Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Our guest blogger is Mark Phillips who wrote
The Resqueth Revolution
What makes writing worthwhile for you?
By training I am a philosopher. I am convinced that the Great Philosophical Debate is now taking place in fiction rather than formal philosophy. I learned as much genuine philosophy from reading Heinlein’s works as from my classes in college. Even in genre fiction, philosophical world views, aesthetic arguments, ethical dilemmas, and political debates collide in fascinating ways, made pragmatic, meaningful, and personal by the profound magic of narrative structure. I’m addicted to reading and analyzing fiction for these insights. But I’m also incapable of sitting silent while the most important issues of the day are debated—I have to get my two cents in. Philosophical discourse is more fun when you actively participate.
Are you an early writer (wrote as a child) or a late bloomer (didn't start until an adult)?
I still have all the various attempts at fiction that I wrote as a child. I didn’t attempt to get published until high school and still have some very nice rejection letters from that period. In college I minored in film and thought that my future lay in filmmaking. But I’ve always wanted to be a creator of fiction.
Are you a plotter or a character writer?
I try to do both well. They are different sides of the same coin. Getting my characters to react to situations and influence events with meaningful, realistic, and philosophically interesting motivations requires a great plot that forces the protagonists into the kind of inescapable moral dilemmas that advance the Great Debate. On a more prosaic level, when I write in the detective and science fiction genres, I spend a lot of extra time on plot—if the plot doesn’t logically hang together, no one will read long enough for the philosophy to come across.
Do you write every day?
My day job is as a high school teacher. I teach precalculus and political philosophy. I try to write every day, but my most sustained creative writing occurs on weekends, holidays, and, of course, summer vacation. During the school year I’m more effective at research and editing. For The Resqueth Revolution, I spent nearly six months researching. When summer vacation started, I wrote the entire first draft straight out in about six weeks of marathon, twelve-fourteen hours days, seven days a week.
Have you ever had writer's block?
I’ve definitely been afflicted by writer’s block, but I rarely beat myself up over it. I have a great deal of faith in my subconscious writer, my muse, my daemon, whatever you want to call it. I research, ponder, and when I sit down to write and nothing good comes out, I figure that my subconscious writer isn’t done processing the problem. I go read, watch movies, take a nap. When I’m ready to, the prose comes out in unstoppable torrents of words that are just right (in terms of content, certainly not in terms of spelling, grammar, or style). The goal of schedulable creativity is a perverted ideal of our over-mechanized, over-commercialized world. Writers are not factory workers. I can schedule editing and research, but writing follows its own dictates. What I would like to do is keep several works going at the same time, so that if I’m in down time with one I may be more successful with another. But that would cut into my reading, movie watching, and nap time, so maybe not.