Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From Russia with Love

I love Russia.

Let me clarify. I love Russian culture, provided it is from the 19th/early 20th century.

Ok, that probably sounds a bit prejudiced, and I don't mean it that way. I'm sure that there has been much to shout about from Russia in other years. I'm sure music from the cold war, or from the breakup of the USSR, or from the turn of the 21st century are all very intriguing. And I'm sure literature from Russia has had wonderful turns and twists and great examples of genius from other eras.

But my heart belongs to the Russia of the 1800's. Give me some Tolstoy and some Dostoevsky. Let me be moved by the compositions of Tchaikovsky. I'll gladly eat some borscht and wax eloquent on the destiny of poor little Anastasia, and the annihilation of the Tsars. And I'll even shed some tears for Prokofiev, as his body had to wait for the funeral of Stalin before he could be justly laid to rest.

I find it ironic that Russia and the US were at odds for the majority of my childhood, yet in my reading room or on my iPod, Chekhov mingled with Twain, and Rachmaninoff and Gershwin were partners. When I watched Bond films, I felt a strange connection with the bad guys. I secretly hoped the snooty Brit would get his comeuppance from one of the spies.

If fact, I had a hard time believing Russia cheated at basketball. Maybe they were just being creative in their rules. (If you don't get that reference, read this.)

What about you? Is there any culture outside of your own that you feel a strong connection with?

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I swore it would never happen to me. I was too inspired, too energized, too hard of a worker. I could push through anything, drive past all distractions, overcome all obstacles. There was absolutely no way I, of all people, would suffer from "Writer's Block."

Then it happened. I had a business trip that kept me from writing for over a week. Came back and wrote for one day, then…nothing. A whole new daily schedule started with the beginning of the new semester, new responsiblites were introduced, and my daily time budget got more cramped. Suddenly, I realized I hadn't written anything, ANYTHING! Not even a blog post, nothing!

I went in denial for a little while, I was just slumping, or simmering, or taking a much needed break. After a while, I realized that those were just excuses. I was a full-fledged subscriber of Writer's Block, and there could potentially be no turning back. How did I get here?

Well, first, I lost my momentum. I've already finished the book, I'm in the revision/rewriting stage. Not nearly as much fun as the actual creative process. Also, I lost focus. I'd forgotten why I was so passionate about this book in the first place, and slowly was cooling to the whole idea of writing. It slowly dropped in my priority list, and I finally stopped feeling like putting forth the effort it takes to write.

So, what did I do? First, corny as it sounds, I had to admit that I had a problem. I talked to my wife about it, and she more or less kicked my can into gear. Also, I re-read some of the book, not as an editor or a reviser, but as a reader. I began to remember why I love this story so much. And I decided to just have fun. I wrote without caring whether it was any good, I put my hero in a ridiculous situation for the heck of it. It made me snicker, if nothing else.

So, get out there, get into gear, and bust the block down!

Oh, and that ridiculous situation I put my hero in? It was so entertaining, I decided to keep it in the book.

Ah, the creative process.