Monday, September 26, 2011

Productivity

[Please visit www.jasonkorolenko.com for updated content]

Most writers I know like to analyze every little thing they do, almost to the point of mania. We stress over whether to use the word insensitive or uncaring, and how either choice might alter the sentence in which it is used. For me, this goes beyond the writing itself, and applies to the process so much that it becomes practically obsessive-compulsive.

Example: I ate a mango for breakfast this morning, and then wrote two excellent pages. Therefore, I shall eat a mango every day. It logically follows that if I eat two mangos, I will write four great pages.

Meanwhile, the only words getting written are on my grocery list.

You might be wondering where this is all heading. Well, I've been incredibly productive in the past couple of weeks and I want to figure out why. This post is going to serve as that self-analyzation, and yes I realize it is entirely narcissistic of me (or should I use egomaniacal? Conceited? No, I think I'll stick with narcissistic) to think you would care. But maybe you'll find something interesting here, something you can apply to your own writing process, or something you can just apply to your own life. Because, as they say, writing is life and life is writing and blah blah fuckity blah.

I know what you're thinking: Such a pretentious bastard.

Anyway.

1. Remove Distractions:

This, of course, is not always easy. Day jobs. Bills. Whiny, needy children who, for some strange reason, have to put food in their mouths and tummies. Whiny, needy adults who also must eat to exist. Sleep. All these things and a million more stand in the way of writing good fiction because writing good fiction takes time. I say eliminate all these things. Quit your job. Don't have children. Drink only liquified nutrients fed from a straw--you know those beer hats? Invest in one.

Okay. I get it. You can't realistically do those things (except buy the beer hat, but you'd look pretty silly writing in one of those). But simplify wherever you can. Pull down the shades, don't put your desk in front of a window. Turn off the Internet, and for God's sake, stop reading this blog and get back to your damned manuscript!

2. Change of Scenery:

Get out of the house. Go to the park or to a bar or even a mall. Surround yourself with new and different people. Yes, I realize this almost completely contradicts what I just wrote, but guess what? These aren't rules. I don't believe in rules when it comes to writing. Do what works for you. I changed my scenery by moving to Brazil, which created a whole new set of distractions. Different language, culture, societal norms. (I refuse to do the beer hat thing here though, because the food is just too good.)

3. Just Fucking Do It:

You know what? I take it back; there is a rule in writing, and this one is it. You want to be a writer? Then write. You want to be productive? Then write more. Sit down (or stand, I don't care) and do it. No more excuses. Don't try to find the time to write. Make the time to do it.

There were more things I wanted to list here, but I have three short stories, a novella, a creative thesis, a novel, and an angry muse to get back to.

JAK

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Words Never Stop

[Please visit www.jasonkorolenko.com for updated content]

Another deadline passed, another submission sent. Hard to believe that I will be entering my final semester of grad school in just two months (three, if you count the vacation, which I don't).

The novel I have been working on for my MFA with Southern New Hampshire University has changed so much in the last year-and-a-half that it sometimes feels like someone else's work. It has been, by far, the most challenging--and rewarding--project I've ever suffered through. And I use the word "suffer" in the nicest way possible, relating as it does to passion and determination and unyielding persistence.

Eighteen months after beginning this novel, I finally see the end of the first draft in sight. For every page I've kept, I have probably cut two. An entire story line has been excised, some characters have grown up and turned into people I don't recognize, and others have been erased completely from existence. I have also changed as a writer, though it's hard to say whether the change is for the better or just...different.

So, even though the wind has been quiet on the publishing front, the words don't stop coming.

Once, a long time ago it seems, I co-wrote a screenplay called The Bond. Though filming was completed last year, I know it has been plagued by setbacks, disappearing scenes and missing audio tracks among them, so I'm not sure when it will see the light of day. This year, hopefully.

Halloween soon, but sadly, I will miss it this year. Here in Brazil, the tradition is slowly gaining a grassroots popularity, but no one really "gets" it. And those who do will never get it right. See, it is springtime here in the southern hemisphere, temperatures already beginning to soar into the low 90s. Life is thriving, flowers are blooming, birds are singing and mating. Halloween is reflected best in the end of the life cycle, not the beginning, and that's why our patron saints at this time of year are ghosts and demons and death. Here there are no dying trees, leaves lit up in flame. No gray, chilly skies and keening winds that sound like the cries of banshees. The air doesn't taste like woodsmoke and pine cones.

Halloween is connected to autumn by the season's decaying hand. As it should be.