blindfolded in a sea of notebooks

It’s been weird by me. To say I’m in a mood, or a weird phase sums it up mostly. Nothing really terrible is happening. My life is good. I’m lucky. I’ve been in a writing funk, that’s all.  Actually, a lot of good things are in the works. Maybe it’s waiting. I’m not sure. Being humbled is part of the writing gig. I’ve been humbled, but I’m on the trail while being humbled. The not thinking of something really gets under my skin.

Ideas are everything.

It has been eight days without a cigarette, and I’m knee-deep in revisions. Something I have trouble with is the “not writing’ part of the process. Dumping random thoughts into journals helps to discover clues and details. Not knowing how to fix issues gnaws at my feet. Slowly but surely I’m finding answers.

I’ve realized I’ve been reacting lately—the past year or two really. It’s almost the end of my youngest’s first-grade year. When he started kindergarten, I started writing full time without having a clue as to what to expect even though I thought I did. It is very different than part-time writing. Writing as the main gig is hard. I love it. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else if I’m being honest. Sure, there are moments where I imagine opening a bakery or being a dog trainer. But I always come to my words and my goals in the literary world. It’s a slow game, one that requires thick skin, obsession, and passion. Being stubborn helps too.

The same month we entered that different phase in our family, both kids in school and my full-time writing, my best friend died, and I plummeted myself into an emotional YA contemporary until I was done which happened 95,000 words or so later. This still sits in a drawer. Fantasy is more my bag, and that was a pile of mess and emotions and processing thoughts, that maybe one day I’ll dig up. Then my small publisher closed and my published book and my schedule to release one disappeared like vapor for a hot second. I’ve been hacking away since then, making minor successes and learning as I stumble and make mistakes. I am learning a whole heck of a lot and good news for me I’m stubborn as hell. I couldn’t do this without it. At some point I stopped bouncing from project to project and became obsessed with world building and this big huge concept. That is where I still am. I can’t blink my eyes and be onto the next step. This is where I am. Listening, hunting, finding, and fixing.

So that’s a long way of saying my current status is eight days without smokes and wandering the jungle path of revisions, tracking and solving problem by problem while I do my best to have fun with it all and remember I’m lucky. It’s too easy to get caught up in the harsher notes. Listening to the softer sound is a neater rhythm. I’m learning to deal with things as they arise, so they don’t build panic like wet sneakers grow mold in the back of my coat closet.

Today was one of my most productive writing days in over a month. I got a lot figured out and down on paper. Looking at all angles is hard but necessary.
Some days are chipping away at an iceberg with a fork, and others are like setting your fingers of fire, but instead of flame, it’s words.
Can’t have one without the other.

heroes and holes to different realms

I think about Alice in Wonderland a lot. Leather bound and aged. Aside from the story being one of the first I can point to for having opened the literary realms to me, the meaning of the story and feeling it gives me adds to my daily thoughts. Seeds and caterpillars. Dreams and age. Creatures and villains.

The hero’s story is one of change and purpose. An often grabbed trope in this arc is the loss of innocence. It is something we all go through. The journey through fallen dreams and life-hardened perspectives aren’t possible without it.

The manuscript that is being edited right now was a trip I enjoyed so much I decided it had to be a series. A world I want to stay in. The project out of my hands leaves a sour hole in my chest. Something I need to fill. I’m someone that has to have something to obsess over—ideas to hobble together. Drafting the second while the first one fed through the grinder didn’t seem like something I could do at the moment. Juggling fire on a tight rope blindfolded. At least one eye. But like ideas and gardens and stewing plots, I had projects and characters on the back burner. I pumped out three short stories. These were swirling around for a good while. They came right out. Cleaned up nicely and off they went.

“Okay,” I told myself. “It’s time to dive into the manuscript concept burning a whole in your back pocket.”

Because it has been trying to come out for years in different ways. I found the story and what the characters were doing. I sat down.

Nothing.

Some words.

Five different tries.

Feeling nothing. Oh wait, panic, that’s right.

I don’t know how you guys are with ideas. But, they feel like my air. When I can’t grab one I ask myself, “Was that it? Is that all I have? Am I tapped out?”

One thing that I am learning right now—something I should have probably known already but didn’t look at it as it stood in the corner pointing at me—writing sometimes means not writing.

Sometimes wandering and living and walking nowhere is how you write, how I write. Getting lost to find things. It’s hard for me not to work. I have yet to reach my career goals so most of the time it feels impossible to justify not working. But working means different things. I’ve been lucky the last nine months. I’ve been flush with ideas and energy to pump it out.
I spent four days not writing, it felt like torture, but now I have the format and voice I was looking for.
I’ve heard so many writers say, “The path to every book is different,” I can’t even count. Like so many sayings that are used too often, they lose their weight, but they exist for good reason. Every path is different. Each story has a rhythm, their own beat, and heart and blood.
So, yes, my mind is in a better spot right now. I’m getting into the groove with this book, but I’m not diving so deep in just yet. Edits for my other project will be dropping in any day. Then these ideas will wiggle and work stuff out in the background while I go through the edits.
Part of me is excited to get them back and eager to get my fingers in there and get dirty. But, I’m also nervous—before-you-get-on-a-really-loopy-rollercoaster nervous. I’m not sure what to expect. I have an idea, maybe. Guesses. The unknown is always intriguing to ponder.
The dance between liking and loathing lack of control.
I think that wraps this up, for now, I’ve gone on long enough. I’d like to sink my teeth into some drafting this strange, scary, and heartbreaking new project before my stomach and brain demands lunch.

Wednesday Morning

I like the idea of writing a blog post every day. I don’t do it. There is a good possibility it would help me keep a clearer head. Perhaps that isn’t pain I need to inflict on you fine readers….

Well, yes I’m writing a post which means, I am at my computer trying to draft, and it isn’t clicking. I don’t believe there is such thing as writer’s block. It’s a farce. A legend. In the way of the unicorn. But there are things that can hinder the flow.

Obscured vision: I have to ask myself, “Why are you writing this scene?”

Focus: Am I giving myself an opportunity to create or am I pacing back and forth thinking about all that I’m doing wrong?

Hunger: Self-care is important. Meals. Exercise. Breaks. It’s nuts, but I swear when I’m swamped those are the first things to go. *Writes “take shower” on list of things to do.*

I ate brownies at 11:30 last night as I stood over my computer staring at my story map. Not a great decision. My dreams were weird. This entire concept is hard and dark and a little twisted. I woke up grumpy and clogged. So I am trying to work it out so I can put a respectable count to my day.

There is something about starting this new project that has my bonnet wrapped in bees. This is a concept I’ve had on the back burner for eight months. The ideas and want are there. When I actually work in it, words comes out. I have a good sense of where it’s going and the tone. Part of my mind keeps wandering over to the manuscript that’s in editing and its future. What will the notes be when I get it back? How close was I? How far? But, I have to get better at blocking that out. Being a working writer means writing, a lot—acting like a professional. (Another skill I’m learning as I go.) So that’s what I’m doing. I’m building, and it will come. It is coming. There is so much on the horizon, but on this Wednesday morning, I do not love all of it. I’m angsty and grumpy and feel like there is an elephant I can’t see.

I am going on a walk with my dogs then I’m sitting my butt down without distractions and working. It’s a simple as that.

Wish me luck. I wish you luck, And, as always thanks for listening to me ramble, rant, and complain.

tools in the mind box

To control the mind’s path.

This means more than one thing to me. I juggle handling my mind, pretty much every day. Creating a story is a way to control the mind—willing a story into existence with a string of thoughts—to make something extraordinary out of nothing. Learning how to tap into the creative part of my brain is another method of control I attempt.

Focus comes easier some days than others. The thing I learned about how to keep focused, is that I need to be obsessed. If I am lukewarm about a project or idea, it doesn’t happen. I write because I have to and thus made into my career.

Self-doubt, worry—all that negative shit that creeps in, really is always there, can be useful. Whether I’m chasing down a plot or waiting to hear back. Controlling what I do with those feeling and thoughts is the decision of what I do with the negativity. Imperfections and insecurities can be wielded for good or bad.

I’m not so much thinking out loud to get my juices flowing, though I am doing that but for all those of you who create, you know, it get’s weird.

I love what I do. Wouldn’t do anything else. But, sometimes, like last week, I’m just wasn’t hitting the ground feeling it. I had to court myself, ease myself into a mood. Today I’m relaxed and happy all my wheels are going in the direction I want them. Peace should come from inside, but recognition of hard work done well helps too.

It feels good to be grinding away.

One thing I’m finding critical? Holding myself accountable to finish something. I was waist deep in partial short stories. I had some rough drafts, sketched ideas, and ones that are more than ready to be sent on their way. Last week was my first week without a large project in my hands, so it was high time to tackle the seedlings and submit them. I’m halfway through that list. Another manuscript that has been on hold for months while I worked on the high fantasy rewrite. I’m going to break ground on it some time this week. It will be helpful to have something large to obsess about while edits on the other project take its course.
It looks like I started using this post to organize my thoughts on the week’s work. Goals and ideas of directions make all the difference. It’s tomatoes or beef, you know?

Maybe my ridiculous rambling helps you shake a few thoughts loose. It is leaning into the abstract that often leads to finding the clear lines on which to draw.

-J

a pen in each hand

Putting down the first word is often the hardest. To make the jump in and start that sentence has me dancing in the space between creating and pulling my hair out some days. Others are like my fingers are on fire with all the thoughts running through my head.

The first day back to work is always like this for me—which is today. I get nervous to sit down and lose myself in my own head. There is always a way in through the nerves and first word. Remembering that words only need to be present in order to be be fixed, helps.

In early January, I learned that the dystopian I had bled over was close, but the manuscript wasn’t quite “sell-ready.” I received great feedback and ideas, but the taste of “almost” brewed something new in me. My hunger became like a newborn vampire’s thirst. (Twilight reference.)

I spent a few weeks not looking at it, knowing I would fix it but only when I knew how. After soaking my hair in red dye, reading a towering stack of Image comics, and revisiting my go-to writing books (pretty much every one written by Chuck Wendig), I was ready.

I put everything I could down (podcast, other projects, chores) and allowed myself to fall into the story and the characters. I knew I had stuff I could keep and I knew the arrangement was off. Finding the story is like climbing out of an onion. One of Wendig’s “List’s of 25” made the visual of climbing out of an onion really stick.

Ten colored pens and a five subject notebook were purchased. I reread the manuscript, didn’t touch a thing, and took a disgusting amount of notes both inside the document and on paper. Some notes were ideas of what could be better or where scenes should move. Others were meaner. Once I was through it, I put it away again.

I am stubborn and obsessive—two things I consider some of my most valuable tools for the trade. I wanted to be very purposeful with how I bulldogged this. While I was feeding the crows and thinking about a short story in the works, exactly what I needed to do hit me like the realization I ate too many Girl Scout cookies. You know that heavy, sinking gut clenching sensation under your belly button? Yeah, just like that.

My ideas caused the dystopian to transform into high fantasy, and third person would become first. So, part of me wanted to tell myself no. The small, shrill voice said, “You are way off.” “Crazy.” “Trying to sabotage yourself.”

But, I didn’t listen to the voices or the doubt. I started a new document and rewrote the whole damn thing, keeping only 35,000 of the 120,00 words. I worked harder in the last four months than I had ever before. Which, is saying a lot because hard work is my favorite hobby.

Research.

Notes.

Layering.

Foreshadowing.

All of it.

I kept listening to my gut and ignoring the less productive trains of thought. When I handed it over to my editor the Friday before last, I felt like I was delivering my best foot. Now, I wait to hear back. It’s a battle to not worry about it or think about what needs fixing.

My kids had spring break last week. All the adventuring and quality time took my head out of the fantasy world I created and put it back into my very pleasant reality. It was nice. Coming back to my chair and career wrangling made me nervous, but I’m happy to be back. If this were easy, I would have lost interest years ago.

This post has helped me get my fingers and mind moving, so I thank you for that. I’m going to tinker with a pile of short stories that I had going before the rewrite took my brain to places I didn’t know I was capable of going.

So, yeah. Here we are.

-J

Worlds, words, and more.

Photo by Shane Leonard.png I have one of my new favorite writers on the show today. Kat Howard is quite the wordsmith. I started reading her short stories which you definitely go check out. If you go to her site you can find them there. Her stories led me to her recent release Roses and Rot. Wow! I really love this book. It hits home in some ways but it also just mystified me. It’s one those stories where every line is tight and beautiful and the story stays with you after you read it.

Due to my inability to stop dissecting a character last night, horribly cliche dreams about being  hired to hunt myself, and my cat’s need to eat at 3 o’clock in the morning I did not sleep well. I’m making gradual strides to rid my zombie persona as the day carries on.

First off, I’m going to tell you all to go to the comic shop because there are awesome titles you should treat yourself to. I talked about Ladycastle last week. Delilah S. Dawson does an amazing job and it is officially out in stores out from Boom Studios. Vertigo/DC’s Lucifer is now in Richard Kadrey’s hands. Issue 14 is fun and dark and I love it. So it’s worth the grab for sure. Of course if you aren’t reading Monstress yet you should start. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda hit it through the moon. It’s dark and enchanting.

Next week I have Charlie Stross on the show. Then after that the show will be going on a hiatus for a bit while I bury myself in this massive rewrite. It was hard for me to decide to put the show on hold but my mind needs to be fully focused. I will for sure post dates and details when I have them. I appreciate all your support and patience.

Here are the links for Episode 49:

 

Talking to Myke Cole

e48mykecole
I have Myke Cole on Too Many Words talking about writing, process and his role on CBS’s new reality series Hunted. It was great talking to him. Passing television recommendations back and forth is always fun.
Before Myke comes on, I talk about my current challenges with writing and the awesomeness of Delilah S. Dawson‘s new comic LADYCASTLE.
Make it happen!
iTunes: https://goo.gl/EGp1e8
Stitcher: https://goo.gl/YmXHpf
Google Play: https://goo.gl/wqwiCr

This episode is sponsored by Turn the Page Editing and LuLaRoe Rebecca Clark VIP