Sometimes it only takes one ripple in the water to change the shore.
Sometimes it only takes one ripple in the water to change the shore.
We just moved. The whole house. Granted, it was only a couple of miles away. But it still sucks, it still interrupts everything, and it still makes writing just about impossible. Not that writing is always at the top of my list of things to do these days. I mean, in a perfect world it would be. But I’ve got kids and pets and family and responsibilities… and a house full of boxes. So. Many. Boxes. At this point I’m beyond the whole “write every day” thing which, when starting out, is super important. Of course. But reality? Yeah. I still don’t have a desk situation set up, so writing’s been slow (and, oddly, typing hasn’t been bothering me on the normal keyboard… I’ll pretend that isn’t weird or whatever). But it’s happening even if it’s slow. It’s 80,000 words of happening. Which is awesome. ::insert happy dance::
However, the world has been upside-down for weeks, now. We all got sick just as the move started. Just after we’d all been sick. Then the baby decided it was a perfect time to start walking. And, to save what sanity I have remaining, I also decided it was time to do something about my anxiety levels which, for the last few months, have been catastrophic. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve gone back on antidepressants, and so far it seems to be helping a great deal. I’ve had some truly great nights of sleep, which have been at the center of my struggles, and I’m grateful.
I won’t say that antidepressants make me a better writer. But they allow me to get out of the awful feedback loops brought about by anxiety. I’m not the first person to ever notice that writers suffer from depression seemingly more than non-creatives. And recently Jim C. Hines wrote a far better piece than this one on writing and depression and medication. The first time around, I had postpartum depression. While I did, indeed, have a baby about ten months ago, this instance is different. Because my relationship with my daughter couldn’t be better. To be candid, I’ve bonded with her in a way that I was never able to do with my son due to PPD. I was afraid of my own child, paralyzed by fear and rushing thoughts and anxiety when it came to my son. Zoloft mended some of that, but also left me feeling a bit distanced from the world. Eventually, I was able to cope without the medicine. I never thought I’d have to rely on it again.
But this time, it’s been something else. When I finally met with my GP, I was in tears and shaky. When I told her everything that’s been going on in my life–valid, awful, heartbreaking things–on top of the insomnia and anxiety, she agreed it was time for help. “You seem like a really good person,” she said to me. “Just take some time for yourself. It’s okay to get help.”
I’ll admit, it’s frustrating. Part of me feels annoyed that I’m on this prescription train again. I’m also annoyed that I’ve had some really hard days in spite of the medication. I want to be strong enough to power through things, but I know I can’t. Writing is my coping mechanism, but that doesn’t always work. When I can’t write because of anxiety and depression, the rest of me starts to fall apart. I remember talking to my psychiatrist when I was diagnosed with PPD and explaining, “It’s not even that I don’t have time to write. Because it’s one thing to be so busy you don’t do it. But I’m not even thinking about it. I don’t care about it any more.” Thankfully, I didn’t get to that point with the current project, but it was getting close.
Six years ago, medicine helped me focus enough to complete my second novel. Now, it’s giving me the focus to finish my seventh, and hopefully to edit my sixth. But the healing isn’t all in the chemicals. The healing is still in those pages, in the words. So, hopefully, in time, they’ll be all that I need. We’ll see.
So I’m not saying I’m not doing NaNoWriMo. And I’m not saying I am. I’m going to be mercurial and special about it, so there.
Life is moving in about a thousand different directions as we speak (I haven’t written much this weekend but… I collected pine cones from the yard, and spray painted them and made a wreath and a tree sculpture thing and designed and painted the Steve head from Minecraft for my eldest kid, while he critiqued every brush stroke and also dealt with his total meltdown at AC Moore–all while still trying to process that he’s likely got Asperger’s and “something else” and there’s nothing that I did wrong, but it’s still going to be this way for a long time, and it’s never going to be “easy” and how the hell am I supposed to get everything done with this teething baby and… oh, look… shiny pinecones!), and while writing has been happening in some capacity it’s not exactly, um, as fluid or as streamlined as I’d like it to be (read: I wrote 7K this last week, and deleted 2K, and… most of it has happened after 11pm). I just got over one of those humps during the editing process. You know what I mean. I just got tired of my own writing. I started to contemplate abandoning ship, taking up the mantle of another job altogether, and moving on. Of course this is natural. Just a few days ago I was contemplating how great the book is, how much I love it, and how I can’t wait to share it with the world.
This is why I started using the #writecrazy hashtag this week. It’s been like that. Also scotch. And wine. And chocolate.
Anyway, writing for the month of November won’t be NaNoWriMo numbers. I’m mixed, to say the least, on the approach, but I can’t say it hasn’t worked for me (considering my only published novel started its infancy as a NaNoWriMo book, even if only about 20% of that original draft made it into the final round).
But! What I’m doing for November is changing the tape. Flipping the disk. Going to side B. I’ll be putting down Rock Revival and starting up again with The Other Country. I had been stuck for quite some time with TOC, and I let it go during my pregnant months. Then, last night, awake while I was supposed to be sleeping, I started “playing the tape” of the book in my head and seriously considering where it might go. And lo! Just like that, I knew the next scene, after months and months of scratching my head. It’s going to take some heavy lifting. Unusually for me, I’m having a tough time with the main character. The current draft has his name as Charlie, but that’s totally not staying. Or maybe it is. I don’t know. I have to get to know him better.
And maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m choosing this book. I feel like Charlie and Kate from Rock Revival would like each other. They’d get each other. Right after I finished Queen of None I started working on Pilgrim again. And I had this odd hitch where I felt like Maddie and Anna hated each other. And I was seeing Maddie with Anna’s eyes and… yeah. #writecrazy all right. That’s not to say that everything is connected. But I think it’s perilously important to choose complimentary work when you can. Charlie and Kate’s stories couldn’t be more different, but they both still are my “kids” if you will. And I need to make sure everyone plays nice. Especially at this moment when Real Life and Everything seem too big and pressing and overwhelming to be of much help.
So, anyway. I’m not not doing NaNo. Not exactly. Good luck to those who are. Or aren’t. Here’s to those telling stories every day and those who do it just one month a year. The most important part is the telling, after all.
These -ember months do seem to pile up rather quickly, don’t they? Last week I went away to the West Coast, spending some time with family. I don’t know what it is about me, but every single time I make a trip like that I somehow think I’m impervious to jet lag. The truth is, I’m terrible with jet lag. Eastbound is nuts. It’s almost been a week and I still haven’t acclimated, not even close. So the last few nights I’ve been up well past 2 AM, then up again at 3 AM with the little girl. So lucidity is not exactly my strong point at the moment.
Anyway, in spite of all that I’ve still managed to find the time to write. I’ve had to give up on the novella, half because the novel won’t leave me alone and half because I know I can’t give at the time that it deserves. I hate having to say no about something, to walk away. But that’s one of the realities of being a grown-up! You really have to learn how to manage your time. Or else nothing gets done. I spent the bulk of yesterday working on taxes and putting together a family budget. I much would have preferred to do something creative. But thankfully, even though it was late, I got my thousand words written.
This past weekend we visited the coast, where my in-laws live. On the ride home I had a chance to speak to my husband about the novel and some of the frustrations I’ve been going over in my head. At first, I really thought the love story was going to be central to the book. But then it sort of fizzled. It’s a whole lot less about falling in love, and a whole lot more about letting yourself fall in love. The relationships in the book don’t define Kate, she isn’t better because she’s dating or not dating. She’s not a romantic. As she says in the last scene I wrote last night, she’s gotten to the middle of her 30s without having a relationship that lasted longer than a year. And at the end of the book instead of jumping head over heels, she just meets someone that for the first time she can see herself staying with. Michael helped reiterate what I already knew: the book isn’t about romance and squishiness. It’s about music and confidence and overcoming the obstacles preventing Kate from being true to herself.
Anyway, the book is nearing the end. It’s almost at 70K and that’s without the supplementary articles, emails, conversations, and snippets that are going in later. Likely it’ll bring the size up another 10K once it’s done. I was dreaming about an interactive app. Cart, horse, etc.
Kate spends the first half trying to get over Tom, who she briefly had a thing with–but after years of pining for him. He gets born again. They both, for the mean time, beat addiction. I think I like this scene the best. They’re in Paris, about to go on stage, and for the first time they actually sit down and talk about how hard it is to move beyond, to tour without drugs and to face the people they used to be.
He sighed, looking down at our twined hands. “It’s hard. It’s… I mean, I want to be able to let go. To let God take care of it, to make me new. You understand that more than anyone, I think, even though you’re not… exactly practicing.”
That was a mild way of putting it.
“I know what you mean, at least,” I said.
“I just… do the shadows ever go away?” he asked. “Ah, shit. You’re the last person I should ask, considering what you’ve gone through.”
“We’re a pair,” I said. “But in answer to your question, I don’t think so. I don’t think we can ever rid ourselves of the shadows. We just have to learn to live with them. Eventually, maybe—hopefully—they just become part of the furniture after a while. You’re not struggling to stay in the light every damned day like some strung out vampire. You wake up one morning and, for the first time, you don’t think about it.”
“And if I fail?”
“You can always start again. But, and I can speak from experience, it’ll be harder. It’s like starting from level one all over again in Super Mario Brothers. No extra lives. No save state.” That was, perhaps, the best metaphor I could have ever given him.
He perked up a bit, his eyes getting a mischievous glint to them. Forget that it was also his “I’m horny and I’m about to jump you” look. It was still endearing. I had to battle a thousand memories and haunted strains of songs I’d written about him, pining away like some lovesick teenager. I hated how long I’d taken to let him know how I felt, and hated even more that we’d never manage to get together. Not really.
Our was not a love of the ages, that’s for sure. I was pretty much at my worst when I was with him, and likewise for him. At the time, moderation just wasn’t in our vocabularies.
We walked slowly back to the venue, his arm around me.
“There is something I noticed,” he said as we rounded the corner and the breeze picked up. “About your songwriting. I mean, I know I’m not exactly Mozart when it comes to composition, but you’re changing.”
“I am?” I asked.
“Well, for one thing, none of the songs are about me.”
I laughed. “Not directly.”
“Well, it’s the first album you’re not writing love songs to me, cleverly hidden–or hate songs. They’re about bigger things. Better things.”
I felt embarrassed to be so transparent, but grateful that he’d been able to see through my creative guise.
“You know,” I said. “Three years ago… that’s what I wanted. More than you in bed or you as a boyfriend or whatever. I just wanted you to notice.”
He leaned over and kissed my forehead. “We all notice. You’re—what’s it that James calls you?—the fulcrum. That’s it. Your the very center, the sun. We’re just the planets in gravitational pull.”
“You’re totally mixing your metaphors.”
“Which is why I don’t write much, of course. I’m just the pretty voice.”
I squeezed his waist and felt, for probably the first time since we’d broken up, that we understood each other. That whatever had passed between us as lovers had changed; we’d managed the near impossible: we’d become friends.
Well, Rock Revival is officially at the 1/3 mark. 25K isn’t a novel, true, but it’s more than I’ve written in quite some time. In spite of crazy busy baby stuff, job hunting, and a visit to the beach with the husband’s entire clan, I’ve been crawling along. Some days have been painfully busy and writing hasn’t been an option, but I usually make up for it. If I could actually type for long periods on the laptop, it might be a way to bolster the word count; but alas, that’s likely never going to be unless Apple actually starts designing products with ergonomics in mind rather than the “ooh, shiny!’ factor. And we know that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
I’ve done a bit of reading over the last few weeks (two whole novels!), and while I’ve been tempted to leave this world of non-speculative fiction, I’ve stayed the course. My goal is to finish the book in the next five weeks. It’s possible if I log about 1500 words a day on average, roughly NaNoWriMo pace. See, there’s a novella I’d like to write that’s due by the end of September, and I prefer not to work on two things at the same time if I can help it. However, if the book isn’t done by then I’m just going to have to forego the novella. But that’s okay. I just know that I’m a much stronger writer if I can focus, which these days is hard enough to come by without adding more complexities in the writing department!
One of my current goals with Rock Revival is upping the musical ante. I realized that I’ve been thinking and talking a great deal about music lately, but Kate, the protagonist, hasn’t. So she goes on a bit of a musical journey in the most recent pages, talking about the Cure as a huge influence, as well as the fictitious Marla North, Kate’s idol (who she meets later on in the book). I plowed through some big drama with Kate’s mother dying, and I know I’m going to have to revise that section a great deal. There’s just so much to say and show that it’s a bit of a challenge to get it right on the first go-round. But that’s what drafts are for, right?
Next up: finishing the album, resolving relationships, and getting ready to go on tour.
And Mom? I guess I miss her. Burying her was difficult. But I’m constantly caught between grief and relief when it comes to her death. She died drunk, she lived drunk. Living with her was a nightmare, and even if my shitty attitude as a kid drove her away she still made her own choices. Just like I made my own… But it’s a lie to claim that funerals give closure. If anything, they just signal the hauntings to come, the moments you forget they’re dead in the first place. That’s what hardest about death. That’s what’s hardest about losing her without ever really coming to peace with her. It’s like a sustain chord that never resolves.
Today’s Track: Myth, by Keane, from Strangeland. Tom Chaplin’s voice during the bridge continues to give me goosebumps every time I hear it. And the lyrics are spot on for the last few chapters of this book.
I grossed myself out today during writing. I don’t know if it’s because the AC is broken and it’s 90 degrees up here and the humidity is through the roof, but I apparently needed to outdo myself in fiction. It was one of those weird moments where I’d planned for the scene to go one way and it took a sharp, brutal detour in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. Like the title says, someone literally loses an eye in the process. Of his own volition.
I can get away with a bit that I normally couldn’t in Dev’s narrative, because he’s on this Dante-esque journey. I’ve got to hit some of those high notes. But I realize whenever I talk about these chapters (which together work almost like a novella in the middle of the novel) I sound a bit daft.
Anyway, I wanted to start recapping my writing progress with a little more panache, so I’m trying a new format.
Two Things I Loved: I finally got to write another Dev chapter, and his character arc is coming to a close. The appearance of Cai in human form (she/he’s a god/goddess) was pretty unexpected, and I linked the mythology of Ardesia up with the mythology of the rest of the realm pretty well.
Two Things I Loathed: The description of the beast Dev fights in this chapter got under my skin a bit, but I’ll redo it later. It’s called draft zero for a reason. Also, still not 100% convinced of Dev’s devotion to Marna… which I’m realizing is okay, in the grand scheme of things, but may need to become more apparent to readers. Or something. This ain’t no romance, but I can’t be cruel about it.
Best* Quote of the Day:
It was an easy place to get lost, an easy place to want to get lost. The trees had a cadence of their own, a whispering and seductive rhythm.
“So,” the knight said, “listen. Listen to the trees, and you will see where this poisonous beast is, this creature who is slowly killing my realm and claiming it for Her.”
“Her? Another goddess, then? I’m not sure I want to meet another. The last one I fell in with tried to eat me.”
Worst* Quote of the Day:
This beast—this creature you want me to find,” Dev said. “It could kill me.”
“It could. But you were well on your way to killing yourself when you came to me… I am not asking much more than to risk what you were prepared to throw away.”
Thoughts of the Day: Been thinking a lot about the concept of passion in writing. Drafted a post on it, even. Passion is the single driving factor in what I do; I lost it for a while, but it came back.
Also, came around to the realization that this novel is certainly not steampunk. I mean, it’s got steampunk elements… but the more I write the more I realize this is Gothic fantasy, really. As if the squids weren’t a dead giveaway.
Around the Bend: Squid extraction from our heroine’s husband, slightly admirable villain reveal, wind-up to the big-time boss fight with the Mother Squid. Also, this whole draft is going to be significantly shorter than I planned; I’ll be surprised if I crest 90K. Which actually makes my job easier, as that has never happened before. I’m always hacking away at a draft, rather than enhancing it.
No, this has nothing to do with football. (Or, soccer.)
Just a quick one before the D&D game starts. My birthday is tomorrow, and I wanted to play D&D with our amazing group. However, I also wanted to achieve a personal birthday goal; I wanted to hit 55,000 in the WIP which marks the exact halfway point in the novel. I had until tomorrow to do this but finished today.
Personal goals are important. It’s been hard for me this year, as I usually try to mimic the output of Important Published Writers. (I was reading a post of mine from last year when I wrote 35K in ten days at one point). I used to force myself to write 3K a day. But issues have meant that my output is slower. I can’t keep up as I used to. But still, this is not shabby. I started the book in March and it’s only June. My plan is to finish by September. I can do this. I have to do this, however it goes.
Onward to my last year as a twenty-something, then. Amusingly enough, I once had a silly notion to give up writing if I didn’t get published in novel form by 30, which of course is ridiculous. But when you’re writing novels at 21, that feels a long way off. These days I feel like I’m just getting started. I mean, seriously. How could I stop writing novels? Ah, the innocence of youth.
So, a moment’s pride if you will as I happily display the wee little meter:
Well, at last! It looks like I’m able to dictate pretty easily right in to WordPress. That means I can get posts out much quicker, without having to put strain on my wrists. I suppose it goes without saying, but young writers: take care of your wrists. Sure, some of it has to do with genetics. Some of it has to do with wear and tear. But if you’re at risk in any way — or in both ways, as in my case — you could end up in the same boat as me by the time you’re 30.
I’ve got to admit, it’s going to take a little getting used to. At very least, I’m used to speaking out what I write. I mean, the podcast was just part of my process. I like to read everything I write aloud, because it gives me an idea of what it sounds like rather than reads like. It’s one of those things they tell you to do when you’re just starting out writing, but it’s something that stuck with me for a long time. I suppose it has a lot to do with my theater background. I honestly hear the characters in my head, and sometimes the best way for me to get through scene is by reading everything aloud and doing the voices myself.
Except now, it’s a little backwards. I think, then I speak. Then I have to read it again! It’s a bit like seeing your reflection in a mirror that’s flipped, in a way it’s a natural thing. It really is the oldest form of storytelling! So, this should be easy, right?
So, what to expect? There have been a lot of things on my mind since I’ve been unable to type. I’ve been thinking a great deal about the writing process, the writing community, and the writing bug. By “bug” what I mean is that sense that no matter what happens you still have to get the story out. That pull at the very center of you, that inexplicable urging that won’t go away. I don’t know where it comes from, and I certainly know that not everyone has it. What’s been particularly difficult lately, is being unable to express myself when those urgings come. Now I feel a little back-logged.
I think the first week was the easiest in a way, just to take a break. But after a while, as the hands did not improve, I think I began suppressing the creative thoughts and letting despair and frustration eclipse the process. After a while it’s absolutely maddening when you can’t even scribble down a few sentences to help you remember a scene, a character, a quip of dialogue. Granted, we’ve had so much going on in the last few weeks, the chances are I wouldn’t have had much time to write at all. Or at least I tell myself that! The truth of the matter is, even when things have been at their most difficult in my life, I’ve always found a way to write. I guess this is just that. Finding a way.
One more thing: I am insanely happy that I was born when I was. If this happened in any other time, in any other place, there would be no easy solution to this problem. I would have to get someone as a transcriptionist, and I certainly would never be able to afford that. I would have, in effect, be silenced. That’s a scary thought.
So… Happy to say: expect more to come.