Are we Killing the Fun and the Neo-Swing Revival

I start this entry without a clear direction of what I plan to say. I’m in a very odd place with my writing at the moment, and I’ve written some about it in the past few weeks. The largest, looming issue is confidence, and it’s one that is not so easily faced down. Apparently this isn’t so uncommon in writers; many writers have written of a period where they faced down a crisis of confidence. Mine seems to come and go in waves. One day I’m feeling fine and bold, the next day I’m certain that I’m missing some vital piece of information that dooms my works. Like I said, I’ve written about it before, but I think the problem, 100%, comes down to over-thinking the process. I’ve gotten so wrapped up in the questions of the craft and the process itself that I’ve lost sight of what makes my artistic urge tick: the need to have fun.

That’s a central question that I’ve been grappling with: does all this analysis of what makes a story tick kill the fun of writing? Everywhere I see blog posts dedicated to wringing out every little detail of writing a story. Hell, I’m guilty of it myself. I need a break from it all, though. I think sometimes the doing is just as important as the analysis. The analysis has helped me to a point, but I’ve also ended up sweating every little detail, thus crippling myself with anxiety. I want to have fun. I thought I had decided this, but it keeps coming back and biting me on the ass. I’m just not sure why I keep hammering on these questions. My guess is it’s the sense of need a deadline to push me and I keep setting them up in my mind, even though I know it’s unhealthy.

Bah, I know this, too, will pass. In the meantime, I’ve nearly finished my second pass on The Station. I think I mentioned it last week, but this short story forms a narrative bridge between The Corridors of the Dead and City of the Dead, venturing 9,000 years into the past to examine just, exactly, where Tommy came from, and more on the nature of the Acolytes. This short story will also be incorporated into City of the Dead, but I think it works as a standalone, as well. Hoping to have a cover fairly soon, so we can get this party started.

Also, today is the day for the new Found Music update! Real quick, I’m sharing a chunk of the neo-swing revival known as 13 O’Clock:

We have an interesting one for you this week, folks. Remember the big swing revival of the 90s? You couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy or Royal Crown Revue. I have to admit that I enjoyed it a lot, and was somewhat disappointed when the whole thing fizzled out. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t listen to the stuff 24/7, but every now and then I enjoyed putting on a neo-swing CD. By this year, I’d almost forgotten the whole thing existed. It seems almost like a fever dream, only you sometimes stumble across the relics of that era.

This album is one such relic. Falling squarely in the middle of the revival, Columbus, Ohio’s 13 o’Clock fuses swing, rockabilly, and surf in an infectious blend that had me hooked from the very first song right on through to the end.

So head on over and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

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  1. Is overthinking counterproductive? Sometimes. Is obsessing about the meat and bones and ticks and turns and minutia counterproductive? Probably sometimes. Is there a cure? Probably not. Stop thinking about the elephant in the room and the hyenas at the door? Go ahead and try.

    Oh well, muddle through anyway. It beats the hell out of the alternative.

    Hang in there, Jonathan. There is a balance between desperate terror and overweening (blind) confidence. You’ll find it.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Well, it’s not even really fear that’s giving me problems. It’s…kind of hard to describe. For lack of a better description, my creative mind and my internal editor are basically at war. I write a sentence and my internal editor immediately starts picking through it and beating at me for not writing the “perfect” sentence, whatever that means. I’ve been able to let go for short periods lately and have a lot of fun writing, but then the critic starts creeping in again – usually prompted by reading a blog post or something of that ilk – and I lock up. This isn’t really anything new for me; it’s why I didn’t publish my first five novels. My editing senses serve me very well when it comes to editing others’ work in a professional environment, but it’s threatening to strangle my work.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Oh yes. Of course. The technical term is writer’s block 😉

      • “does all this analysis of what makes a story tick kill the fun of writing?”

        It must, because it sure takes all the fun out of reading. I was miserable when I had to write critical papers about literature.

  2. I know how it is. I used to be such an evenly tempered person especially with regards to self-esteem. However, ever since starting this writing thing I’ve been developing what my wife calls an artist temperament. Talk about annoying! The euphoric days are great, but I really can’t stand the downer days. Nothing like crushing self-doubt on a Friday to put a damper on the weekend ahead. Been there (and will be there again). I sympathize.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Oh, man, it helps to hear this. I need to know that it’s okay to have these days/weeks/months. It’s not much fun.

  3. Jonathan D Allen

    Mary, I think you’re right! Hadn’t considered it that way.

  4. Fear has a thousand faces. It is always fear at the very bottom of the pile. This being so, you don’t have to spend anymore time in analysis. Own that it’s fear and choose something that has the capacity to grab your attention more strongly than fear does, until it has once again gone to ground. Line drawing is one, especially if you can’t draw – it takes every ounce of your focus; playing with a pet, they are not so stupid as to think themselves out of having a good time; play a musical instrument , the roughing up you’ll take from an annoyed neighbor will definitively give you something else to think about. Or just work on training your mind to obey you when you say, enough already!

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Great advice, and thank you! Unfortunately I’ve been wrapping myself up in distractions for the last week or so and I think it’s time to meet these issues head-on. Just trying to wrap my head around it all.

  5. sounds like you need a hiatus…take some time for yourself–aren’t you in the process of getting married or going to a wedding or something along those lines? everyone needs to step back–it’s why vacations are so important–you can come back with fresh eyes and new enthusiasm! don’t let the doldroms take over!

    • Jonathan D Allen

      I think you’re close. I think I need a vacation from the marketing aspect of things, and ultimately a lot of what I’m talking about is also about the marketing of a book. Now if I can just push that part of it out of my head 🙂

      • I also think you need to separate ‘the writing’ from ‘the marketing’–if you’re considering marketing while you’re writing it can be psychically crippling…I wouldn’t even consider whether or not your plot line is going to garner a bunch of readers–in my opinion, as soon as that thought enters your head you’re on the wrong track!

  6. We all suffer from what you describe. Luckily for me, I take breaks often enough so that I don’t have to deal with the struggle between the writing and the editing merry-go-round. Use the good days to maximum advantage so that when the bad days come along they won’t cripple you to the point where you fall behind too badly.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      I like it. Perhaps my problem is not taking that break that you’re describing, so my internal editor isn’t ready to let go. There’s no “clean break”. I’m going to try that! Thanks 🙂

  7. Sometimes I feel like if I don’t get a new book out there in the NEXT EIGHT MINUTES without the perfect marketing gimmick I will be doomed to obscurity FOREVER. This means it’s time to take a marketing break and devote a good solid two weeks just writing. The social networks will always be there. Readers read a hell of a lot faster than writers write, so there’s room out there for all of us and all our books.

    Give yourself permission to be isolative, to stay off of facebook, twitter, blogs and whatever else and go have fun with words. The indie craze can make us feel naughty indulging that way, but you and your book deserve it.

    Plus you’ll write words and amaze yourself and the fire will return.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Haha yep, I get that sense sometimes. If I’m not producing something to sell, I’m vanishing from the public eye. You’re exactly right – that’s the time to take a step back and focus on the writing itself, just for the joy of it. I actually don’t mind interacting with others on a regular basis, but just for the interaction, not with an ulterior motive in mind. That drives me crazy about conversations with *some* indie authors, there’s always that marketing aspect in the back of their minds (as said above, I’m sure it’s the drive to keep the name out there that fuels this, not some inherent flaw). I just need to separate the worlds of online conversation from online marketing.

  8. Overthinking slowed my progress on my first (completed) novel to a career killing pace.

    When I first started writing, I could happily crank out 6 pages a day (1-2 hours). The more I learned, the more I realized that it was 6 pages of crap a day. I started to apply what I learned as I wrote the first draft. Each sentence took several minutes of thought. Each paragraph required rearranging until it was perfect. Ditto for pages, scenes, and then chapters. I’ve come to realize that at least some of this was procrastination. I didn’t want to start the next sentence (paragraph, page, scene, chapter) because I knew the new material would not meet my standards, which was a depressing thought. And so I inched ahead. No…no. I millimetered ahead.

    My goal for this next book is to go back to that blissful 6 pages a day…and worry and appropriate amount about the perfection in the revision stage.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Yep, what you’re describing is what kept me from getting my early novels to a workable state. “Workable”, not “perfect”. I ended up tinkering so much that they became unreadable, internally inconsistent messes. I was just trying to do the right thing and create great writing, but that drive can seize you right up, and THAT is what I mean by taking the fun out – we have so many how-tos and rules that it becomes hard not to examine each sentence as you write it, and, well, we end up right back where we started.

  9. I think everyone has said what needs to be said, but here’s an alternative: write drunk, edit sober. ha ha… ha? Seriously, though, I don’t do that, but I imagine that’s why so many writers are drunks. You don’t think about the editing as much when your intoxicated. You just tell the story.

    But again, seriously, that’s not my advice (I’m sure to have all sorts of people come down on me if I said it was). I can completely relate to your sentiments here. For me, I think it’s the mid-winter blues. And for me it hits in waves, also.

    Keep fighting the good fight, my friend.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

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