the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘Writers Resources’

what my holy crotch taught me about writing

In career, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on December 20, 2012 at 10:50 am
batman

holy crotches, Batman. I’m still reinventing myself.

Last week, I was getting ready for work, and I found a hole in my crotch.  (Don’t worry this is a PG post.) I went to my closet only to find out that all my jeans were in the wash.  I wasn’t about to don the slacks–I refuse to do that on two important grounds: 1. I like to be comfy when teaching and 2. I haven’t had to wear slacks in some time and I think I might not fit into any of them any more–a fact that would depress me, vain man that I am.

I basically had two choices: get a dirty pair of jeans out of the hamper or wear the jeans with the holy crotch, which I had put into the trash a few minutes before.  You might be horrified to know I pulled the holy jeans out of the unholy trash.  But there a 10-second rule on pulling jeans out of the trash–something equivalent to having food fall on the ground.  At least there should be.

I did have a third option, by the way: an old pair of black jeans, which I hadn’t worn in over eight years.  Did I ever think these mommy jeans were cool?  Did I not see the extra room in the crotch that made me look like I had a saggy diaper?  Did these very basic fashion issues get past me?  Was I coming off the 90s?    In the end, I stuck with my holy crotch pants, but not before I went through the pockets of my saggy-butt specials.  And now, here is the point of this story: I found a piece of paper with my writing on it–a list of sorts.  And on that list, number three was:

Re-invent yourself

This means that I have had this vague idea in my head for over eight years.  It’s odd how your memory works.  In my head, it’s as if that were a new thought.  I wake up thinking about it.  I write in this blog about it.  I probably talk to my wife too often about it.  But even so, it’s not a new idea.

How I have not realized this probably has to do with the fact that I keep trying new things, and in the last year and a half, the attempts at reinvention are coming faster and harder: novelist, short story writer, graphic novelist, flash fiction writer, scriptwriter, and now, scripts for commercials.  Oh yeah, blogs, too.  The only thing I haven’t tried to write are instruction manuals, video games, and street signs.  At this rate, it won’t be long until I get to some of those, as well, though I fear that my signs would be a little verbose.

I’m not sure what I think of these attempts at writerly reinvention are really leading to.  Is it better to sit on something for a long time and craft it out?  Or is it better to go where you will, to make stuff that’s as good as you can get it and then move on?  By nature, I think I prefer the latter, but I’m not sure if that’s me just going after immediate gratification.

I will say that finding that list shook me.  It makes me realize the importance of keeping a journal and actually reading past entries.  I wonder how that Gabe, the Gabe who actually liked his black mama jeans with the saggy bottoms would have felt if he’d known where I am now–all Old Navy Premium loos jeans and shit.  Would he be pleased or bummed?  And eight years from now, how will I be?  Will I still be looking for reinvention or will I be reinvented?  Will I be wearing mu loose jeans or, will I be wearing skinny jeans?  Scary thought.

Yoko-Ono-Fashions-for-Men

I guess there ARE worse things than black mommy jeans

Of course, I don’t know. And that’s just it: things always look so different when you’re in the process.  Whether it be mom-jeans that you used think looked good or a script that you thought was strong until you realized it wasn’t.  I guess that’s just life.  You keep evolving.  So maybe I don’t have to feel like a failure.  Maybe I will keep reinventing.  Maybe.  I just hope I won’t be wearing skinny jeans.

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what’s so scary about writing?

In humor, life, observations on December 8, 2012 at 5:55 am

Heck if I know.

That’s all I got, folks.  An abstract question and a really silly answer.  There’s nothing scary about writing, but you wouldn’t know that from the way I put off writing today.  I had a solid hour and a half–a veritable bonanza of time nowadays with The Boy and work X 2 and the other crazy things I keep trying in order to make the dinero.  But what do I do with this gift of seconds and minutes?  I squander it.

I wanted to write.  I have a 52nd story to finish.  (For those new to my blog, I made a goal in 2011 that I would produce for better or for worse, 52 original stories.  I got to 47 and The Boy was born.  Then, I wrote what I will call the Crappy 4, which brought to story 52.)  OK, now that we’re all up to speed, I have the new goal that I will write my final story before the end of the year.   I can do that.  I should be able to do that.  I should have gotten a start today.  But no dice, Rollo.

It would be one thing if I were just being a lazy-ass, preferring to play Bike Barron or Temple Run instead of doing the work.  That’s be kind of lame considering I’m a 41-year old man, but at least, I’d get some joy.  Today, I felt no joy, only fear.  But what was I scared of?

Heck if I know.

If I dig down, I guess I fear the effort involved, but I don’t mean the effort required in writing.  What I fear is the cut-off, by which I mean, when I write fiction, I cut ties with this world in order to make up another.  Problem is, I’m not part of that world.  I’m making it, but I’m not part of it.  I almost always get a kick out of writing once I start, but those first few minutes as I’m starting to disengage from my concerns, from my daily self, I feel the difficulty, and the difficulty is caused by…. in a word, loneliness, a loneliness I don’t seem able to get myself accustomed to.

Does anyone else suffer from this?  I’d love to know I’m not the only crazy person out there.  Come on, folks, share your craziness.  I needs me somes crazy.  Give it over.

a rejection letter to be thankful for…

In career, Uncategorized, writing on November 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

I am not one to be thankful when it comes to writing.  Even when I get published somewhere, the euphoria only lasts so long.  Soon enough, I’m starting down that sad, useless road of comparisons.  If, by chance, you are not a writer/artist of the neurotic persuasion, this road is full of distracting signposts along the way. Ones that tell you that of course you got your story into X or Y magazine.  X or Y are not The New Yorker.  They aren’t even some top lit mag like The Missouri Review or Zoetrope.  X or Y magazine aren’t good; in fact, they are desperate.  As the road keeps going, you see another signpost: if X is a print-only mag, the next signpost tells you that you are never going to get read by the piddly few readers who actually subscribe.  If Y-Mag is web-only, the next signpost on the road tells you to turn off and cry because you aren’t good enough to get into print.

You get the idea, I think.

It might be a sign of where I am now; perhaps I have learned to ignore these unhelpful signs along the way.  But that’s unlikely. Still, just a couple days ago, I received a lovely email from the editor of The Fairy Tale Review, a mag that is especially open to the kind of fantastical (not to be confused with fantasy) fiction I tend to write.  I am going to quote the complete note here because…oddly enough, I’m proud of it:

Dear Mr. Martinez,

Please forgive this atrocious lag in response time. FTR is a small operation – my pair of eyes only!, unless you include my glasses, of course. Whereas I absolutely loved your story (I read your submission many times and found it more and more sophisticated and smart with every read!), sadly, we are going to have to pass on it right now. Please understand that this decision has nothing to do with the quality of your writing. I have struggled to create the most balanced and delicate issue, which means making impossibly difficult decisions, heartbreaking ones, such as not taking your story. Please please please consider submitting to us again in the future!

Yours, with admiration,
Lily

This isn’t about bragging.  It’s just to share a nice point of light in what can sometimes seem like the bleak silence of putting words on the page.  How many days/weeks/years do artists toil in obscurity?  The hardest part for me is not the work.  It’s the sense that no one aside from your friends and family think your art is worth a two-penny damn.  How can you know–really know–if you haven’t hit it with readers/publishers/agents because you just haven’t found your way OR because you just suck.

The answer, the sad sad sad answer is that YOU do not know.  You just write/paint/sing and you put yourself out there.  And then, you wait.  AND wait. And wait some more.  But sometimes you get a nice email, and you add some hope to all the wait.

Here’s hoping!

ps. if you want to read the very short fairy tale, check out my portfolio site:

play is the new work…if you’re an artist, at least

In career, life, observations, writers & books, writing on October 22, 2012 at 4:30 am

I recently attended Story World 2012. I’m happy to report that it was well attended, well organized, and the talks were, for the most part, thoughtful and thought provoking, which is a lot of thought when you get right down to it.

If I had to describe the main theme of the event, I’d say it was play. There was a lot of talk of play and the importance of allowing yourself as a storyteller to create experiences (we don’t just create stories anymore according to the panelists I heard) that allow us to be kids at heart, and that allow our readers (experiencers, I guess would be the right word) to be child-like as well.

Usually, I get a little annoyed when people start talking about permission to be a child, about the need to release our inner child—I hear these phrases and think psycho-jargon from a time long since past, a time when bell bottoms and free love were the rage.  (I’m not talking about the 2000’s by the way.)  It’s not just that it sounds dated, I also think that language hides a certain hypocrisy.  It’s like the people saying these things need to take their own advice and not take themselves so seriously. I don’t know, but no child I know sets out to be child-like.  They just are what they are.  Shouldn’t we just be who we are?

Damon Lindelof, creator of Lost

The panelists who I saw at Story World—each and everyone—all seemed to answer this question.  They made me realize that that is the point: people do not act as they really are; they act as they think others expect them to be, and hence, they need to be reminded to allow themselves to be child-like when the occasion calls for it.  According to speakers like Damon Lindelof (creator of Lost), Sean Bailey, the President of Disney, and Brian Clark (Transmedia guru), one such occasion is when creating narrative.

I already knew that as a writer/creative/storyteller/experience maker, I had to get my child on.  I mean, what is storytelling if it isn’t make-believe?  But at some point, I felt guilty for letting myself be that child who likes to revel in stories.  Sadly, make-believe is believed by many to be only for children.  After some time at Story World,  I realize that that is BS. Play is good and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact, I think if I’d let myself explore that inner child a bit more, my writing and my art would be all the more strong.  And I think the same is probably true for anyone who has to be creative.

What do you all think?  Does art require a childlike appreciation of play?  And if art does require an inner-child, does this mean I have to get out my bell bottoms?

why do writers sometimes put off…writing

In Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on October 10, 2012 at 5:44 am

WTF?  I am a writer.  Now, it’s true that as a new father who teaches, I am often not writing as much as I’d like.  This is not surprising.  Time is a premium, especially for new parents.  But even before The Boy was born, I was a serial waster of time.  Give me four hours to write and I’ll kick butt for two–the last two.  The first couple hours will be me reading around the web, looking up random things, writing myself notes about other random things that pop into my head while looking up the aforementioned randomness.  I catch up on emails sometimes, too.  It’s the virtual equivalent of cleaning the bathroom, which is what I used to do before I got in the habit of writing in coffee houses, which I did because I thought I’d waste less time.

For a while before The Boy, I was all caught up on blog reading, but my toilet had seen better days.  (My wife hates cleaning more than she hates eating salads, which is saying something in her case.)

Now, I only have dribbles of time in the morning or late at night.  And the dribbles are even dribblier because I still want to read things here and there and write emails.  I’m like my first car, an ancient, brown beast that I bought for 500 bucks.  My father told me when I got the thing that I should always warm her up before driving–advice I have since been told is a bunch of BS.  Oh well, dad meant well, and The Beast didn’t last the summer.  But what was not true that car, certainly seems true for me.  I need time to circle into the writing process, to warm up the brain, to face the fear that I will suck.

I say this even though most times when I do my warm-up, I hate myself as soon as I start writing.  Why?  Because I love writing when I’m not doing everything I can to avoid writing.

I’m not sure if there’s a solution here, other than doing as the good people at Nike used to advise: Just Do It!

some advice for bloggers…DON’T BE USEFUL!!

In life, observations, Uncategorized on October 8, 2012 at 6:09 am

Blogs, this blog at least, tell stories in addition to the ones told in words.  You get to know someone through a blog not only by what the writer tells you, but also through the subjects he chooses to explore and the manner in which that exploration occurs.  True to this blog’s name, I have been running in circles for a long time.  I’ve been running a 40 year marathon, to be completely frank, but that’s too long a tale to to get into here, so let’s start with the last couple of months.  It must be the Catholic guilt my mom didn’t instill in me but that I somehow still inherited –can you say original sin?

I’ve been trying to figure out why I blog.  My answer: I don’t know why.  A few weeks ago, i decided I should try to be useful.  There’s something too indulgent, I think, about just writing for writing sake.  And yet, isn’t that what we should be doing as writers?  I love this blog, not because it’s great, but because it gives me an outlet to share myself with the people who decide it’s worth a few minutes .  I know this is a good thing, but I’ve fought the impulse.  After reading one too many books about social media and making a career of this writing thing, I briefly tried to limit the scope of what I want to write about.  I tried to find a thread, a theme that I could use to unify what I’m doing here.  The result was that I became tight and unsure of myself.

The thread of this blog, the unifying factor I’m only now realizing, is me, which probably names me a lille bit of a dumb-ass for not having figured it out sooner.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be a little focused, read obsessed, with trying to find my way as a father/husband, my voice as an artist, my next career move as a ????. I’ll still write occasionally about education since I teach every day of the week.  But I’m going to also use this blog to work out some ideas about next steps for me.  Even circles have steps.  My goal, extending the metaphor, is to try and widen that circle so I can cover more ground.  Maybe it’ll be an elliptical shape of some kind, though I won’t change the name because Running in Elliptical Shapes sounds a little dumb.

I guess, the best way to say what I haven’t really said yet is to say, if you’re writing a blog, don’t worry about being useful.  Be yourself.  Hopefully, in that you might help someone else.  At the very least, you will help yourself.

i ride in circles, too

Read the rest of this entry »

the two-hours of crazy, aka., my writing time

In career, life, observations on September 10, 2012 at 5:54 am

 

It’s not unusual.  I know this.  But I’m still struggling to figure it out.  How can I get myself writing as soon as I get out of the house?

Let me backtrack.

I do not–not usually–write at home.  (I am currently sitting in my kitchen, though I’d rather not be.)  I’ve always been this way, but until recently, it has always been by choice.  Now, with a baby, it’s a necessity if I’m to get anything done.  My wife is wonderful and understanding, but there’s just something about my typing at the computer that says to her: he can help me.  I can’t help her.  I mean, I want to help. I certainly don’t want to be that lame kind of husband/father who isn’t available.  But the writer needs to write. Know what I’m sayin’?  This need makes me feel a little guilty, and that guilt, in turn, drives me to do the groceries and cook meals and wash dishes and scrub the bathroom (pretty regularly).  I do this to help.  But I also do this because I feel bad for stealing a couple hours every day to write in loud coffee houses.  I like, no, I love loud coffee houses.  The noise somehow focuses me–sort of.

On average, I find it takes me a good 30-45 minutes to focus in and start writing.  I want to check the Twits, read an article or two about God-knows-what.  I long for a day, a whole day of overpaying for multiple coffees as I spend hour after hour in dimly lit rooms, lost to the muffle of my headphones, which often are not playing anything at all. But, alas, I get two hours and I am thankful for them.

I try to make the most of my time, but the truth is, sometimes I just can’t get to work until I use some of it to do nonsense.  There’s something of a procrastinator in me.  I admit it.  But I’ve come to think of procrastination as a result of something, not a cause.  Fear is at work.  I look at the list of things I want to get done: look for some publications for some new stories, read over the last chapter of my graphic novel, write something new.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  I get a tight stomach and a little nervous–not bad nervous, maybe excited is the word–and the nervousness can sometimes overwhelm me a little.  Too many steps.  Too many things to do.  I want to run.  I want to escape. I start wondering what the point to this stuff is.  I should spend this time with the kid and my wife.  What are all these little things I’m working on leading to?  Why am I doing this? What’s the point?

And then, about 45 minutes in, I trick myself into starting.  I give myself a reward, a cookie, a bite of chocolate or a High-Chew, if only I start.  I can do any of the things on my list; I don’t have to start with the hardest thing.  And then, I’m in.  I’ve transitioned to creative-time. I’m happy. I’m free.  At least I am for the hour I still have.  And then, a little sadly, I pack everything up and I’m off to work or back to the flat to hang with The Boy.

Is this sane?  I don’t know.  I’m heartened that I least I do get something done each day.  But Jesus, it would be so much easier if I could just sit down and get to the list as soon as the tattooed young’n hands me my overpriced caffeine.  That’d be great, and I’d also be thinner.  Those pieces of chocolate are staring to add up.

 

9 Months & Out: Is It Better to Be Open or Focussed When Looking for a New Career?

In career, media on September 8, 2012 at 6:20 am

 

After too much deliberation, I am going to the motherland (Los Angeles where my mother does live, btw) in October, so I can join a lot of other writers/programmers/social media people for what I hope will be a learning experience.  Story World is not cheap, though it is not as expensive as some other professional conferences.  I’d tell you more about what the convention entails except that I’m not sure–not exactly.  The event is for storytellers who want to work across media and incorporate gaming aspects and social media into their narratives.  It’s not really about how to tell stories, as far as I can tell.  It’s more about how to use different media to create new ways to experience stories.

Apart from that, I imagine there will be a lot of trading of the biz cards.

In general, I’m of two minds about conferences. One part of me thinks they are a waste of time and money. I’ve gone to a couple for writers.  And it was fun to be around other members of the tribe, but I didn’t really get anything out of them, professionally or artistically.  How many times can you attend workshops like, “How to Sell Your Novel” or “How to get an Editor’s Attention”?  If it were all so easy, then there would be as many bad books published as there are crazy people writing them.

I’m hopeful that since Story World has a more technical component to it that the workshops will be a little more useful.  I also hope that since this kind of storytelling is mor collaborative than book writing that networking will be fruitful.

Still, I have my concerns.  If writer conferences are just a little too closed, a little too predictable, this kind of conference might be a little too open.  Story World is about new media and new media is so new and untested that it’s hard to know crazy from brilliant.  I think I can tell when a writer is being crazy: that 3,000 page tome about identity with detailed disembodied descriptions of the emotional lint is probably going to never see the light of day.  But who’s to say that some app that allows a person to put on goggles and see that lint for himself will not be the next great thing?

There’s an analog to my career quest. A year ago, I decided I would not pigeon hole myself about the kind of writer I would try to be.  I had tried to write a novel for 6 years because without much thought, I concluded that the novel was the only way to go as a writer.  But then I realized I had other interests: film, graphic novels, blogs, children’s books.  Hell, I even thought about trying to write for video games, which I still think would be frickin’ awesome.  Trying my hand at many different types of writing since then has freed me up enormously, and I think it has made me better.  I learned that I love to collaborate, that in the end, if I do get a book out and if it were to be read by any amount of people that I’d love that book to be a children’s book–one of those children’s books that adults could read, too.  But I also learned that I love to tell stories more than I love to write fiction books of a certain kind for a certain reader in a certain format known as a book.

Of course, there’s a downside to all of this: namely, it can leave you a little directionless, as with Story World, all this possibility leaves me not sure if what I’m producing is crazy crap or crazy good, or worse yet, not crazy enough to be either good or bad.

So, in October, I’m going to a conference to learn what I don’t know.  Am I a fool?  Maybe.  But maybe, that’s all you can do when you’re starting out on a new path.  Keep taking steps and hoping that if you drop enough business cards along the way, someone will find you and tell you where home is.

buddhist, bad listener or something else?

In parenting, Uncategorized on September 5, 2012 at 5:55 am

 

Have you ever felt like crapper and told someone only to have that person pull some Yoda-Yoga-wisdom out of their butts and try to smear your face in it?  Graphic image, I know.  I’m probably sensitive to this kind of thing, more than I should be, because my mom is one of those people.  She means well.  But when I was a kid, and I had one of those teen-age tragedies: I sucked at the game, a cute girl ignored me–basically, when I had a true teenage dilemma on my hands–my mom would try and talk it out. For her, talking it out meant telling me that there were starving kids in Africa, so in the grander scheme, I needed to change my way of thinking.  She was pulling that Buddhist thing that suffering is caused by desire, and that the answer was to do away with the desire.

Wise words.  Shitty response.

Recently, I was scolded in this way after writing a guest blog post about my worries that my boy will not have all the things I’d like him to have.  I’m not talking bling-bling, btw; a humble house (rented not bought) with  a small yard, a dog if he likes.  This may not sound like a lot, but I live in San Francisco, and these humble wants are not so humble when you’re running up against the Facebook gaggle of new millionaires.  It’s not just the the things, though.  Part of my blog post was getting at the fact that I’ve never lived in a place that made me so conscious of what I do not have, and that I don’t think beautiful places like SF should only be for wealthy people.  There should be a place for a middle-income teacher/writer like me.

The person commenting pointed out that I shouldn’t worry about these things, that I should teach my boy to value real things, not status-symbols.  Fair enough, but I am left wondering a couple things and I want to share them here.  1.  when you’re ranting (even by blog) should you not have the right to be ridiculous, which means that you might not be in the mood to hear wisdom.

My sense of upset with this commenter runs deeper though.  I can’t say this is true for everyone, but now that I’m a parent, I am reminded of things I’ve put away in boxes in the dusty attic that is my brain: a love for Dr. Seuss books and Halloween, just to name two.  But along with these positive things, there are negative feelings that have come up as well, and some of those feelings are engendered by my family’s financial station when I was a kid, which in turn were partly brought about by my parent’s race and the discrimination they suffered through.

Fears are complicated.  My folks managed to succeed through hard work, but they suffered and it didn’t come easy nor early, which is why when I was coming up, we were pretty poor and I felt some shame for that, which if possible, I’d like to spare my boy.  Am I stupid? Maybe.  Is it unwise to get caught up in feelings of jealousy and disappointment? These are my issues.  But I think that people who are quick to dispense the wisdom, like this commenter, have their own.

To me, it’s facile to tell someone who is struggling that they should not want so much.  There’s no way for me to know this, but I suspect this person might be one of those people who have chosen a simple life, but it’s different when simple is a choice and not thrust upon you by the fact that you can’t afford complexity.  Hey, even the Buddha chose his life of poverty.  Let’s not forget, he was born into affluence.

SO, what to do?  Do I write this person?  Do I just leave it alone?  Comments are good.  Disagreements are welcome.  But is it cool to debate with a reader?  What say you guys?

9 months and out–LESSON #1

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on August 29, 2012 at 5:30 am

 

If you want to succeed at something, stick to it.  OK, obvious, I know.  But let me start with a story that will show you how I have not followed this very obvious truth.  I call this little ditty, Curse of the Dumb-Dumb Who Keeps Wondering What Other People Think of Him.  Here it goes.  I hope you like it–really, I do.

(See what I mean?)

When I was 15, I discovered tennis.  This was before the Williams sisters, mind you.  On paper, I had no real business with the sport.  Tennis is not quite golf and it’s a good bit under polo in the rich-person pantheon of athletics.  And yet, it certainly has a little bit of the country club vibe to it even to this day.  My father at the time, classic immigrant that he is, was happy about my discovery, telling me that tennis was a good sport for making connections with rich people.  (My father’s strange views of American society are another story.)  Anyway, I loved tennis.  I spent a summer going from one public court to the next all over Santa Monica, looking for people to play.  I was what I am not usually: without fear or apprehension.  I just wanted to play.

I say all of this, but this month was the first time I picked up a racket in 25 years.  I stopped when I was a sophomore because even though I loved tennis, the sport was not going to get me cred with the girls–at least I didn’t think I would.  So, what did I do?  I switched to basketball, which was a joke.  I’m 6′ 3″, and I liked playing pick-up games.  But my heart wasn’t into it.  And I didn’t have a head for the game in a more organized setting of league play.  So, basically I sucked it.  And after getting through Hell Week, I quit the team.  By that time, I’d gotten rusty at my tennis game, and then I hurt my shoulder trying to serve and it was over.

Now, do you get the point?  I left what I loved out of some concern of what others would think.  And I’ve been repeating the same mistake for years. You’d think I’d learn by now, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to see that you’re repeating the same mistake.  Every situation seems new.  Even now, I feel the pressure to give up on writing. I’m not going to, mind you.  This is it for me, I know that.  But sometimes, I have an idea, and I work through it, and as I sit with the project, I start to have doubts.  I start thinking no one will like what I’m doing or that I will fail (which also comes from a concern for others) and I want to run away.

I tend to think that most ideas, if you stick with them, can bear fruit.  Part of success is telling that inner-critic that tells you to quit because you might fail or because no one will like it or because you will end up penniless and friendless (and probably toothless as well) to shut the f&*& up.  There is success to be had if you just stick to what you’re doing and not listen to others.  I think that’s clear enough.  Right?  You agree, right?  Come on.  Agree already.

Damn it!  I’m doing it again.

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