Writing other things today:
The cat is not helping:
I write here because I enjoy it. It’s a bit like journaling, which I’ve tried to do kind of regularly since 2003:
The journals are for me. I write to remember. To record. To think on the page and try to understand or process what’s going on inside, which can sometimes feel so terribly complicated. I work on stories, I write out prayers, I respond to arguments and disappointments and happiness and the books or movies that I’ve loved or hated or had mixed feelings for.
Sometimes, I look back to see if I still think the thoughts I thought five years ago. Sometimes, I find things I once wrote that are now, with time, funny or ironic or weird. I use those things to try and amuse or encourage family members. Sometimes, if we can’t remember when something happened, I’ll look it up to see if I wrote about it. Sometimes I did – sometimes I didn’t.
Anyway, the journals are personal writings that are mostly for my own benefit and enjoyment. My own purposes. It’s not writing I plan to do anything with. It’s just me and my thoughts about life and life’s bricabrac.
This blog is similar. I read about successful blogs and good blogging habits, sometimes, or about bloggers who’ve used their online spaces to make money or achieve fame or gain other writing opportunities. And that’s all well and good, but that’s not my purpose, here.
Of course it’s nice when people read, and when they enjoy my writing, and when they say so. I’m grateful for those of you who keep dropping by to look in on my rambling. But I think I’d still ramble whether or not anyone was looking in.
Those are my favorite blogs to read, actually. The ones that are reflective, a bit rambling – just going on about life or opinion. “This was my day,” or “This is what I think,” or “I think this is what I think.” And because that’s what I enjoy reading, that’s what I try to write here.
It’s been fun so far (for me, anyway). Thanks for stopping by.
Readers feel resistance, too. They fear high feelings as much as you do. Paradoxically, it’s also what they seek in fiction. If you have ever raged or cried when reading a novel and cursed the author for making you feel like that, then you’ve experienced that resistance.
~ Donald Maass, Writing 21st Century Fiction
Here’s the thing. I have raged and cried at books before. I have cursed authors. And I never want to make another human being feel what I felt at those times.
I’ve sat alone, sobbing, snot running, halfway through a book, and it’s a book I’ll never finish.
I’ve read things that made me vow never to pick up anything else by that author again. Not because the author wasn’t talented, but because I won’t volunteer to be treated like that. There are some worlds I never want to see.
I’ve read stories that made me so angry I’ve thrown the book across the room – taken breaks – long breaks – from that author, because I don’t trust them anymore.
I get that this is me – my personal tastes and opinions – and that there are other readers who either aren’t affected this way, or who are affected this way and lap it right up. Fine. But I take personal tastes and opinions into my own writing, when I think about the stories I love best and most want to tell. This kind of emotion has no place there.
If it ever shows up, I will have failed to craft the story I meant to. I will have failed to write something I’d ever want to read. So it’s weird to read this advice. I suppose it’s great if you’re a different writer than me.
Anyway, not finished with the book yet, but I’m starting to wonder if almost all of it was written for different writers than me.
Oh, well. There will be other books.
Things will distract you.
But to make it easier on yourself, try and avoid these distractions, if you possibly can.
This week, apparently, I need to avoid watching anything – and I mean anything – that has a remote possibility of starring, co-starring, or cameo-ing any actor with a certain kind of irresistible face. Some television serves as inspiration. Other television just makes me lie face-down on the sofa, giggling helplessly into a pillow.
*focuses on next chapter of rough draft*
That is all.
Realize that your compulsion to put things off isn’t going to magically go away.
Put off doing anything about your procrastinating ways until tomorrow, when you’ll be able to tackle the problem with a clear head.
Several weeks later, try to come to grips with the fact that your procrastinating ways, much like your health and your time and your money and the cleanliness of your bathroom, will have to be managed, but that this same tendency will continually interfere with your attempts to do something about it.
Take a moment to admire this strange will inside you, which is so dedicated to not doing some things it does all kinds of other things instead.
Understand that a dedication to not doing some things can, worst case scenario, lead to an untimely death.
Allow that to frighten you, a little.
Understand that in order to put off some things, you have to busy yourself with other things. Your brain is willing to do something, as long as that something isn’t that one particular thing you can’t possibly do right now because reasons. For example, you can’t possibly do any writing, because you have to call the dentist and make cookies and wash dishes and fold all your laundry and research other words to use instead of “just.”
Understand that the compulsion to put things off just (dang it – see, this research is important) wants to put things off – it’s not quite as concerned with what it’s putting off. So with a little mental switcheroosing, suddenly you’re not putting off writing, you’re putting off making cookies. And calling the dentist. And folding your laundry.
Your brain will be suspicious of this trickery, but your procrastinating ways are so quick to kick in, you end up writing while also feeling that light, airy, “Not today!” high that comes from deciding to not get something done.
Repeat as needed, with all kinds of different things, for the rest of your life.
Realism is overrated.
I’d had conversations that go like this:
Person making recommendations: “You should watch/listen to/read This Thing I Love.”
Me: “Yeah? I’ve heard it’s good, but I’ve also heard it’s sad and violent and all the people you like best end up dying in horrific, unexpected ways.”
Person: “Well, yes, but that’s real. It’s just like Real Life.”
Me: “I . . . think I have enough Real Life in my real life already, thanks.”
I don’t know if this is true elsewhere, but in my experience, “realism” and the phrase “like real life” are generally used to mean, “sad and painful,” “covered in dirt and blood,” “agonizing,” and “SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!!! Hahahaha – jk. You’re dead now.”
I hate that. I hate the idea that reality has to be awful. That death and violence and grief is more real than life and and love and laughter.
The older I get – and the more I watch things/read things – the more I’ve come to value stories characterized by joy. By fun. By hope.
When I was elevenish, I set out to write a long book about a girl and her best friend and a horse. It was an epic-fantasy-journey-type story and I determined very early on that the best friend was going to die. It would be very emotional and tragic and real.
I “tsk, tsk” at 11-year-old me. If I had ever finished that story, I wouldn’t have wanted to read it: too depressing. I was writing to make myself cry. As if I didn’t (and don’t) already spend enough time feeling sad.
I don’t write like that anymore. Now, I write to make me smile. Laugh. Hope.
“You are going to live,” Writer-Me says. “You’re going to live, and you’re going to save the people you care about, and you’re going to grow old, and change the world for the better. I’m not sure how, but that’s another story. Well, it’s not another story; it’s this story, actually, but – um, later. That’s later in the story. Yeah.”
This kind of writing isn’t for everyone. Stories that don’t leave you smiling and hoping and joyful aren’t bad. But they’re not for me. At least, they’re very rarely for me.
But that’s me. Not you. Happy writing. Or, not-happy writing, if that’s your thing.
Write for someone.
Write for yourself, of course. But for someone else, too. Someone not-you.
(Not your cat. Your cat won’t be any help. Probably. I don’t know your cat.)
Writing for yourself is lovely. You want to write about dragons? Write about dragons. You want a happily ever after? Write a happily ever after. You want the girl to skip out on both guys and go have adventures with her great aunt? Write that. You want to write endless conversations between the characters in kitchens and backyards and front lawns because you don’t want anything too stressful to happen to them? Write that too!
Of course, writing for yourself can be tricky.
Me: Oh, I love this.
Me (the next day): I hate this. It’s so stupid.
Me (the day after that): Wait, I do like this.
Me (several days later): No I don’t.
Writing for someone else is a way to get a bit of perspective on your work. You want to write about dragons? Okay, but does your someone care about dragons? What kind of dragons does your someone like? Is your someone tired of reading about dragons? Would your someone rather read about horses or bears or flying motorcycles? (Too bad. They’ll read about dragons and like it.)
You are writing yet another witty argument between characters as they make dinner, but what does your someone want to read about? Witty banter? Or explosions! Chases! Forbidden love! Maybe it’s time to stop bantering and actually do something.
If you can get an actual someone – someone who cares about you, someone who enjoys your writing, someone you want to write for – to read your writing when you write it – that’s wonderful. Ideal, even. But if you don’t have someone with this kind of time, it can still help to think of this someone as you’re working.
Wanting to make someone besides yourself laugh, or smile, or turn the page frantically, or feel sad. (Stop making them sad, you monster.)
Do you have someone to write for? Try it.
Make hay while the sun shines.
Or if, as in my case, you have a lawn instead of a hay field, mow grass before a thunderstorm rolls through.
After you’ve mown lawn, though, it’s good to sit on the cut grass and smell the earth, to listen to all the evening sounds of wind and rustling leaves, of bird and bug and neighborhood.
It’s good to sit and write.
Write when the mood strikes.
Not only when the mood strikes: you might never get anything done. (Maybe you will; I don’t know you.) But if you feel the urge to write and you’re able, get to it. Something good may happen on the page.
Of course, it’s important to write even when you don’t feel like it. At least, it is for me. It’s helped me build good habits and finish long projects. Today, I got up and wrote while my coffee brewed even though I’d have preferred to sit slumped at the kitchen table, moaning.
(Not really a morning person.)
Anyway, I got writing done and it was perfectly fine and now I’m a couple pages closer to finishing this rough draft. Yay.
Still, there’s a special kind of joy in writing when you do feel like it. Like eating a favorite meal when you’re hungry, or scratching an itch, or waking up and realizing it’s your day off and you don’t have plans and you can re-burrow into your pillow.
Writing because I want to reminds me of the fun of it, the pleasure, the reason I began in the first place.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to need more coffee.
One. Fun. Thing.
Or, more than one fun thing, if that’s what you want. But at least one fun thing.
“You grew up in a desert?”
Cade nodded. “The capitol’s in a desert; you’ve been there.”
I stared at him, trying to control the impulse and failing. “So, if you’ve lived in a desert most of your life . . . how do you feel about sand?”
Whatever question he’d been expecting, that wasn’t it. “Sand?”
A shrug, as if he’d never thought about it before. “It’s fine, I guess.”
“It’s fine?” I raised my eyebrows. “Not . . . coarse?”
The wizard frowned. “Well, some of it’s fine and some of it’s coarse, depending on the terrain – why do you ask? Do you not have any of your own sand?”
“Sure we have sand – there’s a beach right in town.” I kept a straight face. “I like sand.”
He looked at me, obviously confused. “That’s what I meant when I said sand is fine.” He hesitated. “I mean, it does get everywhere – that’s irritating – but – “
I began to laugh.
I do a fair amount of writing – a lot more rewriting – with the idea that someday I’ll be good enough at it to get paid. And while I wouldn’t keep on writing if I didn’t enjoy it, trying to be better takes a lot of the fun out of a project.
Not good, not good, not good enough, still not good enough, still not good enough. Again!
It can be discouraging. And sometimes, working on a different project, in a different stage, isn’t any easier, because I have hopes for that story too, and I want it to be perfect, even when I’m rough-drafting.
My solution? At least one other thing going on the sidelines that’s just for fun. Something silly. Pointless. Something I’ll never rewrite or try to make better because it doesn’t matter. It’s just for me and my own enjoyment. Maybe it’s a side character’s backstory. Maybe it’s an inside joke or a bit of epilogue or prequel. Maybe it’s fan fiction in one of my favorite universes. (Star Wars. It will always be Star Wars. Or sometimes Jules Verne, for variation.)
Maybe it’s something with characters who are complete strangers to me, and we discover the story together until it’s time for us to part ways.
I always go back to my serious writing, and my serious, writerly goals. But I goof off, too, to remind myself why I started writing in the first place: it brings me joy.
Happy writing, all. ; -)