Thursday, May 16, 2013

On Being "Busy"

Status Update:  my impressive buffer of beans continues. If I had a penny for every coffee bean sitting in reserve, my apartment would get robbed by a meth-head looking for copper, if pennies were still made of copper. Which they aren't. Writing continues at a regular pace.

This week's piece is going to be a response to Chuck Wendig's last flash fiction challenge, which involved rolling a dodecahedron with unique numbers on each facet twice and cross-referencing the results on a table filled with arcane and surprising entries and then using the resulting collision of genres as a story seed. It's going well. It's fun to write. Tomorrow--noon--is the deadline, which is a bit problematic because I'm lazy and do my writing much like I do everything else in my life: hastily and at the last possible minute. And on the weekends if it at all possible.

I enjoy flash fiction. It lets me pretend I'm writing a story but does not take up a large amount of my time. I can then use the remaining time to do what I do best: fuck-all.

More seriously, it's a good exercise. You have only so much space to develop character and drive the story along. You have to use a critical eye to weed out frippery and hoohah which distracts from the important stuff. You can't take that five page diversion to talk about your Grand Theory Of Simian Logic or introduce needless characters simply because you really feel the need to vent about that prick who took the last box of jelly donuts at the store.

But it is something of a distraction. I'm working on a few things which are slowly developing into novels. Every piece of flash fiction is time I'm not spending writing the next chunk of Cameron Webb or fleshing The Axe In The Tree into a full length novel or novelating (it's a word if I say it's a word, dammit) any of the other stories I've written this year.

There's nothing stopping me from using the time freed up by writing flash fiction to work on longer pieces, but I have a hard time changing gears from one project to another. I'm not a multitasker.

It's mostly about priorities, which is a thing everybody struggles with. Every time the subject of writing comes up, it seems that people are always "too busy." It's just one of those topics that triggers that response, sometimes before anybody else even starts discussing it. It's the same with anything: getting back to the gym, sorting out your financial bullshit, doing a marathon, frying up the world's largest pancake, whatever.

Nobody ever has time for that. I've written damn near 200,000 words this year and I can assure you that not once in this entire period have I ever sat down at my computer and not thought of all the other things I could be doing at that point such as (here's a list! Writers love lists!):

Having a beer, going for a walk, watching a movie, hanging out with a friend, grabbing some Taco Bell,  turning on the TV, playing video games, organizing the shit on my coffee table, clipping my finger nails, surfing the Internet, listening to the radio, sweeping the floor, going shopping, building a model of the Devil's Tower out of mashed potatoes (it MEANS SOMETHING), reading a book, reading, well, just about anything except what I'm about to write.

I would rather do every single one of those things before sitting down to write. But then I stop and think of the end result. Just about every single one of those things are things I do anyway and have no real lasting impact in my life. I will not remember drinking that beer or going for that walk in a month. I'll probably remember reading that book and of course, I'll still have that Devil's Tower mashed potato sculpture, because that shit is seriously awesome, but the rest? They're short term goals.

The people who say they're "too busy" are actually saying "I've decided at some level that what we're talking about isn't very important to me and haven't made it a priority in my life but I still wish that I could have done it...but not enough that I'm willing to clear out free time which I actually do have and put in the work."

You just have to stop and think about what's important and make it a priority. If you chisel out the time because something's important enough for you, you'd be surprised just how much time you actually have. That short term stuff can wait--it'll always be there if you want to go back to it.

This week's story uses "Splatterpunk Noir" as a seed. It's fun. I like noir. I like gore! They're two great tastes that taste great together, like Oreos and, uh, raw meat.

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