Monthly Archives: May 2014

Writers & Musicians: How are they alike?

Have you ever gone to a writer’s conference where a group of writers didn’t have a musical jam session after the last meeting? I haven’t. I also noticed that many of the very successful writers were among those playing instruments.
I left my last conference wondering if there was a connection between playing music and writing. While still at the conference, I talked tone of the presenters, W.C. Jameson about a earlier speaker at the conference who also played guitar. W. C. looked surprised as if I was trying to trick him, then said, “I play music with him all the time. We never have to rehearse; we’ve played so many times together.”
When I returned home, I conducted a short review of the literature on the subject. I found there was an apparent association between high achievers, especially creative thinkers and musical talent. “Their experiences suggest that music training sharpens other qualities: Collaboration. The ability to listen. A way of thinking that weaves together disparate ideas. The power to focus on the present and the future simultaneously (Lipman, J., NYT 10/12/2013).”
The more I thought about the connection between writing and music, and the more I read, the more convinced I was that each influences the other. We really don’t have to go very far to see that creative thinking, listening skills, and weaving together diverse ideas, whether in music or in writing involve the same set of skills. Moreover, strengthening those skills is important to either pursuit as well.
I stopped playing music and participating in musical events when I left college. I felt I didn’t have time for frivolous pursuits. Lipman points out that many successful people keep up with practicing their music through their professional lives.
It turns out my hunch about writing and music was spot on. My conclusion from this is I should go back to playing an instrument and practicing music, if I want to improve my writing skills that is.

The Writer’s Existential Loop: Winners or Not

I have a writer friend who has worked on the same character conflict for about fifteen years – fifteen years! I wonder if she can call herself a writer. There must be another name for that. She seems to in an existential loop.
“Friend. Life is the same everywhere.
Erase/Rewind and henceforth.”
Devang May 16,2008 at 4:21 AM on

As opposed to her, I know another writer who took eleven years to write a book, then received top honors for her work. She was a writer the whole time. Both of them are writing and producing, but little. One was able to write to completion, the other may never complete her work.
Howard Howey began his Silo Series in 2011. He has written those and in his Sand Series in the last three years. I just finished the first of his Wool Series; I think it is one of the best written books I’ve read.
I think there is something to be said for someone who actually completes a work even if it is not published formally. Why? The definition of a Winner, Eric Berne, the creator of Transactional Analysis, used is this: ‘a winner is defined as a person who fulfills his contract with the world and himself or herself.’ That is, they are able to do what they set out to do.
So, for Berne, if an adult with mental deficiencies aspires to work in the cafeteria and lands a job in one, he or she is a winner. Likewise, someone who sets out to be a writer is a winner, if he or she succeeds to completion.
I like his definition because so many can fit the class of being a winner. The normal way of looking at it, someone who wins the competition, leaves many out.

New Book

Just finished Skean Dhu and the Pirates of Blacktom. It’s a story about a girl who is living with her parents on a remote planet. Her father is gone most of the time and her mother’s mental health is deteriorating.
She decides to run away from home and find herself. First she goes to the capital city of her home world. There she runs into a pirate she insults and has to run away from. From that point on, he is after her. He captures her three times, but she escapes.
Finally, he hooks up with villains called the Tanmaury Alliance. Together they attack the planet of Anzu where Skean Dhu’s mother was born, though Skean doesn’t know it.
Skean Dhu happens upon a goddess hidden deep in the temple caves on Anzu who transforms her from an ordinary girl to one with a sacred mission. When that happens, Skean finds out the truth about her mother, then goes out to fulfill her destiny.
It’s on the editor’s desk today. I don’t know the timeline exactly from here to my publishing Skean, but I think it will go something like this. She will edit it in about three weeks. I’ll get it back and make corrections. Then it will be published in July.
My next task is to edit the book I wrote before Skean Dhu. It’s called Red Maslem. I started editing it the day I sent Skean off. I’m on page 50 of about 244 pages. I think I’ll have it edited before the first one comes back.
Next, I have two other books awaiting final edits from me. Oy vey! No one ever told me having fun was this much work.

And the Living is Easy

I’ve been on my summer break for eleven days as of today. Today is the first day I feel like I’m not hustling to catch up. More importantly, I have written two short stories from the last day of school. Getting to be creative is the very thing that makes me feel like I’m no longer under the burden of keeping up with someone else’s work.
That’s not to say that I don’t like teaching, I do, but I love creative writing more and it is my writing that suffers if I get involved in working too much.
Now that I’ve allowed a burst of creative energy, I feel like getting back on my writing schedule of writing in the evenings when my wife is at work. I know several authors who write in the mornings, but I typically use that time to take care of chores. Then in the afternoon, it’s exercise time, nap time, then writing time.
There’s actually one more time when I work on my writing. It’s when I’m asleep. I can’t say that I do this all the time, but fairly often I dream about what I’m writing. Recently, I was editing my latest book and I had a dream about two of my characters and their relationship. The dream led me to edit in a significant change in the book that according to one of my readers, made the book have a satisfying ending.
I wish I had some direct control over when I was going to dream and which writing issues I am going to dream about, but I don’t. Not complaining, mind you, I’ll take what I can get from whatever muses or succubi press close to me during the night.

My Excuse for not Writing as Much in the Past Year

I finished my semester tests last week, then had to contend with students who clearly failed but expected to receive A’s.

Now that those issues have been put to rest, I’m back to writing and editing. I’ve already written one short story and edited it. It is pending acceptance. Then I began working on a second one. The first one is about a space salesman who sells the wrong thing to a planet with strong women.

The second is actually a part of my family’s history. I had a fourth great grandfather who was in the war of 1812 who had a stepson and a drunkard wife. He was gravely wounded in the war and thought to be dead. His wife applied for his pension.

About the same time, the stepson ran away and joined a ship’s crew only to drown off the coast of South America.

I’ve taken that story and reset it into a science fiction setting. So the result is a story partly based on true events.

It if fun to express my imagination again. As some of you know, if you have followed my blog for the last nine months, I undertook too much of a teaching load, and my writing suffered as a result.

Now that I am off for the summer, I’m catching up on my writing and editing. As with any writer, I think it difficult to find time to write when I’m working full time.

Next semester I will be teaching fewer courses, so I will not have the problem I’ve experienced for the last nine months.

Why I hate my Doppelganger

From pop psychology, we find that when we have a negative trait, we are more likely to see it in others. In doing so, we are less likely to think we have the characteristic.

Yesterday, I was sitting in a writer’s meeting. Everyone there was a local writer with varying degrees of experience. There was one writer in the meeting who interrupted others and went on about himself, his background, aspirations, and experience. He has yet to publish a word.

I would have found him more annoying if I didn’t realize that if I don’t watch myself, I have the same traits. I have to restrain myself from changing conversations from being about others to being about me. Interestingly, a doppelganger, a double of a living person, was sometimes portrayed as a harbinger of rotten luck in German mythology.

Other cultures had similar terms for doubles, they usually had a negative connotation, as well.

As I listened to my (psychological) double go on, I began to wonder how my traits affect my writing. Do I give some traits as negative and others as positive? Which ones do I keep for exceptional treatment and why?

To the extent I do that, my characters would probably take on a sameness that would flatten them. Instead of having each character be unique, they might be identical to others. In other words, do all my heroes sound the same, and do my villains resemble each other? To develop realistic characters, then, I have to examine myself to assure that I am not building them as a positive or negative likeness of myself.

This leads me to thinking about Socrates, who had a reputation for talking too much. He suggested that ‘the life which is unexamined is not worth living.’ Perhaps that applies to writers doubly.

A full quotation is: Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say that the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living — that you are still less likely to believe.