Sadly, Monday’s blog never made it out of bed. It tried. When the alarm went off, it peered out from under the covers, stared at the time, said “oh, heck no,” slammed a fist down on the snooze button, and disappeared back under the mound of pillows and blankets. That’s just how Mondays work around here. 😉
So, Tuesday’s blog is much more responsible and turned up bright and early for work. Yay!
“What really happened to my Monday blog,” you ask, suspicious of my story. (Yes, I’m narrating your hypothetical reaction. I’m a writer. It’s second nature!)
Well, it started with a very busy weekend. I attended an author’s event on Saturday at the library and had a good time meeting folks and visiting with some old friends who also happen to be excellent writers. I even managed to sell a few books. 😉
After that event ended, I mosied on over to the Comicon event at the Cochise College and sat on a panel talking about world-building. That is a conversation that I could go on about forever! Sadly, it was only an hour-long panel, but we covered lots of interesting bits of information that I was going to go into on this blog, but I think I’ll save it for the next one.
It was great to see my writer friends again and really have a good sit down, because normal folks (non-writers 😉 ) don’t really “get” me in the same way that writers do, so sometimes it’s nice to talk about things that seem arcane to the world at large (and the husband and kid, who always pretend to be listening while staring at me glassy-eyed, nodding like bobble-heads and muttering uh-huh, yeah, sure)
I decided to blog about something besides world-building today because it’s something that has come up unexpectedly and has been throwing everything out of whack, including Monday’s blog.
A couple of weeks ago, I got an idea for a story. Since I currently have three (!) works in progress in different stages of development, the last thing I needed was another idea. BUT! Ideas don’t give a dang about that sort of thing. They come when they want and leave when they want, so if you don’t jump on em quick and catch them under the net, you could lose them for good. At least, that’s how I feel whenever I get one.
So I started writing. I figured I could knock out a quick outline and then store it in my file of outlines for someday when I don’t have a bunch of ideas floating around in my head. Got an outline done. The idea kept nagging at me, so I sat down and worked on a couple of chapters. It was slow-going. The words weren’t flowing and the plot wasn’t working. So I started over. I still didn’t like it. Started over again.
By this point I was ready to quit in frustration and consign this idea to the misc. junk file that sits inside my writing folder. (That’s as close as I can bring myself to actually deleting any idea, no matter how wonky or bad it is.)
I was good for a week, working on my other projects. The Princess Dragon rewrite was going well, and Morbidon’s Bride is now several chapters ahead of where I’m at for publishing it. Jessabelle’s Beast is out to my beta readers and things were looking up.
But that pushy idea returned with a vengeance. I pulled up the chapter and a half that I’d managed to get through and again, I hated it.
One more start-over was like sticking nitrous in my gas tank. Suddenly I took off, and I couldn’t stop! I went from two thousand words on one day, to eleven thousand on the next day! This story got me in its teeth and wouldn’t let go. Every time I tried to break away from the computer, it shook me until I returned, hands and legs and back aching, but typing away like someone possessed.
I’m at nearly 27,000 words of what will be a full-length novel of at least 75,000 and I have to force myself to take a break or I just won’t be able to physically handle it. Sitting six hours straight at a computer typing non-stop is not something I can do for the couple weeks that will be required to see this story to the end that is flashing in my head like a neon sign. My fingertips ache, which is why I didn’t do yesterday’s blog and started this one first thing today, before I even looked at my newest project.
Whenever I say that a story comes to life for me, this is exactly the type of situation I mean. I had an idea, and nothing I wrote seemed to fit that idea, then one day, everything clicked into place and the story took over, leading me down the path instead of the other way around. I love this almost magical experience, but at the same time, I hate it because it is difficult to live a normal, functional life around events like this. Other people don’t understand when you say you can’t just stop typing and put the computer away for the day to visit with them, or to do your housework. They don’t understand why you have a blank expression on your face and stare at the wall for hours instead of watching the mindless show they want you to watch with them. I’m in a completely different world right now, living out the story in my head! There’s nothing else I can focus on until that story gets written!
These “events” (I don’t know how to classify them, and “mental illness” just sounds insulting. 😉 ) have only happened to me five other times. (I know, “only” right, but seriously, I’ve written about fifteen full manuscripts and only five of them have been stories that held me hostage until they were finished.)
Most of my family views my writing as a hobby that I just happen to do in my free time. The fact that this is not even remotely true doesn’t connect for them. Unless I’m raking in the big bucks and hitting the NYT best sellers list, as far as they’re concerned, I’m a hobbyist. This means they can’t understand when I can’t just stop working on a manuscript to do my chores. I’m still required to meet all the same obligations I had to meet before I was caught up in the passion of a new project. No one but another writer can seem to understand how hard it is to be interrupted at the keyboard with an idea flitting around in your head like a magic butterfly—ephemeral and quick to escape if you don’t pin it down on the page.
When I’m visibly frustrated at continuous interruptions, I’m the jerk. My long-suffering family simply puts up their hands and makes jokes about having to tip-toe around me, making me feel like Mr. Hyde. I feel guilty for wanting those hours of time—alone and uninterrupted—to complete this story. I daydream of a mountaintop retreat (with wifi) where I can be alone with my laptop and the occasional Google search.
I once spent twelve straight hours typing on another story. I barely got up to use the restroom and ate my meals at the keyboard. I’m shocked that I didn’t a blood clot or something. I’m not saying it’s a good idea, but this is how obsessed I can get when I’m caught up like this.
These are situations that many people can’t understand—even some other writers look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about twelve hours at the keyboard. It’s not like it happens all the time. Most of my books are written calmly and carefully, with a daily word count of only 1500 to 2500 words. I’m more comfortable with those stories because I can walk away from them and live my life as normal, but there’s just something about these other stories that capture the emotion that I felt getting them out of me.
So there it is: the reason Monday’s blog didn’t make it to school on time. (But my kid did, and I even remembered to pick her up, so I’m still at least moderately functional 😉 )
I’ve been joking a lot in this blog and throwing in a lot of winky faces, but the truth is that I take this very seriously. I feel very guilty about taking time away from my family and my life for my passion for writing. I don’t think my guilt is fair, but there it is. If I was making boatloads of money at this, I feel like other people would accept it as “my job,” but because I’m not there yet, it’s still just a hobby and no one should “waste” so much of their time on a hobby.
I love what I do, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, even if I never achieve the kind of fame and financial success others seem to think I need before I can consider this my “job.” At the same time, I’d love to be taken seriously as a creative person, driven by the creativity beyond what other people can understand. I’m sorry if this comes off a little “ranty.” I’m tired and aching and emotionally burned out and I still have about fifty thousand words of this story gnawing at my brain, so it’s difficult to focus on anything else, but negativity is not what my blog is all about, so I’d like to end on a more upbeat note.
This story will be one I will love, even if it never sees the light of day for anyone else. It’s heartwarming, and beautiful, and flawed, and rough like an uncut diamond. It may collect virtual dust in my writing folder until I’m a hundred years old, but I will always go back to it and read it and love what I’ve created. Ultimately, that is what makes the sacrifice and the guilt worth it in the end. I say good luck to everyone who is creating something that takes a lot out of them. Others may not recognize what you put into your work, but I do. Whether it’s a painting, or a manuscript, or a delicate craft project, be creative, put in the time without guilt, and accept that we need these outlets for the energy that builds up inside us.
Let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear if you’ve been in this same, or a similar situation. Do you ever feel guilty for taking time away from your family to write, or draw, or paint, or craft, or do whatever moves you? Do you ever feel driven to finish something, and struggle to focus on anything else until it’s done?