Detonation #3 – You’re a Grown-up Monster, so Meet Your Goddamn Deadlines

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

Warning: Explicit language and mature themes. If you’re offended by such things, you might want to venture elsewhere.

Everything is connected. Each critter throbbing on this planet is at least indirectly dependant on every other critter. For food, shelter, companionship, employment, transportation, entertainment, and bulletproof alibis etc.  It’s the great social supply chain and we are all but tiny links in the mail. We give in order to get, and we don’t like to wait. We want the Amazon Prime of existential deliverables, human and environmental costs be damned.

This is a way of saying deadlines are a fact of life. The key word being “dead”. As in, something unpleasant may happen should you fail to accomplish your task in the allotted time. This is the colloquialism we use to explicitly define when things need to be done. Work projects, school assignments, household chores, car maintenance, taxes etc.

So why do we have such a hard time meeting our creative deadlines? Because we’re busy, we don’t have family support, society doesn’t value art, we’re uninspired/day drunk/on the run from law enforcement… Yeah, yeah, yeah…

Time for real talk. On the most primitive level, human beans, and almost every other sentient piece of ooze, are far more motivated by aversion than affinity. Want to avoid starving? Store up nuts for the winter. Want to avoid freezing or being eaten by a mastodon? Build that fire and keep it burning all night. Want to avoid being friendless and lonely? Don’t be a cunt and return a text once in a while.

The problem is that nothing objectively terrible happens if we don’t finish writing that novel, essay, or poem*. World keeps on turning, you know? Maybe we’re frustrated and sad, but there’s no shortage of well-meaning friends to tell you it’s okay, you’re a brilliant artist, and you’ll get around to it eventually.

Well guess what? It’s not fucking okay, you’re not that brilliant, and why on earth would you get around to it eventually when you haven’t managed to get around to it already?  I mean, is this important to you or not?

But Octoclot, you may ask, doesn’t this make you a big slimy hypocrite? Heck, yes**. But it doesn’t make it any less true. The first step is realizing that your excuses are worthless. With few exceptions, getting shit done is within your control.

Okay, hear me out… maybe we’re more motivated by punitive measures, but if no one is going to flog us if we don’t write (unless we pay for it) and rewards don’t work, what’s a writer to choose? Neither. This is about habits, children. Forming good habits, so you don’t have to rely on external validation or condemnation to be productive.

But where’s the roadmap? Don’t worry, I gotcha. I call it the 3Ps and I’ve applied them to a case study for your amusement and edification.

The subjects: Noggy Splitfoot and Lola Silkysocks are writers. They are both quite good writers. They are also unmotivated bags of hot diaper pail trash. How can the 3Ps help them meet their creative deadlines?

P1 – Prioritization

Schedule writing time. Plug it in the damn calendar if you have to, and find a buddy if you can. It’s a lot harder not to show the fuck up when someone else is waiting on you. Lola and Noggy agree to check in over FB messenger on Friday night. Like they had anything better to do?

Noggy: Hey Silkysocks, ready for our writing sprint?

Lola: Yes, indeed. Having a friend to write with creates a compelling illusion of accountability.

Noggy: Plus, depravity loves company, so there’s that (sends gif of hippos mating in a mud wallow).

P2 – Planning

Mission statements are horse shit, until they aren’t. You need a plan, man. What are you going to use your writing time to work on, specifically? Share this with your buddy.

Lola: Imma edit that Detonation about meeting your deadlines.

Noggy: I’m going to write the sex-cannibal scene in my middle grade novel.

Lola: Right on. Check in again in an hour?

Noggy: See you then!

Lola: (sends gif of lascivious typing tentacles)

P3 – Permission

You’ve got your tush in the chair, set your intention, and perhaps like our subjects you’ve poured yourself eight fingers of bourbon. Now it’s time to actually write. But here’s the thing, don’t hobble yourself by demanding greatness. You’ll never commit anything to paper with such high standards. Get over yourself. It’s okay to churn out rubbish. It’s more than okay. It’s encouraged, necessary even. So, stop whining, drink your bourbon, and embrace mediocrity.

Lola: How’d you make out, Nog?

Noggy: I wrote ten thousand words

Lola: You…in an hour?

Noggy: It’s mostly shit, but I got one salvageable paragraph, wanna read?

Lola: Hit me.

Break up the writing sprints in any way that works for you, refill your glass, tuck your crotch goblins into bed, swap more disturbing gifs (sometimes sending them to unsuspecting friends because you’ve got too many conversation windows open).

And so it goes. Lather, rinse, and repeat. Do it enough and it becomes routine. Kind of boring, right? Maybe, but this is how a body of work is generated. One sprint at a time, using the 3Ps or however you want to organize your process. Not through a system of punishment and reward, not through will power, or hauling up buckets of inspiration from a magic well, but though habitual practice.

Take it from your Auntie Octoclot: you can finish what you start. All you have to do is show up, decide where you want to go, and get there. One shitty word at a time.

*If you must

**Take all advice with a pillar of salt, and hypocrisy is the least of our sins, trust me

Detonation #2 – The Six Lives Theory

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

Warning: Explicit language and mature themes. If you’re offended by such things, you might want to venture elsewhere.

***

There’s a terrible word echoing across the thankfully not endless blacktop of life. If you slow down and poke your head out the window, you’ll hear it, day in and day out. You might even hear yourself scream it, whether consciously or unconsciously. It’s insidious. Always out there, easy to snatch from the wind and repeat without conscious thought.

Busy.

It’s the go to for thousands of authors and poets on this rotting planet, toiling away in their pit stop cafes and roadhouse lairs and squalid pits. And you know exactly what I mean. It doesn’t matter what situation you’re in, when someone, typically not desiring an actual answer roars by and asks you how you’re doing, you inevitably mumble “Good, just goddamned busy.”

Bullshit. (A word not used nearly enough in our humble opinion!)

Busy. Yeah, what else is new, everyone is fucking busy. At this stage in our evolution, it’s the norm. The word means nothing.

It’s not that we don’t get it. Everyone has a lot going on, we know that, and making the time to write can often be difficult, if not seemingly impossible, but it’s not because you’re busy.

It’s because you’re a shitty driver with no self-control, and you don’t make it a priority.

But, if you’re reading this, you’re either looking for cheap entertainment, or you desire our simple brand of… enlightenment, so hang on tight baby, we have both. 

***

Here’s the true’ism we’re going to force down your miserable throat, one we’re calling The Six Lives Theory, which is sort of self-descriptive, semi-deep, and bloody obvious.

In a nutshell?

Everyone has six lives. Well, maybe not everyone. It would, in hindsight, be better to call it the Many Lives Theory or the More Than Two Lives but Less Than Eight Lives Theory, but six lives has a certain je ne sais quoito it, so we’re going with it.

So, six lives, let’s examine this for a moment though a totally fictional author named Noggy Splitfoot. Noggy is a ‘busy’ fellow, though if you ask him how he’s doing he’ll probably just shrug and go back chugging from his brown paper bag and scrawling words on the side of the cardboard box he’s living in behind his small yet opulent mansion. You see, Noggy, for all his business, haspriorities, and writing is way up there, probably close to the top. If Noggy had to make a list, it would look something like this:

Life 1: Family and/or Friends and/or Pets

Life 2: Work

Life 3: Ultra-Running

Life 4: Publishing

Life 5: Dirty Deeds Done In the Dark.

Life 6: Writing

Six separate highways that may or may not intersect with each other, roads that need to be driven day in and day out. The first couple are, of course, mandatory unless you don’t actually happen to have family, friends, pets, or work—in which case, fuck, how could you possibly be complaining about being busy, you’ve won the bloody lottery mate—but in all likelihood you’re shackled to that 2001 Pontiac Aztek you know will eventually crash and burn, leaving you a smoldering blackened marshmellow praying for a death prolonged by unaffordable health care. 

Then there are your hobbies. The sports of all sorts. Reading trash because you don’t know quality literature if it bashed your face in. Overpriced video games. Netflix and Chill with discount hookers. Travel to exotic destinations like haunted gopher hole museums and Bigfoot hunting grounds. Posting fake news and feral cat pictures on FB and Twitter. We could go on and on (and we could, trust us, we soooo could).

Publishing we just tossed in there because… well, let’s just say if anything is a time and money sinkhole, that’d be it. But everyone has one of those, a life that consumes, like a black hole, everything that comes in contact with it. Sure, it brings joy—in theory at least—but it sucks, both literally and figuratively.

Noggy’s fifth life? Let’s just say if we told you the details we’d have to kill you, and nobody will know the absolute truth until he’s dead, missing-presumed dead, and/or the sun goes cold. Intrigued? You should be. A secret life. A… sinister sounding secret life. Everyone worth more than a wooden nickel has one of these puppies whether it involves collecting vintage porn from a creepy old bastard named Lazlo, going to late night strip karaoke, or cuddling chickens in an intimate, yet shocking manner. Stuff you’d never cop to, yet there you are.

And that brings us to writing. Noggy, bless his cursed and twisted soul, needs to find time to write. Needs to make it a priority. And, even with all those lives crowding him, sideswiping him, pushing his kitted out futuristic, yet oddly retro camper van, onto the shoulder so he plows through all manner of road kill and unfortunate cyclists, he needs to put his foot on the gas and stay on course. Not in the fast lane maybe (except to pass, he’s not a savage. Usually.), but in one of the lanes that doesn’t make it too easy to take an off ramp to the Olive Garden.

So how? How can you get any goddamn work done when you have to deal with the endless stop and go? Great question.

Two words.

Zipper Merge.

You’re welcome. Look it up, learn how it works. Don’t fuck it up and you’ll be ahead of the game in no time, nudging your way to the front of the line, weaselling your way in between every other car clogging your six lane life.

Get up an hour early and write before work. Run at lunch so you free up that hour to write in the evening. Take the bus so you can write on your commute. Wedge yourself into those cracks, take advantage of every opening. Sure, you gotta be aggressive. Fearless. Willing to endure the seething hate from all the clueless drivers who never read the classic Advances in Queueing: Theory, Methods, and Open Problems by Jewgeni H. Dshalalow and, you know, actually get it. But trust us, it works and your life will never be the same again.

Detonation #1 – Embracing Auto-correct for Fun & Profit

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

Warning: Explicit language and mature themes. If you’re offended by such things, you might want to venture elsewhere.

***

We’ve all be there. One moment you’re slamming away on the keyboard, a trickle of bottom-self Bourbon leaking down your chin, when you stop to read your last chunk of dialog.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Harris, Katie won’t be at school today. She got dick yesterday and spent the evening bent over the toilet.”

Hmm, you think, both synapses misfiring in sympathy with the piece of shit 2001 Pontiac Aztek parked outside the mouldering, rat infested writer’s pad you inhabit. Hmm. There’s something about those words that aren’t… quite right. You realize what’s happened, of course, by the fifth re-read. Katie wasn’t technically bent over the toilet; she was leaning her head against the seat so her crazy Rapunzel hair wouldn’t end up soaking in vomit or flushed. And technically, given your sketchy as fuck outline, it’s Saturday morning and thus no school.

But still. Hmm.

You hmm a lot these days, cylinders spitting and sputtering, so close to compression, yet producing little more than black, oily smoke. Your fingers deform the red Solo cup left over from your bestie’s Solstice smudge party and you take a sip of the rotgut and grimace, knowing your feeble mind is missing the obvious.

Only one thing to do: what every responsible Hemmingway wannabe does in a situation like this. You wrap a ribbon around the troublesome prose and fire it to your closest writer compadre. And wait.

The response is immediate. “Lol.”

“What?”

“Brings me back to when you wrote all those Penthouse Letters in college. Awesome.”

“Uh, thanks,” you reply, hastily re-reading for the sixth time and finally catching the elusive switcheroo your firmware refuses to acknowledge.

You select the word and type in the intended adjective, watch it magically revert to it’s erotic alternative, and mash your face into the keyboard.

***

Auto-correct is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, if you’re using a heavy-duty word processor or some ancient nostalgia relic like WordStar, it’s probably not a huge issue, but if you write on your phone or tablet, using the same learning algorithms you sext with, it’s an inevitable fact of life.

Most of the time you’ll get some sort of bullshit gibberish, or wildly obvious replacement. You groan or shake a fist at the gods or even laugh, if it’s silly enough. And you fix it, hoping it’ll stick.

So what if I told you there’s a better way?

What if I told you to embrace your worst auto-correct transgressions and run with them? Because face it, most writing is dreary. Literary. Memoirs and poetry. It desires spice. Requires spice. Nobody wants to read boring crap, unless they are old or responsible for grants specific to non-commercializable artistic ventures. Your subconscious yearns for more. The algorithms designed by a thousand horny nerds yearn for more. You just need to give in, embrace it.

Look at this sad, bland throwaway:

Billy wiped his forehead with a soiled handkerchief, reached down between his scuffed knees, and jammed his hand into the roiling muck bucket.

Or this gem:

Willy wiped his forehead with a soiled handkerchief, reached down between his scuffed knees, and jammed his hand into the roiling fuck puppet.

Yeah. I thought so.

Billy, the poor orphan, abandoned on the doorstep of Conception Abbey and forced into menial drudgery suddenly becomes Willy, a rough and tumble sort of fellow, going all in with his insatiable Factory girlfriend. Maybe you won’t win any awards, but it’ll pop. 

Screw the red pill. Blue all the way baby. Dive head first into that rabbit hole and see where the twisted tunnel leads you. You wont’ be sorry.