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Archive for January, 2013

concrete

Odd how some words just jump out at you when you least expect it. I came across the word concrete recently while reading and its context made me pause.

We talk about communicating in concrete terms, concrete images, concrete language. Hard, solid concrete, meant to take a pounding and retain the shape it was poured into. As opposed to vague or ethereal, when you fall upon the concrete it hits you hard. You would not confuse it for anything else.

In writing characters it becomes essential then to make them as concrete as possible, to mold them into form and make it impossible not t notice them. If they are to be remembered there can be nothing soft about them, not about their appearance, not about their manners, not about their thoughts. They can behave in fuzzy and confused ways, but all within the confines of their given shape.

When you insist on examples you are asking for the concrete to set. When you are looking for absolute proof you want it to be concrete when it arrives. No one asks for this clarification to come in the form of mushy asphalt.

But what is concrete?

By definition, concrete is a mixture of aggregate, cement, and water. Aggregate itself is just a mixture of course matter like slag and stone and sand. The cement that binds the aggregate is a powder that hardens as it dries after being mixed with water. The process is about as mysterious as making bricks from mud, but in creating characters we are creating them from this mud as well. We pull together specific traits of behavior, an aggregate of attributes if you will, and bind them within a physical concrete of appearance that, when fully-formed and hardened in the reader’s mind, become vividly certain.

These attributes (actions) and appearances (descriptions) are their skin and bones. Nouns and verbs, structured and hard-baked, these are what make characters concrete.

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Behind the curve. Out-of-whack. Unbalanced.

This is how I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve had issues – issues surrounding free time, issues around the job, issues concerning one late computer – and all sorts of hopes and goals (lets not call them resolutions) for the new year.

But everything feels as slippery and elusive as trying to chase a cat on a greased floor wearing roller skates.

A writer friend noted how many blog posts I produced last year and asked, by comparison, how much time I dedicated to writing for myself. At first my inclination was to feel insulted; clearly I had spent twice as much time writing my own things as I did for the blogosphere.

And then the python of doubt slithered up from the pit of my stomach and gently cut off circulation to my defense mechanisms. In that hazy fog of semi-consciousness I realized that whether or not it was true that I had been neglecting my own work in the past I needed to double-down going forward.

I remember reading some financial advice once that suggested “paying yourself first” with each paycheck, essentially setting aside some savings before even paying bills, to say nothing of extracurricular spending. I realized – am realizing – that I need to apply that same philosophy to my work, that I need to deposit some time in the bank of creative writing before I start spending willy-nilly on the internet.

Ah, but the internet is so much fun, so hard to ignore its siren call!

So, here I am.

Earlier this week I was able to carve out a few hours for my own writing and even managed to get myself invited to participate in a fairly large project for National Poetry Month in April. It wasn’t a lot of writing but it was enough to not feel guilty about making the rounds and hitting some bookmarks that I haven’t touched in weeks.

Including this here blog-o-roonie.

This is my seventh year of blogging. Perhaps I’m feeling some strange itch that needs to get worked out. Rethink what I want to say, who I want to reach, and why. With my creative writing I know that, I understand it better, there isn’t this same question. Here, the exercise of keeping my fingers moving and communicating with the outside world, I have many questions.

The plan is… status quo. For the time being I will continue to add book reviews over at the excelsior file, and my monthly contribution to Guys Lit Wire. Aside from the writing I still have some duties as a Cybils judge again, so that’ll take some time, and I fully expect that these here fomagrams will again appear with greater frequency down the road.

For what it’s worth, I miss being here.

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