My Superpower: Cassandra Rose Clarke

6 May

My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Cassandra Rose Clarke to talk about how the power of making time for TV (psst:  and organization) relates to The Wizard’s Promise.

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Let us consider Wolverine. His superpower appears to be the ability to retract claws out of his knuckles like a cat, and indeed, for many years as a child I thought that was his superpower and wondered how such a weirdly specific mutation could come to be. But at some point I learned that Wolverine’s actual superpower is regeneration. It allows him to retract claws out of his knuckles like a cat and do other wonders as well — but mostly the cat claw thing. My writerly superpower is the same way.

At first glance, my superpower is Making Time To Watch TV. Movies, too, although recently I’ve been more about TV, since that’s where the action is in terms of high quality visual/auditory entertainment. Anyway, this is a superpower for two reasons:  1) it gives me material (“inspiration”) which I enjoy subverting and toying with and generally making my own, and 2) it lets me rest my brain.
Yes, I think resting my brain is an important part of being writer, just like I think resting my muscles is an important part of lifting weights. Really, these two reasons (inspiration and rest) are knotted together, because one begets the other. I do my best work in the mornings; so that’s when I write. And I do my worst work in the evenings; so that’s when I rest. And just like with the human body, the human brain is still churning away during those resting periods, coming up with ideas and characters and settings and imagery and all other sorts of writerly magic. I know some people who seem to spend every free moment of the day writing, and if that works for them, they should go for it! But for me, writing every free moment of the day will only wear me out. You remember that feeling when you walked out of the SAT? Like your brain hurt? Yeah, that’s how I feel if I spend too much time writing.
And TV is the perfect down period for me, because, as I mentioned, one of the things I love to do with my writing is play around with tropes. And there is no better source of tropes out there (other than fanfiction) than TV. Sometimes TV tropes are done well. Sometimes they’re not. But regardless, I love watching the way my favorite tropes play out on the screen:  weirdo surrealistic serial killers (in Hannibal and True Detective), moral ambiguity (in Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time, two wildly different takes), epic non-romantic friendship (in 30 Rock). And yeah, I get ideas from watching all this stuff, too. My writer brain is a big bubbling stew of college literature classes, pop culture, and art and science museums.  So Making Time To Watch TV is a pretty important superpower for me.
But like Wolverine, it’s not my real superpower. My real superpower enables me to have those rest periods, to watch TV and go for walks and do whatever else I need to do in between writing and working. That superpower is Organization. I lay out my schedule with the rigid formality of a fourth grader’s school day:  one hour for admin, one hour for drafting, one hour for editing. When I reach the end of my hour, I set my work aside and move onto the next task. I wake up at the same time every day, I eat lunch at the same time every day. I make a to-do list. I add things to my calendar. I keep complicated systems of labeling and color-coding in the Scrivener documents for my novels. I am the most boring adult you have ever met.
For example, I’m writing this post in a Scrivener doc called “Writing Requests 2013-2014,” and this particular file is titled “March 15 — Skiffy and Fanty,” with a little blue icon of a document next to it, indicating it is a blog post, as opposed to an interview or a work of fiction. When I finish writing the post, as I’m about to, I’ll change the status to “Completely Finished,” meaning that I will need to do a pass or two before I send it off. And when I do send it off, I’ll change that little blue document icon to a little blue check mark, and that will be one task completed.
So there you have it:  my greater and lesser superpowers. Without the superpower of Organization, I’d be a stressed out, manic mess,  so overwhelmed with work that Making Time to Watch TV would become my downfall, replaced with the super villain power of All I Do Is Watch TV.  Then the Internet would call me with its beckoning lure of kitten videos and endless rounds of drama, and that would be the end of Cassandra Rose Clarke.
The Wizard's Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke
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Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. She holds an M.A. in creative writing from The University of Texas at Austin, and in 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. Her work has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her latest novel is the YA adventure fantasy The Wizard’s Promise, out in May 2014. Visit her online at cassandraroseclarke.com or on Twitter at @mitochondrial
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One Response to “My Superpower: Cassandra Rose Clarke”

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  1. Top 10 Episodes and Blog Posts for May 2014 | The Skiffy and Fanty Show - June 4, 2014

    […] My Superpower: Cassandra Rose Clarke […]

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