Monday, March 04, 2013

Sorry, But I've Been Pretty Busy Lately

When I got back to blogging, I told myself that I'd like to do the way I did back in Vegas--going on binges and pounding the keyboard for hours on end, always having something in the hopper and always drawing on new ideas.

Unfortunately, real life has intervened with a never ending line of commitments and other projects, and a small bout of writers block hasn't helped either.  I've been putting in lots of overtime at work (even went in to the office on Saturday and stayed till about 6:00 pm), so financing my buffoonery has been taking the lions share of my time lately.

But I'm here at the computer all day today, so while you may not see the fruits of my labor immediately, trust me, I'm putting the time in.  My big project, a book, has got to be started, and while I know I can actually write a pretty good one, it's that second step in the journey of a thousand miles that nobody seems to want to talk about that's holding me up. I have a topic, I have some stories to tell.  What I don't have is cohesion and an overall vision.  And being a planner, it's tough to start on any project when you're not exactly sure where you're going or quite how you're going to get there.  I mean, I have an idea (Cold War propagandists would call it the 'Radiant Future'), but it's still kind of nebulous.

So in the meantime, I went out looking for help.  And to borrow a tortured metaphor from my past, I went all-in looking for help. My normal cranky muse (and I say that in the best way possible), Linda Lou, is not around to crack the whip on me every day-- her already-full plate is 1300 miles away and so I'm kind of out here dangling in the breeze.  Some folks would say that writing is a lonely endeavor, but if you want to get good at it, you need some feedback and encouragement from people more talented and experienced than you are, otherwise you're just hunkered down in a cabin somewhere vomiting up a 'manifesto' that nobody really cares about. 

It's also discouraging to work on something, post it up on the blog, and see it get ignored for days on end.  I'm all about the instant gratification, so when I get no comments, my particular demons tell me it's because my work sucks and nobody wants to read it.  Taking a year off, losing most of my audience, and not having any Vegas stories has nothing to do with it, I'm sure... So it can be a never-ending downward spiral of procrastination and apathy.  But that is over.  This book ain't gonna write itself, so even if I have to lock myself in a hotel room for a month and type All work and no play makes Mikey something something over and over again, I'm going to overcome the inertia of sitting around not writing.

So what have I done so far, you ask?

Well, first of all, I joined the Nashville Writers Meetup group.  I figured out a long time ago that the path to success is to surround yourself with people better at you in whatever activity you wish to improve upon.  You want to be a better musician? Hang around with talented musicians.  You want to be a better options trader?  Hang around with the experts.  You want to be a better writer?  Go to where the writers congregate.  And yeah, sometimes that means I have to swallow my pride and hang out in trendy coffee-houses populated with hipster-douches in skinny jeans and nerd glasses, but that's where the writers seem to be found.

Of course, I'm over-generalizing there--they can be found at Panera bread, too!  In the past month I've been to three or four different meetings, and so far, it's been a totally positive experience, regardless of venue.  We've actually met in the conference room at a lawyers office, coffee shops, and a couple of restaurants.

The best part is that not only are there groups for writing in general, but then there are meetups that are more specialized.  When I was attending the Henderson Writers Group with Linda Lou a few years ago, my biggest gripe was the never-ending parade of suck that came with listening to an endless barrage of drivel about vampires and dragons.  Oh dear god, just kill me now.

Wait.  What I meant to say was, hey, if you're into that, bless your heart.  Just keep it away from me.  Basically, I had to go to these readings, and if I wanted to present anything, I had to listen to everyone else's material too.  Now, some of the time, there was some real brilliance to be had--I believe Linda Lou presented her entire first book to the Henderson Writers Group in chunks over the course of a couple of years and had it critiqued and deconstructed.  On the other hand, it's hard to offer any kind of constructive feedback when the subject matter is nothing that I'm remotely interested in reading.  Then couple that with truly painful storytelling and character development, and well, it's a recipe for me paying my dues at the first meeting and skipping out on future meetings depending on the email I'd get listing that month's presenters.

But here in Nashville, they've got it broken down all kinds of ways.  I've been to groups discussing the 'craft' of writing, along with groups whose interests lie in non-fiction and personal essays.  My favorite thus far has been the memoirs group, and I've managed to take away some great tips and suggestions from each group, all without having to suffer through another juvenile 'fantasy' reading.

Participation has also introduced me to some truly gifted people, and of course I'm picking their brains and having them look over my stuff, too.  I've already met Linda Lou's younger sister--she sat next to me one night in the conference room at the lawyers office.  I shared my old Asteroids essay, and she wrote an entertaining piece about her sister's wedding.  Hell, she even blogs and does stand-up comedy, too.   Chatting with her helps get my brain in the right place.

And last Sunday, while I was sitting in the upper loft of Portland Brew East, being self conscious of being the only person there without a Macbook Air, I met another lady who I'd otherwise have absolutely nothing in common with, but the essay she shared hit me like a ton of bricks.  Not wanting to let an opportunity pass, I've already gotten her to agree to let me use it as the foreword for my own project.   Yes, it was that good.

In addition to the meetup groups that are helping me along, I've picked up a few other references over the course of the past few months to help me overcome some of my self-imposed hurdles to creativity.  I've got books dealing with the nuts and bolts of writing non-fiction, creating a memoir, and telling better stories.  I carry them around with me in my backpack wherever I go, and if I'm not out walking around the office park on my lunch hour, I'm reading and trying to learn.

Lastly, I put up a financial investment.  Years ago my dad turned me onto something called The Great Courses, and it's basically college-level classes on a myriad of interesting subjects, 24 lectures to a set, all on DVD.  He's raved about them for a long time, and somehow their catalog found it's way into my mailbox last month.  From there, it found it's way to the shelf above my toilet, so eventually I found myself browsing through it.  I couldn't help but be intrigued, and last week I finally coughed up the scratch and ordered four of their courses: 

  • Analysis and Critique
  • Building Great Sentences
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction
  • Understanding the Fundamentals of Music
Yeah, that last one I got just because I want to attempt to make music 'click' for me, something that hasn't happened in all my years of trying. But the other three courses represent knowledge that I'm sure I'll need once I put fingers to keyboard.

I will say, however, I'm not a total neophyte at this.  I know I have a small bit of talent for writing, and I'm amazed at how much I've retained from my freshman composition class at Ricks College that I took in January of 1988.  I couldn't appreciate it at the time, but I had an amazing teacher. That shiat stuck with me for all these years, and I'm still using it today.

But that's where I'm at.  My main priority is writing this book, finally.  I know that this blog will suffer because of it, and I may even lose more of my dwindling audience.  But hey, stick with me.  It'll all pay off in a couple of years.

In the meantime, I'll be busy figuring out how to approach step two.



THOMAS said...

dude, it better pay off!!! did you have any brew from the portland brew east??? anything worth searching out for?

good luck with the book...far larger of a project that i have ever ventured to complete.

edit: glad i searched portland brew east...was hoping for a brewery...not a coffee shop!

Unknown said...

You already have written a lot of material. I would try to organize it in a timeline of some sort. I remember the early years where your style made me feel I was there with you. Continue with that style an you will be successful


T-Rev said...

Right on, right on Bro-Ham (or should it be "write on, write on"...badda-bing.)!

Hey, I look forward to the day that I can pick up your book up on Amazon, so stick with it.


Hurricane Mikey said...

Yeah, before I went there the first time I was hoping it was a microbrewery.


Coffee House. And not even as cool as the ones on Friends or Frasier...

Ed Bull said...

Mikey- so glad to see you back blogging. I still read your old work back from the vegas days, and still proudly put on the tshirt. Hope all is well with you, and as long as you post, I will read!

Liz said...

Can we say we knew you before you became famous? I'd love to write a book but will never do. More power to you!! PS- it does suck when no one comments on your blog doesn't it? It still write mine for myself.

Mike said...

I've been reading you for as long as can remember and love your stuff. Can't wait to read your final work and continue to hear about your life. Can't wait to hear more about the AT and what has inspired you to take on that journey. I would love to someday hike the AT and the PCT and I am hoping that your journey will give me an idea of the undertaking.


Vegas Linda Lou said...

My younger sister--hahaha! So true about the vampires. Ugh! You're doing everything write... it's gonna be so cool to see your books in print.