It’s good to feel really jazzed about writing again, instead of viewing it through the lens of discouragement proffered by those who have their own issues they want to make another’s.
I had, almost two months ago now, given myself the goal of completing a first draft of the manuscript banging the most around in my head by the last day of June (starting at the first of April). What did I write between that first day and now? Nothing. Well, that is not entirely accurate: I did jot some scene-related things down on a few index cards, which will serve as my chapter guides. They are easy to rearrange if there’s a need to do it, so it’s functional as well as informative. I wrote five of them. The sixth is staring me in the face, with “chapter 6” at the top. This doesn’t mean the others will go in direct order first through five, but I took this as a positive step toward killing – or at least maiming – my demons and working myself into the fray of word-slinging.
Last year, I had written the opening chapter of this manuscript. It’s been sitting on a thumb drive, and just now, I resurrected it, did a couple of light editing things, and added some more content and context to it.
It is frightening. Not the book – there are many more very real and frightening things in the real world – but the mental part of making one’s way through the tentacles that threaten to grab you by the ankle and pull you down under the water to drown you in a sea of self-doubt and not-good-enough-itis. My hands are, quite literally, shaking right now that the writing is done. But I am thinking this will get better the more I am able to punch away at the walls built over so many years, graffiti covering them with sneering commentary. The demons may still be there forever, but as long as they continue to shrink, much like Alice, each day will not be an epic battle, but more like swatting the occasional annoying fly away.
Here’s to more days of productivity, and creating a viable routine that will get me through from page one to “the end”.
I can do without the god stuff at number eight, but number four….number four is my personal demon. It’s a voice that dates back decades thanks to – cover your eyes if you’re averse to foul language – a manipulative, condescending, hypercritical, alcoholic, emotionally abusive douchebag. Amazingly enough, although I thought I had put that person behind me, I realized while pulling weeds that the root of all of that gut-churning angst was those (formative, vulnerable) years growing up in a household with that constant hammering. They – the “they” we all know and love/hate – say the first step to tackling a problem is learning to identify the problem. It works in the tech world, in writing, in just living from one day to the next. The second step: working a way out. That’s the step that needs to be taken, the puzzle that needs a solution.
I know, I know: updates are sporadic. However, this is the busy season at the ranch, with things to plant and tend, and beehive management to keep the girls in line.
One thing I have done, for this quarter (April through June) is make a goal: get a first draft completed on the first book of the series. I was thinking about this the other day in relation to the beekeeping things that were taking up chunks of my time. I’m perfectly willing to go all out and try to capture a swarm, for instance. Is it necessary that I catch them? No. I have a bunch of other hives that losing one swarm is not a huge deal. Does it reflect poorly on me if I’m not able to catch them, or make them stay if I do catch them? No. Am I self-conscious about having people see me all suited up, working with the bees? Not really. So, my challenge is to apply those things to my writing, instead of thinking everything I write sucks when I know the only person who really thinks that is me – others have read snippets and were positive about them.
That is the conundrum, my small, but faithful, group of readers: how to convince myself that the writing is a challenge just like working the bees is, or working the gardens is, and that even though writing is a very personal thing (to me), that voice/guard needs to be firmly but gently moved out of the way so I can get on with things that need to get out of my head and on the (figurative) paper.
I recall the furor when one of the previous books in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series was delayed: people act as if books spring from the writer’s mind fully-formed, and flow out onto the page (or computer) perfectly, the first time, and are immediately ready to be printed and shipped.
That isn’t how it works.
Even if the writer has been thinking about the work for years, and has scenes clearly defined in their mind (ahem, me), it still takes the effort of getting it all down, properly, logically, and coherently. It takes effort to revise it to make it the best it can be. Then it takes more time for whoever the team is (agent, editor, writer, etc.) to get it finally prepped and released.
I understand the frustration of waiting for an author’s next book. But I also understand that something I can read in a couple of hours – or, in GRRM’s case, four to six hours – takes months or even years for the work to be written in the first place.
For myself, I prefer to stick with a general rule that a first draft should take three to four months, tops. This seems to me to be the best length to ensure a good product but also to avoid getting so sick of the thing that you might drop it and switch to some shiny new idea. While I may have been thinking of all these tales in my head for years, I do not believe spending those same years in actually writing them will improve them in any significant form, and may result in them never being done at all.
So where does this leave me, the writer who has not yet started writing anything? Finally realizing that like all the other things in my life that I do as a “job” (for which I get paid currently or not) this has to be treated the same way. I had decided Monday that Tuesday was going to be the start, but alas, wound up so sick on Tuesday and into Wednesday that I barely did anything at all on or for any of them. I believe that most of that was due to even less sleep than my usual insomia allows over the past four days or so, as sleep deprivation can have an impact on a number of things, health-wise. I slept most of Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, and today is a vast improvement over yesterday.
Since life requires that we remain flexible, I took it easy today, and I will reset the begin date to tomorrow. Thursday will be the day I finally decide that getting all this out of my head is better than dismissing it all as not worth the effort, because who wants to be haunted by all the things they might have done, that were in their power to do, based on an underlying fear that is likely unwarranted and may very well be a falsely and maliciously provided narrative by a hateful person from earlier in their life? I may decide to talk about that later, but for now, it’s time to kick those particular demons to the curb and get them out of the way.
This is my kind of treasure washing ashore. Admittedly, it’s less happy for the companies whose containers went overboard, but having coffee wind up right at your feet is a beautiful thing.