Waiting for Inspiration: A Writer’s Morality Play

Waiting for Inspiration: A Writer’s Morality Play In Half An Act

The players, Three Fairies:

Inspiration-a classical sparkly-winged tinker-bell type

Motivation–a rather weasely looking fellow in the mode of a low rent Puck

Discipline–a 500 pound gorilla in a tutu and obviously taped-on wings

The scene:

A gray stage, empty save for a gray desk with a laptop and two chairs.

Discipline: It’s nine, let’s get to work on this manuscript.

Motivation: (Nervously) Don’t you think we should wait for Inspiration? She was here at the beginning.

Discipline: Yeah, and she’ll be back at the end to take all the credit, just like always. Between now and then we won’t see hide nor hair of her.

Inspiration: (In the wings) Just to show him, I’m not going to come help with their stinky old manusc—Oooh, shiny. (Turns away, the sounds of bells and sprinkled fairy dust fade into the distance)

Discipline: Are you going to help me with this, or not?

Motivation: I don’t know. I really like Inspiration. She’s almost as good as deadlines for getting me moving.

Discipline: Speaking of dead lines, if you don’t get your ass in that chair and write some good lines, dead is exactly what you’ll be. (Cracks enormous knuckles and glares at Motivation menacingly)

Motivation: Let me see about that next scene opening….

Discipline: There we go.

The moral: Motivation rocks when it’s there for you, but Discipline is what makes deadlines. Forget Inspiration.

(Originally published on the SFNovelists blog February 11 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Self-Promoting Authors Anonymous

With apologies to the original: The Twelve Steps for self-promoters:

1. We admitted we were powerless over sales—that our careers had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that surrendering to a marketing machine greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity–our publisher’s publicity department.

3. Made a decision to turn our books and our careers over to the care of the marketing department as we understand it.

4. Made a searching and fearless sales analysis of our self-promotional efforts.

5. Admitted to our readers, to ourselves, and to another author the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have marketing remove all these defects of shameless personal promotion.

7. Humbly asked our publicists to gloss over our marketing shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all the readers we had disappointed* and became willing to make amends to them all**.

9. Made direct amends to such readers wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were marketing ourselves again, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through blogs and other direct means to improve our conscious contact with readers as we understand them, asking only for knowledge of their will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a promotional awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other authors, and to practice these principles in all our impulses toward self-promotion.

*by promoting ourselves when we should have been writing

** by writing instead of trying to do the jobs of our publishers and their marketing departments

Hi, my name is Kelly, and I’m a self-promoting author.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog February 27 2008, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

More Story Dreams

The first was a typical fantasy quest dream except for a detail which I am totally putting in a book. My weapon was a length of rope with an unbreakable, intelligent, talking, immortal box-turtle on one end–a magical, talking morning-star, and a remarkably cynical one to boot. The turtle had not volunteered for this mission, thank you very much, nor had it signed up as a companion and mentor to heroes. Nope, it just sort of happened that way because it had all of the above-mentioned qualities and a remarkable inability to run away whenever the next damn hero came along. …Must write.

The other was a writers dream. Big castle hall, young mages squatting on the floor waiting their turn to demonstrate their magics and earn a place at the table of the great. Only, all the mages were writers–it looked like World Fantasy but with a lot more leather. Oh, and I got to follow Bear in the competition. I’m not sure whether I’m happy or sad that I woke up before I got my chance to compete.

This glimpse into my subconscious provided by lack of sleep inc. All opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent any endorsement by the sponsor.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog February 21 2008, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Dear Feline Collective

Re: Proposed change to new lapsharing arrangements/monopolization of space normally used for writing.

It has come to management’s attention that some sort of agreement has been reached amongst the feline members of the household in re: lapsharing (the process by which writer-in-residence lap time is arranged). Said agreement seems to involve a continuous rotation of laptime amongst the four younger cats, said rotation working not unlike a relay race.

While such feline cooperation is laudable in terms of the increased level of inter-feline amicability, it does have one rather severe drawback. To whit, displacement of the laptop belonging to the writer-in-residence. Which fact, in turn, causes a significant loss in potential productivity.

For more notes on same, see attached charts. Chart one maps the difficulty of typing whilst a cat is resting her head on the writer’s wrist (Isabelle). Chart two shows reduction in productivity directly related to cats frequently licking the thumb used to manipulate the trackball (Ashbless and Nutmeg). And, of course, chart three shows the total loss of productivity caused by the repeated smashing of a cat’s forehead into the nose of the writer-in-residence (Jordan). Please contrast this with the lack of impediments to productivity caused by laying in front of the heater some yards from the writer-in-residence’s place of writing (Leith) as outlined in chart four.

Management would very much like to see more laying about near the writer-in-residence during the hours of production and less laying on the writer-in-residence during those same hours. Management proposes an increased distribution of treats and decreased amount of abruptly dropping cats off of said lap to offset lost laptime. Further, management is open to other possible compensation to be proposed by the collective.

We eagerly await your response.

All best,
Management (speaking for the writer-in-residence)

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog January 31 2008, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Old Noodles

Found these in an old writing thread (circa 2002). Someone had sent a friend some added stanzas for the song “That’s Amore.”

So the original verse looked like this:

When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie
That’s amore.

Someone else had added these, among others:

When an eel bites your hand
 And that’s not what you planned
 That’s a moray.

 When our habits are strange
 And our customs deranged
 That’s our mores.

Which led the following to crawl out of my brain:

When a Greek serves you wine
and the vase tastes of pine
That’s amphorae

When the man on the stage
Croons songs all the rage
That’s Mel Torme

When the cook in the kitchen
Makes food that’s bewitchin’
That’s a gourmet

Here are two more really bad ones that I threw into the original post (I include these mainly as an example of the sorts of thing that I would normally delete and that my archivist insists should be saved for posterity):

When the queen of the elves
Makes men lose themselves
She’s a glamour fey

When the sound of your poems
Are drowned out by groans
That’s the clamor way

Generic Universal Blog Post

Clever title

Paragraph describing brilliant idea/latest (your area here) slap fight/cool new internet meme.*

Paragraph explaining relevance of same.

Paragraph relating topic to personal experience or expertise.

Pithy summation.

Appeal to readers to do the rest of your work for you.

*or insider joke for regular readers…like this footnote.

Jade Dragon: A Tragedy in Doggerel

In the year of the Falling Yeti in the century of Eviscerated Yak, the only jade dragon that has ever graced our world died, taking a perilous beauty with her. Due to the heresies of the Staggering Sloth cult five centuries later, all known pictures of the early dragons were destroyed.

Fortunately, the great poet Vash Tilborn was alive in the days of the dragon’s youth—a witness to her early glory, and the perfect man to describe her draconic magnificence.

Unfortunately, before he had the chance, he saw the transcendent dancer Aishen Bira dance her Portrait of a Jade Dragon. Whereupon, he put aside his quill and said that no mere words could paint the dragon as well the dance of Bira, and that he would not write of her.

Only one other poet was willing to venture onto the ground that Vash feared to tread. Some thirty years after the death of of Vash, Sjel Seastrand—known as The Incomparable for his ability to find exactly the wrong rhyme—laid down his own verses on the jade dragon.

The only contemporary art we have that references the most beautiful of all the dragons who have ever lived is this:

Jade Dragon:
She is big she is awesome.
Better than pig, better than possum.

That’s Snow Dragon, It’s a Madcap Adventure!

Matt Kuchta and I have a now well established madness to our methods. It starts out with a suggestion for some sort of thing we can build or break or film or make.

For example, Matt says: “Hey, Kelly let’s build a white elephant in Neil Gaiman’s backyard.”

The next thing that happens is escalation. I go out to the yard and look around and think: hey, look at that giant mound. Then I come back with: “Screw elephants, let’s make a dragon, a really really big dragon!”

Now in the real world the next thing that happens would be someone talking us down. But here in the Land of Hijinks, the next question is generally: “When can we start?” Or, “Who’s crazy enough to help?” Or, “High speed, time lapse, or stop motion?” Or, “I wonder what sort of pictures we could take with the finished product…”

Then you get things like this:

IMG_4674 - Version 2

Photo: Kelly McCullough

Which looks like this from above (230 feet from nose to tail tip):


Photo: Kelly McCullough

And like this, with yours truly in the Vallejoesque role of the slave girl being rescued by the heroic barbarian…or something like that:


Photo Matthew A Kuchta

Or the filmic version of the construction (Video link for those who can’t see the embed):

(click on space above if video doesn’t appear immediately)

Building the Snow Dragon from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.

So, that’s how things happen here in the Barony of Madcap in the Land of Hijinks.

More of Matt’s marvelous photos of the process can be found at his Flickr set.

With many thank yous to our enablers and volunteers, in this case: Todd Zimmerman, Ethan Zimmerman, Mandy Little, and Laura McCullough. And to Neil Gaiman for supplying the snow and the setting, and to Woodsman Hans for help on the snowblower front.


The Author With and Without Makeup

Over on twitter, Michael Thomas (‏@michaeldthomas) said: Now I want to see side by side pics of SF pros in and out of makeup.

So, on the left we have the without picture, and on the right with


Photo credit: Tesla (Aldrich) Seppanen on the left, Matthew A Kuchta on the right.

Meditations on the Shiny

Shiny is one of the great drivers of story. It’s the thing that makes you go “Ooh, I want to tell that story!” Shiny is also the thing that makes you say “Ooh, I want to tell that other story!” when you have not yet finished the last one. Shiny is the yin and yang of writing.

Shiny is to writers as balrog is to elves.

I must not shiny. Shiny is the story-killer. Shiny is the little-death that brings total distraction. I will face my shiny. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when the shiny has gone past I will turn the inner eye away from its path and finish the damn story. Where the shiny has gone there will be nothing. Only the current story will remain.

Shiny makes the world go…ooh, is that my tail? *bats at tail*

Don’t go to the shiny!
But it’s sooo beautiful!

Shiny is the butterfly effect of literature.

Shiny is the butterfly of conflict floating above a milling maelstrom of cats.

I can see clearly now the shine is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way.

Is this a shiny I see before me, its sparlky toward my hand?

Alas poor shiny, I knew…is that my tail? *bats at tail*

Hark what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and shiny is the sun…

What’s shiny, my precious? Is it juicy? Gooey? Yucky? Is it….scrumptious?