Writing, it sometimes seems to non-writers, should happen no matter what else is going on in a writer’s life. If times are good, if times are bad, whatever the case may be, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason for someone NOT to be writing, they often think. But, of course, writing is not like that, not at all.
I know many writers who approach writing as “just a day job” and produce work every day, keeping regular work hours of the 9-5 variety, and pumping out book after book, article after article, much of it readable and enjoyable and quite good. And I know a few writers who only write when inspired, who only create when the muse is in residence and the iron is hot.
I used to be one of those “inspiration” writers, myself. It’s part and parcel of being a bipolar person– when you’re up, the writing flows out of you uncontrollably. When you’re down, you’re as dead inside as a stone and you’d get words out of one of those rocks just as easily as your depressed mind.
When I was working on my first novel, however, I discovered that it is possible to write in a businesslike way, day after day, whether you feel inspired or not, and even if you’re feeling depressed. I set myself a daily limit and, rain or shine, I wrote those words each day. It helped keep me stable, really, having that requirement waiting for me. It’s too easy to let depression win and stay inert. Having something you MUST do– taking a walk, writing a book, caring for a child, watering your plants– well, it helps to get you out of bed at least.
The only problem comes in when it’s outlining and creating time– you really HAVE to be inspired to sit down and come up with the bones of the story itself. Otherwise, you’re just staring at a blank page and cursing.
And all my inspiration this month has been spent on the surprise I was planning for my 25th anniversary. You see, my husband was suddenly sent to El Paso for a two week work trip, leaving me home alone with the kids. And, haha, alone with the bank account. I told him that I needed to spend some money, and he agreed. And I poured everything I had into a home redecoration project that ate up every second of those two weeks.
It was an ambitious project– I painted the walls and ceilings of the nursery bedroom and the gameroom area, stripped and painted two dressers, a bookshelf, and a coffee table, and gave the coffee table a tiled top with painted Mexican tiles. Then I had to polyurethane it all. My son welded, painted, and repaired our large birdcage so we could move the parakeet to larger digs. We bought new bedroom furniture for two bedrooms and assembled it (damn you, ikea directions), hung all this new art we bought, painted and painted and painted some more, cleaned, organized, and spent way more money than anticipated. (Photos of it are on my Facebook page, if you’re interested.)
And, frankly, it was exhausting. Each of the rooms had to be entirely emptied of the accumulated toys and junk that was shoved into closets and piled up in corners, the furniture had to be carried downstairs so it could be repaired and repainted, the walls had to be cleaned and patched before they could be painted, and since we don’t have a paint sprayer, it all had to be rolled or brushed by hand. All of the junk had to be gone through, item by item, and either put away or thrown away. I made multiple trips to hardware stores, tried all kinds of new home improvement techniques that I had never tried before (texturing and patching drywall is hell, FYI), and still had to care for children and feed them and all that jazz as well.
It left nothing for writing.
And, now that I am finally done with it all . .. boom, another arthritis flare. Grrrr. Not what I had intended. Just typing this is making my finger joints ache miserably.
But, in the quiet moments, my characters are talking again. That sounds insane to non-writers, probably, but they do exist, living their separate little lives deep in the subconscious, making biting comments about each other and speculating about the plot-to-be. The plot is building, little pieces coming together to form the first outline, the structural “how-to” that will undoubtedly be unrecognizable by the time the novel is finally complete, but which is vital to actually getting the action moving. The first scene is burned into my mind, and the words keep coming to the surface, just waiting for me to write them down.
But I haven’t opened that Word file and named it yet. Because once I do, there’s no turning back. There won’t be time for decorating the house or making macrame plant hangers or finishing my daughter’s Halloween costume. Or even for finishing the memoir that I’m editing or the YA novel that I have in progress. Once the next novel begins, it’s a freight train that will run, day and night, for at least two or three months, a minimum of 2000 words per day, whether I feel the love or not.
And I’m not quite there yet, because I want to clear the decks. I honestly don’t know how some writers can do more than just work on their One Big Project. For me, it’s like a Big Novel that I’m in the process of reading. Sure, if I’m reading a few things that aren’t too compelling, I can read a few pages here, a chapter there, of half a dozen books at a time. But if I’m reading, say, War and Peace, there’s no room left in my mind for anything else. The big idea takes over and all I can do is live inside that space.
I also need to finish up these last few books in the Best 100 novels list before I begin, because I can’t read anything that anyone else has written when I’m working, or it starts to bleed into my style. I couldn’t even read anything over the past two weeks, I was just too exhausted by the entire project. Now I have a couple weeks where I can hurriedly finish up these last 6 titles I’m reading, finish this memoir and get it published, get the kids going on their homeschool curriculum, finish all the Halloween sewing, and try to grind through this YA novel really quick.
But Valerius is lounging on a chaise, his booted feet crossed, a glass of wine in his hand, and his eyebrow quirked at my tardiness. I know, I know, you want your screen time. And, I promise, it’s coming. I have October and November entirely blocked out for just writing “The Blood of the Queen.” That won’t be enough time, so it will have to start in September, probably mid-month, so I need to get going on this stuff fast.
But, anyway, that’s the “more to life than writing” part. I could just write, but it wouldn’t be much of a life, now would it? I don’t blame authors who complain that their readers are too demanding, because life happens and things don’t go according to plan. As a reader, though, I know how frustrating it is to start a trilogy and not have a second or third book to read for, oh, DECADES after the first book or two are done. And I don’t plan on that happening here. I really want to move on to Book 3 as soon as Christmas is over, but we will see what happens. As dicey as my health has been lately, it’s hard to promise anything to anyone. I have small children who’ve been desperately wanting to go to the lake, but that’s pretty much impossible for me when my arthritis is so bad that I can’t even get around the house.
If I have a wish for Christmas, I want to be healthy! I have so many things I want to do.