Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Where I Write

Greetings! If you're just walking into this blog post off the street, this is my first submission in the Front Row's Occasional Blog Series that my friends and I are putting on. In brief, we're called The Front Row because we always sat in the front row of the classroom where we met as graduate students in Hamline University's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. They are some of the best people and finest writers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and reading.

We graduated in January together and now we're adding "blogging like BAMFs" to our repertoire. The theme of this installment is "Where I Write." Sarah "The Delight"* Ahiers kicked us off on Monday, followed by my boy Josh "The Clutch" Hammond yesterday.

I have always been a solitary writer, and when it comes to writing accommodations, a picky one as well. I've tried writing in school computer labs, coffee shops, even in a private piano practice room on a beat-up upright, but for me, having a quiet place to write is where I am most productive. Now that we're in a two-bedroom house, we have room for an office/library/study. A quiet office with a can of Young's Double
Chocolate Stout and a neat, orderly desk is heaven on earth.

Unfortunately, this is usually what my desk looks like: Notebooks everywhere, papers for God-knows-what strewn about the floor, not to mention the "I can't find a place for this right now" items that have made a nigh-permanent home in and on my desk.

My desk itself is an improvised, IKEA-hacked contraption. Pretty it ain't, but functional it... it might be. Maybe.


1. Take the feet off a scratch-and-dent entertainment center.
2. Screw a couple of shelf holders to the front of said entertainment center.
3. Toss that mess on top of a desk that a normal person would be satisfied with by itself.

    Total Cost: Less than a real standing desk, probably?

All cleaned up! This will last at best ten minutes.
The shelf holding my keyboard and trackpad is removable, so I can sit if I need to, but my chair is unbelievably crap, so I generally avoid sitting. Plus, I have an 8-hour-a-day job where I sit at a desk and type ALL DAY, so standing up to write is actually a nice change. Plus, I listen to music near-incessantly, so standing to write shortens the time between "OH YES THIS IS MY JAM" and me dancing inadvisably.

The two compartments below my laptop house my Tolkien collection (which includes a first-edition American Hardcover Silmarillion) and my essential oils, which I use to make beard balms and soothing scents for my lil' egg-shaped diffuser. Right now, I've got Sweet Basil, Lemongrass and Eucalyptus kicking, and it's pretty calming. I also have a bunch of Mason and Ball jars with dice and pens and markers in them, which both look cool and keep the important stuff nearby (just between you and me, I use the dice more often).

My wife Stephanie and I moved just recently, so the walls are still pretty bare (I may have also forgotten to ask our landlords if we can hang stuff up), but I am working with the amazing Anne Ursu right now, so in keeping with my MFAC tradition, I have her packet letter taped up on the wall. I HIGHLY recommend this. I circle things I need to work on, books to read, and things she liked. That last one is important for me: it doesn't take much for me to worry that I am effing up my manuscript and that it's all garbage, but having the things that are working printed out in black-and-white helps stave off those demons long enough for me to get to my feet.

So that's where I write! Tomorrow Jessica "The Winner" Mattson is showing off her writing space tomorrow, so be sure to check out her blog for that!

Also, here's the list of the rest of the Front Row and the day they're posting. I'll put links in soon!

Monday: Sarah "The Delight"* Ahiers
Tuesday: Josh "The Clutch" Hammond
Thursday: Jessica "The Winner" Mattson
Friday: Brita "The Magician" Sandstrom
Saturday: Jennifer "The Machine" Coats
Sunday: Anna "The Jack-of-all-Trades" Dielschneider

Of course, if you want to get involved, blog about where you write, make a video or drop me a comment; I would love to see it!

- Z

*- Sarah's codename has been censored due to the fact is has a swear in it and my mom might read this. HI MOM.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I Have Tried to Write This Twice Now And Both Times It Sucked

So let's not suck this time.

I hope it's that easy. Wish yourself to blather less and to finish a coherent thought, and it happens! What a dream.

.  .  .

I've done a lot of things in my life that I wished I did better.  They were things I liked when other people did them, but couldn't seem to do properly myself.

I was in a band that I cared deeply about, but never properly prepared for or took initiative in. When half of the band moved away, instead of buckling down and looking for other musicians or working as a solo act, I let the melodies waste away to cobwebs.

I tried at least a dozen times to make videos on YouTube, songs and vlogs and sketches, but the Zachary who was recording and editing those videos couldn't stand the Zachary who came up with those brilliant ideas and vice versa. I gave up more times than I can count. My video clip graveyard is truly depressing impressive. Instead of working harder to get better, I let my frustration get the better of me and I stopped.

Even in my formative years of writing, I was terribly inconsistent. I published several serial stories on the Quizilla website, mostly fan-fiction in the Kingdom Hearts universe, but I never finished any of them.* When I got to a difficult bit, or when I wasn't feeling the direction I had set for the story and the characters, I cut and ran. I would get messages asking about this arc or this character, and instead of being honest with those people and honest with myself and saying that I was too scared to do it wrong and too lazy to work at it, I ignored those messages and moved on from the site. 

When people around me got better and better, I convinced myself that it was okay to be jealous and do nothing, instead of being challenged and doing something

All things considered, I'm lucky that some part of me couldn't and wouldn't let go of writing. When I wrote then and when I write now, the noise in my head clears up. It's almost like a case of tinnitus of the mind, and writing is the only thing that can drown out the ringing and clear out my head.

Over the past few weeks and months, I have been fighting with the parts of me that don't like being uncomfortable. Whether that means getting up and going to the gym when I'd rather sleep for another hour or continuing to write a scene that I find too hot to handle, I'm fighting the laziness and going for it.

I'm done feeling sorry for myself. I'm done wishing I was a better writer, a better musician, a better husband. I'm done saying "yes" to the easy way out.

I'm going to screw up. But I'll be damned if I don't work on the things I need to work on. There ain't enough talent in the world to get me by, so I'm not going to skate on talent and the bare minimum anymore. They aren't my friends. I should have known they never were.

So I'm posting this to put myself on blast: I haven't got any of it figured out. But I'm done hiding.

Let's get to work.


Next Time: A Proper Introduction

Currently Listening to: "All These Things I've Done" by The Killers
Currently Reading: "Vivian Apple at the End of the World" by Katie Coyle
Currently Playing: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
Currently Watching: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

*-Trust me, no great loss to the world of literature. Quizilla shutting down certainly means that many of the stories I read and loved there are gone, but at the same time, my crappy attempts are gone too.