Tag Archives: nothing original

The Weekly Re-Motivator: Nothing Halfway

There’s a mantra I regularly preach, scream, whisper, write, and otherwise fling at my soccer team: Nothing Easy. I’m sure it’s not original to me, though I can’t say I got it from anybody outside of my own skull. I like it — and I encourage my players to repeat it, internalize it, live it — because it can be taken several ways and it works several different ways.

First, the external: the other team wants the victory just as badly as you do. They owe you nothing, and they’ll give you nothing, so don’t make it easy for them. Control the ball so you don’t give them any easy turnovers. Get good position so you don’t give them any easy passes. Mesh on defense so you don’t concede any easy shots. Nothing easy.

Then, the internal: in soccer, more often than a lot of players would like to admit, speed beats talent. Hustle and hunger beats technical know-how. You might have the best touch, the most precise passes, the most devastating shot, but if you can’t beat the other man to the ball, all that skill goes for a big fat goose egg. So, you have to play hard from the opening whistle. Fight for every ball. Run on every play like it’s the one they’re going to break away and score on. Nothing easy.

Point is, if you play easy — if you give the match a halfway effort — you’re giving the opposition an advantage in every phase of the game. Which means, you’re putting victory that much farther away (if not entirely out of reach).

Well, soccer season is almost over, and I’m sitting here really analyzing my writing process, because I’m in a transitional time. I’m almost done with the final (for now) edit of the novel, which means it’s time to start considering what I’m going to dedicate my writing time to next. That means setting new goals, planning a schedule, determining how I’m going to approach the project.

In all this analysis, I realized that, among other things I haven’t been doing in my writing of late was writing short fiction — those 1000-word-or-so stories that I was pretty religious about posting for a long time, those little pressure-release valves for the creative energies I was bottling up while I worked within the confines of the overarching Project. So last night I embraced the prompt and wrote one. And I’ll admit — it may not have been my best work, but what was different about it — what worked about it — was the approach. I didn’t fine-tune the idea to death. I didn’t plot it out meticulously before I put keys to board. I didn’t sit back and wait for it to be perfect before taking my shot (much like the protagonist in the tale). I leaned into the uncertainty and I wrote it full-steam ahead.

I haven’t written like that in a while. I’ve tried out some new approaches (and liked them a lot, to be fair!), honed my craft, become a bit more exacting in terms of how I build stories. But what I realized is, that approach has me operating at half capacity. Throwing myself halfway into the work, keeping one foot on the edge of the pool as I dunk my toes in and test the water. It keeps me from making as many mistakes along the way, but it also keeps me so focused on the road that I forget to enjoy the view along the way.

Like my soccer team working easy in a match, making things easy for the opposition, I’m working halfway and making it easy to get distracted, easy not to finish, easy to pretend I’m working when really I’m just hiding behind excuses.

Now, the only absolute is that there are no absolutes. I’m not going to say that there’s not a time for the methodical, measured, relaxed, easy approach. Sometimes if you rush the work, you make foolish errors that cost you. But if you embrace the easy approach too much — if you work halfway all the time — well, first of all you never get anything done, and second, you don’t make the mistakes that make the work interesting.

When it comes to writing, you have to throw yourself into it the way you’d run out into the road after your kid. You have to give yourself over to it like jumping out of a plane. You can’t keep one foot on solid ground while you let the other foot acclimate. You can’t do it halfway.

Combat Diver, Special Forces, Sonderkommando, Frogmen

So the mantra for my writing — for a while, at least, until I think of a new one — is: Nothing Halfway.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.

Climb the Trope Ladder

I fell into a TVtropes rabbit hole today.

If you’re a writer, and you don’t know about TVtropes.org yet, you should.

I don’t know if there’s a better resource for teaching you that there really and truly is nothing original left in the world for artists to create. A wholly humbling browsing experience. Yet, by the same token, it’s encouraging to click through its wealth of pages to see all the stories that use the same old tired tricks and do just fine.

If you haven’t seen TVtropes yet, it works like this:

You land there for whatever reason. Maybe a fellow writer or critically-minded movie buff refers you to it. Maybe you’re looking for the name of that one guy who was in that one movie and you stumble upon the site. Maybe somebody who secretly hates you and wants to destroy your productivity sends you a link.

You click around a little bit, maybe trying the “random trope” or “random text” functions to have the site spoon up a tasty helping of trope-centric technobabble to your face. Want to write your story with a hero who unwittingly unleashes even greater evil upon the world? There’s a trope for that. How about the twist where a loved one is left dead for the hero to find? Yeah, it’s been done. Maybe you want to see a bunch of examples of the ways heroes have sacrificed themselves in stories. TVTropes has you covered. Whatever your device, whatever the circumstance, whatever unique idea you think you have, it’s been done before and TVtropes has it on record.

Hours later, you’ve got twenty-four browser tabs open compiling all the different sins of all the movies and books you love and all of the tropes with cool names like Toxic Phlebotinum and you forgot to eat lunch and they turned the lights off in the building and you’re wondering, finally, how you can weave all these things into your next story.

The cycle will repeat as long as you leave even one tab open. One thing leads you to the next, and then the next, until you’re miles deep in the forest and everything looks the same. The only way out is for the power to fail on your computer, and even then, you have to have the resolve not to click on that bright, shiny “restore tabs” button when you get booted back up, lest you find yourself falling once more into the black hole…

In all seriousness, while the site sounds like it’s a great way to depress yourself at the prospect of seeing exactly how much and how often a certain device has been done (to death), it’s fascinating nonetheless to see all the different permutations of plot and character which can be perfectly successful. In addition, I’m not sure if there’s a better tool for thinking of ways to carry on a stuck project; simply look up a beloved story, identify some of its defining tropes, explore those tropes, and then bend them to your will.

What felt like endless, zombie-like wandering through the dark alleyways of the site has filled my head with all kinds of ways to expand my current story.

I think that means I can qualify all that mindless clicking as research.

So, I’m off to do more studying…

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