OK, maybe not this type of balance…

Back in my Belfry days I got pretty obsessive about getting my writing done every single day, without fail. I’d done that on purpose, really — after years of distraction, lack of focus and I’ll get to it one of these days, I realized the only way I was going to get any actual work done was to do the exact opposite of that until I got used to it. It worked pretty well for years! My parents would worry sometimes and remind me that it was okay to take a day off, but at the time I didn’t think I needed to worry about that. My Day Job schedule was such that I could spend a few hours doing relaxing things (going for a comic book run, watching afternoon Toonami anime, and so on) and still write for an hour or two at the end of the day. Taking a day off felt like I was being lazy.

I took this past weekend off. Just…enjoyed the days, going for walks, doing a few minor errands, visiting with a friend we haven’t seen in ages, and having a super tasty brunch. I admit that I did not do any writing or revision work, and while I still felt a little lazy, that doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to. I don’t see this as part of my getting older, really…it’s more that I’ve learned to better balance out my life. I’ve finally learned over the years that when left to my own devices for extended periods of time, any worries or anxieties milling in my head will decide they want obsessive attention. [I mean, it’s healthy to give them attention when needed. I’m talking about the ‘okay, now I’m just worrying over minor quibbles and have WAY too much time on my hands’ kind of stuff.] And when that happens, the best thing to do is detoxify.

That of course means avoiding social media for however long I need to. It means stepping away from the PC and going for a walk to the nearby shops for some minor needs. It means distracting myself by playing my guitar, doing some office stretches, whatever I need. And this past weekend was a lovely way to do it. The weather was nice, our friend loved our city and neighborhood (and especially one of our local eateries we like to frequent), and my brain quieted right down. I had nothing to worry about, hyperfocus on or obsess over other than hoping the traffic downtown was behaving when we went to pick her up and drop her off.

That kind of balance took me far too long to figure out. For years I’ve always felt that I was either racing to keep up with everyone or slowing down to let everyone else catch up, and it’s only been over the last couple of years that I have allowed myself to go at my own speed instead of trying to adjust to everyone else’s. The worries and anxiety goes down, the focus gets clearer. Those anxieties will still pop up every now and again, and I’m still learning to deal with them as they come.

And now that the weekend is over and I’m back on the PC, I’m ready and eager to get revising again, with a clear mind.

Fly-By: Busy, Distracted and Distressed

As you might have no doubt guessed, I’m a bit distressed by the multiple punches of recent news both national and international. I’m busy writing a new insert chapter for Theadia. I’m also a bit distracted as I have a new part-time Day Job lined up and I’m having one of those waves of overthinking worry because they haven’t yet given me a solid start date and schedule and my brain is telling me they did and I just misunderstood or I never received it. So yeah, I don’t have anything planned here today.

On a lighter note, here’s a picture of some recent daffodils we picked up at the grocery store. The light is natural (kitchen window yesterday afternoon) and I’m using a fun and super cheap macro lens that I can clip onto my phone. [You can find it on Amazon here. Thanks to BBC’s Winterwatch for bringing it to my attention!]

Here’s to hoping my brain is on a bit tighter next week.

Social connections

Image courtesy of A Silent Voice

I suppose I’ve been lucky over the last couple of years since the pandemic put the kibosh on a lot of social situations for me. I’m not really someone that needs to be surrounded by people or needs to insert myself in the middle of things…in fact I’m quite the opposite. I’ve always been used to balancing my social life with a lot of alone time, mainly because I spent most of the latter working on my creative endeavors. I’d rather be an observer than the center of attention.

That said, I have realized that I probably do need to reestablish some of that social connection now and again, especially as a writer trying to put my name out there. I do find it it kind of hard sometimes to get started on that, however…as a self-published writer I’m the only person to proactively say hey, read my stuff! but the idea of prodding some stranger’s arm and getting their attention feels so weird to me. I can definitely do it when it’s needed, but it’s the initial contact that shakes my nerves.

I’m pretty sure part of it is due to the fact that I’m just another person in a see of many that are trying to attract your attention and that I have just a few seconds to reel you in or else I’ve already lost you. I’ve always hated the idea behind that, the prove yourself to me in ten seconds or I’m moving on theory of salesmanship. And I hate it because when I rush, my work is shitty and you don’t see the best of me. I sound like an idiot. Give me more like a minute, and then I have a better chance. My style is more about nuance than surface attraction. My brain just doesn’t fathom trying to sell you my book in one sentence. It’s like trying to explain Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique by only mentioning the first four notes.

I’m thinking about all this while going through another wave of sending applications in for a new day job. I’ve realized I don’t have to have a fully remote job, I just want a more local one that doesn’t steal commute hours from me. And I actually wouldn’t mind working with a team again. I get along with pretty much anyone at work in one way or another, and if we don’t get along, I’m not bothered much by that. (There’s also the fact that once I do get to know you well, your name will most likely be Tuckerized somewhere in one of my novels at some point.)

At present I’m still at the interview level of things, but once one of these goes all the way through, then I’m sure everything will work out just fine. I’ll remember how to make personal and professional connections with people. And I’ll return to being a bit more social in my life again.

It’s Revision Time

Image courtesy of The Garden of Words

So for the most part, Queen Ophelia is done — in fact, I’d called it when I realized I’d been overwriting past the actual end for the last week or so — and I’m putting that one aside to simmer for a few weeks while I shift all my focus towards revising Theadia. That’s coming along quite nicely, by the way, as I’ve just started working on Chapter 13, in which our intrepid titular duo are about to embark on a flight from hell. (You know the kind: the delays, the lack of open gates, and the purgatory of waiting for your stuff at baggage claim. Some things never change.)

While I do love revising my work, especially when I’m working on something that excites me, the one side effect is the lack of new words. Right now I’m not worried because I’m actually inserting new scenes and things into the revision, but further down the line, I’m sure I’ll be itching to write something new. What that’ll be I’m not sure, but I’ll focus on that when its time comes.

Revision, at least for me, is kind of like putting the spackle on the nail holes and the grout between the tiles. I write complete rough first drafts to begin with, or as complete as I can get them at any rate. I’ll do most of the hard cleanup on the first couple of chapters — deleting the broken bits and inserting the information that will tie in with later scenes — but for most of the rest of the novel, I’ll be focusing more on spot-cleaning. That’s where I’ll fix wonky grammar, find/replace any changed names, give a bit more detail, and create smoother links between scenes. As I’d mentioned last month, I’m Filling In the Blanks.

Interestingly enough, it’s not until revision time where I finally question what the real theme of the book is. I mean, I kind of have a general idea while I’m writing it for the first time, but this is when I decide what its focus truly is. In Theadia, for instance, I knew the theme in vaguest terms was about personal and societal responsibility. But the real theme expands on that: it becomes a story about questioning who has this responsibility, and finding the strength and initiative to take it on yourself when it’s failing at every other level. I could go into even more detail here, but I think you get the point.

I do love revising, actually. The toughest part — the initial invention and telling of the story — is already over. It’s already a complete entity. I love revision because I’m familiar with the story now, and that gives me the ability to figure out how to make it even better. That’s where I start painting the walls pretty colors and hanging the artwork!

Making It Work

Image courtesey of Digimon

Okay, I’ll be honest — I’m at a crossroads. Over the last few weeks I’d been contemplating whether or not I should let one or both of the blogs go on an indefinite hiatus, or to go in the opposite direction: to Make It Work. And right now I’m leaning towards the latter, because writing has been a lifelong endeavor. I mean, the last time I went on blogging hiatus was because I needed the mental and emotional vacation, especially after I’d left the Former Day Job. Now? Now it just feels like I’m just avoiding it for no reason.

One of the reasons this came to mind is because of my recent revision/rewrite work on Theadia, and the fact that working on it has felt so similar to working on the Bridgetown Trilogy back in my Belfry days. When the resonance to a project is this strong, I’m not going to dismiss it. Every day I look forward to working on it for a few hours! And I don’t think I’ve felt that in quite some time, probably not since those days, when I would come home from the Day Job and head downstairs every evening, eager to get writing.

It didn’t occur to me how much I’d missed that. That drive and excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing my last few novels both released and unreleased. But in hindsight I think some of those might have been written more out of necessity than enjoyment. I loved writing them and I’m proud of them, but they didn’t excite me quite like working on the trilogy did. Mind you, I forced myself not to think of it that way at the time because I knew that they were different projects. Theadia feels different. It could be that it’s a much larger epic-sized project (like the trilogy) and those are the ones I love writing the most. It could also just simply be about it being the right time for it. I’m not going to question it, though. I’m just going to enjoy it.

Back to blogging: what I believe I’ve been missing is that same drive. I enjoy posting, and god knows I can talk your ears off about music and writing when given the chance. So why have I been avoiding it off and on over the last couple of years? I’m pretty sure it’s the same as above: I’ve been writing about things I’m not as enthused about as I used to be. [Or alternately, that I’ve talked about things I do obsess over for so long that I’ve been repeating myself and getting frustrated by that. There is a very strong chance that could be the other culprit.]

So how make my blogging work for me again? Well, one of the obvious things is to post about new subjects that I’ve avoided in the past, either for personal reasons or because I’d been too distracted by other subjects. Let’s do an ongoing theme about my obsession with music in the 90s. Let’s post some microfiction I’ve piled up over the years. It’s about that resonance with the subject I want to talk about and share. And it’s also about being fine with writing things that aren’t always of high importance. Have fun with it. Enjoy it. Look forward to writing it, especially when it’s about things that resonate with me.

Sometimes it’s like being the conductor

Image courtesy of Sound! Euphonium

Sometimes when I’m writing a novel, especially when it’s a larger one like Theadia where there’s a lot going on and the cast is extensive, it feels like I’m keeping my eye on several different things at once, and it’s up to me to make sure it sounds like a Tchaikovsky symphony rather than a discordant mess.

For instance, right now I’m writing a brand new chapter that I’m inserting near the beginning that introduces not just a main character (from her own POV) but her own subplot that helps underscore one of the major themes. And to choose where to insert it, I focused on how it would fit musically.

Musically? Well, here’s the thing: I see the writing of my novels like I’m writing a symphony. I’ve got all these themes and motifs and melody repetitions (and even the occasional variation on the theme) that I have to put in a specific order that not only makes sense, but is also brings pleasure in its execution. Which means my brain isn’t just thinking about how this current scene I’m writing will play out…I’m also thinking about how it will affect other scenes further along, how I can use the motif (and the melody, and even the pace) further along in the story as a nod to its original appearance.

So in this new chapter, I couldn’t just insert it at the end of a plot arc, I had to find the best spot for it. In this case, a point where all the main characters I’ve introduced so far have had their initial introduction on the stage and established what their initial roles are going to be. The smaller rise-and-fall arcs of the plot so far have all temporarily settled. This gives the reader a moment to breathe, and a moment for me to bring in some new information that isn’t exactly part of the main plot arc — yet.

All this focus on the right pacing and flow are what makes my stories the way they are. I’ve always said that music is deeply influential in my creativity — there’s a reason I always have some playing when I write — and over the years I’ve learned that writing and music have quite a few similarities in how they come together to form a larger cohesive piece of work.