observations process reading writing

Frittering with Scalzi

I have got a backlog of blog posts that need writing, but I haven’t had time to write them. Which isn’t completely true. After working all day, doing the heavy mental lifting of writing and budgeting for a federal grant this past week, my brain has been so fried in the evening that I fritter away my time on Twitter, getting caught up in the day’s news. Now that I’ve got some time to blog, I have to fritter away a bit more time writing a frittery post just to get back into the swing of things and decide which of the post ideas I want to tackle first.

Writers, do you recognize what I’ve done in the last paragraph? It’s 109 words of discharging unorganized writing energy in order to get the words flowing. It’s the equivalent of writing, “I have nothing to write, I have nothing to write, I have nothing to write,” over and over again until your brain catches hold of something new out of sheer boredom.

Frittering is sometimes the way to go, or get going again, as the case may be.

I haven’t totally been wasting my down time scrolling through my Twitter feed (Twitter is like reading a morning or evening newspaper in the days of yore); I’ve also been reading honest-to-god books. I finished “White Trash,” which I discussed a couple blog posts ago. I also read John Scalzi’s book “Don’t Live for Your Obituary: Advice, Commentary and Personal Observations on Writing, 2008 – 2017.”

Book: "Don't Live for Your Obituary," by John Scalzi.
Book: “Don’t Live for Your Obituary,” by John Scalzi.

Scalzi is a new author to me. I found him via Twitter, where I’m sure someone I follow liked or shared a post of his. Obviously, I liked or was intrigued by what he said, checked out his Twitter bio (he enjoys pie) to make sure he wasn’t a bot (do bots like pie?), scrolled through some of his feed to see whether I would enjoy or be informed by a number of his tweets, and read his pinned tweet, which has a link to an article he wrote on his blog, “Whatever,” about how he uses Twitter. This is how I came to follow him. (Twitter is good for more than wasting time and catching up on news.)

I quickly discovered Scalzi is a science fiction writer. Over the past couple of years, I have been challenging myself to read more science fiction because it is not a genre I’ve spent much time on. I’ve found I love the work of Jeff VanderMeer and was looking for additional authors in an organic way (I don’t want to force myself to read anything out of some vague sense that I “should”), so, Scalzi’s up. I looked at my library’s online catalog to see what Scalzi they had available. (The library is closed because we are still in a pandemic, but allowing for phone check-outs and drive-through pick-ups.) Did I select any of his fiction? Nope. I went for his book on writing advice that is a compilation of his blog posts.I do love me some blogs and blog posts!

In the book, Scalzi tackles a lot of the practical matters of being a writer, like all the business-y stuff that most people don’t want to deal with, and he writes about it in a way that is humorous and sharp. You walk away understanding the importance of being involved with the business-y stuff … this is your livelihood if you write to make money. You have to be willing to steer the ship.

He also covers fandom, what it’s like to have fans, and gossips a bit about some of the famous people he has come in contact with. When I flipped through and glimpsed the title of one blog post/chapter, I screeched to a halt and did not wait. I read it then and there. It is called “Duran Duran, Neil Gaiman, and Beginnings” and is about the book Gaiman wrote about Duran Duran early in his career. If you aren’t already ad nauseum-ly aware of my being a fan of both Duran Duran (way back to high school!) and Neil Gaiman, you’re either new here or haven’t been paying attention.

When Scalzi throws in a bit about the lyrics on the Duran album Seven and the Ragged Tiger, I had a good chortle. He says: “(Although, seriously: Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Nothing there makes even the slightest lick of sense. “The Union of the Snake” is just friggin word salad, man. We can say it now, here in 2015.)” (pg. 173)

And he’s absolutely right! Here are the first couple of lines from “New Moon on Monday” from the same album: “Shake up the picture the lizard mixture, with your dance on the eventide.” Completely nonsensical. But that didn’t stop me from listening obsessively to the album and trying to figure out the meaning. The fact that the lyrics didn’t make sense was a feature not a bug in my fan-girl mind. (My favorite song on the album: Of Crime and Passion. I had a whole story in my head for this song. It was all crime-y and passion-y, of course.)

I have gotten far afield of where I thought this blog post might go, so let me rein it back in just a bit.

Now that I’ve read some nonfiction from Scalzi, I need to read some of his fiction. I’m leaning toward “Redshirts,” though my brother recommended the Old Man’s War series. I also considered “Lock In,” which the library had in its catalog, but it felt just a touch too raw with the pandemic going on. (Okay, just ordered “Redshirts” from the library. Jeez, I’m distractable!)

Gonna leave you with a couple more thoughts on John Scalzi then go walk my dog.

I just read a current blog post of his called “Generation X and Trans Lives” that is really excellent and tackles the title topic with nuance and complexity, which is how so many issues ought to be treated in life. Please, go read it.

While on Scalzi’s “Whatever” blog, which he has been keeping since 2002 (!), I read the Site Disclaimer, Comment and Privacy Policy. In it, he makes no bones about the fact that if you are a trollish ass, he is going to bounce you right from the site. He’s a person after my own heart in terms of not putting up with shit from people intent on causing trouble online. His Site Disclaimer reminds me of the one I wrote for a blog I kept called “Ask Little Falls.” I called my disclaimer “No Trolls.” Thus far, I haven’t had to deal with them here, well, except for one anonymous ass who was parroting nasty political talking points. After taking a few screenshots of “his” (he coulda been a bot) comments and IP address, I relegated the comment to the dustbin.