Thursday, March 05, 2015

More true tales from the glamorous life of a writer

notes, notes, and more notes

Life has been a little hectic recently. I spent a week playing medical advocate for my elderly father who lives in Florida. It was wonderful spending a week with him and frustrating that the week was mainly at the hospital where my greatest asset was my ability to rattle cages while smiling politely.

It doesn't hurt that I have a long history of working in the health care system. And let me tell you, it's a mess. But that's another blog post for another day.

The best news is my dad is now in a rehabilitation hospital, gaining strength so he can go back to his home and his community. And, since I had none of my usual distractions while I was there, I got a ton of writing done on ITHAKA RISING, the sequel in progress to DERELICT. The projected story length is about 80K or so. I'm just shy of 52K with a solid roadmap of the next big chunk of the narrative. Those notes are part of my 'now what' brainstorming sessions.

The past 2 weeks have netted me over 20,000 words for this novel. I'm proud of that work.

I've begun to believe that half (or more!) of writing a novel is not getting distracted. But the flip side of that is the tendency to hyper-focus on the writing to the detriment of everything else in life. (Bills, phone calls, laundry, etc). So a big part of my internal work is searching for balance. I have not been very good at finding it lately. But this morning, I completed the FAFSA for my son's college financial aid and made a bunch of phone calls that I had been avoiding. And tomorrow I'm making time to go to the ceramics studio.

One of the biggest problems of being a writer is the isolation. Writing is a solo sport. It requires focus and introspection. And it can be lonely, despite the 'company' of our characters. I struggle with the need for external validation and support so I don't feel as if I'm working in a vacuum. When I'm lonely, or frustrated with the writing, it's so simple to click over to a browser window and hang out on twitter/fb/google plus. There is a steady stream of conversation happening. It's a kind of anesthetic for the mind and makes me feel like I'm not so isolated. However, what I've been realizing lately, is that it also has a very negative side effect.

I read everyone's reports of their best selves, best accomplishments, most witty presentations on social media, and I feel terrible. I fall into self-pity, self-loathing, and envy. And let me tell you, those emotions do not fuel the creative process in any sort of healthy way.

It creates a black hole that sucks away joy and the ability to be playful and take risks, all of which are necessary to creativity. I know things are bad when I start to do the "why not me" routine. There's the insidious believe that I deserve to be successful, sell books, garner fans. This way lies madness.

Here's the thing: No one owes me anything.

I am not owed readers or fans or patrons or supporters. Would I like all those things? Sure. And a JK Rowling-sum of money would be great, too.  But just because I create, write, publish, doesn't mean I deserve a cookie for it.

So I wrote this to remind myself that it's about the work. The need to spin a story is what drives me to fill out notebooks, to research translations of Greek poetry, rare isotopes, and the symptoms of traumatic brain injury, and to return, again and again to the writing.

No, it's not glamorous. I'm not likely to have a zillion twitter followers who hang on my every word. I'm not likely to have my manuscripts go to auction and have publishers tripping over themselves to be the buyer. But I have written and published novels that I am proud of. Some of them have found their true readers, readers who have found something that came from my strange and murky imagination to be moving and meaningful.

And that's the true glamour.


  1. Love this. Though I check my sales stats every day (and they're usually still at zero) I keep reminding myself I'd be writing this stuff anyway, even if there was no way to publish like KDP. It's just that, without the odd dribble of money coming in, my wife would be less appreciative and supportive.

  2. Exactly!! {{hugs}} You're a great writer and an incredible friend. Write more kick ass books!!