Tag Archives: Damian Trasler

Writer’s Block

I was going to title this post “Writer’s block – myth or not?” but I didn’t. Here’s why:

A lot of writers who blog, or Tweet, or whatever address the issue of writer’s block at some point. Some say it doesn’t exist, that to write – to really write – just takes the application of bum to seat and fingers to keyboard. It’s a job, they say, and writing every day like it’s a real job will carry you through the days when you just don’t, you know feel it.

Other people say “No, that’s not what I’m talking about. I want to write, I really need to, and I am sat here ready to go, and the WORDS WON’T COME!” It’s a genuine blockage, something preventing the flow of words that is normally, if not effortless, then at least easy.

So that brings me round to something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: People are different. We KNOW people are different, but we still determinedly lump together people who share one aspect of their lives, or their personalities, or their medical diagnoses, and we treat them all the same.

Writing. I’ve been a published writer for over twenty years. I’ve earned actual money from the stuff I write. Now, I don’t make my entire living from writing, so maybe you can discount me that way, but I don’t think so. I’ve written fiction and non-fiction and sold both. I’ve done magazine articles and short stories. I’ve done novels. I’ve certainly done plays. But what I’ve written over the last three years could be fitted on a pack of cigarettes without removing the government-mandated warning pictures. And yeah, some of that is because of regular life – remodeling the house, buying an apartment, Mrs Dim’s medical condition, the trip to England… There are always going to be interruptions. But I’m saying for the record here that there has been plenty of time for me to write, and I haven’t done it.

Is that Writer’s Block? Maybe for me. It’s not the first time I haven’t had ideas fighting to get onto paper, though it is the longest. I’ve had ideas during that time, obviously, and some of them got noted down in various places, but nothing developed beyond that scribbled note:

“And then my husband got fat”

“Small, Good Wolves need not apply”

“Famous Last Words”

“The Gardener of Crystal Palace”

Last week I was shuffling through a bunch of old files. One of them was an outline of a play I started to write. It was called the “Not Bertie Wooster” Play, because I had listened to the complete Jeeves and Wooster series on audio, and the style of Bertie’s speech was burned into my brain. I had a lot of fun, writing the outline using Bertie’s eclectic terms of affection and disbelief, and was building up quite a Wodehousian plot. Naturally, I ran out of steam about a third of the way through, but that was five pages. Five pages of outline. Since I didn’t have any other writing work on, I thought it would be easier to try writing out the script from this outline, rather than trying to write something new (or, actually, finish the outline first!)

That was a week ago, and I am pages into the script and haven’t caught up to the end of the outline yet. Writing this is fun , it’s not difficult, and I’m not worried about running out of outline because it feels like this is one of those plays where the characters will take up the story and run with it if I let them.

I haven’t “broken” a writer’s block. I haven’t found a method that will work for other people, or even for me the next time around. Everyone is different. But for now, I have rediscovered my own joy in writing, and it may well carry me through to the end of this script.

If YOU are suffering from Writer’s Block, or some similar condition that is preventing you doing your own creative thing, then firstly, I believe you. No one can tell you that block does not exist. It’s YOURS.

Secondly, because everyone is different, there are a million different pieces of advice out there that claim to break your block. None of them is going to be right every time for every person. But because there are so many, and hey, aren’t you desperate? Then you can try as many as you like until you find one that works for now.

Fifty, not out… (Cricket reference.)

There’s a lot of mileage made in popular culture about fear of aging, but the truth is, it’s rarely presented as an issue for folks like me – middle class, middle age white guys. In fact, we’re more likely to be told that Charlie Chaplin was still fathering children when he was in his seventies, and I still don’t know what to make of that.

I didn’t worry when I turned thirty. I’d once been told that men hit their physical peak at eighteen, but if that’s true, then my peak wasn’t much to shout about, and if I ever get around to making an effort, I’m pretty sure I could get into better shape, even now. Thirty was nothing, though. I was a dad of young kids, involved in the school, trying to make a hobby into either a career or a paying prospect. I was learning to be a good husband, still thinking back then that it was something you could become, not something you had to choose to be every day.

I don’t remember turning forty, really. I notice I didn’t blog about it, and we didn’t make a fuss about that birthday, but instead threw a party  when I turned forty two, because that IS an important number, right? Forty is officially middle-age, and even today a guy making it to 80 is doing well, beating the averages. But my kids still seemed young, and I could generally keep up with them. There were the odd aches and pains, but I still wasn’t actually doing any exercise, so that wasn’t surprising.

And now fifty. Two of my kids are so grown up they’ve left home. One’s working full time, the other’s about to finish university. The remaining stay-at-home may be about to start work too. My latest shot at promotion may have stalled, but I’m happy in my job, and it brings in enough to allow us to live happily, if not extravagantly. I’m not disappointed that I never became a motorcycle stunt man (as ten-year-old Dim once wanted), and I’m happy with all the choices I’ve made, I think. Being fifty doesn’t feel as old as it used to sound.

Goals for 2018, or listing future failures.

Happy New Year! Assuming you’re working from the same calendar as me… Anyway, I sat in bed this morning and contemplated my view of the future.

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Looks like the future is dogs.

As is traditional at this time of year, I have decided to lie outrageously about the things I absolutely intend to do this coming year, even though they’re things I have completely failed to do in the previous 365 days and no circumstances have changed at all. Well, other than my “Rogue One” Calendar being switched for a “Last Jedi” calendar. Cool.

1. Get fit. I mean, fitter. Well, less fat. Maybe lose weight. Get my blood sugars down. Eat more vegeta…wait, no one will believe that one.

2. Write that novella. No, not that one, the other one. Write it, make a really good cover, and then not sell any, just like the other ten e-books. Yes, ten. As has been previously noted, I spend more on toothpaste in three months than I make from e-books in a year. But this is a really GOOD idea, and I’m going to write it. Sometime.

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3. Write more plays. My plays have continued to sell well, with the last three months of 2017 being the best for TLC creative in several years. I’m chalking that up to my continued advertising efforts on Twitter, where I have over 600 followers. Although I’m not comfortable with the term “followers”. It’s not like I’m leading them anywhere. We’re all just sort of sauntering along in the same direction. So, yeah, write more plays. Format them properly. Get photos of people performing them*.

4. Finish some helmets. Not because I’m short of helmets, but because I’ve had the TIE Pilot helmet project under way for half a year, and I want it done so I can start the next one. These projects earn no money and have no practical use, so I call it a hobby, but it feels like more than that. A calling. An obsession. Or, as Mrs Dim puts it, “A complete waste of time”.

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5. Do things less crap. As part of our family engagement protocol, we’ve all adopted House Names and Words, Game of Thrones Style, to inspire us in the new year. I am now of House Bodger, whose proud words are “Doing things less crap” with our sigil of crossed saw and hammer over bandaged thumb. 1st attempt at producing a plaque for my new house has already gone awry:

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6. Encouraging the Weasels in their education. I think it’s ironic that I need to resolve to drive the Weasels to school after spending a year driving them to school. Apparently I should have been driving them to bike to school, then driving them to school themselves while at home. Parenting is all about learning. We also need to have the courage to let them fail, a courage they already seem to have in bucketloads, because failure is a great teacher, something I have failed to learn so far.

7. Social media wizardry. I’m going to try and blog more often. Or at least, more often than I have been doing, which shouldn’t be hard. For a while I was trying to project an adult, socially responsible Author persona through my social media platforms, in order to encourage readership. However, that meant that people would arrive at my books or plays expecting a socially responsible adult to have written them, and boy were they disappointed. So instead I’m going to blog about the things I want to blog about, I’m going to say them the way it occurs to me to say them, and if you don’t like it, you’re in the majority.

So, having wasted a large portion of the first day of the new year setting down how I’m  not going to be wasting time in the New Year, it’s time for me to have lunch. I hope 2018 is kind to you and your endeavours, and if not, I hope it gallops past on feathered feet and delivers you safely into the loving arms of 2019, when I intend to go to Disneyland.

 

*To put on my website. Not for any sinister, secret police-type purpose.

Still Boldly Going On….

IMproved

A long, long time ago* I wrote a short play that was a spoof on the old Star Trek trope of the guys in the Red Shirts getting killed. It’s not an original idea, but I like to think that my take was fairly fresh at the time. Best of all, it’s a three hander for two males and one female, with minimal set and no expensive special effects…much like the original Star Trek series.

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Like many of my early short plays, the performances have been scattered, and I haven’t managed to see one. But this week (in November of 2017) I got in touch with Send Amateur Dramatic Society (See their website here) and Karen there was kind enough to send through some pictures, which I have placed in the Gallery here on the blog. From the pictures, it looks like the people in Send put more effort into the production than I did into writing the script – I hope their audiences were appreciative of the excellent job they did!

You can read the full text of ‘Strange New Worlds” here, and if you want to see that trope taken a giant step forward, read “Redshirts” by John Scalzi.

 

 

*Yes, I could look it up, but I’m not going to. Sorry. I’m on lunch and time is precious. PRECIOUSSSSSSS!

May the Fours be with you…

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Still putting one foot in front of the other, with three Weasels in tow…

It’s my forty-fourth birthday. Despite dire warnings regarding fruit and vegetables and the necessity thereof, I’m still here. Which is nice.

This summer has been long and very, very pleasant. We’ve had a visit from my parents and been out to see new places, as well as revisiting some old favourites. The Weasels have had independent adventure time, and plenty of family time too. Mrs Dim and I managed to take simultaneous vacations and discovered that we still like each other very much.

In past years I’ve put my books on sale and encouraged new readers to try them, but I think there’s enough misery in the world right now thanks to Brexit and the US elections, so instead I’m encouraging everyone to embrace the spirit of the Fours and review four books. ANY four books. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book you read last week, or your childhood favourite. Doesn’t matter if you post the review on Amazon, or on Facebook, or on a sheet of A4 pinned to the nearest telephone pole.

Reviews matter. They matter to the poor author who has torn their hair out arranging these 100,000 words into that specific order for your pleasure. They matter to other readers, who want to know if this is a book they should devote time to. And if Oprah and Richard and Judy and their ilk can influence entire countries to buy a book (“50 Shades” and “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” respectively) then you can encourage people too. Even if it’s just the author, relieved that someone has READ their book, thank you.

You don’t have to be a literary critic. You don’t have to analyse the beats of the plot, or the structure, or the effectiveness of the b-story. Did you like the book? Did it grip you from the beginning? Could you see it happening in your head as you read it? Did you want to read it right to the end? Were you sad when it was finished? These are the things people want to know about the books, not whether the symbolism was richly influenced by the pre-modernistic fiction of Northern France.

Summer’s pretty much done, and as Sean Bean is always here to remind us….

Image result for for England, James

Dammit, Sean, YOU HAD ONE JOB! Try again….

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Right. Thank you.

Yes, Winter is coming, so no more lying in a hammock reading books. Now comes the time for curling up in an armchair near the fire with books. It’s completely different.

So, may the fours be with you. Go FOURth and review books.

Finding Balance

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It’s been Summer Holidays for more than a month. Traditionally, it’s a time of year where I lose my mind, trying to fit in the demands of the irregular work schedule, my own writing desires and the various activities (or not) of the Weasels.

This year has seen a few changes, with Eldest Weasel leaving school and filling some of her free time with volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium and the Pacific Northwest Raptor Centre.DSCN8839

Donte 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middle Weasel took a brief course that will help her if she decides to continue helping out on ice – she’s done her Ringette Ref training, and now is ready to help teach a new generation of Ringette players.

Tiny Weasel took two weeks of the school-run summer entertainments and we’ve all traveled with my parents who were over for a fortnight.

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None of us are in this picture, but we were there – it’s Long Beach, Tofino.

What I have to relearn every year is the trick of balance. I’m not being denied my work time, or my solitude, and the kids aren’t being forced to go out and have fun. There’s time for writing, time for relaxing, time for exploring and time for socialising. There’s even, god help us all, time for watching brainless twits on YouTube blathering about the very latest thing that they found in their breakfast cereal….. I may be a little prejudiced about the value of YouTube as an entertainment delivery system.

Anyway, for every five minutes where I’m convinced we’re not going to get anywhere or do anything, there’s times like this:

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or places like this:

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or discoveries like this:

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I don’t know what state we’ll be in when we reach September, but most years we seem to have done alright. We’ve had fun, been to some interesting places, seen some good people and and spent a healthy amount of time outdoors, as well as getting in some good screen time. This year, I’m going to remember that Summer isn’t about what you can cram in, or what you worry about missing out.

It’s about the balance.

 

Adventures in Tech

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Writing is always going to be difficult, one way or another. If it was easy to write brilliantly, we’d all do it and no author would ever have a crisis of confidence, or hangups about plot or character.

As I’ve mentioned before, there are plenty of books that will tell you they have a surefire method to make the process of writing easier, and just like them there’s a lot of software geared towards helping the struggling author sort their ideas out and get them written down.

This week my struggles have been of a different nature. My dear old netbook, veteran of a dozen plays and several e-books, has reached the point of no return. After rejecting Windows 10 over fifteen times, it finally caved and installed the new OS, resulting in a twenty minute start-up time, followed by enough time to brew fresh coffee in between opening programs, or switching from one thing to another. This could not stand, but since this is a Dell Netbook, there’s no chance of upgrading the hardware (not at my level of expertise, anyway…)

There were two options:

  1. Buy a new Netbook. $399 or more.
  2. Experiment with reviving the netbook as a Chromebook for free.

Option 1 was my favourite, so I looked at my finances. Option 2, then.

Now, I’m not very technically gifted. But I had the distinct advantage here of starting with a machine that could get no more broken. Even if I totally borked this installation, things would be no worse than they already were. Yay.

I did some careful research…well, ok, I Googled a couple of things and then took my folks out for the day.

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(My parents are visiting from the UK.)

I asked about on Google Plus and people seemed moderately ok about the idea of working on a Chromebook. Not overwhelmingly enthusiastic, but it seemed that I would at least be able to do SOMETHING on the new machine which is, as stated, a step up.

I visited the Neverware site to use their “Cloudready” software. The step by step guide I was using really wanted me to understand that I would be losing everything from the hard drive of the machine I was Chroming, but that was ok with me. If I hadn’t backed it up by now, I didn’t need it. Probably.

Things weren’t quite as easy as the guide suggested, but I was able to manage. My main issue was that, once I had created the boot disc on the USB stick (wait, shouldn’t that be “boot stick”? What kind of world are we living in where people need a boot stick?), the machine didn’t recognise the file. I had to restart the computer (as we know, a twenty minute process) and then catch that brief moment when you’re offered boot options if you hit F12.

Once I did that, Cloudready took over and the process began. In about an hour it was done, though I wasn’t entirely sure when I was supposed to remove the USB. As a result I wasn’t actually working on the real installation for the first twenty minutes, but the one running from the stick, however that works.

A whole day later, and I have the machine a little better organised. I have some music and movies stored on the local hard drive (more or less), since I’ll often be working on the machine while it’s offline. I’ve ensured that the Google Docs software is configured to allow me to work on files while offline too, and the whole thing runs a lot faster than it used to. It’s still not as fast as a new machine, but I can switch it on and be working in five minutes instead of twenty. And actually working, not poking at the keyboard and swearing while I wait for it to catch up.

The big test will come in a couple of weeks, when an aspect of my library work will give me three hours of peace and uninterrupted quiet to work on the final third of the latest play. I’m going to be using the Chromebook. As long as I have figured out exactly who DID dun it for my whodunnit, I’ll be relying on my revitalised machine to get the words down.

After another visit to the pub…

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The Great Canadian Adventure is FREE!

Great Canadian cover

Yes! To celebrate the fact that it’s been EXACTLY 7 years, 2 months and 14 days since we arrived in Canada, I’m giving away my account of our first year here for FREE!

It’s filled with fun pictures and interesting facts! It’s an e-book, so people won’t see it on your shelf and ask why you bought it! It’s free, so you won’t regret spending money on it! And it’s an Amazon product so you can leave reviews warning others away from making a similar error!

(I may not be good at this marketing thing.)

You can get your copy from Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk . If you live somewhere else, check out your local Amazon site and see if it’s free there too!

And ok, yes, it may not be because of the timing, but because i haven’t given away any of my e-books in a long time. There’ll probably be other giveaways coming up soon. I’m busy working on a new play, co-writing the next pantomime, and there’s a side-project running over on Wattpad that I’m not convinced will be worth publishing, but is making me smile. Also, I haven’t made any kind of replica film prop for more than a week.*

 

 

 

*There may be a complete set of plans for a Cyberman head in the bottom drawer of my desk. I refuse to comment.

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Waiting for Twist Stiffly – RPI Players

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I was delighted to get a Tweet from the RPI Players this week, telling me they had completed their run of “Waiting for Twist Stiffly” and enjoyed the play very much. They had the very talented Demetrius Green (photographybydegrees.com/) on … Continue reading

It’s not the end of the world….

Missing lynxAccording to the stats page of this blog, someone has been looking for the script to my sketch “It’s not the end of the world”, but the page they looked at included an old link that doesn’t work anymore. Rather than contact me (or, I guess, Lazy Bee Scripts), the person has come back a few times to check if the link has been fixed.

Since it takes a while for me to get a hint, I’ve finally fixed the link today. It works on the original page and here too.

If you spot any other missing lynx…er….links, please let me know so can fix them!