Thursday, March 29, 2018

Johnny Worthen THE BLOG MANSION: Distractions

Johnny Worthen THE BLOG MANSION: Distractions: Has there ever been a time when there’s been so much cheap and accessible distraction? Think TV, radio, movies, games, computers. Tuning out...


Has there ever been a time when there’s been so much cheap and accessible distraction? Think TV, radio, movies, games, computers. Tuning out is the primary leisure activity in America. It is addictive. It is omnipresent. It is the curse of the modern artist.

Instant gratification is the bane of long term goals. Writing is usually a long term goal. A book, a short story, anything other than micro fiction probably requires more time than a scan of the Huffington Post or a wandering tour of the new Netflix offerings.

I know that if I let myself get started that way in the morning, surfing the net and catching up on all my news, I’m all but lost for the day. My attention span is fried. Even if I can pull myself away from the distraction, sit my ass down in a chair, in a dim room, me and my Scrivener, mano a mano, it is hell to write. My brain is conditioned for phrenetic input and the concentration I need to complete whole sentences, let along paragraphs, pages, and chapters, is out of reach.

I can beat myself into focus with sprints sometimes. I do this by giving myself fifteen minutes of timed space to write as many words as possible. It’s an end-around the barriers. Ironically, I concentrate by not allowing myself to think. That often works to get me going, but not always. The only safe way to write is not to start with the distractions but start with the writing.

Thus I have became a morning writer.

I used to write in the afternoon (when I had a day job) or late at night (when I am mad at myself for not writing that day). Now I have decided that the morning is my most productive time because I am a weak man and will otherwise rot my brain with useless distration.

It’s not a panacea, but damn it helps. I take my morning mind and instead of flashing it page after page of depressing news, comics and sound bites, I put it to work (after a cup of coffee, of course. I’m not a savage). Thus I do the the work I need to do. It’s putting business before pleasure and creates an atmosphere of long term goal advancement and concentration that serves me throughout the day. Even if I don’t get my words done right away in the morning, The pattern is set and I can write all day in spurts or marathons until it is done. What I’m trying to say is, I get my words in then. With that done, I can blow off the evening with a drink or a three hour binge of Columbo and sleep at night.

Overcoming distraction is one of those things that differentiate an amateur from a professional, an author from a writer. Becoming successful as an artist, writing into the ether, writing on spec, is not easy since the first thing one has to do overcome their distractions.

Pray for me, I’m trying.

Now get to work.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Personal Essay

I didn’t take many creative writing courses in college. I leaned toward the critical part of English, swimming in the seas of deconstruction and cultural lenses. What few classes I had were confusing and not rewarding. Personal prejudice played a big part there–theirs and mine–to leave me empty and uninspired. All except the one class I took on personal essay.

You might balk when I say that personal essay is creative writing, or you might be far enough along to know that non-fiction needs as much creativity as fiction, if not more. There is no such thing as pure objectivity in art. The photograph was supposed to be that, but the eye of photographer, the angle, the subject, all these things —these choices—are included in the verisimilitude of an austere photo. Art is present, hiding but powerfully present.

A personal essay is basically a glorified journal entry. You write something “true” and embellish it with enough art as to focus light on certain things and convey a deeper meaning than a material laundry list. This is how I fell in love with writing.

Subject matter was ever-present. I only had to sift through my daily life with the eye of a spiritualist and record it with the eye of a poet. I turned the mundane into meaning and it thrilled me. I couldn’t be ridiculed for fan-fiction or dismissed for lack of audience. I was writing for myself, i was expressing myself, I was deconstructing myself.

When I made the jump to fiction, I took this with me. My subject matter became the lives of invented characters, but the work was the same. I took the day to day lives of my imaginary friends inhabiting my psyche and pulled meaning and purpose to the greater idea.

In a way, you see, I’m still writing personal essays, I’m still searching the events of my life with a light of meaning. The events now extend to my imagination. Jung would be proud.

If you want to know an author, don’t talk to them, don’t watch them — read them. Their soul will be writ clear on the pages between the sentences, among the adjectives and conflicts. It’s a glass darkly perhaps, but it’s a close as we can ever come to knowing ourselves or another.

There is nothing created, no art, no sound, no sentence that does not bear the stamp of the author and holds their mind in reflection.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wonhundred Words - "Like father"

Continuing my play with Wonhundred Word Wednesdays I present:

Took a little different tack, not perfect to prompt but....

“God hates the sinner!” he boomed meaning to say “sin,” but the sight of her at the back of the tent had thrown him off.

He carried on, speaking fire and brimstone from the pulpit, exuding righteousness — that righteousness that had brought people to his tent for thirty years. Usually they weren’t so young as the girl in the back. Maybe that’s why he noticed her. Something about her.

“Do I know you?” he said and as the words left his mouth, he saw her mother in her face.

“You look like my father.”

Thursday, March 8, 2018

LUW Spring Conference coming up!

Mark your calendars, line up your wardrobe, sharpen your pencil, the League of Utah Writers Spring Conference is coming up!

Thirty-six hours of programming in a single day event in the heart of the Salt Lake valley to hone your writing skills, your marketing skills, your networking skills, your parking skills.


Salt Lake Community College
Taylorsville Campus
4600 South Redwood Road
Salt Lake City, UT 84123

Event Schedule:
9:00 – 10:30 Registration / Check-in
10:30 – 11:00 Opening Kick-off – all attendees
11:00 – 2:00 Morning sessions
Six to seven options to choose from each hour
2:00 – 3:00 Break for lunch
“Brown bag” it with a lunch from home or support local businesses off campus
Lunchroom seating is available, and the campus vendors will be open for lunch
3:00 – 6:00 Afternoon sessions
Six to seven options to choose from each hour

Spring Conference is one of the most affordable and enriching conferences I know. If you're a member of the league, it's even cheaper. The value to dollar to time is off the scale. If you write, you should be there.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Teaching - an observation

I’m teaching classes this semester. A lot of them. So many in fact, that I’ve come to think of myself as a teacher who writes instead of a writer who teaches. It’’s been great though. It sharpens my ax and gives me an opportunity to give back, which, if you know me, is a personal goal.

Things will be slowing down soon. While one of my next round of classes has a waiting list, the other, Querying, is too specialized to draw the necessary enrollment right now and I think I’ll have Tuesdays free for a few weeks. It’s not a bad thing because teaching is hard. It takes it out of you.

I’ve toyed with the idea of going full-time into a classroom. The physical and economical disincentives aside, I adore the professional—intellectually and spiritually. Teachers are a rare and wonderful breed. If only we treated them as well as they deserve, our society would be civilized. For my entire life I have suffered with the good folks who do this most important jog without half the compensation they deserve, and I’m not just talking about money. They suffer from bad working environments, a cultural disdain for education, overcrowding, under equipped, the list goes on. With recent horrors, even more is being asked of them now, as stupidity and greed and political opportunity are unleashed on them yet again.

What makes me wonder, what fills me with joy, as I join my efforts to count myself among the noble class is that there are still teachers at all. It is a hard job. I teach two hours a night to students who want to be there and at the end of it, I’m drained. Lets not talk about how long the prep for each section took or the pay or the commute. Suffice it to say it’s a sacrifice.

And yet I love it.

I truly do. And here is what i’ve decided as to why there are teachers in this country at all: they are artists.

It is an artist who takes joy and fulfillment in a job well done, in sharing and preparing, in giving back. It is not a question of money, thought that would be nice. We take our success in other more profound ways. It is not a question of audience size, it is a moment of passing a spark of wonder and knowledge from one soul to another, pushing on the light to the next person, the next idea, the next generation.

It is transcendent.

Artists are easy targets to rob and belittle, blame and overwork. There was a day when teachers were respected and artists didn’t starve. That day will come again. In the meantime, I am grateful for each teacher I know, each one who has moved me, each one who pushed me, each one who has shined and put up with it all like the suffering artists we are.

It is noble. It is Good.