“The long-lived books of tomorrow are concealed somewhere amongst the so-far unpublished mss of today.”
– Philip Unwin
Today I’m going to go down a slightly different post path. As the weariness of blogs by writers becomes more and more apparent, I feel the need to talk about what I’m doing as a possible means of clearing the clutter from my brain.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my WIP. That’s a good thing because a few weeks ago all I wanted to do was leave it stuffed in a drawer. I still haven’t brought myself to edit anymore or even continue working on the sequel…but I’m feeling better about moving in that direction.
This morning I drug out my old playlist for memory triggers. One of the problems with leaving a WIP for a while is coming back to it later. Finding the same inspiration you left weeks or months before isn’t a guarantee. Listening to playlists is a sure-fire way back in for me. Granted, that doesn’t mean I’ve started writing yet. Only that I’m walking the path again.
The truth is, novels take so much emotional strength to create–and sometimes I simply run out of it. Staying in a particular mind-set for weeks on end–well, let’s just say consumption isn’t always a good thing.
So after riding that dreaded bike of mine for 10 miles this morning, my brain flooded. Without a prod or push, it flowed freely. That hasn’t happened in a long while. So here it flows, onto this page. And again, I’m being guided by that voice in my head. The one that for over a year refused to shut up. It woke up. Or maybe I did. Either way, I’m closer.
Angus & Julia Stone: Down The Way–The Devil’s Tears
Broken Bells: Broken Bells–The High Road, The Ghost Inside
Silversun Pickups: Swoon–The Royal We, Draining, Catch and Release
A Silent Film: The City That Sleeps–You Will Leave a Mark
Blue Foundation: Life of a Ghost–Stained, Enemy, Talk to Me, Watch You Sleeping, Hero Across the Sky.
Placebo: Running Up That Hill
The Fray: How to Save a Life–Look After You
Washed Out: Life of Leisure–Feel It All Around, New Theory
Temper Trap: Conditions–Sweet Disposition
Just to name a few triggers that helped to unlock the vice this morning.
The more I read, the more I question what I write. And I read a lot.
Having been a classical dancer for most of my life, injuries are second nature to me. I’m pretty good with grinning and bearing it. The best example would be spraining my ankle on stage during a performance in front of a few hundred people. I kept dancing that piece and the two pieces that followed. It’s part of the trade. Similar I would say to cutting or burning myself during a dinner rush, while working the line, on a wait. You just keep going.
Being a dancer and a chef taught me a few very valuable lessons. The most important one–Don’t Quit. I am utilizing these lessons in my writing — or trying to.
Let’s face it, writing is hard–very hard at times. And not only because the craft must be mastered, but also because of the emotion needed to create characters, worlds, dialogue and conflict. It’s a struggle.
Not at all unsimilar to struggling with say….an old knee injury. My recurrent knee injury is from many years past (the ankle is good now). I was 15 when my orthopedic doctor suggested, no , he flat-out told me, to quit dancing because of my knee. Ha! Not likely. I do remember making a sort of hyena snorting sound. I didn’t quit. It wasn’t in me to quit. After physical therapy and a few weeks on crutches (because PT was so painful I couldn’t walk out of the office on my own) I was back to my vices.
Later, running became my new source of self-inflicted pain. Due to this marvelous decision on my part, I am back in PT with the same old injury. Riding the stationary bike for miles and miles in burning pain. Yes, I’ve been here before. Me and the bike are old
Eleven miles today at 18 mph and the knee is feeling better. Honestly. Strange how something you hate can actually make you feel better at times. Like the taste of Nyquil. Gotta choke it down but in the morning, you can at least say you slept. Granted, it could be because Nyquil is like 80% alcohol–but that’s another post.
Point here–I have one–is that moving forward or not giving up is a necessary part of life. I hate that damn bike, but I’m gonna keep riding it because it helps me. I hate editing. I reallyyy do, and I hate the place I am in right now with my writing. The stuck place. Can’t move forward–can’t move backward. But I know if I keep peddling, keep pointing my toes, keep my hands away from the flames and KEEP moving straight with my writing–I will be okay.
So DON’T QUIT! My advice to myself, my advice to you. None of what we are doing here is easy. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. It just means—well, it means some of us take the long way around instead of plowing through the middle.
I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?
Let me just say it.
I’m going to be honest for a second here. I haven’t been writing much. I know! Bad Me. The truth? I’m tired of it. Not writing mind you–I’m tired of my story. Tired of messing with it, tired of editing and trying to make sure it’s where it needs to be, what I want it to be. Maybe that’s a good thing. I finally reached the ‘sick of it’ stage. The problem with this stage, — I am going nowhere.
What’s worse is that I am flirting with starting another novel seed in my plethora of ideas. I know! Bad again. I should be finishing editing #1 and releasing it into the wild. I even created decent cover art after the Gimp fiasco! I should be writing #2 in my series. I should, I should, but I CAN’T right now.
AND….I am ignoring the blog. I’m getting worse and worse at posting. No, No, I don’t need a break, I’ve had a break. What I need is to plant my butt in the chair and write.
So there. Spoiled Laney having another tantrum. Just to let you all know that yes, I’m still here. Still fussing around with 80,000 words I’ve been fussing around with for a year and a half. ;P
There is a reason I’m a writer and there is a reason I am NOT technical. So when my love meets my utter head banging confusion, I get a little….mad.
I have been messing around with this photo manipulation program for longer than I care to admit here on the blog. If you haven’t checked out one of these programs before–peruse one for a few and see what I mean. There are more tools than sense–95% of which I have no clue how to use.
When you don’t know how to use one of these programs, you have two options (well three really).
1. You Tube. Yes, I have watched the tutorials and thought aha! that’s easy, what am I complaining about!? Mmm Hmm. It’s easy to minimize the tutorial, push pause and replay a few hundred times while you go back and forth between pages. What isn’t easy is applying these techniques. I will follow tooth to nail and while the ‘expert’ shows off his newly pasted and cut lovely cover–I look up to see mine utterly destroyed. Hence, I have about 10 ‘working’ covers right now.
2. Find the User Manual. Yeah… If you can decipher one of these, I have some furniture that needs assembling.
3. And lastly, my option of choice, wing it. Just try every tool, every layer, every filter and background ……. and pray.
I’m currently using Gimp not Photoshop…not like it makes much difference in the grand scheme. Once you are beyond help, it no longer matters which program you use. I believe at the this point, my first cover may look like a toddler assembled it. Or worse….it could like this:
I came outside to write today. It’s quiet during the day–only the slight rustle of oak trees. I still feel Fall in the air–the heat doesn’t hide its approach. The different angle of the sun’s rays always gives it away. The wind has picked up slightly and leaves are beginning to rain down.
I love the coming of every season. I think it’s the change–a sense of rebirth.
I’m looking for a different angle as well and hope at times like these, that a change of scenery, and of season, will provide it. Sometimes we only need to listen to find our place again. My writing has been such a struggle of emotions over the last couple of years. So as I let myself sit here and absorb the sounds of nature, this is what I see:
Why is it that ideas flood my brain in that tiny window just before falling asleep at night? I have all day for inspiration to strike. ALL DAY. Yet, when I am trying to sleep, trying to relax my overloaded writing brain, the puzzle pieces mysteriously fit together. You know the pieces.
Then the pull happens. Do I get up and write these things down–completely disrupting my almost tranquil slumber–or do I allow sleep to overtake me and hope I remember all of these brainstorms when I wake up? There’s the dilemma.
Here’s me during the day if I get up:
Now I hear there is a special ‘light pen’ you can buy for just this compulsive purpose. Can’t see? Don’t worry–the light pen can help! No lights? No problem–the light pen shines directly on your paper in the dead of night so you can write until your heart’s content. Or…until you pass out from exhaustion.
Thanks light pen but I don’t need more incentive to get up–I need less.
I used to keep a notebook on the night stand. You know, the cardinal writing rule. A notebook by your bed, in your car, in the bathroom, whiteboard in the shower….
The problem with the night stand notebook? I don’t want to be awake at 3 AM. I want to be sleeping!
So, did I get up and write frantically? Of course I did. The puzzle pieces fit! The pieces!
Maybe I need to invest in the pen…
The leaves are already beginning to rain down. Only August, and I can feel Fall in the air. It approaches so quickly this time of year. One minute summer vacation is in full steam and the next, football season is starting and school clothes are being bought. Another year gone by. They move so fast.
My writing progress this summer has been slacking. It happens. I’m learning, or trying to learn, to be ok with that. To put less pressure on myself to ‘keep up’ with it all. It’s not been easy. I have a pile of work in front of me, work I’ve let overwhelm me, work I’m now viewing in a different light-from a different angle. I simply can’t do it all. Nor do I think I, or anyone, should be expected to.
When we sit back and look at everything we as writers are expected to do, especially with social media, it can be incredibly overwhelming.
A few of my friends are having a difficult time with their own writing journey’s right now. It breaks my heart, because I know that feeling. Really well. I’ve been in that place. Wondering why I was wasting time, wondering what I was doing. Who am I to be doing all of this, writing all the time? What if it goes nowhere? I think most of us hit that wall now and then, it’s normal. Some of us push-off the wall, others stay glued to it.
We become so focused, so embedded in our thoughts–our own heads, when we write. It’s easy to understand why throwing in the towel is an appealing option. Who needs all those headaches?
I guess that depends on who’s asking–and who’s answering.
I think a lot of very talented writers simply become overwhelmed. This industry can be too much. It can be easier to just stop. Put the laptop down, close up the notes and walk away from the desk. Close off the writing thoughts until they stop creeping in anymore. A chapter closed.
Thing is, these writers–these people, they touch other writers.
I have come to depend on certain fellow blogger/writer friends I’ve made over the course of my journey and selfishly, I want them to hang around. I want us all to see this thing through together, even if our goals and aspirations are completely different. I want to know we all did our best and tried.
So this post is to two friends in particular who are having doubts and questioning what they are doing right now and why. Two friends who have simply run out of something to say.
You know who you are. And I want you to know, that YOU inspire me. You inspire a lot of writers. So don’t go.
Sometimes, all we need is a little inspiration.
One of the pieces of advice I remember most was given by my college dance instructor,”Laney, you’re one of those dancers who has all this talent but never comes to class.” She shook her head, I remember, as if I were driving her crazy and went on to say that I could do so much with my talent if I just put the time in.
Thing was, I’d been dancing my entire life. I’d put the time in. I’d busted my ass and now all I wanted to do was show it. I wanted to perform. And so I did. I put in hours and hours of rehearsal time every week, performed a few times a year and I loved it. I wasn’t interested in going to class. I knew the drill. I was happy in the now. I was performing and performing well and wasn’t THAT the point??
For Ms. Alora, there was so much more that I was capable of. So much more I was losing out on. I was a good dancer. But in my instructors eyes, I could’ve been great. I was wasting my talent by not coming to class.
Sure I could’ve gone much further than I did. Busted my ass a little harder, hung in there a little longer. But, I was happy doing what I was doing.
Now, as I read everything under the sun in regard to publishing and honing the craft as a writer, I wonder, have I put in the time? Would my dance instructor say, “Laney, you need to keep studying. Don’t publish yet.”
After dancing for close to 16 years at the time of her first bit of advice, she still wanted more. I continued to dance for many years after that and I never forgot her words.
As I look at my completed novel, I wonder, should I study for a little longer? Bust my ass for a few more years?
Was Ms. Alora right?
I put in my time as a dancer. Years and years of it. And at the end of the day, I did what made me happy. That should count for something. When is it ok to trust that you’re on the right path for you?
No one can say whether or not I should have showed up for class more. Or that going along with what someone else thought was the right way to go–was indeed the right way. It was my way. I get to choose. And if I fail, then I fail–but at least I tried. At least I chose the road to travel–it wasn’t chosen for me.
I didn’t fail as a dancer because my path was different from what was expected–I excelled because I listened to what I thought was right.
All this second guessing surrounding the publishing industry is enough to drown new writers. Which way is up or down? Will people like my work? Will they destroy it with reviews?
But here’s the real question–Will you be happy or even content if you don’t publish your work? If it stays hidden in a drawer?
Why put in all that time and effort if you don’t plan to perform?
I mean, that’s the whole point. Isn’t it?
Am I concentrating on the right book? Are you?
I put my heart into my recent novel. My time–sooo much time–my energy and my focus, and I’ve begun the second book in the series. But I continually come back to my original novel–the one I began forever ago and walked away from. The one that is so damn hard to write. It nags at me. Throws ideas in my face and sits there all the time in my head. And I wonder if I shouldn’t bite the bullet and just write it.
If you had one chance at publication, just one, what would you want to say? Could you say it? Should you?
Not all of our book ideas wrap themselves up in neat little packages with cute bows. Some are edgy and raw. Some are hard to talk about–and harder to write.
Is there a line in the writers sand? Do Not Cross. Or do you let your story ride?
If what you need to say most, is the hardest thing to say…do you still say it?
I think so. Yeah, I think you do.
Comments, thoughts? Love to hear your views:)
I have more documents on my first WIP than I care to admit. I’d venture to guess I have around seven, at least. They all contain different information as well as the same information repeating itself. Information I am deathly afraid of losing. Why? A years worth of headaches are wrapped into those documents. First drafts and second drafts and sixth drafts. Ideas and notes and brain storms are within those docs. Plus, I have three full notebooks of notes as well.
And through all of that information and research and time and sweat, I wonder–did I use it all? Is it all in there? Inside the novel, tucked away in its pages and in its story? I don’t know if it is. I did so much in regard to my first book that it completely overwhelmed me. It was too much information. Too many ideas and I couldn’t shut it down. So really–there is NO WAY that all of those painstaking hours of doc filling and note taking made it into the final draft. Or did it?
As I have begun my second book in the series, a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders. I know where this story is going. I know my characters now, the scenes, the setting–I know my story. In the beginning, I was still fumbling through. Ideas striking all the time, waking me up in the night. Blocks that took forever for me to break through. I didn’t know where I was going, or what I was doing in the first draft. I think–I hope–I do now.
So although, every idea I had did not find a place in my final copy, all of those ideas found a place in the overall feel of the story–in the overall drive and forward motion of the story. That brain storming crazed state of mind pushed me to finish my book. All those documents and filled notebooks found their place.
They were worth saving.
I tried not to squawk or burst out laughing or stare. But as I sat quietly, my head shot up and I did stare. And I’m almost sure I shook my head, rolled my eyes and in some other way, incriminated myself, as I gawked in total disbelief at two women having conversation in the local hair salon.
I fidgeted in my chair and attempted to look normal, crossing and un-crossing my legs, wanting desperately to stand up and say: “What do you mean, you don’t read? Are you INSANE?” But I didn’t do that. No, I did what any other respectable writer would do, I yanked out my iPhone and began filling my notes app with their conversation.
“Oh gosh no, I just can’t concentrate for that long. I mean some books are 500 pages! Who has time for that?” She went on. “Really though, even if I did have the time, why would I want to read a book that long? I’ve got better things to do.”
Even if I wasn’t a writer and a voracious reader, I still would have been speechless. Seriously? Reading is a waste of time??
It got me thinking.
The perception of reading is a varied one. One that is generally learned from childhood. If you are introduced to reading in a positive way as a child, you are more likely to love reading as an adult. If not..well, you’re missing out on a truly incredible part of life.
One of the main reasons, if not the main reason I read so much, is because of my mom who ALWAYS reads. She recommends books, passes them down to me and had me reading novels at a very young age. I was taught to love books by example. And what an important example it was and continues to be. I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t have a genuine love for books.
So although it has been said before, I have to say it again, hats off to JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer for gaining an enormous wealth of young readers. Regardless of whether you are or aren’t a Harry Potter or Twilight fan, these authors both did something very special.
They got millions of kids to read. Millions. And they changed the view of reading from something kids thought was a boring waste, to something they thought was cool and important and fun.
They changed the way generations of kids view books.
And thank goodness for that because as writers we need as many readers as we can possibly get.
After wind, hail and blinding rain, we were left without power for a few hours yesterday. The sun peeked out briefly but not long enough to eliminate the need for candles. Without internet, WordPress or Twitter on my laptop I, of course, went to my iPhone.
Genius. Until I noticed it only had a 10% battery life left and no means of charging. After complaining, to myself, and feeling the heat begin to rise due to no A/C, I sat down and listened to the silence. Without the constant sounds of technology ringing in the background–I found, surprisingly, a little peace.
The stillness in the house didn’t create a flickering of candlelight, only a warm shadowed glow across the surface of my table. As I watched the shadow move slightly, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. Silence has a strange power if you just listen and let go.
I wrote with pen and paper in the candlelight and the pressure I’ve placed on myself loosened.
I complain about being stuck and unable to break this wall I’ve built around my WIP. But as I sat and wrote, I realized beating my head against the wall isn’t what this is about. We get so caught up in writing the perfect novel, short story, etc… So caught up in all that surrounds us. All the Noise. The inbox alert, the tweet alert, the phone ringing, the text alert, our blogs and Facebook accounts. It’s so much and it’s no wonder we lose our place, our concentration and…our reason for writing in the first place.
Before realizing my battery was close to dead, I sent out a few tweets from my iPhone. Complaining. Lisa Kilian, a fellow writer, blogger (and editor), tweeted me back. You can find her extremely insightful blog here: Lisa Kilian’s Blog
She said that she wished her power was out. She needed to decompress. Now I know what she meant. If we stop and hear the quiet for just a minute and re-connect with the reason we write, the weight lifts.
Writing isn’t about readers or followers. It isn’t about the number of blog hits or Facebook fans we have. Writing is about us, the writer. You. Me. We write for ourselves because we have something to say. The rest is just bells and whistles. Icing. We can’t use the icing if we haven’t baked the cake.
Let there be light.
Between the ebb and flow.
A loop of words, a hearts internal tug.
Streams of unconsciousness painting the page.
Thoughts flood, fingers stroke keys.
Such satisfaction gained from these reflection streams.
Sometimes writers block leaves me staring out the window, hearing random dialogue in my head and drawing on my notes until the margins of the paper are indecipherable. It’s an automatic shut off. I’m sure all writers have certain ticks when writers block takes hold. Certain unconscious habits. Drawing, although never unlocks my brain, definitely unlocks the strain that accompanies the frustration of feeling stuck. Running helps when I have too many thoughts that I can’t organize. And writing nonsense streams of ideas helps when I think I have nothing to say. Drawing on the other hand is this whole other door way I can walk through and feel a sense of calm. Art has had an incredible impact on my life. I have and have had many talented artists in my life, all of whom I commend for their gift and passion. I never really thought about how writing and painting or drawing related but now as I look over my pages of notes covered in fine print drawings, I realize the two are walking hand in hand in my life–that these two creative art forms have always walked side by side for me. Not sure why it took me so long to realize that. I suppose some times in life it can be hard to see what is standing right in front of you.
The rain blew in again last night and with it, another headache. The barometric pressure shifts wreak havoc on my head. Needless to say, I was awake again at 3 am. As other writers out there can I’m sure attest, laying somewhere between wake and sleep in the middle of the night, headache or not, conjures streams of dialogue, characters voices overriding your own and a general rush of random information. Needless to say, I was awake for a while. It’s still nastily grey out with glooming drizzle. Really do hate that.
Good news: I made major headway with my continually frustrating WIP, The Duck Pond. I’ve written a few posts about this novel. I’ve been trying to write it for so long, I was beginning to think maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe I was pushing too hard, trying too hard. Maybe I was too close to the subject matter. Maybe it was simply too hard to write. Then out of nowhere, the gates opened and I found my in. I finally feel like I know where I am going with it, which road to take. This novel, unlike my others, isn’t a YA work of fantasy or paranormal romance, it is YA realism. I generally stay away from realism, it just doesn’t interest me all that much in novels. This book however, is different. It’s close to my heart and although searingly hard to write, needs to be written. It has taken me years to find my way in to this WIP, to find a way to make it read like it needs to.
Ah, the streams of our imagination and how they come together at the most unexpected of times. Some days being a writer is very rewarding to the soul. Where do your inspirations come from?
It shouldn’t matter that I’ve been editing for nearly 5 months. It shouldn’t matter that I feel like there are days I get no where. It shouldn’t matter that I feel like throwing the whole thing in the trash sometimes. It shouldn’t matter that I feel like screaming. It shouldn’t matter–but it does.
It should matter that writing takes everything you have and then asks for more. It should matter when you pour your heart into something. It should matter when you love what do even if it drives you to insanity at times. When you write…it all matters, there are just different levels of matter.