The Wars of Stars

There’s something magnetic about a richly detailed universe, full of adventure and magic. And history. After 40 years, George Lucas’s original gift to geekdom has no end of stories, art, technical specs, and lore attached, both in- and out-of-canon. So, yeah, no shit—why point out the obvious?

Maybe to say you never know how your ideas are going to be received, and sometimes they take over the zeitgeist. That is a tantalizing possibility, but it’s also a pretty long shot. I’m thinking past that, however.

There’s nothing obvious about the bare idea. It’s even silly in many respects: an advanced technological society of humans (and non-) “a long time ago,” and “far, far away” doesn’t make much sense, biologically, without much hand-waving. Never mind that the title has only the vaguest oblique connection to the story. That some people have figured out a way to have magic powers is a stretch further. But it wasn’t just the idea that mattered. It isn’t now your ideas that matter. Ideas are a dime a dozen, or cheaper than that. What makes possible the capturing of an audience’s imagination is the execution, the crafting, the details. It’s the seed versus the spreading tree.

Unless your ideas take over your consciousness, fill up your world view, and become another universe, they don’t even have the chance.

It doesn’t have to be big, some seeds are a dandelion, and some are baobabs. It can be a glimpse or an epic. Either way, plant that thing and cultivate.

Quick Work

Working to deadlines is often necessary. Time is the one luxury we can’t invoke more of with greater resources, it just gets reallocated.

But, as in every other aspect of creating that requires shoving other things and obligations aside in order to do the work, even a short time is better than none. Here’s where the habit comes in: it takes over when stress and lack of motivation are high.

And, sometimes, we can only produce a small amount of something. Some times are filled with despair and uncertainty. We can only trust that these are transitory. Everything passes by. What might make a difference is that it’s rare something has to be finished in one day. Mostly, work is done in stages, building on things that were done on previous days.

We trust that the pile we’re throwing today’s work upon is going to look better, eventually. It isn’t about today, nor tomorrow. And that holds true even during times we feel good about the shovelful we’ve made in any one day. When there’s flow and inspiration and a sense of insight, it’s still only a passing day’s work to throw on the heap, and it’s little different whether it’s hours’ worth or a few minutes. You won’t be able to tell when you got a little done or a lot, it’s still one big, lumpy pile of work. Consistency is always better. And the rest is editing.

Knowing It When You See It

What’s bad writing? It came up after I saw quite a lot of comments about the upcoming Ready Player One movie. I said at the time to a couple other Generation X geek friends that I was liking the book, but also that I felt it impossible to separate my assessment of its quality from the onslaught of nostalgia porn. Every reference didn’t resonate with good memories, but enough of them did that the rest just helped keep me in the time period. Which, as those who lived through it (specifically, the 1980s) can attest, was often a scary, chaotic whirl, musically, fashion-wise, and politically. I was at least half-sure we’d immolated in a fiery holocaust of hastily-lobbed ICBMs at any moment. My feeling didn’t change after I’d finished, either—I liked it, but was it good, or just pushing my vanished adolescent buttons?

And it’s very, very hard to define “bad writing” objectively, without using specific works upon which one has ground one’s axe in the definition. As a friend said, “maybe it’s like obscenity.” You just know it when you see it. It’s necessarily vague and subjective, because we like such different things about various mediums. Beyond the obvious, like grammar and typos/spelling, there’s a lot of room for style and being idiosyncratic. Analysis ranges widely. Some think abstract painting is abominable trash, others think it’s more essentially artistic than any other style.

Applied to our own work, sometimes we worry about people trashing it, dismissing it. If we’ve worked honestly, with a goal of being our most essential selves, I believe it’s our truest expression, and what we should strive for. If what you’re offering is different than most or all others, there’s an audience for it who likes the thing you’re doing and  possibly you, as well. It’s just a matter of finding the right means of exposure, having persistence, and some luck after that. Or, sometimes if you’re doing a thing lots of others are, if you’re a different enough personality, you draw them by being who you are.

What do you get out of the artists, writers, and musicians you follow? How much is really cool evaluation of its worth and how much because you just like the way their things are made? Or, simply, the people doing it?

Thirty

“You’re not old,” he said again. “You have a long time ahead.”

She took a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh so long he thought  she might pass out. “I’m just starting out. Again. I mean, who’s going to pay attention to an old—” she caught his raised eyebrows and corrected herself. “Older woman’s stuff, or my opinions. Does it matter?”

“Dunno. Are you doing it because it matters?”

This was a much bigger question than hers. She didn’t want no one to acknowledge what she did, but she had to admit that wasn’t why she wanted to start again. She needed to. The work, her ideas, the raw stuff of creation inside her—it was a fire she simply had to bring forth into the world. If only just to see what it looked like herself. If only to learn how to be better at it.

She got up and let the quilt fall to the floor. “I gotta go. I’ll let you know when it’s ready,” she said.