Work, work, work, and then children, wife, children, wife, children.
We all know the daily tasks that eat up our time. We try to work around them with hopes that we can find a small block of time in their for ourselves. Doesn’t always happen.
Lately, I have been pulled from all angles and it happens every summer so I knew it was coming. Even now as I type this I am getting my daughter ready for her summer drama campaigning “thingie”. Then it’s off to work and when work is done I come home just in time for dinner, The minions haven’t seen their father all day so they come at me with full force and I’m all too happy to see their goofy video’s meet their friends, play video games with them. Hell, I even watch the endless stream of pre adolescent TV. Nickelodeon then switch to disney. The girls even watch a show from australia called H2O. We just watch the same episodes over every once in a while. (Thanks netflix)
And so here I am rambling, so down to the point. I downloaded wordpress to my phone! Not sure how the formatting will look our what kind of graphics I add but all in all its better than nothing I suppose. At least until the summer fades, school begins and life slows down once more. I don’t exactly know how to navigate WP on my phone quite yet but thats ok. Seems pretty straightforward.
Writing is a time consuming project. This is no surprise to anyone who does so on a regular basis. At times we struggle. At times we have to do etra work just to get done what needs to get done. Myself, I have sports venues to attend for my children, I work full time usually more than a 40 hour work. It doesn’t include all of the extra little time blocks confiscated by running other various errands. I love to cook so I usually end up cooking dinner, (Another time block taken)
As stated I found a group on Facebook that piqued a new chapter in my writing. I had, up until meeting this group, hidden my work and my pieces. I never talked about my work. I recieved looks of concern when I talked so passionately about my Main and Impact Characters. Try discussing Literary Theory with someone and you will lose them at “New Criticism” perspective. In any case, There I am on facebook.
So what happens then? I shift towards facebook and start discussing things. I become engrossed in it. I love the group. The group teaches me so much in such a short period. I learn from one poster the difference between em dash and en dash. I always just thought they were dashes. I write flash fiction and I test out theories I formulate from ideas and teachings from those members and I begin to form ideas in my own mind.
I am damn good at research. I am good because I love to learn new things so I am always researching. I research a great deal on a wide variety of subjects and so I begin to think about ways I could teach others to do this. Do it and make it fun. As I formulate these ideas and figure ways to do this we get engaged in a group project.
Meanwhile, I have returned home from a year long deployment, re engaged my family whom hasn’t seen me in a good long while. I go on vacation to New York City. I’m thinking about this idea for my story. I’m getting other ideas that conflict with the first idea.
What I am NOT doing is writing. I’m not working on my Novel. I’m not outlining the next chapter. I’m not doing anything really.
I am on facebook and I am posting like a storm, I’m writing the short story for the project, I’m looking at pictures and I’m listening to music, but I’m not writing. Not on my novel.
I am a stubborn man and I know what I want and I dont compromise. I will not self publish, I will do mine the old fashioned way. Query letter, agent and everything that comes after. I cannot compromise this.
I’m not working on my novel though. It isnt going to magically write itself. But I have a problem and my problem is that I now have a NEW idea. A NEW approach. Story is the same, but this new approach is so much better than the last idea. It’s so much more immersive.
No… but in the moment it seemed so. What is really going on there?
I had quit writing you see. My story became less personal. My story fell out of touch. My characters didn’t speak to me because I was ignoring them. I was giving them the silent treatment. My muse, well she is an impatient woman and she simply walked off and left me to my own devices.
How did I get here?
Time management was needed from the get go. Work, Taxi for the Kiddos, Cooking, Facebooking, TV with my wife because she runs her calendar by the shows on each day, calling my daughter, playing with the kiddo’s later on.
But I want to write!
I am up at 5:30 AM, I go to work and usually come home around 4:30 PM. (I’m active duty military) 4:30 I shower, change, get dinner started. Because I love to cook we don’t eat out of a box dinner. It’s usually from scratch.
Usually done with that around 6:30 preparing and eating that is. This is if there isnt a soccer game, a track meet or a dance rehearsal to go to.
7:00 TV is on. It’s a flurry of activity. Girls have their friends over and they never shut up. Not ever. Its a cacophony of chitter chatter and giggling and laughing. Then they are dancing to youtube videos and laughing again. I pick up my computer because its just too crazy in here with them and head elsewhere.
I sit down and start to read what I was last writing, I put on ear buds and turn on some music. I lean back and close my eyes letting the music be the transporter to the world I have created. I see it…its in the distance, it has changed on me without my knowing. Not alot but it looks different now. I’m not in the same mindframe I was when I last wrote and so my perspective is different.
A tap on my shoulder yanks me from the world and back into this one. eyes open as I return to the upright sitting position, earbuds are withdrawn and it is my wife. She smiles a pleasant smile and asks me if I want to join her in watching a movie. In our days of chaos I haven’t paid as much attention to her as I would like. She tries and this makes all the difference. I nod slowly, I in a l know all will be calm in a little while. Everyone goes to bed shortly, silence will blanket the house and I will be able to type then.
We watch a TV show. It’s only an hour, maybe two at the most. Seldom more than that. She smiles and heads off to bed. I have a choice, join her or write.
I choose write, and so I head over to my computer. I flick it on. I write out around 700 words. Just not feeling it though. Everything in my day is coming back to me. Things left undone, left unsaid. Appointments that needed to be made.
“I wonder what the group is doing?” I ask myself as I sign onto facebook.
Sometimes I am there 30 mins and sometimes much longer. Again, what I am not doing is writing.
Now I have tried a new trick. I write at the bare minium 500 words a day. Every single day I write it out. Sometimes its crap and not a single word is inserted into the novel. Sometimes I reread and think what the heck was I thinking? But never the less, I write.
The words come easier. My ideas are now more towards my current work and not some other work that I should be doing. I am writing at the same time each day so that my mind is trained to block all other ideas and thoughts out and it seems to be working. I’m not on Facebook as much and I’m not talking to those writers as much. It’s ok though.
I look at them. Many of them have already published. I have not. Is it a race or competition? No, not with these people. I would do anything to see their work to make it into the limelight of mainstream community. I feel we are a team of the sorts. Some of us connect more with certain members, we go through ups and downs but if one of us makes it to the “big time” then it aspires the rest of us to continue.
Writing is hard work. The rest of the world doesn’t see it as anything other than an escape or a hobby. I see it as something different… very different. To me, our chosen craft is a calling.
10 minutes as you sit in the car before you head home from work. During these 10 minutes have a open conversation with your characters. Talk to yourself outloud. As the days go by they will reveal to you whats wrong with them.
As you wash the dishes or vacum think of your overall plot, anything missing there?
This way, when you do sit down to write, you are focused. Your tunnel vision is on the screen before you. If you write manually first on paper do so and then transfer to your screen.
Little pieces here and there will help. Manage your time if you get on facebook. I have even thought of giving myself a curfew once. Luckily it wasn’t needed. I have shifted focus all on my own. Make realistic goals that are barely a challenge in the beginning. 500 words? its easy, Easy isnt bad. Not to start out. Baby Steps and before I know it I am writing 2000 words a day and all that without really changing too much of my day!
I love sociology. I love history. I love anthropology and archeology.
These are the words that should be on the words of all fantasy and science fiction writers. For any who dare not for fear that they are somehow taking away from their own work I say bah!
Many stories are written with inspiration coming from some society torn from the pages of history, dare I say Lord of the Rings is not steeped with Celtic Druidic beginnings? Most dystopian post apocolypse works are they not inspired at least at the core from feudalist japan historical data?
Observe a society, any society, do the research and I promise you that you will find a story there. One that no matter your genre, you will find a story.
Take for example the Romani. Most of us know them by their more derogatory name “Gypsies”
The romani had a unique way of living their life and it all starts as a child. You see, much like the native american tribes. Romani children belong to the entire kumpania. If one went back and studied this you would find that a Romani queen is called a Kralisi. I wont say what other author has a word such as “Kra LEE see” Any fantasy fan will know of another who has a word of similar phonetics. Upon research you will find that the horseback riding group from across that sea, while not on the surface, have roots that seem to mimic these once noble romani.
Need a female hero? Read the story of Queen Boudicca, Bodicea or any other name that noble Iceni woman holds on saxon tongues. She drove the Romans back. No one knows what really happened to the Iceni Queen. All we really know is how she made battle hardened Roman soldiers quake in the sandles. But more than this, study the mechanics of the tribes of the area. See if you can find that little piece of inspiration.
There are dangers to this of course and I’m not talking about plagarism. I’m talking about research becoming a crutch. Without giving my story completely away I tell you, I started writing this story about Port Royal. I have done the research and there really isn’t much fiction out there in the world of pirates. Not anything totally true to history in any case.
So I started researching, I read about Port Royal Jamaica. I was absolutely fascinated. Fact after fact. The place was a boiling kettle. The spanish were getting so much gold from their expeditions into the new world. Their ships were coming back heaping with gold more gold than anyone else could claim. I thought about this a moment and a question was formed.
“If Spain had so much gold coming in, how well did they contain themselves? Gold meant wealth, wealth meant arrogance. arrogance meant provocation of ones enemies, or at least provocation of those considered to be rivals. Enter Religion? Spain is predominantly Catholic, was the Vatican at all at work in this?”
The list goes on and on. One idea flows after another and finally I figure out I am going to write this novel with the City itself as the Main Character. While not the protagonist the city can be the main character. Anyone who has seen the HBO series “Deadwood” could understand. The Main character in that series was the city itself.
As always I looked at it from a sociological point of view. Pirates….these are the ruthless, mean men of the seas. Their lives were hard and short in many cases. They never let their guard down, not ever. They were the vilest of men, liars, theives and lived by their own codes. However, there are records of common citizens in Port Royal. Sailmakers living to be 70 years old and such. There are reports that all children HAD to attend school. There was no option NOT too. Again my mind turned and churned in wondering, “how in the world did these people all live together and survive each other?”
On and on I researched, I switched gears, I wanted heavy documentation, I wanted to do this remarkable period in the worlds history justice. I wanted to tell the story. The Real Story as I saw it. I needed to learn the lingo. I can’t go and write the words “Ahoy there Matey!” and expect to be taken seriously. So I wanted authentic slang, wording, customs, etiquette and before you know it. Im doing more research than writing.
So the question then becomes, How much knowledge is enough? I suppose it is up to each and every author. As long as the writer is writing it doesn’t matter. I would suggest the following, write another piece. Currently, I am writing something that I dont have to do any research at all on. I have done so much research my library of knowledge is better than it was and I have many resources to pull from should I need them. While I write this one piece I am doing my research on my other.
Like all writers, I have an idea of where I would like to take my plot before I write it all out. However, like all stories, it is an organic breathing thing that changes and shifts and moves.
Idea’s are dependent upon experiences, mindset, mood, perceptions or more importantly how strongly those experiences are affecting me as a writer at the time of writing.
Part of writing is the ability to exclude the world around you when you write. The kids running around you, the boss calling you, your teenager blasting music that sounds like the dial up screeches and shrieks of the early web. Maybe you work, maybe you go to school. Maybe you do both and housework. TV is an easy substitute, writing is distracted, your not putting out your best work.
So then it begins.
PTSD? I didnt claim I have PTSD from my job, Doing that is career suicide so I deal- But I have noticed things.
I cant concentrate. I used to be able to put on headphones, listen to the right soundtrack and I slide into the world I have created. I can hear my characters voices. I can see them clear as day…but no more not so easily. I work just like every other author. I come home to find my daughter hand out. She needs more money for some new thing she “needs”. Music blasting, TV blasting, life is very very active here. There is no place one can claim as their own. Like everything else in this life you adapt and overcome. I put on headphones again like before. put my own music on. Tapped on the shoulder. Daughter is checking in . Going back to my world.
Damn….time to get dinner going.
Work on dinner whole time Im thinking about where I was. What was I trying to achieve, where was my mind heading the last time I was writing because currently I dont have a clue. My writing feels forced. Its crap. I dont like it. Chop it up, chuck it out. start over.
Same thing over and over and over so I think Im going to take a break. I watch TV. My life becomes TV only even that cant appease because all I do is think. “I could have written that and done so better.”
I continue writing. writing this craptastical allegory but Im writing and thats what we are told to do. Just keep writing.
And then, in the whirlwind, in the storm around me I give pause.
A breath is sucked in, Im nowhere near my computer when it happens. But its there. I have always felt my work was missing something. I pick it up and put it down and pick it up again. Why is my work so choppy I have been asking myself. But here, in this moment a cloud has parted. Rays of light shine down, and the waters calm. The missing piece reveals itself. Its a very small detail. A very small thing indeed but it just gels everything together.
Now, what has been a 60 grade incline suddenly has crested and Im over it and now racing to capture as much as I can capture. Dinner will be peanut butter and jelly for all I care at this point. If I could I would be calling in to work, check myself into a hotel room and close all doors, unplug TV and phone. It will be a short shelf life and if I dont capture this it will be gone.
I get most of it and I press on. I write for days like this. Im pretty engrossed in my story. My impact character is impacting, skeptic is portraying the conscience of it all. Seductress is doing her job, protagonist is radiant and the antagonist is simply a misunderstood indiviual with different thoughts. But then at some point I look at it and realize, This isn’t exactly what I had originally planned
Now I look at it. It has been only one day I stopped writing, Didnt have too much of a choice there work kept me busy but as I look at it I now am in a different mood. My mind is more relaxed and as such my view is different. I remember that once upon a time I slipped completely into this story, I immersed myself there. I had not children then, no wife, I really had no life at all.
My mood has changed and now my writing shows the mood change. I dont like where its going. I dont like what Im writing, once more it feels off. Some tell me that maybe I should scrap the story if its that much work. I used to believe them. Screw that. Im a great writer. I have a great mind.
One page at a time…