The Perils of Creative Expression

I’ve been working on a new poem (goes up tomorrow). I got a draft done pretty quickly, forty-five lines across three pairs of stanzas, lots of nice imagery, all of that in about twenty-five minutes. I had a super clear image, a theme to work with, and a form that rapdily emerged from the way the thing arranged itself in my head. Not my fastest work, but still pretty good for a first draft. I spent another five minutes over the rest of the day reading it and making small adjustments and then sent it off to a reader for a quick review. I was expecting a comment about the end, that it would feel very abrupt or like it shouldn’t have been the end, and that’s the comment I got back. See, I had more I wanted to say, but I couldn’t find a way to say it, so I tried to wrap it up there. After all, not everything needs to go into one poem. But clearly it was missing something, so I decided I’d spend some time today to work on it.

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Illusions of the Past and Flash Fiction

I kind of miss the old way I used to run this blog, with a different type of content for every day of the week. It was a very creatively enriching time in my life and I really feel like I grew as a writer during that period. I was also at my healthiest, mentally speaking, during that period. My inclination is to chalk all of this up to a wide variety of writing, heavy structure, active participation in numerous creative projects that included working with people for feedback, and the rewarding feeling of sharing it all someplace other people could see it and respond to it. Unfortunately, things aren’t actually so simple as that. Like most things, the truth of the matter is more complicated.

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Worldbuilding Is Only Done When The Campaign Is Over

I have created an entire Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting (multiple major and minor plots included) from nothing but a pile of unrelated notes that aren’t even from the same genre in about a week. It was an exhausting, draining, and incredibly focused week of non-stop effort, but I managed to get it all done. It helped that it was similar to some other ideas I’d been wanting to explore, so I managed to swing the perfect trifecta of “interested,” “excited,” and “well-rested” required for a feat like that. Most of the time, it takes me a bit longer than that to get a campaign off the ground, from concept to ready for the first session (Session 0), but it rarely takes more than a few weeks. That said, the settings are never done. There’s always more work to do, more research and development to continue to chip away at, and so many basic ideas that need to be fleshed out.

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Generous Reading On The Internet

There is this idea in literary criticism (also writing education and peer-to-peer creative writing) frequently called “generous reading.” The basic idea is that you assumed the best as you read something. You don’t ignore flaws or pass over opportunities to provide the writer with suggestions on how to improve, you just lead with the assumption that the writer is being satirical rather than an idiot. That someone writing about a topic that is typically deeply personal has knowledge of that topic in their own lives. The basic idea has started to creep into some of the more positive social media spheres I’m in, and I think there’s a lot to be said by reading the things people post and say on social media in a generous way.

I won’t deny that generous reading can be abused. It absolutely can and a lot of the worst elements of the internet rely on at least a fragment of it as a tool to bludgeon people who called them out for their clearly shitty opinions. As a result, practicing generous reading on social media can be dangerous if you’re not caught up on all the latest dogwhistles and trolling techniques. Even at my most hopeful, I always suggest taking the time to review a social media user’s history to make sure they don’t have a track record of awful behavior before extending the such generosity if you’re unsure whether or not they’re being an asshole while trying to pretend they’re not an asshole.

Most of the time I think it should be more liberally applied is in the lengthier writings of people on the internet. Blog posts, super long twitter threads, articles, and the various other places media is shared should all get a bit more generosity than most social media, since posting those places requires a good deal more effort. Which isn’t to say people don’t abuse those platforms to hide their dogwhistles and assholery, just that it’s usually easier to tell when they’re actually being awful and someone is less likely to build a whole website around the idea of being able to dogwhistle while flying under the radar.

There’s no hard and fast rule on whether or not you should read something generously, unfortunately. It is difficult to detect satire when it is done well and the longer the internet survives, the more it seems like the people being satirized are just taking the satire as a challenge. I’ve seen articles from The Onion that have passed from “clear satire” into “barely scraping the surface of the awful things we’ve seen in reality” in just the last decade. I spend a lot of time trying to decide if I’m willing to be generous in a reading on social media and I frequently find myself deciding against it. After all, it has been abundantly clear for years now how any attention is good attention on social media, so sharing things in order to dunk on them only helps the thing or person you’re trying to dunk on.

In longer-form media, though, I find it a lot easier. So often, readers know almost nothing about the writer of a work they’re enjoying. Only in recent decades has information about an author become readily available, and that looks like it might not last much longer as more and more writers turn toward anonymity and pen names in order to protect their identities from trolls and the various mobs of the internet. I feel like it is worth giving people the benefit of the doubt by default and only changing my mind when I find a reason they don’t deserve it rather than making them earn it in the first place. After all, we’ve seen countless examples on the internet of people being hunted down and castigated for something a group of people decided was inappropriate only to eventually learn that this person had every right to say what they said. Or that maybe they were right the entire time and people shouldn’t have been so quick to cast judgment.

I just think that trying to feel superior to other people is not a great way to use the internet, even though it seems to be the way most poeple use the internet. I prefer a bit of empathy and extending everyone the grace and generosity I hope they’d extend to me in turn. I just think that maybe most people trying to share something they thought important enough to make a specific statement about should maybe be given the benefit of the doubt about what they’ve said. I know I mess up and stick my foot in my mouth sometimes so I generally like to assume that other people do it as well.

What Makes A Story A Gaming Campaign Or A Book

I wish I had the time and energy for more weekly Dungeons and Dragons games. Specifically, the time and energy to run them. At present, I’d like to get myself to one weekly game (that, you know, actually plays weekly) and two every-other-week games that alternate so I can run two games a week but have more time to prepare the two that alternate. If I didn’t have to spend time working a full-time job, I could probably run a game every day. Do prep in the morning, run in the afternoon, and have evenings to myself. I’ve thought about trying to get into the “Game Master as a day job” gig, but I’ve decided that for now, I want to keep this as just a hobby. Still, if I had more time and energy, I’d love to add another game or two into rotation.

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My Work Continues

It has been nearly a week since I reached the end of my first full draft of the novel I am working on and it never really hit me. I never really felt any particular way about it. I could reanalyze why that’s the case, since I have been thinking about it in my spare time and there’s probably some work I should do about addressing the fact that writing 100,000+ words doesn’t feel like an accomplishment anymore since I once did 100k words in a single month, but I don’t think it’s terribly productive. I think it’s okay if I don’t feel any particular which way about it, since I have clear next steps and goals still to pursue, and I’d rather focus my energy on that than on making myself feel something.

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A Gift of Self-Analysis

As someone who is examining low-cost holiday present ideas for this absolute disaster of a fiscal year, I’ll admit that I find myself somewhat frustrated that I can’t really fall back on my creative talents. Musicians can record songs, visual artists can offer pieces of their work, and craftspeople can give excellent handmade gifts. If your skill is words, it is a lot more difficult. I had an excellent gift from a friend that was a treasured memory written in beautiful prose, but I myself am not so inclined. Partly because I’m skilled at producing lots of words but feel like the weave of my prose is lacking, and partly because I genuinely don’t have many memories that aren’t tinged by sadness or loneliness.

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A Day’s Allotment of Writing Time Later

I reached the end of the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on. I knew I was close to it, but it caught me by surprise. I started this project with a few broad strokes, one of which was the ending, so I knew it was coming but I wasn’t entirely sure what form it would take. I started this project for National Novel Writing Month 2020, did about half of it in the first pass, fell off working on it for most of 2021, and then finished it yesterday. Well, I reached the end, anyway.

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Looking To The Future

I took a weekend off. It was nice to get a chance to rest. Or at least sort of rest since it is me and I still did laundry, Dungeons and Dragons prep, and worked on story ideas in my head. I also spent time cleaning and doing home improvement/winterization projects. I experimented with insulating my windows with plastic, the first time I’ve had to do so since I have been lucky to have good windows and well-insulated apartments in the past, and learned a lot about the struggles inherent in this sort of shit. They look terrible and half of them need to be fixed or entirely replaced, but it’ll be easier going forward since I have some experience now.

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