July 31

Thoughts on Afterwords

One of the things I’ve enjoyed when reading collections of Stephen King’s short stories are the afterwords where he discusses the stories. It’s fun to read about the inspiration for the stories, how he developed them, why he made a decision to do one thing instead of another. Not only does it give me insight into the creative process, it also make the stories feel more personal.

Reading a short story collection without context is fine. I love Raymond Carver’s storytelling and don’t necessarily need to know the background on each story. The stories speak for themselves. But as a writer, I like to have that extra bit of information about how the stories came to be. In a way, it’s nice to know that other writers – even famous and prolific writers – can struggle and get frustrated.

While I know it’s not true, a part of me always feels that these big-league writers always get it right the first time. From mind to pen to page in one pass. If only. So reading about the process encourages me as a writer and reminds me that all artists struggle.

So I thought it would be fun to write an afterword for my upcoming short story collection. Partly because I think some readers might find it interesting to know the process. Also, because some of my stories can be…different. Giving some background might be helpful. Quite a few of my stories begin with some sort of prompt, a phrase, a photograph, a dream. I think that having some background can make a story more interesting.

And no, I’m not going to write an essay on each one, just a paragraph or two.

The book is still “coming soon”. I expect it to be available no later than the end of August. Adding the afterword will take another week (trying to squeeze this in an already busy schedule). Stay tuned!

RB

July 28

So Much Writing

Let me preface this post by stating that I’m not complaining. I love writing. I love to play with words, to mold them like clay to create a mood or a feeling, to make my readers think or dream. I think words are powerful and hold endless possibilities. But at the moment I feel like I’m in the middle of a sea of words and swimming hard to stay afloat.

It’s a problem of my own creation. And “problem” isn’t really the best word. It’s just that I have put myself in the position of having several projects going at the same time and it’s somewhat overwhelming. For many years I preferred to work on one project at a time. Projects would overlap, but I was very compartmentalized about it all. Work on one project for a few days, then set is aside and pick up another one. After a few more days, move on to another one. Then eventually come back around to the first one. Round and round we go.

Thing is, it wasn’t exactly productive. I made progress on the individual projects, but it was slow going. There were many occasions when I felt as if I wasn’t actually completing anything. So recently I decided the hell with that and threw myself into the deep end of the pool. Now I’m working on multiple projects at the same time, jumping from one to another throughout the course of the day. Extreme Multi-Tasking. Sounds like an Olympic event.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m not unhappy about it. It’s a problem of my own making. And really, it’s fun. In a masochistic sort of way.

To give you an example, on any given day I’m: Writing in my personal journal, writing a blog post, working on a short story (one of many in progress), working on my novel, and/or writing outlines for my podcast. Then there’s actually the recording process for the podcast, and editing, and the posting process. Keep in mind this doesn’t include my day job managing a government website, keeping up with things around the house, and maintaining relationships with my partner and friends.

There aren’t enough hours in the day.

But it’s all good. It’s challenging. It’s fun (in that “stop hitting yourself” sort of way), and it’s productive. I know, that sounds counterintuitive, but I find that it’s working for me. I’m getting a lot accomplished. The only thing that’s really suffered is the amount of time I spend on social media. Although, is that really a bad thing? Seriously, I found that trying to interact and respond to every single person on social media is more overwhelming than juggling multiple projects.

Too many projects is a good thing. It keeps me out of trouble.

RB

July 24

A Quickie

I’ve gotten the third episode of my podcast loaded up, so please give it a listen and let me know what you think. Also, my new microphone has arrived. This will help the sound quality. You can find The Prometheus Project Podcast on Spotify, GooglePlay, and iTunes. Oh, and on PodBean.

The short story collection is coming along. I’ve gotten it laid out, edited, and the cover is almost finished. I’m basically doing it all myself. Why? Because I like to punish myself with frustration.

Not really.

Two reasons: First, I don’t want to spend money I don’t have just to have someone create a cover for me, or lay the book out for me, or edit the book for me. This collection is a labor of love and I want to do as much of it myself as I can. The only thing I haven’t done myself on this project is take the photograph that I’m using for the cover. It’s a creative commons image that I’m manipulating (and will give credit to the original photographer). Everything else is all me. I’ll take all the credit…and all the complaints.

Second, I’m seeing this as another way to explore my creativity. Building this book from scratch is an interesting experience. I’m learning a lot, getting frustrated, and also finding reward. I mean, when I first began building this thing I was overwhelmed by all the bits and pieces, the various requirements, and the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.

After a few weeks, I feel confident. I think this is going to turn out well. Will anyone buy it or read it? I imagine a few of my friends will pick up a copy. Maybe a few coworkers at the office. But I’m not publishing with an expectation to be famous or rich. I just want to say I’ve achieved the goal of publishing a book of fiction (I already have my name on a non-fiction book). And it’ll be all me. If other people buy it and read it, and maybe even enjoy it, I’ll be thrilled. But no, I’m not expecting much to happen.

Does that make me pessimistic, or pragmatic?

This is a labor of love. And maybe an exercise in self-indulgence. It’s almost finished.

RB

July 19

Finding balance

Writers who can make a living wage from writing are far outnumbered by the ones who can’t. I’m one of the latter. While I’ve been getting paid to write things since the mid-1990s, I’ve never made enough that I could quit my day job and write full time. I have, however, been lucky enough to work as a copywriter in a cubicle farm, trying my damnedest to make insurance benefits sound interesting. I’ve also worked in communications and marketing offices, which is more about spin than understanding. In between, I’ve done freelance copywriting, grant writing, and reporting. Oh yeah, and I’ve had a few stories published.

But this isn’t about having a full-time office writing job. I’m referring to the writers who work from home, have to hustle to find gigs or magazines to submit to, who have to market themselves and their output. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and it ain’t easy.

So at the moment I’m just like the multitude of other writers who work a day job and write in their free time. I’ve pretty much given up on the freelance stuff. After eight or nine hours in the office, I don’t have the patience or the energy to spend another couple of hours looking over job boards and submitting bids. I rather spend my time writing fiction. Besides, I’ve found that experience and a nice portfolio don’t mean much when someone undercuts your bid. Money is all that matters.

I’m okay with that. I don’t feel the need to hustle for writing jobs. I’m happy writing fiction, posting to my blog, and now podcasting. I have creative outlets to offset the drudgery of the nine-to-five office life. It took me a while to get to this point. I had a lot of inner dialogues with myself – Should I freelance? Do I need the extra cash? Will it help to get my name out there?

It’s true that I had more publishing success as a freelancer. I wrote quite a few articles for the local paper. I had a non-fiction book published (writing as a contractor). All that helped me to get side jobs copywriting for a Fortune 500 company and grant writing for a couple of national non-profits. In the end, however, that stuff isn’t much fun. I tried to make it so by challenging myself, setting goals, or trying to make a game out of it. Like, “I was able to secure $50,000 dollars with that last grant request. Let’s see if I can get $100,000 this time!” And a lot of those gigs paid well. The bigger the company, the deeper the pockets. But again, it wasn’t satisfying.

And it cut into my creative time. I think that was more annoying than anything else. I need to create. I need to express myself. I need to get the words and images out of my head and into the real world. It may sound weird, but I’d rather be poor and creatively happy than rolling in cash and miserable. Although I’d like to try that latter one for a while, just to be sure.

So I worked on finding balance. Yin and Yang. I have to work a nine-to-five job since I’m not naturally wealthy and haven’t won the lottery. The bills must be paid. But now I have my creative time. I can write or draw or make music in the mornings (I’m up at five a.m. every day) and in the evenings, and there’s a lot of time on the weekends. And I’m much happier in this routine. I don’t have to worry about deadlines or scheduling interviews. I don’t have to stay up until two in the morning because the person paying me wants their marketing campaign to go in a different direction. I can work at my own pace. Take my time. Man, it’s nice.

Finding a balance between work and creativity can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. I’ll talk about this in an upcoming episode of the Prometheus Project Podcast. Until then, I hope you’ve found your balance. If you haven’t, I’m sure you’ll find it soon.

RB

 

July 19

It’s Alive!

Yep, I’m still among the living. Life gets complicated on occasion…I’m sure you understand. I decided to take a break from social media and blogging for a bit so I could focus on some projects (see my previous post). And yes, I made progress.

So, first things first, I’ve started the Prometheus Project Podcast. I decided to create this podcast after a conversation with a friend of mine who is a visual artist. We were talking about our respective areas of art (I write, she’s a visual artist) and things that inspire us, motivate us, and push us to try harder. It got me thinking about creativity in general and I thought a podcast would be a good way to explore my thoughts and ideas. But I also want it to be interactive, so I want to hear from my listeners about the topics I discuss and the challenges I present. It’s all about sharing thoughts and ideas.

That being said, the first two episodes are available at iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and at my hosting company, PodBean. I’ll post weekly, so please tune in and check it out. Side note: It’s a work in progress, so bear with me while I work out the bugs. Also, I’ll get a link for iTunes as soon as I can.

And then the other project I’ve been working on is a collection of short stories. I hope to have it published in a few weeks. The book, Dark Journeys, is a collection of dark speculative fiction…weird, erotic, surreal, and horrific. Definitely not for everyone’s taste, but you never know until you try it. It’ll be available at all the usual places – Amazon, iTunes Bookstore, Smashwords, and anywhere else I can upload it.

I’ll be posting regularly again with updates on the book, the podcast, and other items of interest.

Cheers!

RB