Sunday, September 13, 2009

SOBbin’ (continued)

Time Stinks…er…I Mean…Sinks
Continuing to continue the conversation from Liz Strauss’s blog, on Thursday September 10th, 2009, the topic was, as she describes them: ‘time sinks’.

Liz says, ‘time sinks;’ I say, ‘black holes’ — but whatever moniker you wish to use — they’re creative enigmas wrapped in a practical riddle; that which simultaneously robs us of our creative energy while we are in the process of creating, and are often responsible for our being drawn away from those projects that we sometimes start but never seem to finish.

Time sinks can come in different forms; from the legitimate components of the creative process — like brainstorming and refining a project theme, to the practical evils of necessity in getting a job done — like research, or necessary governmental and/or legal due diligence.

For her part, Liz has focused on the spinning and development of ideas as her nominee for time suck numero uno. She invites us to think about the stumbling blocks that the rest of us encounter in comparison, offering,
“Getting ideas is so much fun. Making them happen is where the real work starts.

We lose interest, find a flaw, get seduced by a new idea, or land a job that offers more.

Have you found that the biggest time sink on the web are ideas that never get done?”
This, as are so many of Liz’s topics, just so apropos to my modus operandi, (which is why I’m doing this series in the first place), that it’s simply uncanny.

And then again it may not just be coincidental, but rather a common circumstance that other creative people with short attention spans (like me) experience over the course of everyday life.

However the one thing I wanted to key upon really isn’t any kind of exposition regarding the chasing of ideas down the rabbit hole, but rather my personal version of the time sink phenomenon (which not so coincidentally, I’ve been forced to deal with in the writing of this story).

Seduced by Seduction
Now I don’t consider myself an ‘idea guy,’ although I am called upon fairly often to contribute to brainstorming sessions at work, where everyone comes up with ideas regarding themes and such for the conferences and events our department is involved with.

Generally speaking, however, I consider my strong suit in that area to be a little less than the ‘nuts & bolts’ logistics that are essential in giving a project legs. Rather, I’m the type that is better suited at things like finding a clever turn of a phrase in naming a product or theme, or something else in a similar lighthearted vein.

But while that’s a large part of my external personality, it’s far from who I am as a whole. I might be a goofball on the surface, but my serious side in an equal part of my identity.

I think; a lot; sometimes too much. Oftentimes I’ll become drawn into an internal conversation so much that I lose the direction of my original thought. I’ll suddenly stop and marvel at how far off the track my train of thought had traveled. Does that ever happen to you? Unfortunately I do that when writing stories as well.

So when Liz listed, getting “seduced by a new idea” as one of the symptoms of a time sink, I stood up and took notice. That as much as anything had been the bane of my existence as a writer.

When I first began this blog, there were no roadblocks to my motivation or ability to tell the hundreds of stories that were practically bursting from my head. I’ve always written for myself first and readers second, so there was no concern about making my early blog entries ‘sexy’ for those other than myself. Frankly I never really thought anyone else would read them. I didn’t need to try and make them interesting — they just were — to me, and that was all that mattered.

Likewise, I didn’t need to work for story line material. The compelling issues of my family’s battles with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease, the fact that my Dad married my Aunt, and that a little boy from a hick country town in Indiana ended up making good in a place so far away (physically as well as culturally) as Los Angeles is more than enough guts to build a few good stories around.

However my problem with ‘seduction’ began a couple years ago — after my life’s history had pretty much been told. That was the point where I realized how much work this gig can be. And given how much I’ve struggled with it, sometimes I scoff at the notion that I even fancy myself being a writer.

I began to find myself in a consistently frustrating place when embarking on a story: I would begin with guns a’ blazin’ — knowing (or so I thought) exactly where I was going with a thought or opinion. Then two or three pages into the tale, the realization would befall that I was so far off course that I practically had two completely separate stories written instead of just one.

Why it happens is still a mystery to me. It’s not an insurmountable problem if I recognize it early enough to head it off before it ruins the flow of the piece I’m writing. However, the damage inflicted is in the time sink, and the way it affects both the limited amount of time I have to write in the first place, as well as the creative energy the whole re-work process drains me of.

It has caused me on numerous occasions to abandon multi-part series, not because I’ve lost interest, but because I just don’t have the time to go back into them and re-sync my mind into that scenario once again.

And that again speaks to this idea the Liz threw out there, of the ‘seduction’ of new ideas drawing us away from completing projects: I don’t feel as though I ‘have time’ to go back and finish these incomplete stories, why? Because there are now ‘new’ stories that occupy my mind and beg to be written.

See what I mean? It’s a particularly vicious cycle.

BTW, that’s really all I wanted to say about my personal time sink demons. I’m workin’ on ‘em, and as I mentioned previously, this effort to base a week’s worth of posts on Liz Strauss’s SOB Blog topics is in large part an exercise in breaking free of the over-thought that has crept into my writing.

Somewhat ironically, I have an addendum to this story that’s actually an example of the problem (and why this particular post is two full days late). Nevertheless I found it interesting, so I’ll share it as a separate post.

It’s about that word, ‘seduce,’ and its connotation in our modern lexicon.

NextAn Addendum to ‘Seduction’
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