Not Enough Time

notenoughtime_lifehackdotorg

Image Source: Lifehack.org

So this will be a (much) shorter than usual blog post, but readers may realize that I missed a blog post yesterday.  Simple answer: too much work for class.  I did all my readings, but I needed to post a response to the readings on the class discussion board.  That response (written at breakfast time) took up all my time and I had no time left for writing a blog entry.  Sorry about that.

Time just seems to get away much quicker than I realize on days that I have class.  I’ve tried alarms, notifications, even SIRI to help me be more productive, but sometimes the readings take longer than I anticipate or sometimes it takes longer to write the responses.

Perhaps if I dictate my blog entries as I’m preparing breakfast, then I won’t have to lose that “creation” time if I still have something else to work on in the morning (I try to only have the blog to work on in the morning, if possible) as I can only seem to complete one or two writing tasks while doing my morning routine.  Perhaps as I struggle through this summer course, I’ll find a process that works for me creatively and consistently.

 

What’s in a Name?

alternate-author-names_creative Indie

Image Source: Creative Indie

I was once told by a Creative Writing professor to just use your real name when you are trying to publish your work.  Her reasoning was thus: it is hard enough just getting published, why shouldn’t you get the credit instead of some made up, fictitious persona?  That reasoning sounded fair to me, so I chose my real name–Sidney Blaylock, Jr.

This is seems like a reasonable name–nothing to exotic, right?  A first and last name, or in the parlance of naming, a given name and a family name.  My father, for whom I’m named, is still living, so the suffix Jr. (for Junior, aka Sidney Blaylock “Junior”) is literally what my name translates to.

However, if you wanted have a complete bibliography of my work, you’d need to look under the following names: Sidney Blaylock, Sydney Blaylock, Sidney Blaylock Jr., Sidney Blaylock, Jr., Sydney C. Blaylock, and Sidney Blalock.  All of my published work, be they short-stories, comic books, or articles have been published under one of these variations on one simple name: Sidney Blaylock, Jr.

Normally, I wouldn’t care–when I see my name misspelled on letters and such, I don’t generally make a big issue out of it.  I simply raise my eyebrow and note that the person or entity doesn’t know me as well as they they should (esp. if they’re trying to solicit me for money) and move on.  In the days of computer assisted sites for bibliophiles (such as Goodreads or LibraryThing) it makes a difference as Sidney Blaylock Jr. (without the comma between the last name and suffix) is an entirely different author than Sidney Blaylock, Jr. (with the comma in between).

My later publications have been much better about the standardization of my name, but some still miss the comma and that means that I have fewer publications listed on Goodreads and LibraryThing than I actually have published, which in turn makes it hard to build up an audience/fanbase of readers.

So I urge you, next time a name comes across your consciousness–take a moment to look at, to really look at it, and make sure that your idea of what the person’s name is actually matches what they wrote.

Writing Without Sleep

Sleeping_while_studying_NeuWriteWest

I don’t know about you, but when I don’t get enough sleep, my writing (& thinking) tends to suffer.  I feel as if there is a “blanket” (sorry for the stretched metaphor) between my brain and my fingers.  I can write, but it is much harder to think, to find the perfect word, to extend my vocabulary, or to make connections in a meaningful way.  This was brought home to me this morning as I tried to write a “response” to the reading for my class today.  I did not sleep well last night, so I got up early to finish my reading and to write my response.

I might as well have been a zombie for all the effectiveness that I had.  I finished my “response,” but I do not feel proud of it.  It seems like the connections that I would have made simply would not come. I have a study that I cut from my local newspaper that showed that research has shown that sleep is essential for creative thinking.

But what happens when circumstances do not allow you to get the sleep you need?  Life isn’t always going to cooperate with your need for sleep to enhance your creativity (or to keep you creative if you’re already creative).  I did the only thing that I could, I plowed through the best that I could, but I don’t really feel satisfied with the results.  This is a question that I’m going to have to work through as a writer, how to do my best work when life won’t allow me to be at my best?  I didn’t waste time and I scheduled my time as best I could, but even now, as I write this, I’m wondering (in the back of my mind) is there a better way of expressing this, am I being too pedantic, does this blog entry even make any sense at all?

Unfortunately, I won’t know until after I’ve rested and looked over it.  And what will I find when I do?

Rough Draft vs. Working Draft

roughdraft_wikihow

Image Source: WikiHow

Rough Draft = Present Tense (Visualizing the story)

When I write the Rough Draft for my stories, I’ve discovered that I tend to write in the present tense in order tell myself the story.  This where I “Tell, don’t show.” When I write my rough drafts, I could almost call these “discovery” drafts because I’m discovering the story and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.  I’m trying to accurately put on paper the visuals that I see in my head and that means that I’m not worrying about the audience.  I’m trying to make sure that my plot makes sense (what’s happening in the story), the characters make sense (their motivations and why they do the things I envision), and the setting makes sense (where everything’s happening).  This is where all the notes that I’ve taken/written down about the story get put into the structure of a story (Exposition, Opening Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action/Resolution) to see if they work correctly as a story.  I’m simply relating to myself what I “see” in my mind and trying to accurately form/shape it into a story.

Work_In_Progress_cucsadotorgdotuk

Image Source: CUCSA cucsa.org.uk

Working Draft = Past Tense (Dramatizing the story)

The Working Draft is sort of my shortened name for a “Work-in-Progress Draft.”  This is where I do the REAL work for the audience.  This is where characters names get finalized, this is where dialogue becomes more than a place holder and is what I believe that the characters really would say.  This is where vivid details and description comes into play, this is where I really begin to try to “Show, don’t tell.”  I try to find places to show emotions, to appeal to the five senses, and to foreshadow events crucial to the rising action and the climax.  This is where my goals as the creator meets the needs of the audience.  How can I best tell my story (that I came up with in the Rough Draft) that engages and exhilarates the audience?  What techniques or effects can I use to maximum effect?  This is where I do the “hard work” of writing.  And the cool thing is that it isn’t set in stone–if I’m happy with the draft, I can stop and move onto the editing and submission phases, but if I’m not happy, I can go back and fix what isn’t working (which I did for the ending of Silence Will Fall) or I can start all over and re-draft the whole thing again from scratch–which I plan to do for Rocket-Man.)

I believe that a lot of my trouble (& I would suspect other writers as well) comes from the fact that for stories where I don’t lay the groundwork and do the rough draft (or the outline, or any of the other myriad words for prewriting), I find that the Working Draft RARELY (if ever) matches the vision that I had in my head for the story.  And the opposite is true, I find that the more I use rough drafts and the more I use prewriting strategies, the more confident I am in the writing process and the more enjoyable the Working Draft stage becomes.

They Call Me, Mr. Lobot

lobot_starwarsdotcom

Image Source: Star Wars

Earlier this spring, just after school was out for summer, I found myself wanting a pair of bluetooth headphones.  My wired headphones (Sony) lasted quite a while, but finally went to the great headphone round-up in the sky some time ago.  I’ve found that, for some odd reason, my engagement with my writing improves when I’m listening to music.  It improves tenfold when I can shut out everything else with headphones and just become one with the music.  My uncle was HUGELY into classical music and every afternoon and evening when I came home from school, I did my homework with music playing in the background.  I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not a dancer and I don’t think that I can dance (I only move in time with the music; I’m not sure that on any planet where there’s human habitation could you even begin to call what I do dancing–probably not on any alien planet, either, but I digress).

As an adult, I’ve found that I use music sporadically–sometimes I put it on and the projects seem to go much better, smoother, and easier.  Sometimes, either I feel I don’t need it, I’m not in the mood, or (like previously) I don’t have the right equipment (i.e., no headphones) and I’m not nearly as effective as I once was in writing (& then I wonder why nothing comes/or I can’t get to come out the way I see it in my mind–go figure).  I really wanted a pair of Apple Airpods, but they were too expensive at the time and were going to take six weeks to ship, so I looked on Amazon and found a pair that I really liked and that were fairly cheap as I plan to get Airpods later in the year.

Airpods_Apple

Image Source: Apple

So I bought a pair of Senso Active Bluetooth Headphones (pictured below).  However, I didn’t realize that the bluetooth earphones were as big as they were.  When I put them in and then looked at myself in the mirror (with my bald head), I discovered a distressing fact: I looked like Lobot from Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back.  For this reason, I’ve not really worn them for any length of time until today.  Today I discovered just how much that I’ve missed the music and how much music plays a role in my writing/creativity.  All those years of listening to classical music during the school year and doing my homework and all those years of jumping around to WJTT Power 94 in the summer has really “wired” (or perhaps “re-wired” my brain) as I seem to enjoy a boost to creativity to my writing when I’m listening to music and it is a palpable increase.  Even as I write these words, looking for all the world like Lobot, music is coursing through my ears into my brain and the words are flying out of my mind and on to the computer screen.  My bloody fingers can’t even keep up; if it wasn’t for auto-correct, then this post would be filled with typos.

Senso Active Bluetooth Headphones_Amazon

Image Source: Amazon.com

The point I’m trying to make is that even though I look foolish, the boost in creativity (& hopefully productivity) is well worth it.  So call me, Mr. Lobot.

Hope I’m not Overdoing It

calvinandhobbeswriting_pinterest

Image Source: Pinterst (Calvin and Hobbes, Created by Bill Watterson)

Every since I was a lowly undergraduate, cruising the English Department offices at U.T. Knoxville (& later U.T. Chattanooga) and seeing all those wonderful English related comics strips taped to professors doors, I’ve thought to myself that I’ve always wanted to something like that “when I grew up.”

I’ve never been one for customizing my “workspace” as the colleagues who I worked with at the public library can attest and I’m rarely at my workspace to begin with if I can help it.  However, you could always find one or two comic strips (like the one I found above by Bill Watterson) adorning my workspace in some capacity–either on the desk itself or in a drawer or stuck unobtrusively to a wall.

Now that I’ve completed a year at MTSU, I’ve begun to do the same with the small cabinet  that I was assigned in the Graduate Teaching Assistants office.  However, for some reason, I also find that I want to add copies of the first pages of my published work.  I hope I’m not trying to “show off” or “impress” the other G.T.A.s (nothing good comes of me trying to show off–I’ve learned that  through HARD experience).

white-papers_greensoul

Image Source: Greensoul

Yet, I feel the need to customize my space, and to say, “hey, I’m a creative writer and this is what I do.” Perhaps, it is because at this level, creative writing is somewhat frowned upon.  There’s this idea that you’re not a true academic, that you’re not truly one of us, if you’re not writing papers for conferences, for (academic) publication, and for scholarly pursuits.  Perhaps, customizing my workspace is my need to say, “no, my creative writing is just as hard and matters just as much as your academic writing, maybe more so, because I’m doing both . . . your academic writing and my creative writing.”  I just hope that I’m not overdoing it and setting myself up for a fall.  It would be awesome to be able to put clips from both cartoon strips and my own published writing on my very own office door one day.

Keeping it Simple

simplenote_itunes

Image Source: iTunes (Apple.com)

When I write rough drafts for my stories, I’ve discovered that almost anything will work for me–notebook paper, notepads, scraps of paper that are around, the computer, the Notes App on my phone–pretty much anything that will allow me to get the idea into a fixed form.

However, once I’m ready to start drafting the “Working Draft,” I try whenever possible (for fiction) to move to SimpleNote.  I like SimpleNote because it is free (at least it was for me when I signed up at simplenote.com), but even more than that, I like it and use it because it allows me to quickly and easily sync between all my devices and as well as wherever I may be.  It has a website that you can use and log into, or an app that you can download.  I personally use the website on my laptop and the app on my phone and tablet.

For instance, I started Project OPaK on my phone at Walgreens Pharmacy while waiting on a prescription to be filled.  I hadn’t intended on waiting for the prescription, but since the pharmacist said that it wouldn’t take that long, I waited and in that time, I was able to write 3 basic paragraphs on my phone.  I can now log into my SimpleNote account on my computer and expand those paragraphs more.  Also, if I want to, as long as I log into my account and bring up the story beforehand, I disconnect from the internet while I’m writing to give myself a distraction free writing session and then when I reconnect to the internet, I only need to hit the little “save” button on the screen and my changes are uploaded to the server.

For me, SimpleNote gives me the flexibility to work on the working draft of the story pretty much anywhere even if the conditions aren’t ideal.  If I were ever to have enough time when school starts (which is doubtful) and I wanted to work on my story, I could log into my account on the school’s library computers or the writing center ones and use them to work on Project OPaK or any other story that I’m writing (so at least I know the capability is there should there be any downtime).  Now, before this starts to sound like an ad, there are many other apps that do the same thing/similar things (EverNote and OneNote are two that come to mind immediately), but in my quest to work “smarter, not harder,” I’ve found that SimpleNote helps to increase my productivity by allowing me to access my stories everywhere I go and it helps my writing process because I know that I always have access to the most current version of my story available for editing on SimpleNote’s servers.