Eat Your Peas: Notes

(If you missed it somehow, the story is here.)

A thought started nagging at me on Friday evening. What if I wrote a short story, or at least a vignette… live on Twitch? I tried to ignore it, particularly given my current sentiments when it comes to actively streaming, but the idea just wouldn’t. go. away. So I figuratively threw up my hands and succumbed to the concept on Sunday evening.

It turns out, surprising no one, that the theory of doing it was considerably better than the practice, but isn’t that life?

Back in 2010, I tried to write a million words. I didn’t come close, but I did manage to crank out over three hundred thousand words over the course of that year. One of the ways I came up with ideas for stories, or at least short little blips, was to hit the Random article button on Wikipedia’s sidebar and hope for the best. One of the rules was that I wasn’t allowed to just keep hitting it until something interesting popped up; I had to write about whatever dumb thing the database threw up at me.

I actually got some relatively nice short stories out of the process. One, “The Calendars of 2008,” was from just that: a page with nothing more than a big list of the days in 20081. The story was about a mall kiosk–you know the ones–that sell calendars, and time travel, and love and loss. It was short and bittersweet.

“Eat Your Peas” followed the same process. I ended up here, and while I had no interest in writing a story about a comedy duo, the title of the article sent me down some interesting paths. I should note that the story that resulted is workmanlike at best; I probably wouldn’t have bothered posting it if it weren’t for the experiment at all. But the experience of writing it was rather different than I expected (not that I was really expecting anything too specific), hence me writing this too-long-for-a-footnote side article.

When I’m working on longer-form stuff, like NaNovels, I keep a “notes” file open with ideas that I want to incorporate. I don’t usually bother with shorter stuff, but in this case I figured it’d be helpful as a way to expose my inner thought processes to anyone viewing the stream. And then I thought, well, shouldn’t those notes be available the entire time I’m writing? So, in classic yak-shaving form, this led me to learning at least the rudiments of tmux, live on stream, since I couldn’t find my old writing-specific screen configuration. Conclusion: I could probably switch to tmux pretty painlessly, and probably will the next time I reboot my computer2.

That’s well and good, but what about the actual act of writing? Turns out that it involves a whole lot of staring silently at the screen while you’re thinking about what happens next. Ceci n’est pas compelling viewing. I wrote quite a bit slower than I do during NaNo, partly because I kept checking chat (and finding it a useful-slash-shameful distraction) and partly because I did way more “in the act” editing than I usually do when I write. I’m very much a “blast out a zeroth draft” sort of guy, but I knew that I was going to be posting the story immediately after finishing it, so I took a little more care than usual with wording, flow, and the like.

The story’s still a first draft, and I don’t think it’s good enough to warrant another pass, so it’ll be a first draft forever. And I doubt I’ll write on-stream again. But it was an interesting experiment, and it shut that little voice in my head up for the time being, so I’m going to call it a qualified victory. Plus, hey, an extra non-blip blog entry for the week! It’s been a while since I’ve done that.

Of course, that little voice is already piping up again for a different story idea… -sigh-

  1. Frustratingly, I can’t find that article any more, but given that the deletionists won the First Wikipedia War that’s not too surprising.
  2. I rebooted today, for security reasons, but wasn’t quite ready to commit to the changeover.

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