Writing on Life

When writing a novel, the entire outside world stops. That’s the way my brain works. I can’t say I am introverted or extroverted. I am both at different times. I’s hard to find balance.

Much of my writing evolves from my life experiences. Spending weeks into years in front of the computer writing narrows my focus. That’s a good thing for my writing.

However, to a degree, living stops. I don’t go out to socialize much. I don’t play games. I don’t get much work done outside of writing. I don’t go to movies. Hell, I don’t even watch television.

If it wasn’t for date night and the need to consume food, I’d never go out to eat or go to the grocery store.

But I get stories written.

The flip side to that is spending time living life offers me much to write about. People I meet, places I visit all have a way of getting integrated into my writing. Life experiences become the ingredients of my writing.

My two favorite quotes on writing and life:

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
― Gustave Flaubert
“In order to write about life first you must live it.”
― Ernest Hemingway

The ideas expressed in the quotes seem on the surface to be in opposition, yet apply to me. They’re understandable.

I’m not so regular and orderly, but I like writing about those things that are beyond the scope of my own comfort zone in living. Granted, I have been known to live a wild and crazy life, but even I have limits. My books know no limits. My characters do things and get involved in ways I never could…in real life.

The old cliché, “Write what you know” comes home to me each time I take my seat at my desk. Having lived a full life and taking long breaks from writing to live life has fed me and continues to feed me.

I am obsessed with life. When I am living life, and not writing, I am driving all over the state, meeting new people from all walks of life and visiting places I never knew existed. Hosting lavish parties with four-hundred guests and attending events with thousands. Life is terrible, grand, scary, comfortable, fascinating, exciting, horrific, and wonderful.

There is nothing dull about the life I live.

Now, on to writing.

I recently participated in the “Give Me Five” podcast with Jimmy McCurry, Greg and Rob. They review all sorts of things: movies, TV shows, games, books, places…all of those things that keep us entertained with living. I will let you know when the podcast airs. They asked me some questions and let me talk about writing, my book, Naked Alliances, and list my five favorites. I chose five favorite literary influences. I will keep you informed when the podcast goes live.

Sunday Synopsis: Word Counts and Retirement

4chan-elderly-banner

I just reread this post and it came across to me as if I am very unhappy, so I want to qualify here before I push the publish button. I am very happy. Most likely the happiest person you know. I have a really good life and know that I am most fortunate to have the support that I do. I am going to post this anyway.

I have a good number of author friends who hold day jobs and have careers. Often, they speak of retirement and writing full-time.

It is a delusion that having more time will lead to more writing.

Before you attack, allow me to explain from my own personal point of view.

writing box 002I was looking for my old Brother word processor, after having found a couple of boxes of floppy disks. The floppy disks hold some writing I did in the 80s that was never printed. I wanted to see if the rocket scientist could, maybe, get the Brother up and running well enough to get a screen, and perhaps print off some of the content. I have at least two packs of ribbon cartridges. Don’t know if they’ll work. They may be too dry. I know there are places that can take your floppy disks and convert the files, but I don’t even know if it is worth the bother/expense. It would be nice if I could remember what all I wrote, but I can’t.

While looking, I ran across an old plastic container and a few shoe boxes filled writing from that era. Now you have to keep in mind that was a time when I wrote during every spare minute I had. Those were far and few between, because at that same time I was going to school 40 miles away in one direction, working a full time job 20 miles away in another direction, (and sometimes a part-time job, too) raising three kids who had school, tae kwon do, softball, soccer, cheerleading, gymnastics, scouts, and so on. Granted, I had some downtime after my youngest son was born in 1985. Two years.

Yet, here’s what I found:

  • 1200 pages (yes pages, not words) of the story of my life. About every memory I possessed at the time; from tossing my New Testament out the window and into the rain at the age of two (when I got my first spanking) to birthing my third child while wearing tennis shoes at age 25.
  • A 300 page story about a young contemporary witch (a pharmaceutical chemist) who inherits a magical ruby ring from her grandmother and her witch family (probably influenced by reading LOTRs, or maybe Anne Rice, can’t recall the exact years I read Anne).
  • Six chapters into an historical fiction about Martha Washington’s relationship with the African American mother of Washington’s mulatto children. (Perhaps based on a true story I read…most likely somebody has already done this).
  • A horror story about a lady with cats I had published at age 17 years.
  • I have this really cool sci-fi fantasy started about this league of aliens from different planets coming back to earth to reclaim the races…in 2020. It’s very interesting reading.
  • Dozens of short stories (or at least what looks like the start of short stories). Lots of them are southern folklore I learned growing up and recorded in my own words. There’s even one where John Lennon lives. (You know, like Elvis.)
  • Tons of dark poetry. (four shoe boxes) We’re talking nuclear destruction, biological and chemical warfare, death and dying, pollution and environmental catastrophe, loss, psychotic mind breaks.

I’m not saying this is good writing, but it is writing. I couldn’t recall having written so much.

Now all of this was written (either on a typewriter or a word processor, NOT a computer) in my twenties, when I had first been diagnosed with bipolar, and before I was stabilized on meds. I don’t doubt that most of this was written in the midst of some manic or depressive episode.

I first started thinking about the story in Red Clay and Roses in 1992. I wrote nothing. The nineties were filled with teenagers, professional career, and divorce. Then I was single, struggling to survive and socialize myself in another state. There was no time for writing. Life just got in the way.

We come to 2012. I’m stable. I’m retired. I have nothing but time and support. Perhaps coming off of a manic episode that followed suddenly stopping a thirty year career; I wrote Red Clay and Roses. Not as a novel, not that formally. It was a story in my head that I had wanted to write since 1992. A visit to Georgia that included reuniting with a cousin whose life intersected with that story in ways I had never known about inspired me to write. In my newfound serenity of retirement I pounded that story out in four months.  I researched and wrote during every waking moment for four months.

98,362 words.  Writing Monday through Friday, that’s roughly 88 days, which comes to 1118 words per day. That’s if I wrote every day like a 9-5 job. That includes research time, which is something I spent a lot of time on.

So I set myself what I considered a reasonable word count goal with my current WIP, 500 words per day.

I thought surely I could at least write 500 words per day. Most certainly I could get my next first draft written in a year.

I was also blogging, so I put myself on blogging restriction for a couple of reasons.

  1. I was getting too intimidated by rules. Writing rules, rules, rules and more rules. Every post I read explained these rules, and advice. I’m capable of learning. I wanted to improve my writing. Seriously. The rules suck. They have thwarted my creativity beyond belief. The perfectionist in me, my internal editor, is too damned concerned about following the rules to get anything much accomplished.
  2. Time. Blogging takes time.

Now I think. I spend the minutes thinking. Hours, days, weeks, I spend thinking. I think all the time. I think about writing. I wake up thinking about writing. I think all day about writing. I think about writing hours after I have laid myself down at night. I think about the rules. I think about the story I am trying to tell. I think about the characters, their motivations, emotions, behaviors, words. I think about the plot, the hook, the pace, the development. I think about the right words, the right phrases, and the right prose. I think about backstory, information dumps, showing, not telling.

Sometimes I’ll have a thought, a really good one, and I can’t hold it. I lose it almost as quickly as the thought occurred. I have no memory. I used to recall phone numbers two weeks after I was given them without ever having written them down, and now, I can’t seem to be able to hold a creative thought from my mind to the screen.

I’m overthinking. Yet I can’t recall my thoughts.

Screw the rules and I can sit down and pump out 3000 words in one day.

Then I spend hours and hours rewriting, revising.

Other days I am lucky to write one sentence.

Many, many days I spend thinking.

Word counts? Pfft!

So what is it that stifles my creativity and cripples my mind? My word count?

Rules, too many years on psychotropic drugs, old age?

I have nothing but time, and yet the clock ticks.

Retirement plans. Word counts. Discipline. Stability. Too many stories in my head.

I just want to effectively tell a story.

I have been working on this since November and don’t have 20,000 words.

Capture

http://forlackofabettercomic.com/                                       Jacob Andrews