Writing Mindsets & Punctuation Curses


Two things I've been noticing when it comes to my writing:
  1. I use dashes (-) waaay too much.
  2. More often than not I mistakenly press the semi-colon (;) button when I actually mean to press the apostrophe (') button.

I'm going to work on those, promise.

In the meantime, it brings up a larger question about writing in general: namely, what is it I actually want to write about? More and more I've been finding myself writing simply to put something down on paper. Invariably what makes it to the page (or screen) when I do this doesn't feel all that satisfying. Writing "off the cuff" rarely works for me. I have more success if I take the time to think and plan out what I want to say, but the flip side is that the time it takes to do this properly means that I more often than not wear out on the subject before writing about it.

The whole STAR WARS thing maybe being a case in point (although, being so close to the finish line might impel me to get around to reviewing the last film and summing up what I now believe to be largely inconsequential, if mildly entertaining, thoughts).

Maybe it's mental wear and tear. One of the things I'm still trying to do is to re-establish my geek identity while wearing the seer-sucker that is being a full-time father. One question I always ask my friends who have kids is "how long did it take you to find some sense of yourself again?" The responses ranged from "about a year" to "what are you talking about?" to "hold on a second...Tommy get off the curtains!!!" Some people can merge themselves seamlessly with their new role, some people never go back to the way they were. I fully expect to lose some of what I was, and to gain something new in return. But I didn't think it would be this hard, losing time, losing independence, and losing your hair on top of it!

Writing is, for me, definitely a "use-it-or-lose-it" ability, so it's doubly scary when I feel what little skill I've been able to hone slowly slipping away along with my concentration and ability to organize my thoughts and ramblings into something resembling coherence. Another casualty in the New Baby Wars is the ability to think critically, whether it's a film or a book or a lecture or even a piece of music. One of the best examples of writing in a blog (if you can even call it that anymore) is Andy Horbal's Mirror/Stage (formerly residing at the equally-awesome but now defunct No More Marriages). He makes a couple comments about the nature of film criticism that I've lately been thinking about, and am attempting in my own way to resolve in my writing. Loosely cribbed and exceprted from his original posts (sorry, Andy):

  1. (original post here) I don’t ever care about what a given critic thinks about a film, but I am usually at least curious about what he or she chooses to say about it.
  2. (original post here) The idea that a film critic (or anyone) can or should be an “expert on movies” strikes me as just a bit absurd. Certainly this isn’t something I aspire to . . . Instead, it seems to me that the film critic should write, like a travel writer, as “someone who has been there”

My favorite writing comes not from the overall point of the subject, but the inlets and crossroads that were taken to get there. A given set of facts presents itself (whether it's a film, a novel, or a piece of music) as concrete and immutable - every time you view it nothing externally about the thing itself has changed. But the pieces our minds pick out and mull over, the moments that we choose to see or hear and write about can change each time we view it. I suspect this is a matter of "the journey taking precedence over the destination."

With regards to the second piece, who can ever consider themselves an expert at something that is constantly in a state of flux? Even if the object stays the same, our lives change from second to second, so we really never look at anything the same way twice. Better to have written from the trenches, rather to look back and write assured at our level of "expertise"

That being said, any other writers out there care to comment on what they do when faced with the overwhelming sense of things slipping away from their grasp? Do you impose certain guidelines and hurdles that have to be met to consider something written as worth the time it took to write it? And does anyone have any advice as to how to do all this when you have rug rats running around all the time?!


(my particular rug rat - how can I ever say "no" to that face?)