From the Noise, Silence

Posted: 09/29/2011 in Horror, Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

Aside from writing, the only other thing I’ve done with as much long-time passion and diligence is play live music.  I’ve been rocking out in bars and clubs all over Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana since I was 25 years old, first on drums, later on bass guitar.  I’ve played every style except ska, hip hop, and death metal.  Some groups I’ve played with have been cover bands, others have been original indie bands plugging away for their big break.  I’ve played on stages so flimsy I thought my bass rig would shake ’em apart; I’ve played on stages so big that I thought I’d need a trail of breadcrumbs to find my way off (this, admittedly, has not happened often).  I’ve played crowded venues in Kansas City, Wichita, and Indianapolis, and I’ve played in towns so miniscule that their economic infrastructure was predicated on an outdoor pay phone, soda machine, bar, and post office.  But the one thing that has been a common denominator musically for me is that it has never mattered where I was playing, who I was playing with, or what type of music I was performing, because when I play, I play.

Music has always offered me a certain solace, a gift of quietude.  When I play, I lose myelf in the moment and the only thing that matters is the backbeat or the bassline.  There is no room for the myriad worries that otherwise vie for my time and attention.  There is only music, and my part in creating it.  In the midst of the 2 and 4, within the swirling eddy of lead licks and chunky rhythm guitar, beneath the arenaline and beer-fueled rock ‘n roll vocals, I find a space of zen-like peace within the moment.

I’ve found the same to be true for writing.  At first, I wanted my first drafts to be pristine.  I couldn’t fall into a story because I was too busy glancing back at the words that had just spilled onto the page, continuously proofreading and revising them.  One day, probably on one of those days when we’ve had it up to here with the world and have nothing left to lose artistically, I bound and gagged that snarky little homunculus, and chained him to our lawnmower in the garage.  Now he rides around and editorializes about how my husband tends to our lawn.  That’s fine, but I stopped feeding that particular troll.  There’s enough self-doubt and rejection in the world of writing without his poisonous offerings. 

Now I push myself to write more organically, to lose myself in the story and simply tell it.  My first drafts no longer come out as clean, but my word count has gone up dramatically and it has actually made my subsequent efforts at editing more effective.  I still have to fight the urge to break out of the flow and go back to fix something.  On some occasions, those tweaks and edits are necessary, but the majority of the time I give the tale another nudge and find that the words are waiting there, patiently, under my fingers.  Now when I write, I write.

This morning I cranked out about 2000 words.  I thought I could hear my homunculus shrieking nasties at me from the garage.  I ignored him.  This has made all the difference.

  1. Jon Vagg says:

    I’m late to the party since this is an old post of yours, but I’m working my way through your recent posts.

    I so like the description of a place so small the economy revolves around the payphone, soda fountain, bar and post office. Actually given the way rural (under)development has gone, certainly in the UK, there are plenty of places where the local economy is even smaller than that.

    As to writing, which was the subject of your post – I confess to being a compulsive-obsessive go-back-and-fix type writer which may explain why a good day for me is about 1500 words, though I’ve done a couple of things recently where I was able to do better than that. But I don’t see it as taking me away from telling the story, just cleaning up what I have to get the story clear in my own head so I can move on.

    • blackalchemy says:

      I apologize for the lateness of the reply, I enjoyed your point about how rural/frontier communities can have even more miniscule economies – certainly in Kansas (where most of my stories take place) there are veritable modern ghost towns! What writing projects are you currently working on? A daily output of 1500 words sounds glorious (I am in a bit of a slump the last two weeks). I like how you mentioned going back to tidy sections up to get the story clear – that’s what it’s all about! 🙂

  2. I downloaded An Axe To Grind. Haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but can’t wait. I’ve really been looking into the two publishing options you suggested. Do you know anything about Publish America?? Someone else suggested them.

    • blackalchemy says:

      I haven’t heard of Publish America, but it’s worth looking into! I went with Smashwords since it was free and also (although the format for submitting books is a bit stringent but they have an excellent step by step formatting guide) it preps your book for download in a wide range of formats including Kindle. Let me know what you think about Publish America, if it looks like a viable option! I can offer you my experiences with self-publishing on Smashwords; it was a bit time consuming but worth it! 🙂

      • I did some research and I’ve decided to go with Smashwords. PA has a whole lot of bad press on the web. Lots of disgruntled customers for a wide variety of reasons. It has advantages, like they allow you to print and post your work online. It’s supposed to be a free service and they give you $1000 upfront, but then they try to get that back by offering you “services” to help you sell/promote/edit your work. Lots of delays, lots of complications. Sounds like a headache. I’ve been doing the editing from the format guide for Smashwords. I’m glad you introduced me to it. I think it’s going to be my best option at the moment. Any words of advice would be greatly appreciated!

      • blackalchemy says:

        Thank you for the heads up re: PA – that is good to know! I am glad you went with Smashwords, I think that platform offers more flexibility in terms of the number of different e-readers or apps that your story can be disseminated from once it is successfully uploaded (the more options and formats readers are given, the easier it is for them to say yes and click “buy”). My experience with Smashwords has been positive, but it does require quite a bit of time to format your manuscript. The free style guide is a great help. I followed it step-by-step, making the modifications to my manuscript as I worked through the guide. It was a bit tedious and time consuming, but again, worth it. I don’t know if you have your cover art already, but I discovered you can make your own pretty cool cover just using PowerPoint (portrait layout) which gives you many options for colors, themes, images, and fonts and is reasonably close (slightly smaller) to the recommended size in the style guide. I did decide, since revising a document for Smashwords takes some time, that when I start a new story I set my defaults to what Smashwords wants so it will be right next time I am ready to submit. Good luck to you and let me know how it is going, and when your story is uploaded let me know so I can offer support and share the word!

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