Friday, July 22, 2011

Lightning Storms and Bookworms (Or: Electroshock Therapy for the Diddling Artist)

Much of myth grows from nature, and we can mine it for something more enduring than oil or coal. Here's an attempt to bottle lightning into language and continue my explorations into why summer fascinates us so.

Ride the lightning

Just when you think it can't get any more humid, it gets more humid. That's how it is around here. We wait for skies to darken, because dark skies mean storms, and storms might bring lightning.

Lightning changes the summer routine. It rumbles the floors. Lights up the skies. When it comes at night, it steals from our sleep. We complain with admiration. All beauty must have a cost.

Lightning storms remind that things fall apart, branches snap, windows rattle, and that we must build against the entropy. Chaos is an ingredient, not an endpoint. We crouch on porches and revel in the loudness.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Building a Platform or Walking the Plank?

Web presence has become a near obsession for much of society. In publishing communities, it tends to get called "platform," and the basic flow of conversation has been to insist on its importance. Recently there's been some push back. Livia Blackburne, for example, argues:
I think blogging is a waste of time... we haven't created effective platform. What we've created is a never-ending writing conference... you also have to look at the opportunity cost.
Last week I suggested that writers need to cultivate the anti-social as well as the social, so I'm not a social media evangelist. But I still think that most time-wasters are symptoms and not diseases. I waste a lot of time because I enjoy wasting time, to some degree. Or because whatever I "want" to be doing has flaws that I haven't quite come to terms with. Call it cowardice, or patience, but not addiction.

I have a well-tuned radar for distraction, to the point that I've actually praised boredom as a possible antidote. In the end, though, deadlines have a way of pushing out distractions... if we can manage to arrange the right deadlines.

Other developments are potentially more troubling. We can always stop wasting time. But what we build online endures, like a bad neck tattoo. What if your platform not only doesn't build a writing career, but also kills the non-writing career?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do Your Words Sound Wrong? (Secrets from Science)

A New Scientist article explores the sound of words and how this relates to meaning.
a spate of recent studies... suggest that we seem instinctively to link certain sounds with particular sensory perceptions. Some words really do evoke Humpty's "handsome" rotundity. Others might bring to mind a spiky appearance, a bitter taste, or a sense of swift movement.
I assume this will surprise few writers, since many choose their words with both sound and meaning (inextricably) in mind. Fiction thrives on the belief that words are more than arbitrary letters (this post goes deeper into this). Character names are also often chosen for their sound, which probably explains why so many protagonists/villains have similar-sounding names.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Are Bad Spellers Better Reporters? Are Good Spellers Better Poets?

Virginia Heffernan has an article in The New York Times on "The Price of Typos." In it, she observes:
Good spellers are often drawn to poetry and wordplay, while bad spellers, for whom language is a conduit and not an end in itself, can excel at representation and reportage.
I consider myself a decent speller, largely because I tend to google words I'm unsure about. Spell checkers help, too. I do like wordplay (and poetry), so this might be accurate enough when it comes to me. How about you? Good speller? Bad Speller? More reporter or poet?

Monday, July 18, 2011

So We Rode the Boredom Like a Racehorse

The Guardian declares that "boredom is coming back into fashion." It proves this with a very long article on boredom, touching on everything from Peter Toohey's Boredom: A Lively History to TS Eliot to Kierkegaard.

Andrew Anthony, author of the article, admits:
I approach the threat of boredom much like a claustrophobe greets a cramped lift.
Boredom brings with it the terror of a wasted day, a wasted hour, a wasted life. A Waste Land. Fear in a handful of a dust... 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sometimes We Wait for Miracles (Or: Stuff I've Been Reading)

If I broadened "Stuff I've Been Reading" to include "Stuff I've Been Watching," this post would feature not only Breaking Bad on DVD, but also the Women's World Cup. That ends today, with the United States the favorite over surprising Japan. That should leave plenty of time for reading next week. (Right?)

The List:

1. Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi. He got a lot of buzz last year for The Windup Girl. This is his first YA novel, not a followup. The storytelling is more streamlined and the narrative is much easier to follow.
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