’s his first novel and I have to say that I’m extremely impressed.  He runs a think-tank in Scotland and has a PhD in String Theory — big brain on this guy.  The stuff in his novel is an absolutely fantastic extrapolation of social media and the internet into the far future and it’s stunning.  I read an editorial piece yesterday by Bruce Sterling (Beyond the Beyond) in the newest issue of ARC talking about Futurists and the art of predicting and how it’s not realistic to expect anyone to get it right, but sometimes the story tellers hit on the right chord.  I think Mr. Rajaniemi is not just striking the right chord, but making a symphony.  BTW, he also has a short story in the same edition of ARC.

I’ll be honest; I had a really hard time getting through the first chapter.  It is full of imagery and language that’s alien to a present-day human being, even one that is relatively tech savvy and speaks most of the jargon of current SciFi.  It took me several read throughs to wrap my head around some of his constructs, but once I was acclimated the ride really took off.  The story centers on several characters and they are all rich and well-developed and interesting.  The landscape switches regularly from Mars to deep space and elsewhere, and the underlying science is well conceived, if poorly described, and I am barely hanging on by the tips of my fingers trying to keep up with it.  It touches on the ramifications of immortality or the illusion of immortality and what is really real.  The underpinning story is fantastical, but merely lays bedrock to present a smorgasbord of amazing concepts.   Someone needs something stolen and they need the best thief that has ever lived to pull it off, it’s just that he is not quite himself …yet.

One of the reviews I read put it succinctly, “It is flamboyantly intelligent, wildly intricate and clearly imaginative in ten thousand ways that I will never fully be able to appreciate.”  Bang on.  At some point I gave up worrying if I was ever going to completely understand the various devices he uses and just went with the flow and enjoyed the scenery, even though at times I didn’t understand what I was looking at.  The thing that really strikes me is how jealous I am.  I am so pedestrian in my plotting and use of language by comparison that I’m almost ashamed of my story.  Granted, they are in completely different vanes, but the ideas and richness of the tapestry he’s woven are so far beyond anything I’ve been able to imagine it’s just enthralling, the way watching a train wreck is enthralling.  You can’t turn your head away.  I’m not saying his story is a train wreck.  I’m saying that me reading it feels like I’m on the train and I will never be as good as he is at this writing thing.  It’s a thing that will be forever just out of my grasp, even though I can see it clearly for how lovely it is.

I have a decent vocabulary, but I don’t want to speak down to people, and I don’t want to even give the impression that I think I know more than you do.  When I was a younger man I spoke differently than my peers and they made fun.  I figured out pretty quickly that it wasn’t necessary, and in fact was counter-productive, to show off the new words I learned.  I’m wondering if that has influenced my thought patterns to the point that I am making myself dumber somehow.

I don’t feel like I am on the same plane of existence as some of these brilliant minds.  It makes me sad, not sad like someone died, but more for the loss of something I never had.  I really want deep down in my soul to be a brilliant science fiction writer, but I also know that my colander brain can barely hold a thought.  It’s more like I get glimpses of the fragments as they fall through the cracks and I have to piece the puzzle together.   I still end up with a few pieces missing and have to do my best with what’s left over.  It’s extremely difficult to conceive of things that are new and breathtaking, but my mind does seem to be proficient at recognizing it when it sees it, when other people do it.

Getting back to the story, there are some flaws in his writing style.  Flaws seems like too harsh a word, but for me, assuming I could come up with the ideas he has, the writing is a little too distant and even though his concepts are outlandish and almost incomprehensible, I would have tried a little harder to make them easier for the everyman to understand.  Would that have diminished them somehow?  I’m undecided, but I do know it was a struggle to get through this book in spots, and I’ve learned that things that slow down the reader, not the story, but the reader, are bad juju.  I’ve read critiques that lambast some of the great conceptualists as weak when it comes to the mechanics of proper story engineering.  The truly great ones manage to do both.   The jury is still out for me if Mr. Rajaniemi is going to fall into that category, but it is a damn fine debut novel.  Even being considered as a great debut puts him in fine company, company most aspiring authors would love to be in.  It has inspired me to try even harder to get my stories right.  I have a far, far future story in the works and it is obvious I have left a lot of stones unturned.

Clear Ether!

The Life Cycle of an Idea

Kids are able to make up stuff on the fly, but as adults we have a really hard time with people changing stuff on us. Why is that? Do you remember when you were a kid and the world was full of wonder and nothing seemed impossible? We could dream big. One of my dreams was to be an astronaut — I really wanted to be Han Solo, truth be told. We could tell outlandish stories to our friends that made no sense, but we told them anyway because it was fun! Remember fun? I see my kids do it all the time. They take a simple idea and run it over and then back over it and run it over several more times, making it different each time and laughing all the way.

Somewhere along the line of becoming an adult we lose that outlook on life and become cynics to one degree or another. Things need to make sense. Life becomes about the realities of the world and not the possibilities of the world. All the mundanities of life intrude on our time for reverie. We have bills to pay, and jobs or school or both that eat up gobs of our time. We start having children and then we have not only ourselves to worry about but little protégé to teach our worries to. It’s amazing we have any imagination left at all!

Well, as writers we have to find a way to tap back into that dream space that holds imagination. It’s our job to find the barely believable, to look around the corners that hide the stuff that’s not quite normal … to rediscover the impossible. People ask all the time, “Where do you get your ideas?” They actually come from all over the place. You have to keep your eyes open, and your mind open. It’s usually a combination of interesting events or articles that I read that trigger a thought. That thought needs to be nurtured and cultivated. I write it down, and then I think about it more. Sometimes they come in the form of a dream. I still have very vivid dreams, which are sometimes like a James Bond movie, or a fantasy film. I try to write down those ideas too, before they flicker out. If you don’t write them down they will fade away and out of your mind’s grasp. I keep a couple of notebooks at arm’s reach most of the time, because you just never know when lightening is going to strike.

I recommend reading … a lot! Read blogs, read news articles, read stories from your favorite magazines. Read books by your favorite authors, or maybe a new author in a new genre that you haven’t tried before. You never know what will combine into a glorious idea. Ideas are glorious and they need time to grow. They don’t usually burst into life fully formed. You need time to think about them more, to add to them. Keep reading, work on other projects then come back to your idea and check on it. Sometimes it will appear as if it’s hasn’t grown at all. Other times your imagination will spark and the idea will grow and mutate. Sometimes you need to prune it back a little, as it goes strange. I find that showers are great for helping the idea grow; my muse likes showers for some reason. Write all these down in your journal.

It’s also a great idea to take two or more of your ideas that you’ve been cultivating and see if they will fit together. Sometimes this will create a really great kernel for a novel. Sometimes ideas are more suited for shorter length and are just not destined to grow any bigger. That’s ok too, especially now, we seem to be seeing a rebirth of the short story that fits very nicely into the ebook format. They are perfect for a $.99 cent sell on Amazon.

Just because we are grown-ups now doesn’t mean we can’t recapture our youthful imagination. It’s like a small ember that needs some kindling and a little breath of air, then we can add some smaller sticks to it, and then bigger sticks and finally some logs as we kick it into gear.

 

Clear Ether!

Free Your Fireflies of Imagination

Not writing has been a weird place for me.  I think about the act of writing during most of my free time now, but my muse has been strangely silent.  I think about the fact that I am close to finishing and know I have a few scenes left to put together, but there is no spark.  This leads me to believe that writing, the actual act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard actually sparks the muse and keeps the creative juices flowing.  The more you write the more these creative pathways open up and tap into that right side of the brain and free the little fireflies of imagination.

I have often heard people ask writers where they get their ideas.  I’ve had people ask me that very question, but from everything I’ve read or every time I talk to other writers they all say the same thing, ideas are the easy part.  Writing seems to snap into place a cable in your mind that lets the creative side of your brain be heard over all the stuff the left side of the brain is dealing with on a daily basis, trying to get you through your work day. (unless you are an artist of some sort of course).

The answer to where do the ideas come from is, they come from the writer’s brain.  It’s almost like a muscle though, it needs to be exercised.  You need to read…a lot!  You need to actually write, not just think about writing or talk about writing.  You need to actually do it!  World building is fun and is a nice creative outlet, but don’t stop there.  Create some characters and give them a problem to solve and write some scenes.  You will be surprised what your mind will come up with if you give it a chance.  The more you do this the more other ideas will pop into your head, stuff you never dreamed of.  Then you get to connect the dots or rearrange the puzzle pieces to make a story outline.  It’s really that easy to get started.

Good luck with your writing!

 

Clear Ether!