Tomahawk 02/15/21

Writing is such a funny thing.

It snapped cold here. We got about a foot of snow. Temperatures around -7F (with the windchill, it felt like -27). I was at home, craving a watermelon Monster. These Zero Sugar Monsters are delicious. But I couldn’t go anywhere, because snow. My boots don’t come in the mail until tomorrow.

I woke up at 6:30am and started working on Dying World. Then I looked out the window and I thought about the weather. And wanting a Monster…there was something there. Something different.

Then I thought about this article that I’d read a long time ago:

EL RENO Okla. (Reuters) – Just over a year ago, tribal elder Gordon Yellowman watched on the TV news as a mile-wide tornado roared toward the homes of his Cheyenne-Arapaho people in Oklahoma.Tribal elder Gordon Yellowman wears his Sundance priest garb in the field behind his home, in El Reno, Oklahoma June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

Sirens blared, warnings were issued and many people rushed to shelters as the weather radar warned the funnel cloud brewing would be massive and deadly.

But Yellowman and a small group of the elders huddled to perform an ancient ritual that would turn the tornado away.

“We spoke to it in our language,” he said.

After the ceremony, whose details are hidden to outsiders to protect its potency, the tornado barreling toward the Native American tribe in the red dirt state took an unexpected turn and veered away, a move not part of any computer modeling for the funnel cloud.

The El Reno tornado on May 31, 2013 was one of the widest recorded at 2.6 miles (4.2 km) and killed eight motorists – four of them so-called storm chasers. It hit just days after a tornado killed 24 people in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.

Although there is no scientific data to prove it, the rituals seem to work.

Then I thought about Tomahawk, the sequel to Black Gum and A Minor Storm. I originally had conceived of it as taking place during one game of disc golf, but I couldn’t find a way to make that structure work. It started to feel like DeLillo’s baseball game, and I got bored with it.

But it came back this morning. Controlling the weather…using a tomahawk to tame weather…the inevitability of storms…the connection to A Minor STORM.

And like that, I was tapping away at a book that I’d put on the backburner.

Dying World continues apace, between 800-1000 words per day.

Now I’m working on two books.

Writing is funny like that.

Early Morning Writing 02/14/21

I know a guy who for a time was very prolific. He’s a cool dude, laid back, has a good job. He would write his books in the morning. He’d wake up at about 4 am, then get to work for a couple hours before he had to take his kids to school and get ready for the workday.

There’s something to the “just waking up” part of the day that lends itself to creation, I think. It’s almost like you wake up and then the responsibilities of the day begin piling up, and you can’t focus on the thing anymore.

It’s hard to get into a “flow state” if you’re thinking about work, or your kids, or your responsibilities.

But there’s something else going on, as well.

I remember in one of Mitch Horowitz’s books, I think it was The Miracle Club, where he’s talking about one of those old Positive Thought guys, maybe it was Neville Goddard, who said that the best time of the day to meditate is about 3pm. It’s when you start to get sleepy. Nap time, basically. That’s when the veil is at its thinnest, when you’re closest to the dream world.

You could say the same thing for early morning.

A have a cup of maca and Stamets 7 mushroom blend when I wake up. Then I heat up some bone broth and put hot sauce in it to clear out my sinuses from the night before. Then I dive in.

I’m consistently nailing about a thousand words per morning this way. Because you’re not thinking about anything else, and you’re closer to that subconscious puzzle-solving abstract brain…the type of brain you need for creation.

I’m going to start implementing another hour-long session around 2:00pm, because 3:00 doesn’t work with my schedule. But at that point, I will turn off all devices, hide my phone, and meditate for about ten minutes, and see what comes to me.

In this way, I’ll be on Stephen King’s level, hitting about 2,000 words per day.

Do you know how much output you could have at 2,000 words per day? Look at the size of King’s books. That’s 730k words per year, if you never take a day off.

And I’m not sure you should.

This is possible if you make the decision to really be a writer for the rest of your life. It’s a low barrier to entry: it’s about 2-3 hours of work per day. But it’s intense work, intensely focused, and it must be protected at all costs.

We’ll see how it works.

Other Sources 02/13/21

I decided recently that I would stop getting my news from American sources. UK sources, as well. I think I know enough about the Western World from the standpoint of The Cathedral at this point: politicians say a bunch of stuff and people get mad, then they don’t follow through and the other side gets mad. Concessions are made to corporate interests, fear is spread as far and wide as possible, and no one has an idea of what the world actually should look like, or maybe there are no stories to represent this.

Might as well see what the rest of the world is up to.

I go to The Japan Times to see what’s going on over there. They’re pretty concerned about the virus. They’ve been doing well as far as keeping deaths low. Recently, they closed down ten prefectures.

I went to the Swedish NPR. They’re also concerned. Sweden is seen as this country that just said “fuck it,” but when you read through their news (which, from here on out, let’s just accept that all news is skewed one way or the other) you find that they are actually deeply thoughtful about the best way to approach the spread of c****. They just went a different way. It’s better than some, not as good as others. I think it’s been pretty solid so far.

They also have stories on skiing and ice bathing. Swedes, man.

In Nigeria, they’re concerned about That Thing. There was recently a shooting at a protest at an anti-police-brutality at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos. The protest is led by a comedian named Mr. Macaroni. The shootings were brutal.

Putin recently told the WEF and the Great Reset to go fuck itself.

It’s all very interesting. I think I’ll continue to ingest my news this way. It seems reasonable to get your information from a variety of sources, none of them unbiased, and then piece together your understanding of the world as best you can from that.

It’s the “One Reality Tunnel” model that gives people brain poisoning. If you don’t understand the other side, you’ll have to assume they’re crazy or evil.

Which…they might be! But you can find that out for yourself.

William James 02/12/21

I’m doing some research into William James for the next episode of No Country. I came across this YouTube video that gives a good primer and overall feel for James’ ideas. The speaker is entertaining and funny.

I’m particularly interested in what James called our “ontological wonder-sickness.” I wonder if it’s gotten better or worse than it was back in his time. I have a feeling the answer to that is worse…but I truly have no way of knowing.

It seems that in our hunt to quantify everything, we’ve lost any real sense of mystery in the world. People do strange things all the time, but any identification of strangeness appears to upset people. If you’re really into bugs, that’s a little weird. But also cool!

I will report back on my findings after I read A Pluralistic Universe.

Chase Your Blocks 02/11/21

Yesterday’s suggestion from two separate friends to surprise myself turned out well. I became unblocked relatively quickly, and rallied a blocked day into a cool 850 words. It wasn’t the 2,000 I was hoping for, but it’s better than playing video games all day.

Talking to a third friend today (yes, I have three friends), we were discussing this “surprise” technique, and I came to a complete epiphany:

Most people chase inspiration, but the successful writer chases their blocks.

The reason for this has to do with the split between the Conscious and Unconscious Mind. Inspiration, as far as I can understand it, occurs when the Conscious Mind feels as though it is doing something fun, it is on the right path, etc.

But the UM is operating on a different level. It wants to do something completely different from the CM. And that’s why being blocked is the cousin of inspiration.

Chasing a block means that you are entering into a difficult situation. You will often be throwing out a lot of material that your CM thought was necessary to the book It thought It was going to write. It will cling to those ideas because It believes that is the way for you to go.

All a block is trying to do is point you towards the fact that it’s actually the UM that writes books. In my case, at least, and perhaps in yours.

There’s a sort of “aha!” moment that is different from the elation of inspiration. It’s a moment that feels correct and true. And it has only ever occurred when I have subverted my own conscious expectation of what was to come, and obeyed the undercurrent of my own Creativity, the Thing That Keeps Me at Arm’s Length.

Dreams require sleep, trances require drugs or deep meditation, and access to Creativity requires diving into the difficulty of the Block. There you will find the river of Creativity, and you’ll be able to swim in it, or be carried along by it, until it closes off again (usually in a few thousand words, max). You can jump back in as many times as needed, but there will always be that block, and it will require sleep, meditation, or focus to get back in.

You have to stop chasing inspiration and chase the block instead. That’s the key.

Mix it Up 02/10/21

Writer’s block. It happens. It hits you and sometime you feel like there’s nothing you can do about it.

Some things to consider:

  1. Who is really blocked here? We consider it to be some fault of our own. We’d rather spend our time doing something else. But what about those times that we really, really want to write?
  2. All creativity is communion with the Source, otherwise known as Creativity. Everything comes from these sources, including spirits and thoughts.
  3. Maybe it isn’t you that’s blocked. Maybe there’s a block on the other side?

Basically:

What if Creativity, or at least the way it interacts with you, isn’t content to stay on the same path as you? Perhaps there are people who have been given a familiar who is perfectly aligned with their work ethic. They can conceive of an idea and see it all the way through because it is as though they have a partner in all of this.

What if your creative partner is no longer interested in the thing you were working on yesterday?

Perhaps the best thing to do for people like us, who are either ourselves ADD or have spirit partners who are, is to take a step back and throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.

I got the same advice from two different friends. One said to have a spontaneous anal sex scene. The other was a bit more subtle: “surprise yourself.”

That’s what I did, and it worked. No matter which end is blocked, surprise will fix it.

Narration 02/09/21

The weather has dropped here considerably. It went from the thirties to the zeroes in a matter of days. I drove to pick up Rios on the ice, then drove her back on the same.

It’s great weather, I think. I love it. If I didn’t have to drive on it.

Nothing better than being warm and inside when it’s butt-ass cold outside.

I was thinking today about narration. I’d had a Monster Zero Sugar Watermelon Flavor that hurt my stomach a bit, but I was amped and by myself and I’d just gotten done writing about 2,000 words on the novel, which is a nice clip for novel writing. In fact, it might be necessary once you get to the second phase.

Anyhow, I decided that the narrator should be a more prominent part of my books. I feel like this used to be a commonplace novel technique. You get the sense when you read fiction from the 19th and 20th centuries that there’s a person behind those words, who is telling you a story.

Somewhere along the line, this fell out of fashion. Maybe it was due to the rise of film and genre fiction, but books began to resemble movies. A series of scenes with a narrator becoming ever more invisible as the books went on. A stern-faced and disconnected god watching over the foibles of its creation.

I would like to see narrative voice come back a bit. Palahniuk always writes in the first-person, or at least as far as I know, but you always know that it’s him. This leads to a “problem” if all your books are supposed to be narrated by different characters. Less so if it’s narrated by one character: The Narrator.

A modern narrator should speak to their audience as though they are living in the 21st century. There are worries from people who say that it might sound “dated” in the future, but lol if you’re thinking about someone reading your book fifty years from now.

Plot, character, style, all of these things are important, but maybe none so important as voice. A wise man once told me that people listen to podcasts to hang out with friends they don’t have…why not the same for a novel. Look, we both know it didn’t happen. We both know its fiction. But we can journey together.

You can create a vivid and sustained dream even if you’re explaining how the dream is constructed. In fact, that might be the best way to do it.

Tags 02/08/21

I need a license plate for my new car. I drove by the tag agency at 8am. I saw a long line out the door, stretching down the block. I thought to myself, “fuck that,” and decided I’d come back around 10am. So I did. No more line!

I walked in and saw everybody sitting around, waiting.

I asked someone, “Do I take a number?”

She said, “You have to get here at 8 and wait in line. They take your name down, and then that’s all the customers they have for the day.”

So I’m going to go out in 9-degree weather, and potentially sit at an office all day long. If you thought bureaucracy was bad before, ooo wee, has it ever gotten worse.

I have all the stuff that I need to get the tag, so I’m hoping it runs smoothly after that.

Sometimes when I think about the way that the world is going, I begin to feel helpless. It dawns on me that I’m going to be standing in lines until I can’t stand anymore. I’ll be in line to get vaccinated, in line to get my biometric data tag, in line at airports, waiting in hotels for weeks to get cleared by their health services, on and on and on.

None of this is going away.

There are people who don’t mind doing these things, and that’s fine. It sucks that it becomes a requirement to live within a society. More rules, more distance, fewer faces, more screens.

For some people, that’s hell. I’m one of them.

When I’m standing in line at a grocery store, sometimes I wonder if anything is going to be worth it in the end. It all feels pointless.

But most of life is good, I suppose. I’m being creative, and I have a great family, etc.

I’m very skeptical of people who won’t just admit that all of this sucks.

End of rant.

Overexplaining 02/07/21

Almost every major problem in a manuscript comes from a lack of confidence in the audience.

Let’s assume an author has all the basics down. They can string a sentence together, they understand how to develop a well-rounded character, and they can put all of that into the context of a plot that unfolds at a good pace.

From there, the next major hurdle is to let go and internalize the understanding that every single thing you write will not be understood by every single reader. Trying to fortify this will end poorly.

One person takes a shoe bomb on a plane, we all have to take off our shoes. Don’t bring this into writing. 99 of your readers shouldn’t have to slog through equivocation so that all 100 of them are on the same page.

A Thing happens. It’s explained why. In the writer’s mind, they are listening to a critic, saying “wait…but how did this character know that?” The writer explains. The critic continues: “hold on…if they knew that, why didn’t they do this?”

On and on this goes, until you’re writing in circles.

Many a long manuscript is made longer this way.

YouTube channels that outline all of the “logical inconsistencies” of Star Wars movies have poisoned many people’s brains. If something doesn’t make sense to them, that means it’s bad. Doesn’t matter if it’s their fault that they don’t get it.

The customer is always right, in some people’s minds.

I’m suggesting that you do away with that. There’s a difference between being intentionally obtuse (which, surprising no one, I’m also for) and simply saying, “hey, I left enough there for you to bring it all together.”

“Plot holes” are like potholes: they’re only a problem if they completely fuck up your car.

Idea Farming 02/06/21

It’s bizarre, the things that come out when you’re working on a novel.

I’ve worked on Dying World for four years in fits and starts, and it wasn’t until I had a solid 10k word “toolbox draft” (updated from the “investigative draft” I wrote about yesterday, shouts to Kelby Losack for that) that I felt the freedom to slow down and write.

I had something in the back of my mind that the book needed to be done yesterday. Or maybe I was misinterpreting that signal. Maybe I needed to be done assembling the tools yesterday.

Snippets of this novel’s false starts are now littered all over the draft: the ice cream selling in Portland, the deer-headed man, the long bar conversations about Alex Jones conspiracies. They’ve all settled nicely into place. They just weren’t the whole book.

It can seem a bit daunting to consider that four years of ideas are going into one piece of work. Will I have to wait another four years to accumulate enough shit to do it again? I don’t think so, and here’s why:

There’s no reason to suspect that those four years of ideas actually took four years to form. There’s no reason to suspect that they wouldn’t have shown up anyway if I’d used a similar process four years ago.

The sea of ideas is huge. They’re swimming out there waiting to be caught. The David Lynch Masterclass really shifted my thinking on this, moreso than his how-to book, Catching the Big Fish.

In the Masterclass, Lynch says, “If you want to make a movie, all you need is 70 ideas.” Through a process of quiet meditation/reflection, free of distraction, you will catch more than 70 ideas. It might take a few weeks, maybe it’ll take a month. But once you put those 70 ideas down, they begin to mix with each other. They create chemical reactions. They reproduce with each other, making offspring ideas. You’re now an “idea farmer” on the little plot of land that is your new novel.

It’s a beautiful rainy day. I hope your weekend is off to a great start.