Writing hack anyone?

Don’t mind if I do…

Yesterday I had my second go at Twelve – a twelve hour writing lock-in at the SA Writers Centre. That’s it. No tricks. Sit down, write. Go.

Was it good? Yes.

Should you do it? I don’t know.

Let me explain.

It’s good

Damn me, but it’s good. So good it hurts.

It hurts physically. I lost myself so thoroughly that I forgot to move for hours on end.

It also hurts creatively. At hour 11, just to keep pushing, I found myself writing when I had forgotten how to write a proper sentence. How can that be good for me? Because, despite that, I was still writing. The neurons were firing, the bits of my brain that I need to keep limber and elastic were being worked – perhaps overworked – but they were still going. Any other day, I would have stopped writing, but I kept on.

I guess, in a way, I was hacking my own brain. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing.

Is it for everyone?

I truly don’t know. Even if I knew you, if you were a close personal friend, I wouldn’t know if you should do it.

For me, seeing other writers writing whenever I look up is an incentive to keep writing. It’s a tonic.

It isn’t pressure, it’s the opposite. We’re all there by our own hand. We’re typing, scribbling and creating because we want to. It is almost inexplicably good.

For anyone else, I can’t say. The way we write, the act of writing, is personal and individual. All I can say is that I think it might be worth having a go. You might discover something about yourself as a writer that you never knew.

That’s enough from me for now. There’s a great big pile of words I need to go and read. This time, they’re mine.

Where is the hope?

Recently I listened to an action-packed, science and sci-fi friendly podcast from studio360.org. There are so many fascinating and stellar ideas and names in the Will Sci-Fi Save Us podcast that it would fill up a week’s worth of blog articles to go into it. Think of everything from David Brin to the Benford brothers and you have a hint. Add in a touch of electric sheep and blade runners… and I know you’ve run off and are ignoring the rest of this article.

One of the main themes at the start of the podcast was the notion of the loss of hope – or the onset of dystopian popularity – in science fiction.

I am not here to say what’s wrong about that. I’m a fan of both China Miéville and James Tiptree, Jr. (aka Alice Sheldon). You couldn’t get much further from hope than the stories of dear Alice. But I am also a fan of hope.

To quote the podcast: “…everybody ‘knows’ that good science fiction is grim…”   But it hasn’t always been so and it doesn’t need to be that way. As David Brin says “It’s so easy to make money with a tale that says ‘our civilization is garbage’…”.

So, the more hopeful your sci-fi story the harder it is to sell? Yet author after author has done just that. I can give you examples, but it is best you discover them for yourself. No spoilers here.

I won’t leave you hopeless though.

As a way to celebrate National Science Week I’ve written a short-short that has a smoking gun of hope. It was done as a writing challenge, so it’s under a hundred words and in the first person, but a story it is. Enjoy.

Found

a short story by Rosalie Wodecki

“Oh, my god. I can’t believe it.”

I looked back over my shoulder. My family looked as stunned as I felt.

There was smoke rising from a chimney in the rundown house on the hill. There were no flames nearby. No trees burnt from lightning. But there was a garden. I couldn’t remember the last time we had seen a garden. My youngest probably wouldn’t even know what it was. We’d been walking for so long.

I touched my wife’s arm. “We’re not alone.”

For the first time in what must have been months, we’d found it. We’d found hope.

 

Cracked wide open

greenhouses in a row, black and white photoIn the next couple of weeks we’ll be having an opening night and I’ll be giving an artist’s talk for a group photographic exhibition. As well, I’ll be doing my first live reading of an unpublished short story.

Somehow these creative pursuits have all snuck up on me. Or sneakily come out into the open. It doesn’t seem that long ago that most of this was hidden comfortably inside.

I don’t know when it started, although with words it grew from my love of reading. Photography is from watching and appreciating too. From there the story gets more complicated. When did it all turn outward?

I don’t think I want to overanalyse it, but I do want to take a moment to appreciate it.

Some years ago I was told to take a personality test. Oh, yes. You know the sort of thing I mean. I can hear you groaning.

It tagged me as ‘not the creative type’. Whatever that means. When people wield clipboards at you like this it’s best to laugh and back slowly away.

Next time someone tells you that you’re something you are not, do one of two things. Do you not like what you hear? Make sure you take it as personal insult and allow it to drive you to make it totally untrue. If you like it, roll with it and make it your own.

We all have our natural inclinations, but it doesn’t have to be the whole of us. Dig deep, encourage that sense of wonder and see what happens.

You might be surprised by what you unearth.

Dear librarian

a photo of a book titled "one thousand beautiful things" with a rose on the cover, next to a little Lego manThe walls were beige and the floor was beige. The chairs were plastic and the tables flimsy and chipped. Yet this room was more full of life and colour than my most vibrant dreams.

This was my first library. A place overflowing with books. Shelf after endless shelf of them, reaching far above my young head.

My library also had a little games room. A table, two chairs and a beanbag. It was the warmest and most welcoming room on the planet. I felt safe there. Safe and happy. The word sanctuary seems too thin to convey just how good it was.

Of course, I shared this space with other children and adults. I didn’t mind. A place of books draws in people who love books. That’s not to say that all people who love books are lovely people, but it does attract people with a similar frame of mind.

And at the centre of all of these books and book-ish people was the Ringmaster. The librarian.

I don’t know her name. Oh, how I wish I did. I would hunt her down, hold her in my arms and pepper her forehead with the gentlest of kisses.

In one way, it doesn’t matter. Librarians the world over provide access to knowledge, share with us their beautiful collections of books and, almost unwittingly, they provide shelter.

Each librarian probably has a different way of welcoming you. My librarian was of a kind who felt that all books were good books, even the bad ones. She has left me with an unbiased love for any book. I’m as at home with Luminaries as I am with the Little Fuzzies. Whatever it is, I’ll try not to judge it by cover, genre or price. Every one gets at least one chance. Maybe two.

So, from the bottom of my papery heart, dear librarian, I wish to say thank you.

Thanks for every bright little word. Every grand word. Every long and winding sentence. Every page, every author, every book. Thank you and your amazing house of words.