“As I walk through the valley of death I fear no one, for I am the meanest mother fucker in the valley!” – Gen. George S. Patton’s speech to the 3rd Army.
I believe no other American general in modern history has ever been as quoted, or has been as brutally honest in his command as Gen. Patton. Many of you may have heard the quote from above. Sgt. Siek’s character rehashed it the movie Jarhead, and of course Gen. Patton reworked it into this blasphemous form from Psalm 23 of the Holy Bible.
All of that aside, Gen. Patton was responsible for a great many changes in the military, mostly dealing with aggressiveness, teamwork, and drilling training until it became an individual’s primary nature. In example, the other night at work my coworker came around the corner holding a knife. In the blink of an eye, I grabbed his wrist, almost breaking it as I pulled him to floor, disarmed the knife and had it to his throat (yes, I am prior military and have fifteen years of various forms martial arts and hand to hand combat training). Needless to say, I perceived a threat and nullified it. I acted out of training.
So now, you are wondering what all this has to with writing. Well everything. From the moment we are born we learn to communicate from our parents. They speak to us, and gradually we learn Yoda; object-subject-verb (“Destroy the Sith, we must,” Star Wars: Episode 3). Eventually, we learn the right way, the English way, of structuring a sentence, which is subject-verb-object (We must destroy the Sith).
We start going to school and teachers attempt to train us in the theory of a sentence. What a subject is, a verb, an object; you know, the simple stuff. As the years go by, the shit gets deeper. We learn about multiple types of verbs, nouns that describe nouns, participles, gerunds, and modifiers. By the time we graduate, we are desensitized to terminology, as we either didn’t pay attention, or it is so much a part of us that it really all seems trivial.
Everyone is a writer, if you think about it really, but those of us who use writing as an art, as I have always said, are truly a different breed of being. Before I go any further, let’s face the facts, the rules of English grammar and style are so extensive that no one could ever truly memorize it all. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have to pay for editors and massive style guides to reference, like the Chicago Manual of Style.
I know plenty of writers; I have been a ghost writer for a few, and have edited a fair amount of material. I have been an English tutor at a local college, and I professionally tutor English as a side job to high school kids and college freshmen. If there is one thing that I’ve learned is that we all have a few practical issues. No one’s perfect; we have strengths and weaknesses, and nothing is harder than editing ourselves because we are blinded by our own ingenuity and pride of our work, or even apt laziness.
One of the greatest men I’ve had the honor of knowing was a squad leader I had in the Army. SSG. Larsen wasn’t the yelling type you see in the movies. He didn’t need to blow up to get us motivated to learn. His leadership alone was enough to inspire greatness. When we lacked skill in an area of our training he would drill us, drill us, and drill us some more until it became nature.
Most of us speak the rules right, but we often become blind to the rules, or don’t know them when it comes to our in inner-editor. Here are some suggestions:
Keep learning and relearning about your skills by continuously evaluating your strengths and weaknesses: Read several pieces of your work objectively. Make a list of what you believe are your strengths and weaknesses. Highlight all the grammatical issues you are seeing too. Get another person who has adequate editing skills to do the same and see if he or she is seeing the same issues, or even issues that you are not seeing.
Get back to the Basics: In example, if find out you are having a hard time with sentence structure regarding verb forms and infinitives, get back to the basics. Invest some money and buy Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and/or the Chicago Manual of Style. These should be the first two reference books on everyone’s desk. Read the rules religiously for a few weeks and try to conceive why you may be using your verb forms wrong.
Drill: After getting a grasp on the material; practice, practice, practice! Practice the right way and break your old habit. Keep in mind that you’re probably doing something wrong because you’ve trained yourself that way. Old habits die hard as the old cliché goes. The point is to make the elements of style second nature when you are writing, so you can have fun with the story or article when you go back for your rewrite.
Drill More: Skills seem to fade with time when the basics are not practiced regularly. J. S. Chancellor noticed some tense issues editing a story of mine a while back. I spend at least a half hour a week practicing. There are plenty of practice test on the web to help keep your skills in check.
Share what you’re learning with others: As stated, we all have issues. Sharing with others is an invaluable way to learn, as you can learn from others as well.
Even experienced writers feel as if they are walking through a valley of death when they submit work to a publisher. No one’s safe from the editor and those deathly looking rejection slips, but making sure your inner-editor is properly drilled and fine tuned is a good way to boost your morale. Knowing how to dispute the rules of style is important for arguing for the sake of your own personal style. Drill your inner-editor every day, make it second nature, if not primary, and know that you’re the meanest fucking writer in the valley.
“Literature is all, or mostly, about sex,” Anthony Burgess.
But what sex? Sexual Intercourse! Oh-Jeez, not the dreaded “S” word again.
To look at this quote is, of course, to look at ambiguity. I am fairly certain Burgess means to use sex in relationship to gender, another ambiguous term in psychology when applied to individual morals.
But I am not speaking about gender, sexual identity, or being a man or woman. I am speaking about the act of physical sexual intercourse. I am sure in today’s modern over-sexed society, Burgess has been misinterpreted plenty. When I first read it, I was like…what?
Literature is definitely not, not even “mostly”, about sex. It is about desire. The need to understand, to comprehend, and even to share empathy with characters, or situations, in which we identify with or find interesting by learning something about ourselves or the world.
But what about sexual desire? We all have it, right? Well most of us in one way or another. But sex scenes have often been said to rape literature of it artistic value. However, sex in literature has been around for a long time. The Bible’s Song of Songs is an interesting example. Dante in his Divine Comedy makes an adulterous reference, though excludes to describe the act. In fact, sex is clear in many works of literature written during times we believe society to moral and pure. The Victorian Gothic is often filled with reference. Jane Eyre resist Rochester’s grouping and she listens to his stories of debauchery while in he is visiting France. D. H. Laurence, Bram Stoker, Virginia Woolf, and even Poe uses perversity in his story Ligeia.
Somewhere, during the great feminist movement, sex, in one way or another became graphically written on the pages. I can’t say I’ve read an Angela Carter story that hasn’t used sex as a metaphor, but most of her work that I am acquainted with was written before the so-called “second wave” of the feminist movement in the 1970’s.
Today, sex is everywhere. Books, TV, internet, bill boards, street corners, magazines, you name it, it’s there. I believe that for some modern writers, sex seems necessary. Romantic and Erotic Authors make their money wooing the wiles of women and men. However, when it pops up in popular contemporary literature, even genre fiction, critics place it on a double-edged sword.
And then there is the stories where sex must be used. If you have read any Bret Easton Ellis, then you know how he uses sex to convey his characters and modern society. American Psycho had so much sex in it, I thought I was reading Penthouse fan literature at times. Less Than Zero was like verging on the tip end of a moral dilemma. Yet it was necessary to show Bateman and Clay’s psychological state.
I am no amateur to implying a sex scene in my work. However, I have come on a character who requires me to express her character in the terms of sex. I guess her being a girl has made it all the more challenging. I penned my first graphic scene last night using sex as metaphor for drug abuse and anorexia. My theme explores, sometimes in brief, all the hot topics of our day. It is my first attempt at being generally Contemporary; though I am attempting to raise the bar, so to speak, on what is and isn’t acceptable to speak about in my rural society. Here is an excerpt:
I hesitate at first to do the same. Not that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind to be with another girl, just there is an overwhelming sense of disgust in myself for finding her attractive. I feel intensely bitter exploring the fine patina of her firm tummy and crevasses of her protruding ribs. Suddenly, I witness the letters E-P-I-P-H-A-N-Y floating out of her glossy blue eyes. I hardly know if it spells anything, but I realize her flesh is like an offering from God and I am at the altar.
Of course this is subject to change and I do go into rather graphic detail between Alex and Mouse, but I am attempting to do so much more than have two girls, people, have sex. Sex written for the sake of being written is wrong. It must have purpose and move the plot.
Hiatus. (hi-a-tus). Noun.
1. A gap in space, time, or continuity; a break.
2. A slight pause between two vowels between two syllables.
3. A short passage in an organ or body part.
Yes. I have been on a deviate hiatus. Meaning that I have been evilly counter productive to my very existence. I mean really. I can’t say that I haven’t done some plotting, but other than that I have been stuck in the sanctimonious filth of my urethra. Not really, but hey, it sounded good.
Ok. So, this is as much for any audience I have, as for myself. I am making some promises:
1. Post more.
2. Talk more about what I’m doing.
3. Organize a better page.
I guess my point in this is, is that I am bottlenecked with creativity that has only been seeping out here and there. What have I been doing, you ask. Well, that answer is as simple as it is complex. I have been in throes of a disappearing time and been dealing with intrapersonal issues.
Yet, writers must write. I have failed in that area. So my advice is not for other writers, as it is for the spouses and relatives and friends of those who have an introverted person in their lives, like me; who share their feelings when they wish too. You have no right to snoop around in someone’s personal, intellectual property.
Actions such as these force a person not to want to share their intimate feeling on paper. Not only that, you’re creating trust issues.
Anyways, glad to be back.
H. Duane Sharpe
Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes~ Benjamin Franklin(1706-1790); Publisher, Inventor, Scientist, Politician, and Writer.
Dreams. We all have them. Maybe no one better aspired to fill all of his, like old Ben. If you have not ever thought about this: Benjamin Franklin is the only person on American currency who never served as a president. And he is on the largest face dollar of laymen-trade currency to say the least. Why is that? Because he is an example of a person who was not afraid to explore, to fulfill his dreams by working for them. This is not an American History blog about my favorite founding father; however subjective I will afford to be about him.
I have learned a few abstract things today from association with the physical world that I wish to share and I shall digress my day in reverse.
In a conversation I had a few hours ago with a writer who brought up that she was tired of people feeling as though things should be given to them without putting the work into reaching their goal. This reminding of earlier today when I took my son to Water Knob Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway. My little one is a scout, and working hard to finish up his Wolf Patch. He needed to go out on a trail to finish one of the requirements, so I took him to the closest place I could think of. The winding trail is only half mile, but its elevation starts at over 6,000 ft. and ascends 200 ft. over hot pavement and a very rocky, dried out river bed.
About five minutes into our little hike my little guy, Noah, wanted to give up. I told him, “If you want something you have to work hard for it and not give up. Nothing’s give to you. Walk it out.” I am prior service, Army (Hooah!), and can be a little pushy at times, but only when it’s for his own well-being. After I said this to him, I begun to think of my own dreams; my path as a writer has been an uphill struggle. I took the picture above as I had that very thought. I feel that the picture above says it all about any path in life. The path may be paved with beautiful imagery of the reward all around us, but it’s an uphill struggle with no end in sight. Only an abstract thought of what could lie around the bend. Around the bend could be the end, or success, or as my son learned a dried up, rocky river bed. You just never know what the climb involves, nor if you will succeed.
Even if one succeeds, is there a downhill? The stroll back to the truck a half mile away was just as slippery hard. With desire and hard work, my son saw through his dream today, finishing his last task to gain his patch. He only stopped that one time on the path to idle in his dream before he tried to quit.
Yet he has another year of new tasks on the horizon to become a WEBLOS. A lot of people only get a taste of what they wish to do before giving in, or claim to be posers, shooting lies at the mouth as the lay down in the paths of others like snakes.
I stepped on top of a black snake today before I realized what the hell it was. I knew I felt something wiggling under my feet. It even struck at me, should see my shoe. But, oh, how many times have I done this on a path. This black snake slowed me, as others have in past. To be successful, one has to align themself with other serious people. The writing process may be a lonely process, but the business side is full of competition. Not only are we competitors, we are friends, associates, colleagues, and critics who help one another out on the way. Beware of those snakes who will crawl beneath your feet and bite at your toes. They are neither friend, nor critic. God forbid they get their poisonous fangs in your flesh.
I am only a young, fledgling writer, but I work extremely hard everyday to better myself. I have the same feeling as everyone else: fear of being rejected, fear of being misjudged, afraid of bad criticism; however, I finally realized how much I sat around and looked at the scenery a few months back when I could be submitting my work. If you don’t put on your work clothes (and in our business that’s envelopes, stamps, ect) how do you expect to make it? Well, you can’t.
I really wished that after the Revision Chapter in those college text books was a chapter called Submission, Receiving criticism, and Dealing with Rejection. That’s only in a perfect world.
Bottom Line: If you give up to view the scenery, why bother? Other than writing, there should be a commitment everyday to brush up skills and learn new ones, grey areas you have problems with, time set aside for editing/revision, and to conduct business. Oh yeah, don’t forget to learn a brand new word.