This month has been a rough one for me. I’ve been out of work, and mysteriously this has made me even more busy. I think I’ve actually had more meetings as an unemployed person than I did when I was working. Since I’m the sole source of income for my family, it’s been a particularly stressful time. Throw a cross-country trip in there with a one-year-old and I’ve been pretty frazzled. That means not much writing. It doesn’t help that I’m still having problems using the word processor on my ancient computer.
Even though I haven’t been writing, I have been thinking. I had a breakthrough with the second novel in the series. I’d been dithering on how to have one of my protagonists take out the main antagonist of the book, but I think I finally hit upon how I want it all to go. This is very exciting to me, as it makes me feel like the plot is gaining momentum even before I’ve really written much of the first draft.
The other thing I’ve been doing is reading. I’ve needed a way to relax and escape a bit from my daily stress, and reading has fit the bill perfectly. I’ve read a couple of great books and a couple of fun books, both literary fiction and fantasy. (I tend to prefer young adult fantasy, since I believe it tends to be less formulaic and has less sex and violence – crutches that “adult” fantasy seems to rely on.) Among the fantasy I’ve been reading is Diana Wynne Jones – one of my favorite authors – and Megan Whalen Turner. Turner’s latest book, “A Conspiracy of Kings,” is the most recent novel in a series that I first encountered last summer. I loved “Conspiracy” just as much as the previous books. I hope that someday my readers feel the same excitement at the prospect of reading the latest installment in one of my series.
Anyway, it looks like the end to my unemployment might be at hand. That means less time stressing about resumes and interviews and applications and more time thinking about, and hopefully even writing, my own stories. If all goes well I’ll have enough saved for a laptop this fall and can get writing in earnest!
It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a month since my last post. So much has happened, and yet it seems like it’s taken no time at all. My house guests are gone, my son had a birthday, and we’re slowly trying to get life back on track.
I happen to like a certain measure of routine. I like having a good idea of when I can slot things in during the day, like email or writing. When my routine becomes so disrupted as to become recognizable I end up feeling harried and cut adrift. I believe that routine should be flexible and differ from monotony, and it’s good for routines to be shaken up once in a while. However, I’ve always found that routine is a boon to the activities I like to do, such as classes, walking, drawing, and writing.
And so I try to settle into my summertime routine. There’s the day job, of course, and I actually find it more difficult to write when it stays light out longer. My brain and body want to be outside, soaking it up. Summertime always seems so fleeting. Even last summer, the best summer of my life, when I was able to stay home with my newborn and spend all day cuddling him and reading books, went far too quickly. I reflect on this because I’m determined to not let the summer end without my finishing the first chapter of book two.
Even though I want the summer to just last and last, I’m also looking forward to autumn. Come the fall I’m going to get a new computer, which will hopefully help my writing output. It’s tough to focus on the story when the computer crashes what seems like every five minutes, and moments become breathless as I wonder if I’ve just lost my story. (It’s backed up on an external drive, and I save the document at the end of just about every sentence, but still.) I know in part that having the computer isn’t really necessary to further my writing efforts, but it should do something for my morale, and as far as I’m concerned, every little bit will help.
I’m really struggling to put my writing first. I’ve had family in town to deal with some medical issues, which means a lot of people in a little house. Plus I’ve had to relinquish my computer to my house guests, which makes it even tougher to write. On the one hand, I want to give myself some slack. After all, the attention required to keep the rest of my life balanced means that maybe writing has to take a back seat for a little while. On the other hand, writing is incredibly important to me, and I feel as if failing to commit to writing each and every day means I’m not as serious about things as I need to be. As of right now I’m not sure which point of view is correct. I suspect it’s a blend of both and I’m being too easy and too hard on myself at the same time.
I’ve also realized that my computer isn’t quite cutting it anymore. It’s seven years old, after all, and the power supply is nearly dead. I’ve found that nothing reinvigorates writing like a brand new toy to write on, so hopefully this fall I’ll be able to make that happen and update all my files.
At least thinking about my story has given me a nice escape from the daily stress. I think about one of my main characters, what his life was like before my novel begins, and what sort of changes have taken place between then and where the story currently is. I’m trying to sort out the various rituals that governed his early life, and how exactly he was shaped by his friends and competitors to become the man he is. During such exercises I’m reminded how every single one of my characters is simultaneously me and utterly alien. I think that’s one of the things that makes me love writing.
Another thing I love is the prospect to reach people. Someone from my fanfic days commented here recently, and her post made my day. Whether my stories are merely entertainment, or provide an escape, or touch a reader’s heart, or help them gain perspective, it means so incredibly much to me to be able to touch others. I hope that as the years go by and I hone my skills, that will only increase. I may write alone, most of the time, but it still makes me feel very much connected to my life and the lives of others.
Does it count as writer’s block if someone else is doing the blocking?
I have family visiting for an undetermined period of time. It could be a week, it could be a couple of months. Said visitors have taken my laptop, which has put a major cramp in my writing style. It’s hard to sit down with a notebook when company’s following you around the house demanding every minute of your time.
In my already hectic life, writing was the one thing I was doing for myself, and now that I’m utterly blocked from writing, I’m finding it pretty tough. Oh well, I wasn’t making much progress anyway. At least this excuse for not writing is a little more valid than just letting life get away with me.
Time got away from me there. And so has writing. It’s been about a month and a half since I’ve done any work on my writing. If I was working for myself, I’d fire me. Wait–I am writing for myself. Oops.
I feel like the antithesis of the people you read about in Writer’s Digest and other writerly publications, the ones that say they wrote every moment of their spare time, even if it was just five minutes, or they wrote on napkins at their restaurant job. I don’t really have much of an excuse, I guess. I could say that getting three hours of sleep a night has ruined my focus (it has – it also makes my day job really rough). I could say that my husband has had to put together drawings for the utility district so that we can connect to the sewer when our septic tank fails (and it will, and he has, and we want to avoid sewage seeping up out of the ground), and that has meant that I’ve had to put our baby to bed each night, which involves rocking and singing and rocking for hours because the child absolutely will not sleep. And all that has meant that I’ve lacked the strength of will to force myself to do much of anything, let alone write.
However, I think the passion is still there, and just because I’m not putting pen to paper doesn’t mean that the second novel isn’t percolating in my brain. I’ve been refining some scenes in my mind and solidifying the plot. I thought of a few interesting magical skills of one of the main characters, too, things that will differentiate him from the other magic users in the story (as if he isn’t already different enough). And I’ve been thinking about how his personality might change throughout the books, from the fourth book (which is actually a prequel) to the second.
I am going to make adjustments in my life, though. Writing is important to me, and while it isn’t always the top priority (since it doesn’t feed my family or raise my child), it still deserves more attention than I’ve allocated to it lately. My plan is to start writing again in the evenings when my husband is finished with the drawings. I’ll continue to refine the first draft of the first novel and work on creating the second. In the meantime, I’ll let my brain meander where it wants to among the lives of my characters.
I let myself off the hook with the writing again this week. The sleep deprivation is making it pretty tough to stay motivated. The holiday was pretty distracting as well, and I think that’s okay. I’d rather have my writing be fresh when I get back to it. The time off is actually good for thinking about the plot and scenes for the second book. I’ve realized that my writing is more inspired (or at least it seems so to me) when I listen to music when I write. So I’ll work on my playlist over the next week or two, so when I’m finished with my break I can really kick things into gear. Hope the holiday weekend treated everyone well!
I am ashamed to report that I didn’t make much progress on the writing this past week. Funny how sleep deprivation can just take the wind right out of your sales. I’ve been thinking about how to redo events in chapter six to make chapter seven (my favorite chapter) flow a little more smoothly. Hopefully I can fix a critical flaw that made the plot of that chapter seem a bit skewed. I think I can do it by just cutting out a section of dialogue that makes the character’s actions questionable in the next chapter. We’ll see how that works out. It’s nice to be in the draft phase when I can still smooth out all these wrinkles. I want the story to be the best it can be, even if it means letting go of passages I’m fond of.
I’ll try to get more sleep, too. Between that and family drama (what family doesn’t have drama?), my energy levels have been pretty low. I’m going to work on that, because it’s really important to me to get this novel out the door and get to work on the second one.