When my mother suggested I head down to the garage to look through the antique suitcase sitting beneath my father’s old workbench, little did I expect to uncover the veritable treasure trove of trash sitting within. Among the numerous long-forgotten items I discovered:
The universal translator I made the year I went trick-or-treating as Captain James T. Kirk.
My dilapidated Star Wars scrapbook.
A collection of many-sided gaming dice.
The big, fat exercise book containing my handwritten synopses for every one of Shakespeare’s plays. A little something I put together during a fifth grade summer.
The collected plot points for the first 500+ issues of my own original and unfortunately-named comic book: The Extremers!
And a whole whack of short (and not-so-short) stories I wrote as a kid with such memorable titles The Town’s Trance and The Robot Revolution.
I started flipping through the latter, my personal works of fiction dating from as far back as second grade, and realized two things. #1: I still can’t come up with a title to save my life. And, #2: Egregious plots and absurd characters aside, I wrote very well for a kid my age. So well, in fact, that given the many formative years between then and now, I really should be a much better writer. When I was younger, I could set aside an afternoon and bang out a short story in one sitting. Nowadays (ie. last night), the fact that I’m able to produce two paragraphs is a major achievement. Relative quality aside, WTF happened?
Well, I suppose I could blame a number of things. My life is a heck of a lot busier now than it was then, filled with countless distractions that make it nigh impossible to dedicate an extended chunk of time to the craft. Then there’s the fact that these aforementioned distractions have inexorably, over the course of many, many years, worn away my once unwavering capacity to focus. Whereas once, writing was an enjoyable act of free expression, it is now…well…not. That’s not to say it doesn’t provide some satisfaction. There are times when I’ll re-read something I’ve written and think “Hey, this is pretty good.” and then immediately follow up with a dispiriting “I’ll never be able to top it!”.
I used to think I was unique but, having met, worked with, and gotten to know a host of other writers, I’ve come to realize that we have one thing in common. For almost all of us, the act of writing can be a frustrating and painful process marked by long, lonely hours, self-doubt, and despair. And yet, these same writers do manage to produce very good, often great works. Which inevitably leads them to wonder whether or not “That was the last one” or “exactly how many still remain in the tank“. To be honest, it’s something that crosses my mind every time I finish a script. At what point does the creativity or will to write tap out?
One of the reasons I write these daily blog entries (aside from my main motivation of keeping you all entertained on a consistent basis) is to, hopefully, sharpen my skills, develop a better ear for rhythm, and, most importantly, recapture the ability to concentrate that seems to have deserted me. In some ways I’ve succeeded; in others, failed miserably. On the one hand, I’m proud to say that since starting this little online journal several years ago, I’ve yet to miss a day of blogging, and that, in retrospect, some of the entries have proven mighty entertaining and, occasionally, informative. On the other hand, however, it really hasn’t helped make the words come any easier when I sit down to write a script or, most recently, this short story.
I look back at some of history’s greatest artists and can’t help but note an apparent link between genius and madness. In a way, it makes perfect sense when you consider that various talents – abstract art, fiction writing, acting (oh, especially acting!) – demand the creator dissociate themselves from reality. And the more removed the better! The abstract art fashions his own original interpretation of reality. The fiction writer builds settings and characters borne from his mind’s eye. The actor becomes someone else. I suppose it’s no wonder that many artists, past and present, tend to be society’s biggest substance abusers, seeking chemical short-cuts to gifts once naturally and far more easily attained.
So, what’s my point? To tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure. In the end, I could just be giving vent to some pent-up frustrations. Or simply extemporizing for the sake of meeting my daily blog commitments. But, more than likely, I guess that what I’m trying to say is that if, in fact, there is indeed a direct correlation between inspiration and lunacy, I can’t help but think that for someone as crazy as I am, I really should be a hell of a lot more creatively driven.
60 thoughts on “December 30, 2008: Dissociative Identity Disorder + Paranoia x Megalomania = Pure Genius!”
Happy New Year’s eve!
I love how you felt the need to write what a universal translator was supposed to do on the side!
You sound kind of down. The holidays can do that to people. Even if you are enjoying yourself, the holidays are stressful. So don’t be so hard on yourself. It will be easier to focus once life returns to its normal pace. And I, for one, am glad you made this blog your daily writing exercise! So vent and extemporize away.
I think the focus problem comes with growing up. When you have no real responsibilities, it is easy to be the center of your own universe and to spend your time and energy as you see fit. Also, when you were a kid, writing was your hobby — you did it when the spirit moved you, just for the love of it. No deadlines, no pressure to turn out a specific story or plot. But now writing is your job. I think that once your hobby becomes your job, it can’t help but take some of the spontaneity out of the creative process. But that doesn’t mean you have become less creative. Relax, kick back and enjoy the distractions of your friends and relatives and the whole craziness of the holidays. Don’t even think about your writing. Then you can go back with a fresh perspective.
Thanks so much for the Italian lesson! All of my experience with Italian is purely phonetic and complicated by the fact that the regional dialect in my ancestral home, Ripacandida (a bustling town of 1700 people in Potenza province), drops the last syllable a lot of the time. My uncles would always switch to Italian when they said things unsuitable for younger and more sensitive ears, after which my aunts would “tsk, tsk” at them and shake their heads; and if it was really bad say “Madonn’ “. One of the derogatory terms used was “chooch”, which I now know is spelled ciuccio and is one of the less extreme ways to call someone an idiot.
BOTM Club: I finished On Basilisk Station, an easy and entertaining read and am working diligently on City of Saints and Madmen which, although interesting, is not such an easy read for me. But I will finish it.
Dang! I meant to conclude that your blog entries really are interesting, entertaining and educational!
Today’s entry sounds a little depressed and that despite (or rather because) you found those old treasures.
It should be a lot of fun to read through the stories, remembering them at the same time and not a cause for self-doubts.
It’s not that I don’t understand those thoughts but don’t worry too much.
Your writing has gotten you quite far and even though the differences between your style back then and now might not be as big as you’d like I’m sure you still learned a lot.
And I don’t believe creativity is something that just ceases sometime.
There are so many ways to get new impressions and find new inspiration it might just take a little patience.
There’s still enough time to finish that tricky short-story.
A very, very, very belated merry christmas and have a nice “slip-slide into the new year” 😉
“But, more than likely, I guess that what I’m trying to say is that if, in fact, there is indeed a direct correlation between inspiration and lunacy, I can’t help but think that for someone as crazy as I am, I really should be a hell of a lot more creatively driven”
Ditto to the max. Minus the award winning sci-fi show under the belt. Which really doesn’t matter when it comes to making future projects, does it?
“In fact, there is indeed a direct correlation between inspiration and lunacy”
Well said 😉
Have a good New Years Joe! Just curious…
Q. Will Dr. Carson Beckett be in the upcoming SGA movie? Or is there at least a possibility? Thank you!
A universal translator, now that’s cute. Did you keep or find the costume you had as well? 😉
Hope you have a Happy New Years tomorrow, and all the best for 2009!
Thanks as always!
– Enzo Aquarius
Hey… sake (rhyming with “rake”) & sake (rice wine) are spelled the same.
I have NO idea why that just struck me.
I read the stuff I wrote 20+ years ago & it baffles me that I actually wrote it. Some is pretty darn good, most is, well, probably not. The strangest compliment I received lately was, “Did YOU write that? That’s a compliment, by the way.”
I suppose it is.
I just tend to write better when emotions, of any sort, run high. I sit in total awe of most accomplished writer’s & think, “Wow, I could never do that!”
Yep…that’s the self doubt kicking in.
Congrats on never missing a blog! That’s HUGE!!
I don’t normally comment (usually just lurk), but I thought I should say that you are fantastic!
Your blog is brilliant and quite often makes me laugh out loud. I look forward to reading it every day. You have a fantastic way of putting things in writing, and it’s very generous of you to spend your time writing the blog, and answering all the questions people send in, even when some people are quite rude. I hope you do get something out of writing it, because I think we all get a lot out of reading it.
In my opinion you do a great job on Stargate, both in terms of the creative decisions you make for the show as a whole, and in your individual scripts. I have never seen any of your other work, but if I knew you had written the script for something I would defiantly watch it for that reason alone. I have no idea how you manage to balance the work load of a producer (which must include having an overview of so many things related to production), and write several scripts in a year.
I guess when you are a kid you are less inhibited by wondering if what you are writing is good enough, or if it will be the last good thing you write etc. At that age you write for yourself and your own enjoyment without worrying what others think. When you are an adult, and especially when it is your job, there is far more judgement from the outside (and from the things you have said the most critical judgement from yourself!) It probably doesn’t help but, Don’t worry so much, and don’t be so critical of yourself! Have confidence in your abilities, because you are very good at your job!
Maybe the blog comes more easily because you don’t feel the same pressure for it to be perfect, you just write for that day, and I am assuming set aside a fixed time for it to be done in (i.e. an hour) so you can’t read and re-read, doubting what you have written. You write it, it’s on line, and that’s the end of it….. no time for reflections.
I suppose what makes those people who are brilliant at what they do (which includes you!) brilliant, is that they have an amount of self doubt which pushes them to always try and do one better than the last time. After all, if you were always satisfied with your first attempt nothing would get better. I think there always has to be an element of fear, and a sense of competition. Not competition in the sense of being better than the other writers, but when they raise their game it makes you raise yours to match, I think this is a positive thing, and keeps everyone on their toes. Of course that doesn’t help with your stress level! Try not to worry about the if’s and when’s of whether your next script will be any good. If at some point you decide that you want a break from writing then you can, but there is no sense worrying about it until it happens…. and to be honest I don’t think it will happen!
Anyway, just thought I should remind you how fantastic you are……. and in my opinion totally off your rocker crazy (which is a complement).
Happy New Year!
Awwww pugs pugs
I have also found myself taking much longer to write today than in the past. You’re absolutely right that there are far more distractions, and we are more easily distracted now.
I’ve also come to realize that past success also slows me down. As a child, I would write and then I would edit my work. Now, I find myself wanting it perfect when it first is placed on paper (or my word processor), trying to live up to past successes initially. lol. I’ve been working on avoiding that trap though recently. =)
Anyway, I wish you and your family much success in the New Year. Happy New Year!
I love the universal translator. too cool.
i wish i had the stuff i wrote as a kid. a lot of it got lost when we moved..
i do like to take trips down memory lane as much as possible. when possible.
i think being a kid and writing better has to do with kids use their imagination and creativity a lot more than adults do. plus as adults we have more things to worry about.
i wish i blogged as much as you do.
i find coming up with the character names in stuff the hard part.
Happy New Year! here’s to hoping 2009 is great year.
i used to write fanfiction, but the more i did, the more anal i became about it. i just obsessed on words, sentences, and so on. it became somewhat of a downer so i stopped. i can still do a short story (VERY short), but the long ones are a thing of the past.
i find doing the story in my head the most fun. i don’t have to worry about putting it into text, but just letting it flow and be made up on the spot. it guess i enjoy the bard-like way of doing a story, which is just talking it out as a story (even if it’s in my head).
on another subject, when are you going to publish brad wright’s q/a? i’ll admit i’m a bit scared of the answers, but i still want to read it.
Ever read Haroun and the Sea of Stories, from Salman Rushdie? It just… I dunno, the mention on wondering if the tank’s running dry brought it to mind, or, in this case, the faucet.
I feel silly suggesting that I feel the same thing. Sometimes. Often. Honestly, just as someone who writes for pleasure but with hopes of doing it professionally, one day. Dunno if it’s any consolation to you, but I have to admit that it’s somewhat reassuring for me that even professionals have the same worries that amateurs do; I guess it helps with discouragement. ^_^’
“The universal translator I made the year I went trick-or-treating as Captain James T. Kirk”.
And what year was that: 2002 or 2003?
Joe, (slap across face) snap out of it!!!
You were a cute kid *pokes universal translator* ^^
Hey Joe… a Happy New Year to you and Fondy and everyone else here now reading!
@Sparrow_hawk you wrote “…Also, when you were a kid, writing was your hobby — you did it when the spirit moved you, just for the love of it. No deadlines, no pressure to turn out a specific story or plot. But now writing is your job.”
I absolutely agree. I read voraciously as a kid, astounding my Mom & family with the ability to read paperbacks with the speed of Superman. Ofttimes one book a day. I would then write synopses and reviews, just for myself, for the fun of it. Every writing assignment from school was a joy! I loved it. My Mom kept many composition books of mine, filled front to back with my stories. I’ll read some now and then, for nostalgia’s sake and always walk away, pleased. I had a wild imagination back then. Time passed, I grew up. But I’m glad to have evidence of my early efforts. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll wrap them up into a book.
Now I write because it’s my job. It isn’t fun. It’s often quite stressful. The act of writing doesn’t come as easily as it once did. And nowadays, there are no fun characters with spiffy dialog, no interesting plot twists, just technical terminology, process flows and step-by-step procedures. Blah. It’s a pay check.
You, sir, are so blessed. To have a wit like yours and a job that allows your imagination free reign — zowie! I’m envious.
@Kate “…You have a fantastic way of putting things in writing, and it’s very generous of you to spend your time writing the blog,… I hope you do get something out of writing it, because I think we all get a lot out of reading it.” My dear, please post more often. Wisdom like yours shouldn’t be kept in the closet. Good job! Lurk no more!
Every day I open my laptop and run to this blog, filled with anticipation and eagerness bordering on the manic. I went into withdrawal that time when the “Blog gods” blocked you, calling you a spammer. I’ve said it many a time and always mean it, THANK YOU
May you always find the words Joe…
Carol Z in NJ
Hoping everyone has a brighter 2009 in store…
SGA movie — where are you?!
I love finding those old things. My mother kept a treasure trove of (absolutely horrible) homework from my elementary years. I (for some crazy reason) kept it up in high school and now college. The college stuff is at least useful. But the other is just inane entertainment. Amusing though. And yes, based on how well I wrote in middle school, I should be a better writer, too. But I think at some point they just stop teaching and/or expecting it. Unless you go to grad school. Then you’d better catch up quick!!
Have a great day, Joe.
Becoming an adult with all our responsibilities can suck the imagination out of us like being in an airlock that opens in space. I suppose it’s easier being a child with hardly a care in the world, so it’s easy to sit and not worry about being judged by our peers and potential publishers as to what’s clever and articulate writing.
You’re over analysing (love that ‘analysing’ has the smaller word ‘anal’ in it) and thinking too much.
Your blogs show that you have a wonderful writing style, a great sense of humour which can be both innocent and snarky.. write your stories like you do your blogs and you’re onto a winner.
Love to you, Fondy and the pugkids
Happy new year!
Making art requires talent and skill, even genius perhaps.
Making a living at an art takes perseverance and consistency and a business flair in addition.
The former can certainly be exclusive of the latter, and many times is, as these are completely different skill sets.
With that reality to reckon with, it amazes me that artists/writers/musicians/etc. can make a living at their craft at all.
I envy you the stored memories you’ve been kind enough to share with us. As a military brat, I’ve grown resigned to having lost comic collections, old paperbacks, and uncounted personal memorabilia which would have provided a nice retirement income on E-Bay had I managed to hang on to the stuff. As far as the writing goes, well, I dearly love my work, but doing something for pay doesn’t quite carry the same emotional satisfaction of doing that job for free. I suppose it’s just a matter of feeling compelled to do something, vs the joy of utilizing one’s time on whatever you wish to. And look on the plus side. With your current fame, you can always post those childhood stories here, or offer them for sale to your adoring fans.
Also, I’m not sure the link between madness and genius is all its cut up to be. How many non genius madmen populate the world, after all? And being a genius tends to attract more scrutiny from people, making even minor eccentricities stand out in sharper focus. It might make for a good doctoral thesis to determine how real the link between the two are.
Finally, this article is just too strange not to bring to your attention. Talking about the distinctions between odd, eccentric, and insane…
You do sound a bit down. I hope all the snow is not weighing heavily on you. In fact, the last time you were down was the day before the rest of us found out that Don S. Davis had passed away. I certainly hope no bomb shell awaits the telling tomorrow.
A secret I have learned to improve my mood is to refuse to age. I stopped at 40 and have been counting backwards at every birthday. I’m not sure what will happen when I run out of numbers, though. I’ll let you know. Another great practice is to talk to people who make you laugh. Phone your goofiest friends and ask them how they are doing. Once you find out about Carl slipping and falling down the stairs by riding every step on his bum, you’ll be laughing again.
So, Happy New Year to you and your little dogs too!!! Then click your heels three times and say, “There’s no place like home”.
Being Bipolar I am often inspired but most of my more brilliant inspired ideas fail to get past the sanity inspector – my long suffering brother.
Have a great New Year. I am not celebrating but will be going down into England next week to visit my brother and his non-furry children for a long weekend to celebrate. Three days is his limit – after that he usually asks me to leave!
The writing boat you have described is quite large and there are many of us floating in it with you.
I’m sure that’s no comfort coming from an unpublished writer like myself, but truth is truth. Some days the words flow, some days the words are forced. Some days every word on the page is golden and some days every word on the page is crap. It’s just how it is.
We all have to vent like this once in awhile, if only to hear the choir sing the same song.
*shrugs* Like my Uncle Billy used to say…They can’t eat ya.
I have no idea who “they” are and why they’d be wanting to eat you, but I find it’s always been a good sentiment.
The link between madness and genius extends beyond art to science and politics as well!!!
I personally have always believed that there was a direct positive correlation between uncleanliness and genius, but perhaps that is just because my room is a mess! 😛
As for creativity, Joe, I’m sure you’ve got plenty of that left. Maybe you just need a change of pace. Your writing is quite hilarious when you’re writing for fun with no deadline (here on your blog!) so maybe you should write for a comedy show next!
Can you please promise us that the only “substance” you’ll abuse is gourmet chocolate? 😉
With regards to the whole writer self-doubt thing you’ve got going on, I think that you’re just being too hard on yourself. you are your own toughest critic; that’s how you’ve managed to be so successful, by pushing yourself to be your best always. Your work will probably never seem good enough to you, but you’re not giving yourself enough credit. Only history can really judge you as an artist. Okay, sorry: I’ll stop being all clichéd now. 🙂
This blog entry made me think back on my (not-so-distant, I suppose) childhood as well. I, too, was quite the prolific writer as a child. I no longer am. And I don’t have even half the excuses you do. I just stopped writing creatively when I got to high school, and haven’t really done much since. NaNoWriMo 2008 was my attempt to start up again, and I lost this year (my disjointed and slightly risqué historical fiction ‘novel’ came in at only around 4,000 words 🙁 ) but plan to try again next year in April for Script Frenzy (where you write a feature-length script instead of a novel) and again at NaNoWriMo in November.
Since you shared some of your stories you wrote when you were young, I dug through my room and found some of my old writing folders and thought I’d do the same. (Took me a while, sorry. See note about correlation between uncleanliness and genius above.) Just a few of my crazy stories, all written between 5th and 8th grades:
*A story about a girl named Cicaleigh who travels through time and space through a device I described as “silvery Jello” (which kind of reminds me of the Stargate, except I had never heard of the show or movie when I wrote this!) to meet up with the Hoods, Robyn and Robin and their son Gomer, who turns out to be Cicaleigh’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather. And it was all discovered because of a hound dog named Jane.
*A story about a girl getting swept away by a strange being named Nolyea and brought to live on her planet, Pacsaen. She was essentially kidnapped but then incorporated into the alien culture, learning their language and eventually being given one of their names. This story is written as a letter from her to her parents, informing them of her decision to remain on Pacsaen forever. Other names from this story: Fetosa, Epanfreh, Selsan, Katior, Mariot, Ront, Taceble, and Juud. I loved making up alien names!!!
*A story about a father who tricks his daughters into going back in time but he misdialed the time machine and they ended up in Valley Forge during the harsh winter of 1777-1778 (when George Washington and the rest of the Continental Army was camped there). I didn’t have any cool names in this one (Rachael and Jane… and they called their father “Dad”) but it was the longest of the ones I found, coming in at 13 pages.
*A letter to myself, listing goals I had for Middle School. The most important part of this one, IMHO, is the way I concluded: “If you don’t accomplish all of these things, that’s ok. After all, raw cookie dough without the eggs still tastes good.”
*A story about my sister and her best friend at the time, Kendra, playing a trick on me and making me think I was in a spaceship. Almost as bad as those things that end with “but it was just a dream.”
Reading these (and the rest of them), I am amazed by the sci-fi elements that almost everything I wrote when I was younger contains… the only sci-fi I had read at that point was L’Engle’s stuff! I also seem to have had a penchant for historical fiction.
Sooo… Allie said she didn’t know where *City of Saints and Madmen* had run off to. 🙄 It was not happiness on her face to have me point it out to her. It was sitting on the cabinet in the family room. 👿 She’s actually formulating her thoughts on the book right now. I expect much grumpiness from her. I feel like such a mean mommy.
About today’s blog. Basically what you are telling us is writing is hard. 😀
Got it. It’s kinda why I leave the writing up to the professionals. That does include you.
And maybe you are crazy like a fox. That’s a good thing! I would hate for you to end up like the Dewey Decimal guy. I think his name was Melville Dewey. Didn’t he go insane after coming up with the method for organizing library books? I don’t want that happening to you. So stay just this side of crazy from that guy. Maybe you’ll have to work harder to come up with stories. But it means you get to stay out of the padded rooms.
p.s. @Das: the huntsman spider is uber creeper. But the garden orb spider Jeremy found IN MY BACK YARD one summer gave me nightmares for WEEKS. 😯 I begged him to take the web down. He did when the spider was hunting and we never saw it again. I still think it might surprise me some where when I least expect it and demand I rebuild a new web for it. *shudder*
So I just saw Vegas & Enemy At The Gate…sorry but like that SciFi guy said, I’m a fan and I need my fix.
Anyways with the whole theft thing aside, those were incredible. I can’t believe you fit so much story into the last episode. I really like what you did with the amount of time you had to wrap it up. It must of been hectic to scramble up with an ending like that in such a short time. Kudos on the job and again, my apologize on the theft thing. But the way I see it, I don’t get SciFi, I watch it on Movie Central every monday, and I buy all the DVDs, so I do support the show, I just can’t wait.
I think that Stargates’ biggest fault is the timeslot and channel. I hope Universe gets a NBC contract for a couple episodes, if it doesn’t work out then throw it back to the SciFi friday night slot. I am more than willing to watch the show and commercials, but I have better things to do on a friday night, play Dungeons and Dragons, build weapons and armour from cardboard, and re-watch episodes of Baywatch. I just want to watch the show, when I want or am able to. Which is why I always purchase the DVDs.
Anyways Happy New Years 🙂
You have no idea how happy that universal translator made me. I wish when I was a kid, I knew you when you were a kid.
I was just looking through a box of my old school stuff found in my parents’ hall closet. I discovered that I was never a good fiction writer–I’m uncontrollably too detailed and get bored halfway through whatever story I’m writing; therefore, all my stories end rather abruptly with a meteor strike killing everyone off or some other such massive disaster. I also remembered how surprisingly skilled I was in the electronics portion of my middle school industrial tech class. Huh.
I would like to thank you for posting every day–as anyone who has a blog knows, writing a new blog entry every day is no easy feat! Christ, once a week can be tough. However, you manage to do one every day…and quality entertaining/educational posts at that! So hats off to you, Mr. Mallozzi.
I’ve been watching SG-1 with my mom recently, and the other day while watching an episode she commented on how smart the writers are with the dialogue. She said this during an episode written by you. 🙂
That’s all for now! Have a happy, successful, and creative 2009!
@ Joe – Look…since you’re having such a tough time with creative inspiration lately, I have an offer to make:
Why don’t you let ME write that pesky Atlantis movie script for ya? 😉 Perragrin can help…and Sparrow_hawk, and Narelle. Maybe pg15. That will free up all your time for your short story, and whatever Universe scripts get tossed at ya.
And Joe, I’ve noticed that you get in a reflective funk everytime you go back home. I bet you’re back into the swing of things once you’re in your own house again, with your pups, and Lawren, who – by all accounts – will be living with you until the spring thaw. 😉
@ Perragrin – Ahhhh…Jonah! First time I saw him play, he had a bunch’a Aussies hanging off of him like weiner dogs on a sprinting mailman. It was a beautiful thing. I kept up with him after his kidney transplant, up until he retired, but he was nothing like the player he was in those early years. But, ya know…I have Chabal to take his place now…same power, albeit not the same class.
And no snip snipity snip! 😡 It’s brush brushity brush! 😀
Like so many others have said I love the universal translator. And that you wrote on the side of the box detailing exactly what it did! That is just adorable!
I’m sorry finding your childhood things made you feel..unfulfilled? I know I feel that way when I look back on my childhood. I guess it’s normal. Few people have the life they dreamed of when they were children. We grow up and find that adults don’t have it as easy as we imaged. From tthe petty bickering at the office to the heartbreak of an unrequited or lost love to the tragedy and turmoil that so many people in the world find themselves in, there’s far more reasons to find it difficult to write unencumbered then not. In my book, it just means you have a conscience.
But Joe, when I read your post, all I could think of was how psyched your boyhood self would be to know that he grows up to be a writer (and executive producer!) of not just one but two fabulous sci-fi shows and in on the beginnings of a third. You’re living your dream and should feel very proud of yourself (at least I suppose it was your dream since you were such I prolific writer) Try to remember that when you feel like you’ve not progressed as far or as fast as you think you should. And realize that from where I and many or us are sitting, you’re magnifico.
On Monday I headed out to Long Beach to visit a friend and open belated Christmas gifts.
This is what I got:
I’ve named him Todd. And I’ll be spending my New Year’s Eve plotting revenge, probably something to do with the whale watching trip we’re taking in February.
For you, I think you just need to find a new kind of crazy, and New Year’s celebrations are a great way to start!
Aw, Cap’n Mallozzi….the end o’ tha year blues have traipsed cross country and found ya in yer mither’s basement. They glommed onto your childhood memories and authored achievements, only to taunt ya. Blighters, the blues are! Liars, the lot o’ them. They’re the ones that could use a blowtorch, not your early stories or future goals. They might persuade ya to doubt whither there’ll be any more good ideas coomin.’ Don’t let them.
Isaac Asimov, one of the first pillars of science fiction, wrote or edited more than 500 books. He never ran out of ideas; he just ran out of time. Irving Berlin wrote more than 3,000 songs, including “White Christmas” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Mr. Berlin lived to be 101. He, too, ran out of tame.
It all depends on what your definition of success is. In creativity, success is many things, but it is never perfection. Perfectionism only kills creativity. Ma own mither, herself a portrait painter and survivor of what should have been a deadly stroke, has taught me the most about creativity: You don’t have to get it right, you just have to do it. And ya must give yourself permission ta “fail,” but there is no true failure in creativity. You just keep explorin’ different things fer the fun of it, ta see what works out well, and what doesn’t so much. It’s a discovery process, she says. If ya don’t like it, that’s OK. Try something else. Eventually patience or a deadline will make ya wrap up the process for that project. Then ya move on ta tha next one, and learn more new things along the way. Givin’ yourself that freedom to create, to lay it out, and tweak it later, exorcises perfection, the creativity killer.
It’s been 4 years since mum’s stroke, and she’s only been able to do one portrait since then. The fire and soul of the person was still there, in both the artist and her subject, but the project was taxing. Her creative endeavors have turned to beading, and cooking. Her attitude is still as open-ended as always. “Dinner smells great,” we’ll say. “Well,” mum hedges her bets, “we’ll see if it’s any good.” She still expects to see some good in it, but doesn’t expect it to be a defining moment. Yet because she didn’t pursue it, that moment was what she found in the last portrait. A difficult assignment, she had to capture the spirit and essence of a departed mother for three daughters who grieved their loss. When mum called after the portrait shipped, eerily it had arrived that night, when all three had pre-arranged to gather from out of town. Each daughter insisted on speaking to her, and each one broke down. They felt, in a visual way, that their mother had come back to them.
Perfection may not be attainable, but the elusive rightness of something will come, and when it does, it’s breath-taking.
So Cap’n Mallozzi, though it’s got to be distracting when we fans “howl down the wind” because don’t agree with certain things, never mind the lot of us. When it comes tame to write the story, or the script, do what you know in your gut is the right thing, for that story, for those characters. It will be satisfying when it is right, even if it’s not what all of the fans would’ve chosen.
And perhaps, writing will become more often satisfying for you, too. We’d like ta see ya enjoy it so much ya surprise even yourself. After all, ya’ve spoilt us bloggers fair rotten, and we’d like ta continue reading ya for a long tame ta coom.
Rest your mind, Cap’n Sir. You’ve “got the goods,” so ta speak. We know you have it in ya. You just have to know it, too.
Happy New Year, and unfettered creativity, to one and all.
Ah, many sided gaming dice, the joys of Dungeons and Dragons, “the orc hits you for 1d4 damage!” I remember it well. I spent many a happy hour with my friends playing.
As for writing, anything you write now is work and has far more peer pressure and review applied to it than previously. Its bound to affect you in some way. The self doubt you feel is probably your own in built quality detector
6 years of SG1 and 5 years of Atlantis say you must be pretty good at it !
Happy New Year to you and the family!
*sneezes* FFS! *sneezes again* This is getting to be a real chore having to stop every five seconds to sneeze. Sorry to see you’re doubting yourself but all creative geniuses do that so I guess thats another box ticked. Now all you have to do is find a substance to abuse, I prefer lemon drops, you get a real high from too many of those babys I can tell you, tho at the moment I’m having rather more luck abusing Vicks Vaporub and dispersible Paracetamol. I think you’re putting yourself in the wrong niche entirely though, you should be writing comedy, that is where TRUE tortured genius lives and you do have a flair for the comedic which is one of the reasons we all tune in on a daily (sometimes several times daily) basis. Yours is the first page I go to when I get up, to see what pearls of wit and wisdom you’ve passed on or even passed over. It is a total bummer when like me you realised that you actually peaked in primary school and if you’d realised it in the first place you could have saved yourself an awful lot of bother.
Vous allez bien? Moi super!
Paris c’est génial, hier j’ai eu une réunion avec le staff, c’etait génial, ils sont trop gentil.
aujourd’hui c’est shopping et ce soir restaurant. Je suis impatiente!
J’espere que vos vacance ce passe bien.
Gros Bisou, Anais.
Sparrow_hawk‘s got it right: it’s your job now. You once said that you didn’t bother with fan fiction because you didn’t want to see more of Atlantis after you get off work, since your day was filled with Atlantis matters. The wish to pursue your interests is replaced by a need to pursue that interest. A need is never as good as a wish.
I suppose it has to do with our innate rebellious nature; I know that, if my parents are forcing me to do something, I will NEVER do it, not even when I know it’ll be good for me, or that I’ll enjoy it.
Because then their wills would’ve won over mine. Replace parents with a paycheck, and it’s your situation.
As someone who LOVED LOVED LOVED all things Physics, Astronomy, and Geography, those fields grew 100 times less interesting the moment I started taking courses on them; don’t me wrong, I still love them, but there are moments when I wonder to myself whether I’m on the right path, because sometimes Physics, Astronomy, and Geography just seem so BOOOOOOORING.
But the moment I start interacting with them in my off hours, they become incredibly interesting again.
It’s the same thing with writing. I wrote 26 scripts for a Star Trek fan fiction series about a year ago, but could no longer keep going because it just became a chore and routine; it was no longer a “spur of the moment” thing.
The fact is, I look forward to your blog entries every single day, and I always come away happier than when I went in. I don’t think you should think of the blog entries as a separate entity from your fictional writings; as far as I’m concerned, it’s a narrative in and of itself, and an Awesome one at that. If it’s any judge of the way your writing is progressing, then I don’t think you have anything to worry about.
Wow! I haven’t been on your blog in such a long time.
I hope you, your family had a lovely christmas! Its almost new year here so have a safe, happy & healthy new year!
Late Breaking News from Colin Smythe:
I’m delighted to be able to say that Terry will be receiving a
knighthood in the New Year’s honours list. Terry commented to the
press: “There are times when phrases such as ‘totally astonished’
just don’t do the job. I am of course delighted and honoured and,
needless to say, flabbergasted.”
For those interested in the British honours system, he will be a
Knight Bachelor, as opposed to receiving a knighthood in the Order
of the British Empire, of which he’s already an Officer (OBE).
CONGRATULATIONS SIR TERRY OF PRATCHETT!
Your young Joe you still have a lot of Sci-Fi left in you.
“At what point does the creativity or will to write tap out?”
You’re forgetting that the Creative Mind is it’s own harshest Critic. Self-doubt.. an occasional quiver in confidence.. blank walls.. they’re all a part of the natural process of creativity. Without them, we’d be nothing more than automated machines, spitting out reams of stuff that pleased the World to meet it’s demands and expectations.. But we’d have lost that part of us that makes us unique. Our own self-perception and individual imagination, that allows us to absorb from the environment we live in and to create something utterly unique.
To be honest, Joe, if you didn’t go through cycles like this then i’d be questioning your ability as a Writer anyway. There will always be times when you can run off one piece of art after another and still feel as if the fountain of imagination is overflowing.. But, it will always be counteracted by those occasions when it simply runs dry. Don’t force it. And don’t doubt it. It’ll always spring back eventually.
Back when I initially lost my sight, I can remember that the first thing to scream through my mind wasn’t, ‘Oh, Crap! How the hell am I gonna get from A to B now?!’. Nor was it, ‘Well.. that’s screwed up my chances of driving without being arrested.. ‘, or ‘Okay.. My Boss is never gonna let me take a Guide Dog around on Decomm Plant.’ Nope.. my first thought was how the hell am I ever gonna be able to paint another picture without seeing what i’m doing? Painting is a visual art and one that – up until that point – needed alot of visual focus and concentration. In fact, it had never occured to me that a canvas could still be mastered without the Artist having ever seen it. Unheard of. Ridiculous. And it’s taken me a few years to remember that what the world sees as a finished product hanging in a Gallery, is only a small fraction of the creativity that’s gone into a painting.
You talk about writing as a child and how much easier things seemed to flow from your imagination back then.. Well, i’ve had to pretty much do the same. Go back to basics and forget all the expectations placed on me by the world of grown-ups. They really aren’t important to my own creativity. In fact, they only hold me back and i’d rather forget about them until right at the end, when the finished product is hanging on the wall. When I sit with a blank canvas in front of me right now, I don’t have to worry about the constraints set down by a world that can’t see the wood for the trees.. simply because I can’t see them at all. And that leaves me free to paint what I want, how I want and when I want to.
That said, it’s not easy to do and the cliche ‘Find your inner child’ makes me wanna hurt someone. But, it is true. And possible. Thinking like a kid frees you up to the point where new worlds are suddenly sprouting up left, right and centre all around you. A simple door in a wall becomes a portal to a whole new dimension: some harmless looking tools left out on the drive by Dad, suddenly become sinister alien weaponry: a phone call from Gran turns into a top-secret message from MI5, informing you that the world’s about to end and you can save it with a roll of gaffer tape and two coathangers..
I envy kids and their ability to ignore what’s expected of a rational human being and instead, simply exist in a world of make-believe and imagination. You know, whenever i’m struggling with my art, I like to take Jenks for a trek up to the local First School and spend an hour or so just sat in class with the kids. It never ceases to amaze me just how wonderful their imaginations are and how easy it is for them to get lost in a place i’d much rather be most days of the week. Kids are simple. They’re not blinded or blinkered by the daily pressures of an adult world. They see things in black or white and anything in between comes in a myriad of imaginative colours and combinations.
You should try it, Joe. Go sit with a group of local school kids and read through some stories with them. Or take part in one of their literacy/writing tasks. Brainstorm through a short story with them and see what they come up with. I think you’ll be surprised. Forget you’re an adult and be a kid for a while. It works for me.. and to be perfectly honest, I prefer their world to mine. It’s free, it’s fun and there’s no expectations. What more could you want?
Happy new year, Joe!
Wow, you love Shakespeare too eh! 🙂
Here’s a quote for you:
Cleopatra “If it be love indeed, tell me how much?”
Anthony “There’s treachery in the love that can be reckon’d”
I don’t think you should be counting paragraphs. They say nothing of the deepness of the meaning of writing for you.
You do have a gift for words. You’ve put down in type what I’ve been feeling for several years. I saw my productivity drop incredibly from a hobby writer to a working writer. I used to sit down at 8 or 9 pm and knock out an X-Files fan fiction of 7500 words before I went to bed. I can still produce 7500 words in a day if I am on deadline now and absolutely have to, but it is more like an 18 hour day and I feel so hung-over (despite the lack of drugs or alcohol) that I’m useless for 2 days afterward. I’ve done 14 books, and I’m still waiting for the day when I finish a book, and the act of finishing doesn’t drive me into a period of panic wondering if I really have another one in me — until I’m well into the next one. The feeling of seeing it all come together is still enough to drive me to the end, at which point it starts all over.
Yet I still love writing and I don’t have an “off” button for the creative process. So…I write.
I love reading your blog – thanks for that! I’ve loved the many years of Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis, and I look forward to Universe. Thanks for that, too. When your short story is published, I’ll be sure to pick it up on the street date.
Guess the coming New Year makes me a little sentimental. I wanna hug everyone today!
It sounds like you have something in common with a lot of professional writers. I don’t remember who actually said it — I want to say Neil Gaiman, because I read his blog too — but one of my favorite quotes on the subject is, “I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.” Over the past several years, I’ve heard variations on this from a lot of writers I respect, particularly in the fast-paced world of television.
Chin up, Joe. A good editor (which I assume you have) won’t let you publish something that doesn’t meet your own standards of quality. Given past performance, I’m sure it’ll come out great. Just remember that you can’t fix it until there’s something to fix. It’s okay for your first draft to be not-so-good.
@ Trish – Ah, the garden spider. Big…but NOT as big as a huntsman!! I mean, look at the difference between this:
(And YES, I am totally freaking out here! It’s self-torture, lemme tell ya! I’m sitting on the chair – or more like curled up on the chair…and a piece of paper just brushed up against my leg, and I nearly jumped through the ceiling! 😯 I am so gonna have the heebie jeebies all day now… 😛 )
Hi my name is Jamie and I’m writing from Australia. This past week I have began to watch Stargate over again whilst I have seen them many times before this time around they mean so much more. I understand the episodes better and love how the stories are told. I do miss stargate and I’m going to miss Stargate Atlantis but I can look forward to Stargate Universe and with any luck more movies. I have to thank you and everyone who has given so much to the series keep up the excellent work.
It’s now 12.00 (midnight) Jan 1st 2009 in Fremantle Western Australia and I’m posting in your blog to wish you (again)…..
A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Sad that I’m on my recliner, kids in bed, aircon going, telly on in the background, lappy on my lap (where else) and posting here instead of partaying hard.
Them’s the breaks hey Joe?
Love to all those who read your addictive blog. It’s worse than nicotine!
Sounds like you need a hug. Happy New Year!!! (((Joe)))
I guess writing for a living can sometimes suck the fun out of creating worlds and characters. There’s a lot of pressure to get it perfect. Perhaps you could set aside some time a month just to get back to the fun of writing for yourself. Something small, just for you. Not something you’re going to sell. Don’t edit it. Let it flow.
I wouldn’t get down about how much you’ve progressed as a writer. You’re awesome. If you need some convincing, just read your blog post about the stolen ideas or the banter with Miss Gift and Daniel Mellitus – freaking hilarious.
If all else fails you could always become a food critic 😀
Happy New Year! You sound like your creativity is blocked. As I am not a licensed Art Therapist – yet, may I suggest drawing out your thoughts or whatever it is you want to write. Use any media you are comfortable with, crayons, ink, buy a cheap drug store set of water color paints and have fun with it.
Hang in there
All the best for a healthy and happy New Year!
Oddly enough, this morning, I was listening to a repeat radio broadcast on my local NPR station of an interview with Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.
It’s an excellent interview in all respects, but the interesting bit, relating to you, is when Hosseini talks about his nervousness and worry when writing, despite his worldwide success.
When you have a moment, I encourage you to listen to the podcast found here.
You are not alone!
Wow, knighthood for Terry Pratchett! Yay.
From Terry Pratchett’s site:
And, my current favorite quote:
“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” Albus Dumbledore
Joe, you have been and always will be, your harshest critic. And, that is as it should be. And, while this goes on, you are witty, creative, innovative, fantastic, and brilliant!
It should be safe to state that you brighten the lives of so many through the range of your communicating mediums – extending from your blog to episodic television and the cinema. This does not include the countless people you interact with daily.
You have touched so many people in so many positive ways – meaning you have helped, supported, given solace, cheered, encouraged, and brighten our lives in one or more ways.
Your writing is your gift to so many. This is priceless!
Do not doubt yourself; but do continue to critique. Your inner search is what makes you the brilliant writer you are.
[20:38] Joe is feeling depressed about his writing and feels that the day that
his ideas will permanently dry up will soon be upon him… People are slapping him
around the room, including a named author or two, telling him thats rubbish and to cheer
[20:40] Bad tactic
[20:40] Rather tell him that he’s right
[20:41] that that day may well be just around the corner
[20:41] That’s cruel.
[20:41] and that he had better write everything he can now
[20:41] before it’s all gone
[20:41] Ahah, I see where you’re going with this
[20:42] In other word get him on the defensive…
[20:42] Pissed off at the world might be better than fatalism
[20:43] pat-pat … “never mind Joe! We all knew this day was coming…
welcome to the world of mere mortals and bloggers’ … !
My previous submission is a conversation I had with my brother via computer. Darn WordPress left the names out, making it rather confusing.
He’s right though. Get Pissed Off. Scream out your frustration, and once you are done, wipe your feet before coming inside and joining the rest of us.
Everyone is unique. We all are 🙂
True, true, it’s all true!
I could’ve written this post myself.
Except I haven’t written anything this good in years…
Have a great new year everyone.
I mean it. Right now may not feel great for some of us, but things can only get better.
Didn’t Howard Jones sing that song…?
At what point does the creativity or will to write tap out?
I suspect it’s an individual thing. Some people give out early and others keep chugging along. I gave out early because I didn’t have the stamina for the rejection that is part of the professional writing world. Some folks cycle. You seem to be on the low end of the cycle.
Do you think some of your enthusiasm wanes because you spend your professional life writing in a universe that is not your own? Maybe you need distance from that. Or do you think also the end of a show you were producing may have something to do with the mood? Also, if you’re talking about the short story, you’re out of practise on that front. I’d imagine it’s hard to get back in that mindset. No? Maybe you need a more regular outlet on the non-script front and perhaps read less, write more (I can’t believe I wrote that.)
As for your lunacy, some of that seems to feed your passion for food and I’m sure it’s helped to protect you from the hordes of SG fans who tend to get a bit fired up.
I sympathize about the decline in ability to focus that comes with growing up.
And I love the universal translator. Speaking of which, have you given any thought to my questions about SGU’s linguistic issues, or did you see it? I noticed as soon as I commented that it was on a far-from-current post.
I understand how you feel. Age, worries, and all everyday’s life responsibilities that fall upon us are an imagination killer. As you note, the problem is not only the amount of free time, but also all those things that occupy the back of your head when you try and concentrate.
On the other hand, you mention that the greater artists in history were labelled insane, but genius is rarely recognised in one’s lifetime. So, isn’t balance between creativity and sanity more enviable than genius? It certainly makes life more comfortable.
Okay, it’s never bothered me on Star Trek when everyone is speaking English, despite the occasional lack of an universal translator. Suspension of disbelief and all that jazz. But how does the universal translator know that Worf is meaning to be pretentious when he over-pronounces Klingon words, and is not intending to be understood?
As for the agony of writing, don’t forget the warm fuzzies after you spend weeks doing background research, getting well versed and interested, justifying it as work even though it’s really a distraction, only to realize you can’t really use a lick of it. Why, what an ass am I! [Hamlet II ii 583]
For what it’s worth, I’m continually impressed by your creative spark. Whether it’s been a Stargate episode or something on your blog, I enjoy seeing what you can produce. But I think I understand what you’re saying. While I don’t consider myself highly creative, I do experience the nudge now and again. It has expressed itself in more hobby-like activities as opposed to seeking gainful employment in some creatively driven endeavor, but what I have found (in my limited experience) is that I tend to be my own worst enemy when it comes to my creative product. And, yes, it seems that struggle between “This is fun!” and “What the heck am I playing at here?!” never quite goes away.
Oh dear – now I fear what was intended as a word of encouragement ended on a note that probably doesn’t help much. At any rate, don’t allow yourself to get down too much about it all. Your creativity has managed to make this gal smile on many, many occasions. : )