So, I have been out in the world, doing things, being social, writing novels and working all of the jobs. And it is the season of Cookiegeddon, during which I bake a whole mountain range of cookies from scratch. It is both glorious and frightening.
The frightening part is when I just sort of make up recipes. The glorious part is when they work.
Hello, Cherry Chocolate Chip deliciousness…
Cookiegeddon is not over. I have more work to do. The mountain range of cookies remains incomplete until there is shortbread, snicker doodles, and something I haven’t tried to do yet. (I haven’t decided. I am procrastinating.)
Speaking of things that need to bake, I also have a handful of novels that require more ingredients before they are ready to be put in the oven. Which means I’ve got more work to do.
I’ll be back here when I have more news-type news to report.
So, I had a vacation from ye olde daye job recently during which I, of course, overbooked myself. I also had an awesome time and I have to admit it was really painful to go back to work after spending most of my week with other writer/book folk.
I went to my first writer’s retreat, an event organized and hosted by Penn Jersey Women Writers. It was, to use an overused word, awesome. I fear I may now be addicted to these sorts of events, but you know, time and money factor in and after some figuring, I realized I won’t be able to attend something like this again until spring. (Which maybe accounts for some of the difficulty in returning to ye olde daye job.)
One of the most important aspects of attending an event like this is hang time with other folks who are going through the same, or similar things, that you are as a writer. Most of the time I am sitting on my mountain working on stuff alone, and sometimes this is great, but other times it helps to be reminded that I’m not alone, that there are other folks struggling with the same things in regards to the art, or who have struggled with the same thing, came out the other side and who now have wisdom to impart. Perhaps that’s just a really long way of saying that attending events by and for writers reminds you (okay, me) that you are connected to something beyond yourself. Plus, there is always more to learn. Writer-brain likes learning.
The first speaker at the conference, Megan Hart, was really energetic at an early hour, which, for me was perfect after a long, early morning drive to the event. She spoke about productivity, which reminds me of this article that’s been floating around writerly internet this past week.
So, here’s the thing. I am committed to writing four books a year. Of course, when I say that, what it means is that I am writing four first drafts in a year, it does not mean that I am also publishing four books a year. It goes, first draft, let it sit while I work on the next thing, then I finish the next thing and circle back to the first thing for first round edits. Then the first thing goes out for feedback. Then I work on the third thing and circle back to the second thing and so on. That’s just how I do it. A publishing schedule is a totally separate animal from the actual act of writing. I think what pokes me the most about the article is that it appears to conflate the two things. Anything more I could say about this has already been said by Chuck Wendig’s post responding the article. I’m with him. There are so many different ways to approach this thing that we do, and no one person has the answers. While essays like that Huffo-po piece certainly provide food for thought, and stuff to consider, nothing anyone tells you about writing is gospel. Some advice will work well for you, some of it will be useless. Take what works and throw out the rest.
Oh my. It seems to be going around. I got hit with it this week. You know, that thing that happens when you wonder what the point of doing this work is. Despair. The only thing you can really do is wait until that giant wave of mutilation recedes back.
I was lucky this time. It only lasted a day. Sometime around the middle of a bout of writerly despair there’s this stage where I start to panic about how much time I wasted and what on earth am I going to do NOW?
Then you calm down, if you are lucky, and eventually the sense of despair (which comes in may forms, for many reasons) goes away. (In my case, the despair was brought on by how far behind I am on projects because of a week and half of computer issues. Holy crap, you guys, I am MONTHS behind. But you know, I’m the boss, so maybe I am being a bit of an asshole.) Of course you keep writing because really, if you are a writer (and I think this is true for other artists) what else IS there?
But I wonder if this cycle happens for non-fiction writers, too?
I wonder if this happens in other kinds of work, and maybe, we just don’t see it because it manifests differently, or for different reasons, or people in other careers just don’t talk as much about their Astrophysicisterly Despair. Is there an anhedonia particular to, for example, parking attendants? It sounds silly, but I’m being perfectly sincere about this.
I wonder about this because while it seems obvious to us that some careers would naturally have serious moments of darkness and despair, we don’t think about whether other types of jobs have those same moments.
*note : “I can’t brain” is a phrase borrowed from Che Gilson, who borrowed it from somewhere else.
So this past week was a bit of a blur in Reggie-land. I had all of these plans (do a proper video for the new Patreon page, get at least two chapters written on the new sf novel, start the first round of proper edits on the sequel to Haunted, make evil marketing plans, finally teach the parrot how to swear properly… you know.) In all of my well-intentioned plan-making I completely forgot that two very major family events were occurring.
Event the first: Brother visited from several states away to celebrate his birthday, Lutz-style, before event the second, my uncle’s wedding. YAY!
Somehow in the midst of all this excitement and wonder I thought I would still get these things done.
Yeah. I know. That was probably not the brightest assumption to make. (Also, I definitely need to check the workaholic tendencies. )
Anyway, a good time was had by all and my brother received more cowbell. He needed more cowbell. Trust me. I think we all need more cowbell, sometimes. (Translation: He sometimes makes songs and a cowbell was my gift to him.)
…which had grown, somehow. This completely stopped me from getting anything accomplished for at least half a day. It shouldn’t have. But I felt like I had to reprioritize everything. (Which I did have to do, but it should not have taken the hours it did.) Anyway, I hit the “I can’t brain” moment, and ended up stuck there while my head bounced from one task to another without being able to settle on one thing at a time. Which is crazy. I’m always telling people (who ask) that things only happen by taking one step at a time, like if you start a bunch of little projects without finishing them you just end up with a huge mess and returning to the first thing is like starting over so you end up wasting time.
That’s what writer brain was doing.
Then I went outside. As soon as the door fell shut behind me something huge came flying at me out of the trees behind my house. Writer-brain shut off as I dodged the creature. Finally it landed on the door I’d just come through.
So I just stopped and hung out with the Luna Moth. According to some myths the moth represents rebirth and renewal. In this case, it made me stop the frenzied, internal monologue and just appreciate something wondrous and fragile, it forced me to be in the moment.
And when the Luna Moth was done with her visit, I was much calmer and able to “brain.”
Which I thought was pretty cool.
How about you guys? When your head starts spinning, what helps you make it stop?Reconnecting to the natural world in any way can function this way for me.