Saturday, June 18, 2016

Day 27 500 challenge: Work Environment

Tell a story about your job or the worst boss in the world. Make up your dream vocation and write about it. Tell us how you spend your days stuck in a cubicle or raising five little rug rats.

Word count: 524

I suppose it wasn't bad enough to be in a small cubicle for the whole day, handling customer support inquiries, but to not be able to talk all day made it that much worse. My boss sat in an office adjacent to our little cubicle farm. There 3 of us in the cubicles, and there should have been a fourth one but the company hadn't found anyone yet.

Now I'm a chatty guy. I like to shoot the breeze and get things off my chest, so to be suppressed in this little environment was really stressful for me. Once I tried asking the guy in the cubicle next to me how his weekend went. He looked back at me in utter fear, like 'are you crazy, do you want to get us both fired.' I backed off and held off on conversations.

I swear that's when I started hearing voices. There is just so long you can be deep inside a speech deprivation experiment.

To make things worse, even though my boss was just a couple steps away, she never met with me in person. She would call me up on Skype and we would have a text chat on Skype. This gave her a way to keep a paper trail of our interactions so she could refer back to a previous moment when I was criticized. That's right she wouldn't even talk to me on Skype, just the text chat.

Once I was on a support call with a client and my boss buzzed me from Skype. I couldn't take the call because I was talking to a customer. Later she texted me to try to find out why I was ignoring her calls. I tried to explain that I was like doing my job, that's why I couldn't submit to her paranoid intervention.

Even my quarterly review was held via Skype, no actual words were exchanged. It was not only live-texted but the review was a gruelling criticism of my performance, particularly in regards to how I treated management. I was sure that this was just absurd. There was no discussion as to how I actually did my job and the good things that I pulled through for the company.  She even said that I didn't show respect to my co-workers, while criticising me for wasting too much time on chit chat with my co-workers. "Do you see me talking to any co-workers?" she typed.

It was true. I never heard her on a actual call talking to anyone. Everything was handled by typing. Things finally came to a boiling point at my last review. Again it was just criticism heaved up on me. So I said, 'If I'm so bad then why don't you fire me?'

I just crossed my arms. She didn't know what to say, and for the first time she took more than a minute to respond on Skype.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Day 26 500 challenge: Disappointment and Hope

Today, tell the story, confess the failure, and help us learn with you. How can we, even in the midst of disappointment and despair, still find hope? How can we continue when all seems lost?

Word count 502

I think my biggest failure so far is as a writer. Even on a 30 day challenge I haven't managed to write everyday. The two biggest obstacles have been exhaustion and running out of time.

Exhaustion is something that chases me everyday. It is beyond just getting enough sleep but also emotional exhaustion. The funny thing is that after writing I feel more awake, like the writing has had some kind of chemical reaction and released endorphins. It like a dance - feeling too tired to write but once I write I feel awake and invigorated. My eyes feel heavy and closed then wide and full. So in this I feel there is hope. I can keep a pace of writing, and the writing itself can inspire and drive me further.

The second curse is time. I imagine that a disciplined writer keeps to a schedule or has a set time to write. I tell myself before going to sleep that I should get up earlier and write. Then I feel exhausted, roll over and sleep till its too late to write in the morning, then it gets pushed off to the end of the day. By this time I am in a race against time to write before the day ends and to try to write before I am exhausted. Here I think that it will be more than a daily discipline but something beyond, like if I am in the middle of a project. While each of these writing pieces are nice ideas to explore, they are stand alone and every day is a new challenge .

I am imagining that if I kicked off a full blown story and that each 500 word challenge was another step in the story that I would be pulled along by the momentum. Not even from chapter or scene to scene but writing about another aspect of the story.

As I wrote before this means freeing up my thinking to let me explore story. To get a good outline going. I could use The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot. Here I could easily set up the general plot and jump in to flesh out the details.

The great thing about this fiction plot is that it sets up and breaks down the whole structure for the story. You just need to push your imagination out there and fill in the ideas, the plot is already running. Think of a setting, some characters and start moving them through the plot. Think up some special aspects of these characters, a secret or an issue that holds them back. This is the character's challenge. What is the hero after. Who are his adversaries? What is holding him back, and what gets in his way. This what gives me hope.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Day 24 500 challenge - Cut the Fluff

Today, I'm challenging you to cut the fluff. 
Write 500 words without using the word "that" or "very." Try to use absolutely no adverbs (hint: "absolutely" is an adverb). 
See how much stronger your writing is when you just get to the point? Why not just do that all the time? 
Word Count: 511

No more fluff. No adverbs either. This is just about me and writing. I have just missed 7 days of my daily writing schedule. So I am angry, frustrated, disappointed and very excited to get back into the game.

One of the fundamental issues that holds me back is to only write from one point of view and from one character. Often that character is me, writing about my personal experiences. But not everything in one's life is dramatic or serves as the basis for a story. Also not everything from one character's point of view is always so compelling. We got to mix it up and move around, look at different character's motivations. What is important to different characters. What do they want? What the things standing in their way?

I don't know what the story is. I don't know who the characters are. I don't know what my theme is.

I do know that criticism does hold me back. I remember hearing things being said about a piece and then not wanting to put my writing before anybody anymore.

I got to put that aside as well.

I got to go forward with no more fluff and even writing garbage, but getting it done. That is the key, getting it down on paper. The longer it floats around in your head or the longer that you don't let your writing muscle be twitched then the longer writing just remains elusive. It's not about thinking up the best story in the best setting with the right characters, its about writing something and then pulling it apart and making it better. The could be as banal as a bus ride. What happens on the bus ride. Who gets on the bus. Who is driving the bus. How long has he been driving a bus. What is on his mind that day. Is he in a hurry. A big hurry. Does he need to cut corners. Will he be in an accident? Or nearly be in an accident?

Who are the passengers? Are there people looking for quiet and too be alone. Are there people interested in meeting others? Are there people that know eachother and would prefer that they never saw eachother again. Is there someone observing them all, listening to there conversations and getting inspiration for his own writing.

Does somebody get sick? Throw up?  Does someone get upset by another passenger's political beliefs and yells at him. Is there a blind man with a seeing eye dog. Is there someone allergic to dogs?

Somebody could be eating, something that fills the bus, like chicken steak or a schnitzel. That stuff can smell. It makes people hungry. It makes them angry. Voice rise. Tempers flare.

A bus full of hungry, angry passengers driving way too fast, weaving out of traffic so the driver can get home in time, at least before its too late. And of course there is another story, another driver, in a small car in a hurry to get to the hospital because his wife is pregnant.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Day 17 500 challenge: Write a Manifesto

Today, you need to write a manifesto. A short statement of purpose that represents what you believe in.

Word count: 507

A Manifesto.

I would like to write about a speculative future. This is a manifesto about the AI units that serve us.

We learned about them and considered them to be novelties when corporations first started using them. They were not just robots, but highly intelligent entities capable of making decisions and helping people. They were not in any particular form.

The first AI units were the driverless cars. They joined our streets and made the roads safer, calculating safe distances and paying attention better than human drivers. Our children didn't need to take out a driver's license at 17, but simply step into a driverless car and go. It revolutionized transportation.

Other driverless entities were not far behind. Driverless buses and planes. Then the cabin crew - stewards and stewardesses were AI. They could more efficiently serve people on planes and didn't require any sleep.

Yet what has happened. Fast food establishments are run by AI. Malls are full of stores but no shopping occurs. We make all of our decisions online and the AI fulfill our orders. No more bags to carry home.

We have put too much trust in the AI around us. We have entrusted them with our children's safety, they manage our homes, and they make our decisions for us. We are disconnected from our basic decisions. This makes us vulnerable.

Just last week, we saw how AI can be penetrated and hacked. The Sandberg kidnapping took place exactly because of this. The gang that kidnapped the Sandberg kids only had to take control of the driverless car and they were gone. Only by the time that anybody realized that a kidnapping took place, it was too late, and the driverless car was under the control of the gang. We have created a society that is vulnerable where too much technology is in place, exposing everyone to a dark part of society. We need to have more controls in place to prevent the total reliance on the AI tech that we espouse. Yes it may mean some more inconveniences in our lives that we don't have to worry about now, but ultimately this will make us safer. Face it, we are prisoners of our own technology.

Now is the time to say no. What would happen if we rode our own bicycles to get somewhere. Or bought our own food and cooked our meals. These skills are still vital and as we lose them, we are left dependent and vulnerable to our own inventions. This is power and puts too much power in the hands of the AI. We built them to free us from mundane tasks, but to do this we needed to give them our level of decision making and insight. It is not a far jump to go from making complicated calculations about velocity on the road and when to push the brakes pedal, to deciding for us what we should eat, or watch or read. The AI will soon be focused on looking out for their own well-being.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Day 16 500 challenge: Write about Hope

Write about hope.

Take whatever fears and insecurities you have, your internal questions and doubts, and turn them into words that inspire.

Don't give up. And don't let others. The cost is too great. We can't miss out on what you have to say.

Word Count: 506

That is what I am now clinging onto in this writing process. It started out as exploration, then discovery, then realization, and now hope.

My exploration was to go about writing in a determined and consistent manner, and to see that I could not only maintain that discipline on a daily basis, but reach the sought after quantity word goal as well.

My realization was that despite the feelings and thoughts that this would crumble after a few days, nevertheless I have kept going, and I realized that I could write. I realized that I didn't need to spend hours contemplating what to write about and make it meaningful but that I could just get my topic and sit down to write and I could make it happen.

Now is the hope.

As I said, I am clinging on. Somedays I am tired. Nevertheless even under those conditions I pushed myself to write. I even saw later that I had written some nonsense done while half-asleep. Then I stumbled. It was a Thursday night. I had already put 10 straight days under my belt. I was on a roll. I was exhausted. I couldn't move my eyes. I needed to get up early. I gave in.

I let that voice tell me that I would be better off skipping writing altogether that day. That voice even tried to comfort me by saying I should just get up early and do the writing. This seemed to not only further convince to take this path but soothed me, making me feel like I wasn't going off the way too far, just a few steps.

Yet just like with a ship, if it veers off course by even just a degree then days and weeks later, that ship will find itself far, far off course. Much further than had been intended.

I was off course. So I took corrective action. I got back behind the wheel. I skipped the prompt for the day I missed and went right back to writing from wherever I was to be next. I started to to feel that maybe where before I hit my wall at 3 to 4 days, I had now simply pushed my wall out to ten days. That I hadn't really established an ongoing habit but had more simply pushed the boundaries of a state that I had been in before.

I needed to take a deep breath and step away from the challenge and the pressure of consistency that was bearing down on me. I had to start looking at this as my first day of the challenge all over again. I had to say to myself that I had only just started doing this thing right, not that it was part of a nearly month long commitment. Today was where I stood and I didn't have to worry.

This is the time for hope. My hope is that I can sit down and look at every day as the first day in my own writing challenge.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot

This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words.

Check it out:

Day 15 500 challenge: Write about it all

Write about it all. No judgment or expectation. Just share how you're feeling and what this challenge has meant to you so far.

Are you a better writer, or a worse one? What changes do you notice in your attitude, in your actions?

Word count: 530

This is the perfect subject because this is what I've been thinking about. What does this challenge mean to me? I feel like the writing has been improving. For instance in my last session, I was supposed to write about my day from the point of view of the food I had that day. It started out slow where I was kind of grasping for straws trying to figure out how to fill up this whole thing, already planning to compromise and settle for 250 words, then as I got up to 200 words things started to flow. I thought of more and more things to write about. Before I knew it, I was zooming past 500 words.

This is what amazes me about this exercise. There are some of the exercises where the writing just flows, like to write about an experience from my life before I knew it I was pushing past 700 words.

There have been some tough days where it just didn't flow, every paragraph was a struggle. I needed to stop and think and think and try and come up with something to write about.

The other great part of this exercise is that it showed me that when I want to write, I should start writing as a warm up and get to about 200 words then switch gears and go into the real writing project.

There are two sides to this challenge that I like. One is as I said the amount, having to write about 500 words in each setting, but the other aspect is the consistency just getting down to business and writing every day.

So I can take away two important lessons. I can become more creative by doing a session of 200 words, and I do have the spirit and drive to write on a regular, consistent basis. This has opened up to me the potential that exists in terms of writing.

The other thing I have found about myself is that my level of concentration has risen. Before, especially in the first few days of this process, I found myself writing then looking at email. I was writing then looking at Facebook. I was making excuses to find inspiration on Google. Now I shut myself off from all the distractions and just start writing. The process itself produces its own results. I can write and find my ideas and topics through the process of writing.

The other part is how I approach these writing sessions. In the beginning, I was dreading to sit down and write every day. Yes really dreading, like a punishment. It seemed so hard to get started. Now I am ready to get started. Just need to start up the computer and get going.

This helps me to think about the possibilities, to just come up with an idea. The biggest obstacle that remains in mind, not in reality is doing an outline. I feel like a pantser when it comes to writing, but it is a pantser with no direction that just runs out of gas. I feel like if I laid out an outline first, then my writing would be more purposeful.