Change of Address – Long Live Harry Tuttle

Harry Tuttle, the Modern Cave Dweller.

Harry Tuttle MCDFor those that had noticed, or had been around here before, there have been a few things changing. In particular, on my journey to being an author it was brought to my attention that it might be useful if people could easily find me… Like all people, there seems to always be a namesake out there who is more famous. And so it is that I say ciao to the Modern Cave Dweller moniker for the web site. Well mostly. Given how popular my name is, obviously the domain name that goes with it is taken – although for sale at a ludicrous price. So by way of unique-afying my site, you must now all address me as

The Modern Cave Dweller idea is something that has been with me for some time so I quite like keeping it. It has always represented my struggle with (modern) life in cities, apartments, whatever, where we are always connected and not, and trying to make sense of all of that. Actually, now that I think about it, it is like having new qualifications. Instead of a PhD, I now have an MCD… which is clearly much better anyway because no one else does. Maybe I could sell qualifications if the writing doesn’t work out…

Why am I doing this now? This year I promised myself to just write, and write, and write, without thinking too much about how perfect everything is etc – definitely no editing! So far I have a few linked flash fiction stories, one short story done and another well on the way. If we go back to where it started, I am also a third of the way into a novel. So I could berate myself that I could be doing more, but given my busy life, I prefer to think that it is going along just swimmingly. Albeit, for the moment, behind closed doors.

Writing, being an author, is a slow process but it is the one that I have chosen to work on. So, hang around, enjoy if you can, and in the new year we should start to see the fruits of my labour start to ooze into the public domain.

Harry Tuttle, MCD

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Deadline kills Creativity!

In shocking news just to hand, it appears that creativity has been killed in a senseless attack by another deadline. This is the latest casualty in a long line of deadline related incidences. Claims that it was premeditated are yet to be confirmed but if this is the case this is looking increasingly like this could be the work of a serial killer. Sources close to the creativity have indicated that there may have been previous attempts, again indicating that this is not just a random event.

Does this sound like your day? This year I set myself some challenges to ensure that my promise to myself to write, actually bears some fruit. In particular my 12 for 21 challenge. The downside is that I have often found myself running around like crazy at the last minute, or just after, trying to write something. This could be bad – I could waste your time, in which case I’m sorry. Alternatively, it could be good. Do a quick search for constraint breeds creativity and you get a huge list of responses where people scream out about how this is a good thing, a great thing, even a necessity. Jack white from The White Stripes makes a good point of it here.

Modern cave dweller, Harry Tuttle, Creativity, ConstraintsThe thing about constraining yourself is that it sometimes won’t allow you to express yourself the way you want, or as well as you want. But it often times forces you to express something you weren’t expecting, and that can be scary, but that’s when things can be really interesting. If you want to push boundaries and do something that is special, unique, you need to accept that you are the only one that can do it and you’re probably going to have to bleed to make it happen.

I’m just starting this writing lark. I have an enormous amount to learn but I won’t be happy until I write something truly exceptional, something truly extraordinary.

I will write something that no one else ever could.

So, when you’re writing don’t be afraid of deadlines or other constraints killing your creativity. In the end you’ll probably find that setting them, controlling them, will make you a better what-ever-you-want-to-be. When you do something, ask yourself – Is it exceptional? Is it extraordinary? Now, I’m going back to my other deadlines and write.

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How to stop a 4000km/h vac-train with an elephant and a rubber band

Some time ago, when I started talking about blowing things up, I made an off the cuff remark about “…  if you want to bring down a flying city with exploding pigs, or stop a 4000km/h (mph … whatever) vac-train with an elephant and a rubber band.”  As it turns out high speed vac-trains present an enormous number of safety hazards. This is excellent news for the writers but not so great for anyone on board. There was a nice article on Gizmag that made a nice bridge between the physics (not too much) of what was going on and an intuition of why we don’t have these beauties yet. But you’re a writer – why worry about these details?

Elephant, Scifi explosion, Modern Cavedweller Actually, I think that this article could provide a good guide for writers. It identifies the technical details, that your audience may not necessarily want or need, and goes straight to the intuitive understanding of the current limitations or fundamental, and potential fun-depriving, problems facing this concept. Obviously, the enormous cost is a second order problem if you’re writing, so unless capital expenditure is central to your WIP, let’s move on. Take a look at the article and keep it in mind when you are researching anything related to use in your writing. I tend to think about science and technology, as this is my background but I would say the same applies nearly all the time. A solid high school level of whatever subject you’re researching is enough to make sure that your reader doesn’t stop suspending belief.

OK. So today’s challenge is an elephant and a rubber band vs a Vac-train. Obviously, there are many things that we could do, so the first step is to put some constraints on how we want this to pan out. Do we want the character(s) to die? What about the elephant – is it expendable? Let’s go for total destruction because that’s always the most fun! Have you ever been in the back of the bus and slid back and forth as the bus goes around the hairpin bends when you’re coming down icy mountain roads? The trick is to give a little impulse to the bus’ outward momentum and see when we lose traction and fall down the mountain …

Contrary to popular belief an elephant’s skin is quite sensitive. Really! What we need then is a long clear section of the Vac-train and take the elephant to one end – some grass will help coax it along. Once there aim the elephant at the end of the carriage and wait for the next corner. Now, take out your rubber band and flick that elephant in the arse. You can shout as well but that is primarily to make you feel more like you’re actually doing something. The elephant will take off and even over a relatively short distance, 20-30 meters, it should reach a speed of over 20km/h. If you got yourself a good African elephant, you now have around 5 tonnes running through your Vac-train at a little over 5m/s – this means we have a kinetic energy of nearly 80kJ. That’s not as much as it sounds – around 20 grams of TNT – if that makes any sense, or the equivalent of driving your car into a wall at 45km/h (28mph). Also, the elephant and the train are going in the same direction. Is this enough? Probably not, and in any case, we’re already thinking about things in too much detail.

Let’s try plan B. Turn the elephant around to face the front of the train. Flick the elephant again with your rubber band. Now the elephant may not have had enough of an impact to derail the Vac-train but the chance that the driver’s cabin is solid enough to hold back your charging beast is minimal. In this instance we find a beautiful marriage between science and nature as the elephant crashes through the wall crushing the driver and initiating the emergency braking system. This has the added advantage, possibly, that your characters survive to annoy you another day. There is also a small chance for the elephant as well, which is always nice. All that remains is for you to work out how to get the elephant on the train in the first instance.

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Write like you own it!

I had something to say. Oh, yes. Write like you own it.

I have been reading, mostly flash and short fiction, recently in an attempt to catch up on what is going on and get back to reading (fiction). I could now say something like – I don’t want to be critical but … but I am going to be critical and not because I have any authority but because I think that it needs saying. Some of you people aren’t taking your writing seriously enough. I know that’s going to come back to haunt me. It is not a question of style or grammatical errors, I am sure that if you have been curious enough to read this far then your abilities are far greater than mine. Indeed, most of it is impeccably written from a grammatical point of view, and even the structure is good – and more. Having said that, what I want to talk about is attitude.

Attitude, Modern Cave Dweller, Harry Tuttle

Attitude, for me at least, is the single most important trait in absolutely anything you do. It is what defines you far beyond what you wear, the colour of your hair or your political views. Of course we could have the attitude of – who gives a shit – and while that tells me a lot, it also means I keep walking by. Similarly, as a writer, we could find ourselves saying – oh, that will be fine/nice/alright. Stop. The minute someone says something is “nice”, alarm bells should start going off. If you don’t think that your writing is as good as Vonnegut, Marquez, insert-your-most-revered-author, then why not? Seriously! You need to ask yourself what makes them so good while my writing remains “nice”? And you should answer – Nothing! Because there is no reason.

OK, not everyone is cut out to be the best writer ever but if you are already writing and putting it out there, what is stopping you from taking that next step up. To start with, probably a lot of hard work and let’s be clear about that – people have actually died from hard work – anyone telling you differently has never worked hard. Attitude is, perhaps unfortunately, related to self-confidence. We all know self confidence, it’s arms come flailing up from the depths of despair and punch the sky on those rare occasions when we actually write something that is so good we are not ashamed of it. If you haven’t done so already, you need to just live with that and write like you are the most awesomest of awesome writer and write with conviction, write with authority, most importantly, write like you own it!

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Waffling on a Wednesday

Alt. Contradiction is the spice of life.

As promised, this is the home and playground of Harry Tuttle, part enigma, part machine, mostly confused and trapped in modern life. If anyone has ever read more than one post then it should have become clear that I am mostly confused. Actually, in the real world, I like to feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on things… but this is not the real world. At the moment, I have to apologise because the posts are coming, or not, like a drunk trying to hit the side of a barn with a shot gun from a thousand yards out (that makes sense to me – you know, like hits but mostly misses… If I have to explain everything this is going to take some time.). n.b. I used yards so the Americans among us don’t feel left out. No, I don’t have a problem with Americans I just never understood why you decided yards were that much better than cubits but a meter is the devil’s work?! OK, I know that’s not entirely your fault either. Anyway, whose idea was it to start picking on Americans? To be fair, I was only referring to the USA. Just to be clear.

ADHD, Writing, MCDSo it is that I realise that this blog, like so many before it, has run off, like a metaphor from a poorly educated person struggling to sound like they at least went to school for a few weeks, most notably around exam time, which was a pain because it was in summer and the waves at the beach were so good and what a shame to miss out on that for what? … oh, look, a squirrel!

So, here’s the deal – I write. Yes, that’s what I said. I never claimed it was good and certainly the attention to detail of whatever you’re reading on this blog is far from anything that I would stick a cover on and call a book. Anyhowssss – random punctuation – I am not here for your approval. If you have time to stop and comment, criticise or question, please do. I love criticism. Seriously. On the other hand if you’re just a troll I will kill you. I’m a pretty good judge of character and rarely get the two confused, so don’t hesitate to engage … note to self, work on people skills. So that’s pretty much it. Oh, by the way I’m not looking for a relationship of any gender permutation and I generally say no to animals, especially domesticated ones. Good. Your turn.

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Passionate on the inside

I always considered myself a committed person, more than a passionate one. If I tell you I am going to do something, I will try and do it even if it kills me. So why do I baulk at passionate? I tend to associate passion with excitement. We all know people that can’t sit still and want to shout out to everyone that they love what they are doing. I’m not sure I have ever been like that but I love people that are. It is infectious and I am always looking for these people. Personally, I tend not to be passionate about one particular thing – things come and go. I am more interested by ideas and sometimes I think that these can be too big to be passionate about.

passion, modern cave dweller

I am committed to making a difference. The problem with trying to make a difference is that it is vague. When people at parties ask you what you do, you do not respond with – “oh, me, I make a difference”. Apart from sounding monstrously pretentious, it just doesn’t mean anything.  Anyway, vague … When you are targeting something vague it is very easy to get distracted doing all sorts of things as a means to an end. Imagine the scientists that now spend half their time asking for money to do science rather than sciencing, or the writer spending so much time on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ building their network/following that they forget to write. They spend so much time talking about what they want to do, or doing something they feel will help in the long run, that they lose sight of their passion. I sit guilty as charged on all counts.

A quick look around the interwebs on “passionate people” throws up all sorts of self help and motivational quotes building on the idea that passionate people are better and/or happier, they get excited more often, they are positive.  Given that I actively seek out these people, I suppose I have to agree. So, am I a passionate person? Could I be? I stumbled upon a list of 10 Habits of Passionate People That You Can Adopt As Well on the Lifehack website. When I read that I scored better than I expected (7/10). Where I thought I failed was in being happy/excited/positive… Over at Elite Daily they noted that  “… They get overly excited and push themselves to their limits. They love working and love moving forward quickly. But they eventually do run out of steam and crash.”

I think that this is where I got caught. I crashed. I don’t recall where or when but I expect that it has been quite a few years. Realising this is the first step to getting back to being alive, to being excited and excitable. I know that when I am doing what I want, I am happy, and when I feel like I am working for someone else, someone else’s agenda, much less so. My initial solution is simple – Just say NO – at least more often and avoid getting too distracted. It is hard when you like helping others but at some point you will not be able to help them without first getting your self in order. I want my eyes to light up when I get the chance to talk to someone about what I do. I am a passionate person, just at the moment it is all on the inside.

Anyway, if you ‘re looking for me I’ll be just over here getting my house/head back together.

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Just write it!

Recently, I realised that I was about a third of the way into the first draft of my first serious attempt at a novel. As one could imagine I wasn’t happy with it. There is some great stuff there, but stylistically I have a lot of work to do. I had thought this through, planned out everything and had very clear ideas about my characters and various key points in the plot, but … I realised that I was probably trying to run before I could walk.

#MCD #amwritingThen out of the blue I see a tweet from Ksenia Anske on the danger of outlining. Indeed, why should I plan how I’m going to write a book, I never plan anything. And so it was that this fell just before I forced myself to take a break from my other full time job. How better to celebrate than to just dive in and say I’m going to write for two days. What a fantastic experience. I had no idea what was going to happen. I started -

First, the stars fell from the sky, now, it would appear it’s our turn.

 Still not sure it makes any sense, but what better way to start. Two days later there are nearly 4000 words done and some of the best action and dialogue sequences I have written … so far! It needs some work and it’s certainly not ready to share, but it was a lot of fun.  Have I found a new method, probably not, but I’ve found a new tool – a new way towards being a better writer.

Thanks @kseniaanske

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