Creative Slump

It’s been a rough summer. After finishing The Shadow Unveiled and Severed Spirits Rising, I haven’t been able to get in a frame of mind to work on anything. I had a nasty event a few months ago, and I haven’t entirely recovered since. Between that, the difficulties of summer on my health, plus usual “post book partum” 😛 I’ve been looking over my huge backlog of “to be written” and haven’t come up with anything that sparked.

There’s also the consideration of market. Not that I am necessarily “writing to market”, but what you write and first come out with is generally what readers expect to see from you. Especially in print. I have novel WIPs that are more appropriate for print than e-publishing due to their nature, but they’re off-the-cuff things, like my epic fantasy or my Arthurian novel. I don’t want to get locked into writing X and only X but that’s the way the market seems to work. That niggling thought in the back of my head does not help matters. 🙄

Hopefully the slump will pass, and then I can get back to working on something new. 🙂

Writing As A Vocation

I’m blogging today at The Novelty Girls about my writing doubts. Seems we’ve determined that “my” Inner Dickwad gets around a lot. 🙄

I actually wanted to expand on something I said there, but wasn’t immediately relevant to the post. I mentioned that writing is my calling, and for me that’s been very true. I’d told stories from a very young age, but it wasn’t until I was eight and started writing more frequently that I realized it was what I wanted to do with my life. Being a kid and all, I sure as hell had plenty of other things I wanted to do — primarily, veterinarian or nurse. But that one thing always stayed with me: Writing.

Several years ago at this point (wow… it’s hard to believe that much time has passed), when my Dad and I were butting heads because I wanted to leave college and he wanted me to be an English professor, I wrote him a letter explaining my plans — and how I felt about writing. Something I said in the letter:

Ultimately, I have to follow God’s will. I have to follow what feels right. This is not new. This is not some harebrained plan I just thought up. This is something I’ve wanted since I was eight years old. It’s a calling, just the same as a shaman is called. Some people have worked damn hard at crushing my dream, and they nearly managed to. [Former writing group] restored that, and I’ll be forever grateful to them for that. I can do this. I have a confidence in myself and my abilities that I never had before.

This isn’t just a hobby. This isn’t even just a career. This is me.

 

Certainly, a lot has changed since I wrote that letter. Obviously, I’m not Christian anymore, and I’m no longer at my former writers’ group. While I am still grateful for everything they did to help me, the circumstances under which I left were… not pleasant, to say the least.

But my feelings toward writing haven’t changed. I still view it as a deep calling. I’ve dealt with so many doubts since I wrote that letter … I’ve had so many people nearly convince me that I shouldn’t waste my time; that I should go back to school and get a “real” job … I’ve looked at other things so many times, but nothing calls to me like this. There are other things I could do well, but they would be so intensive that I wouldn’t have much of a life. (Of course, the whole fibro issue complicates things.)

Recently, I’ve been back to wondering if it’s the right thing — maybe I really am wasting my time here — maybe —

Then I think back to my accomplishments over the past year alone. I’m finally making serious progress. I need to learn how to work with stress better than I have been, but … this is what I’m meant to do. And I can’t go letting some stupid stuffy Inner Dickwad keep beating me down. 😕

Now that I’ve gone baring myself here 😉 how do you feel about writing? Am I the only one who feels so deeply drawn to the field, to the point I can’t ever see myself doing something else? What about you?

A Double Edged Blade

It really sucks to be working on the novella and all of a sudden, feel like complete shit about it. As in, getting very depressed every time I start to work on it again. Now, with somebody else, I might wonder about self-doubts or regular confidence issues, but 99% of the time, that isn’t the case with me.

No, it means I did something wrong.

Problem? I have no clue what. Both this scene and the last read fine to me, and they do to Morgan, as well — or, rather, fine in the sense that we can’t pick out what’s wrong. Something feels “off” … but neither of us have a clue what.

Trying to work on it till I figure it out? Is gonna be like pulling teeth — if not impossible.

Usually I don’t mind this, because it’s normally not that difficult to figure out the problem and continue writing. Most of the time, POV is the issue — except I’m writing this in first person, so it can’t be that. Sometimes I wish I could just keep writing and then come back to edit this when it’s finished — but I know if I do that, I’m going to wind up up really bad off.

It’s almost like a form of writer’s block, in a way — only it’s not. It’s my red flag: “Yo, bitch, fix this shit.” It’d be nice if it came with the problem spelled out for me.
*grumbles and kicks something*

Dammit. I want to work on this, too. *sigh*

“You’re not a Real Writer …”

I have this little problem I like to call the Inner Infernal. Okay. Some days it’s not a “little” problem. Some days it’s a big one that stomps into my nook, knocks me out of my chair, breaks my keyboard in two, and proceeds to make a royal mess of the place.

After battling writer’s block for three years, I’ve developed one hell of an Inner Infernal. Or as Morgan calls it, an Inner Asshole. It’s kinda like picking up a pot-bellied slob who sits in front of the TV all day drinking cheap beer and eating potato chips — when he’s not practicing his favorite hobby of verbal abuse. Yeah. Now try having that in your head.

When I was at my former writer’s community, which was a double-edged sword in that it was good for me in some ways and toxic in others, I wrote on a regular basis. Not every day, but very close to that, and usually when I wrote, it was between 1k – 3k.

I don’t have progress records of the past three years like I do of Summer 2002, but I jumped between many projects before getting more than two or three chapters ino them, along with writing intermittant short stories. Daily writing? Hardly close. More like writing every other week or so. (Or prewriting, which, while important, doesn’t “count” for me.) And not any significant amount of words, either, at least not when compared to what I used to do.

Enter the Inner Asshole. “You’re not a Real Writer,” he booms. “If you were a Real Writer, you’d care enough about the story to write it.” Nevermind that even just trying to write resulted in visceral pain. My fiance can attest to the sheer number of times he listened to me talk about my fears regarding writing.

No, because I wasn’t writing every day — or at least a good number of days — then I wasn’t a “Real Writer” anymore and I might as well just give up and quit.

Real nice critter, eh?

This was further enforced by wandering around the net and reading articles, interviews, or blog entries where published authors would say things like, “If you want to be a writer, the most important thing is to write every day.”

Now, I understand their point, and it’s a good one. If you write regularly, you’re more likely to stick with something rather than letting it fall by the wayside. Words flow more easily when you’re writing regularly — at least, that’s true for me.

At the same point, it served to fuel my own doubts and fears. If I can’t write, then how can I call myself a writer? What am I, then? A wannabe? A failure? What?

For me, writing isn’t just something I do. It’s something I am. It’s a calling, as much a vocation as a priest called to serve God. To turn away from it is to turn away from myself. The intrusive self-doubts and thoughts that I wasn’t a Real Writer and should just give up left me very near suicidal at a few points.

I think it’s important that a writer writes, yes … but I think it’s far more important that the goals are truly there and that the writer is working to achieve them. In my case, psychological issues (discussed here) affected my ability to write. Nutshell version for those who don’t want to read the long posts (I don’t blame you): I had a deep-seated need for “approval” and “permission” that I didn’t realise affected my writing as well as my personal life. Since realising its existence, I’ve been better able to combat it.

Some people argue that writer’s block is only an excuse blatted by lazy writers who procrastinate too much or otherwise don’t have the motivation to attach butt to chair and bang out the words. I don’t call that “writer’s block,” I call that “chronic laziness,” and I think it’s dangerous to confuse the two. Writer’s block is like depression — it’s not something that goes away on its own, and it’s not something that should be ignored/invalidated. Telling someone with a true case of writer’s block that they’re just making excuses is like telling someone who’s clinically depressed that they’re just doing it for the attention. Not a good idea.

When you get right down to it, while it’s certainly an important factor, I don’t think that irregular wordcounts invalidate somebody’s identity as a writer. If they’re writing, and they’re trying even if it seems to be an uphill battle … then they’re writers, enough said.

What do y’all think? What makes a “Real Writer” to you?

Further realisations…

(x-posted from the LJ. Originally posted 01-21-06.)

So. I’ve been back to working on Stronger recently. This actually happened about four or five days after I made my prior entry regarding writing, but I’ve been busy and haven’t gotten around to it. But… it’s another, very large piece of the puzzle.

While working on one of the subplots, I realised I needed to reference old notes, because I couldn’t quite remember what I’d originally planned. Except that said notes weren’t notes; they were part of an IM transcript from January 2003. Probably a couple weeks after I’d finished Stronger, if I’m not mistaken.

Anyway. They were, unsurprisingly, conversations with Robert about Stronger, the world setting, later books, etcetera. This time, though, I noticed something I hadn’t.

Usually when I brainstorm with people, they either tell me what I’ve got already is good, or make suggestions to improve it.

Robert didn’t. Robert leapt into the story like he was part of the writing. Snippet from the logs:

Nonny says:
How would you feel about being a main or secondary character in a novel? With him as mage? *grins*
Robert says:
ANd he has the same realistic attitude to his world that I did to mine where I knew how it worked.
Robert says:
Ooh neat neat neat! You mean a few years later when he grows up and is teen magician?
Nonny says:
Yep.
Robert says:
And gets a girlfriend?
Nonny says:
Later on in the series.
Robert says:
Ooh purr!
Nonny says:
No, love, I was going to keep him single forever. /sarcasm
Robert says:
I could see his answer to ‘don’t cross kreshida and kreshida’ being as simple as a vasectomy if he’s in love with her.
Nonny says:
Oh yeah–WOW.
Nonny says:
Didn’t think of that.
Nonny says:
Didn’t think he’d get a lady kreshida
Robert says:
She could be human or kreshida, but if she’s kreshida and that happens he’d get a vasectomy, not rely on condoms. They fail.
Robert says:
and another Queen would make the kreshida world that rough.
Nonny says:
Yep–oooooh that could almost be worth doing, though.
Robert says:
The healed kreshida magicians would still have a Dark Court and Cassandra still lead it.
Robert says:
Yeah. I don’t know what your concept is but it’ll be fun!
Robert says:
Gods.
Robert says:
Nonny, the parent that’s kreshida — is that another Abomination?
Robert says:
Which is kreshida? His mother or his father?
Robert says:
If it’s both they hid him.

I’d never finished a full-length novel until I joined FM and brainstormed with Robert and others. The farthest I ever got before stalling out was about 30k. I wrote Sanctuary, Mercenary, Bridge of Faith, and Stronger all with that kind brainstorming.

So, what happened when it was gone? When I didn’t have anybody telling me what to do?

… Yeah.

It’s not that there was anything wrong with the brainstorming in and of itself. As much as I’m loathe to admit it, I probably owe him an apology, as I’ve accused him of sabotaging my writing (although I don’t believe deliberately) in the past.

*sighs*

I wish I’d been able to figure this out before. It would’ve saved me years of head-pounding and heartache. But, I’ve made a lot of progress in a lot of ways since making these realisations. I don’t think I’m out of the woods yet, not by any stretch of the imagination… but I think I’m further along than I was before.

Have the courage and be yourself,
Forget your heros, believe in yourself
Find the right way that leads you to the end,
The end of this control
Until your soul is free….right now!

— “Believe In Yourself” / Girls Under Glass

Introspection…

(x-posted from the LJ … originally posted 01-07-06)

I think most everybody who knows me knows I’ve been having trouble with writing for quite some time. As in, several years, at this point. (Gods, it’s hard to believe this much time has gone by.) I’ve been trying to figure out why for the longest time. Most recently, I’d attributed part of it to the difference in atmosphere between early Forward Motion (from the time I joined) and Evolution. IE, lack of activity, difficulty finding people to brainstorm, etc. While that’s certainly a contributing factor, and something that needs to be (and is being) addressed as a matter of course, it’s not the main issue.

I think I figured it out the other day.

It’s kind of odd how it came about, actually. I was thinking about magic, and how I know people who are able to trust what they sense in the magical/psychic “world” without doubting themselves. I haven’t been able to do that, for the most part. I talk with others, get their opinion, check it out … basically, validation. I have trouble believing myself.

And then it struck me. I do the same thing with writing. I had the same trouble I’m having now before I joined FM and got with a group of people who gave me encouragement and support. I brainstormed Stronger with Robert and other people in BN course… and got used to that. Very used to people being there for me to toss ideas off of … and it wasn’t even that I needed alternative suggestions all the time. Sometimes it was just enough to say, “Yup, you’re going in the right direction. Keep it up.”

And… well. That’s a problem. Because I don’t, at the core, trust my own judgement. I’ve known for a long time that I have issues with needing permission. Even when I was a kid, I didn’t dare do things for fear that I might get in trouble. I was the little girl who went to her friend’s sleepover party and wouldn’t want a particular TV show with them the next morning because my parents didn’t let me watch it at home. And it’s not just stuff like that, it was even things I knew for a fact were okay. I still have trouble with that. Like, going out on my own without Morgan telling me it’s okay.

I guess I have issues with (in)dependence. And that’s a hard thing for me to say, because … well. I’m not exactly a weak-willed quiet woman here!

I just… I knew about it on the magical level. And I knew about it on the personal. And I’ve been working on it. But I didn’t think it stretched out to my writing, too. Cause it’s not like I’m not confident. To be honest, I know at least as much, if not more, than most of the other writers I hang out with … yet I need permission/validation. I guess that’s been the problem. Because before, at FM, there were people that I considered my “superiors,” as it were. People I could go to, ask questions, get answers… and that’s not the case at Evo. If anything, I’ve been put in the position of the “superior,” and that’s a little odd for me.

*sigh*

In a strange way, though, it’s … empowering to have made the recognition. Because knowing about it… I can change it. I couldn’t when I didn’t know quite what the problem was. Now that I do … I can start to move forward again. I’ve been treading water these past few years and, well, I’m sick of it.

Onward!

(Should I be disturbed that I can psychoanalyse myself like this? o.O)