by Alex Schumacher
P ark your asses and stir the masses, it is time to ante up for another installment of Bread Crumbs from the Void! I know for the past couple of weeks you have been itching for another fix of tough love and gut-punch advice. Tonight you will rest easy, children, as your dope peddler is back in action. As per usual, the price of admission for this psychedelic literary laser show is your soul. Continue reading at the risk of your own eternal damnation.
Of course, you would not continue to read this column every other week if you were not already somewhat twisted and fucking masochistic. Depravity and self-loathing also happen to be a couple of the prerequisites for being a writer. Congratulations, assholes.
There is a world — if not an entire god-damn galaxy — of difference between saying you are a writer and actually putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard as the case may be. Every day hundreds, maybe thousands of wannabe scribes find their way into the undertow of aspiration. Actually creating work is what separates the MVPs from the benchwarmers. As I spent an entire other installment of Bread Crumbs from the Void discussing how individuals become hooked on the crack-rock of writing (http://five2onemagazine.com/breadcrumbs-from-the-void-6-embracing-the-masochism-writing-inspiration-outlets/), I feel my word count in this go-round will be best spent on the topic at hand.
If permitted, I will simply assume you have already eagerly arrived at the gaping mouth of the abyss, pen and notebook in hand, waiting to begin your own treacherous journey. One of the soul-chafing questions you may be asking yourself is, “How exactly do I get started and, once I do, how do I avoid joining the derivative masses painting Dirty Sanchezes all over the literary landscape?”
The simple answer is: do not limit what informs your output to writing and/or books alone. You must allow your work to be molded by many innumerable outside influences. Here are a few of my favorites.
Rock and Roll. Punk. Blues. Metal. Hip-Hop. Funk. Soul. The list could continue infinitely through time and space were I to list every subgroup or hybrid stemming from each building block. The point is there is a metric shit-ton of music and I believe it to be the lifeblood in everything I create. Personally I veer toward music which is equally good for binge-drinking as it is for writing such as classic rock or outlaw country. Feel free to find your own game.
Music can energize you to bang out an entire rambling and incoherent rough draft. It can also cause you to contemplate and reevaluate the dick cheese you just smeared all over the page.
Music is at once thought-provoking, visceral, and kinetic. Whether it is a ballad or a four-on-the-floor romp, the best tunes deliver bone-crushing emotional and psychological gang bangs from start to finish. If the energy in the beats and inertia of the rhythms does not inspire you to go ape-shit, you have no soul and should stop pretending to be creative now.
In all seriousness, if you are not a fan of music in any capacity then we reside on entirely different levels of existence. I do not know how to communicate with you and urge you to return to whatever bum-fuck planet you vacated.
Music has so much to offer by way of being a creative powder keg. It contains myriad facets waiting to be broken down, deciphered, and dissected for research. For starters there is lyrical content, pace, flow, groove. Listen to way that lines and stanzas are broken down for affect. Absorb melodies or riffs and attempt to replicate the same raw power with your words. The product is always more than the sum of its parts, but all of these ingredients and more can — and should — contribute to the construction and feel of your writing.
Songs take listeners on a journey. So too should any piece of work you unleash on the world.
Film is a fantastic medium to study as well. Not only can you literally see what makes a story work, but film is the ultimate example of the “show don’t tell” method. When written well, a film can provide hours of meaty dialogue and intricate plotting. I prefer the subtlety and slow-burn of great performances to the pomp and brashness of the superficial, CGI-obsessed millennial douche.
If a story is good enough, and executed with sincerity and gravitas on the screen, there is absolutely no need for the god-damn bells and whistles.
Shitty movies (I’m looking at you Michael Bay) can be viewed as an opportunity for education as well. That is to say, vapid popcorn flicks can offer glaring examples of precisely what not to do when writing. These flicks are typically riddled with clichés, plot holes, repulsively horrid dialogue, and plenty of other textbook visual aids of what to avoid. Some may have simply been beautiful experiments which failed. Others were late-term abortions which managed to survive and rear their bloody, disfigured heads.
Whatever the case may be, you can learn a lot more from tribulation than you can from triumph.
Film can also serve as a useful distraction in moments of mental constipation when you are having trouble prying nouns and predicates from your mind. Lucky (or loathsome if you are a curmudgeon like me) enough to live in this modern digital age, browsing for a movie that relates to your specific interests or genre is a mere mouse-click away. Services such as NetFlix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. are broken down by category for more streamlined decision making. An avalanche of overabundant material can bury you though, so sometimes watching an old favorite and being reminded of why it has earned such a hallowed place in your black heart is the best remedy.
Hop online for some creative stimulus if the spirit moves you. Just be sure to avoid going down a rabbit hole and binge watching an entire day away.
I know exactly what you are thinking, “Mr. Schumacher, we are inspired and influenced by life. Every writer is.”
Correction: every writer thinks they write from life experience. The truth is that most budding wordsmiths have not lived enough to have a full grasp of life’s devastating potential. They scratch out pages upon pages of some sci-fi epic based on their experiences with the mean girls in school or the homeless man they thought was harassing them. They distill the minimal amount of experience they have acquired thus far and convince themselves they are influenced by the entirety of the world around them.
In actuality none of those cock-snots would know real life if it pinned their ears behind their heads and raped them in an alleyway.
If you have never woken up naked next to a complete stranger with empty bottles and used condoms scattered about, you have not lived enough. If you have never been in such financial straits that you were forced to decide between utilities and groceries, you have not lived enough. If you have never left your home town, tried a controlled substance, or been in a fist fight, you have not lived enough.
Every single one of the above items does not have to be checked off of your bucket list, but there are surprises in store around every bend and in every crevice and cranny of life. Making the conscious decision to refrain from exploring and resigning to an existence as a wallflower is doing a great disservice to yourself as a writer. Step outside of your comfort zone. Go for a walk on the wild side. Do not be afraid or hesitant to completely reinvent yourself and/or your style.
Life can change in the blink of an eye and your writing should be just as fluid. Fluid and volatile.
Again, if you want to be a well-rounded writer you need to spread them cheeks wide and allow for the full scope of life to penetrate your most holy of holies. Grit your teeth and take every angry inch of inspiration this world has to offer. Music, film, dance, war, crime, love, addiction, fucking. Let it all in. And yes, writers whom you admire are included on that list as well. Unless you are content with allowing your own writing to be flaccid and soulless this is the only way to ensure some spice finds its way into your lines.
If you would like to hear me elaborate a bit more on my own process, you can find links to a couple of interviews conducted recently with me on my website at: https://alexschumacherart.com/about/. Drop me a line from the contact page if you have any other questions, complaints, or declarations of lust.
Bread Crumbs from the Void will return in two weeks, when joy and orgies will once again reign supreme and I will run down the basics of killer comedic writing. Until next time, keep scribbling you freaks.
Stalk Alex online: