I hate blank pages.
”It was a dark and stormy night.”
Okay, it isn’t as much of a dark and stormy night as it is a grey, overcast morning. But writing that first line on a blank page somehow flips a switch in my brain, and I’m no longer starting to write — I continue. This small trick mimicking Snoopy has served me well insofar as getting projects started.
Ask any writer who inspires them, and they’ll list a number of other writers. Me? I start listing YouTubers. Weird.
A busy Friday. Starts with the usual morning routine of picking up my lunch order. I could get it delivered, but I like the walk. It’s about all the exercise I’m getting these days, anyway. There are a lot of YouTubers I admire, but perhaps none has had as much of an impact on me as Casey Neistat.
I love Casey’s concept of taking vlogging, a raw and intimate format, and injecting very intentional and precise cinematography into it, without compromising the original allure of it.
I’m not a filmmaker. I tried my hand at YouTube a couple of times, but always ended up giving up. I just don’t have the eye for visual storytelling. Not yet, perhaps. Picking up photography has started to develop that perspective, but still it won’t be anytime soon I’d start experimenting with YouTube.
What I do know, what I am, is a writer. And I do like blogging, the same way filmmakers like Casey or Peter McKinnon or Matti Haapoja like vlogging. Blogs give an opportunity for writers to do their craft outside of rigid frameworks. Blogging, however, has been “established” in the years since its raw origins. Similarly to vlogs, they became often overproduced and losing their intimacy and creativity. (Kudos to the exception. I especially like John Scalzi’s Whatever.)
What I figured I’d do is go back to raw, but with intention and precision. Run a daily(-ish) blog, as an experiment, raw and ‘stream of consciousness’-like, but with a lot of intention and precision under the hood.
Unlike most Fridays, this one’s a bit intense and packed. And the energy I had over the week evaporated. But still, work is work and work needs to be done. Bunch of meetings sprinkled into the day, a rainy and somewhat depressing day. Evening darkness comes early, and I just want to finish.
Going to a wine tasting in the evening. As with every social outing, I’m not feeling it. I’m sapped and taking a nap on the couch sounds a hell of a lot better than getting dressed and going out. It all ends up well, though.
We are not just tasting wine. We discuss it. It’s a guided experience, and there’s a guy who seems to know everything about wines. He explains the particular ways each bottle was made, the reasoning why they release it early or later, and how it affects the taste or smell or experience.
Understanding the wine is like understanding the work of a filmmaker or writer or any other who creates something. You don’t see the grapes behind the wine, the decisions to hasten the process, to speed up the filtering, the positioning in the market.
Mimicking someone is hard to do, because all you have is the bottle of wine. I tried documenting my lunch run in a bit of a Casey Neistat style. It doesn’t work for me, not just because still photography isn’t video, but because I didn’t do the work he does. It’s his wine, not mine, and while I enjoy drinking it, making it is a whole other story.
But it’s still good to try. Creating is 99% failure and trying again, to get to the 1%. The way you learn new skills is by trying to reverse-engineer someone you admire. You mimic them, fail, understand why you failed, try again, fail again, and so on. At some point you either quit, or you internalize something new. Mimicking stops, and creation begins.
cold November rain
enrich coziness inside —
PS.: I do have writers I’m inspired by and whom I mimic. I returned to writing longhand following Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Neal Stephenson. I wrote countless of bad haiku emulating Basho, Issa, Ákos Fodor, and countless other poets.
I still mimic, until I don’t.