May 13, 2010

Finding the Happy Place

Writing is really not a simple in the microcosm of a daily life as I'd like to pretend it is. I've been able to knock out entire novel HALVES in a month's time, and then go for half a year and barely eke out a chapter. This is no way to pace oneself.

There's a cold, hard reality to being a writer - shoot, being an ANYTHING, really - that depends so much on finding your rhythm and then getting all possible distractions locked outside your periphery. A good friend of mine who's working on his first manuscript actually took several days off from his paying job so he could focus on it. Another author I know actually works full time as an editor to pay the bills so he can afford to write.

Myself, I work as a crisis manager for a "major telecommunications company", meaning that on a good day I have almost nothing at all to do. And on a bad day I'm up for 24 hours straight, taking phone calls, sending emails, and generally trying to keep track of where all the bodies are. It sounds fairly idyllic, yes?

Then to dash that little fantasy, bear in mind that about 75% of my job happens without warning. Just your basic sunny day, birds singing, people laughing, all is fine in the world, when suddenly, BAM.

Tornado over Oklahoma.

Then, it's all sirens and phone calls and SMS messages and emails and .... bleargh.

Living in potential expectation of that possibility is what keeps me from just sitting at a desk and writing an additional chapter in the book. No, to be honest, I actually almost prefer the crazy days - - because, then, at least, I know something's happening. I can set things in motion and my mind can, oddly enough, relax. Once the crisis has passed, however, my brain remains keyed up to that elevated stress level, and it takes sometimes weeks for it to calm down and flush the adrenaline from my bloodstream.

And then, it's quiet. Almost...too quiet. And how am I supposed to write, then?

No, clearly my job does not intend for me to have any brain juices left with which to grease my creative wheels.

And that's not all. Occasionally, the flavor of my writing slips unnoticed into my professional communiques - and let's be clear on this: far too many professional types do not appreciate getting a little fictional prose in their bullet points. It's an entirely other kind of writing style - and one I can do, but one that I do not necessarily enjoy. I was reminded today that corporate professionals do not like italics or boldface. It reads to them like condescencion and superiority, not emphasis for content.

Now, when I say I was reminded today, I mean that in quite the literal sense. Reminded, in fact, by my grand-boss (the boss of my boss). Now, he was awesome about it. Really. He knows I write, and realized that I had dropped some of my chocolate in their peanut butter, and in this case the mix did not go over well. Execs took my points as abrasive and cocky and arrogant.

What a swell way to be reminded of why I'm not really in an occupational environment hand-designed for me. Granted, I whisper soft the faint reminder: "You are not your job," I say. "What pays your bills is not your Soul nor your Identity." But if you spend all day long working in the sewer, you still smell like s**t. And if I may be completely honest, I'm really tired of smelling like s**t.

So, on that recognition, I sent out another query letter today. Haven't heard back from TOR publishing, but then I didn't honestly put all my chips on that square anyway.

But I don't expect quick fixes. Need to write. I'm on chapter 13 of "Reaper's Flight." Not quite the home stretch, but it's about ready to smack into the end of Act 2. It's coming together much more cleanly than "Morrow Stone" did. But it also feels a lot like chiseling out a statue from marble:



Look again.


Sip of Water.

Look again.

Position chisel.

Ready hammer.

Breathe again.

Change your mind; step away.


The rush will happen again, that's not my worry. The simplest way to respond to "writer's block" is to just embrace it and let it happen; clutching it just keeps it around.

Enough for today. Time to leave work and clear my head. The words will come again.

1 comment:

MysticSavage said...

Do you know about It's a good way to keep the water running through the faucet while you are otherwise occupied. So that, when it's time to write, you can actually write.

Well expressed post, btw.