What Not to Include


Being a writer sometimes means saying shit you just don’t think the masses will agree with and letting them disagree. Going with the flow, with the grain of the wood, is always the safer avenue to take, but isn’t necessarily the one your moral sled dogs will leap at.

Here’s a bit of me on some topics that are bouncing around our current social consciousness. The caveat emptor here is that I don’t know about any of it. I’m not by any means au courant on the scholarly articles addressing these issues, but I also know that no one has to be. I’ll just be the writer, do the work and know that what I end up saying is something that people will judge one way or another for whatever reason. That’s just what people do, right? All you can do is be true to yourself.

Inclusion, equality, and inclusivity – huge topics on the sociopolitical board in recent times, and the reality is the sense of it all is likely heightened because of the recent election of the current American President. I’m not here to talk about him or gripe or anything politically active like that; I’m just not that person. I’m just noting an observation. I’ll start by saying I don’t believe everyone has to be included in works of art. They just don’t. There is no rule out there that mandates we have to be “fair.” That word, ‘fair’, is a human fabrication. There’s no rule book to life that says we have to do anything – one way or another.

Sorry.

At the same time, I’m not saying that it doesn’t feel good to be included; but that’s not the issue. The issue around the nation is that I feel there’s this movement that people HAVE TO include certain other people. It says that everyone should be included. We should all include everybody else because they’re not you. Include them because they’re: black, yellow, green, purple, male, female, short, tall, fat, skinny, uneducated, poor, uneducated, unhealthy, have different viewpoints, come from different cultures, dog/cat owners, multilingual, Lady Gaga lovers, horse-haters, puppy-kickers, and so on ad nauseam. Include them all. All doors are open; everyone’s welcome.

Guess what, I don’t leave my door open at all times of the day for anyone to walk in whenever they want. <shakes head vigorously> It’s my house, not public park. Doesn’t work that way.

Okay, so there seems to me to exist an implicit understanding that we (artists) haven’t been including “the other” on purpose for ages. I would challenge this. I don’t have the proof on me, but I’d be willing to wager that “the other” has guest-starred in art since art’s debut way back to who-knows-when.  This isn’t something we have to look up now, but I guess is that the data’s there when you’re ready. I get the feeling that the lack of inclusion isn’t the issue here, but wanting the masses to “like you.” And that makes sense. Humans enjoy the feeling of being included, of people liking us. Yes. I completely agree with and understand that. But hey, check out that elephant there in the middle of the room – people aren’t always going to like you. It will never happen 100% of the time. Never. I’ll take that bet.

The aforementioned goes especially for artists. You’re an artist, guess what? You’re playing the lute to an audience of skeptics and “beauty analysts.” Yes, general analysts of a subjective concept. You’re just not going to with with everyone.

BUT! … You will always with with SOMEONE! Even if that someone is only you, there is always someone out there who loves your stuff! That fan could fall anywhere in the color schema of humanity and they love it.

Look. There’s no rule out there that says in life we have to play fair. In fact, once we (society, political institutions, Big Brother) start making it a rule that we have to play fair, then we lose our ability to love what we choose. Once we start telling citizens how they have to play fair, (depending on the topic – or always?) we’re placing more restrictions on the citizens within that country.

At the same time, I’m not saying it’s okay to be a dick, either. If you don’t want someone to join your Easter Egg hunt, that’s fine. It’s your party, but there are understandable reasons and not-all-that-understandable reasons for this. In the end though, it’s still your party. You don’t want to include people, you don’t have to. Period. We were taught the rule on sharing (ideally – if we had parents who made an active effort to bring that to our attention and tattoo it on our hearts. As adults, I think it’s ridiculous that we have to be told this.

None of this is the issue. The issue, as I see it, isn’t inclusion; it’s kindness/compassion. If I wanted to, I could totally play the politically correct game and smile and open my door to everyone. “Look,” I’d say, “I’m being the friendly inclusive patriot of the good ol’ U.S. of A! Come on in, y’all! Yee haw!.” Shit, you could mandate me to “include” someone all you want, but let’s remember two things:

Thing 1: The kid who gets his mom to make the other kids include him loses respect when mommy walks away.

Thing 2:  My inclusion of you does not mean we are suddenly best friends.

I could be a total asshole and still include you (to make mom happy, to make people see me in a better light; to boost my sales, etc). But none of my including you says I have any more of an intrinsic desire to form a closer bond with you.

As a writer, I don’t feel obligated to put a check mark in the inclusivity box while creating something. Here’s the deal, I (artists) are going to be criticized. Why? Because whether I identify a certain way or not, it’s not necessarily how I see myself here, but how other people see me (using their own backgrounds, potential prejudices, and stereotypes) which lends itself to how those around me label me.

In my life, I have worked with a Skittles packet of humanity; skin color, gender, religion, etc., were not determining factors. The apparel did not proclaim the man, as it were. What did make a difference was their respective characters. Were they good people? Did they give of themselves instead of asking to receive? The more the kid in the corner whines about not being able to join the fun, the less the kids at the game table want to let him in. Patience and quiet perseverance, on the other hand, kindness, honesty/trueness to oneself are the sweeter sounds to which our kind has a greater proclivity to listen. Whining is regression.  Art is, as a potential definition, the expression of spiritual progression.

The plumage of our art loses its luminescence when it yields to the mandates of a manmade system. It becomes listless, dull, sick. It’s some dead fowl whose once pretty wings now quickly fade as they flip and flop on the side of some construction-laden highway of mediocrity. A dead phoenix attracts the same attention as a dead vagrant. Dead is dead. Yesterday’s beauty can’t bribe enough to step on today’s stage.

Make your art the way your art cries to be made. You don’t have to be white to write white, just as you don’t have to be transgendered and Laotian to write transgendered and Laotian. Art is art and it comes through you as it is. It will be ridiculed, laughed at, derided, scoffed at, discarded, and potentially ire-fueling. In the same moment it can be uplifting, life-changing, motivating, and inducing laughter, beauty, and song.

Critics are like roaches, and in saying that I don’t imply they can live for three days without their heads; though that may be questionable. The point is if you sit around and listen all the time to what the social club-toting Neanderthal threatens you to do.

No, you don’t have to include; you don’t have to do anything.

Be kind; be true to yourself; keep your pearlescent wings flapping over those highways. You be you; let them be them. It’s that easy. There are no rules up here.

-lp

 

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Art or Craft – which matters?


It’s rounding on ten o’clock at night and I just saw this:

23. Storytelling Is The Art, Writing Is The Craft
Writing matters. It has rules. It can be artful or utilitarian, it can be languid or merciless. But it’s just the vehicle. We keep coming back to the authors we love — Atwood to Gaiman, King to Morrison — not merely because of the quality of their prose but because their stories are engaging. It’s the stories that matter. The art lives in the story. It’s the hardest and most essential part — you can write beautifully, but if the story there doesn’t sing, fuck you. The opposite is also (usually) true: the writing can be execrable, but as long as the story grips us by the nipples, we’ll buy the ticket and take the ride — and we’ll beg you for more when we’re done.

Chuck, you’re right.

Damn.

I talked about this with my brother several weeks back. We both came to writing in our lives, but for different reasons. I came to writing because I am in love with language. He came to writing because of story. We both write, but for disparate areas of focus. In this regard, I must confess that I disdain the fact that people with ugly prose still get the girls because their stories are the hit of the parade.

Don’t get me wrong; it makes sense. If Harry Potter just opened up by talking about a guy named Harry who wore glasses and was almost a teenager and wasn’t sure what to do with his life or who his friends were and was mediocre when it came to school, but he was okay at it and……

… If that were the case, that book would end up in someone’s fire or toilet paper stand. There has to be progression. Yes, I get that. You have to have something happen. In fact, it’s best if you have a whole shit ton of things happen, each one throwing the reader off, but still making sense. And on and on et cetera..

Yeah, I get it. I just think there should be something said for good writing as well. Not that it can only be good writing, because again, if your “good-writing” about nothing, then you’re giving you’re giving your keyboard a hand job, and yes, you write, but what’s the point? I’m talking about writing a good story AND you know how to write good prose. There has been a sizable handful of books which I have put down (against the raging applause of the masses on how good the story is) because I just couldn’t take the writing anymore. My go-to story is always Sanderson’s Mistborn. I got 400 pages into that book and I had given a liberal dose of grammar and good prose passes (subjective, yes, but aren’t all books subjective when they’re in individual hands?). I had to put it down.

The masters out there are masters of both. They know how to use their craft and make (as Gaiman says) good art.

I agree with you, Chuck. I don’t think it’s right necessarily, but c’est la vie. The point is, write. Writers write. As much as my readerly self doesn’t like shit prose, my writerly self lauds the fact that at least they made it to the shelf of readership. What does that say about the masses and literature? I don’t know. No, it’s not England in the 1800s anymore and this is not the literate society Simon Winchester mentioned in the beginning of The Meaning of Everything.

They want story. You’re a writer. Give them a goddamn story. Even if it’s not the story they want. Your job is to make a story. Write like a cracked-out booknana-lovin’ monkey, and give them a fucking story.

-lp

Just get to the end – (a C.W. post)


If you’ve never read Chucky’s stuff, he’s got a real way with words. He’s got a way with words the way Charmin has a way with toilet paper, or Lucky Charms has a way with rainbows, or MacGyver has a way with turning a shitty Chevy into a moderately useable vehicle. I’ve been reading Chucky’s stuff for the past few years and I must admit that he’s a fantastic source of writerly inspiration (see below).

This right here, is the usual stuff you can expect to find from this mastermind of writerly inspiration. He reminds us here that all writing advice is bullshit. There’s really no one way to make this thing work. You either, as Steven Pressfield argues in his book The War of Art, you either get it done or you don’t. It’s pretty much that simple. Yes, you can, like a wonderful podcast I listen to called Writing Excuses, take every microscopic area out of the field of writing and try to approach it that way. Some people function that way, and as long as they’re able to pin the tail on their word donkey, then who gives two pence about the other stuff?

Below I have attached Chucky’s Smile for the day. Go to his Terrible Minds site HERE to read it in the original.


If you want to be a real writer, like, a really real writer, a writer who does it right, a writer who is officially official and who will earn the respect of the rest of the tribe –

You have to write longhand. Forget your phone. Put your phone away. Your phone is just beaming nonsense into your head — telecommunications chemtrails. Real writers write longhand, on notes stuffed into secret underwear pockets. If you don’t have secret underwear pockets, then you are not a Real Writer. That’s just fact. That’s just science. You write your first draft on notes stuffed into underwear pockets, then you write your second draft carved into a fundamental surface: driveway asphalt, a granite countertop, the stump of an ancient and magical tree. (Hemingway once famously carved THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA into the back of an impudent busboy.) When that’s done, eat some bees. Because writers, Real Writers, definitely eat bees. Writers also all have English degrees, or they all die. It’s like water to fish. We need it to swim.

Also, kill a goat. TRUE writers kill goats. But you gotta kill the goat in a real specific way. You have to get a goat, then yell into the goat’s ear the full text of your first rejection letter. You scream it into the goat’s ear at top volume, then as the goat is reeling from the disappointment borne of such rejection, you seize the moment and snap its neck. (Though Edith Wharton famously dispatched her goats with a blunderbuss full of dynamite.)

Of course, none of this is true.

Because all writing advice is bullshit (though bullshit fertilizes). I’m writing this thing because once in a while we are treated to missives from well-meaning expert writers who have come to believe that The Way They Write is the Only Way To Write, because their process has been tainted by the strong smell of Survivorship Bias. “I survived this way, and so you must, too.”

There exists no one way to write any one thing, and as long as your writing has a starting point and an ending point, I think whatever shenanigans go on in the middle serve you fine as a process as long as it gets you a finished book heavy with at least some small sense of satisfaction. If you’re not finishing your books, you need to re-examine your process. If you’re not at all satisfied with your work, then again: re-examine that process.

And that’s it.

Everything else is just picking out drapes.

If you need a handy flowchart reminder, here’s my ARE YOU A REAL WRITER chart, written by me and designed by Rebekah Turner. Feel free to share!

Don’t care how you have to keep yourself honest. Don’t care how you have to do it. You just find a way to keep writing.

lp

P.S. If you’re in need of the right tunes to get your fingers plopping along the keyboard, feel free to slide over to this week’s BEAT.

Chuck’s Writing Plan


LP: Chuck, the mic is yours.

Chuck: Thank you, LP. Hey, wow, nice place you got here.

LP: Yeah, thanks. It’s really coming along. If you want I can show you the upstairs, or the back yard. Get you a glass of ~ (watches Chuck remove revolver from hip holster and wave it erratically while clearing his voice into the mic.  LP runs away).

Chuck looks around, lights ciggy with revolver replica and begins.

———

HOW TO PUSH PAST THE BULLSHIT AND WRITE THAT GODDAMN NOVEL: A VERY SIMPLE NO-FUCKERY WRITING PLAN TO GET SHIT DONE

Life will never be kind to the writer. Particularly those who stay at home. You go to a full-time job outside the house, everyone gives you a wide berth to let you do what you need to do. Stay at home to write a book and everybody interrupts you like all you’re doing is watching a Teen Mom marathon on MTV while chowing down on pizza-flavored Combos and Haagen-Daaz.

Life intrudes upon you. It kicks down the door and stomps all over a writer’s practical aspirations to write. Kids. Dogs. A full-time job. A part-time job. Cleaning. Cooking. Pubic grooming. Xenomorph invasion. Hallucinations. Masturbation. LIQUOR AND MONKEY WRESTLING.

As your shoulders bear the burden of carrying the multiple shit-sacks of life’s daily ordureoutput, it gets easier and easier to push writing aside: “I’ll do that tomorrow,” you say, and next thing you know you’re in diapers once more, this time at an old folks’ home gumming chocolate pudding topped with a skin so thick you need scissors to cut it. Procrastination is the affirmation of an unpleasant and unwelcome but all-too-easy status quo. You merely need todo nothing and yet at the same time feel productive because you’ve promised no really I’ll pinky swear to put down some words tomorrow. You know what I want to say to that?

Tomorrow can guzzle a bucket of vulture barf.

Yesterday’s gone the way of the dodo. You have one day, and it is today.

Your promises are as hollow as a cheap-ass dollar-store chocolate Easter Bunny.

I’m going to give you literally no excuse at all to write and finish that novel. You know the one. The one that lives in your head and your heart but not on the page. The one you always say, “I’m going to write that book someday.” The one you talk about. But not the one you write. The one that makes you blah blah blah “aspiring” rather than the “real deal.” I’m going to give you a prescription for a writing plan that is simple, straightforward, and contains zero heinous fuckery. It’s so easy, a determined ten-year-old could do it. You will have no excuse. None. Zip.

Fuck-all.

Because if you come back to me and say, “I can’t do that,” you might as well have told me, “I can’t pick myself up out of this pile of mule poop I accidentally rolled in. I’m literally just bound to lay here in this once-warm now-cold heap of mule turds. Forever. Until I die. I have no self-capability and I am less motivated than your average sea cucumber. Please kick dirt on me, and if the word writer ever comes out of my mouth again, just slap my face.”

Further, if someone tells you they aren’t able to write a novel — “I don’t have time! My life is too busy!” — just send them a link to this post with my blessing.

Ready? Here’s the rules:

THE BIG 350

You’re going to write and finish the first draft of a novel in one year’s time.

You are going to do this by writing five days out of the week, or 260 days out of the year.

You are going to write 350 words on each of those 260 days.

That means, at the end of one year, you will have written 91,000 words.

More than enough for an average novel length.

To be clear, 350 words? Not a lot. At this point in your reading, this post is already 500 words long. You can sneeze 350 words. It’s like a word appetizer every day. Some days it’ll take you 15 minutes, other days two hours — but you’re going to commit to those 350 words every day, whether you type them out, or scrawl them in a notebook, or chisel them into the wall of your prison cell. You will carve these words out of the time you are given.

You get 24 hours a day. As do I. As do we all.

Grab a little time to write a little bit every day.

THE GOAL

The goal is not to write a masterpiece. It’s not to sprint. This ain’t NaNoWriMo. The goal is to finish a novel despite a life that seems hell-bent to let you do no such thing. It is you snatching snippets of word count from the air and smooshing them together until they form a cohesive (if not coherent) whole. It assumes a “slow and steady wins the race” approach to this book.

A finished first draft. That is the brass ring, the crown jewels, the Cup of the Dead Hippie God.

THE OTHER RULES

No other rules exist. Next question.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Wanna do an outline? Great, go for it. Edit as you go or all in one lump? I don’t give a monkey’s poop-caked paw how you approach it. Do as you like. Just hit your target of 350 words per day.

Let me say that again: Just hit your target. Don’t turn off your targeting computer. Don’t listen to that weird old man. Use your targeting computer, Luke. The Force is some flimsy hoo-haw made by a bunch of loveless space cenobites. No, not those cenobites, goddamnit you’re confusing your movies. Stop fiddling with that ornate-looking puzzle box. CRIMINY.

Wrote more than your allotted and expected count in one day? Fuck yeah. High-five. Fist-bump. Slap-and-tickle. Give unto yourself the pleasures of the flesh and celebrate that you’re this much closer to the end goal. Didn’t write today? Well, goddamnit. Fine. Guess what? It’s only 350 words. Cram it into tomorrow’s word-hole. That’s still only 700 words. It’s not even a 1000 words. Some writers write that much before they wake up in the morning.

Make a spreadsheet if you have to. Track your 350 words per day (you’ll probably end up writing more than that consistently and hitting your tally quicker, particularly with a spreadsheet to remind you — you will discover it’s actually hard to stop at 350 words).

The word count is small enough and steady enough where you can comfortably fuck doubt right in the ear. You’re creeping through the draft like a burglar. One step at a time. Relax. Breathe. Like that one fish says to that other fish in the movie about all the fucking fish: Just keep swimming. Or for a differnt metaphor, you know how you eat an elephant? ONE BITE AT A TIME.

CONTAINS ZERO FUCKERY

This is easy! You can do this! You can do better than this! This is a plan on par with, “Do one push-up every day.” This is, “Don’t pee on the salad bar.” This is a bare minimum, common denominator, common sense, zero fuckery writing plan. You can’t do this, you don’t want to be a writer. You don’t get to be a writer. Not least of all because you can’t carve just a little bit of fat from your day to sizzle up 350 words in your story-skillet.

Lend this plan a little bit of your time.

Give this plan a little bit of your effort.

And in one year’s time, you will have a novel.

It won’t be a masterpiece.

It will need editing.

But it’ll be a first draft of something real.

Something many so-called “writers” never achieve.

One year.

Weekends off.

Just 350 words for 260 days.

Shut up and write.

Acid God – 100 Word Challenge


Chuck’s challenge this week is to run for 100 words – no more. Now, I pass it on to you, the intrepid writers out there. 100 words. No more.

~lp

giphy

“Just shut up and drink it,” Drake said, pointing at the glass filled with green liquid on the wooden table.

“No,” I said. “It looks disgusting. Besides, I’m Jewish. I don’t drink non-kosher shit like that.”

“Fine, then just picture it made with holy water and Body of Christ,” he said. “There’s something you’re not telling me, and I need to know.”

“Doesn’t work like that,” I said. I paused and rethought. “Fine. You wanna know?”

I tipped the drink back and spat it in his face.

Drake’s face smoked melted. He howled in pain.

“I’m a god,” I said.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things – a review


sregard

Pat has to be one of my favorite fantasy authors. I was introduced to fantasy literature at a young age, but relatively late compared to the others who were already in the community. But, once I was in, I was in to stay. Pat’s opus, The Name of the Wind, is one of my favorites of all time. His prose lulled me deep into his story, and the way he wrote character, setting, and plot, were all very much magically spiced within that sapid fantasy stew. It was a book I didn’t want to end.
But it did, and I was sad, but I went on with life. Slowly. The first thing I did was look for the sequel. It wasn’t out. It wouldn’t come out for a while – a long tear-jerking while. But it finally did, and I couldn’t read it. Why? Because the series wasn’t done. It’s still not done. The one thing about Pat is that he takes a long time to write a book. But I don’t see this as so much a bad thing as something I need to have more patience with. Let’s face, he writes good books, and for that I’ll gladly wait. Now we have to be honest. There does come a point at which the time is taking a bit too long, and maybe Pat pushes that. But, who am I to criticize. He’s the one writing the books and were I in his shoes I’d tell my appreciative readers that they can wait. Well, maybe it’s not that black-and-white. But you get the idea.
The point is I thoroughly enjoy the series so much that I cannot bear to read two-thirds of the way through it and then wait for years for the final installment. Nope. Yep. I’m that guy. Some people think I’m crazy. But I’m not about to read seven books in a ten-book series and find out that the last two books aren’t projected to hit the market for three to five years. Sorry. I don’t want to risk forgetting the story. It’s that simple.
But let’s get to The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I was intrigued, not just because Pat released another book, but because it was a book that he himself doubted, a book for which he was tossing piles of preliminary apologies to his fans. I didn’t get it. He’s the writer. He can do whatever the (INSERT EXPLETIVE HERE) he wants. But that was what he was doing. He was unsure how his fans, his public would receive it, and it seemed that he was almost afraid, anxious, as to what their opinion of him would be.
When I cracked open the book, he did the same thing I had been hearing, almost apologizing for the book. “Some of you will like this, some of you won’t,” was how it started. He said it wasn’t all the things that most traditional fantasy books (or books in general) had in them. There was no plot, conflict, arc, etc. It was just, as my friend explained, the thoughts of the little girl.
The little girl – Auri. I have been so intrigued by this girl and I was very excited to learn more about her. So, I read it.
And I thought it was great.
You’re right, Pat, it wasn’t the same book that many fantasy fans, your fans, expected. You’re also right that it didn’t have all the ingredients many books in this genre have. But I agree with what your friend said to you over several (okay, more than several) beers that night. “Fuck those people.” This was written because you wanted to listen to Auri’s voice, and Auri wanted to speak…and this is what came out. And that’s all we need to know, right?

For those of you thinking about reading SR, I must say that I agree with Pat. You will find yourself amid a world of words without a lot of direction. This particular piece of art was not painted or wrought with the same tools as many in the community tend to use.
It’s like watching someone across a crowded room for hours. You hear her voice, see her interact with a few people, but that’s it. Then, you’re invited into a day in her life, just to see how she lives. She shows you. It may be what you expected, or completely against that. Either way, we get what we asked for.
Slow Regard is a look into the truthful and honest mind of Auri in the Underthing. It’s the girl we wanted to learn about, and when the book closes, we get what we asked for. Nothing more, nothing less.
If you’d like a closer glimpse at Auri and her mind, please open this book. If you are comfortable where you are and don’t want to take chances, stay where you are. Either way, thanks Pat. I, for one (and I know, many more) enjoyed this.

The Language Brew


Language and Art

Some see language as a tool of pragmatism. Something that will, much like the first car you get (or didn’t get, or wished you had) in college, help them get from point A to point B. I can see that. Makes sense. You have to get through the day, talking with all the people you need to talk to.

I never really thought about it that way, but when it comes to language I guess I’m much more romantically oriented than that. There’s a glorious and exquisite art that comes along with language, I believe. Words are not just as the pragmatist views them, a selection of banal curvy blots which are bandied about to pick some sociolinguistic padlocks. They’re purposeful and meaningful. They’re beautiful in their shape, and collectively, in their form.

Language, in all its lithe sensuous ways, is an active and invisible omnipresence without which we would be still, I dare say, trudging through the noisome muddy filth of the Middle Ages, wondering how we managed to show up in this god-abandoned reality. It is, I would argue, principally because of language, in all its agile beauty, that humanity has produced the civilized social corpus it has. Our transportation, our gastronomic blessings, our clothing, our games, our humor, the wonder of our kind, has largely language to thank.

Daily we can hear everything from the philistine “fuck you” to the comfy and linguistically aromatic “How do you do?” Brusque, rough, and rude, the hifalutin, the rich, the aristocratic, all intermingle within a wonderfully language-seductive brew.

<<shakes head>>

I’m very happy to be even a mote of this sweet puzzling glue which ties us all to one another. What a wonderful thing.

Goodbye, Brittany.


I cannot remember a time, I’ve heard the voice of Courage this loud – LP

“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more. The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”

Brittany Maynard
1985 -2014