Monday, June 16, 2014

Trek, Trying, and The Solitary Author Thing

The Writing Process isn't much a part of my work here on this blog - frankly, so many authors have so much rarefied and high-class stuff to say about How I Write that anything I'd add would look pretty paltry ... and, in any case, it's really nobody's business.  Process isn't the sort of thing some other person could try on for themselves (and it's not like I've got any success anyone could possibly care to emulate, anyway - though I stand by my actual results).

But, tonight, my process broke down in a good way.  Not least, because the breakdown is temporary.

Some authors have an office, or a secluded space - they cordon off sequestered hours of a day, or walls not to be breached, or what have you.  Some may need that - those with kids, or a partner, or other demands on their space, time, what have you.  But this house is all mine - apart from sharing it with Gossie the Editor Cat and Penelope, there aren't any actual voices to call me away nor distract me.  And so, I can work wherever, whenever I please (outside of my nine-to-five).

The odd thing - perhaps embarrassing (if only I had any shame) - is that I actually synthesize voices.  I don't want to create distractions, but silence is for me problematic, and I don't currently (nor for the past thirteen years or so) own a decent stereo system.  So I turn on the boob tube.

In order to prevent myself from feeling any need to WATCH it, I spend a lot of streaming hours going through the many Trek offerings, with the occasional Buffy or Angel thrown in.  Most of these series, I have seen enough that they're like the music I do listen to at work:  it can be on incredibly quietly, but I know what I'm hearing, and that is enough.  TV is the same way - it can be on, I know it's telling me a story (that story has zero connection to/influence on whatever I'm working on), and that is enough.

In silence, I find myself noting the pain in my hands from typing, the *sound* of my typing, how fast or how slow I am going.  The noise, oddly enough, keeps me from becoming too focused on the physical details of writing work.

I've read that people doodling in meetings and on calls actually aids in concentration, rather than reducing it - that the mental removal-from-the-moment by something abstract, yet which takes up one's attention, can allow for free form focus.  In my mind, it's the old cliche' - that a writer faced with a blank sheet of paper, nothing else, and with time to fill it, is something at a loss.  For me, the laptop and nothing else is perhaps similarly problematic.

I don't succumb, to speak of, to any mental state I'd describe as "writer's block" - but I do seem to find the demand itself, of writing work to be done, stultifying.  I don't get paralyzed, but I sure do find a lot of drawers to clean, laundry to do, adorable pet antics to laugh about, and so on.  Creating my own, controlled, "distractions" seems to allow me the freedom to focus, in my own free form and abstract way.  Though I'm aware abstract focus is oxymoronic - pure focus just never has been for me.

Which - at last - brings me to the way it broke down earlier this evening.

The episode I've reached in the latest random streaming was Star Trek:  The Next Generation, "Half a Life".  This is the first time in all canon the character of Lwaxana Troi (played by Majel Barrett, the character is mother to the emotive and pretty Deanna, ship's counselor) is treated with dignity and real depth.  Sadly, the ep does start off with a *heavy* dose of insulting "humor" at her expense from every male in the cast., but the extent to which it redeems itself makes me forgive that every time I see it.  David Ogden Stiers is wrenching, indelible, excellent - and presents the dignity of a culture which at first presentation might have been an opportunity for the human-centric and culturally superior plotline ... and which, in the end, is not.

Season four of ST:TNG has some excellent stories, but "Half a Life" is one I would be proud to show someone, in order to exemplify the best of Trek - to show why I am such a lifelong fan.  It's powerful and *inclusive* in the way that has made Trek so important to so many.  It easily transcends every last possible criticism anyone has ever had of Star Trek - means something - is transformative - and it's entertaining.  Hell, it's gripping.

Watching "Half a Life", you don't know where it will go, and it's a fascinating look at one of the better-drawn imagined species' culture.  The Kaelons expectations, offensive in the extreme to the Federation mindset, are treated with an internal logic, and expressed by two characters in particular with both emotional conviction, and heartbreakingly believable doubt.  Stiers' turn here - a one-off character never to appear again on screen - may be one of the greatest roles of his career (and I loved Winchester; grew up on M*A*S*H, too).  But it's Michelle Forbes (later to return to ST:TNG as an entirely different character, the contumacious Bajoran Ro Laren), in a single scene, who really tears apart the preconceptions about this culture - and who, in one single *line* - delivers possibly the most devastating emotional blow Trek has ever produced without killing anyone.  Her face is a master class, actually - she's a great casting choice to put with Stiers.

I didn't make as much progress on revisions tonight as I had hoped.  But I was wonderfully transported by something I genuinely love -and I count that an acceptable diversion.

For those who are not Trekkies or Trekkers (and who, like me, also don't freak out about which term is used), the episode is #22, here.  If you've ever wondered what the deal is with Star Trek anyway ... consider watching it.  And, please - tell me what you think, if you do.

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