The fear and psychedelia of “vacationing”

I’m “vacationing” from my virtual life this week. Where I live, this is the last week of vacation before the school year begins, and I’m being visited by granddaughters. By the end of this week, I’ll have seen four of my five, and spent considerable time with two of them. With those two, it’s serious craft time with one and movie time with the other.

Fortunately, nine-year-old Emily uses the glue gun herself own now, which is a relief because I can’t get within two feet of one without decorating my fingers with burns. She always packs as much color as she can into a project, so after we watched the fourteen-year-old Adrienne’s movie choice, Yellow Submarine, Emily crafted the peacock below. Adrienne went with this psychedelic mushroom.  Hmmm … yeah.

Unfortunately, among movie girl’s other choices this week have been The Mothman Prophecies and then a documentary titled The Eyes of the Mothman. I enjoy watching them, but I regret it when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I am not fond of the dark. I have an active imagination.

I can’t blame my recent series of nightmares on Adrienne though because it started before she arrived. So far, I’ve had one where the whole world has gone mad and blood-thirsty people are at my door. Another where I’m in charge of a baby who is not really a baby and I’m rushing to get it somewhere, but every direction I try to go is flooded.

I even had a dream I haven’t had in twenty years. You know, one of those high school stress dreams. This time, I sensed that I was essentially homeless, but had been staying in this house with a couple of old women I didn’t know. It was the first day of the semester, but I had no idea how to get to the school from this house. I knew I was going to be late, so I would have to report to the office when I got there, but I couldn’t remember where that was, and then I realized I didn’t have my class schedule.

Yeah, I’m stressed about finishing this WIP. Specifically, I’m stressed because I’m unsure about the final scenes I planned.  So, I have a baby, that’s not really a baby (it’s nearly a full book), and I’m pushing to get it to the end, but I’m flooded with alternate ideas. These assaults on my original plans seem like madness trying to get in my door. And I’m suddenly in a place I didn’t plan to be, trying to get to where I’m supposed to be, but I’m late, unsure how to get there, and I’ve left my schedule (outline) behind.

How’s that for a “vacation”?

Self-sabotage

I suppose there are many ways to sabotage your writing. I’ve done it a couple of times. Ahem. Partly because of that, I’ve progressed with my current novel at about the same pace I could chisel it in stone.

Apparently, my latest obstacle was a scene I won’t get to for several chapters.

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This scene is a big moment. A black moment. My protagonist’s worst fear come true. I’ve been writing steadily toward it, laying the groundwork. No worries, right? Okay. Part of my brain has been preoccupied with it. Dreading it. Partially paralyzed with worry over it, evidently.

I didn’t realize that was my problem. I’ve been laying the blame on other things. Maybe the structure is off. Maybe the voice isn’t quite right. Maybe the story is just plain stupid.

And then this past Thursday night, as I was falling asleep, I thought about the three “frame” scenes that I wrote a year ago. The second one connects to this black moment. In this scene my protagonist tells her husband she no longer trusts him. That word trust seemed to jump up and down saying, “Me, me, pay attention to me.” I fell asleep thinking about trust.

The next morning, I opened my WIP to where I’d stopped writing the day before. I wrote a couple of sentences, and then checked email, Facebook, and my blog reader. I finished that paragraph, and then explored new blog themes, added notes for a few scenes to my WIP’s timeline file, and looked around on Goodreads. You get the picture. I squeezed out 142 words in all.

While I took a break for dinner, the word trust popped up in my mind again. I considered what it meant for my protagonist to trust someone. And POW! I heard her say: You destroyed the thing I needed most from you. And that was just the beginning of their conversation.

“I have to get this down,” I told my husband. I rushed to the keyboard and typed out 1,305 words in a non-stop frenzy. I sat looking at it, amazed. I even posted my accomplishment to my Facebook page. I couldn’t believe a scene I thought would be difficult to write had flowed so easily.

But the best thing is, after I got that scene out of the way, I went back to the point I left off in my manuscript and the words kept flowing. In all, since Friday evening, I’ve added 5,103 words to my novel draft.

So, yeah. I’m a happy writer this morning. And like I said on Facebook, this is another reminder not to curse your Muse when it seems she’s being stingy. She’s probably hard at work in the background. Possibly while you sleep.

Hello from Grouchland

I’ve tried for days to write a blog post with a little substance. That’s something I do once in a while to keep you on your toes. But the truth is I’ve grown grouchier each of those days. I don’t know why. I can name a few things that have contributed to it, but not what started it.

Contribution #1:  As I said in my last post, work on my WIP was going well and continued for another two days. Then I realized that even after I add in the remaining pre-written scenes, flesh them out a bit, and fill-in any needed connecting scenes, I’m not going to make my 80,000 word goal. Grrrr.

Contribution #2:  What I consider the best story I’ve written has shown itself to be lacking. When I know a piece has problems, I expect feedback to confirm that. But when I think I’ve written something the best I know how, and that’s not good enough, it undermines my confidence. I start questioning all my work. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to assess my work correctly. Grumble.

Contribution #3:  I’m trapped in an alien body. For most of my adult life, people assumed I was younger than my years because of my skin. Now, it’s as though all those years caught up with me at once. So far, my face is not too bad, but that’s because I need to lose weight. I shudder to think how much more crepey my skin will appear as I deflate. Gripe.

Contribution #4:  Ominous people talk to me all night. I love to dream because I get story ideas from them. Of course, I have to remember the dream first. Lately, all I remember is that I dreamed and it wasn’t pleasant. At most, I retain a glimpse of the setting or a snatch of an event. This morning, I sat up before I was fully awake, and the words someone had just spoken stayed in my head long enough for me to grab the notepad and pen I keep by my bed. These were the words:

“The evil men do to themselves is often far greater than is done to them.”

The voice sounded remarkably like Frasier Crane’s. Ha! My subconscious, the psychiatrist. Okay, so analyzing that, I assume I’ve brought this grouchiness on myself. How? WHY? Grinding of teeth.

Oh, I know, tomorrow something fabulous could happen and I’ll zip right out of Grouchland. Maybe 30,000 words will drop out of the sky for my WIP, and a few little tweaks will make that story shine, and … well … I guess I’m stuck with this skin, but hey, it’s better than no skin.

As for bringing this grouchiness on myself—NAH—I think I’ve figured it out. I’m blaming the eclipse.

Where in the world is that scene I wrote?

Thrice in the last few weeks, I’ve searched my notes in vain for a first-draft scene I’d written for my WIP. When I say first-draft scene, I mean dialogue with a few actions in place. And when I say thrice, I mean for three different scenes.

I have both a large notebook and a small one I carry in my purse, which I use to take notes when I’m away from the computer. Nothing in either. I create computer files, specifically for notes and partial scenes, for each novel and story I work on. Nothing. How can that be?

Every time I look in the mirror, my gray hair reminds me my brain is old, so these missing scenes freak me out. I’m determined to find the culprit because I really don’t want to think it’s my imagination. Did I “write” them while in the shower or driving? I often get inspiration or a breakthrough doing those things. Did I dream these scenes?

I don’t believe it’s my imagination because I can still see them clearly on my mental movie screen. Now, though, the sound is broken up. I haven’t had any computer problems (or SUE oops!) to explain their disappearance. So, apparently, I only thought I wrote them out.

Oh, wait! Maybe there’s a scene thief on the loose. Yeah, it must be that. I’m on the case.

And speaking of the world: The print version of The Brevity of Roses can now be ordered directly through the Amazon stores in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. So, yay!

In other news: What I love about my community of writers is our willingness to help each other succeed. Often we’re not sure how much we actually help, but sometimes we get a special thank you to let us know how much our efforts were appreciated.

Dana Mason’s debut novel Dangerous Embrace is the first in a contemporary suspenseful romance series and will debut this October. A couple of days ago she said some nice things about me—elegant superhero?—and she awarded me this Random Act of Kindness award. Isn’t that sweet of her? Don’t forget to put Dangerous Embrace on your watch list!


A River of Words

One thing I often wish for writers in my tweets and comments is that they will be blessed with a river of words. That’s how it feels to me when the mental dam breaks and sets the story free.

Unfortunately, I seem to be an expert dam builder, though I can’t say I know how I do that. I can never see a specific pattern leading up to these obstructions. Once I build that dam, I’m just as much in the dark on how to tear it down.

I want to write. I need to write. I cannot write.

That frustration only reinforces the dam, which leads to more frustration, which reinforces—well, you get the picture. I lay blame on this and that and the other. I distract myself. I pretend patience. I use force, trickling out a few words at a time. Eventually, I decide I have no talent and should give up.

For a while now, I’ve pretended—if I positively affirm that I’m a writer, that work on my WIP is going just swell, thank you, it will be so. Ahem. I only know that about ten days ago, I faced up to a dam of terrifying proportions. I felt like a total fraud. I was convinced I was a one-book writer. The voice in my head was screaming, “Shut up. Shut up! JUST. SHUT. UP.”

So I did. I shut up. I gave up. And that seemed entirely logical. Gloriously freeing. Long overdue. I decided to give away one more copy of Brevity, and then quietly slink away.

I planned another blog, where I could post my thoughts under a fictitious name. I would write about anything EXCEPT writing. It would be like a virtual witness relocation plan. Maybe a few people would find that blog and I could start a new online life. Eventually, if I were lucky, I would look back at my experience as a novelist with amusement.

Only, that’s not what happened.

What I thought were just my usual allergy problems turned out to be a virus, and this one settled in my chest, which for me, means a deep, wrenching cough. Naturally, this frequently interrupted my sleep. I spent a few nights in a sort of half-dream state, in which, every time I woke a bit more with a coughing spell, I “heard” people talking to me.

Sometime during the third night, I realized the talkers were the characters in the WIP I had so recently shelved. The next day, I realized they were still talking and I sat down at the keyboard. See that photo at the top of this post? Yeah, that’s what it feels like. I have so many words rushing at me now that I have to force them to stop, so I can take a break, eat a meal, go to sleep.

I’m in writer heaven. My river of words is a roaring, rushing, riotous joy I seriously doubted I would ever experience again.

For every writer reading this, I wish you a river of your own.

Photo credit:http://www.dreamstime.com/rushing-river-imagefree193893