Archive for February, 2012

Familiarity Breeds Like (and Eventually Hate)

You know when you hear a song on the radio and it’s not really amazing, but you listen to it anyway because it’s too much work to change the station? And as time goes on, you hear it more and more, and at some point you find yourself singing along, enjoying every minute of it.

And then, eventually, it reaches over-played hell and you think you might set something on fire if you have to listen to that same damn song over yet again.

While music is the most obvious example, this cycle repeats itself for every medium. Let’s look at it from a reading standpoint. You pick up a new genre. You think it’s pretty good. Not amazing, maybe, but pretty good. There’s something that resonates.

The next step? You seek out similar books. That cozy mystery really got the ol’ thinker going, so you search out more cozy mysteries. That epic fantasy – wow. What will those crazy speculative fiction writers come up with next? Or that romance you found where the main conflict is not that the two main characters spend the entire book thinking that the other hates them because they can’t hold a conversation?

You get my point.

Someone old and dead (Socrates, maybe?) once said that every story in the world has already been written. It’s not that hard to find variations on something you like. Sure, there may be the rare gem out there that stands alone, but even then there may be less shining knock-offs that scratches where it itches.

But eventually? Burnout. You’ve got the mysteries solved before the first chapter is over. The old boy meets girl story has you yawning, and if you see one more elf – especially one that distrusts dwarves – you may scream.

And then you move on to something new.

But the good news? Usually a little time away from something you used to love is all it takes to rekindle your interest again. And then you’ll be back to your favorite genre, and singing along in the car.

Snow Day

We’ve got about two feet of snow – it started about 6 pm last night and has yet to stop. My dog thinks it is the best thing in the world. So does my husband – we’ve ventured out twice today – once to acquire a sled (sadly – or not so sadly, a failure) and another time for snow shoes.

I’m afraid to say I accomplished nothing today. My husband was supposed to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity for work, but that got snowed out. Then he thought he’d go skiing, but that got snowed out as well. (How ironic.) Since he was around, it seemed silly to try to get anything done, mostly because he is mostly incapable of entertaining himself. (Though he and the dog went out to play in the snow a half-dozen times. He called it shoveling the walk – a bit fruitless in my opinion, seeing how the snow has yet to stop – but I know the truth.)

So early on, I gave up on the idea of productivity and embraced the snow day. I tried to remember what I used to do when faced with an unexpected day off of school – but honestly, we only ever had a handful, the last one being during my senior of year of high school. It had stopped snowing by 10 am and was warm, so my friends and I went sledding without coats or snow gear of any kind. That was fairly epic. But the last time I had a true snow day, where I was trapped in my house with just my family…who knows?

There’s not really a point to this post. I’ve had a lovely, relaxing day, and at this point, the snow has eaten my brain. If this storm hits you, ride it out. Embrace it for what it is. True snow days only come along so often.

An Excuse to Learn

One of the best things about books is that you learn new things. This is true both whether you are reading them or writing them. New places, new cultures, new mythology…oh, it is grand.

One of my favorite things about being a writer is that when I start a new project, it’s fully an excuse to go to the library and bring home an armload full of books and spend several hours on the internet (most possibly spent in Wikipedia). It gives you a lovely reason for when someone asks you why you have a book about alien parasites or alternate dimensions or ghosts or what have you. You’re not really crazy, you’re researching.

But Kit, you might say, why do you need to do research? Don’t you write science fiction and fantasy?

Ah, yes, the common misconception that it’s easier to do speculative fiction because you get to make everything up.

Here’s the thing. Everything is based off something else. And since modern scifi and fantasy now tend to be set closer to contemporary times – whether in location or spacetime – making something up is harder than ever. Fantasy tends to rely heavily on myth and religion, whether it’s a rework of the Arthurian legend or a story based very loosely on Polynesian gods. Science fiction has “science” right there in the name. Even if you manage to create worlds and civilizations that have nothing to do with anything else you’ve ever been exposed to, there’s still research to be done.

Just because something is made up doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to make sense.

Besides, why wouldn’t you want to have an excuse to learn? New books and new experiences and new knowledge help more than just the creative process. It makes for good conversation at parties. You can impress your friends and families. And it makes sure you keep on thinking and imagining and creating. All of which are good things.

So do yourself a favor, Squiders. Pick a new subject, and go read a good book.