On Inspiration: Looking Forward to Life

image from Little Dorrit, (c)BBC
image from Little Dorrit, (c)BBC

I think it’s time I readjusted my attitude about my day-to-day.  It needs it.

I know many writers who write part-time — that is, they balance their writing time with their current day job and/or parenting duties.  It can be a frustrating attempt at balance, especially when your Day Job Brain functions much differently from your Writing Brain.  I play with numbers and emails all day, and I’m extremely well versed in business-speak.  That job entails a lot of logical, linear thinking.  Nine times out of ten, point A and point B should lead to point C.  [That tenth time is the exception setup, what I often refer to as “it goes like this…except when it doesn’t.”]  It’s not exactly a tough job — okay, it is in its own way, but I’ve been at it for seven-plus years and I’ve gotten used to it.  I don’t let it stress me out all that much anymore.

My writing, on the other hand, includes a lot of nonlinear plotting, multiple points of view (not just in narration but in character personality), and a lot of leaps of faith, in hopes that it’ll all make sense at the end.  It’s the dreamland I always look forward to, where I can play with words and images, make up fantastical things, and tell fun stories.

Just as logical, but completely different frames of mind.  I’ve been doing both for so long I can easily switch between the two when need be.


Cary Grant from His Girl Friday
Cary Grant from His Girl Friday

Lately I’ve been in a rut, however.  By the time 4pm rolls around and I log off, I just want the day to be done already.

Okay, maybe the situation’s not quite that dire…but after eight hours of the Day Job, sometimes the last thing I want to do is work on something else.  I want to be lazy and goof off!  I don’t even want to go out at night…I just want to sit around and whittle the time away.  Thankfully my ingrained guilt receptors kick in soon enough and I get to slog away for a few more hours doing whatever it is I need to do creatively.

How did I get this way?  And don’t tell me “you’re getting old.”  I may have just recently turned 44, but I’ll be damned if age is going to be an excuse for being a lazy bum.

I started thinking…what was it that got me excited about writing previously, anyway?  Or excited about going out to do something?

As always, I thought back to a time where I was truly excited about my writing time.  I thought about my Yankee Candle days — I had a half-hour commute each way, I moved hundreds of boxes all day long, and yet I still managed to make a weekly habit out of doing a comic book and new cd run in Amherst.  I was also able to spend two solid hours writing at least a thousand words every night.  My personal best in terms of word count that I’ve been trying to reach for ever since.*  Or my days at HMV, where I’d drive 50 miles to the mall I work at, slog through the day, drive 50 miles back home (or the 70 miles to Amherst for the occasional comic book run, then an additional 30 back home!)…but still balance that with the hour before work writing longhand, and the hour or so at home, transcribing to the computer.

Point being:  I know I can do it.  There’s no doubt about that.

So why am I complaining that I can’t, or don’t want to?  It’s not as if I’m particularly exhausted, mentally or physically, or can’t stand the project I’m currently working on.

I mean, I’ll be heading over to Amoeba over on Haight tonight to see The Church, one of my favorite bands, play an in-store show.  The store is only a few miles away, and I’ll probably be home before 8pm anyway.  And yet, why do I feel lazy enough to want to come up with an excuse for not going?  I mean, come on.  It’s the freakin’ CHURCH, for pete’s sake!  They only sing my favorite song ever!  Why the hell am I feeling so damned lazy??

Finally it dawned on me, just today:  I was looking at this current schedule from the wrong angle.

I work at home, so it’s not as if I have to deal with a commute; I wake up at 6am, have breakfast, read some webcomics and catch up on the Twitter feed, and log on at 7:30.  I take two fifteen minute breaks and a half hour lunch.  I log off at 4pm and we head over to the YMCA soon after to get our exercise.  Dinner is usually around 5:30-ish and I’m writing by 6:30pm, all the way to about 8pm.  I get my daily words and my project words done at that time…and if the work day is particularly slow, I sneak in some personal writing, such as this particular blog entry.  The day’s packed to a reasonable degree, but I’m not draining myself in the process.

All the same, I’ve been suffering from a terrible case of the Don’t Wanna’s.

And that’s the issue right there!  It’s not the schedule or the work/writing balance that needs fixing:  it’s my attitude.

So I submit this:  let’s return to my YC-era work mindset — my day job is my paycheck, but my writing is my career.  But don’t forget to have fun as well.

I’ll still dedicate the same time and brain power to the day job, of course.  But let’s also look forward to logging off at the end of the day.

Let’s remind ourselves throughout the work day that, once I’m off the clock, it’s time to go and have some fun!  Let’s look forward to walking around the neighborhood after work.  Let’s look forward to playing in that imagined world for a few hours.  Let’s look forward to having fun with what I love doing the most.

It’s not about trying to do everything at once.  It’s simply a change of attitude.  Look forward to life.  Look forward to that bit of entertainment.  Look forward to that writing time at the end of the day, because you know and I know it’s a hell of a lot of fun, even when it does get frustrating.

Chances are, the payoff will be worth it.


Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


*  Mind you, I’m not trying to force a thousand words on a nightly basis, because it depends on the project.  I’m working on Walk in Silence but not logging any new words because most of the work has been what I call ‘framing’ the flow of the book.  My sort-of daily 750 Words have been consistently over 750 and flowing quickly, so I can safely say I’m counting the words where they really do count.

On Writing: Where Do I Begin?

Begin at the beginning.

Select an idea, any old idea, and riff on it.

Let the idea sit there and marinate for a while; let it solidify into something worth writing about.

Outline, outline, outline!

Let it bleed out of you; don’t stop to fix it, revise it later.

I’ve heard all kinds of suggestions on how and where to begin a new project, and in the back of my mind I’ve been thinking about how and where I’ll be starting up the next Mendaihu Universe story.  I’m still working Walk in Silence as my main project right now.  I’m also creating a story out of my daily words (currently called The Lidwells Story), so it’s not as if I’m hemming and hawing and not getting any work done.  The new MU story isn’t exactly top priority at the moment, but it’s in the back of my mind, poking me like a five year old every now and again, begging for a scrap of attention.

The trouble is that I’m really not sure where to start with it.  I have a few very vague ideas of characters and plot points, but nothing solid.  It’s not severe trouble, though…I have to remember that The Phoenix Effect started out almost completely from scratch as well, and I had maybe five or six scenes tops in my head.  I have to remember that I had two plans when I began it: 1) write a new novel, and 2) use the idea of human spirits coming from somewhere else.  That’s it.  Nearly all of the scenes, plots and subplots, and character evolution I wrote in that book I came up with while writing it.

So really–the trouble is not where to start the story, but where (and when) to begin writing it.  That is: prioritize projects. Don’t worry about the new MU story just yet–don’t worry about the plot or the characters, or even the theme at this point.  Finish WiS and the Blogging the Beatles projects, and continue submitting the Bridgetown trilogy.

It’ll come in time.  I’ll know when I’m ready for it.

Yes, They’ve Been Done, But They’re Still Fun

I’ll admit I haven’t been up on movie watching over the last few years for one reason or another.  It could be my tastes have morphed somewhat, being that we’ve mainly been hitting documentaries, Studio Ghibli movies, and imports.  I haven’t gone to see a good throwaway popcorn movie in ages.

That said, I’ve been hearing reviews on the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending, and the takeaway so far has been “oh god it’s a hot mess but go see it!”  Here’s the trailer:

I finally got around to watching said trailer about a half hour ago, and found myself both concerned and amused that I saw a parallel between it and my Bridgetown Trilogy.  Both contain an alien Origin Story (i.e., where did humans come from?), a female Chosen One character (some kind of savior to keep Earth from going kaboom), and a War for World Control.

When you’re a writer who’s trying to sell a novel you’ve carefully crafted for years that you’re currently trying to sell, and you see a Hollywood movie with parallels like that, you tend to have a moment of oh crap, someone beat me to it!

And then I realize–those three points are everywhere.  I’m not the first, nor the last, to use the alien Origin Story, a Chosen One and/or a World Control plot.  Time to calm down a bit.

I mean, much of the Mendaihu Universe in its early days was influenced by 80s and 90s SF movies and anime anyway: the Gall Force series, Until the End of the World, Strange Days, The Fifth Element, Johnny MnemonicThe Matrix and its sequels, Akira, and so on.  They might not be for everyone–some people see these kinds of stories as over the top and ridiculous.  Sure, there’s an element of the fantastical in the Mendaihu Universe, but that’s often what these kinds of stories are about.  And besides–Jupiter Ascending might be over the top, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not entertaining.  Pacific Rim is ridiculous, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

So that’s why I’m not exactly worried that Jupiter Ascending is getting sort-of-panned by the critics and the public.  I’m not going to pretend my Mendaihu Universe stories are superior or better executed…I’m pretty sure parts of my universe are a hot mess as well.  But my aim wasn’t to write a perfect story–it was to write an entertaining and thoughtful one.  That aim is more important to me.

Of course, now that I’ve seen the trailer for this movie, I definitely want to go see it. 🙂

On Writing Again: Getting Back On the Horse

I’m my own worst critic when it comes to writing, and especially when it involves failure to keep to a writing schedule.  I made a joke of it late last year by calling it “Best Laid Plans”…mainly for the reason that whenever I went online to excitedly reveal what I’m currently working on, those plans would crash and burn spectacularly.  More to the point though, I’m constantly putting guilt on myself when I’m not writing.  I get that nagging itch that feels very much like Sunday night at 8pm, when I’ve realized I’ve left three classes’ worth of major homework undone until that point.  I yell at myself for being an idiot for not doing it earlier.  I gripe and moan and do half-assed work because I’m rushing it at the last minute.  And worst of all, there’s that one tiny voice in there, almost inaudible, that says you know, if you keep this up, you ain’t gonna get shit-all published in your lifetime.  Gods how I LOATHE that one voice…because it speaks a very bitter truth.

So after I get over the guilt and the shame and the irritation, I shut myself up and get back on the horse.

I haven’t exactly been lazy this past week, when it comes to writing.  One of my coworkers was out the latter half of the week and ended up with double-duty for those three days, so I realized I probably would not be running on full power.  I decided to let myself slack on the daily words, as they weren’t time-sensitive or the main project, and skipped on a few whiteboard points as well.  This left me with just enough brainpower to kick out some new words for Walk in Silence as well as decide how I was going to integrate them into the manuscript.  All told, I averaged about 500 words daily, and I’m happy with that result.

So now that everything’s back to normal, what am I going to do now?  Get back on the horse, of course of course.  I’m already doing so now by writing this entry, and starting tomorrow I’ll be hitting the daily words again.  I’ll even be able to hit the whiteboard points again.  Yes, I know, Best Laid Plans…but I’ll take it a day at a time, get done what needs being done, and be happy that I’d made forward progress.  Sometimes that’s the only thing you can do.

Now, if only I’d been this proactive with my homework back in high school…

Writing Stats: January

I’ll keep this short, but here’s the tally I got from my writing stats notebook:

— Daily words at 750 Words:   22,149 words over the course of 27 days; most being 1022, least being 750

— Daily journal: 19 total entries (word count not taken)

–Writing & Music Blogs: 11 total entries (word count not taken)

–Main Project Work: missed counting a few days, but on average about 4 out of 5 weekdays.  It’s been a mix of rereading, some revision, and new words.

Summary Comments:

The daily words are okay, but I’m a bit frustrated with the main project work output.  That’s to be expected, though, as I was doing a lot of refreshing: rereading what I had so far, making mental notes of things to be changed, and planning on where to go next.  At the same time the daily words haven’t been exactly throwaway; I’ve been working on a slightly different and much lighter project there.  The first half of the month started out strong, but petered out near the end.  This was partly due to social engagements, however.

Suggested Adjustment:

Stronger focus on the main project work output from here on in.  I’m well aware of a few problem sections that can either be rewritten or deleted altogether, as well as a second run-through for the ‘second side’ of the book.  Focus more on getting those daily words earlier in the day.  Continue with the habit of ‘getting it done early’ in regards to scheduled projects and whatnot; continue backing away from distractions.


Meets expectations, but could be better.