Filling time

Lately, (and by lately, I mean, since Wednesday) I have been faced with a dilemma. Patience is a virtue I am usually bankrupt in. It is also something I must do as I wait for feedback from early readers of my manuscript, including an agent friend of mine. The first couple of days I felt like my skin was being picked at by tiny, flame fingered trolls. I could still feel my narrator inside, running parallel with me, screaming that I couldn’t leave her that way. I know this sounds insane, but truthfully most writers are a little bonkers.

I also began to balk at the idea that this book I had written with ambitions for publications and widespread distribution (lofty goals in this market) was being read by very close, and trusted friends who wanted me to succeed. There reaction will be real, but they are kindly invested in the future of my work. (I hope, I don’t generally run with backstabbing b*tches.) How will it be for me when others with no care for my well-being or knowledge of who I am, read this.

I know what you’re thinking, “You will suck it up and be thankful they read it at all.” I think you’re right. If you aren’t thinking that, and are giving me a virtual edifying kiss on the cheek, I would like to thank you for the sentiment and promptly cry on your shoulder.

In the whirlwind of writing my manuscript I have often been captured by the narrator, drawn in as prisoner by the world she lives in and the fight she fights. Now that the bulk of the work is behind me — unless the consensus is that my book is not worth reading  at all, a reality writers are faced with everyday — the next step will be much different than the last. There will be times when I will have to actually participate in my life without thinking about my book.

It’s been nine months of solid work. Some authors work years on a manuscript, some spend a decade writing one huge story arch (see JK Rowling), while others still pine away on unfinished projects with no hope of an end. In the grand scheme, this experience so far has been relatively smooth. Though from the inside it felt very messy.

So…what am I doing to alleviate the stress of being patient in earnest?

  • Reading
  • Blogging
  • Gathering knowledge about my genre
  • Watching movies! Finding TV shows on Netflix and harping on about how nothing on TV is as good as Mad Men.
  • Playing with Sam — he has had to endure a lot of Zombie-Mommy since I began writing my book. He has handled it with great grace and piles of new superhero figures.
  • Crying. This is involuntary and not at all helpful.
  • Relaxing. Getting brows necessarily waxed, toes painted, back massaged, hair highlighted. All things I let fall during the mad dash.

Now I leave you, but not empty handed. You can ponder with me the cuteness of this pig. (Where do I get one and how can I sneak it past my landlord? ) Also, what makes a person wear stilettos? And should we petition for Pluto to be a planet again? (Ah, the things I think of when I am not working…)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sick Day

I’ve been sick recently. Not the sniffles, but a low-down, deep-aching, feverish mess. It was sudden and strong, and it made me feel powerless. I was a body beneath a truck, a woman battered by waves on rock — I had a cold. I do not normally run fever, so the sensation of dry, blistering skin is not something I am used to.

I had the flu once when I was a kid. I remember how disconnected I felt from myself, and how very far away the voices of my parents sounded through the cloud of that fever. This was the first fever I have had that took me back to that time. My eyes ached against the repulsive sunlight and blue sky from outside my bedroom window. That is, when they weren’t falling closed without my permission, sending me into a fitful sleep.

I dreamed off-and-on in this state, and all I can say, is delirium does odd things to one’s creative flow. There were scenes in my head from my manuscript. Scenes laced with pain and passion that I don’t think I fully achieved in the actual work. There was a moment where I was floating, as if separated from the girl in bed, and I thought, You will use this. It will make that moment so much better. 

Sickness can be an incredible fuel to imagination. It can also give you drug induced dreams about Robert Pattinson’s teeth and out-of-control roller coasters. (These two were related somehow.) I recalled the idea that my fever actually helped me with my prose to my husband earlier this evening. He laughed at me and said, “Now you know why so many people turn to LSD.” Is it the same? God knows I’ll never find out. But there is some truth to his statement. Sometimes, being forced into a state of submission can actually bring out the deeper work hiding under your bravado.

Do I recommend catching the flu as a cure to writers block? Not unless you also enjoy writhing in pain and losing a couple days of your life. But, should you find yourself laid out in a state of forced rest, take the time to let your hidden instinct rise to the surface. That part of you that is pressed down by your stronger sense of craft or the pressure you put on your art to produce, and produce quickly. Sometimes a sick day can be just what you need.

And now, some cartoons for you to enjoy, to humorously illustrate my point:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sample Writing

As I have said, I am working on a Young Adult novel. It’s going so well right now — even though I’m sleep deprived (more on that later)— that I felt compelled to share a little bit with you. It’s not a deeply revelatory passage, but I love it, have edited repeatedly, and love it still.

Lately, my son has not really been sleeping much without my input. This is not something I have ever really responded well too, and I think it’s because I refuse to nap. Even when Samuel was a newborn, napping for me was nearly impossible. I could have been falling asleep at the kitchen counter whipping eggs, but still, no nap. I blame my brain. My brain says, “Night is for sleep, not day.” So, even now, I find myself sitting on my couch in front of the computer writing to you all, and not sleeping an extra wink. That’s OK, that’s what coffee is for.

Now, without any more rambling, here is my little sample. Have fun reading and, as always with a blog, feedback is greatly appreciated:

I look down the long, narrow room and out the window. Earlier this summer,  I helped my cousin cut and haul wood from the surrounding acreage to feed the stove in the basement that heats the entire house. There’s no other heat source since electricity was banned, which makes my room maybe the coldest of all. I hate this job more than milking the goats because it means being alone with him, and being alone with him is generally something I try to avoid.

 My first time into the woods with him was only a few weeks after arriving on the farm. He walked in front of me, taking long strides that I couldn’t keep up with, an axe hung precariously over his shoulder. I kept stumbling over the unfamiliar ground, and I swear I saw him chuckle once or twice. Finally, we stopped and he dropped the axe to the ground. It hit the rocky earth with a thud, sending a tremor of protest through it.

“You ever cut wood before?” he asked, still not meeting my eyes. I shook my head. He lifted the axe, bringing it to the tree with such force I stammered away.

“Eventually you’ll be doing this on your own.” His voice was solemn. I nodded again as a reflex, knowing I would never do it alone. Knowing I would always wish I could.

A few days ago we ventured a little deeper into the woods— as close to the sign post as we could get without touching it. My cousin was lost in thought as we walked, his body not swaying with its normal swagger, his pace easy for me to keep up with. Then he suddenly stopped, slumping his shoulders and turning his eyes to the sky. I watched his face, the scowl he always wore was absent, and I wasn’t sure if I should remind him that we had a job to do. Then he pulled his eyes away from the sky and trained them on my face, searching it slowly.  I saw the hint of a smile light the irises as they met mine. It was so faint that I spent the next days wondering if I had actually seen it at all. 


So, even though I look like this—

Yawn.

I hope you enjoy this post.