Several weeks ago, I found myself in a familiar place. I was coming off a big day-job project, which had included long hours every day for the last couple of weeks to complete it. I hadn’t been able to touch my writing during that time and for weeks before that, because even when I wasn’t working quite as many hours, I was expending all my mental energy on that other job. But now that I and my team had completed that project and submitted it to the customer, I was able to reclaim my life, including my writing time. “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” right?
When last I’d communed with my writing, I’d been on a hot streak (despite that pesky novella that I’ve struggled to revise). I was writing for long hours and wracking up word counts, knowing all the while it couldn’t last. I’d signed a consulting contract. A company was going to write me a monthly check; it stood to reason at some point they’d want me to do something to earn that money. Then I got a call saying a project that was supposed to start in October was actually starting six weeks early. I went cold turkey on my writing. Turns out, by the time I finally got back to it, it had gone cold turkey on me. I had one novella and one full-length novel in need of revision, and the first act of a second full-length novel all set in the same story world. I also had the first half of my women’s fiction story waiting for completion. But when I sat down at the computer, I couldn’t get back into any of those story worlds. I’m not going to lie – some panic set in. After all, it’s only a matter of time before I get the next call about the next day-job project, and then I’ll have to go cold turkey on writing again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Continue reading
The Wreckage of the Black Prince (fragment) by Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky, 1854.
Becoming an author requires a lot of work, from the writing to publishing and marketing. It’s easy to get caught up in writing-related activities that don’t yield much, if anything, in results. In the lingo of economists, this phenomenon is called the sunk cost fallacy—really a high-fallutin way of pointing out how you’re wasting your time.
I just read an article about the sunk cost fallacy, and it resonated with me since I’ve so recently fallen victim to it. So, what is it and how does it work?
In economics, a “sunk cost” is a cost that you’ve already paid, says Robert Wood on Standout Books. For writers, this payment can be financial, but usually the resources that you spend are time, energy, and emotional commitment.
“The future is escapist fantasy.” If the shoe fits, wear it. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . .”
Think about it. Fifty-nine million people got the lesser of two evils. Fifty-nine million people got the greater of two evils. America is divided about evenly, and there’s a whole spectrum of thought and opinion. So, if you want to write a white hero-guy who kicks poor, brown ass and enjoys his Budweiser, there’s a market for that. If you want to write a diverse cast of characters, fighting The Man like time-travelling hippies and enjoying a little recreational marijuana, there’s a market for that. I predict that escapist fantasy is going to have a heyday. Why? Continue reading
From the PBS documentary The Girls in the Band.
These past few months, two separate issues have occupied much of my brain-space: the US election, and the many different ways/formats in which we humans express our art. The former is for obvious reasons, and like most Americans, November 9 cannot come soon enough for me and yet fills me with dread. The latter is for reasons obvious to me, as I shift my writing perspectives and take on new projects in ways that I haven’t approached my stories in the past (more on that in a future post).
Given these preoccupations, it’s not surprising that my mind is primed to process everything creativity-related through a specific lens. It’s also unsurprising that I viewed the PBS documentary The Girls in the Band as the coalescence of these disparate ideas. PBS describes the documentary this way: “The Girls in the Band reveals the poignant, untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists and their fascinating, groundbreaking journeys from the late 1930s to the present day. These incredibly talented women endured sexism, racism, and diminished opportunities for decades, yet continued to persevere, inspire, and elevate their talents in a field that seldom welcomed them.”
Imagine living in the world that existed less than 100 years ago and being told you’re not welcome to pursue your artistic passion and expression, you’re not good enough, you’re at best ‘just the girl in the band’, with the explicit understanding that ‘girl’ in this case is a pejorative. Continue reading
In this year of My Big Slump, I’ve been thinking that for the last several months, when writing could have helped me, I didn’t write very much. And what I did write, I didn’t much like.
Usually I find that any writing is better than no writing. I like to edit, so I’m fine to rework something until I’m happy with it. Nora Roberts has famously said that the key to her success is putting her butt in the chair. And she’s right—if you don’t sit down and write your book, it won’t get written. There’s no substitute for hard work. You have to get in front of your screen and focus—on your scene, your characters, the plot, and what you want to get done in the time you have today, right now. Continue reading
Do you ever suddenly hit a wall, with your writing or your life in general? Can persistence usually solve your problem, or is it a signal that something is wrong?
I have a lot to do before I leave for RWA National, and I was hoping for a productive writing week. Turns out I spent most of it spinning my wheels, completely blocked on an important scene. I was desperately frustrated at my lack of progress, but when I finally solved the problem I realised getting stuck had been a Good Thing.
I ground to a halt because what I was trying to write took the story in a wrong direction.
The problematic encounter takes place immediately after a fight scene in which much useful information has been discovered, but at a high cost. Most importantly, the hero’s father has been badly injured in an unexpected manner. The old man is unconscious and exhibiting severe hypothermia-like symptoms, and the hero and heroine must care for him and keep him alive until help arrives, while staying out of sight and earshot of the bad guys. Continue reading
My happy (if unproductive) place.
I’ve done it. I’ve survived an intense 5-month-long stint at the day job that took me away from writing, home, and pretty much everything in life outside of work. With all of that behind me, I’ve had time to catch up on some sleep, re-read some favorite books (salve on the psychic wounds), and start relearning the daily rhythm of life.
The next logical step should be a triumphant return to writing. Pent-up story should be rushing through my veins. My characters should be whispering in my ear, telling me their deepest, darkest secrets, enticing me them to get them onto paper. Right?
Turns out, none of that’s as easy as it sounds. My story brain is stuck in neutral and I just can’t get it engaged.
In addition to rest and reading, I’ve also watched story in form of favorite shows and some movies, old and new. I’ve set up a jigsaw puzzle by the back window of the house so I can look out over the forest behind us in all its springtime glory. But while I usually hear characters’ voices while I fit together the puzzle pieces, lately I just hear silence. Or worse. Continue reading