present mind, writing hands

As I sat down to write the post I thought, “This is great. I need to do this every day. I need to make time for writing outside of my fiction projects.” Other random, obscured thoughts circled my mind in a series that eventually formed some sort of long drawn out idea or concept. One after another like a flip book of procrastination. All my mind wandering halted when I released I wasn’t writing anything down. I also do this when I’m drafting. Think, and not write. I’m forward not present.

I talk a lot on Too Many Words about listening to the gut whisper and how part of knowing your process is understanding how every day it’s a little or completely different from the day before. Thinking and writing usually means one of three things.

  1. I haven’t given myself enough backtrack thinking.
  2. Free writing is necessary.  -OR-
  3. I need scribble down the arc for a short that won’t be quiet.
  4. Lunch is necessary.

The common thread between all three is that I need to be doing something other than what I can’t help but stare at. Even switching from computer to notebook helps. Hell, it’s the last day of NaNoWriMo and I completed my 50,000 words. Actually, I got to 52,010 words but who’s counting?

Isn’t that point?

Yes, and no.

Everyone who sets out to do NaNoWriMo has there own reason, even if it’s just the comradery of committing to write 50,000 words in one month with a collection of writers all around the world. I like that feeling. I needed that boost to get me working on this incredibly intimating, dragon-sized rewrite. Now as we enter December I am nearing the midpoint of the project and I am just gonna keep going until this phase is at an end.

My life feels too full lately (or always). We as a family unit are operating at faster frequency, with two kids in elementary school and activities they want to try ontop of both me and my husband working. (Something many juggle.) It’s tough for me to see either of my kids have a stressful time. At the end of the day my main goal as parents is that my children feel supported. I remember how hard school was. Gosh, I barely made it out. But I do best to be present when they are, to give them a steady backing because not having one as a kid made everything harder. So when I sit to write, to work, I think of it as for me, because  I love and need it. I do not treat it like the blistering, humbling hell it sometimes feels like.

It’s tricky balancing life and work and family and self and breathing. I am still working and grinding toward my goals so when I look at a day where I wasn’t as productive as I’d like to be or ended up needing to do a whole bunch of things I didn’t count for in my 2 am planning it can feel impossible to accept all I did do. It’s hard to see accomplishment when it’s this gradual, forever process of building a writing career, of writing a book, of revising. Whatever, sometimes it just doesn’t jive or flow or really I just need an apple and a walk to smooth the thoughts out. Stepping away feels like the worst thing in the world because it feels like failure.

Repeat after me, “Taking care of yourself isn’t failing.”

As I have mentioned on Too Many Words recently, I’ve been managing my anxiety disorder. I have known that anxiety is dragon I have to tame. I’ve had panic attacks when I was a teenager. Socially, forget about it. But over the last year and a half, my anxiety built a mega city and now I need to practice tools and exhaust myself with yoga so I don’t chew on my leg like a dog that needs a walk. I have been practicing yoga most mornings before the house is awake. I push myself and breath and am gradually working up to a handstand (I’m close) One of the schools of yoga is Hatha. Which is basically holding different positions. One after the other until you’re sweating, tingly, and you’ve forgotten what’s plaguing you because you’re tired and starving.

When I am doing a side plank with my knee to my nose all I am thinking about is not pulling a muscle I didn’t know I had. I am breathing through it. I know what my stomach is doing. Every muscle holding me up is at the forefront of the mind. Once I settled into the moment, once I’ve mastered it, then it’s time for the next position. (Warrior 3 is my favorite.)
I’m not telling you to do yoga but the act of fully being present and then repeating it with different positions is a lot like the mind needed for drafting. Ease back on the toes. Write down character’s nagging motivation. Pull in the navel. Fold into the scene. Find out what’s important. Lower back pinches so you ease forward. Your hand is on your calve instead of the floor. Switch voices. Jot that idea down and then come back.

It’s all a dance. All of it.
As I come to the end of this post I have the element I was missing for a scene I planned on writing. So I’m gonna get on that.
As always thanks for reading.

-J

maybe try this…

I like to think of writing as a ‘gut’ business. Books are personal at the core, so emotional inspiration or interest is part of it—just a level, but still important. One slice of cheddar cheese makes all the difference in a ham sandwich. Following my gut is how I solve problems in the arcs, know when ideas or worth something, and on and on.

The problem is, the inner-critic sometimes gets in the way of gut listening. Something I am working on. I had some dancing with my demons while I reread my current work in progress and wrote a reverse outline to track plot lines and beats all while keeping other feedback in mind. I had multiple unhelpful voices coming in and telling me any shred of an idea I had was no good. I’m not sure if this is just the way it has to be. I have to feel desperate in order to have ideas. I don’t know, nor do I know where today went. It’s been a sea of notes and ideas and outlining and panic since around 9 am.

I am feeling confident that I’m on the right track. These issues are being solved just as they should be, one at a time. Putting a story together in a new world is a puzzle. Every piece adds up, but in this case, some of the pieces are never seen.

Sometimes it’s daunting to think of all the pieces at once. It isn’t helpful to try and swallow all of it—a dance that happens in steps. That speaks to a lot of phases in the process. I am still figuring all this out as I go and still trying to achieve my goals so I wouldn’t take this writing advice and theories to heart because I am just trying to figure it out. One thing I am damn certain of is words shake other words free. So I am dumping some thoughts out to find the words I need, and maybe my words will poke at some words or hope you need. Who knows?

It is all too easy to get caught up in the desperate need to create and share and publish when the focus at the moment should be the experience of creating. It really is an amazing thing, especially when it flows. The act of forming a spell or a creature is a thrill.

I guess I will end this rant by concluding with, savor the small moments and enjoy the ride.

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.

Talking to Myke Cole

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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

Adam Silvera and History Is All You Left Me

adam promo.png

First episode of 2017 starts with a bang. Adam Silvera is the New York Times bestselling author of MORE HAPPY THAN NOT. He is on the show talking about his brand new release HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME. Adam gets into the journey of creating it, hurtles he had to get through, and upcoming tour dates. Before Adam comes on, I talk 2017 and Apex Publication‘s recent anthology, UPSIDE DOWN.

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

Listen. Share. Subscribe.

iTunes: https://goo.gl/XOWMcE
Stitcher: https://goo.gl/3Ho6XG
Google Play: https://goo.gl/5Ho3zN

Writing and The Vulnerable Mind

Episode 46 Promo.pngToday I have New York Times Best Selling Author, Richard Kadrey back on the show talking about the writing process, juggling projects, the importance of listening to instincts and learning to trust yourself. We get into the power of pen and paper, and leaning into the story’s flow. Richard talks about writing DC/Vertigo’s Lucifer and the upcoming Sandman Slim film. Richard and I also talk about the impact of finishing big projects and the vulnerable mind.
I had a great time talking to him! I hope you enjoy!
 
 
This episode is sponsored by LuLaRoe Rebecca Clark VIP. 

Reality: new projects while waiting to hear

“Go for broke,” is one of my favorite sayings. One I keep close to the lip, a tool I use as I build my writing career. It’s Monday after Thanksgiving, after a week off, and I’m feeling more than a little strange. I started my time off completely zapped. I had never worked harder. The late summer well into November were so intense. I feel like a different person coming out of it. Finishing that book transformed into a rabid obsession that fueled all of me. The first two days off I still found myself drifting toward my computer trying to figure out different concepts (now it’s time to write another one) and ways to will my goals into a successful reality—which for some reason translates into checking Twitter too much. Once my family came into town, my mind left my work worries and remained in the warm present. It was a truly wonderful Thanksgiving that left an afterglow for the majority of the holiday weekend. As Sunday crept past my anxiety grew.

The project I’ve been referring to both here and on Too Many Words as my dystopian series has been consuming most of my brain. I had no idea how obsessed and wound tight I was until I stepped away. Funny how that works. Perception is the greatest of all powers to wield, I think. I sent out a bunch of pitches before the break, and now I’m off to start new projects I’ve lined up. I was in bed last night anxious about getting back to work and unable to get right to sleep. Not something I was anticipating. I just stared out the window at the wind-grappled trees trying to find a peaceful mindset to attack the next few weeks with, then eventually, I faded out. My dreams were a combination of rejection letters and zombie attacks. To want something so bad is a feat to hold all its own.

Monday morning started like most. My alarm went off at six. I sat on the sofa with coffee and a copy of Rune of the Apprentice by Jamison Stone. Then the mad dash of breakfast, packing lunches, and making sure my children are remotely put together enough to send out into the world for six hours. While I walked my dogs, I took the long route and strode as slowly as I could.

I sat down at my desk and opened my inbox for the first time in five days to find the first ‘pass’ from an agent on this project. It took some time to let that roll off my shoulders. “No’s” always come before “Yes’s” and I’m really confident in this project and in its ability to sell. I just have to hang in there and busy myself with my next projects. Gotta keep writing. Create. Pitch. Create. It goes on and on. This is the gig. After that I settled into an awesome planning session with Rebecca Clark about our next steps with the Shadow Bearers. Then before I could settle into anything real, I felt a need to vent, to think out loud. Sometimes to write one must clear out the junk first. So basically I just spent the last few hundred words thinking out loud about what I’m trying to process. Sharing my junk with you.

I’m in a new phase. My head needs to remain in the game. Now, I need to put a game face on and sell some articles.

Thanks for listening to my nonsense.

-J