Friday, March 28, 2014

What You Give Up

Still alive!  Still deep in the trenches.  Going to write one hell of a "what I learned" post about my freshman year of publishing someday, but for now I got my hands full with the actual learning.  Suffice to say that I'm doing a pretty good job of holding my hair back while I cry glitter and barf rainbows, and I wouldn't trade places with anybody else in the world.

But my good buddy S.E. Dee put a blog post up this week, about how hard it is to keep going when your grip slips and suddenly the rock that is your story is rolling all the way back down the hill you've been sweating so hard to climb. 

When you’ve slipped up so bad, like so bad that whole chapters are getting demolished, characters obliterated and whole landscapes changed, moving forward is scary.
And boy ain't that the truth!  Here I think is the real beast of this whole writing gig: when you're in the trenches, your only objective metric for progress is your word count - and so often that goes right out the window.  Because you're ripping the stitches out of everything you wrote yesterday and the day before, or because you have to stop and do research, or because you're making yourself nuts trying to map out the exact distance from the Empire of Exposition to the Kingdom of Kickass and figuring out all the names of the twenty-seven elite Masters of Midge-Slapping. It is really hard to feel like a Real Writer when everything you've worked so hard on is slipping through your fingers like so much shitty, ungrateful sand.

So here's a list that I keep to look back at whenever I get frustrated or feel like I'm writing garbage:
  • TV
  • DnD sessions
  • video games
  • leisure reading
  • regular blogging (including this year's A to Z challenge)
  • friend emails
  • social media in general
  • cooking
  • cake decorating
  • critique group meetings

That up there is what I've stopped doing in order to make time to write.  Some of those things are on temporary hiatus (I NEED to catch up on my emails and my to-read pile, let me tell you), while others I gave up years ago. 

"Wow, Tex," you may say, "that makes you look like a really miserable, boring, un-fun person.  That doesn't sound healthy at all." 

"Sure," I'd tell you, "but you don't see what's not on there.  Going out to eat with my friends and making wedding invitations with my sister and having epic slap-fights with my cat while blasting 'The Bridge of Khazad-Dum' in the background.  The essentials are still getting done."

So here's my point.  You might spend hours doing homework without adding a word to your manuscript.  You might flush your whole manuscript and start over again.  You might stare at your keyboard until beads of blood appear on your forehead, praying for a good idea or a swift death.  But no matter what you do for your writing, you are by definition giving up something else to do it.  The words you write today might be gone tomorrow - but the hour of TV you didn't watch will stay unwatched. You spent your time on writing instead, literally bought and paid for your work with an hour or or three hours or ten hours or whatever... and as the Beanie Baby craze proved to us lo these many years ago, anything somebody is willing to pay for has value.  Even if you don't always love it.

And that's it.  That is my deep thought for the month; I hope you enjoyed it.  So what's on your list?

7 comments:

  1. I do not have a list but I'm going to discover mine! Thanks for the mention though. Even if I know other writers experience this, it's good to hear just HOW they experience it. And it's so true. That word count is all you have when times turn dark.

    And the weird thing is, no matter how other writers are out there going through similar things, ultimately you always have to face your own monsters alone.

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    1. Yes! I wonder if that's not why we bunch up so vigorously around the water cooler online - because no matter how sociable you are, every one of us is ultimately alone in our cubicle. (So glad you are hanging in there, though - metamorphosis is SO dang painful, no matter when it happens!)

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  2. There is one very large thing on my list of what I am giving up to write: My profession as a teacher.

    Of course, there is more to the story. After 25 years of teaching, I am hanging up my hat because I cannot stand what has happened to my profession. I told somebody yesterday that I have taught LESS this year than any of the 24 years prior (including when I was a dumb first year), while the district calls it MORE. That's what Common Core has done to us.

    So good-bye teaching, hello full time writing. Let's hope I don't end up begging for loose change on street corners!

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    1. Oh my - that is one hell of a bullet point, yes!

      Still, that is such a shame to hear that it's not just writing that's pulling you in, but teaching that's pushing you away. I started a new six-week SAT class at a local high school last week, loved it, and caught myself thinking "golly, why do I not do this for a full-time living?"

      But it's stories like yours that keep me out of it - and even though Texas isn't getting on board with the Common Core (yet), the drive seems always the same: more standardization, more tests, more scrutiny, more drills. That is such a shame - and whether or not you ever decide to go back to teaching, I hope we will at least see a return to sensibility in our lifetimes.

      In the meantime, full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes - we'll be pulling for you!

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  3. I do not have a list but I'm going to discover mine! Thanks for the mention though. Even if I know other writers experience this, it's good to hear just HOW they experience it. And it's so true. That word count is all you have when times turn dark.

    And the weird thing is, no matter how other writers are out there going through similar things, ultimately you always have to face your own monsters alone.
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