On Writing the Stuff

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Mostly what it comes down to with writing is taking your idea and making it as clear as you possibly can.

I don’t know how you get ideas, so I will share my process with you.

It can be a little inconsistent, but for majority of my writing processes they begin with an idea, a seed. Sometimes that idea is an image, or just a sentence that sounds cool, or even something I want to talk about at length.

Then I find a tone that will fit it, usually 99% of the time, the tone comes along with the seed. They go hand-in-hand.

For example, if I’m thinking about how much of a shitty day I’m having and I decide I’m going to write about that, the tone is by default going to be angry or sad or whatever awful feeling that goes with having a shitty day.

I never try to force a tone. Whenever I do it comes out academic, even if I’m trying to do something deliberately sloppy. It has a really try hard feeling to it and it looks contrived and fake.

I try to stick with whatever I’m writing as a project.

Literally like trying to make a seed grow.

I go and go and go until it’s finished, or, it dies. This is natural. Sometimes you just get all you can get out of a story before it’s over and that hurts like hell every single fucking time ‘cuz you have to give up the project. You feel like a failure. Every time.

Fun stuff.

So, again, with the beginning I start with my idea. I start with the concept and the tone.

From here I decide where to start actually writing it out.

Sowing the seed

A lot of my seeds start with either a scene, or a concept.

A scene that stands out more so than the rest of the story. Sometimes it’s at the end of the story, or the middle. Sometimes if I’m lucky it’s the beginning.

It’s inconsistent. But what’s not consistent is that I’m writing at the same damn time every single day. Set your space and time.

For starting with a scene, something like, for example, what if someone called their lover while peaking on mushrooms? I write it out and then save it in a new file and tuck it away and never look at it.

Then, I go and start working on the rest of the story and when I get to that point, that scene, I pull it up and look at it and see if

1. I like it.

And

2. It fits with the rest of the story I wrote.

If it meets these two rules, I throw it in.

Everything is honky dory.

Just one thing…

This never happens. It’s only happened effectively twice for about 100 different stories.

Now, if it’s not a scene, it’s a concept, a loose idea that provides a spark. Like, if God were bored and he wanted to entertain himself, what would he do?

It’s similar to a writing prompt, but, not, cuz it’s for me and only me. It fits differently.

As I work with it, every day is a new day. I finish what I write for the day and I mostly put it out of my head. Sometimes I can’t help but think about it all day, but I refuse to go back and write more. I have to do it on a new day.

And with every new day I force myself to believe that I have no idea what will happen within the story.

I have to do this.

Sometimes I don’t believe myself and I fucking pay for it.

Shit comes out terribly on those days. It literally feels like trying to recreate a moment or a memory. Like you’ve been thinking about how perfect this is will be when you write it down and then you try to make it work, but it won’t.

Keep yourself guessing

So, to avoid this, I approach whatever I’m writing with a sense of surprise.

I don’t really know what’s going to happen. I have a general idea, but for the most part it’s out in the open and if I run into what I think is going to happen, cool. If not, cool.

I think of it as opening the text document every morning and looking at what your wrote before as a long writing prompt and you’re here to keep it going…and that is more or less what you’re doing.

I do this until the end. And you know when you’re done. It’s intuitive. It’s different for everyone. But you get to a point and you just look at it and you’re like, “Yup. That’s it.”

I can’t elaborate on that any more, but I mean, every project you have you know it’s going to end and you have a fairly good idea on how you want it to end as you’re getting there. At the very least you have a feeling of how it’ll end. Fiction or non-fiction.

Give it feeling

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What you put in, is what the reader gets out.

This is true in fiction and non-fiction. And that’s why most books suck.

Think of it this way:

When you’re writing, you’re essentially talking.

When someone is telling a story, whether it be funny, or sad, they’re usually feeling the tone of what they’re telling you.

It’s why a guy talking about his daughter dying in a car crash breaks down sobbing when he’s telling the story. It’s tragic. It’s terrible. And he’s sharing that story with you and everyone around him is breaking down too. They’re experiencing empathy from real emotion. This is what good writing is.

If he stood there and told everyone that his daughter died in a car wreck and shed no tears and showed no emotion it would be…awkward. Stupid. This is what bad writing is.

And it looks the same in both fiction and non-fiction.

Non-fiction that is poorly written, no matter how fucking dry the material is, is poorly written not because it’s too dry and technical– for even someone familiar with the content and jargon can find enjoyment in it– no, it’s bad because there’s so soul or spirit in it. It’s got no heart.

This is the same for fiction!

They wrote it because they had to.

And when you’re writing because you have to you are essentially listening to yourself talk and that is the worst type of writing. It invites low-ball sentimentalism, boredom, and predictability.

You can tell when a writer is in love with what they’re writing. Even when you don’t like the style and content, you can agree that the writer actually gave a fuck and tried to connect with you.

Most writers miss this point and write because they have to. They force themselves and I don’t understand it, because writing is not easy. At all. And if I didn’t adore the craft and love it enough to wake up at 4 a.m. to find time to write, I wouldn’t do it if you paid me.

Take a break between projects

After I finish?

I save it and I work on something else for a while. Start a new, smaller, project. Write a few poems, short stories, whatever.

For editing, depending on how long the project took me, I wait about half its time.

Edit like a mad man

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I use AP styled format. Print this out, it’s great go-to on the fly editing marks.

So, let’s say I worked on a story for three months, I’m going to wait a month and a half before I look at it.

After that month and a half, I’m going to pull it up, and print it out. Then I start editing.

I sit there with a pen and the written project printed out. In place of the time I would write, I edit.

Editing is my favorite part. You’re looking at what you just did in a loosely complete format. You get to pick and choose what stays and what goes. You get to micromanage. You get to add, take away. Full control. It’s a relieving feeling and I honestly live for it.

Editing is where what you wrote takes shape.

Probably the biggest helper though is double spacing what you write and using a big font face so you can read clearly. I use Times New Roman at size 14. It’s easy as shit to read and your pen has no problem weaving through and fixing things.

The big 2 rules

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Murakami and his pussy

Now, if I had to condense all my advice into two tidbits it would be this:

  1. Write everyday.
  2. Read the writers you want to write like.

Write everyday is self explanatory. Set aside time. If you honestly can’t, then write on the toilet. I’m serious. Any time is time to write.

The second rule:

Most would say ‘read the best stuff’ but what the fuck does that mean?

There are 7 billion individuals on this planet with so many different nuanced opinions that trying to find the universal best is a stupid fucking endeavor and not worth your time.

No. Read the style of writers that you would want to imitate and start practicing.

My go toos are obvious: Cormac McCarthy, Murakami, DeliciousTacos, and Bukowski.

I read them and I imitate. In my opinion imitating is fine if you’re doing it honestly.

You aren’t copying.

Copying is sitting there with their book in hand and trying to figure out if they’ve said what you’re trying to say and just writing that down.

You’re actually taking what they did and trying to implement it into your voice. Your style.

Think of it like athletes watching other athletes perform. They see what they do and take notes. They like that LeBron James did this with the ball, or Kobe does this thing, and they try to incorporate that into their arsenal.

This is how you need to think. You’re a writer with weapons and skills of the trade. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are. You need to know what to employ when you need to.

Copying is stupid and a symptom of someone who is insecure and has nothing to say. This is where clichés pop up. “Once upon a time,” etc.

Imitating is survival. Every writer shamelessly imitates another.

I don’t know why our generation wants everything to be original. Originality is dead. It never existed.

We are humans. We take what past humans have done and do it in our own way (which I guess is originality, shut the fuck up).

Look at Faulkner to McCarthy. They’re pretty damn similar in a lot of ways. Why? Because McCarthy fucking loves Faulkner. Sure, they had the same editor and that damn well did play into it, but I guarantee that editor wouldn’t have bothered with McCarthy if he didn’t imitate Faulkner so well.

Murakami? He imitated Raymond Carver and Raymond Chandler. Two writers based in America while Murakami lived in Japan. He fucking imitated them in a different language. To startling effect. He imitated Kafka damn well, too. And this wasn’t copying! This implementing style and themes in a way that was new and innovative. Look at The Castle and compare that to Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Both have a theme of a nameless wonderer entering a strange town. That’s where the comparisons end.

Imitation is not wrong.

DeliciousTacos is a literal reincarnation of Bukowski’s voice and observations in the modern era. Just with a different attitude: he hates himself. He’s different than Bukowski* in that one aspect and that makes all the god damned difference, I promise.

I’m harping on this point more than the others because people have it in their head that they need to be obsessively original. They want to do what no one has done. But it is almost impossible to do this deliberately– and when things like that in art happen it’s always on accident and usually hated.

And on top of this, if you have your own voice, it is going to be original no matter how god damn much you imitate. Everyone has their own signature brand when it comes to writing. No two writers sound completely the same when they’re speaking from the heart and their plots and all that shit will be completely different too.

I swear by this.

Think of the two movies Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and High Fidelity. What are their plots? Two people break up. We know from the fucking beginning what is going to happen. These two shit heads are going to get back together. But both of these movies are welcomed to extremely high critical acclaim, despite being cliché and predictable. Why are they so well received? Because the journey of the story is so engrossing you flat out don’t give a fuck you know what’s going to happen. You’re enjoying it so much it doesn’t matter.

Writing is no different.

Fuck originality. Fuck cliché. Fuck being different.

And lastly

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  • Speak honestly. Don’t use big words unless they come naturally. This is huge and well…obvious.
  • If you aren’t feeling what you’re writing, stop. Wait until you feel it, or just never come back to it. Forceful art is terrible art. Don’t use this as an excuse to avoid writing, though.
  • It’s not easy. Writing is never easy. I write every day and it’s like climbing a new damn mountain every single day. I do it because I enjoy it, though. That’s really what it comes down to. It makes me feel fulfilled and satisfied to crank out some good shit. I feel on fire all damn day when I have a good morning session. But it’s hard to do. It’s work. It’s always work. Writers block is a real thing that you have to pound through, word by word, sometimes as slow as fucking possible. But you have to get through it.
  • Probably a big thing that people get worked up over is the beginning of writing. That first sentence man it’s so hard man oh man. The ‘blank page is the scariest and most daunting thing a writer can face’ haha whatever. The beginning is easy. You know why? I’ll give you a big fucking secret:

Who is gonna read the first draft?

Only you. Just vomit it out. Ain’t worth the energy, man (or woman).

Your first draft is going to suck anyway.

Why try and pull out the big show stoppers in the first sentence? This will paralyze you. Just bust it out and move on and edit it later.

Keep that attitude in reins. With the exception of the beginning, you should be shooting for aces the first time every single sentence. It improves editing. Letting you use less energy. It’s easier to clean an already clean house. Starting from shit covered floors and walls is exhausting. Keep your shit as clean as you can.

This may slow things up, but it’s worth it, honestly. The pristine mind you have when editing will thank you for not letting shit get on it.

To close…

Writing is sacred.

I don’t listen to music or have anything going on except my coffee pot when I’m writing.

You need focus. You need a lot of focus. The human mind is easy to distract. AND easy to exhaust. You need breaks, son. I usually go 15 – 30 minutes straight, take a 5 – 10 minute break and fart around on the internet, then get right back into it. Some writers take walks, others do push ups, others smoke cigs, then get right back on it.

The more you write, the more you’ll also find that writing sober is a blessing. Trying to write intoxicated is damn hard. Alcoholics like Hemmingway, Faulkner, Joyce, all had to be sober when writing. It’s no joke. Drinking helps ideas, don’t get me wrong. But really, when you’re sitting there doing it, nothing beats a sharp mind.

And that’s all

More to come.

Did you learn anything?

Leave a comment or share.

Thank you.

*If your really curious Bukowski was heavily influenced by John Fante. I have no idea who Fante was influenced by. He’s pretty singular in his time, hence his lack of fame.

When everything falls apart

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“Tell me something interesting,” she said.

“About what?” he asked.

“About me,” she giggled.

He set the phone on speaker and put it on the desk and slumped in his chair and then stared at his hands. A spider walked across his palm and then onto the other side of his hand and he turned his hands over and on both of them dozens of spiders marched around appearing like they’d hatched from the pores of his skin.

He chuckled and smiled.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“I see spiders.”

His mouth hung open mesmerized by the sight.

“Oh?” she asked.

“Mhm.”

He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes for a few seconds and when he opened them the spiders were gone. He sat up and checked his hands flipping them back and forth palm and backhand. He looked in his lap.

“What the fuck,” he said.

He got on the ground and laid flat on his back looked up at the bottom of his desk. Nothing.

“Where’d they go?” he asked.

“Who? The spiders?”

“Yeah, they were here and then…huh.”

He stood up and looked around the room. The white walls turned pink, then violet, then white, then pink and shimmered and vibrated, the color reverberating like something from beyond reality was trying to shake the color out of its shape and into something wholly distinct. His mouth hung open and he touched the wall and the color seeped off and onto his hand like goop leaving a smear of ivory white on the wall where his hand had been.

“No way,” he said.

He looked at the lights. They didn’t change colors. He ran his hands across the drywall feeling the grooves and edges of the texture and leaving a colorless streak in its wake. He hoped there’d be some secret and as his palms caressed the wall it sent sensations into his body causing him to cringe and shudder with it as if the grooves and ridges were a type of brail scribed and detailed in some way not meant for humans to understand and his mere act of trying incited punishment.

He backed away from the wall and went to his bookshelf searching for something– some type of explanation as to what is happening. Maybe it was a glitch. Something went awry. Now everything was coming down.

Was he prepared? When the machine collapsed was he ready to wake up on the other side? Was this how it was supposed to end? Hallucinations and disappearances? Or was he trapped in this place? Trapped in the twilight of waking and sleeping, cursed in the algorithm of the machine where no whole number dared to enter, where only fractions of reality existed. Forever kept in a looped sequence of 0.111E onward and forever. Too much to be zero too little to be one. It will never end because it never began.

They’re probably screaming on the other side for me to wake up. Shaking me and beating me but I’ll never leave this place to return.

It racked his brain too much and he couldn’t concentrate on anything.

He backed away from the bookcase and sat on the edge of the bed breathing deeply. Sweat poured out from his head and his palms became soaked and he rubbed them on his jeans then through his hair and then cradled his head in his hands.

“Fuck,” he said. “Fucking FUCK.”

The ground swirled ebbing and bobbing gently like it were water. He closed his eyes tight but patterns shot out behind his eyelids like curtains with mandala patterns took place behind his eyelids, shimmering and waving like banners. He gasped and fell back onto his bed.

“Babe,” she said. “Are you ok?”

“I don’t know,” he said gasping. “I really don’t know. Is it happening to you too?”

“No,” she sighed. “You know why?”

“Why?”

“I didn’t eat fucking mushrooms.”

Whining waiter

They hired me as a waiter, but I couldn’t remember the menu or the ‘waiter responsibilities.’ I didn’t know how to explain that. I felt like a fool. Everything I read fell out of my brain like sand in my hands. The manager looked concerned and twisted his face, not really knowing to say.

So I said it for him:

Make me a busboy, I’m going through some stuff. I’m sorry, I really am.

He just said that would work and just like that I was a busboy.

The people I worked with were kind of cool. I asked one girl out for coffee and she said no and it brought me down real bad for a while.

It was good, though, at work the thoughts stayed away for the most part. I was too caught up in picking up food to really think about anything. I forgot about it all and all that matters is picking up this plate with a half eaten enchilada, drinking this horchata, and looking at Mary’s ass. Not much more going on in our universe, except everything. We revolve around the sun, which revolves around the milky way, which is held together by a star that’s gravity was too strong and it imploded on itself and expended all the excess energy to the empty parts of space where all the stray atoms and electrons reassembled themselves again and again as dust colliding and building new suns, planets, and eventually, down the line, us. The collapsed star revolves around nothing and floats out into the ever expanding void like a lost spelunker. We are a pendulum with no string swinging in the dark looking for something to take us in. Mary, meet me in the closet.

I saw you as a replacement for a while. Something to fill the void in me that once was whole. But, you can’t do that, because you don’t want to. I’m willing to change my end of the puzzle piece. I’ll bend that cardboard and twist all which way just so I can fit in you. I’ll get into any position. I only remember you when I’m here, isn’t that kind of beautiful? I can’t take you home. You only exist here in the most specific place and parameters in time and space. The moment I leave this place, you vanish from my mind and your face becomes smeared and the idea of you is like a dream remembered late in the day. Late in the day where the entirety of it collapses and only the bare fragments of the dream remain.

All I ever remember is your ass.

When they found me

Leaving the door unlocked was a mistake.

It was the biggest mistake I’ve made in my life along with making plans to go out.

They said they found me in the bathroom with the bathwater up to the drainer and the blood from my wrists oozed out into the water like spilled wine and that’s what they thought it was until they saw how pale I was and the foam trickling out my mouth like I was puking soap.

They said I laughed when I saw them. Hysterically and crazily and I couldn’t stop laughing. When the ambulance got there I was still laughing and then I passed out when they loaded me up.

They transfused blood at the hospital.

A therapist came in. Asked why I did it and I didn’t really know what to say. Every reason isn’t good enough for people like them.

“Time heals all wounds.”

But does it?

They put us in a box. Convinced that the 3-Ps will fix us: pills, platitudes, and proverbs.

Fuck them.

Suicide cures everything, don’t they know that? I die and that’s that. No more anything. All my responsibilities disappear. All my unanswered emails from work are done and useless. People don’t have to worry about me not answering my phone anymore. They’ll call and be like why isn’t he answering oh yeah he’s fucking dead.

I don’t get the aversion to it. Just let me do it.

“Will you try again?”

“I know what you want to hear and I know what I want to say and I can tell you that they aren’t the same thing.”

“We can’t let you leave.”

“I have a lawyer.”

She couldn’t respond.

My friends were in the lobby and they brought me out on a wheel chair and I wasn’t happy to see them and they stood in front of me and I couldn’t look them in the eye because they’d see it but by not looking at them they saw it anyway.

They drove me home. Slept on the floor. Wouldn’t leave me alone.

They see something.

Something that shines beneath my pupils I guess. Something no matter how I look for won’t reveal itself. I’ve turned my eye inward to see it but it evades me like a dream.

I just hope I see it too, someday.

Still don’t know why I foamed out the mouth.