Writing with a Block and a Handicap

How-Freelance-Writers-Can-Overcome-Writers-BlockRecently, I had decided to undertake a project that involves writing in a genre that’s different than what I’m used to.  For one, the project involves writing from first person, something that I don’t do very much since most of my fiction is done from a third person perspective.  Although, when it comes to building a character, I often have enormous troubles because of how it seems that there are cliches everywhere and I do try my absolute hardest to avoid falling into those traps.

To help out with this, I usually recruit the aid of a long time friend of mine who is not only an accomplished artist but also an expert character builder.  One of the reasons why they are so adept at this is because of how they see the glaring cliches and tropes that are done with characters in various media.  At least, for the most part if you exclude “Game of Thrones”, the Miyazaki movies and Homestuck.  It was during the discussion that I was having trouble trying to figure out certain attributes, interests and qualities to a character for this story that caused enormous frustration on their part.  And I made the observation that it’s probably due to my lack of social interaction that has been hindering me in terms of character building.

The observation made on their part was that I don’t understand people.

After making up from this small falling out, I started to wonder more and more about that.  Is this why I haven’t been published?  That not only are my ideas poor, my language atrocious and my characters flat but I also can’t seem to understand people very well?

So now comes the problem of not only writers block but writers block with a handicap.

And thanks to this parasite of depression that I still fight with for months at a time, I start to wonder if all the work I’ve done in writing all through college and out of it has been nothing more than a waste of time.  That I look back at all I’ve done and have nothing to show for it.  How can one look back on that and not feel so very foolish about it?

And now the question becomes, “What do I do now?”

[Photo source:  http://burningword.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/How-Freelance-Writers-Can-Overcome-Writers-Block.jpg%5D

When depression strikes

Image source:  http://guardianlv.com/2013/09/can-religion-and-spirituality-cause-depression/

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted and there are reasons for why there are gaps in the posts I make. I do try to keep what goes on in my personal life off of my blog but unfortunately this is unavoidable and it must be put out there.

The truth of the matter is that I suffer from depression. And I don’t mean the “depression” that people like to talk about whenever they’re feeling down, blue, melancholic or anything like this, this is the kind that lasts for days, weeks and even months. And certain aspects in my personal life have managed to compound and exacerbate the problems. As a result my craft in writing suffers because of it.

It’s a case where you try to find the will to do the thing that once gave you such vitality. That you hate going to sleep because there’s so much to do but when depression strikes all the vitality has gone out of you. The will to do anything is lost. And this is the reason why I haven’t been posting very much. Often I would get up and think, “why bother? No one is reading it?” By that point, I reach for the covers and pull them over my head.

I hope all of you, my loyal readers, can understand this and forgive a man fighting such a demon.

And I hope that you go forth into the world and remember this one thing: depression is a disease, not a mood.

50 Shades of Grey movie?

 

Just like before with “twilight” we the more intelligent audience members will be subjected to the popularity of a movie based on a book that was a fan fiction of an atrocious set of books. I, of course, mean “50 Shades of Grey” which was based on “Twilight”. Even the author E.L. James has admitted this herself when asked about the origin of the book.

That part aside, the entire story seems rather convoluted, trite and tried. For one, the setup seems a little too similar to the story “Bad Behavior” by Mary Gaitskills, which was made into the film “Secretary” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. Even James Spader’s character is named E. Edward Grey. Already the suspicions start mounting, don’t you think?

If there are doubts, have a look at the trailer for yourselves: Secretary Trailer (2002)

And for those who think that “50 Shades of Grey” is still the best “erotica” or “BDSM” fiction out there, I have a reading list for you:

“Lady Chatterly’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence

“Bad Behavior” by Mary Gaitskill

“The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy” by Anne Rice

“Exit to Eden” by Anne Rice

“The Story of O” by Pauline Réage

The Book of Life, Chilren’s Movies and Facing Reality

Coming this Halloween, there’s going to be a new movie by Guillermo Del Toro called “The Book of Life”.  A typical children’s underdog story about a man named Manolo who is torn between his families expectations and following his own heart.  And so he embarks on a supernatural journey and three tasks.

YouTube Link:  The Book of Life Trailer

The idea of the story aside, it does look to be an intriguing film, mainly based on how the characters are visually designed to look like puppets that one finds on Dios Le Las Mortes (Day of the Dead) and added to this is that the film takes place on the Day of the Dead, a holiday that isn’t given a lot of exposure in American pop culture because it’s so close to Halloween that it’s often overlooked.

But in the aspects of the underdog and making efforts to follow one’s own desires, I was thinking back to something that was spoken about by Stephen Fry (when asked the difference between British and American Humor). What he talked about in his opinion was how in America there’s this cultural notion of “optimism” and a “refusal to see one’s self in a bad light”.  Basically, that “life is refinable and improvable” (source:  Stephen Fry on American vs British Humor).  In a case of the Underdog Story it’s a case of where one can rise above their place and achieve what they want, such as getting the girl (as will probably be seen in “The Book of Life”) or winning the race even though you’re slow as hell (example:  “Turbo” from Dreamworks Animation).

In a way, stories like this are inspiring but there is a danger in putting too much stock in it.  What I mean by this is that it may setup the notion that you can win just because you’re an underdog, that you don’t even have to try that hard to win whatever you want.  All you have to do is be an underdog and be likable and somehow it’ll all workout.  And if you carry this idea through life, the disappointments that one will face are going to be devastatingly hard to take and the delusion of “not seeing ones self in a bad light” will be too engrained to really make any kind of change.

Another way to do an Underdog Story, which doesn’t seem to be done as much in America would have to be like what was done in the film “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”.  Now, anyone who has grown up watching the Peanuts specials on television or read the comic strips will understand this when I say that Charlie Brown is the ultimate underdog.  He’s at a position in life where he has so much going against him.  He’s fat, he’s bald, and he doesn’t really have a lot of skills going for him and despite going with the American idea of “Life being improved upon”, he just fails miserably at it.  The examples of this are laid out in the film, he tries to fly a kite and it crashes and gets torn up, but he comes back inside, makes another one and goes back out to try again.  He’s the manager of a failing baseball team and they lose nearly every game they play.  The only games that they win are the ones where he’s not around.

But then, in the same spirit of getting up and trying, he tries out for the school spelling bee.  He manages to beat his classmates, then he manages to beat the rest of the school and then he goes on to the National Spelling Bee.  At the end, it’s down to him and one other kid and he loses miserably and ironically because he couldn’t spell the word “Beagle”.  To rub salt in the wound of it, his own dog, Snoopy, is a beagle breed and one would think that he would know how to spell this word but in the true Charlie Brown style, he fails miserably at it.

So, he goes home a defeated man with his tail between his legs and spends the next day in bed with the shades drawn unwilling to get up and face the world.  But, his best friend, Linus Van Pelt, comes to him and tells him that yes, he lost the spelling bee.  Yes, he failed miserably.  Yes, he made a fool of himself.  Yes, he disappointed himself and everyone else at home because of it.  But before Linus leaves him alone he asks him one simple question:  “Did you notice something, Charlie Brown?”

Curious, Charlie asks, “What?”

And Linus tells him the most pragmatic thing that a child can say to another:  “The world didn’t come to an end.”

Afterwards, Charlie slowly gets up from his bed and goes out into the world and continues on with his life.  In a way, it is inspiring.  It may not be as inspiring as a snail winning the Indianapolis 500 (“Turbo”) or the quirky underdog getting the unattainable woman or anything like that, but still inspiring in a way.  It’s inspiring in an everyday man sort of way that tells us that through life you’re going to face one disappointment after the other, that you’re going to fail a lot, that you’re going to trip over your own feet but the world keeps on spinning and you have to keep on spinning with it.

The Brambles of Writing

I wanted to write this out because there have been too many times when I’ve been stuck in terms of my own writing.  It’s mainly an issue of trying to write anything down without the thoughts of, as indicated by the title:  the brambles of writing.

One of the issues that comes up when writing is the fight against cliches.  This I’ve found to be very true because I like to write in the areas of fantasy and horror.  And there have been numerous upon numerous internet sites and lists made by self-proclaimed critics talking about “Top Ten Fantasy Cliches” and “Grand List of Cliches” and so on and so on.  Ad infinitum.  And I have brought up this question many times before, such as in my posts of “The Battle of Cliches”:  if everything is a cliche then why should a writer keep writing?

Usually when I bring up this question to my friends they do try to be encouraging but others not so much, “Then stop writing.”  Hearing something like that almost reinforces the innermost voices of the mind that tell you to give up.  Even then, it’s hard to give up, especially when one has put so much of themselves into such an art (or craft, depending on who you ask).

But in asking others to look at your work is another layer of this wall of brambles that I wanted to bring up: other people.  I’m sure many of you out there have faced this where you encounter “critics” who just not only tear apart your work but leave you with a sensation of defeat.  A sensation that all that work was for nothing, like a finely made cake that had been shoved off a table and splattered on the floor.  You pick up the pieces and try again and it still doesn’t seem good enough.  Of course, some would look at that and say that it’s “whining” and that one should “toughen up”.  Or the ever more popular “man up” line.  Or perhaps the more internet level comment, “waaah, wahhh, poor you.”  But, writing is an art, and an artist isn’t made of stone, no matter how much one tries to be, don’t you think?

I find this true when you have multiple people wanting different things from a story and that brings up another issue as a writer:  walking the thin line between writing for yourself and writing for an audience.  This issue comes to mind because of the various discussions I’ve had with one of my friends about Japanese anime and how predictable it is.  And how she has a tendency to complain about something being “cliche” or “typical” and saying in the truest of internet fashions, “WTF!” at something that she doesn’t agree with.  I see all this and I can’t help but think of these things in application to my own writing.  I find myself thinking, “Is any of my stuff like this?” or “am I doing things better than that?”

So, there are all these factors, fighting cliches, facing critics, revision, dancing that line between writing for ones self and an audience that it really is enough to drive one crazy (or enough to drive one to start drinking).  So the question in the end is how does one face all these?  Does one really have to make themselves into stone?  Or has everything been written about so much that there’s really no need to do it anymore?