Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 Year in Review

Goals failed: 4

Goals accomplished: 0

Words written: approximately 100,000.

Works finished: 0

Works started: 6+

Previously started works touched: 3

Books published: 0

Books sold: 150-200

Blog hits: approximately 5,000

Moments of existential despair regarding writing: at least 2

Moments of renewed hope: at least 3

Resolutions made: 1

KEEP WRITING TILL IT’S DONE.

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Filed under Housekeeping, Publishing, Writing

Had It Been Another Day, Muse Might Have Spoke the Other Way

I’ve blogged before about how much I love The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and how profoundly I think it points out the possibilities all of us pass up, every single day, and never even know we missed.  I just had a moment where I wondered what WRITING possibilities I miss and never know about by giving my muse free rein one night and not another.

What happened was this: my hero just proposed to the heroine in the middle of the night, in his underwear, in a context that had nothing to do with compromising her virtue.

This turn of events was unexpected. I actually hadn’t had the proposal figured out from the beginning; my outline literally had the question “what prompts him to propose?” and I had to work out a few more pieces leading up to it before I had the inspiration. And, let me tell you, muse outdid himself with this one. I did not see a comedic proposal scene happening, but yet it works perfectly for them.

So what I then wondered was this–would I have come up with this zany scene if I had written it tomorrow night instead?  Does my creativity come from such a rational, logical place of synthesis that this idea would have come to me anyway as the most natural and proper way and means of bringing them together, or would I have missed this opportunity completely if my mind hadn’t been operating on the precise mix of experiences and thoughts and energy/exhuastion it is tonight?

I actually have some anecdotal evidence that my “creativity” really IS such a rational thing–scenes I have written months apart on a project pushed way to the back burner, that are essentially the same, the second one written without conscious knowledge of the first. Maybe my subconscious just remembered the way I had solved the puzzle the first time when I forgot I had solved it and went back to it a second time? (Actually, this is entirely possible…an older friend/mentor of mine was helping her mother recover from a stroke, and she said that her mom had to relearn everything but once she did it once, she had it–like those synapses in her brain had been disconnected but, once reconnected, were healed as if they hadn’t been broken. I imagine creative insights could easily work on a similar principle, and once that connection was formed once, even consciously forgotten it would probably be more likely to come up again than a new solution because that solution already exists in my neural network.)

I can’t dwell on this kind of paranoid reality.  Instead I will choose, like McCartney, to focus on the fact that I DID look that way and see that face. What I don’t know I missed can’t hurt me. 🙂

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Filed under Muse Music, Writing

Natural Birth and Writing

Or, A really long and overly personal but hopefully not too strained metaphor about childbirth and novel-writing

My husband and I are trying to conceive. We are, as he would tell his family if he were one of my Regency heroes, working diligently to produce an heir. DILIGENTLY.  I am also already researching health care providers quite carefully, because I have decided I want a natural birth–no drugs, no epidural, no c-section unless I am literally on the brink of death–and that is apparently unusual enough in this day and age of birth-at-your-convenience OB practice that to make it happen in a hospital you have to go in with a sympathetic doctor, request nurses who are on board with it, and present a “birth plan” to show you know what you’re asking for. All to have a birth that happens as they did for tens of thousands of years before modern medicine gave us a 35% c-section rate, in a place where you have immediate care just in case.

I am on a list-serve of women (and a few husbands) who either advocate for or are seeking to have a natural birth in my state. It’s an eclectic mix of hippies, pagans, super-religious types, and the libertarian/skeptic type who doesn’t blindly trust the medical community (me).  One of the topics that comes up every couple weeks is someone getting put on the spot, often by a medical professional, asking them to justify why they want a natural birth (because, apparently, just wanting one isn’t good enough). One of more compelling arguments seems to be lower instances of problems like low birth weight and general fussiness in babies who were born when the mother went into natural labor vs. those who were induced or scheduled a c-section. Not dealbreaking problems if you do it the other way, but, duh, of course a baby is going to be healthier if it just comes when it is ready and not before. A secondary concern is the fact that exact fetal age is unknown, and the way the age is calculated fails to account for variances in cycles. I, for example, tend to ovulate around day 18 rather than day 14–a doctor would age my baby nearly a week older than it really is–so waiting until the baby comes instead of calling it “late” and inducing at their due date also prevents premature births based solely in medical averaging instead of my particular circumstances.

Anyway. This is not a baby blog or a pregnancy blog or a life choices blog. It is my writing blog.  So how the F does this relate to writing?

Well. The whole notion of “it’ll come when it comes,” when it’s natural and ready and fully formed, has kind of haunted me when it comes to my utter failure to finish any goddamned thing I’ve started writing for over a year. It’s not that I haven’t been writing as much as was realistic for my actual life (versus some fantasy where I don’t work 48-hour weeks at a day job) or that I’ve been jumping from project to project (well, not until November, and then only once). The stories just…haven’t been ready to come out.

So instead of making any more rash deadlines for myself or trying to force out an arbitrary number of “completed” projects in a certain time frame, I am just going to keep plugging away and let the stories wind up when they are ready.  I am no longer counting my creative gestational period by a calendar. It takes as long as it takes, and it’s finished when it’s finished.

And just like real pregnancies and real births, I expect every novel, every novella, every short story, will have its own unique path to completion…its own time-table and its own final, messy, burst into the world, different from all the others in particulars and absolutely the same in general events and effect.

I just wish I knew where I was! Week 37?  Week 41? I suppose you never know till it’s over–just like pregnancy.

It’ll happen when it happens.

Excuse me. I have to go brew ginger tea and be zen now.

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Filed under Housekeeping, Ramblings, Writing

Apparently Spambots Like Booze, Too

Just found the following comment attached to my post about drinking port:

Good article! We are linking to this particularly great article on
our site. Keep up the great writing.

Oh, I will. I’ll even throw in keeping up the great drinking for ya. For FREE.

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IS Writing Creative?

This post was originally written for the #amwriting blog

I’ve seen a couple different articles in the past fortnight about optimal creative times, and how they usually occur at an inverse of optimal reasoning times. The frequent example given is that if morning is your most productive time for problem solving, then afternoon or evening is probably a better time for you to do creative work.

While I don’t disagree with the basic idea—that creativity uses a different part of the brain than reasoning/analyzing and will thus peak at a different time of day—I found myself questioning the conclusion of the articles as applied to being a writer, namely, set aside time to write during that “creative phase” of your day.

I questioned this advice because by far my most productive writing period is the same part of the day that includes my best cognitive work.

My biggest take-away from the logic course I took in college was this: if you accept the premises given then you are bound to reach the same conclusion. Thus the place to mount a logical challenge is not the logic itself but the premises.

The logic of these articles seems to be: reasoning and creativity peak at opposite times; writing requires creativity; you want to write at the time you will be most productive; therefore you should write when creativity is peaking. If the two premises are true, then I cannot argue that logic. I agree with the first premise. The second, then, must be the problematic one.

Which brings me to a question I haven’t seen addressed much in the how to write circuit—is “creative writing” actually a creative activity?

I have never before questioned that it is. My whole life I’ve been told that writing is a creative act, an artistic expression. The very term we use for fiction, and certain types of non-fiction, creative writing, embeds in its very definition that the act is creative. (To clarify—I am using the word “creative” to mean imaginative, expressive, abstract, unique…all those qualities we ascribe to artistic types and the work they do. In a very base linguistic sense, creative also means “to create,” so all writing is creative in that it creates from nothing, something. But that is not the definition we mean when we use the term creative writing.)

I wonder now, however, if writing is creative at all, for me.

When I write what I term “forward progress” on a story—writing from the beginning forward, in the style of a finished piece—the act is calculated, rational. Each sentence is written after mental analysis of the best way to impart an idea. The words are deliberate, chosen to most succinctly say exactly the idea I wish to express. This type of writing almost always stands; that is, I don’t go back and rewrite the sentences, change the words, reorganize the grouping of ideas, because generally speaking I do not need to. I said what I needed and wanted to say the first time. The only changes are minor cosmetics, the taking off of one thing after I have dressed, so to speak.

The only time I can effectively write like this is first thing in the morning, when my mind is primed for the heavy lifting of logic and reasoning. Given enough time, I can grind out 2000-4000 words before my brain atrophies. Yet if I try to write like this at the end of the day, the words don’t make sense, my brain feels like so much mush churning about, and I am lucky to get 300 words in two hours.

Does this sound like a creative act to you? It certainly doesn’t to me.

But there is another kind of writing that I do, what I call “scene sketching.” Almost invariably this is nothing more than conversations I hear in my head and transcribe. Most of the time when I have the urge to write in the evening, it is to write scene sketches, and boy, do they come easily. This writing does feel creative.

The problem I face is that I could never finish a book, even a short story, if I relied upon evening jam sessions alone. There would be no description, no grounding, no explanation of who people are and what brought them to that place. I suppose in some post-modern deconstructionist way that could make interesting pieces, but that is not the kind of story I want to end up with. At some point I have to sit down when I am at my most cognitive and write in all the stuff that won’t come in an imagination-storm.

Obviously my writing process incorporates both types of writing. But the truth is, I could write novels without putting down a word during those creative flurries. To me those flares of creativity are about the story; yes, they are necessary to write a novel, because without them what story do you write about…but they are not at all necessary to the actual act of writing.

Yeah…I think I have to reject that questionable premise. Writing is not creative. It’s the cognitive summary of the creative process. At least for me. But what about you?

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Filed under Lily Elsewhere, Writing

Harbingers of Hobbits

“Hobbit barrel riding” has once more crept into my frequent search terms.

Is there a movie coming out or something?

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Filed under Ramblings

Why Isn’t This My Life?

Since Sunday I have written a grand total of 1200 words. Better than nothing at all, and yet…they feel so spartan and sad.

It’s been hard every morning to tear myself away to go to the day job. I even like my job, but yet it’s physically painful to go and give 9 of my best hours to someone else’s dream.

Last weekend was fabulously productive. I wrote over 5000 words of good forward progress and got halfway through sewing a spencer jacket, starting without a pattern. Why can’t I just stay home every day and write and make things to sell on Etsy?

As soon as I hit the point where income from writing is even half what my day job pays me in a month, I’m all in. Until then, it’s 70 hour work weeks as I spend 45 at work and another 25 working at dreams. Sigh.

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