Saturday, January 24, 2009

Random Musings

The most successful authors that I know tend to sit down and write a book from start to finish, writing every day. This is undoubtedly a winning strategy but sits uneasily on the shoulders of people with personalities like mine. I am mildly maniac depressive. When I am up, I am flying and capable of enormous energy. But when I’m down I find it impossible to concentrate. OK, I admit it; I am a binge worker.

Creative people are notoriously prone to depression, maniac depressive cycles right up to extreme bipolarism, and even outright paranoia. Paranoid schizophrenia could be seen as a form of extreme creativity. The sufferer hears ‘voices’ in his head. Well, we all do that, writers more than most, but we normally retain the ability to distinguish reality from the worlds inside our heads.

I reckon I have got off mostly pretty lightly with my mild depression cycles. There seems to be a strong correlation between creativity and various levels of mental instability, and it ‘runs’ in families. All this suggests a strong genetic component and the correlation would explain why these genes have not been eliminated by natural selection. Having a small percentage of creatives in a human population is beneficial but don’t expect them to be easy going, reliable team players.

The problem with binge working is that it takes time to get back up to speed after you have put a work down for more than a day or two. I compromise by switching from writing to editing. I find that a useful mechanical activity to do when I am convinced that my work is worthless, my life is worthless and that we are all doomed in a general sort of way. It does keep me in touch with the work for when the next upswing starts and I start feverishly hammering the keyboard.

However, I try to put a story to one side for a while when I think that it is finished. A month is about right. When I return to the file, I can see that the story is full of typos, clumsy phrasing and passive sentences, the latter being the curse of a scientific education.

Talking of typos, I was particularly amused by the critique of one of my stories published in Baen’s Universe by an American reviewer who dislikes the Baen style, whatever that is. I doubt that anyone confuses my style with David Weber . Sigh! I should be so lucky. Anyway, I digress. This reviewer damned me with faint praise and then drew attention to the many small errors in my writing. Did I not have a spellchecker on my word processor? Well of course I do and it’s set to British English (what Microsoft likes to quaintly call ‘International English’) because I am, um, English, a citizen of the United Kingdom and a subject of her Britannic Majesty. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to pop out to the pavement and retrieve my trainer’s from my motor’s boot – Oh all right, go out to the sidewalk and get my sneakers from my automobile's trunk.

6 comments:

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

what you mean about the Queen's English, John. My word processing program refuses to stay on English-English. It keeps switching back to US-English, after every correction.

It's driving me crazy,. And I have gone into preferences and changed it, so don't ask me why it still does this!

Cheers, R.

John Lambshead said...

Dear Rowenna

You need to change the default language in the template. It defaults back to this. That is a different choice from the document language.

John

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I've done this. But it still keeps reverting. Gah!!!

R.

KylieQ said...

Oh my goodness, your post has made me realise I'm a binge writer! Is there a cure?

Louise Marley said...

Jay Lake says he's a binge writer, too. I, on the other hand, think of myself as the tortoise (as in "The Tortoise and the Hare".) I write every day, a little or a lot, and it never seems like much. Three good pages is a good day for me. But somehow, at the end of the year, there's a book, or at least most of one!

Satima Flavell said...

Rowena, this might help make your computer stay on English (UK) or English (AUS). Go to the Task Bar at the bottom of your desktop. Right click on it. Choose "Toolbars" then click "Language bar". An icon for the LB will then appear on your taskbar, down near the sys tray. Click on it to bring it up and click on whatever language it has - probably "US". if it gives you choices, click on the one you want. Mine is currently set to "US-International" and my Office programs now stick with "English (UK)". Until I learnt this trick they used to switch back to "English (US)" at the drop of a hat. You can minimse the LB by right clicking on it.