Jeremy J. Jones – Stranded in Thought

April 23, 2010

The path my life takes

Filed under: Thoughts,Writing — Jeremy @ 11:37 am

I just had a realization. (I know, I have a lot of those, but bear with me.)

The less I write, the worse my life goes, and vice-versa. Why is that?

Most likely because when I’m writing, I feel like I’m in control and moving toward my goals. When I’m not, I feel out of control and hopeless. And as a result I make dumb mistakes, and life gets even more difficult than it normally is, which is difficult enough.

So there it is. Write and feel in control of your life. Writing! The magic antidote to all life’s problems.

An interesting comment was made by Dean Wesley Smith in the comments of his latest blog post, Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Researching Fiction. (In this series, Dean is striking at all the myths of writing and publishing that irritate him; definitely worth a read.) He wrote in a comment, “Early on we all start calling ourselves ‘writers’ which puts a focus on writing sentence-by-sentence when in reality what we are trying to learn is how to tell stories.”

That gave me an idea, as it made me ask a question. Why do we call ourselves writers?

That’s a stupid question. Because we write, that’s why. Well yes, but that’s not really what we do. We’re storytellers. Ask any fiction author why they’re a fiction author, and nearly all will tell you, “Because I love making up and telling stories.”

So what we really should be called are storytellers. Some storytellers sing songs or play instrumental music pieces, some tell their stories orally, some paint or take photographs or sculpt, and so on. But we’re all storytellers; we just choose different a different outlet for our stories.

So in contrast with my earlier statement, it’s actually the storytelling and creation that makes us feel energized, excited, motivated, and what-not. The writing is just the communication method.

So I revise. Tell stories and feel good and in control and happy. Fail to, and feel the opposite.

I have twenty-two minutes until my next appointment. I can write a couple pages in that time.


Copyright © 2010 Jeremy J. Jones


January 11, 2010

Where do you get all your ideas?

Filed under: Miscellaneous,Thoughts — Jeremy @ 8:58 pm
Work, work, work

Image copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones

Too many times to count, I’ve read or heard published authors say that by far the most common question they are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” or some variation on that. Invariably these writers say that it’s not coming up with ideas but finding the time to write the stories the ideas generate before new ideas occur that is the problem.

I’ve really got a fire burning under my tokus the last couple of weeks, and it is due to my own drive, but considerable thanks are due to Dean Wesley Smith’s series on motivation.

I decided that I want to start working on a longer story that I’ve been kicking around, mostly because I love the idea and because my niece and nephew are aching to read it. So I went looking for my notes on the story.

I’m apparently like most writers; we all keep many notebooks, notepads, electronic versions, and sticky notes, all with scribbles about various projects and topics. As I flipped and clicked through everything, I realized that I have literally dozens of story ideas documented, in various states of development. I became overwhelmed briefly, before realizing that this is a good thing. I could work four hours a day for the rest of the year and not finish writing everything.

Yet I come up with at least one new idea per week, and I’m sure that pales in comparison to many.

So I had to stop what I was doing and write this. The internet can be harmful to the creative process. I really should be writing.

 


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


November 30, 2009

What to write about?

Filed under: Miscellaneous,Thoughts — Jeremy @ 7:11 pm

I haven’t written anything in far, far too long. I’ve had some personal difficulties that aren’t worth mentioning, and I’ve found myself either dealing with those or avoiding responsibility altogether. I’m sure nearly all of us have been there at one point or another.

For some time, I’ve been wrestling with what I want to post on my blog. I’ve wanted to add some fiction and poetry, but I’ve not been writing any. (That will soon change; failing to write is literally draining the life from me.)

I subscribe to many blogs, and several of them are outstanding, though a cut is becoming necessary. What many of these people do is write about a subject in which they are an expert. I am not an expert on writing. I have good instincts, but limited experience, and even less instruction. So I’ve always had a problem figuring out my voice.

However, I just had an epiphany of sorts. Several authors I read have themes, often for only a short period of time. What I was reading this evening at the time of my realization was my friend and former professor Jesse Abbot’s latest post, which is part of a series titled “the book of common care.”

I was reminded of the words of another former professor, Sally Terrell, who explained that writing a research paper is conducting research to become an expert on something one wishes to learn about, and then writing to inform others.

Suddenly, I have a plan. Thanks to the professors. Though not all mentioned, they’re all in there. Thanks to all of you.

 


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


October 20, 2009

A Long Hiatus, and Control

Filed under: Opinion,Thoughts — Jeremy @ 8:10 am

A long time have I rested. More than two months. Of course, once shouldn’t call it resting; that’s hardly what I’ve been doing.

But I am more than ready to begin writing again. When I don’t write, it bothers me. Writing is rather therapeutic in that way. Even scribbling this little piece is helping me clear my head.

Life is an interesting ride. The ups challenge us physically just as much as the downs challenge us emotionally, and vice versa. Just when we think things can’t get any more difficult, they do, and then they get better so quickly that we wonder why, and how, and when the other shoe will drop.

The answer, of course, is to take control of one’s life. At least as much as one can have control. It has often been said that control is an illusion. However, if that illusion is carefully maintained, we fell much better as we move through life.

I’ve had the displeasure of witnessing the effects of the feeling of being out-of-control lately, and the wonder and doubt of observing the feeling of control returning. Interesting, to say the least.

My way to take control is to write. Heinlein said, “You must write.” That’s the first rule. There are others, but I am still working on that one. When I do that, I feel that I am taking control. And control is power. Power leads to success.

And success is my goal. Of course, success can be defined in many ways. Kristine Kathryn Rusch explains some of that in her latest editions of her Freelancer’s Survival Guide. Right now, I define success as being published. I have other goals and dreams, but that is the first step.

And therefore, I must write.

 


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


August 12, 2009

The shrinking world

Filed under: Opinion,Thoughts — Jeremy @ 5:23 pm

This article began more than two months ago, and was never finished; other things demanded attention, most notably our adjustment to the move from Connecticut to Rhode Island. But it was important to finish, because it illustrates a remarkable twenty-first century truth. My inspiration for this post came from the fact that I learned of the death of the renowned David Carradine as a result of a tweet from Courtney Cox Arquette, whom I followed at the time on Twitter.

On June 4, 2009, Mrs. Arquette delivered the news of Mr. Carradine’s death, and this prompted thinking about how news is delivered in today’s world. As though calling to tell one another, Twitterers announce information, often before live humans sitting to their lefts or rights can announce it.

Similarly, as mentioned in an earlier post, last month I learned of the existence of bestselling author Joseph Finder via his following me on Twitter. I’ve since become a fan of his work, and have come to greatly appreciate his monthly newsletter, “For Writers.” And I might never have found him had it not been for the Twitter community.

Most appealing is that simple snippets of news are given to me from new friends from all over the world: the U.S., Canada, Scotland, Sweden, Australia, and Germany, just to name a few of the locales of my Twitter pals. It’s really a wonderful thing, as for me it has made the world even smaller than previously found. But more importantly, through the world of news, market, writers’, and other feeds, information is available to me that might otherwise be available only via network or (worse!) cable news. Again, that’s another article, and would be quite a rant, neither of which does anyone wish to read right now.

What is fascinating is that the world gets smaller and smaller with time. Today, one can network into the publishing industry via computer, without having to travel all the way to New York or London, in real time. This was a luxury that earlier writers didn’t have. Furthermore, established authors now have the ability to speak to their entire fan base, something they could never have done thirty years ago, at least not if they expected to actually publish more work.

It’s just remarkable that we can all communicate in this way. Of course, for an aspiring writer, the key is in finding a balance between reading about writing and the publishing industry, and actually writing and submitting. So in that vein, I must write.

 


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


 

July 25, 2009

Passion

Filed under: Thoughts — Jeremy @ 5:34 pm

Passion is amazing. Never let it get away from you. That can be difficult, but it’s important to surround yourself with positive influences to keep reminding you of it, in case you lose it due to interferences.

Along those lines, I’ve just spent the better part of a day catching up on David Farland‘s “Daily Kick In the Pants” e-mails. To do that, I had to read forty-one of his messages in a row. You might say my backside is in excruciating pain from all those kicks. But it was good to do, and that, among other things, has really fired me up again. I’m very happy about that.

Near the end of David’s mail from this morning, he mentions a friend who was tragically struck by a car a few weeks ago and died. He had taken one of David’s seminars ten years ago, and had always wanted to stop working and write his novel, but never did it. That really got my attention.

In the wake of the death of Michael Jackson, I realized that the main reason I want to write is to entertain people. A good story is definitely the best way to do that. Not to mention that I also get a charge out of playing around in fictive worlds and seeing where my mind goes. Michael Jackson arguably was (and will remain) one the best, if not the best, entertainers in history. He had his issues of course, as we all do, but he ultimately dedicated himself to entertaining the world. That’s a lofty goal, but I want to make my mark in at least some small shadow of that.

Interestingly, I’ve only completed one longer story in my life. I’ve written many poems and short stories, and I have three novels working (none of which have I dedicated sufficient time to finish). But I finished one story, the first one I ever tried to write. It was the summer of 1985, when I was approaching my thirteenth birthday.

That summer, having completed the sixth grade, my younger brother, Jason, and I stayed with our mother at her apartment, which was in a grey building that looked more like a motel than an apartment complex, and it didn’t attract the best clientele; I distinctly recall one of the most frightening experiences of my youth in that apartment, at the hands of the son of one of my mother’s best friends.

But probably the nicest thing about this place was the courtyard out front, away from the road, which was a dead-end in a less-than-urban area of downtown Salem, Oregon, which is saying something, if you’ve never been to Salem. (Though, I encourage everyone to go; it’s a beautiful city, and I’ll never forget waking up to clear summer skies with Mt. Hood on the horizon.) This courtyard had a couple of trees, grass, and a picnic table. Within a couple of days, I decided that I wanted to write a book, so I borrowed my mother’s typewriter and started writing.

By the way, Mom, if you still have that typewriter, it’s rather nostalgic for me. I’d be more than happy to take it off your hands.

So I wrote, all day, every day, for a few of weeks, until I finished a story. If I remember right, it was about sixty-five pages, single-spaced. Not bad for a first effort. I even went so far as to identify publishers – in Salem – via the phonebook, and actually call them to find out how to publish a book. Don’t forget that I was twelve at the time. Of course, none of the publishers in Salem handled novels, which I sadly found out. I hit a big wall, and I quit. But that’s acceptable to me, because the story was absolutely awful. It was a horrible combination of Dune and Star Trek. Really embarassing in hindsight. But I probably could salvage it today, if I had it. Around eighteen, I threw it out, having “wisely” decided that writing was silly. Biggest mistake of my life.

However, I chalk that up to a lesson in following probably the one guiding philosophy of my life. Some might think it silly, but it’s from George Lucas, or Yoda, specifically. Every time I hear myself thinking “I’ll try,” my mind automatically follows it with: “No. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

I know that when I fail, it’s almost invariably because I tried instead of doing. When I “do”, I succeed. I might have hardships and seemingly insurmountable difficulties, but I succeed.

So that brings me back to the lesson brought back to my attention by David Farland. Life is very short. Too short to spend doing things I hate, and not doing things I love. I want to be a person whose last thoughts are that I did everything that I wanted to do. Unfortunately, the older and more educated I get, the longer that list becomes. That means I must work harder, faster, and smarter to accomplish all my goals. But I’ll never get there by waiting or by trying. I can only realize my goals by doing.

Passion is perhaps the most powerful tool in our personal reportoire. It is bubbling up within me as I write this; I can feel it. It is critical that we each find our passion and harness it. If we do so, we can accomplish anything. And the good thing is that there are far more of us with a passion for good than with a passion for evil.

Find your passion, channel it until it burns within you, and do.

 


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


 

July 23, 2009

Learning by Discovery

Filed under: Non-Fiction,Opinion,Thoughts — Jeremy @ 3:49 pm

I had one of the most interesting experiences of my life today. I learned the name of a best-selling author, Joseph Finder. I’d never heard of him before (I’m behind the curve in the literary world, but coming up as quickly as I can). But that’s not the point.

What shocked me is how I learned of him. It wasn’t from a bookstore, or Amazon, nor did I see him on any of his television interviews in the last month.

I learned of him today because he started following me on Twitter.

I’ve had a lot of new followers this week, thanks to Lorenzo, The American Poet, of Crowned With Laurels. He listed me – and many others – in a recommendation to his followers, and we all started connecting. Things took off from there. My number of followers increased more than threefold, and most likely through one of those links, Mr. Finder found me. (I’ve yet to ask him, but I will.)

It’s fascinating how small the world is becoming via tools like Twitter. Not only was I introduced to a best-selling author, whose new book I will buy based on his pitch, but he was introduced to me.

Simply incredible. As we all get closer together, I can’t help but wonder what it all might mean.

It makes ideas swirl in my head, so I can see myself taking Finder’s advice and “just [writing] the damned book already”.

July 21, 2009

Getting My Head Working Again

Filed under: Fiction,Thoughts — Jeremy @ 11:13 am

After a very stressful move and the burdens that go with that, I am finally getting myself straightened out.

I am being spoken to by one Mr. Ben Compton, though one wouldn’t necessarily refer to him as a “Mr.”.

I’m not sure I like him very much. We’ll see.

May 25, 2009

The Zero With A Thousand Options

Filed under: Miscellaneous,Thoughts — Jeremy @ 9:23 pm

I recently heard a fellow student say that for her, art is religion in a way. She went on to provide information about Joseph Cambell’s “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” and how an artist can get lost in his or her craft. Furthermore, she talked about “transition,” as it related to a person’s isolation from his or her original society. (This was an Anthropology class.)

I am currently in a self-imposed transition. I joined the U.S. Navy after high school, served six years, and separated honorably. I’ve since worked three jobs, and ten years after leaving the Navy decided to go to school to study fiction and become a writer, which was what I wanted to be at twelve years old. I have finished my A.S. in Liberal Arts, and the graduation ceremony is in a week.

For personal reasons, earlier this spring my wife and I decided to relocate from Southington, Connecticut to Cranston, Rhode Island, to be closer to her family. I informed my boss three weeks ago that I would be moving, but that I didn’t want to quit my job. He agreed to keep me, and we ironed out some details. He then spoke to the company president, who agreed to retain me. That was two weeks ago.

This past week, I learned that the company had “changed its mind.” On the contrary, I think they knew all along that they would fire me and they merely lied to me. But that’s another essay. The point is that unless I can find another job, at the end of July I will be unemployed.

In the fall I will be at Rhode Island College as an English major. That’s very exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

My friend said that she feels that she feels “art coming from some source other than [herself].” I know what she means. My best stories come to me when I really lose myself in a scene or a character. If I am thinking too much, the writing becomes academic at best. But when I am in the head of the character, which requires that I understand the character intimately, the appropriate words just flow out of me, and then I read it back, often stunned.

Having gone back to study the humanities, after having spent about ten years in technical math and engineering study, and then about seven in sales and marketing, my mind has opened to new things. As a writer, I’ve become a student of the universe; as a result, I’ve seen amazing things that I would have otherwise ignored. Ironically, the information I’ve learned in the humanities are those things I spent my early-teen years pondering, outside atop the hill under the Douglas firs at my father’s house in Oregon, gazing down upon the Willamette River Valley three thousand miles from here. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready to study them in high school, and I spent more than twenty years lost and drifting. I’ve now found myself, and I know where I am going. That is the greatest religion anyone can get, and any way we achieve it, it is the power that drives us forward.

Find your religion. You will be happier for it.

May 24, 2009

Apocalypse When?

Filed under: Miscellaneous,Opinion,Thoughts — Jeremy @ 12:10 am

Apocalypse is an interesting concept. Religious societies have predicted an apocalypse for thousands of years, and each has evidently been wrong thus far.

The current apocalypse coming to a head has been ostensibly predicted by several independent religions around the world: December 21, 2012. Apparently, this date is to be the climax of all the increased interpersonal tension and natural disaster increases we’ve seen in the past ten years or so. At best, it is supposed that this date will effect a huge change in how humans conduct themselves. At worst, cockroaches will be ruling the world, as they’re apparently the only thing that will survive a nuclear holocaust, as the old joke says.

From my knowledge of The Revelation from the Bible’s New Testament, one could easily make a religion-based case for that date as an apocalypse. Near the end time, we are supposed to see increased: storms, disease, famine, seismic activity, war, and so on. It’s hard to argue that we don’t live in such a time. It’s also said that this period of “end times” will follow a period of relative peacefulness, which the 1990s certainly were by comparison to this decade and the 1980s. So, it can be easy to believe that the world is coming to an end, or at least to a monumental shift.

But I think that predicting this event in such a way can actually serve to paralyze people by fear. My philosophy is to live my life every day, because I can never know in advance when I will reach the end of it, whether it be December 21, 2012, or January 15, 2061, or some other day (I should save that last date; that would be interesting). Otherwise, I will reach the end of my life saying “I wish I’d done this,” or “Man, I should have done that.”

When my relationship with my wife was new, I told her one Tuesday, “I think I’m going to take flying lessons.” She had known me about three months and had heard her share of men talking like that throughout her life. She was therefore thoroughly shocked and impressed when I had my first lesson that Saturday.

She told me, smiling, “Wow! When you say you’re going to do something, you do it!”

And I replied: “Well, yeah. Why say you’re going to do something if you’re not going to do it?”

I have always lived by that mantra. I certainly delay things for financial reasons, but the things I want never come off of my list. Ever. I will do them all, someday. It is in that way that I satisfy myself. That is my religion. Sure, I occasionally change my mind, but most things I decide never leave my focus.

I think of it as a very simple creed. “I do what I say I’m going to do.” Many of us would do well to follow that creed. First, it would make us more reliable to others, but second, and more importantly, it makes one feel more responsible and proud. There is nothing like accomplishing what you set out to do. It is very empowering.

Earnest Hemingway once wrote, “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

That’s sound advice. But simplifying it can actually make it more restrictive. Always do what you said you’d do. That’s sometimes hard to measure up to. However, I know one surefire way to fail at anything, and that is to assume failure is inevitable. This all but guarantees it, as we stop trying once we’re sure we’ll fail. Into the mouth of Yoda, everyone’s favorite 900 year-old Jedi Master, George Lucas put the words, “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Very powerful. I remember that when I am setting my mind to do something particularly challenging for me.

And that brings me back to the subject at hand. Maybe the world will end on December 21, 2012, maybe I will die between now and then, and maybe I’ll live to be 100 years old. But what I know is that it will remain important to “do,” until that moment comes. Otherwise, regardless of when my end arrives, I’ll have died perhaps decades earlier, from waiting for my death.

I’d not wish that fate on anyone.

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