It’s True, I Suck

Or that is what my self loathing side says at times like these. I took a two week vacation and then not two weeks later, took a four day weekend with my girlfriends in Chicago. Not much writing has been done in the last four weeks. Okay, actually? None. And it’s amazing how much further away I feel from the whole process. Like I’m on the shore and my ambition is on a raft floating further and further away… If I don’t dive for it soon, it might just fade over the indigo horizon…

And there are things in the way…many, many things. Work, for one. They seem to expect me to actually, like, do stuff. Go figure. And school. Not mine, two new schools for two very little kiddos. I know I should enjoy the discovery of all things new with them, but part of me looks forward to big kids who are just a tiny bit jaded, who don’t need to have me explain thirty times about what their new schools will be like, who their teachers will be and how many pencils they’ll have in their book bag. I know. I suck. I told you that.

On the up side, once the whole school thing is hammered out (should be getting smooth by mid-September…), I will be back in the groove, I think. I have, literally, six different projects in mid-stream. I need to choose one and focus, and then move forward.

And despite feeling like an almost complete failure lately, I just got notice that a story I wrote a while ago is live over at The Rusty Nail. Check it out!

Perhaps I’m Possessed

Once upon a time, Delancey Stewart sat down to write a YA novel. Encouraged by the successes in this market that she’d seen recently achieved by other young (ahem) female writers who were new to the publishing game, she figured she could do it too. And quickly — like in a month — she wrote a first draft. Then she rewrote it entirely, and called it a second draft. Then she exposed it to the glaring light of day and realized that it still needed work. And she was tired.

So she began working on a couple other things. One of them had been plaguing her for years, and needed to find a home on paper. So she started that. And it was enjoyable. But then, out of nowhere, one early morning she found herself, half asleep at the keyboard, and she began writing something else.

The idea began as a story for her kids. Something they’d enjoy. They’re small, so she thought she’d start small. Maybe a short story. After all, they are short. But then it began to grow. And suddenly, Delancey finds herself hard at work on a middle grade chapter book. And it is the best thing she’s written. And she’s excited to work on it.

The question: WTF??? Has this happened to you? I’ve heard of characters commandeering a story and taking it in unexpected directions, but I have not heard before of an entire story forcing its way out like this. It’s kind of fun, don’t get me wrong — especially because it’s kind of a cool story (since I feel like I’m channeling it from somewhere else, I can say that, right?). But it’s just weird. And I keep thinking that I should get back to my malingering YA novel or get back to work on that other book I’ve had in my head for years. Or the new idea I had recently which I’m also really excited about. (I really wish I could just write all day. Damned job and life responsibilities.)

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I’ve been hijacked. Nothing I post until further notice can be verified to have been written by me. At least not the me that I thought I was.

Creating the Perfect Writing Space

I’ve actually done a lot of writing this week. Which, sadly, has not been the norm. But I’m getting back into a flow, have found a critique group that I’m excited about, and joined Scribophile. Thanks to those who offered ideas based on my last post, Finding a Sounding Board. This interweb crap is cool that way!

Part of what has enabled me to get moving again has been to lose the belief (or walk slightly further away from the belief) that the planets must be aligned perfectly for me to write. Previously, and for most of my life, I’d believed that all circumstances must be ideal for me to be able to get into my “zone” and create something. I needed an empty house. I needed silence. I needed the right chair, my slippers. I needed my coffee and it had to be morning, I thought. I just couldn’t be productive in the afternoon or evening. I could not be interrupted, and definitely could not have children around. I had to be at MY desk in MY office and that was that. And then, only then, might the writing gods deign to visit me with some sort of creative inspiration.

When I attended the Writers Digest Conference in NYC this January, I found that I had a lot of company in my belief that good writing came from a place of perfectly arranged physical circumstances. There were those who wrote late at night, with a glass of scotch. There were those who could not write without specific music. And there were those who could only write with a certain pen, in long hand (who, honestly, left me completely flabbergasted.)

What I have come to realize about all these needs, all the arrangements that we writers argue that we must have, is that they are all (mostly) crap. They are a set of excuses that allow us NOT to write. They are part of the fear of actually having to DO the thing we talk about doing. In my complete lack of time these days, which has become totally overshadowed by realizations of my own mortality and driving obsession with finally DOING something, I have come to find that I can actually write just about anywhere. Under almost any circumstances. In fact, I’ve come to like dropping down into the “zone” for a few brief minutes when I can find them, wherever they may happen. True, I do need a computer, since I cannot actually read my own handwriting. But aside from that, the rest of my requirements are ridiculous.

Writers, I think, like to believe that there is some magic in what we do. There is some mysticism that lets us accomplish what others, evidently, cannot. And writing, of course, cannot be as simple as sitting down and writing. There must be far more to it in order to discourage the dilettante masses from making an attempt to encroach on our sacred territory. So we create boundaries and restrictions upon ourselves and others, limiting the conditions under which greatness might be achieved.

I may not be the most accomplished writer. But I’ve come to believe that it’s all crap. Cut it out, guys. If you’re going to write, it isn’t going take the next solar eclipse to make it happen. It has nothing to do with moon phases or the perfect cup of coffee. It’s in you. Just sit down and do it.

— UPDATE —

Was just reading this over, and cannot call this post complete without linking to one of my VERY favorite songs, which I have herein reminded myself of by saying something like “Conditions must be perfect,” which is a line from this song (almost). If you are not familiar with Flight of the Conchords, you must get familiar. They are frickin’ hilarious. Here, as an introduction, I present their amazing song — perhaps hitting a bit too close to home: “Business Time.” Watch this only when conditions are perfect… perhaps on a Wednesday…

You Don’t Have Time to Write

I belong to a couple of book clubs. One of these is mostly an excuse to get together with some friends and drink wine, but in the other, we actually do some pretty serious book discussion. Recently, one of the members of my social book club announced that she would have to quit because she just didn’t have time to read a book. She sent an email that made it sound like she had so many more important things to do that she couldn’t possibly spend time on such a frivolous pursuit. I couldn’t help but feel like it waggled a little finger at those of us who evidently DO have time for silly little things like reading. Guess I’m not doing enough important other stuff.

Clearly, to this woman, reading is not a priority. Personally, I couldn’t imagine a life without books being part of my every day, but I’m kind of immersed in that world. Let’s assume for a minute that she really WOULD like to read, but honestly feels that she doesn’t have time. The bigger question here is: if there is something you would really like to do, why the hell aren’t you doing it?

I have talked to lots of people in my fortyish years about all the dreams they have, and the things they’ll do someday. And I’ve seen a few of those people lose the opportunity to pursue their dreams when the inevitable happens far too soon. Yeah, I mean death. It could come in the form of a bus or a tumor or a toy dump truck left carelessly on the top step. This is not new news. The point is that if you have a dream, shouldn’t you be working on fulfilling it?

I get to say this in the pedantic tone that I know is coming through here only because for a very long time, I was the woman who didn’t have time. Since I was old enough to think about it, I’ve wanted to write books. But I have been far too busy to pursue that dream. I was going to college. I was living a crazy single life, having fun. I was working my first REAL job. I was in my first REAL relationship. I was getting married (not to the guy with whom I was in the first REAL relationship, if you must know), I was having kids… And finally, at the point when I am probably busier in my life than I’ll ever be, and certainly am busier than I’ve ever really been before, I am pursuing my dream.

There is never enough time. Especially when large blocks of that time are promised to other people, leaving only a half hour here or an hour there that is actually yours. The key, then, is looking at what you do with your time and deciding if it is worthwhile. I’d like to ask my book club acquaintance how much television she watches each day. I’d be willing to bet a nice bottle of Shiraz that she’s getting in at least an hour or two each evening. And there’s nothing wrong with that! I nurse a couple TV addictions, too (hello Vampire Diaries, Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy — I’m looking at you!) But it takes commitment to ask yourself how your one hour might be best spent.

Writing is hard. I do it at 4:30 in the morning most of the time. And at that hour, I’d definitely rather be sleeping. At least, that is true from 4:30 to about 4:40. Then, sitting in a dimly lit room in my bathrobe with a steaming cup of coffee in a very quiet house, alone with my computer, I start to feel a peace like nothing I’ve ever known. I believe it is the peace and happiness that comes only from doing the thing that you most want to do in life.

And if nothing ever comes of my efforts, I will have had that sense of fulfillment. And if a bus with my name on it comes thundering down the road tomorrow, I will know that I died having done the thing I most wanted to do.

So I’m issuing a challenge. Give yourself the gift of commitment. FIND the time. It’s there, you’re just doing something else with it. Make a choice to do the thing. Even if the thing is something as simple as reading a book. Don’t make excuses. DO THE THING.

PS: My book clubs are reading the following books this month:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay

Why Do You Write?

I have two little kids. Boys. Tiny, messy, moody and irrational beastlings, really. Make no mistake, I love them and would give up every other part of my life for them if I really, really had to (wow I really hope I don’t ever have to. that would suck.) But this whole writing thing is sometimes harder because of the Mom job that I have to do most of the time. And I was thinking about that, but that’s probably a different post. What it led into this morning was this…

Since there is really quite a lot going on in my life outside of the time I spend pecking at the keyboard producing what might equate to pointless drivel, why do I bother? Why do I go to great lengths and invest so much effort in writing? Or trying to write? What is it that makes this important to me?

I’m not sure I have an answer. I have recently committed seriously to writing, to really trying to get a novel OUT THERE. But I don’t know why that feels so important to me. I know I have to do it now. And maybe from now on. Because I’m not getting any younger, and let’s face it, though I come from healthy stock, the fourth decade of a person’s life is often when nasty health-related things tend to pop up. And it’s easier to write when not distracted by cancer (or so I imagine.)

Since that was a thought I had on this topic, it led me to wonder if I feel that I must produce something to leave behind, if this drive to write is produced by my own pointless desire for some form of immortality. Do I really believe that the world will simply not be as good a place without a paranormal young adult romance from Delancey Stewart? No. I think the world would keep right on spinning, ghostly love story aside. I am certainly not arrogant enough to believe that I have something SO important to say that it simply must be said.

I’m going to have to think on this some more, though I doubt I’ll ever find a concrete answer. There is something in me that wants to write. It’s possibly as simple as that. Maybe it doesn’t matter much what I’m writing, though fiction makes me feel like I get to be in charge, and anyone who knows me knows that I like that a lot.

What do you think? What drives us to create, or specifically to write?