Fall is approaching. The kids are back in school. My house is quiet. Cinnamon is suddenly more appealing. Our planet seems to be crumbling down around us. I spent the summer writing scenes that never needed to exist for the story I was telling because I thought I was writing another one. I discovered the amazing world of paleo-style cooking in a nobel attempt to be healthier and have a hobby outside of words. I’m currently sitting at my desk ready to crank out some smaller pieces in hopes of earning modest piles of cash. It’s been too long since the last blog post, nerves were starting to climb my legs, so I popped over here to write this. The moment my fingers hit the keys my mind started jumping all over like a confused frog with no tongue.
I’ve learned so much in the last eight or so months. I did it with crash-course grace, and my head is still spinning on its side. I made so many mistakes with my latest project—the one that I’ve been obsessing over and nothing else. (Part of the problem, btw.) I know what you are thinking. “It’s all part of it.” “Probably not as bad as you think.” “That’s what editing is for.”
No, really. I broke it. For now. I wasn’t listening to the character’s true voice and allowed my goals to distract me. The first moment I started the project till right before I finally listened to myself, was a continuous and reactionary series of events. I walked away for its own good. This was a hard thing to swallow. Really hard. Making mistakes is sometimes the best way to learn. My husband always says to the kids, “If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t growing.” So, I guess I grew up a lot over the last year.
As a parent I watch my kids slip in and out of these developmental phases. There is nothing like children to remind you of how temporary life is. Oh so humbling. I so seldom pay attention to my cycles of learning and moods. If you are only a little familiar with me, you know my love for Alice in Wonderland. The story is so much more than children’s fantasy. It’s a story about growing up and how our environment messes with us as we go. We have choices, and they have consequences. It’s a metaphor for life, for writing a story, and periods of time that have more of an impact than others. Lost innocence is the place we all visit at some point. Wonderland can symbolize many things, but sometimes I think of it as a representation of a phase. The thing about life? ‘Our now’ feels forever. For me, it’s those milestone birthdays or the realization of how old Moe the cat is that really shows me all that’s changed. This summer that just soared by was on the other side of a door in a hole. I’ve been chasing this project for the last eight months (or more) that didn’t want to be chased. There is a story there, one I have to tell, but my mind is on other projects that are ready for me now. Sometimes a story has to wait. It hurts, and it always sucks. I trust that my path with lead back to it.
As disappointed as I am that my WIP and I need some time apart, I am equally excited about all the short fiction I have in the works, essays of thoughts, working with Rebecca Clark on The Shadow Bearers again, and another wave of Too Many Words Episodes. (More info on all that soon.) The words will find me, as they will find you.
I wrap this up with:
Keep the critic in your pocket, listen to your gut, and have fun tormenting your characters that all want something.
Character, something we can have and what we are as individuals. Some more than others. The quirky, witty sidekick softens the hard front-runner. The insecure and flawed villain makes us do more than simply hate them. The smiling stranger somehow soothes the rush of grocery store anger. Creating a character that thinks and feels and bleeds and grows, is an exercise in sleepless obsession.
And so the frenetic spiral of passion and creating begins. The hero. The villain. The conflict. The quest. These early stages of story building are some of my most favorite aspects of the whole deal and the first for me to become familiar with on my writing journey. The spark of a personality, the lines of the face. Knowing what ideas to take further isn’t always clear, and if it becomes so, it is usually after sitting down and writing it at least once. Every word written is a lot like a pebble tossed into a pond. Ripples form, they glide into others and create something brand new. Words help find ideas. Anything can slip out if you just write.
This is hard for me. My brain likes to collect every possibility and burden and task item and try to think about it all it once. My chest tightens, and I am far from a creative place. I’m learning to get into a rhythm and when to listen to the change needed. Writing and living life as a writer is in itself a living organization. Something that changes and morphs and grows. Knowing this and accepting, helps everything.
Writing full-time isn’t how I imagined when I was a kid and proclaimed to be a great author someday. Some moments are dull and frustrating; some even feel pointless.
Dogs huddle near my side asking for their walk. Laundry piles build walls, locking us into my home office. My fingers idle above the keys. Notebooks are open. Ideas aren’t coming, and I question all my life decisions up to that point.
A similar scene:
A great, long walk with the dogs. Laundry all folded and where it belongs. Ideas are flowing, slow and steady. I’m having fun.
The main difference between the two here is perspective. Perspective is powerful. It alters the story, the taste, the sheen.
Is anyone going to figure out what’s wrong with a character arc if all they are doing is telling themselves that they can’t? (Yes, I’m talking about myself last week.)
The answer is no.
I made a lot of missteps on this draft, and once they are pointed out, they scream. It took a minute for me to digest the issues, find them, and now I’m piecing together how to fix it. Word by word, I’m mending and tightening and all the good stuff.
There is no reason why this shouldn’t be fun. The fine-tuning of fantasy world can be like ripping your hair out with hot tweezers, or it can be like riding bareback on a unicorn through a forest of talking trees. Fun and wonder can be found everywhere. That’s why I love reading and writing.
I get caught up in cycles where I fret and worry too much about the outcome and clean floors and forget how to enjoy. I think focusing on the good is something we can all do more. Not just writers or artists, but people, us humans. Having our backs isn’t us fooling ourselves.
There is so much upheaval and reaction. Slowing down and take a whiff of our surroundings helps. I’m talking to myself and to you and possibly to the angry dude with the ignorant sign by the baseball stadium. Self-awareness is an important tool. We should all use it.
Perhaps I went off the path a bit, but I don’t think so. The character’s path isn’t a clear, straight shot. Remember that as a writer and as a human. I have to. Complexity and twists out of our control. Emotions and logic. These are natural occurrences and ones that generate conflict. A sum up of that I am saying?
Have fun writing characters and the world that they live in—both in the fictional world and the real one.
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.