Dana’s Dojo: Get Your Black Belt Right Here

It’s the beginning of the winter writing season, and Sensei Dana is en la casa. Specifically, her arse is planted in the big chair, and her legs will soon have semi-permanent laptop-shaped impressions upon them. We do not know food. We do not know sleep. We do not know social events. We are writing.

Summer Sessions are over, people. Follow me into the Dojo.

There’s this sea of new faces, which look completely at sea, so we’ll begin this winter’s Dojo sessions with a bit of an explanation as to what this Dojo thing’s all about and what the winter writing season is.

Considering the arse-kicking I got when I said I wasn’t a geologist, I’m not even going to attempt to explain that I’m not a writer. That would be total bullshit, anyway, and I would never make such a claim. But honesty compels me to say: I’m not a formally-published writer. Yet. You won’t find my books on Amazon or in the few remaining brick-and-mortar stores. Yet. I’m working on that. It’s what the winter writing season’s all about.

So, not yet formally published. But if you believe that makes the advice contained herein suspect, remember this: I learned from the giants of the literary world. I’ve spent 20+ years learning this good business of wordsmithing. I may shuffle my feet and blush and demur when people tell me I’m a really real geologist despite the lack of degree, but I will look you in the eye and say, “Fuck, yes!” when people accuse me of being a writer. I might even, on occasion, admit to being a decent one.

I learned from giants. I get advice and input from wise and wonderful people. I know where commas go, and how to spin a phrase on its axis, and how to make people laugh, cry or scream, because of them. Least I can do is pass it on.

We mostly talk fiction here in the Dojo, but I’ve got some ideas for a bit o’ the old non-fiction, now that I’m becoming familiar with it, and perhaps a post or two on the art o’ blogging. I’ve got quite a few topics to be going on with, but I love having readers pitch ideas. Whatever you’d like me to cover, you just let me know. I know my limitations, and can’t always oblige – sorry, Nicole, but I am not the person people should talk to about organization! – but I’m usually able to give it the old college try. So tell me, what do you need help with? What frustrates you? Where are you stuck? What do you want to learn more about?

You folks who don’t write – yes, you, I see you trying to sneak out the door! Get back in here. You read. You love good writing. And you’re likely curious about how we wordsmiths make the magic happen. Ask me those questions you’ve always wanted to ask writers but haven’t asked. Just don’t ask where we writers get our ideas. We shall scream such a scream.

But if you really must ask that question, I’ll answer it. Under protest. And you may not like the answer.

Right. That’s the Dojo: all about writing, regularly every Tuesday. Get your black belt, my darlings!

And now to explain this winter writing season business. When I was young and eager and had no nerve damage, I used to write fiction year-round. That was before I moved up to the Seattle area and discovered that a nocturnal writer in the Pacific Northwest is pretty much SOL. That’s because Sol hangs about from round four in the ay-em to ten in the pee-em, and we get a concentrated dose of sunny weather the likes of which we will not see for the rest of the year, and we have all of this scrumptious geology just begging for field trips. So in the summers, Muse willing, fiction gets put on hold. And then, the first weekend in October, I wave goodbye to Sol until May, and allow my Muse to use and abuse me.

There will be weeks at a time when you won’t see much of me aside from the daily ETEV post. I may not always be around to respond to comments, although I always read and appreciate each and every one. I may forget to email you if you email me. You might invite me out for fun and interesting things, and I will look at you from eyes welling with tears and hook a thumb at the Muse. That’s her, over there, the one with the thigh-high leather boots and the wicked whip. She is a dominatrix. And she does not let me out of my bonds very often.

All I have ever wanted to be in life is a writer. Right now, I’m still putting together the body of work that will allow me to achieve that dream. Right now, I’m unable to get my patented Spider Jersalem tattoo and invite my employers to kiss it because I am quitting to become a full-time author. Until that glorious day, winters shall be fraught.

This also means that I may not be able to respond to requests for critiques of your own work. Sorry in advance. I’d love to help you individually, but my own work must come first, or I’ll never be able to get my ass inked.

For those who want a glimpse of my fiction, I have got an invite-only writing blog. Let me know if you wish to become one of my Wise Readers.

And limber up. The Dojo starts in earnest next Tuesday.

Dojo Summer Sessions: Steven Pinker Makes Me Feel Better

He shall probably do the same for you.

I fell in love with Steven quite by accident. I was at Bookmans, the most delicious used bookstore I’ve ever been in this side of Powell’s, and I was combing the Buddhism section for some Zen goodness. Behind me stood books on writing, so I turned round for a look. You never know but you might find something of use. And there, fortuitously out of place, was this book called The Language Instinct.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a sucker for neuroscience, philology, and psychology. This book was all of it. So I clutched it to my bosom and sashayed up to the register to negotiate its release to my custody. Read it. Adored it. Started reading more of his books, and I have to tell you this: few non-fiction authors have made me think as hard or deliciously as Steven Pinker. And I’ve read a lot of non-fiction authors that made me think hard and deliciously.


The Language Instinct is a book I’d recommend to any aspiring author, especially those who are trying to invent languages of their own. But it’s two other books we’re quoting from today. First, we have this delight from The Blank Slate:

“Paradoxically, in today’s intellectual climate novelists may have a clearer mandate than scientists to speak the truth about human nature.”

I’ve always avowed that fiction is a means for telling truths that are difficult to administer otherwise. It’s sad that scientists aren’t as well-regarded as they should be, and shat upon by the fuckwits in Congress far too often. Working to change that, in fact. But until their mandate is secure, I’m more than happy to speak the truth about human nature. Well, some truths, anyway – there is no the truth, no one single truth about human nature. It’s not only a fun and important thing to do, it makes me feel a little useful.

But it’s this second passage, from How the Mind Works, that I wish you to pay closest attention to:

“Geniuses are wonks.  The typical genius pays dues for at least ten years before contributing anything of lasting value.  (Mozart composed symphonies at eight, but they weren’t very good; his first masterwork came in the twelfth year of his career.)  During the apprenticeship, geniuses immerse themselves in their genre.  They absorb tens of thousands of problems and solutions, so no challenge is completely new and they can draw on a vast repertoire of motifs and strategies.  They keep an eye on the competition and a finger to the wind, and are either discriminating or lucky in their choice of problems.  (The unlucky ones, however talented, aren’t remembered as geniuses.)  They are mindful of the esteem of others and of their place in history.  (They physicist Richard Feynman wrote two books describing how brilliant, irreverent, and admired he was and called one of them What Do You Care What Other People Think?)  They work day and night, and leave us with many works of subgenius.  (Wallace spent the end of his career trying to communicate with the dead.)  Their interludes away from a problem are helpful not because it ferments in the unconscious but because they are exhausted and need the rest (and possibly so they can forget blind alleys).  They do not repress a problem but engage in ‘creative worrying,’ and the epiphany is not a masterstroke but a tweaking of an earlier attempt.  They revise endlessly, gradually closing in on their ideal.”

This passage should tell you three things:

It is okay if it takes years for you to develop into the kind of writer that other people believe must have been born with a supreme magical talent, so good are your works. You’re not abnormal or useless or not cut out for writing because you can’t write a masterwork on the first go.

Being a genius is bloody hard work, and it’s not right for everybody.

You’re going to have to work your arse off, did I mention?

Reading that passage in that book assuaged many of my doubts. I’d thought there was something wrong with me. Turns out not. And that’s what I wish you to take away from this: there’s nothing wrong with you, just because you’re not finished becoming a genius yet and you obsess over things. Turns out you’re just doing what geniuses do.

Now, get on with becoming a genius and telling the truth about human nature, perhaps whilst creating your own language, why don’t you?

Dojo Summer Sessions: Writing Inspirations, Good Advice

I’m busy writing a short story that decided it couldn’t wait and trying to pre-load meaty posts for this long winter writing season. So I shall foist you off on other, wiser people who had quite good things to say to writers such as ourselves. This is a small collection of quotes I’ve gathered over some years and meant to turn into a Dojo article someday. They need no help from me: they can stand alone.

“You ask yourself the following question: To what questions in life have I not yet found a satisfactory answer?”

-Holly Lisle, “Finding Your Themes

“An American editor worries his hair gray to see that no typographical mistakes appear on the page of his magazine.  The Chinese editor is wiser than that.  He wants to leave his readers the supreme satisfaction of discovering a few typographical mistakes for themselves.”

-Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living

“There is a curious thing that one feels sometimes.  When you are considering a subject, suddenly a whole train of reasoning comes before you like a flash of light.  You see it all, yet it takes you perhaps two hours to put on paper all that has occurred to your mind in an instant.  Every part of the subject, the bearings of all its parts upon each other, and all the consequences are there before you.”

            -Lord Wellington, quoted in John Keegan’s The Mask of Command

“A writer of fiction, a professional liar, is paradoxically obsessed with what is true….. the unit of truth, at least for a fiction writer, is the human animal, belonging to the species Homo sapiens, unchanged for at least 100,000 years.

“Fiction, in its groping way, is drawn to those moments of discomfort when society asks more than its individual members can, or wish to, provide.  Ordinary people experiencing friction on the page is what warms our hands and hearts as we write.”

            -John Updike, quoted in Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate

If at least one of those didn’t make your Muse sit up and take notice, then I despair of your Muse.

Dojo Summer Sessions: I Shall Require Topics

Summer’s drawing to a close, and the winter writing season is very nearly upon us. The Muse is back from wherever she spent her summer vacation. It looks like winter will be coming early. There’s a sharp chill in the night air, and a certain gleam in her eye that says I’m in for it. She also appears to have acquired a new whip. Dear, oh dear.

So I’m furiously loading up on posts before summer ends in order to clear the decks for some marathon fiction writing. I’ll need at least 30 Dojo posts fired up and ready to go in advance. I’ve got about half that nearing completion, and I’m running a bit low on ideas.

Topics. I require topics. What haven’t I covered in the Dojo that you’d like to see covered? Pepper me with questions about all things writing, whether fiction or blogging. Tell me what you struggle with. Are there contentious issues in the wordsmithing world you’d like to see me tackle with nothing more than my wits and perhaps a rock hammer? Get them to me. If you don’t want to go public, you can always find dhunterauthor at yahoo. DM me on Twitter. Drop me a line on Google+, only you’d better do that before October, because I’ve plans to abandon it willy-nilly if it continues to be evil. You can even find me on Facebook: although I tend to neglect that place shamefully, they always notify me by email when something gets messaged or posted.

Right, then. Fire away.

Dojo Summer Sessions: The Writer’s Gut

My heart sister says important things about writing. And you may say to yourself, “Well, of course, Dana would think so – Nicole’s the sister she never had.” That’s true. Yes, I am partial. But there’s also another factor: Nicole writes for a living, so when she says things about writing, these important things, it behooves an aspiring author to listen for reasons beyond the fact Dana loves and trusts her.

She had this to say just recently:

I have to trust myself as I write these stories. I have feelings about which stories will work and which should probably be included only in my journal. And I have those feelings for a reason. My writer’s gut is telling me which direction to go. I just have to trust it.

As writers, it’s sometimes easy to trust other people’s opinions more than our own. After all, writers are seeking approval of fellow writers, agents and publishers and, ultimately, readers. We want to know that what we’re doing is going to be read and enjoyed by people.

But only you know the best way to do your characters justice. Only you know how to write your stories. You have to trust yourself.

She’s right. She’s right about all of it. And those last lines, particularly, are ones that are now burned into my writer’s soul and will not let go, because they are true, and I sometimes need to hear them stated that starkly so that I am reminded of the truth.

But what did I get hung up on? The “writer’s gut.” What is that? What is this “writer’s gut”? Why should I trust it?

I’m not one much for talk of instinct and intuition anymore. I used to be. Then I started hanging round with scientists, who subject their “gut instinct” to rigorous testing. They’re so often wrong, these intuitions, these leaps. The writer’s gut, you see, is an instinct. It’s an intuition. Why should we trust it?

Because those instincts and intuitions are hard-won, my friends. They only happen after we’ve worked ourselves bloody, after we’ve been writing for a long time. The writer’s gut is different from that first flush of creativity, that alluring idea, that wild self-confidence you feel before you’ve actually picked up a pen and run up against harsh reality. The writer’s gut is developed only after years, perhaps decades, of hard, lonely work.

It’s your subconscious writer’s mind, the one you acquired after a billion failed drafts and some writing classes and/or workshops and reading countless books on writing and blogs on writing, the one that listened to and absorbed what the experts (i.e., successful authors you worshipped) told you about how to write, watching the story unfold and clearing its throat meaningfully on occasion.

It plugs you in to a high-voltage current and gives you the buzz of your life when you’re on to something, when you’re working with an idea that will lead to a fantastic story. It takes your brain and gives it a good hard wrench when you’ve hared off in the wrong damned direction. It can’t always articulate what’s wrong and what’s right. But if you listen just right, you can tell what it means. And when you’ve learnt to listen to it, it can keep you on a path that everybody says you shouldn’t take but turns out to be the right one in the end. It can steer you round stumbling blocks. It can tell you when you’ve gone badly astray and must backtrack rather than stumble stubbornly ahead.

Is it wrong? I’m sure it sometimes is. But if you’ve honed it, you can trust it most of the time.

I don’t actually think of it as my “writer’s gut.” I think of it as the story. The story knows better than I do. It always does. It knows what it wants and needs. It knows if I’m the right writer for it. I’ve got a hard drive full of story ideas, amazing ideas, wonderful ideas that would make fabulous stories, but I know I can’t write them. My writer’s gut tells me they’re not my stories. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to give them free to a good home. They should have adoption centers for abandoned story ideas. But there are ideas that look up at me with those big, soulful eyes, and wriggle just a little, and I know they’re mine. I know, even if they look ridiculous to other people at first, that I can help them grow into something sleek and beautiful and enchanting. There are stories that are mine to tell, and I recognize them now. They make it easier to regretfully pass the other stories by, leave them for another.

My writer’s gut also knows when I’ve gotten ahead of myself. It knows when a story idea is mine, but I’m not ready for it yet. Then it slows me down to a gentle halt, directs me to do some more work before coming back to that story. I’m manifestly not ready now for some of the ideas I have got. There are plenty of others to work with in the mean time. My writer’s gut tells me that this is fine. All of my stories will be better served in the end by writing the ones I’m prepared for first. There are stories I told ten years ago I couldn’t tell now, and stories I’m telling now I couldn’t have told ten years ago. And eventually, with work and care, they’ll be drawn together into a body of work, whole and complete, and ready to make their own way in the world.

You may wonder why I haven’t tried publishing those stories. My writer’s gut again. It tells me to wait, just now. I write out of order. After long consultation with my writer’s gut, it’s been determined that this is the proper way for me to write, but not to publish. That’s fine. Stories are patient. These stories will be just fine waiting a few more years until their siblings are ready to join them in that grand adventure that is finding an audience.

I can hear the publish-or-perish crowd howling in protest just now, but they shan’t overrule my writer’s gut. Theirs tells them to push their work out in the world, and they are right – for those works. Not these. I used to beat myself up over not being like them. No more. No, I’ve learned to listen to that instinct that’s telling me it’s all right to wait until the stories are ready. Not forever. Not until they’re perfect, because nothing ever is, but until they are as right as they need to be.

The thing about this writer’s gut is, you know your stories better than anyone else possibly can. You live them. They are inside you. And that’s what gives you the instincts you have got. Instinct is just a word for something you know so well you can’t articulate it. But it’s not that silly intuition that’s no better than tossing divining sticks or a pair of gaming dice. It’s that intuition that comes from knowing something very, very well.

So, yes, when you’ve lived with your stories long enough to know them more intimately than you’ve ever known a lover, emblazon these words upon your wall, so that you will never forget them:

But only you know the best way to do your characters justice. Only you know how to write your stories. You have to trust yourself.

And then, write.

Dojo Summer Sessions: The Writer’s Rituals

I think most of us who write, no matter how skeptical or non-superstitious we are, have our little rituals to summon the Muse (not that the wretched entity comes when called). Consider this an invitation to regale us with yours.

I’m not picky when it comes to blogging. I’ve done it in my PJs, but usually sans Cheetos, thus not fully confirming stereotypes. Something arises I wish to pontificate upon, and so pontification occurs. I can blog any time of day or night, in a variety of settings, in various stages of dress or un, with or without prior preparation depending on the subject.

But fiction, that’s a different beast. I’ve successfully written a few times in places outside my home, but that’s a rare thing. Generally speaking, in order to summon the storytelling, I have to be ensconced in my comfy chair in my living room, within sight of my Yoshitaka Amano prints of Morpheus. I must be fully dressed. I’ve never felt comfortable writing fiction in my jammies, although I’ve managed it a few times when the Muse has rousted me out of bed. I must have music playing, and the music must be agreeable to the characters I’m writing. I’ve gotten involved with quite a lot of musical genres I had no use for simply because a particular character required them. Strange, perhaps, but there it is.

Some stories require a clean house. Some require sobriety, some a nice mixed drink. It’s nice to know these things in advance so that writing can commence.

There must be darkness. I have a terrible time writing in daylight, which is why Seattle winters are such a compliment to my writing and its summers make it nearly impossible. That’s fine. A writer needs to get out occasionally, experience life in order to create lifelike worlds, so I just use the summer to accomplish that feat.

I have a special hand soap I use, a very deep floral scent that washes away all traces of the day. I plug in a nice jasmine scented oil. Scent is an important component of emotional states, as science has proved, and those particular scents signal my brain that it’s time to shake off the remains of the day and get on with the real work.

Some stories are helped along by particular shows or movies, even if they aren’t the same genre or atmosphere as what I’m writing. So I might spend an hour or two watching one, before the real work starts. Then, shot full of adrenaline, I have one final preparatory smoke out on the porch, look at the stars (if the Seattle skies have obliged), and sit me down in the chair to invite further forays into the realm of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

It may sound a bit complicated and unnecessary. To non-writers, it probably smacks of madness. But there you are: without at least a handful of those rituals, I sit staring at a blank screen, and words too often refuse to come. I’m sure neuroscience will one day be able to calmly and dispassionately explain all in great detail. It might even come up with ways to persuade the Muse to work even on nights when the rituals have failed, and the brain remains as stubbornly blank as the screen. Until that day, I just stick with what’s worked so far, like a pigeon performing a crazy little dance in the belief that this is what makes the food appear.

Creativity is a weird and wonderful thing, innit it?

Dojo Summer Sessions: The Pleasures of Longhand

I’ve just spent the past two nights taking notes longhand from various books and websites. I’ve got notebooks full of such scribblings, deep black ink on white paper, handwriting that changes according to mood, caffeine levels, and whether or not the cat wanted attention. It’s a dramatically inefficient way to take notes: using a pen takes far longer than typing. I can’t shuffle things about in various folders on the desktop; I can’t do keyword searches. So why, in this digital age, would anyone choose a pen and put it to paper?

I can’t answer for other writers, but I know the answers for myself. It forces me to slow down, pay attention to each word and phrase, rather than skim. When one is struggling to learn alone, to draw disparate bits together and forge them into a coherent whole, make sense of things barely understood, slowing down to that degree is immensely helpful. I’ve read one of the sections I took notes from several times, but it wasn’t until I started copying out the sentences that their meaning became clear. Things began to make sense. What I saw on the page began merging with what I’d seen in the field. And when I add to those notes ones taken from other sources, and can then read them as a unit, matters become even more clear.

I notice things and question things I wouldn’t have paid attention to otherwise. In one of the books I’m mining, the authors keep mentioning radioactive dates. Fine, yes, I know how that works, how ages are determined by the decay of radioactive minerals – but which ones? Was this potassium-argon, uranium-lead, something else? Taking notes longhand, walking the slow road, keeps me from missing such subtle omissions, and alerts me to where the gaps in my knowledge are. Not merely the great gaping chasms, mind, but the little cracks. And that prompts me to pay attention when something comes along to fill those cracks in later readings.

There’s also the aesthetic sense. There’s something sensual about writing longhand. I can feel the words in a way I can’t when I’m typing. Forming each letter is a kind of art. The physicality of it, the inability to erase mistakes without a trace, the gleam of fresh wet ink, brings me as close as I’ll ever get to more visual arts like painting. It satisfies the need to create something more like a drawing. And trust me when I say you’d much prefer I fulfill that desire in this way: my drawing skillz are teh suck.

Copying out longhand also puts me closer to other writers. I’m not just reading what they’ve written, but feeling it. I start to notice little quirks each author has, particular habits of word choice, signature turns of phrase. Even the strictest formal prose has an individual mind behind it. When you’re merely reading, or cutting and pasting blocks of text, or scribbling out a key concept or two, it’s easy to miss those subtleties. Not when you’re copying out each sentence word-for-word by hand. At this point, I can just about write a dissertation on David Alt and Donald Hyndman’s quirks. That kind of thing can be extremely useful to a writer. Getting a feel for how different writers employ language in prose helps you develop a style of your own. It’s another way of learning the good tricks that turn you from apprentice to master wordsmith.

And then there’s the purely practical matter of having all of these various bits and pieces collected in one place, in a form that fits easily on the arm of a chair, where they can be referenced without having to switch screens. And those notes stay collected, easy to refer back to for future missives on similar areas or issues.

Some idle thoughts have tickled my mind while I’ve been doing this. I wonder if kids a few years from now, with their pad devices, will find people like me hopelessly anachronistic. As I form the letters in my own personal mix of cursive and print, I wonder how much longer it would take to write longhand if one had never learned cursive at all, and whether anyone aside from specialists will be able to read cursive letters in the future. I wonder if any pad device with a stylus will ever allow me to do this longhand writing electronically, and convert my scribbles into nice clean lines, and if it would feel as right as this pen gliding across this paper. I wonder if I can ever train a cheap optical character reader to read my handwriting so that the next time I move, my entire collection will fit on a corner of a hard drive rather than taking up several boxes, and so that I can actually organize this crap. I mean, yes, I could scan it, but if I’m going to go that far, I want a program that will turn my notes into things I can search and manipulate, not merely stare at as one monolithic ensemble on the screen. I’d like it turned into neat and clean Times New Roman.

The way technology’s going, there’s probably something already out there, but I haven’t bothered looking for it. I’m enjoying my old-fashioned dead-tree-and-ink methods too much right at the moment. That stack of notebooks beside my chair is a nice physical reminder that yes, I’ve been working me arse off. And the cat likes them. All reasons enough, I should think, to keep on despite the glaring inefficiencies.

Dojo Summer Sessions: Taking Stock, Going With the Flow

Here’s a post I think all writers should read. It’s got important concepts and questions we need to keep in mind if we wish to succeed. It takes the economic concept of stock and flow and turns it into a metaphor for writing:

But I actually think stock and flow is the master metaphor for media today. Here’s what I mean:

  • Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
I feel like flow is ascendant these days, for obvious reasons—but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audience and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a treadmill, and you can’t spend all of your time running on the treadmill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: Oh man. I’ve got nothing here.

But I’m not saying you should ignore flow! No: this is no time to hole up and work in isolation, emerging after long months or years with your perfectly-polished opus. Everybody will go: huh? Who are you? And even if they don’t—even if your exquisitely-carved marble statue of Boba Fett is the talk of the tumblrs for two whole days—if you don’t have flow to plug your new fans into, you’re suffering a huge (here it is!) opportunity cost. You’ll have to find them all again next time you emerge from your cave.

Now, seriously, go read the whole thing. Then you can come back here and continue the discussion. I’ll wait. I’ll even put the rest below a fold so you’re motivated.

That post has stayed with me for some time, now. Very useful stuff.

There’s another aspect of flow, too, that may have been outside the scope of that post, but which I think is important enough for us to jibber-jabber about. And it’s this: flow isn’t only about keeping yourself in front of people. It’s also about inspiration and knowledge. It’s about staying connected to a community that can help you write.

My Twitter stream went from a begrudged necessity for keeping up with Erik Klemetti’s migrations to most valuable resource ever. I’m drinking from a firehose of wisdom. The folks I follow constantly post links to things that make my writing brain go “Oooo I could use that!” If I get stuck, there’s someone around who can unstick me. If I have questions, I can get answers, or get pointed in the right direction. If I run out of motivation, I can ask for a righteous prod to the arse.

My blog keeps me writing even when I haven’t got any desire to write. It provides me readers, Wise ones, who will upon request tear apart anything that needs tearing down in order to be built back up. And it’s a huge motivator: I can see people are reading what I write. I can see my words matter to them. When I fall prey to doubt and despair, the readers of this blog are there to remind me that no, really, I’m a good writer and I can write things people enjoy reading.

If I neglected flow to invest all my time in stock, I’d have none of those things. And it’s possible, although not likely, I’d give up the lonely enterprise of putting one word after another, stop courting carpal tunnel syndrome, and wander off to do something else. What, I don’t know, because without flow, who would I share all the lovely adventures with? Most of my meatspace friends get sick of me showing them pretty rocks after the first dozen.

As in all things, the trick is finding the right balance. The right mix in ye olde portfolio, if we wish to continue the economic metaphor. There are times when flow threatens to take over completely. There are others when stock is nearly all. But that’s okay. I can put a lot of stock in stock while going with the flow, and being kept constantly busy means less time staring in despair at a stubbornly blank screen.

So them’s my thoughts. The floor is now yours, my darlings, and it’s not just a writer’s forum: most of you here have stock (your work) and flow (your Twitter et al). How has each fed the other for you?