The Rising Idea

This has started off as a very strange week, and after today I have to say that can’t imagine it getting any stranger–unless someone picked up a contract for my book.  Then my day would be made.  Maybe tomorrow it’ll happen.  One can only hope.

I’ve been working on my story, but it’s been sort of give and take.  Not that I’m not getting in any writing, but as I told someone today my mind seems to be in a strange place when I write.  When I’m working, the words come, they flow like mad.  I can get scenes and conversations down quickly, and there doesn’t seem to be any hesitation at all in getting things worked out.

It’s just getting into the story . . . because it seems like my mind is cluttered with distractions galore.  My mind is wandering like mad, and I can’t seem to get focused on the work in progress because of–well, therein lies a good question.  After all the work I spent getting Suggestive Amusements finished, and Her Demonic Majesty edited and published, my mind is once again wondering, “Is this all worth it?  Am I doing something that, in the end, will pay off?  Or am I just fooling myself?”

I go through this every few months.  You bust your ass to do these things, to move into a realm where you would love to be working, and it seems a constant struggle to get anywhere.  I’ve had friends tell me to take it easy and keep doing what I’m doing, because I’m on the right track.

At the same time, I want to move faster.  I want to get where I’m going now.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I’m just not good enough.”  If you know anything about Dunning-Kruger effect, you know it’s not unusual for those who have the talent think everything they do isn’t worth a damn, while the Ed Woods of the world think they are the god’s all might shit when it comes to being the best.  It would be nice if the overtly incompetent would just once say, “I totally suck, and I should let someone else do this.”  But, no:  that almost never happens.  They continue churning out shit, and the rest of us bang our heads against the wall wondering what it is we’re doing wrong.

I have ideas coming to me all the time.  I’m working out a story on my computer, and a world in my head, and at the same time I’m having images of a story coming to me as I go through the day–a story that I sort of mentioned in passing as a strange dream I had a few days back.  It’s how it goes:  these things happen to us to prod us onward to sit before the computer, or your writing medium of choice, and get this stuff out of our heads.

Once you’ve been bitten by this affliction, you can’t lose it.  It will never let you go.  One could give up writing tomorrow, and the ideas will continue to rise, reminding you that something wants your attention–

And it won’t stop until you give it due diligence.

The Consequences of Truth

Well-made plans have a way of crashing around you when it’s least expected.  We’ve all had things we planed on doing, only to have life come up and smack us straight on in the face, leaving one a semi-bloody mess.

The measure of your personality is how you deal with the situation.

I didn’t deal with mine very well.

Allow me to explain.

I started out in a good mood.  I was writing, I was blogging, I was looking forward to the end of my novel.  I was looking forward to having a good time today, to maybe finishing an article and getting that out.  The path was clear, the way ahead was sunny.

I posted an excerpt from Chapter Six of Her Demonic Majesty, and was getting into my editing.  It was going to be a wonderful day–

Then Trusty Editortm came along.

They were reading the excerpt, going through it with the trained eye they have.  And just like that, I’m getting PMs on Facebook.  “You have this wrong . . . this should be . . . I think you meant–“.  It wasn’t much, and my Trusty Editortm was only helping me as they have done in the past.

But it killed me, because this was what I feared all along:  that no matter how much work I put into getting my manuscript clean, it would never be clean enough.

I lost it.  I logged off from Facebook and just shook for a few minutes.  I cried.  I doubted my own abilities to do anything right.  I’ve spent so much time on this story that it really felt like a kick in the gut, and with everything that has happened to me this week, I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore.

I actually reached the point where I was ready to say, “Fuck it, I can’t take this anymore,” and just wander away from the scene for . . .well, who knows?  I feel alone, I feel that I get very little support, I feel like I’m working in a constant vacuum located inside a singularity of indifference.

So I stepped away from the story for most of the day, simply because I couldn’t stand to look at the manuscript any more.

I finally finished editing the chapter I was on when I had my meltdown, then I headed out for the night, something I haven’t done in over a month and a half.  I wasn’t in much of a mood to talk, though, but I manged to get though the night without being too much of a Debbie Downer.

It was only while I was driving home with the late night light drizzle falling around me that I found my center.  See, long ago, Trusty Editortm was going over another manuscript that was my then Work in Progress.  And they had issues with a few things in the first couple of paragraphs.  I freaked out, because I thought what I’d written was pretty good.

Their comment to me, after I’d expressed my fears, was, “You need to get your ego in check.  Do you want this to be good?  Or do you want this to be the best?”

That’s an easy one:

I’ve never wanted to put out shit.  I can’t stand the idea that I’ll put out a story that’s crappy, with things that will give haters reason to go, “Yo, you used an and not a, loozer! ”  If I can’t put it out right, I’m not going to bother putting it out, period.

After buying a pretty cover I don’t have the means of paying someone to edit a couple of hundred pages, but I did have a friend offer to look over the manuscript for errors.  I have a bit of fear here, because they told me they didn’t like the title, but beyond that I think they’ll find errors and not much else.  I hope.  And if all goes well I’ll be back on the original path I’d set, which is to have Her Demonic Majesty published at the end of May.

It’s okay to freak out.  It’s okay to think you are worthless, that you are alone, that you even suck.  It’s happen to the best writers, sometimes to the point where they decided to end it all because they were told their novel sucked.

But you need to listen to people and know when they are helping.

Because it’s never okay to kill your dream.

Never.

The Killing Inspiration

Much better today, thank you for asking.  I didn’t know if you were going to ask or not, so I figured I’d tell you anyway.  After all, if you’re coming here, you know I’m likely to sling something of a personal nature at you, and since I’ve been going on about my sniffles and sneezes, and shivers and shakes, then I have to tell you I’m getting better.  Almost good enough to head back to the office tomorrow.  Oh, joy.

Forward progression on Suggestive Amusements continues.  I had a short chat with someone last night, and mentioned that I had very little motivation to start writing.  She said that even when I say that, I eventually find my way into my story, then churn out a thousand words like a machine.  There are certain truths there, because after I’d opened Scrivener and brought up the story, I let it set for maybe fifteen minutes, then I was in the chapter and off, as they say, to the races.

The more I get into Erin’s story–which means, as it comes to me as I’m typing away at the keyboard–I’m struck by the sadness of her life.  Yes, she has her happy moments; she’s ever recounted a couple of them to Keith as they linger in bed together.  (Oh, wait:  did I just give something away?  I think I did.)  But she’s also recounting some hard reality that she knows, that her sister Talia knows, and the memory of one such reality left her with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Yes, I’m a total bitch:  I don’t cut my muse a break, and find her life full of pain.

It’s not fair, I know.  If you’re an immortal creature, you should live with joy and contentment.  Why get involved in tons of dramatic shit that’s going to bring you down?  There’s a simple explanation:  Erin is the embodiment of creativity.  That’s what a muse does:  she bring something to the table that’s going to help you find a way to drag those words out of your skin and put them on whatever writing medium one uses.

If you’ve never been creative, then you have no idea how much this act can hurt.  There’s a couple of lines in the U2 song The Fly that sums this up well:

 

Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief

 

Like it or not, we creative types suffer to make our creations sing.  In the process, we find a number of happy moments in our lives to write about, but at the same time, we dig deep into the crap heaps of sorrow that we’ve left behind, and a lot of that also ends up on the pages of our work.

Erin is almost always hurt by the time her charge has created their work, because they need to dig deep to find those moments that make up their story.  She is the inspiration, so it is she that must suffer for us to enjoy whatever is produced in the end.  Good or bad, she goes down at the end, even if her parting is a happy one.

Multiply that by a few thousand charges over the course of eight thousand years, and you have a muse with a history that would send most of us leaping off the nearest cliff without a second thought.

Maybe it’s not like that, however.  Maybe this is me finding something to pull out from whatever pits of fresh hell I’ve created over the last few years.  I know there are parts of Keith’s life–in particular a chapter that is coming up–that I can say come right from certain experiences I’ve had recently.

But am I Keith?  Well, yes, I am.  And I’m also Erin.  And her sister Talia.

I’m a writer, and I am many.

It’s only natural that I’m going to suffer with all my characters.

Death and the High Cost of Dreaming

Tonight the part of the winning NaNo Artist will be played by . . .

Well, more than a few people I know.

This is the point where the rubber leaves the road and people fly–or, if you’re trying to sprint through twenty-five thousand words to make your goal, more likely a crash and burn.  But it’s The End, more of less.  You open the verifying, put in your document, click OK . . . and it comes back and tells you you’re a Winner!

I’ve been doing very well.  I hit my fifty thousand a week ago.  Tonight I’ll clear sixty-five thousand, and if my numbers aren’t lying to me–since I don’t follow Faux News, I don’t expect “make me happy” math from them–by the time I finish the current chapter, and complete the Coda, I’ll end up with about seventy thousand words of novel goodness.

I feel all beat to hell.

Remember how, like twenty-five days ago, I said that NaNoWriMo was not a sprint, but a marathon?  I feel as if I’ve run one for real.  The body is sore:  there’s been a constant pain in my left shoulder, and at the base of the neck right above that area.  I’m constantly clearing my throat because, for some reason, I don’t feel as if I’m drawing a good breath without something getting in the way.  I’m back to getting to sleep at midnight, and waking up at six or six-thirty.

I’d love to get some rest, but I don’t think I know what that is these days.

There’s been hundreds of reasons why this has been an emotionally draining month as well.  So many things, too much pressure . . .  and the constantly hope that one day I look in my inbox and find a message from Harper Voyager waiting for me, but the fear that, as I approach Day 60 of the Great Sci Fi Cattle Call, it’s not going to come to fruition, and I’ll need to start over.

The distractions I keep falling into are there for a reason:  it’s to keep me from thinking too much about things that aren’t related to writing.

The fear here is that one day I’ll awake and discover that I’m not as good as I believe, that my writing is just drivel, and I’m wasting my time . . .

And then Chuck Wendig shows up and pulps my spleen with a blow that makes Ali smile.

Gotta keep reminding myself that it isn’t about quitting, it’s about failing.  You can recover from failing; you can pick yourself up, dust off your clothes, picked up you hand bag, and head off for the next appointment with possible greatness.  It’s true that you can’t fail if you don’t try, but if you don’t try, you’ll never find out if you’re going to win.

At the beginning of last year’s NaNoWriMo, Jim Butcher published this post on his blog.  For me, NaNo was more of an experiment than anything else.  I’d started novels, but I’d never finished one, and NaNo was more about seeing if I could actually do the later.  I did, by a great margin, but part of the reason was stumbling upon Jim’s post a few days after it was written.

I’ve always been a “kill your dream” sort of person.  I’d get neck-deep into something and say the hell with it, I’ll come back later and deal with it.  And that was it:  death takes another, and probably not the cute Death, either, but that mean old bastard with the sickle.  I didn’t give a shit because that was me, and I was busy thinking about another dream to crush.

There was a quote from W. C. Fields’ that, at that time, gave me all the support I needed for my dream crushing:  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Then quit.  No use being a damn fool about it.”  And I thought it was a good philosophy, because it’s not always possible for everything to work out the way we’d like.

That was then, and these days I’m a different person.

Here’s what I say now:  fuck you, Fields.  That shit was easy for you to say, because when you said that, you’d already arrived in Hollywood, driving a Duesenberg and holding $100,000 in your bank account.  That means you were already made, baby, and that makes it easy to piss on the aspirations of others–

Ain’t got time for that.  I gotta move Forward.  I gotta keep trying.

I’ve died enough–

Time to start living.

Penultimate Daydream

Here it is, 4:43 AM, but because I’m one of those Central Standard Time people who are working in an Eastern Standard Time zone, it’s really a quarter to four in the morning as far as my internal clock is concerned.  This time zone flipping really messes with me, mostly because I’m heading off to bed at 10 PM my time, and then . . . well, I’m telling you what I’m doing now, aren’t I?

Maybe one of the reasons I’m up early is due to dreams.  I don’t know.  Last night I was having something pretty damn strange happening to me, but try as I might, only little bits and pieces are coming back to me.  There was camping out; there was something about having to sleep by myself the whole time; there was something about people laughing at me, and me just sort of taking it–

Screw it.

I did have one dream last night that sort of hit me in the face, however.  Though I’m not really sure if it was a dream, or if I was sort of half-awake, half-asleep, as sometimes happens when you’re tired and you can’t tell where the hell your mind exists.  It’s like this:

Much later this afternoon, after I blow off the hell I call work, I’ll engage in a ritual that I always perform around this time of year.  I have a pretty good idea of where I will conduct this ritual, and as temped as I am to do it on the Statehouse lawn, that would likely see my ass thrown in jail.  Not to mention that my Statehouse lawn fantasies involved Girl Scouts and cookies–not like that.  Get your mind out of the gutter, perv.

Anyway, whatever mode of mental immersion I was in during the night saw me at the location of my ritual, and as I was sitting there, I sort of . . . deflated would be the best work.  I began deflating, as if there were some weight atop me as the air was being let out.

And later, when I was returning to my car, I stop along the way, lean against a building–of which there are many around me–and let out a small, yet not-so-insignificant sob.

Screw all this crap, too.

I know what my mind is telling me; I know what it’d trying to do to me.  It’s trying to get me down, yes it is.  I admit:  I do feel a little down, but not for the reasons one might think.  There is a certain way I’d like to celebrate today’s ritual, but it’s not possible.  It only happens in my mind that way–

The mind is doing some Total Recall shit on me, however.  Next thing you know, it’ll be telling me to get my ass to Mars.

It’s time to stay focused.  Get through the day, do my thing, return to The Undisclosed Location . . . Edit.  Think.  Continue.

It’s this story I’m on, I know it is.  There is too much sadness there.  And the editing is going really well.

Which means I care for this piece a lot.

But then, when don’t I?

The Future Sadness

Sunday has come and gone, and for the most part it was a lot of sitting and being distracted, and trying to roll out words of wisdom when I wasn’t busting down the interstate at 80 mph, heading down to The Undisclosed Location.  It makes for a long day, and it makes for an even longer weekend when both Saturday and Sunday are like that.

Second scene of Chapter 46 of Transporting, and I got into something very, very sad.  I knew it would be sad when I began writing: in fact, I knew it would be sad probably . . . fifteen years ago?  Which was about the time when I first came out with the intimate ending for this scene.  Yeah, at least fifteen years ago.  But, then, the original ending I had for the novel was even sadder, but didn’t make a damn bit of sense, so I canned it.  If it don’t work, then don’t use it, right?

Still, I had to write this in bursts and fits.  First off, I started in on the scene just after lunch.  Got about 700 words into it, but I stopped because (a) had to get ready to travel, and (b) the computer was acting flaky, and who knew when the damn thing was going to lock up and keep me from saving my magnificence?  So shut down the story, saved it off to my external source, and proceeded to head to the center of my state for another week of soul-sucking.

So, when I arrived at The Undisclosed Location, I got back into the scene.  Which is to say I started writing while dealing with a few distractions on the side.  Or a lot of them.  It happens, trust me.  One of the distractions–well, not really a true distraction, but something that held me up–what I had to dig into my many time lines and find a date.  Yeah, I have a lot of dates, and in this case I once, long ago–maybe ten years ago?–I sat down and wrote down the time line of the four major characters, and thought of major points in their lives that could be turned into stories.  What?  You never did that?  I did.  I’m crazy, what can I say?

I found the time line, then I moved it into Scrivener, and formatted it, and saved it off.  All so I could have one line that one character used to explain something to another.  Not quite the three days Robert Heinlein and his wife spend working out an orbital calculation on butcher’s paper so he could write one line in one paragraph of the story Space Jockey, but it took time.

The scene was sad; no getting around it.  One of the main character has gone through kinda semi-hell up to this point–at least in the last couple of chapters that’s true–and there is something he never got to do, and wants to do it . . . but it’s never going to happen.  They’re told what’s happened, why it happened, and why he’d not going to get his wish.

And as the character walks out the door, they lay some Doctor Who on the other character, upon whom the quote is pretty much lost.  It’s a good quote, and in of itself sad as well, and it was something I came up with only last week, and I was damn lucky to remember it last night.

Tonight:  third scene of five for Chapter 46, and it’s going to be very sad.  But, in order to get to the promise of happiness, one must travel through the despair, and that’s what this character is doing.  It’s a damn shame the writer has to take the same trip, over and over and over in their head.

Why do I do this to my characters?

Suffer the Normalcy

As I write this it’s 4:35 AM.  I can’t sleep, even though I’m tired.  Too much going on in my mind, and none of it is related to writing.

That’s not a good thing, because it means my mind is everywhere but where it should be, which is getting my stories down on paper, be it virtual or real.

I’m back in the ranks of the employed, but it’s not a happy place.  The area where I will work . . . I can sum up my new environment with this one visual:  it’s all this really dark wood, and very small, with not a lot of space.  It’s not well lit.  Someone pulled stuff out from under my desk and left it on the floor behind my chair.

And on the cabinet where I’ll store paper and the such, someone left a coffee cup.  It’s been there a while because there is a thin layer of dust around the cup.  Someone came along and cleaned up the space, but then they were dusting off they cabinet, they obviously couldn’t bother to pick up the cup and move it, so they just dusted around it.

Welcome to my New Home.  I expect the TPS forms to show up at any time today.

I was sort of ready to write last night.  I didn’t get home until late and I wanted to find a place where I could get out and get me some internet so I could take care of business.  When I returned to The Undisclosed Location, I got into my story . . . and there was nothing there.  I knew what I wanted to say, but forcing it onto the page was damn near impossible.  I finally managed about 675 words, which was normal for me in the past, but after a few days of cranking out a lot of story in a short period of time, it felt disappointing.  Very disappointing.

I was tired.  About 9 PM I was literally falling asleep.  And I didn’t want to do that, because I knew if I did I’d be up very early–like, say, 3 or 4 AM.  So lets cut the difference and make it 3:30, which was when I did wake up.

And here I am, 75 minutes later, the drone of the expressway a constant reminder that as long as I’m in the new place, I’m never going to get anything remotely resembling quiet.

I’m really trying to stay up.  I have to say that after being off for such a long time it’s a bit of a shock returning to something like a normal schedule–if you can call falling asleep at 9 PM and waking up at 4 AM normal.

That sort of thing is going to kill me.

So is not being able to see what’s going on out there in the world outside my hovel.  I wanted to do a little research for my story last night–but no internet, so no research.  And I couldn’t run out and find a hotspot, because it was getting late.  I just did what any good writer does at that point:  I made things up.

Bully for me!

Today there will be a rewiring of The Undisclosed Location.  After that I should have connectivity . . . but I have this sinking feeling that what will happen afterwords is that I’ll be told to set up a time to have someone come out and connect my modem.  This will mean taking time off from the new job–again.

What a mess.

At least I’ll have my computer with me today.  Maybe my Muse will come around and give me a kick, make me write a few hundred words.  Maybe she’ll show up this morning and and help me do something with the extra time I have.

It’s times like this I want to make my writing work for me.  Because this normalcy stuff . . . it’s the suck.

I miss my Muse.  I wish she were here to hold my hand.