The Inspiration Well

I’m very glad I opted not to participate in NaNo this month.

I thought I had a very good plot outline going, then I looked it over and decided I didn’t. I was making some tweaks to it and got stuck, distracted, overwhelmed and uninspired. Among other things. And now, it’s the 17th and I’ve written exactly 0 words. Is there a badge for that?

It doesn’t really bother me in the sense that I wasn’t planning on participating (officially anyway). It does bother me that I’ve been unable to find the right way to fix what’s wrong. I know exactly what’s wrong but can’t find the words or ideas to make it work. And I planned on writing this month and it’s half over and I’ve accomplished nothing, save for irritating myself seeing how little I’ve done.

Which also doesn’t bother me, per se. I know that sometimes it takes me time to find the right idea and work it out so it makes sense. If I ever do get the hang of this writing thing, I know for certain I won’t ever be called a “prolific writer,” the kind that cranks out a book a year. Or every other year. Or every five years, I’m guessing. And I’m OK with that.

What is bothering me is the other thing that’s inspiring me right now: angry letter writing. Actually, angry email writing to be exact, but you get what I mean. There’s an issue I’m trying to deal with and it’s something I’m passionate about and if you read my last post, you probably have some idea how I feel about the whole thing.

I was sitting in the office doing what has become my afternoon ritual of listening to Pandora and beating my head against the desk, trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with my WIP when an email response finally came in to something I’ve been expecting. I waited two whole weeks for this response. That’s a long time for me to keep my mouth shut when I feel strongly about something.

I took a deep breath and a walk (and by walk I mean into the kitchen to wash the breakfast dishes with a pit stop in the laundry room to switch loads) before I responded. Fortunately (for both of us) the person I’m now dealing with seems friendly and warm and actually willing to listen to my concerns instead of hurl insults (don’t ask). But, I’m still annoyed with the foot dragging and stalling. I needed a few minutes to compose my thoughts and make sure I didn’t come off as utterly obnoxious, given “something else” has come up and now she can’t examine my stuff for another few weeks. (Side note: uh-huh. Sure, you can’t. Whatever.)

So, I’m typing the response, and it took about 30 minutes to compellingly craft a five sentence response that was kind yet firm. And that was about 25 minutes too long, in my estimation. See, my mind kept wandering, I was so inspired by writing this response that I found myself drifting to another project.

This blog post. Sigh.

I found myself composing the paragraphs for this post while I should have been working on those 5 sentences. I kept thinking about all the things I wanted to say and rant about, and how it would be an excellent blog post. It was hard, but I managed to force myself to finish the response first before I came over here to craft his amazing blog post. (I know, it’s nothing special, but I need this right now.)

Well, it’s not the WIP, and it’s not perfect, but I guess it’s something. I know that realistically, as a writer, I can’t wait for the muse to show-up (thought it would be nice if it would show up at 9AM, coffee in hand, ready to go like I am). I have to chase it. Or work without it, But my current frustration isn’t that I’m not inspired to write. I am. I just don’t want to write a bunch of jumbled nonsensical crap that I end up throwing out. I know that’s my specialty, but I’d really like to diversify.

I wonder how these prolific writers manage. How do they crank out a book a year? I know there’s rumors about ghostwriters, but assume they aren’t. How do they do it? How do people work when the muse is AWOL?

Inspiration can come in many forms, I guess. I just wish what so easily inspired this blog post could inspire the WIP. That would be nice. Less frustrating. Or, if something, anything, could easily inspire the WIP. But that doesn’t seem to be happening, so I’m back to beating my head against the desk. It helps. Happy Monday!

The Death of Words

As I write this, I can’t help but think of “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

I’ve spent some time researching how to create a better blog. While I’d much rather spend time on crafting the best novel I can, I know it’s important to keep the blog up. Not just keep the blog up but to write interesting things, attract followers, and so on and so on. I’m confident that everyone that blogs knows that attracting new followers is a big thing. While I can write, marketing and selling has never really been my thing.

So, I’ve turned to the experts. By that, I mean, the Internet. Seems like the right place to go in this case.

I’ve never been an early adapter. I like taking risk (like jumping out of airplanes) but new technologies, not so much. Let’s just say when I was a kid, my dad bought the family a Betamax, convinced it was the perfect purchase. If you don’t know what that last phrase means, you should Google it for fun. I come to this blogging thing a bit late. In large part because I really don’t have anything interesting to say and also because when I ghost blogged, I learned how easy it can be to lose control of original content. And how hard it can be to get it back.

Late to the party, the experts have shown me that blogging is kind of over. Not dead, per se. Just passe. It’s all about You Tube stars (vloggers and people doing crazy stuff). Please. I can barely summon the courage to do this blog. I’m supposed to put my face to it?

Other advice has consisted of including gifs – or at the very least, pictures – within the text to break-up the monotonous chore of reading. No one wants to see too much text without pretty pictures apparently. Not to be obnoxious, but I can’t think of the last novel I read that included pictures, even YA novels. There’s also the ever popular listicle (a completely interesting word on so many levels). I have no problems with the list format as a method of writing and disseminating information. I worry, though, that it doesn’t improve my writing.

What really worries me is that the shift to these styles of communication and media (since vlogging isn’t exactly writing) is that it isn’t helping us as readers. I’ve gotten used to Twitter shorthand and now accept the fact that questionable spelling and grammar are necessary, required even, because of the 140 character limit. But when I’m getting advice like “stick a picture in there so your readers don’t have to read so much,” I get concerned that as a society, we’re failing ourselves.

Pictures on a cooking blog or a DIY blog make sense. If you’re giving me instructions on how to re-roof my house by myself, a couple of diagrams and pictures, even gifs, might prove useful. Of course, if you’re able to explain it clearly and I get it and can then do it without pictures, you’re an awesome writer. However, I feel that no one is that awesome, so again, pictures seem necessary.

But on a blog that’s sort of about writing? Or, let’s be real here, nothing in particular? I kind of feel like that says that I, the writer, doesn’t trust you, the reader, to fill it in. That I don’t think you can figure out what I’m trying to describe. Doesn’t that mean I’m not such a great writer? Shouldn’t I be able to create that image for you in your mind’s eye? Or worse, does it mean that I think that you, the reader, lack the critical reading skills to figure out what I’m saying so I just say, “Fuck it. I’ll throw a picture in here, just in case you don’t have that ability”?

What does this say about the experts that advise me to do this? Yes, I know, I went to the Internet for advice, so I kind of get what I deserve. And, also, I do know there is the giraffe picture on this blog. But it’s one picture. At the end of a post. And it’s a great picture of a giraffe.

I worry this means that we, as a collective group, are watching the death of the written word as a form of communication. Not just in terms of sharing stories, but in terms of sharing ideas, information, and even history. I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about when you don’t have a camera handy. A rarity these days, for sure, but it can and does happen. And then what? What happens when we lose the ability to describe something without a snazzy gif? How will that change things? How will that change how we communicate in any form?

 

It’s Hard to Be a Grown-Up

Long absence, I know. But that’s because I’m a grown-up and have “responsibilities” and such. Things I don’t want to do but have to. Some of them are legally required of me, some of them I just have to do because I’m a grown-up. But, man, it is tough sometimes.

(I know, I know, a lot of what I’m about to say falls into the category of “first world problems” but, due to lack of anything else, that’s what today’s post is all about.)

Like this blog post. I’m sitting here basically not doing it (even though I am) because there are other things I don’t want to do. Like mend a pillow case and paint some shelves. Easy things that will probably take all of about two seconds to do.

Then, there are the harder things, like waiting back on 2 email responses that I really don’t want to deal with. I mean, they are things that need to be dealt with and that’s part of being a grown-up. But I just don’t want to. I realize that if no one else does it, it won’t get done and then I will suffer the consequences, hence my taking the lead on it, but… Yuck. I really hate dealing with stupid stuff. Actually, that’s not true. Sometimes I just hate dealing with stuff. But, that’s part of being a grown-up.

And, I’m not even sure when this grown-up thing happened. I kind of woke up one day and said “How did this happen?” I don’t remember a ceremony marking the occasion. Or getting an official written offer that I accepted. It just kind of happened. Sure, there are some aspects of being a grown-up that are awesome. Like right now, it’s 10 AM and I’m still in my pajamas with no plans to leave them anytime soon and in a few minutes I’ll probably have a mid-morning power boosting snack of coffee and donuts. And, since I don’t work the day job today, I can go outside and play in this beautiful weather (probably the last one for the year).

Play. Like a kid. Only it will be grown-up play which is more like exercise, really. Like riding the bike and cleaning up the yard, checking on the fall/winter crops (OK, last surviving crop) in the garden. Adjusting the Halloween decorations. Which really isn’t play. It’s the grown-up version of play.

And then, oh, yeah, gotta work on the WIP, too. Trying to create a compelling character is rather hard work. I had hoped it would be an easy, natural process. Nope. I’m excellent at creating flat, boring, cardboard characters though. So, there’s that.

OK, enough whining. Off to work and all those other grown-up things I have to do.

Where Do I Go Now

One of the coolest parts of being a writer is that you can work anywhere. Home, coffee shop, library, beach. Wherever.

Presuming you actually get work done.

I’ve learned I can’t work from home. I’ve had an inordinate amount of time the last few days to write while at home, but I haven’t written. Too many distractions. Or excuses. Whatever you want to call them.

So, I’m at the coffee shop, writing. I’ve got the essentials: coffee, cake, bathrooms and a ridiculous amount of people to watch. That could be the downfall. I’m busy composing character sketches in my head, wondering if I can fit them into the WIP.

I can see the corporate office is here, monitoring, watching, timing. That’s got to be nerve racking. They’re just staring at the baristas, timing them, looking at manuals, monitoring them. Not saying anything. Just looking cheery and bright. It’s all a ruse. I just know it. Underneath lurks the cold, dark heart of a corporate cost-cutter, looking for ways to improve efficiency, without any regards to the humanity of the situation.

There’s the guy I only glanced at. I could only see his white shoes and white socks. Bright white. Blinding white.

The guy in the corner is creeping me out. This place is longer that it is wider and on the back wall, there’s a little seating area consisting of two comfy looking chairs, and a little table. What’s odd is that just in front of this seating area is a few display racks. They’re open shelves, but chock full of stuff, so you can’t really see behind it and, really, who’s looking behind the display rack?

This guy is essentially hiding back there. Is it on purpose? This place is very crowded today (it usually is in the AM), so maybe he didn’t have a choice, but he’s hunkered down in the chair, typing furiously into a lap top. Or is he? The way his glasses sit on his face, his eyes are somewhat obscured and it’s hard to tell if he’s looking at the screen or around the cafe, taking inventory of all of us. Plotting something.

I’m at the communal table and the corporate people sat down at the other end. I’m plugged into headphones and really trying not to overhear, but, they don’t know that. They can’t tell that Pandora is on and I don’t care what they have to say. I could be listening, gleaning corporate secrets on the best way to brew coffee (I really would like that information) or learning about personnel secrets I can leverage for blackmail.

Man! Too many distractions! At least there are fun and possibly useful for the WIP. But, we’ll see what I get done.

Which leads me to ask: Where do you work? Where are you most productive and least distracted? Am I the only one that creates back stories for everyone I meet?

Edited to add: The irony of this post is that while I got a lot done today, I had to come home to retype this into WordPress because something was messed up and I couldn’t copy and paste!

I Can’t Possibly Be Serious

I guess this blogging every day thing isn’t going to work out like I planned because, it would seem, I haven’t written anything in five days.

Oops.

That happens from time to time. Stuff gets in the way. You know, life and all. And, as a writer, it doesn’t really bother me. I fully believe that writing every day isn’t something I can do. I don’t think it’s something anyone should do (but that’s just me). Too easy to get frustrated and to tear out hair screaming “Why me, damn it? Where are all the ideas?”

Maybe that’s just me.

In any event, the fact that it’s been five days does make me wonder how serious I am about this whole writing as a job thing. My day job is part-time for the express purpose of allowing me to write (and to bring in money). Yet, since March, when I started, I haven’t exactly worked on the WIP too much. Here and there I have, and I do feel like I’ve made some solid progress, but nothing really substantial. Each time I do write, I manage to pound out about 2000 words. Which (ball parking numbers here) would mean I should have a completed novel (rough first draft, of course!) in about 40 days. Forty days! Which would mean, and I don’t really write on weekends, I should have completed a rough draft of this sucker by, give or take, the first week of May!

Ouch.

Even allowing for the occasional illness, life event and shear laziness, I still should have finished by now.

Ouch again.

I could come up with a million reasons why I haven’t finished, and they’d all be really, really, really good reasons. But they don’t matter, do they? Because I haven’t been working on it. Which makes me wonder, is it that I’m not devoted enough to my craft, this is just a hobby for me? Am I really as lazy as all that?

And yet, here I still sit in the bathroom (it’s quiet in here. Don’t judge me!), typing away, plotting and planning. And writing.

Quieting the Beat

Just a bit of housekeeping before I get started today.

Dear Spammers:

If you want to try to sneak through my spam filters by hiring people to actually write comments instead of using automated ones, fine. More power to you. However, I’d highly recommend you advise them not to write negative things about the blog. While I always welcome critiques of my work, being negative just for the sake of being negative with an obviously spammy identity will not get you moderated on to the blog comments.

Thank you for your cooperation and supporting my blog. Keep trying!

Hugs and Kisses,

Me.

Phew. I feel so much better.

I have a raging headache today. It’s better now (thank you, Starbucks), but I find it makes it harder for me to write. My brain gets foggy and while I enjoy a good bass beat, I’m not particularly a fan when it’s in my head. It reminds me of college after a Saturday night. Yet, somehow I managed to get up and study. Mostly. My grades wouldn’t necessarily reflect that, but I did graduate.

Given the MC of the WIP is a borderline alcoholic (that’s a thing, right?), with a sour temperament (I know that’s a thing.) you’d think this would be super helpful. No stretching myself to imagine (or remember) what the morning after a bender feels like, no digging deep for metaphors and descriptions. Just sit down and describe me in the present.

Probably not happening.

There’s been a bunch of quotes floating around on the web lately (probably not lately, I just seem to be finding them lately) about writing. They’re all about sitting in the chair and writing, not waiting for the muse, do it every day, set a goal, and so on. These are lovely platitudes. They are realistic and make sense (and come from successful folks who know what they’re talking about).

But none of these platitudes mention what happens when you put your butt in the chair and nothing happens. Absolutely nothing comes. I don’t know why it doesn’t come and it doesn’t really matter. But you can’t find the words. Maybe you get something going, maybe you’re able to put words on the page, but every single one of them suck. They do nothing to advance your story line, enhance your plot or improve your character. They are, literally, words on a page.

Then you get frustrated and stop, or feel like your wasting your time. Or worse, you go away from those words, come back later and realize how utterly crappy they are. Then you feel like you wasted all that time and effort. And for what? To pitch it all out. Or is that just me?

No one talks about that as much. Everyone has experienced this to some extent. But it’s always chalked up to an “Oh, well,” kind of moment. A learning experience. But I hate going in the wrong direction. If that’s the direction, I’d rather not go, I guess.

I don’t mind rewriting (well, I do, but that’s different here), and I don’t mind going in a new direction, away from my outline if it fits, but I don’t want to waste my time on nothing. Just putting words on a page doesn’t seem to help. Putting the right words on the page. That’s what I’d like to do every single time.

Maybe not today though. All I can muster is thump, thump, thump. Hopefully, I can do something with that.

 

Crazy but Worth It

I finished Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King a few minutes ago.

It’s not my intent to review the book except I will say it was an excellent read. (Of course, it was. It was written by Stephen freaking King.) Had three twists in there, two of which I saw coming but felt they went along naturally with the story line. The first twist I did not see coming. I should have as there were enough clues along the way, but I missed it and the twist was excellent. Not at all disappointing or obvious or contrived. Just well done. Because it’s Stephen King.

Which really is the crux of this. I like to write. I like to think I’m pretty good at it. I’ve been told I’m pretty good at it (and not by my mother or best friend, but total strangers!). But, I’ll never be as good as the likes of Stephen King. Or any one of a number of other current day authors. Or classic authors. Like Mark Twain.

That’s OK. I mean, we can’t all be awesome and number one (all though, to see the state of little league and kid’s soccer these days, you think we could be. That we should be), and I accept the fact that I’ll probably never reach that level of awesomeness as a writer.

But I wonder if I’ll ever be remotely that good. I mean, good enough to get an agent and a publishing contract. Or sell a bazillion self-published copies on Amazon or whatever. Success is how you define it (and I have no definition for my writing quite yet) and I think that definition for writers is rapidly changing in this digital age, but I sometimes think I’m waisting my time.

I’m sure we all do. Not just writers, but everyone that pursues a creative art. Painting, drawing, video game design. Are we good enough? Will our work every find a fan base? Will we have enough “success”? These thoughts haunt us on many an insomniac induced evening.

Yet, here I am, plugging away at it. I guess that means I’m crazy.

No, I think it means I just really want it. Enough to keep trying anonymously and unpaid and in the wee hours in the bathroom if that what it takes.

Scratch that. It is crazy. And totally worth it.

Feedback and Feelings

I wasn’t supposed to work today. I had taken the day off for various and assorted reasons. But, earlier this week I learned I didn’t need to take the day off. I could go in, work a few hours, earn some money. I’m at Starbucks right now getting ready to work on the WIP. If that’s not the life of a writer, I don’t know what is.

And it’s probably a good thing I have today to write. Yesterday I had the chance to write (Wednesday and all) and I tried but what a mess. I think I was tired. I was trying to critique someone’s opening and just could not get the second half of my thought together. Probably because it was a criticism. Not a big one, but one I felt the author should know about. Yet no matter what I did, I couldn’t form the right sentences to make it a positive criticism. I felt like I was being, well, mean.

I’ll admit, I was pretty tired yesterday which made the task that much harder, but I really dislike having to criticize. I know it’s important, we all need feedback for growth, wether we are a writer or a horse jockey. We can all always improve. Something, somewhere. Sure, there are times when “good enough” will do and nothing has to be perfect, but feedback is an important thing.

When I was a boss (something I never want to do again!) I used to have to “coach” people all the time. Awful. For many reasons, not the least of which was how do you tell someone “Hey, you’re fucking this up,” nicely? I never did master that art. Because, truly, it’s an art.

It’s one of the things that holds me back from writing. Like why my name isn’t attached to this stuff. I don’t like hearing the criticism. Not because I don’t like hearing it but because it’s so hard to give it and make it not hurtful. I’ve submitted stuff plenty of times for critique and listened to what was said about my stuff. “You write like you talk” was one of my favorites. I still, to this day, have no idea what that means. If you’re going to offer critique, at least have it make sense. I’d rather that than something I’m still ruminating about years later.

“You seem emotionally detached from your character,” at least was useful. That pushed me in a different direction and I appreciated it. Of course, because I’m crazy, I started thinking she meant I was emotionally detached from everything. Maybe that is what she meant, maybe it’s not. But I wonder if there’s another way to reframe (what a coaching word!) that bit of advice to sound “nicer.” If that’s possible.

Of course, in the end it doesn’t matter. The observation was solid. So, whether she thought I was emotionally detached from life or not doesn’t matter. It ultimately helped me. And, of course, it helps to realize that I don’t think she was trying to be mean or imply anything. She was speaking from her heart. What grabbed her or what didn’t. Workshops are like that. Off the cuff and raw at times. Maybe it just takes practice.

And with that last thought, I’m off. To actually work on the WIP.