Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Are You Lying to Yourself?

Let's face it: some days just suck.

Not that they're a disaster or anything. I've had really, really bad days. Days when things happen that are entirely beyond my control, and I can barely get through the day, let alone write. Some days truly are disasters. If you have a car accident, or get really bad news, for example.

Sometimes I just get distracted. Okay, maybe often.

And sometimes I wonder if I'm just using something that happened as an excuse to not write that day.

I'm pretty sure that all writers have days when they simply don't feel like writing. Whether they don't feel well, or they're upset, or, like me, yesterday I just had a really bad allergy day (we had strong winds the day before, which always sets my eyes into teary-smeary mode). These are all very real things, and depending upon the severity of the situation, you might not write that day, or even that week.

There are other reasons writers don't write: your in-laws are coming and you need to clean, your children need help with their science project, your spouse is clamoring for attention, the dog keeps getting sick on your carpet and you really should take him to the vet, and so on, and so forth. Then there are writing-related reasons: you don't know where your story's going, you're having plot issues and there's something you have to research, you can't seem to hear your characters' voices today, and so on and so forth.

But how do you know if you're just using an excuse not to write, or it's just one of those days when you probably shouldn't? (And there are likely days for every writer when they probably shouldn't.)

If you're serious about writing, though, you treat it as the profession it is (I could probably write an essay, if not a book, on the lack of respect often shown to writers, but we'll save that for another day). You make the time. You find a way. At least on most days. I don't know about anyone else, but I generally don't write for eight hours a day, like a regular job. After all, most of us have regular jobs. I have . . . well, an irregular job, so I can put in a couple hours a day, and if I'm on a roll, I can usually rearrange things so I can keep writing. But I try to get in an hour or two at least five days a week. It's something regular, it's reasonable, and in the end, it adds up.

But on days that I don't write, when I'm feeling guilty, I often ask myself if I really should just get down to it, never mind the distractions and apartment maintenance.

I don't think there's any correct answer to the question of whether you really ought to write on this day or that regardless of what else is going on in your life. Every writer has to decide that for themselves.

But I do think it's important to ask yourself why you're not writing today. After all, aren't you writing your novel (short story, script, whatever) because, when it all comes down to it, you love to write? Rather than asking ourselves if our reasons for not writing are legit, isn't it more important to figure out what's stopping you, so you can overcome it and get back to doing what you love? Rather than either making an excuse to yourself for why you're not writing, or, conversely, why you're forcing yourself to write in a futile exercise of sheer willpower, wouldn't it be better to figure out why?

If you know, then you can figure out how to attack the problem. Or how to just go around it. If I'm stuck because I don't know what the next scene should be, maybe I'll just go off and write another scene that's coming to me just then. After all, one of the great things about working on a large project is that you don't have to write it in order. Maybe I need to get out my index cards (or the electronic equivalent) and see if I need to shuffle them around a bit. Maybe a plot-point doesn't work and needs to be re-thought. Whatever it is, isn't it just better to figure out what it is, so you can move on?

Yesterday I got up and walked the dog. Then I got my morning caffeine and went out on the porch. My eyes felt like I had small boulders in them, and I kept having to squirt saline solution into them to soothe them (a great trick from my contact-lens-wearing days). I don't know if I'll be able to read it very well when eventually I transcribe what I have handwritten in my blank book, but I wrote. I have no idea how much of what I wrote yesterday (or any other day, for that matter) will eventually wind up in the novel, or how much will get cut. But I wrote.

And in the end, that's what we do, right?

If you keep making excuses for not writing, I have to wonder if you really want to write. Are there things you need to do to make it easier for you to write? If that's why you're not writing, then go do those things, so you can write. If not, then maybe you need to ask yourself a more fundamental question.

And in the end, I know my own answer, and that's what matters.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Feeling Guilty

I'm curious if anyone else feels guilty when they don't write for a day.  Or two.

For reasons having to do with my apartment maintenance, my writing schedule has been thrown off for two days running.  And I feel, well . . . guilty.

You see, since I started this WiP, I've been getting up earlier than usual every morning, waking my little guy (he's 12 pounds with a body full of curly apricot hair, and sleeps on the foot of my bed) – which is harder than you might think, as he doesn't like to get up early – and we go for our morning walk.  Once he's had his breakfast, I go off to the porch to write for a couple of hours.  Every day without fail.  Except Sundays (not because I'm religious or anything, it's just the day I spend watching movies or TV with a friend). 

Until yesterday, when we had a scheduled maintenance appointment . . . scheduled in as much as they gave us an 8-hour window.  Now, since the last time I let someone into my apartment to fix anything and they caused a flood that took weeks to recuperate from, I don't allow any maintenance to take place unless I'm home.  At any rate, I got up early, walked my puppy, and hopped in for a quick shower so I could let the guy in.  Now, they didn't take all day to show up, as they normally do, but they threw me off schedule, nevertheless.  And I never got any writing done. 

Today they had an “inspection.”  Again, the whole thing threw me off enough that I never got to the writing.  I mean, the reason I don't do anything before I get in some writing time is because I have less chance of getting sidetracked that way.  The only reason I even take the little guy out is because if I don't I'll have to clean it up.  Okay, that, and he's my baby.  Besides, he's doing his job by seeing to it that I walk enough to keep my knees from jolting me out of a dead sleep in pain (yes, I know it's counter-intuitive, but keeping moving really does help keep arthritis from being more painful than it otherwise would be).

So there it is: two days, no writing.  (Well, okay, no working on the novel.  I mean, I'm writing this.  This counts as writing, doesn't it?)

I feel incredibly guilty for not having worked on the novel in two days' time. 

I will be very relieved when I get back to it tomorrow morning.  I have some places I have to go later in the day, errands and such.  But if I get some writing done in the morning, I feel like I've actually accomplished something. 

Also, I'm a little afraid.  I think I'm afraid that if I leave it too long, my characters won't be speaking to me anymore.

Anyone else afraid their characters will be mad at them because they feel neglected?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Wherein I Pose a Question. . . . (Okay, Several)

How do you write? 

Do you do everything, right from the first draft, on a PC?  A Mac? An IBM Selectric?

Do you have a favorite software package?  Do you work in Word, or Scrivener? Something basic?  Or more elaborate?

Do you make your notes on legal pads?  Do you have a white board?  Do you have many?  Do you have tack boards all over your office with index cards stuck to them?

Speaking of which, do you have an office?  Do you write at home?  At Starbucks?  The park?  Where?

I'm just curious to see the range of . . . stuff . . . of, "things and supplies" (I'm wondering how many will get the reference . . . if anyone:) that other writers use.  Or maybe there isn't a range, just variations on a theme.

If you've read my profile, or this blog for that matter, you know I have a thing for fountain pens.  I occasionally wonder if I'm the only writer who enjoys the tactile sensation of pen gliding over paper.  And then I think, if I am, then Levenger would be out of business. (I love Levenger.  Anyone wants to send me a gift, you can send me a Levenger gift card.:)

I hope you'll comment!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

The First Step: A Plot

Okay, show of hands of any writers reading this: how many of you have had pages, if not chapters of inspired writing come out as easily as spending money at a mall, only to realize later on that you had no idea where it was all going?  Only to stop and stare at it, wondering why you'd spent all that time on it?  Only to wish that somewhere in all that writing, you'd stumbled upon a plot?

Who amongst us hasn't heard a conversation in our mind's ear . . . two interesting characters speaking?  Or thought what if . . . I put someone in the middle of the desert, and they come to and have to figure out why they're there?  Or overheard a conversation and knew you could write at least ten pages of dialogue from that bouncing-off point?

But it all amounts to nothing if you haven't got a plot.

Such is how a lot of my writing goes.  Sometimes the plot turns up screaming at me to take notes.  And sometimes it runs away and hides.

I do much of my writing in a blank book with a fountain pen.  To me it's great to use a PC for everything else, but often a first draft just comes out better that way, or maybe faster . . . or perhaps I should just be happy that it does.  As a result of this, I have boxes of blank books (I won't even go into the index cards and sticky-notes) in my closet.  There are blank books in my nightstand drawers, in my desk, in my filing cabinet.  And every now and then, I pull one out and see something I wrote . . . however long ago it was. 

Sometimes I find where I'd been trying to work out a plot, writing notes and questions to myself (sometimes I even answered them).  Sometimes I have several story ideas, or character bios, in one book.

But I'll also find a book with the beginning of a story in it.  And I'll look at the first few lines, not really remembering it, so I'll find someplace comfortable and read it, as if for the first time.  As if I weren't the one who had written it.  And I'll get to the end of what I had written and think, "Well?  What happens now?" 

I'd like to think that that's a pretty good sign . . . that if I don't recall writing it, but I want to know what happens, it might actually be interesting; who really knows?

This is what happened to me about two weeks ago. 

But there was no plot attached to this three-year-old story-beginning, no notes, no nothing.  So I finished reading it and then went on to do other things.

A couple of days later, while in the shower, I had an epiphany.  (I get a lot of writing epiphanies in the shower.  They're excellent for that.)  I had also started another story, maybe even older than that one, but this one I couldn't find notes for.  However, I recalled it well enough to realize that it would mesh nicely with this story-beginning.

And more importantly, I actually had a plot!  I scribbled a rough, skeleton of an outline onto the back of an index card, lest I forget.  That card joined the others with possible character names clipped to the first page of the blank book. (I won't go into names here, but I'm sure I'll get to them eventually.) 

Voila!  A basic structure for my novel! 

Well, I've got a main character and a few others.  Basic plot outline: check.  Antagonist?  Yep.  Resolution: accounted for.

That's not a bad start.

Well, at least I hope so.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The First Step of the Journey

I've been working full-speed ahead on a new – well, sort of new (but more on that later) – writing project, and I've also been looking on and off for a writing group in my area.  I've tried to contact a couple of the larger ones, but one didn't even reply, and another was too big . . . I know, I know . . . I sound like a fairy tale.  But suffice it to say, none of the ones I've found were, "just right."  I mean, I don't really care about big groups and guest speakers (well, they're great and everything, but that's not really the kind of group I had in mind).  I'm looking for a few writers that want to get together, either physically or virtually, and critique each other's work. 

And so the thought occurred to me, why not do a writing blog?  Perhaps some likeminded writers will find it and three or four of us will have enough interests and writing goals in common, and we'll form our own group. 

Besides, I don't think of any writing as wasted; I think of it as a masterpiece-in-the-making at best (okay, that sounded a little more optimistic than I actually am), or some good practice at the worst. 

I know there are a lot of would-be writers, aspiring writers, and someday writers on the 'Net.  There are people who are out there living, doing their, "regular jobs," which may be exciting to others, and they think, "Someday I'll write a book about what I do."  There are others who dream of a glamorous career as a writer. 

Well, I know enough writers who do it for a living to know that this is by no means a glamorous career.  (Okay, except for those writing friends and acquaintances who get to go to the Emmys, but how often does that happen?) 

But all you have to do to be a writer . . . is to write.  (Yes, I know it's a famous quote, by the ROM in my brain is failing me at the moment, as is Google and WikiQuotes.) 

So I do it.  I write. 

And I hope like hell someone will read what I've written and find something worthy in it.  Or at least check my blog and click through on a couple of advertisements.

I'm starting this blog in the hopes of hooking up with others who call themselves writers, or those who would like to, or even those who just enjoy reading and would like to know what goes on before they download that book to their Kindle.  I hope some of you will choose to ask questions, have discussions, or even contact me if you're interested in that writers' group.  As I've said, I've got a WiP (Work in Progress), so maybe there are others who are also writing and we can exchange experiences. 

And I . . . will keep writing.