The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

A Blog-Chain Isn’t An Excuse For Herd Mentality

Posted by BigWords on July 1, 2009

The funny (i.e. strange) thing about writing, which may not apply to everyone, is the convergence of ideas at certain times. Sometimes there will be a whole bunch of books about savage barbarians in a futuristic setting, or vampire detectives, or whatthefuckever… I don’t care about the specifics for the purposes of this post, and I’m just using those examples because they are widely-used tropes. The nature of these bottle-necked ideas (or at the very least, the seeming rationale) is one of opportunity – if so-and-so is popular, then X will be popular as well. It is more complicated than that, due to the length of time a novel remains in gestation, but sometimes you will find twenty or so books of a similar nature hitting the shelves together, all containing a basic idea.

The hardest part of writing is remaining outside of the herd mentality as often as possible, throwing the occasional literary hand grenade across your fellow authors heads. Original ideas are, sadly, too often little more than variations on a theme – how many times (answer honestly) can you read about a melancholy vampire who must save the world? Four times? Eight? Maybe you have more patience than I, but the books which don’t grab me immediately are the ones I have the hardest time returning to. I have yet to read the full back catalogue of Angel novels due to the similarities I find with other works.

Blogging – in my case – is primarily a safety valve for the crazy to be released in an orderly fashion, lest it explode in other arenas. It is a personal, and very complex, set of thought processes which map out a path through both hemispheres of my brain, often fighting the analytical need for lists, definitions and the number 4. I would have a hard time following where all the other blogs are going, yet some people are willing to take their cue from a fellow blogger and run with an idea. The AW blog-chain has shown me that the ability to use another writer’s idea is possible, but I still doubt that I would ever be able to play in another person’s sandbox for long…

Consider these blog posts for a moment:

Fokker Aeroplanbau – I’m Always Right: Blog Chain
Rosemerry – Beyond Tourism: Two Hurricanes

It’s the same instruments, but a completely different tune. I know (absolutely, for a fact, one hundred percent) that I couldn’t have played along. The not-a-theme theme could have gone a million different ways, but the end result was one of concern for the world we live in. The writers involved played the tune they needed to play, adding to the ideas of the person before them in the chain, creating a multiple-perspective analysis. It’s really astonishing that everyone adapted so well and managed to avoid following group dynamics, and I have enjoyed reading their viewpoints, but it begs the question:
What could I have added?

Lets play along for a moment, pretending that I might have played nice with others on this. So, here goes:

Humanity is fucked. Face it, if we don’t drop a nuke, then we’re gonna be hit by a pandemic which wipes mankind off the face of the planet. We might face a meteor in the not-too-distant future, so why worry if sea-levels rise? Who cares about famine, when-

No. It doesn’t work, even when I try to follow the threads running through other AWers ideas, I’m not cut out for the chaining of ideas. I like tangents, and the unexpected places I find myself when I give in to the rush of ideas. I like the danger of not knowing how the next paragraph will come out, and being just as surprised as everyone else when an unusual or downright contrary thought manages to wrap itself into a coherent whole. There are a few forms of writing which still make me shudder – haiku, Iambic pentameter, journalism (for the very brief prior experience), ten-line stories and “community writing”.

Haiku is hard for me because I want to add and add and add to the words. Forming larger thoughts comes easy, but paring things down to the bone somehow screws up my ideas. Iambic pentameter is just downright annoying to try and write, but I love the manner in which the words somehow sound so much more important when laid down in a rigid format. My three weeks on a local newspaper went downhill faster than Michael Jackson. Ten-line stories fatten through re-writes, wanting the opportunity to become novellas of their own distinction. My attempts at writing with others, though…

Being a control-freak, verging on becoming a borderline dictator as far as some projects have gone, I know that working with others to develop a cohesive world is difficult. I don’t like following others, so I tend to use abstractions instead of concrete ideas as a means to throw people off their game. I’ll bring up topics, then move onto other concepts before anyone has had the chance to absorb the previous statement. Which, when trying to maintain a blog-chain, isn’t the kind of mind-set that automatically springs to mind.

I raise my hat to everyone who participated…

…But I still say humanity is fucked, no matter what we do.


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