An article I sold, When Anger and Emotions Run Your Life, published today at talkspace.com.
I have a new piece up over at the drabble.
I have a new piece up over at the drabble, “sky swallowed.”
commercial breaks has been released and the launch of a most unreliable narrator.
I’m pleased as punch to announce I’ve published my second e-book, commercial breaks. It is two prose poems I wrote during a high manic phase back in the early ’90s and was originally published online. I’ve had the piece professionally edited and now it’s good to go. You can buy it from amazon or download it (for free) in pdf or mobi format. (Obviously, I would want you to buy it so that I can be even more pleased someone is buying my work!)
I’ve just corrected the proofs for the print copy of The Lisa Chronicles, Vol: 1 and those should be up for sale in a few weeks. Print copies of commercial breaks are soon to follow.
From exit, pursued by a bear:
…a few weeks ago I made the grand decision to start spilling my guts over at http://tinyletter.com/amostunreliablenarrator/. The decision was painful but I have to accept people aren’t reading blogs anymore — it’s all newsletters now — and I want to keep writing but I want — no I need — to get my voice out to as many people as possible. Newsletters it is.
I miss you. I hope you’ve been missing me too.
Overwhelmed when starting to write a book
I’m panicking and procrastinating but mostly panicking.
This week or weeks coming soon hold a lot of finals for me: this was the last week for chiro/pt and my front end web dev class. Next week is my final week of unemployment. I’m selling my car next week or the week after. After months of studying and having some sort of purpose, my schedule is empty. My medicating shrink noted he was afraid I would get bored silly and I guffawed and pointed out I have been out of work for the last 2.5 years and if there is anything I can do is fill my time with meaningful things.
Except here I am with that time and I’m panicking.
The local job hunt remaining disappointingly unfruitful, TEH and I agreed (I was fairly pushy in the process) we are going to go to the family cabin on Memorial Day weekend and stay until Labor Day. Louisvillian summers are wretched — it’s not unusual for it to go weeks in the high 90sF with little or no rain. Spring isn’t much better. The dog, she of very little snout, starts to get woozy and pant-y around 75F. Spending the summer cooped up in Louisville is not in the cards. So I sold the idea I would find a part-time gig up north and in my downtime write a book. I accepted the challenge in December and then conveniently put the challenge away when more immediate things needed my attention.
Jesus fuck, I’ve touted I’ve been writing a book for years, surely I can be more than talk — I can totally do this.I’ve taken on larger projects and seen them to completion. I can do this.
There is no more choice or shouldas or possibles, it has to happen. Now, finally, the gods have bestowed me a fairly clear mind, a place to live / fed / watered, support system emotionally and mentally, and time. Glorious and precious time.
I’m in a really good place.
I’m panicking and panicking hard. ( I keep saying this and yes, I know this means what I think it means.)
I decided today was going to be the day to begin. Pens were clicked and the book’s notebook first pages were smoothed down. A new folder was created in my bookmarks manager and I moved over URLs from the before (because there will always be a before) to the new folder. I dug through some previously read books with bibliographies and added those books to my own growing bibliography. I started to list topics I needed to cover (general history, fashion, women actresses, women photographers) adding in broad search topics such as “belle epoque” (French version of Edwardian), “art nouveau,” “spiritualism,” “Edwardian postcards,” and “gibson girl.” I found myself on a Wikipedia rabbit hole bookmarking anything that looked remotely interesting while my chest got heavier and I clicked my pen open to close. Open to close.
An hour or two into this exercise, I got a bee in my bonnet I needed to have a Coke Slurpee which put TEH and me on a scavenger hunt around town (nearest 7-11 is 200 miles away so we settled for Speedway freezee). Then I read Facebook. Checked email. Bemoaned the state of interlibrary lending in the state of Kentucky and found a workaround which led to randomly checking to see what books could be available for me to get via ILL. Checked Facebook again. Wrote a few lines for this post. Contacted the local university (U of L) to see if they had some kind of visiting patron cards available rather than having to wait six weeks for materials to arrive at my local library. I ate Cool Ranch Dorritos, wiping finger crumbs on a damp cloth napkin, while I sucked down 44 oz of frozen, slushy Coke deliciousness. I took my hair out of the bun and shook it free, spending a few minutes combing it to let my hair “breathe.” I’ve come back and forth Facebook, rabbit hole now on non-related topics, writing here, eating something, kissing TEH.
I need to breathe, not just my hair.
The plethora of topics may be too much. An ageing London actress (look up “london stage edwardian,” “london theatres,” “london west end,” “edwardian fashion,” and “edwardian actresses”) who picks up photography (search for “women photographers,” “history of photography,” and “victorian cameras”), and add in spiritualism (look up “spiritualism victorian”) and may be pals with Arthur Conan Doyle (find “Arthur Conan Doyle AND spiritualism”) with a dash of mystery involved.
And the supernatural. Of course.
I panic because this book has to be written — it’s been rattling around my brain for the last five years. It may not get published but it needs to be written, then hugged, and gently put to bed and loved every once in a while. It may be terrible and overwrought but it will be mine and mine alone. I feel if I don’t write this book, all I will be doing is cranking out mediocre short fiction waiting, with downturned baited breath, for the eventual rejections to arrive.
When I came across a problem with my front end web dev class, I would step away for an hour or two or the night or whatever and when I came back to the project, the answer was always crystal clear. Always. It became a pattern if I could not figure it out on my own, leaving it to simmer for a while brought forth the answer.
It never failed.
Tonight, I will post this, walk my dog, do my yoga, and watch TV for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow I will begin again, taking considertion into the previous days work. Nothing will be for naught or regretted. This book will be done and along with every other momentus challenge in my life, I will survive.
on, well, getting rejected.
(Hrm. I can’t seem to get the image to straighten. You get the drift.)
Saturday the paper proof for The Lisa Chronicles Vol 1 showed up and having a solid form of my book in my hand feels awesome.(I borrowed the design heavily from an existing traditional publisher as I liked the simplicity of the style.) There are some minor corrections that need to be done.Even the low resolution pictures (times were different back in the late ’90s) were not as grainy as I would have thought. Overall, I am pretty pleased with how the book turned out.
I’ve got a post brewing on freeing the content but the short version is I’m providing .pdf and .mobi versions of my work for free on this website as well as putting the ebook and print copies for sale at fine retailers such as Amazon and Kobo.
Speaking of books, I sent the manuscript for my first chapbook to my editor and the return wasn’t as bad as I thought. While I’m gungho on doing the printing and such myself, I’m wavering on having it professionally published mainly because of the marketing angle. I can boast on freeing the content and getting my work into as many hands as possible,all I want but I do want to get some kind of token payment for my work.
Publications brings me to rejections.
Ray Bradbury is credited with the “write one, submit one” methodology. It’s self-explanatory: You write one piece and you submit a piece every week. (I’ve also seen write one submit one daily but that is some crazy shit.) The more you write, the better you get, and even if you make one sale, it’s enough to keep you going as soon you’ll have two sales and so forth and so on.
Mr. Bradbury goes into more detail below.
Right now I’m ahead of the game: I wrote and submitted ten pieces in February, had one acceptance and three rejections. Even if the other six reject me, I’m still coming out a winner.
But the rejection still hurts. The sting was intensified when two of the rejections came in one day. WHY WON’T THEY UNDERSTAND MY PROWESS WITH WORDS??
Mr. Bradbury continues he went through a similar thing, we all go through a similar thing. You look back at your earlier work and see how terrible it is because it is terrible. You’re a beginner at this game and no one is going to excel coming out of the gate. But you don’t know until you submit and get rejected.
I found this sentiment to be particularly true of a piece, Palmistry for Beginners, I wrote a couple of years ago. A speculative piece, I posited the question of what if we could change our life if we changed the major lines on our palms. If you’re not familiar with palmistry, the idea is the lines on your palms represent different aspects of your life (love, health, wealth, life, etc) and they can also predict the future. I’m not sure if I buy into this wholly BUT I once went to a palm reader who predicted a breakup with a major boyfriend which happened two days later; I would have no kids, and I would get married twice. So far she’s at 90% and as Mr. Lisa and I have talked about getting married again, she’d be 100% correct. Coincidence? Sure, but sometimes there could be bigger things at stake.
I’m asiding here. Back to my short story.
I sent the piece to a speculative fiction site and it got rejected. I revised the story a year later and it too got rejected. I still couldn’t understand why. A year after that, I re-read the piece and it was terrible. Tenses were all over the place, the plot dropped and came back and dropped again. I would reject me.
I started revising again and found the original story needed to be double the length to get the plot fully fleshed out and coherent. This is a story I’m going to have to diagram / comment / note take / and whatever implement I need to use to get it into shape.
This will be the hardest story I’ve written at this point.
In this process, I learned a couple of things about myself:
- I cannot use my bipolar mania, which I am horribly guilty of doing, to conflate everything I write as a Pulitzer piece
- I need to figure out a writing style and stick to it. It’s okay to change direction but that direction depends on the type of work. I’m enamoured of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Bukowski but I write, for now, like some James Joycian and Virginia Woolf bastard step-child. I like clean and succinct writing styles. Getting a sure footing on my voice will make a huge difference instead of changing to ten different voices in the span of a single piece.
- As some of my work is not a linear introduction, conflict, resolution style, this is not a bad thing. Finding a market for it may be difficult but I need to get into the groove of what makes me feel good as I write. “Write what I want to read” is hammered all over writing blogs.
- All ideas are good ideas. Even if they seem ridiculous, an idea is better than no idea. Some of my ideas are terrible but that’s okay. I have ideas.
- Revise. Send it to my editor. Revise again. Rinse, lather, repeat.
A year ago I would have given but rejection gives me hope and forces me to be a better writer and in the end, isn’t what is most important of all?
I’ve been thinking a lot about putting together a chapbook of my work. As expected with the internet, paper chapbooks are not quite as popular as they once were, so, why do one?
I’ve been thinking a lot about putting together a chapbook, a short anthology of poems/fiction/whatever that is usually up to 40 or so pages long though the number is not a hard number. Chapbooks, mainly poetry and constructed in various forms, have been around since roughly the 16th century. As expected with the internet, paper chapbooks are not quite as popular as they once were, tho’ like vinyl they are making a comeback, so, why do one?
The non-blog works of lisarabey.com are, I suppose, chapbooks in their own right if you organise them into groupings which I’ve sorta done. But the online aesthetic isn’t what I’m shooting for as I recently joked to TEH I wanted to have a shelf of my printed work and printed chapbooks would be an excellent way to start to make that happen.
But how and where to publish them? (I’ll get more into the “what” later on.)
I’ve got a couple of options that are open to me: I can find a chapbook publisher and handle it through them or I can do it myself. With the chapbook publishing route, I can get the pieces professionally edited, the book designed, built-in distribution, and some basic publicity being handled. If I go down the route myself, I can either edit the work or hire an editor (thankfully, I know one and she is cheapish), do the design, distribution, and publicity myself.
After doing some research on chapbook publishers, I decided to go down the myself route. I’ve got basic ebook design and publishing down to a science now but I could always learn more and I like the DIY activity of it. In name, at least, I do have my own publishing house, so I can publish under that imprint. The distribution markets will be a tough nut to crack. I can sell them via etsy and check local bookstores and gift shops that could sell my work. Publicity, with prose at least, I’ll find reviewers, do social media, the whole nine yards.
But really, truly honesty between us pals? No one reads archives anymore and there is so much good in those words that not being seen by more eyes is a shame.
I’ve got two projects in mind for the chapbook route. The first is combining downpour on my soul and downpour revisited into a single work. Related pieces, downpour on my soul was published in 1996 and downpour revisited in 1997. The first one an online prose piece in response to dating on the internet in 1995 – 96. It was 47 pages handwritten and clocks in around 6000 words. It is an intense no holds barred look at my love life happening online and off. The piece was written in a manic phase that lasted two days. It was, for a very long time, one of the first pieces that received some minor notoriety. While no personal details are given, I have had men referenced in the piece threaten me with libel. (Obviously, none of it came to pass.) It’s also the piece most people seem to resonate with.
The second piece, downpour revisited, was written in 1997 as a follow-up / response to its predecessor. That one is as intense yet it’s formatted differently. As it was not written during a manic phase, the voice is less rushed, less obnoxious. It does, however, feel a bit forced at times but that could be I re-read the damn thing 90000 times in the last six months.
The second project is collating my pieces from Fucked Up College Kids, the ‘zine I wrote for in 1997 – 98. There are 12 pieces (located here — scroll down and on your right) where I rage, admonish, rant, and piss people off. I was 25 and did not know any better. While the copyright has reverted back to me years ago, I’ve been in touch with the editor to see if I can use the name when I put that chapbook together. I haven’t heard from him yet.
From there I’d like to start writing chapbook only work and start releasing that as well. I’m pretty excited about this whole endeavour.
I’ll be offering all of my work. chapbooks and books, to download for free in pdf, .mobi, and .epub and you can also buy them as ebooks and print copies for reasonable costs. My reasoning here is I’d rather have more people read my work and be engaged rather than make a few bucks. (Because literally, that is all I would make and in the negatives after you add in the cost of work.)
But more on that later.
My piece, first grade crush, is now over on lit.cat! You should go read it.
I submitted my piece, first grade crush, this past Sunday morning and received notification that evening it was accepted for the next publication which came out yesterday.
Fastest notice ever.
(Followed up when I applied for a gig a few years ago at Harvard in the evening and received the rejection the following morning. I was crushed it was not sent on parchment via owl.)
The story is based on the fact I named my brother after my first grade crush, which is all true.
Anyway, you should go read it.
(I’m also going to plug and say you should read lit.cat even if they didn’t publish my piece. Their issues are set up for a total of 30 minute reads and they publish twice a month. I’ve been impressed with the quality of writing over there.)
Because instead of making an actual big production about it, I sat down and actually wrote some shit and submitted said shit.
I am a BEAST.
Last week Friday, I cranked out a 15 syllable poem for submission to tinywords, a 2K word blog post, and a 3K creative non-fiction essay I submitted to BuzzFeed. If I still smoked, there would have been a cigarette at the end of the day.
The poem that I submitted to tinywords:
lips cherry red body sags
hollow breath she is then released
A 15 syllable poem is a fixed haiku and the layout is as above: two lines, 15 syllables, and double spacing between the breaths.
That shit was hard. You’d think, “Oh, a 15 syllable poem! I can knock that out of the park in a few minutes.” Oh, no no no. There were over half a dozen attempts and about two hours of work into that sucker. (The formatting of the submission page wouldn’t allow for the double spacing between the breaths so each breath is on its own line.)
I’m pretty sure lips cherry red could probably be further tightened, but it is what it is.
See, what else? I submitted another poem, they (we) say, with the theme of “Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Stillness, or Solitude” to a poetry contest. A micro-fiction (50 word) piece was submitted to Fifty Word Stories.
Right now I’m working on a prose/poetry thing, swallowing consonants, and a short story, winter has been cancelled.
Not really part of the submission or writing process, but I updated my 50 word bio to include I don’t fucking live in Brooklyn because I’m really tired of every other writer being from Brooklyn.
Why is this flurry of activity different or more succinctly, why should you believe me now that I’m actually working?
Because instead of making an actual big production about writing shit, I sat down and actually wrote some shit and submitted said shit. (And I am nervous about the submissions, because obviously.)
(Let’s take a look at my submission record: Flurry of submissions in August 2015, one each in August and October 2016 then the flurry of submissions beginning of February 2017.)
So, now you’re going to ask, “But how is this time different?”
Two things: I started writing shit down by hand in a notebook and I started to read literary magazines and blogs with actual interest, not just skimming them over to see what they were looking for.
Back in September, I wrote a piece on using a spreadsheet to manage submissions, using Duotrope and my google alerts to grab submission openings and contests across the internets. I sat down and looked at the themes and then I started reading the actual sites and what inspired me was that I saw so many different pieces of writing being published. It wasn’t straight plot / character / linear pieces. There were prose poems, experimental pieces, and short fragments of micro-flash fiction. And I thought, “I can do this. I can write this.”
they (we) say came about by writing shit down, transferring it to Scivener, and then making the parts connect. The handwritten parts at first glance looked like two separate poems but after transcribing them to digital, I saw the connections and I worked those connections until the pieces fit seamlessly.
lips cherry red was a burst of phrases that I worked and reworked on paper, counting syllables, until it felt just right.
swallowed consonants is coming about from free form writing; winter has been cancelled from the idea of, “Well. What if winter had been cancelled? What would the floral and fauna do?”
I have other pieces that were half written or notes were taken and I now look at them and think, “Okay. I can make you work. Where is my pen and notebook.”
(I’m finding working in pencil has been helpful and easier than my usual erasable pen. Go figure.)
And the final third part: Writing has become that drug I need again and does not feel like work.
Thank fucking god.
cabinet particulier the reboot –>> On restarting my new fiction series
In 2012, laid up from ankle surgery, I came up with an idea to while away the time: I’d write a book. The book centers around an American actress living in England who has massive stage fright but continues to get jobs due to her extraordinary beauty. As she gets long in the tooth, a patron gives her a Kodak Brownie as a gift to keep her occupied during her downtime and she discovers she’s brilliant with a camera. After I fleshed out my character a bit, more ideas came forward: Edwardian period, magical realism, fairies, Arthur Conan Doyle, motorbikes, and a murder and you have a fantastic world in the making.
(This doesn’t mean I’ll be using all the things or anything else comes up but hey! having too much is better than not having enough.)
The name of the project is “Cabinet Particulier,” which is a term used for enclosed rooms in restaurants where men would meet their mistresses. The working title seems appropriate for a book based on a failed actress with the Edwardian version of a questionable background.
(You can read the beginning of my research notes over at exitpursuedbyabear.net.)
Months march on and in 2014, TEH and I decide I’m taking a gap year to write my book. Anyone who’s been keeping track of me these last few years know shit didn’t end up turning out that way.
(The story I’m spinning when future employers look at my resume is I took a gap year and the book stalled, which is mostly true.)
It’s almost five years (!) since the original idea smacked into my brain and I’ve decided it’s finally time to give my book the time it is due.
Let’s answer some questions:
What is the Edwardian period: Period of time begins around 1900 and ends at the beginning, mostly, of WWI (1914). The dates are a bit fluid, with dates extended on either direction but is considered the gap period between Victorian age and the Roaring ’20s. Some scholars consider it to be the tail end of the Victorian era while others, like myself, see it as a wholly different period. The period is named for the English king, King Edward VII, who comes into power after his mother, Queen Victoria (the name sake of the Victorian era), dies. In the US, the period is loosely referred to as “The Gilded Age” and in France, “Belle Époque.”
Why the Edwardian period: I knew I wanted the book to be historical fiction and I also knew I wanted the period to be close to contemporary times since there would be more research available (hah!). I tend to gravitate to periods pre-Depression era (1930s) but I wanted something different than your usual molls and gangsters of the 1920s. The turn of the 20th century was huge with big changes: Cars were becoming affordable and popular, same with radios, telephones, and electricity. Cameras and bikes were also coming into their own. People were becoming more literate, printing was cheap, and you saw the rise of mass produced books and magazines. The attitudes were more relaxed than the perceived stuffiness of the Victorians and lifestyles was more opulent and extravagant. I also wanted it to be pre-sinking of the Titanic (1912).
In short, it was an era where anything and everything could be possible.
Influences: When I began my research, I found women, more so than men, were commercial and artistic photographers, so giving her a new job was easy. Popular travelogues of the era were written by women. There was a spike in the belief in the supernatural — The Victorians loved their ghost stories, seances, and research into the otherworld carried over to the beginning of the century. It became more socially acceptable for a woman to have jobs that would have been unseemly in the Victorian era, namely actresses and models. Thanks to telephones and postcards (yes, really), communication was easier and faster. This is also the rise of the middle class so you’re seeing a lot money spent on vacations, luxuries, and entertainment.
Research: has been sketchy. Finding material that works specifically with that period has been hard. While there seems to be a zillion blogs/websites/books on Victorians and the Roaring ’20s and forward, the Edwardian period seems to be forgotten. Much of the social commentary on WWI tends to lean towards the Roaring ’20s rather than the time before it. Since many scholars and historians consider the period to be late-Victorian, what I have been finding for resources tend to be footnotes in those works. I thought the popularity of Downton Abbey would see a rush of amateur historians coming to the rescue, but no. I’ve been expanding my search terms to find more information – Art Nouveau is such an example.
Where are we at now: I took a fiction class in the fall of 2015 and workshopped the first chapter and it was well received. I’ve been playing around with characters, theme, and story lines so the basic idea, “failed American actress living in London,” is starting to flesh out. Since I gave away my print books on the topic, I’m starting my research from scratch. There is an accompanying Pinboard, Pinterest, Tumblr sites as well as a RSS feed if you want to follow along. Posts, as always, will be cross-posted over on Facebook. My Scrivener files are still intact.
What’s next: Now that my meds are under control which means my focus is better, I’m going to sketch out a plan of attack. I know I need to do a lot of research and I should also work on note taking of character / plot / scene. I bought a mechanics book on novel writing to help with the basics. (I’ve found celebrated books such as Stephen Kings On Writing are nothing more than expositioned mental masturbation. The first rule of writing is there is no formula for writing. Reading 300 pages of essays from famous authors does nothing for me. That’s great you drank a bottle of gin before you sat down and wrote The Great American Novel™ but not everyone is going to be that type of writer.) I need to read, read, read works of the era and whatever contemporary works on the era I an find.
In short, there is a lot of work to be done.
Stop taking advice on how to manage your writing career – that’s a writer’s greatest struggle of all.
- 26 fiction book ideas
- 33 fiction story ideas (shorts / novellas)
- 19 fiction stories in progress
- 6 non-fiction essays in progress
- 6 fiction short stories finished
- 8 fiction short stories to be edited / revised
- 1 themed short story collection started
- Afraid to say how many #100DayProject entries (i.e. not many)
And the big one:
- 10 life projects
When I tell my therapists I have projects in the works, I am referring to life projects. Things like “find a job,” “update/manage lisa.rabey.net” (librarian site), and so on are all individual life projects. Each “project” requires its own energy and resources. “Finding a job” meant spending 30+ hours a week on job searching, writing applications, finding references, and anything else associated with that task. I also spent five+ hours a week researching and updating my librarian (main career goal) site to keep myself fresh and relevant in the field.
Those two projects are related (but separate) and seem like they should take up a good chunk of my time. They are and they did but I didn’t have just those two life projects to keep me busy: I have 10.
Let’s give another example:
Code Louisville (life project #1) uses Team Treehouse (life project #2) as the foundational courses for Code Louisville’s cohorts. I reasoned I needed to also have a website to showcase my work which led to the creation of a consulting business (life project #3) for site design / content curation (of which I had enough knowledge to be dangerous but I was taking zero classes for, so I needed to take more classes to supplement (life project #4)). These life projects could be streamlined and consolidated into a single connected project (take only foundational courses needed for Code Louisville and use the website only as CL cohort increased, stop consulting services and taking additional classes).
But I didn’t think that way. I thought if I could do all the things, my chances of getting employed / noticed / famous would increase. We know how this story ends: Spread too thin and I was not a master of any and mediocre at best for most. How do I do I approach this to make sense in my head and to get the work done?
James Altchuer has the 5/25 rule. You make a list of 25 things you want to do and keep only five, the other 20 are distractions. I am using this advice to manage my projects better. Out of the 10, five were put on hold indefinitely. Two were consolidated (Code Louisville / Team Treehouse) which leaves me another three projects I can handle: update EPbaB (and the newsletter) once a week, work on my woo-woo makey feel good stuff, and writing for a total of four projects. Code Louisville / Team Treehouse are time specific and not immediate so that’s on the backburner for the moment; updating the personal blog and newsletter takes 10 hours a week (closer to five to seven but I want to be generous with time), and the woo-woo makey feel good stuff is my daily meditation, working on DBT, seeing a therapist which is also another 10 or so hours a week. In theory, since writing can be done at anytime and anywhere, I have about 30 – 50 hours a week I can devote to writing.
On paper, this sounds great, but there is more coming down the pipeline. I’ve applied for several online tutoring jobs which while it nets me some much needed cash, it also means I’m going to be working about 20 or so hours a week which will eat into my writing time. Plus there is general life stuff: errands, going out, dog things, etc which has an unknown amount of weekly allocated time. Finally, FINALLY, there is the writing itself. I have books to read, notes to make, ideas to simmer, when do I actually sit down and just bloody write?
Writing is on the forefront of my brain for the last few months and I want to change my framing of approaching it. If I do X (which I’ve done a million times), then X would surely, finally (not really) happen. Good intentions, bad follow through and it’s fucking with my goals. Look at the writing numbers above: 26 book ideas stretching back to at least 2001. 80% of the ideas will never see the light of day. The remaining five, maybe 2 will come to fruition if I actually get cracking on them. The other numbers will roughly have the same percentage. The only increase, and probably better completion of, are the non-fiction essays since I can knock those out fairly quickly.
Therein lies the rub: writing isn’t just about writing, it’s about everything you do before (and after) you put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard). There are queries to write, research to be done, edits to be made, notes to take, possible classes to sit in, books to be read, and if you’re self-publishing, there is far more work to be done for promotion and hustling oneself out into the world.
I get overwhelmed with it all, fuck off the world and play Animal Crossing. Surprise, surprise – nothing is finished.
900 words later, we get to the point: How do I handle writing projects? Walter Mosely’s slim treatise, This Year You Write Your Novel can be summed up as such: Allocate X hours in the morning for just writing and spend the afternoon doing administrative tasks (email, errands, research) and within a year, viola! A novel. Jonathan Franzen (jackass) has widely noted he has his wireless card removed (to prevent internet distractions) and once, “…writing in the dark, wearing earplugs and a blindfold.” to finish another novel. (Pompous twit.) But it worked for him. Other writers have even more wildly different approaches. I know of one writer who, with deadlines looming, writes whatever is due before the final hour. NaNoWriMo‘s approach tells you if you write 1600 words a day, NO EDITING, in the month of November, you too can have a complete (unedited), albeit, short novel.
Here I am, with more ideas to shake a stick at, finally time I can reasonably carve out to write, and I’m writing a blog post about managing writing projects instead of, you know, actually writing.
All is not lost! I use a 9″x12″ sketch pad to plot out my life and now I have a visual idea of what I can reasonably handle even if the other ideas are 10000% awesome. I’m, for the first time, learning from my reading in addition to enjoying it for pleasure. I’m reading technical books to refresh my English comp classes, I’ve started plotting (new!) some stories to get an idea of how I want the stories to land. I’m keeping in mind the advice I gave a few weeks ago and using the spreadsheet of doom to track everything. I am starting a task for the day and completing it rather than have many tasks unfinished. Progress on reframing my approach, tiny but visible, is being made.
It’s hard. Writing is hard. We do not come forth and spill out Harry Potter or Ulyssys on the first tries. We know of the rejections and the waiting and the struggles. We forget these things when we see authors we love become more famous or in some, become obscure. We cannot be everything at once and in all life projects, yet we try to be. We have a voice we want to be heard but we keep strangling it on the behalf of others advice with the thought of shame we are not doing things “right.”
And that’s our greatest struggle of all.