Yesterday, as you may have noticed from my incessant screaming, a collection of short-short-stories that I wrote went up on Pangur Ban Party. They’re called Dear DJ. Read them?
I don’t want to talk about the stories themselves. There are photos too. It’s all kinda sad, but kinda funny sometimes. There are friends, ghosts, teenagers, drugs — all the things stories tend to have. But talking about these stories seems boring. They’re there, they talk for themselves.
I wanna talk about how I made them. Or with who, I guess.
After I worked on Sad Robot Stories with peterbd, literally making him edit it for me, making him push me forward, I wanted to work on a new project with someone else I liked. So I decided, without ever asking him, that DJ Berndt would edit my next project. I wanted him because he is not only funny, but also one of the nicest people in existence. So I looked through my notebook, found a bunch of little stories I kinda liked, wrote some more little stories, connected it all, had what was a sensical second draft, and I sent it all to DJ.
This is what I said:
(goddamn that’s big. Right click, open in new window.)
My delete button really had stopped working.
So, basically, I pushed DJ to push me. Did my best to get him to find things he didn’t like, and to essentially insult the stories I’d sent him.
It was easier than I thought.
(or is it?)
I like to rewrite things. I enjoy it a lot. To poke and prod and attempt to see what I can do with a piece of writing that wouldn’t necessarily occur to me the first time around. And even though I write every day, these tendencies make me take a long time to produce a story.
Part of the rewriting process is to see what others think. In my first couple drafts, I ignore all audience, and just write. But eventually I want to get someone’s opinion of what I’ve been working on. Sometimes, so I can mold my work in a way that’s easier to interpret for the reader. Other times, to make it harder to interpret. With Dear DJ in particular, I wanted to to leave a lot of bits and pieces out for the reader, wanted to walk a fine line between too much and too little (with a lean towards too little), and this is where DJ was most useful.
DJ was also a confidence booster. Having someone else around that supports what you’re making alongside you as you make it helps. I tend to hate whatever I’m writing at any given moment. Left alone, I turn on most of my babies in some sort of post-partum depression after the first draft, trying to drown them. So it’s nice to have a daddy like DJ who won’t let me drown my babbys.
Once we were near a final draft, I sought a couple other point-of-views. In this case, I gave Dear DJ to Jovial Jellyfish and Cassandra Gillig.
Zach and I had a good discussion about Dear DJ before I finished it. He asked practical, story-oriented questions. Sometimes when working on minute things like sentence structures, and witch goddamn adjectives to use, you need someone to get you to see the bigger picture. His comments also convinced me to include a piece I was originally going to leave out.
Cassandra added a lot of enthusiasm to my rattled nerves. She’s also one of the smartest, best read 12-year-olds in existence. It’s kind of angering to see someone several years younger than I am who is significantly more intelligent than me. But, you know, she’s on my side, so that’s good. She was able to help the piece in both big and small ways. She made me know when she enjoyed it, and when it confused the hell out of her. She told me which sentences made no sense, and had no qualms saying “maybe you should cut this one out…”
She also hated many of the ways I used commas…
Sometimes I listened to her.
Most importantly, I sent Dear DJ to my girlfriend, Hillary, right before it went live. If it was so horribly awful that she broke up with me because of it, I never would have let it go up. Thankfully, she did not.
ANYWAY, what I’m saying is that I appreciate people. I mean, most of the time I hate people. But in this context, the context of writing and community and pushing yourself forward, I like people. And you can’t push yourself forward alone. There is a time to get stuck in your own head, but your own head can be a prison. Similarly, artist communities can be their own unique prisons. The idea is to find a balance between your own mind, where the crazy runs rampant till it becomes boring, and the community and the people who you love, who can take that crazy and help you sculpt it into something unique.
So that’s my point. Maybe.
Go read it?