Busy Buzzy Bee

Been working a lot on the edits on Novel 1 and thinking about Novel 2 a lot. Novel 1 edits have slowed down, only now am I actually 200 pp away from the end — I had targeted Saturday for that, but things are still moving.

Been thinking about changes I can make to old short stories to make them salable. I think I may be getting closer on those, and I may be able to knock them out once the edits are done. That’s the current plan: Finish edits, rewrite 2 stories (maybe 3), then back to the novel.

Otherwise time has been eaten up by work, family, and the gym — where I am trying to ditch some nagging injuries. I haven’t heard anything out of my left calf for a while, so it may be fixed (knock on wood). But my knee is still nagging me. There has to be an easy solution — it’s been so close to recovery in the past few months that I can’t believe it’s anything serious.

With all the weight loss (14 lbs so far), I’ve been ramping up the running again (slowly) and the Amtgard sword fighting too. I’m not where I was a year ago, sword-wise, but I am better than I was a month ago. Need to get reaction speed and some complex combos back — Artus Pass is a great, friendly park, but it has made me lazy.

Writing and Confidence

It’s one of the great ironies of my writing that I am often motivated to write by fear, uncertain times, or when my confidence has been shaken. And — with the tragedies in Japan, the possibility of a looming global economic turndown because of it, and me still trying to get back into my old daily writing habits — there’s more than enough negative emotions to go around.

So, predictably, I have written 1,000 words already this week Monday-Wed when my previous productivity has been about 700 words for a full 7 days.

But of course this comes with a cost, too. My query letters are small, terrified, things cowering under the sofa behind the dust bunny and my daughter’s lost toy. I don’t say “Hi” to strangers much any more, I can’t think of anything funny to say in conversation so I don’t say anything at all.

Perhaps this unconscious self-isolation helps throw me into the world of the novel. Perhaps not. Perhaps writing is a refuge for me from the nighted world.

Whatever the case, at least I am writing again. Now if I could only have my self-confidence and my writing too!

What to do when you’re tired and discouraged

So maybe you’ve been plugging away at short stories for a while and nothing seems to work. Or maybe you’ve got a novel that never seems to end. Or maybe you’ve got something done, but you just can’t seem to sell it. Maybe you’ve got several novels sold, but you’re starting to hate what you write.

What do you do when you’re starting to give up hope, when th e world and deadlines and everything else starts crowding in?

There’re three major options:

1) Keep on plugging away, with bloody minded determination. This is the standard solution if you want to be published, and I highly recommend you try it sometime if you haven’t. Sometimes putting your blinders on and doing what has to be done is the only way to get where you want to go.

2) Give up. This is the most common response. There’s no shame to it — “Writing ain’t for everyone,” as the saying goes here in Texas. (But giving up is not what this journal is about!)

3) The middle road: Retreat to your sacred space. Take the pressure off. Let your bliss return, so it feels less like a job. The danger here is that you’ll never come back, but to lessen that danger, lay some ground rules — you don’t have to write in your sacred space, but you can’t go internet surfing either. Make a short list of acceptable behaviors (reading certain books, studying certain subjects, writing poetry, staring insensate at the wall/plants/traffic, meditation, taking a nap/sleeping). You’ll probably find that you resort to a lot of staring — this is because a lot of burnout comes from stress and exhaustion. Your mind probably just needs to rest and heal.

Whatever you choose to do, make peace with yourself. You’ve chosen that option, and you’re going to give a shot no matter what. Promise yourself 10 days of trying before you move on to something else.

Help Japan – and – Media Exhaustion

I am overwhelmed by the scale of the tragedy in Japan, and I’ve already made plans attend at least one fundraiser, and to try and figure out other ways I can do my small part. I strongly recommend everyone else do what they can, as well. Every little bit helps.

But I am also exhausted by the media coverage. All of the films. The white line in the ocean that turns into a black amoeba on land. The cars as small as river stones, the ships small as toys, people running and driving as fast as they can to get away, entire houses and building afloat on the slow-creeping doom.

I have to have a break from it sometime, and I think that time is now.

A bit of advice: If you ever meet a writer who’s work you have read…

Realize that the image you have constructed of them inside your head is mostly fictional, and that they are probably quite different than you expect.

What the heck am I talking about, you may ask:

The insightful John Scalzi talks about this “being fictional” problem at length on his Whatever blog here, and the equally insightful Elizabeth bear discusses being an fictional construct of her readers here.

I think eBear says it best:
“Essentially, I’m a fictional person to them. [the readers]

And they feel like they have ownership of that construct/fictional person, and sometimes they get very angry when I persist in being me and not the person they imagined. Which, I mean–okay, yeah. It happens to actors and musicians and sports figures a thousand-fold more, and politicians build their careers on capitalizing on this effect, but boy it takes some getting used to.”

This isn’t a new problem. It happens to celebrities of all types and levels (even lonely short story writers, especially if they write visceral horror/dark fantasy). It even happens to folks on WoW, and between coworkers at work.

As we watch people on TV/read stories by people/interact with people, we build a fictional construct of that person in our heads. We think we know them, know what they are thinking, know what they would do in a situation. Sometimes we even pass moral judgments on them.

I’m just saying… Be careful: the writer you meet is probably not the person you expect.

Not setting yourself up for failure

You know, a lot of us have a goal to write at least once a day. Some of us even have wordage targets. But sometimes you have to have a reality check:

I did not write today at lunch. Instead, I drafted a cover letter for the complete novel and got it reviewed by a writing buddy. Crossed all the t’s, dotted all the i’s. But, to me, this counts as “writing” — it’s all part of the same thing: getting the work published.

I used to feel guilty in situations like this. In fact, that sense of guilt might even make me stop writing a for a few days as I stewed over my failure and wondered what went wrong.

But now I have come to realize there are only so many words in me per day, and work takes most of them, and blogging takes more. Until my writing muscles, build, it’s more important to not get discouraged. And besides… So what if I didn’t move forward on the current work? I did something critical for the overall goal.

I count today as a win.

The Danger of Metaphors

“Tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love.”
-Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Beign