Craft And Business of Writing SF&F track
Saturday, 4:00-5:15 p.m.
There are commonalities between many arts; what elements do writing, dancing, painting, cooking, and the other arts share? How does the artist, of any discipline, organize her practice for the maximum output of both quality and quantity? And do elements of one discipline carry over into another? Darlene Coltrain is a jewelry artist who also paints and creates costumes for dancers; Kay Kenyon was an actress who is now a writer. The discussion will trace the interdisciplinary effects of these varied careers.
Moderator: Louise Marley was an opera singer, now writes science fiction and fantasy
Denise A. Gendron is a music teacher, singer/songwriter, and composer, all of which have been influenced, informed, or made possible by sf. Also does small press publishing.
Catherine M. Schaff-Stump is the coordinator of an English Language Acquisition program and writes fiction.
Phoebe Wray was an actress, director, and writer and is a professor at The Boston Conservatory.
There was one other panelist whose name I did not catch, and who is not listed as a panelist. She makes jewelry and paints silks. Unless she is Darlene Coltraine, mentioned in the panel description, Darlene was not there. ETA: vgqn informs me that this was indeed Darlene Coltraine. Kay Kenyon was not there as far as I could tell.
How panel worked
The moderator of this panel was very organized and went through the list of questions mentioned in the panel description more or less in order, asking each panelist to comment. There was a lot of conversation among panelists about the topics. There was some time at the end for audience questions/comments. Below I list some of the questions and some of the answers that I liked. I didn't try to match answers with individual panelists. I've also rephrased the answers and reorganized some of them. In short, they now match the inside of my own head more than the panelists' words.
firecat's brief review
This was the best panel I went to this year. I like panels to be organized, to have lots of input from knowledgeable panelists (I tend to be more easily frustrated by panels that are mostly audience discussion), and to stick to the topic described in the program. This panel did all those things. Also it's a subject of great interest to me.
THE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What is discipline?
Finishing, taking the next step in your project.
Groundwork, sweat, building skills by working on stuff you can do well, thus giving room for the "bolt of lightning" ideas.
Working when you don't feel like it. Continuing even when you feel stuck (feeling stuck is like being "in retrograde" - you look like you're moving backward but you're really moving forward).
Regular scheduled practice times are like rituals. They prepare the body and mind subconsciously for work at that time, both in music and in writing.
Faith in your work and process.
Cycles of doubt are natural, don't panic about them.
You can't wait for inspiration, you have to keep working on something. If you get stuck on one thing, turn to something else. It's important to return to your project regularly so it stays fresh.
Is routine important in your work? What routines do you have?
Hard to establish routines when working at home in an open area. Works better when there's a studio with a door that closes.
Work in the morning, take a nap, work again in the evening.
Walk on beach and then write. Work late at night. Revise in AM.
Start work in morning after exercise. During school year, prepare and play with ideas, do actual creative work during (teacher's) summer vacation.
How does your creative process work? (in a more general sense than what's your routine)
It's frustrating when an idea comes and there's no time to do much with it.
Instead of trying to "write every day," try to write "all the time" (in your head).
If you get ideas while driving, use cell phone to call answering machine at home and leave idea there.
"percolating": do one kind of work to free up brain to think in the background about another. E.g., visual work frees up brain to think about writing. Some kinds of writing free up brain to think about other kinds of writing.
Have spiral notebooks in every room for writing down random ideas and solutions.
For some people, brain is always focused on creative work, even when not actively working. Other people can walk away from it.
(The above comment along with the mention of earworms caused the entire room to break out into singing "Little White Duck")
Can work on big writing project and still read SF, but not when doing a concert.
Greg Bear said (at Clarion?) "Don't abuse the muse."
It's important to have down time. "Lay on the couch day".
Can also damage your body by getting too focused on writing.
How do techniques of one art inform another?
Symphonic structure looks like a novel outline. Opera singers learn all the plots, how to create a character and build to a climax. Music can inform language/writing.
Life is a game of let's pretend and dressup. Writing is part of that game.
Studying acting helps you learn certain techniques which then get ingrained. Psychoanalysis of your character helps find out the truth in the work. Act out scenes from novels to help find out how to write them down.
In writing as in teaching, jump into the middle and assume the students/readers are smart, make it a puzzle to figure out.
Pottery is very meditative and creates a stillness with strength. The same empty/full mindset when writing.
Exercise can be part of the discipline or a break where your mind goes blank.
Who runs the story, you or your characters?
Both I and the characters call the shots.
Dangerous to fall in love with one's characters.
Connie Willis said at Worldcon 1997: "My characters do what I fucking tell them."
I asked, What have you had to give up to pursue a multiply artistic life?
"I forgot to get married."
Having a full time job leaves not enough time to write
Nothing, but spouse has given up my financial contribution to the household.
Audience member commented, I have the drive for art but not the business of selling myself.
Sometimes it helps to think that you're selling your art, not you.
It took years to find a gallery that's a nice fit and has the right sales staff and honest contracts. Art schools don't teach this. The SF&F writing community does teach how to pitch a story.
Having a day job helps because you don't come across as desperate.
Approach it as something to learn.