This Is Just How It Goes Sometimes

It’s always good to hear from writers when things are going well: when a project has been picked up or published, when momentum is strong and daily word count is high, when there’s sage wisdom to impart. These posts give all of the rest of us hope that we’re not wasting our lives (and advice about what to do when we’re banging our heads on the desk, feeling like we are). These posts are necessary.

Also necessary are the posts that say, “Hey, writing is awesome. It comes with some great rewards, but a lot of the time it’s more like this.” Well…

Hey, writing is awesome. It comes with some great rewards, but a lot of the time it’s more like this:

Let’s talk about those works in progress.

I wasn’t quite done with 13 Morbid Tales when I started keeping notes for a novel. In fact, I often had to remind myself to focus on the task at hand; 13MT had a deadline and the novel did not. Nevertheless, I was chomping at the bit to start typing away at my new—clearly brilliant—idea. So, with 13MT finally finished and out, I sat down and began working on this wonderful new project…

…and it was just bad. It was hackwork wrapped in cliché, skipping down Redundancy Road. I put it aside until I could bring something new and fresh to the table and went back to the drawing board.

It was as if the new idea was already there. It was so much better, so much darker, than the dreck I’d just put aside. Chapter one flowed from my brain through my fingers to the page in record time. This was it! I was on fire! I was telling everybody about it!

Guess how long the cursor has been sitting on the first page of chapter two. Actually, no. Don’t. It’s embarrassing. Also, I think I hate chapter one. “It is not going well, friend. It is not going well,” I answered when a friend asked. I do, however, have some great notes—for a third freaking novel. Yeah.

I’m seriously starting to think that I have a fear of commitment when it comes to writing novels.

Let’s talk about that job search.

I’m still in pursuit of a full time writing job: firing off resumes, applications, and cover letters. In some instances, I’m taking writing tests. Now, I like writing tests. Writing tests are good. They keep me sharp and, since it was literally illegal for me to retain samples from my last writing job, they give me a chance to prove myself in the face of my relatively slim portfolio.

Keeping that in mind, it makes it sting all the more when the writing test doesn’t result in further interviews. I get that job hunts as a whole are full of rejection, hundreds of people applying for the same job. I get that the writing life as a whole is full of rejection, hundreds of manuscripts on the same desk. But holy crow! Combine the two, it’s like Rejection-palooza over here.

I can remind myself that, this is just how it goes sometimes, all day long. Eventually, the doubt sets in and I ask myself why in the world I chose to be a writer. Then I remember that thing I’ve said many times before and will say many times again, “I did not choose the writing life. The writing life chose me.”

And in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A Writer’s Funk: Writing Plenty, Producing Nothing

I have not forsaken the blogosphere. Normally I would blame my absence on the Muses forsaking me, but that’s not even true. I’m in one of those funks.  This particular funk is the no-matter-how-I-write-it-it-looks-like-crap-to-me funk.

Generally, I try to say something profound or at least remotely helpful in my blog. Taking a step back to consider that only posting when things work might be a misrepresentation of the writing life, I decided to post about what’s going on now—the time when nothing at all seems to work.

Gah

That moment when it gets really tempting to say, “Screw this shit! It’s whiskey o’clock!”

I have a couple of undone blog entries and an almost-finished short story for my project 13 Morbid Tales sitting on my laptop.

The blogs are being hindered by two pesky little demons: the Nobody Wants to Read That demon, and his bitchy associate, the What Will They Think of You demon.  The former whispers, “Seriously, who on Earth really gives a crap about that? The few who might have had similar experiences, so you’re not exactly enlightening anyone.” Meanwhile, the latter whispers, “What? You want the whole world to think you’re a wack-job, in addition to the few who know you well enough to know you’re a wack-job?”  Posting this is kind of my way of telling both demons to f*ck off. Hopefully it works, and you’ll see these posts soon.

The short story is another issue entirely. It has, in my opinion, everything a short story of its nature should have, except for that whole being finished thing.  It started with a loose outline, and of course, as the story started taking shape, it evolved well past the outline. Great! It should have done so. I had momentum.  I had direction. Well, I still have direction, but suddenly no momentum.  Every paragraph I write reads back to me a little something like this:

Blah, blah…Is that even a word?…Blah, blah…Bad segue…Blah, blah…Sentence I really like…Blah, blah, blah, blah…and, oh yeah—blah!

A friend and fellow wordsmith once advised me against doing the “writerly” thing, which, in that particular case, meant reworking a whole paragraph over and over to no avail just because I was too in love with the one sentence that was screwing it up to remove it.  Realizing how great that advice was after I took the troublesome sentence out (because I ended up with a great paragraph), I placed it in the great advice file in my memory bank to be revisited any time I saw myself in a similar situation.  Well, you know what I read after I took out that great sentence? Exactly the same as above minus the “sentence I really like” part! So I scrapped the shit. And by that I mean I scrapped the paragraph, not the story. The story is good.

So, for half a second, I decided to turn to free-writing exercises to help unclog whatever has been stopping me up. But that idea was shot to hell by my own screaming at myself to, for the love of Pete, focus on the task at hand!

Gah!

There is no conclusion to this post. No great pearl of wisdom. Hell, there isn’t even a plastic Mardi Gras bead of wisdom. Just know that I’ve not abandoned you. I’ve been keeping up with the reading of posts, even if I don’t comment, ’cause God(ess) knows, I haven’t even been able to write a good one of those lately!

Random Thoughts About Writing

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been absent from my blog for quite some time again lately.  This is not actually for lack of trying.  Pages of illegible scribbles in my notebook, numerous one-paragraph-long Word documents, and emails to myself (because sometimes inspiration strikes me at the day job, and a “remember this idea” email is the best I can do at the time), will all prove otherwise.  But not one thought materialized into what I would call a publishable blog.  This happens to me a lot.  It’s my thinkin’ ’bout stuff phase.  But I know if I don’t write something, I’ll just sit and think myself to death.  So I bring you…

Random Thoughts About Writing

1. Technical writing is not the same as writing writing.

To translate my thought for those lucky enough not to be living in my brain: Technical writing is not the same as creative writing.

Well, duh!

Some of you may know that I’m a technical writer as a day gig.  On a good day, I really like it.  On a so-so day, I tolerate it.  On a bad day, well…On the chance that someone from the place that puts food on my table is reading this, I’ll refrain from writing how I feel on the bad days. This, by the way, is not how tech writing is different from creative writing.  I have good, mediocre, and bad days with that too.  In fact, I’ve most likely had worse days with creative writing than I have tech writing. After all, I haven’t been collapsed on the floor sobbing about how badly I suck and how no one in their right mind should ever read or publish my atrocious work at the office yet.

One of the biggest differences between creative writing and technical writing (besides the obvious ones, of course), is how foreign technical writing still feels to me sometimes. While I’ve picked it up quickly—as it turns out, every time I’ve written “Proven ability to adapt to new editorial styles quickly and efficiently” on a cover letter, I wasn’t just talking myself up—it sometimes feels like I’m playing in a world I don’t fully grasp.  The best way I can think of to describe it is buying a shirt that says “yacht club” from the $5 rack at Wal-Mart. I can look the part.  I can play the part.  And I’m very good at my job.  But some part of me will always know that I’m a great big poser where technical writing is concerned.  It just isn’t my world.

2. Am I too rebellious to be a successful writer?

Some of you may be looking at that thought and asking yourself, “WTF?”  But stick with me.

I’ve always loved reading. I read all the time.  I think back to high school when, yes, I read all the time—just not necessarily what was assigned. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the literature I was assigned. It’s that it was assigned in the first place. I was told to do it, and so I did it grudgingly at best. At worst, I refused with the panache that only a poor, put-upon teen can muster.

Now I’m a grown-up and so I follow the rules because I’ve worked too hard and have too much to lose not to, but in a lot of ways, I’m still like that teenager I once was. Tell me not to do something; you best believe that’s all I’m going to want to do. Order me to do that very same thing; it’s the last thing I’m going to want to do. (Just so you know, asking nicely goes a long way with me.)

I, like most struggling writers (and what I mean by “struggling” here is that we still need day jobs and probably will for a very long time), dream of the day when my job is simply to write.  But what happens if and when that day comes?  What happens when I’m given a deadline to write precisely the stuff I like to write, and told to just do it? Will I still love writing as much as I claim to? Will I wake up in the morning excited for my day, or will I come to hate it simply because it’s what I’ve been told to do?

For the record, I’m pretty certain I’d still love it in spite of my rebellious nature, but since this thought kept me awake one night, it was worth addressing.

3. What in the hell kind of god am I?

“Whoa! WTF did she just write?”  But again, stick with me.  I’m not a weirdo. Well, actually, I am.  I’m just not that brand of weirdo. And truly, this thought isn’t even all that original.

Writers create worlds and they create the inhabitants of those worlds.  So as far as Word files and stacks of paper are concerned, writers are gods. That’s all I’m saying. And, like I said, it’s not even an original comparison. So, moving on…

What in the hell kind of god am I?  It’s actually a conscious decision that must be made.  If a piece is to be character driven (as the best pieces are), that means giving the characters free will.  Okay, got that.  So what if one of my favorites, my chosen (okay, maybe I am having a little too much fun with this metaphor) does something stupid that could get them killed? Do I let them die, or do I step in and throw them a bone?  And what made that character my favorite to begin with?  Was that character the most godly (the one most like me)?  And what about the characters I had no problem offing?  Am I a vengeful god? Did they have it coming? Did I create them solely for the purpose of being offensive enough to kill? And if so, what does that say about me?

And what about those characters I’ve abandoned altogether?  I have tons of work that just wasn’t working so it’s been put aside. Do my characters lament being abandoned by their god when I’m not working?

Like I said, I’m not that kind of weirdo. I am aware that my characters live only in my mind and on paper, and so I would have to write characters lamenting for them to do so. But it’s a fun little brain teaser for the next time you’re lying awake thinking about a writing project.  There are endless questions that can be considered along this line of thought. So I invite you to examine them for yourself, unless, of course, you actually want to get some sleep.

So that’s what’s been going on in my head lately.  Aren’t you glad I didn’t try to make any one of these topics its own blog?