The lull between the storms

Hi, peeps!

Been cray-zee bizzy. You may have noticed. Heh.

I’m currently in that awkward place between projects. Kind of. I’ve published a novel this year, just released an anthology I co-edited (in which I have a story), and had 2 other stories selected for publication in 2 other anthologies. I’m also waiting to hear on whether another story I wrote is selected for a different anthology.

I am working on the fourth installment of my space opera series (I’m about halfway through) and I’m doing a bit of research on the fifth in my mystery series, so I am working on some long-term things, but I’ve just about finished up a whole bunch of things that I wanted to this year. And that feels pretty good.

Having said that, I am trying to hammer out another story this month for yet another anthology, but I’m not sure I’m going to make the deadline. If not, I’m not going to freak out about it because it’s not like I haven’t done any other writing this year.

In terms of my writing life, it generally cycles between completely slammed and these stretches where I’m not pressed to do a whole lot. I like these lulls. I still write during them, but I don’t feel the frantic OMG I HAVE TO GET THIS DONE HOLY SHIT SOMEBODY HOOK ME UP TO A RED BULL IV that can accompany my slammed periods. I also use the lulls to ponder writing projects that aren’t related to what I’m currently working on, and that’s always fun, to think about all different characters. I think that might be why I’ve written a lot more shorter stories this year than in years past. I wanted to hang out with some different characters and see what sorts of things could unspool in the narratives.

I do that, too, if one of my long-term projects is giving me some issues and I haven’t figured out how to write/re-write it to fix it. I’ll write something else — usually a short story or novella-length thing — and that helps loosen the logjam in the other project. There are times, too, that I’ve completely scrapped a project and started over from scratch. I don’t know any author who hasn’t had to do that, so if you’re in the middle of that, don’t freak. It’s normal.

So here. 5 things I do that help with the writing cray-zee.

1. Don’t force it. If a project you’re working on is just not working out, stop working on that one. Work on something else. If even that isn’t working, it’s a sign that you may need to take a couple days off (or more) from writing. In which case…

2. Read. Yeah, you heard me. Go read somebody else’s book. When I’m not feeling it, I read. And I generally read a genre that is different than the one that’s got me hung up. For whatever reasons, that gets me out of my headspace and gets me excited and interested in different kinds of plotlines. That feeds the creative stuff, and helps with logjams. If you don’t want to read…

3. Watch a movie. Or stream something. Some cool series you’ve been wanting to watch. Watch a couple episodes. Or, hell, go ahead and binge-watch. Just be careful with that. You don’t want to get into the habit of binge-watching all the time. But every once in a while, it can help get you out of a writing rut.

4. Get out of your house. Or office. Or wherever you write. Take a walk. Go exercise (which you should be doing regularly anyway, because that, too, helps the creative juices). Go do something in your community like visit a museum that’s having a cool temporary exhibit. Go catch a live music show. Call up some friends (or text or however you do it these days) and meet them for dinner or coffee. Have a barbecue with friends/family. Point being? Remove yourself from writing for a bit. Writers live in their heads. It’s important to get out of your head and, as they say, smell the roses. Besides, if you don’t, you might be missing out on good writing fodder.

5. Take a couple of days and go out of town. No, really. Leave. Even if it’s something goofy like driving a hundred miles to a neighboring town and spending the night at a B&B there. Do it. Go hiking or mountain biking. Rent a canoe and do a day-long tourist-y river float. Being outside in natural surroundings is a cure-all for just about anything that ails you. Don’t believe me? Here. And here. Oh, and definitely here.

source Ahhh...don't you feel better just looking at this?
source Ahhh…don’t you feel better just looking at this?

Find whatever combo works for you. And don’t beat yourself up if you’re in a writing rut or stuck. What that means is you need to recharge the ol’ creative batteries. It’s a normal part of a writing life, to hit ruts. So make it part of your normal writing life to develop healthy strategies to recharge.

Speaking of, what are some of yours? Leave ’em in the comments and happy Wednesday.

To your health

Hi, gang —

Well, I’m still a bit of a Writer McCrankypants. My apologies for that. This project, as excited as I am about it, is rather stressful as all these disparate elements have to come together so that I can launch it to the best of my abilities (and then do the whole thing again with yet another project in the pipeline…LOL).

Remind me again why I do this job? Oh, I remember.

Because I luuuuuuuv it!

As I’ve been working on the project I’m about to launch I’m also finishing up a short story for an anthology. That one’s been a bit of a pain in the butt. Sometimes stories almost write themselves. Other times, they’re divas and require certain things just so, taking scenes out and re-doing them, and a whole host of other issues. This was one of those. Who knows why. It just was. I’m just about done and then I’ll leave it for a few days and go back and read it and see how it all feels.

Anyway, the past couple of months have gotten me thinking, because not only have I been totally swamped in the writing world, but also in my non-writing world. Yes, friends, writers have non-writing lives, too. Like anybody else, we have shopping, cleaning, and laundry to do (unless you’re all super-famous and can hire that out), cars to get fixed, animals to take care of, jobs to go to, family and friends to check in with and/or take care of, home repairs, doctors’ appointments, haircuts, bills to pay, taxes to do (ARGH)…

Which means for those of us who write and work full-time day jobs, there isn’t a whole lot of time for either. And that got me thinking about much larger things that maybe writers and other creative pursuit-types don’t think about.

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On the philosophy of writing

OMG how deep did that even sound? Yeah, we’re all navel-gazing up in here. Heh.

Actually, there seems to be something in the writing water, because a few of us have been waxing philosophical (wax on, wax off) on our blogs for a couple of days, now. I must’ve had some of that writing water, because I’ve been navel-gazing after all.

We all make choices. I get that. One of mine was to work a day job so I would have health insurance and other benefits that I just can’t afford otherwise. At least not at the moment. As a result, I don’t write 8 hours a day. I would LOVE to do that, but I made a choice. So writing is a part-time job (though it takes up many more hours than that), and I view it as such. I don’t view it as a hobby. It’s a job, and one that brings me a lot of satisfaction and happiness in many ways.

But it also brings me a shit-ton of frustration, angst, and exhaustion. There are days I’m despondent, that I have no desire to write anything, and I wonder why the hell I do this and what the point of it all is. Rejection emails. Skimpy royalties. Bad or weird reviews. Plots that suck. Characters that piss me off. Ineffective writing. Word salad with no flavor.

I have those days.

I’ve written thousands of words over the decades. As individual words, they don’t suck. They’re just words, part of a language that indicates something. Without context, they just float around in thought bubbles, neutral entities without baggage. As combinations of words that I put together, some of them do suck. Others don’t. They’re slung together, thousands of them, in patterns and styles that track this long slog I’m on. Some are epically bad. Others aren’t too bad. And sometimes there’s a gem in there.

I have the evolution of my writing life in boxes, on discs, on my hard drive, my flash drives, and the Cloud, signalling the shifts in technology over the years as well as various points on this path, when the combos of words started to suck a little less. And out of all of the thousands of words that I have written, very few of them have made it to the big stage. I’ll write thousands more. A small percentage of those will make it off my hard drive and out into the world. The rest will serve as pavers on the road that is my personal writing journey.

That’s okay, fellow inkslingers. As author/writer/ninja wordsmith Chuck Wendig says,

Your writing career will be long. Lots of peaks and valleys. Lots of digging in dirt, lots of learning “wax-on, wax-off,” not sure how waxing a fucking car will teach you goddamn karate. Lots of living to do, lots of reading to do. A world of of thinking, what feels like literal tons of doubt pushing down on your neck and shoulders. And, obvious to some but not obvious to all:

It’ll take a lot of writing.
See Chuck’s blog, “It Takes the Time that It Takes,” HERE

And then I read Kameron Hurley’s blog over at Chuck’s virtual house HERE.

THAT is the essence of a writing life. And this, from that blog, is key:

I think I’ve been on the long tail a long time, but the more I talk to other writers the more I realize that that whole slog – the shitty apartment with the shitty boyfriend, the frigid outhouses in Alaska, the cockroach wrangling in South Africa – weren’t actually the start of it. That wasn’t the part where things got really interesting.

It was getting the first book. It was after the first book. It was being confronted with the fact that writing is a business, and expectations are very often crushed, and your chances for breaking out are pretty grim.

It’s persisting in the game after you know what it’s really all about. After the shine wears off. It’s persisting after all your hopes and aspirations bang head first into reality.

That’s when it starts. The rest of your life was just a warm-up.

Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.
Kameron Hurley, “On Persistence and the Long Con of Being a Writer

Once you have that first book or story out, THAT’S when things do get interesting. Writing IS a business. And now you have to find the balance between your creative lovefest and the crapshow that the business can be. Wax on. Wax off. Repeat.

Because Hurley’s right. Persistence is what it takes to be a successful writer. Think of that, as she says, as a way of life and not just a word. That is the essence of a writing life.

Back to it, Grasshopper.

Monsters

Hi, peeps!

Been a few days. I’ve been battling a winter-time nasty cootie attack that involved feeling like crap for over a week. Some monsters aren’t visible to the naked eye, but they can lay you out just as easily as a zombie or werewolf or pissed-off MMA fighter.

And when I physically feel crappy, I don’t have the creative energy to work on my fiction writing. So I spent a lot of time watching movies and paranormal shows on Netflix and basically sleeping. In other words, spending a lot of time alone without being able to write or go outside and feeling generally icky.

For me, that’s a recipe for monsters.

Not the ones in the shows I was watching or the microscopic cooties that went to war with my immune system. And not these friendly, fuzzy ones:

source

Rather, the ones in my head. And those, my friends, can be worse than any external monsters we might have to face.

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