Monday, July 15, 2019

Writing Sustainably; Balancing the Craft With Ecological Responsibility

The Writers Job Is Only Getting Harder

Of all the career paths open to us, writing has to be one of the most maddening, difficult, and intoxicating; I'd say I've never wanted to be anything but a writer, but, truthfully, I've never been capable of being anything else. The other things that I am incapable of not being include a feminist, an animal-lover, and an environmentalist. Which can be a real problem when the average first draft of a novel takes three notepads of notes, 100 - 150 pages of single-spaced manuscript, ink, biro pens, enough tea to sink a ship, and god knows how many mars bars.
Add to this the fact that I, like many other writers, also study on the side and a picture forms that is pretty uncomfortable. A picture of consumption and destruction that I can't square away with my beliefs and morals. Now, the truth is that there isn't all that much any writer who aims to publish can do to eliminate their waste and paper consumption altogether. Unless you're one of the unicorns who can plan, write, edit, and publish all electronically, I personally need the pen to paper feel to get the creativity flowing, it seems that the writer is doomed to be a destroyer as well as a creator.

However, all hope is not lost for environmentally minded writers who want to keep at the craft while doing their bit to minimise the impact they have on the world.

"Green" Writerly Habits and Tools

There are some pretty obvious and simple things that we can do to make sure that we're not causing unnecessary destruction and damage to the environment. Perhaps the simplest and most obvious of all is to recycle all paper that we no longer have a use for, and, of course, to use only recycled paper for taking notes and writing rough drafts. Likewise, not printing when we can avoid it is a simple way to reduce our carbon footprint. Using an energy efficient laptop or tablet, too, is a great way to minimise impact, but to make a real difference it comes down to the tools we use on a daily basis.

Eco-Friendly Writing Tools*
*heads up there are a few Amazon affiliate links for the products I'm talking about in this article; unless otherwise stated I have tried the products in question and found them to be worth consideration. 

1. Recycled Pens;
As a writer, I must go through more pens than the average person does hair ties or hot dinners, so finding pens made from recycled water bottles was a real revelation and boon to me! The best thing is, they're not expensive!
Pilot and Green&Good make affordable, recycled B2P gel pens that are made from single-use items like water bottles.

2. Reusable Pens;
Reusable, or refillable pens are also a phenomenal way to go if you want to minimise the amount of waste you're producing. There are a lot of decent and refillable fountain pens that are affordable, but there are also refillable biro options, too, if you don't like a nib.

3. Reusable Notepads;
The reusable notepad might not seem like a new thing, but I'm talking more than laminated paper. There's a new breed of reusable pad out there now, one that's connected to an app that lets you upload notes made before wiping the book clean (they estimate you get 500 uses out of the pad). I'm still waiting on mine arriving, but if it works this could half the waste I produce while preparing to write.

4. Whiteboards;
Instead of post-it notes or cork board, a wipe-clean whiteboard, or a blackboard and chalk can serve as great, reusable ways in which to take notes, brainstorm, and plot.

Writers with the time and resources can also invest in sockets that actually draw zero power when shut off, and look at renewable energy sources, but the tools above are basic, easy changes to the normal routine that can actually make a difference in the way our minds, imaginations, and craft change and impact the world, and, at the end of the day, this is something that should be at the forefront of all of our minds.

I'm not sure that ebooks will ever totally eclipse printed hard copies, and I would be very sad if they did, truth be told... but moderation is always a virtue, don't you think?

*This post was created as a part of the #Authortoolboxbloghop; if you want to join in you can contact moderator Raimey Gallant through her website!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Writing: Craft, Creation, and Connection.

Creative writing is an unusual craft, though I do believe that it is a craft rather than a gift or a talent; one can be a talented or gifted storyteller, or have a naturally active imagination, but the nuts and bolts of displaying those ideas and telling those stories is as much a craft as carpentry is.

They say it takes ten years, and around ten thousand hours, of practice to master a skill, but I would argue, as someone who is rapidly approaching the ten year mark and who has long since by-passed those ten thousand hours as a result of writing almost every day (allowing for sickness), that you never really master writing. There is no pinnacle of writing ability, save perhaps the ability to write the first draft of a story and be comfortable in the knowledge that you managed to say, more or less, what you wanted to.
Nearly ten years ago I started to write freelance, and boy oh boy was I bad then, and probably fourteen years ago I wrote my first 'book' (a Dracula rip-off wherein the set was a travelling circus, and the count himself was a flea, Count Dracumite, and Van Helsing was a cat).
These days I can feel confident that when I write something I have articulated myself adequately... but I don't feel that I've mastered jack-shit, to be honest.
In that, I'm not alone; many published authors, even the most successful like Stephen King, question their status. In his seminal and sublimely readable On Writing King states that he questioned whether he had anything of worth to say about the craft. Some might say that he doesn't; literary snobbery is not dead in the world, after all, but the truth is that there are few authors who have published so diversely and prolifically. A self-proclaimed 'salami writer' he may be but it is good salami, and that is something I all writers should aim for. It's certainly what I aim for; the ability to work that magic of transporting ideas from paper to person, and to entertain, and maybe provoke thought, while doing so is a far worthier goal than any literary pretensions.

In fact, shoot me if you want, I think any writer who engages in the craft with the firm belief that they will create something worthier and more profound than anyone else is a self-important hack and should have their pens confiscated. But that's just me.

I could try to be one of those faux-profound 'content creators' here and ask why we write, but that's perfectly obvious to me. And if it's obvious to me, it's certainly obvious to you, God knows I'm no paragon of intelligence. We write and we create to communicate and entertain, and we do it because there are too many marbles rolling around in our heads. Writing sets some of them free, and if we're lucky it makes us a little money in the process. Simple, yeah? So, what's the point of this?
The point is that I firmly believe that anyone can learn the basic 'craft' of writing.
There will always be bad writers; some people can be taught all they need to know and still go about the business of writing with a willful disregard for good practice. Others simply can't always articulate what they need to say, and some just don't have the ideas. The latter two try their best and often devote themselves to the technical aspects with a religious zeal that I wish I had. That alone can mark them out for a good career in the wider 'industry'. The first, however, tends to be the kind of arrogant snob you meet at a Slam Poetry night who denies the need for structure because they want their work to "transcend" it all. And that, quite frankly, makes me want to puke, not because I hate their confidence and aspirations, but because it smacks of disrespect; to think that you can throw away all the work that has come before you on the basis that... what? Your talent is so pure, your soul so magnificent, that you simply don't need to work at it?
Go off, I guess.

And yet...
No really, bear with me here, if you look at what I've written, or pick up a book from your shelf and look at what's written in there, you'll see a list of grammar 'no-no's' in action. For the most part, these faux-pas work. They work because they contribute to what is being done; they were written by people who understand the rules and choose to break them for effect.

For example, a short sentence increases the pace of a story. And when sentences start with words that should not, such as this one, it gives the illusion of being connected to the writer's thoughts, and long, complex, run on sentences can be used to build tension. Vary the structure. Bend the rules. You can even leave a sentence unfinished if -
Well, if it suits the purpose of what you're doing.
So, what separates the successful, premeditated rule-breaker from the Slam Poetry snob I rained fire on earlier? Design. It really is that simple; when a good writer inserts a metaphor, an unfinished sentence, a slip of purple prose they do it to increase the connection between the reader and the story. All of these little mistakes and rule-breaks are placed to make the reader feel what the characters do, to mimic the story progression, or to convey a feeling or idea. In short, good writers will not leave you irritated when they break the rules (unless you're a pedant, in which case there's no writer good enough in the world save Messers Strunk and White).
A bad, thoughtless, or self-important writer disregards the rules out of ignorance, lack of attention, or lack of care, and in doing so they violate the agreement between author and reader which states that we produce for them to enjoy and understand.

That's the gist of the thing, isn't it? The thing we all conveniently forget; writing may be a craft and a hobby, but a book is a product and publishing is a business. So, perhaps it's time to step away from notions of profundity (which we should really all grow out of in our teens, or at least within our first ten years of writing) and focus on the reality, which is this; it's perfectly possible to write a book that is profound, groundbreaking, of literary importance, and which has real appeal to the public.
It is.
But it's not likely, and we'd be far better focussing on producing good quality salami before moving on to filet mignon.

Writing Sustainably; Balancing the Craft With Ecological Responsibility

The Writers Job Is Only Getting Harder Of all the career paths open to us, writing has to be one of the most maddening, difficult, and...