Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Blogtour: Me & Writing

I should have known the second he walked into my office - he was trouble. Tim Maytom, legs made for dancing and a collection of Los Campesinos! t-shirts that just wouldn't quit. 

"Mr Spencer," he cooed, twirling one lock of that beautiful dark hair. "I've got something you might be interested in. 

"I'm taking part in a 'Blogtour', a kind of chain-letter of blogging, where you pass on the format of the blogpost to a couple of writers you follow, and so on - basically talking about their writing process and what they're currently working on."

It sounded like a perfect chance to talk about myself. Almost too perfect. Looking into those big bubblegum eyes of his, how could I say no?

Tim had real projects to talk about. He's putting together something called a 'role-playing-game'. Me? I just sit here in my pants and blog. What the hell do I have to talk about?

Like I said - Tim was trouble.

What Am I Working On?

As my life becomes increasingly crammed, my main project is writing about even a fraction of the things that tickle my brain - a particularly fine chorus, the story being drummed out on a pub table with two fistfuls of Netrunner cards, the way London on a foggy day reminds me of mid-00s games with the draw distance turned way down so my computer stood a chance at running them.

Most of the time, that's this blog, which was always intended as a way of trying things out, a release valve where I don't have to worry about money or readers. Or, if I want to worry about those things, through my day job at Mobile Marketing Magazine - which, in spite of its b2b focus and incredibly specific name, occasionally hands me an incredibly wide remit - or through freelance work, which I'm constantly vowing to carve out more time for.

I have actually got a little something in the back pocket, which I'm still trying to work out the whats and hows of. I can't really talk about that yet, at least on here. Ask me about it in a pub, and you'll get so many details and questions and stray thoughts you'll regret ever asking.

How Does My Work Differ From Others In My Genre?

The idea that all criticism is autobiography is hardly a new one.

But looking back over my last dozen or so posts, it's the overwhelming theme. Sometimes I'll reminisce about how I consumed something - listening to The Juan Maclean in a drained bathtub or my first and only foray into Nidhogg multiplayer, crowded around a laptop at 3am - and hope it gives some context about how 

Other times, that aspect will only really be clear in hindsight. As much 'I' as there was in my post about trying to play GTA V without killing anyone, I didn't realise until afterwards how much it's about me trying to work out what it means to say I'm a pacifist, while being in love with violent art. My post on Rogue Legacy was actually a fairly straight review, but I remember giving it a final polish while visiting my parents and thinking, oh, this is about me and them.

Occasionally, I'll just drop all pretence and just outright talk about me. To explain how much I enjoyed Hearthstone, I had to talk about all the baggage that came with it, and that ends up with me telling stories about being ashamed of certain aspects of my personality.

All that might not make be particularly unique, but it keeps me as honest as I can be, and it's why I... oh, hang on.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

Because it's unavoidable?

If I read/play/watch/listen to/think about something that really grabs me, shortly afterwards, these chunks of phrases will start to appear in my mind, unsummoned. The words float there, editing themselves, until I do something about it. By writing them down, I'm able to think of this as a gift, rather than a mental illness.

In that Hearthstone post, I wrote about running around in my grandparents' garden as a kid after gobbling down a few dozen pages of fantasy. I had to act out battles with a line prop and hold conversations with myself and jump the hell around because the fiction I was interacting with was too big in my brain just to let it sit there.

Also: that's a realisation I came to because I wrote about it. As I alluded to in the last answer, doing this is the nearest thing to therapy I can afford. Writing is catharsis, obviously, and that's as true for how much I dig this comic/game/film/record/whatever as it is for the big stuff.

How Does Your Writing Process Work?

By pulling together a lot of notes.

When those chunks of paragraphs appear in my head, I try to get them tethered down into a Word doc as quickly as possible.

(Sometimes I'll lose one of them, and it hurts. This weekend, out of nowhere, my brain started rewriting the final two paragraphs of my recent blog on Hearthstone, which I thought ended a little messily. This was a revelation. Suddenly I knew how to tie together all those ideas and memories in a way that made total sense, was more true to the game and what I was trying to say. But I was on holiday in Leeds, without access to a keyboard, and frankly I spent a lot of the time drinking heavily. It's not there anymore, but I can feel the phantom of it.)

Then, I wait until I've got about double the sensible wordcount, and start chipping away at it. As I expand the fragments into whole segments, I'll liberally deploy "???" placeholders where I can't think of the exact right phrase yet. Once the whole thing is in rough sentences, I'll copy-and-paste bits around until a shape starts to present itself.

These days, this last stage (what most people would actually call the writing) happens a lot sporadically than I'd like, because I have to squeeze it into lunch hours and early mornings on weekends. Sometimes, this means by the time a piece is ready for human consumption, the original thrill has gone and I'm just writing in the character of the guy who wrote these excited notes. This is the main thing I'd like to fix about my writing, since you haven't asked, and is why I've tried to keep it as low-concept as possible with my blogging this year.

Coming Next...

I was meant to pass the Blogtour along to two others, who'd answer these same questions about their processes and what exactly's wrong with their brain. But I'm far too polite to try and force it on anyone, so I asked very meekly for volunteers. I'd be rubbish in a pyramid scheme, or HYDRA. 

Two people were stupid enough to volunteer themselves.

Michael Eckett
To me, Michael is a comics bro. But to the world of creativity, he is a playwright.

Michael writes, directs, produces and makes props for plays which skip across comedy, drama and, on occasion, edutainment with an enviable lightness. Also, in the interludes he plays music, and sometimes it's Prince because I'm in the audience.

He's written about comics for this very site, and blogs at letsgetcomical.blogspot.co.uk, which used to have a regular feature called 'Sandwich of the Month'. Sadly missed. Nowadays, it's mainly used to document Michael's attempt to watch a new film and reading a book every week of the year. I have shamelessly copied this idea for 2014, except not with books because I'm borderline illiterate.

I've got this far without writing about his hair? Goddamn, that hair. It's like Aslan was cast in an advert for silky soft conditioner.

Reece Lipman
By day, Reece works for Chocolate Films, making videos, running workshops and lugging heavy camera equipment across Europe.

By night, he is the Shimmer-Man, skimming across London on his Shimmer-Bike, dancing the Shimmertusi at feminist nightclubs, and running Shimmer-Man Productions.

In the middle bit, which isn't quite day or night, he writes about films for Cult Hub

No comments:

About Me

My photo
London, United Kingdom
Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.