Friday, April 27, 2012

Stuff I'm thinking about

Hockey playoffs: Most exciting sport to watch. It's not even close.

Character names: What is it about some characters that you never forget their names? Does it have more to do with them being a memorable character, or is there a certain musicality to some names that sinks into our memories more easily?

It's pizza night!

Genealogy: I'm in the middle of researching my ancestors. My wife's too. It's addicting to find new little tidbits. For example, my paternal grandfather was a very successful ice cream salesman for a national company. I'd always heard stories about how he started at the bottom and worked his way up the chain of command. Now I have proof. Census records told me that he began as a truck washer at the ice cream plant. Amazing.

New projects: How many writing projects should I have on the go at one time? A lot.   

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Writing as Therapy

When I was a kid, I don't think I was ever really stressed. I had a great life. Whether or not I was going to win that evening's street hockey game was probably my biggest concern.

As a teenager, more pressing concerns (or at least they felt pressing at the time) came into my life. I would usually turn to sports as my outlet. My practices and games were a place where I could be myself and release negative energy in a positive way. I don't mean that I would necessarily lash out at my opponents -- I was a mostly clean and sportsmanlike player -- but I did play contact sports, and I was able to be aggressive without it being a problem in my non-sports life.

When I first started writing, I did it because I liked it. I had some stories to tell, and it was a fun process to challenge myself and get the words on the page. I never really thought about the calming effect it was having on my daily stress levels until I realized that I couldn't not write. It no longer only makes me happy, it is an integral part of my life. Sending words through my brain and fingers onto the computer creates a giant release. After writing, I feel so calm. It's as if all of the characters in my head hashed out any issues I might've been having for me.

Obviously, some things in life are more stressful and worrisome than others, and big things will still be there once I stop typing. But, because of the frame of mind writing puts me in, they always seem so much smaller.

Some people do yoga. I write (type).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Going for Gold

I talk a lot about surrounding myself with creativity in order to become a better writer. Being around the best makes you want to be your best, no matter what their discipline is.

My wife and I had the unique experience of being able to attend seven games of the Women's World Ice Hockey Championships, including all of the games in the medal round. It was being held at the University of Vermont, which is walking distance from my apartment. How cool is that? How many people can say that they were able to walk to World Championship events? Not many, and I count myself extremely lucky.

Canada beat the US in overtime in the gold medal game, which wasn't the result I was hoping for, but it was a great game to attend. Canada is very tough and resilient, and the US plays one of the most exciting finesse games I've ever seen. Their speed, positioning, and passing were a joy to watch. They play the way I think hockey should be played: with skill. they aren't concerned with the fighting and cheap shots that are far too prevalent in much of the men's game at all levels. This pure playing of the sport was refreshing. And these women aren't making millions of dollars. They are simply playing for the love of the sport, living out their childhood dreams. It's awesome.

What a positive energy boost. It'll stick with me for quite some time.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Finish That Book!

I was in charge of my school message board's weekly craft discussion and posted something nearly identical to this:

Over the last six months or so I've been coming across more and more instances of people saying that they aren't finishing books. The reasons are varied: hollow story, predictable outcomes, annoying characters, you name it.

The same goes for skimming. During a faculty lecture in January we were asked to see a show of hands of readers that skim. Half the room put their arms up. Others talked at dinner about how they were afraid to put theirs up, only to be caught off guard by how many did. It seems the majority of the community was guilty.

The point of the discussion is coming soon.

Most of us would agree that it is often easier to pinpoint what doesn't work in a given piece of writing. When something is strong, we sometimes just "know," but when it's "weak" we can chop it up and dissect it and discuss it until we're blue in the face. And that's mostly a good thing. My lectures, workshops, and advisor interactions are making me a more informed reader and giving me a better vocabulary to articulate my ideas.

But, all of that leaves me wondering two things:

1) Why do so many readers stop before the end? How do we know that these "weak" aspects of a book are actually going to turn out that way if we never even reach that part of the story. Shouldn't we be reading entire novels to take in as many pieces of the puzzle as we can in order to learn more? Sure, we might like some books less than others, but that doesn't mean that we can't learn something from every whole product. What good can possibly come from putting a book down?

Which leads to...

2) How can we turn this into a positive? How can we take these things that infuriate us so much about some books and learn from them in a proactive and productive way? Rather than stopping or throwing the book across the room, how can we flip the switch on these stories and figure out how to avoid the same mistakes?

I try to read every book until the end, and I try to take something from every book. I'll admit it's really hard sometimes, but I think it's important that we try.

How can we help each other with this? How can we use every book we read to our advantage. How can we learn from the negatives to turn them into positives?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sometimes you just don't have much to say...

because your brain is overloaded with critical thesis and novel revisions. Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!