Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Talk about your blank canvas

I sat down to write. I was getting back into the swing of things. I was motivated and sharp and had a bunch of ideas. I was going to start slow, knocking out a short story - or a good chunk of one.

Then my butt hit the chair. And I was lost.

I mean, I knew where I was. It was my house, and it was my desk. But that blinking cursor was laughing at me. (I am not kidding. I heard it, and it wasn't the kids next door.)

It took a little while, but I managed to shake the rust off, and I actually got some words down on that blasted page. And most were even in English (I even capitalized some). Did they make sense? Probably not. I'm sure it's something I'll look at later and laugh. Or cry. Or laugh and then cry.

But that wasn't the point of this exercise. More than anything, I just needed to sit down and start to get back into some sort of groove after being gone from the game for so long.

I didn't expect greatness. However, I did expect at least to be able to sit down and start typing words. I mean, come on. It took like 10 or 15 minutes of fidgeting and knuckle popping before I was able to hammer out a coherent sentence. That was unexpected, but once I got going, I could see where it came from.

More than anything (for me anyway), writing is about rhythm and routine. I get myself into a sort of timing where I can knock out 2,000 solid words in an hour and that's when I'm pretty much my most effective. I'm no where near that right now, though.

As far as substance? I'm not concerned about that now. I just need to get some ideas down on paper and weave them through some sort of coherent sentences. It doesn't even matter to me if I ever read what I most recently wrote again. This is about getting back on the horse right now.

I knew it was going to take some time to get it back, but anybody that knows me knows I have the patience of a 4-year-old. And a hungry one, at that.

But if there's anything I can wait on, it's this. I know what the good stuff is for me, and what it feels like when I get that timing back. I just have to wait for it. Half the fun will be finding it again.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ready again

It's been too long. It's taken awhile, but I feel like I am finally comfortable enough and organized enough to get back in the ol' writing saddle again.

Let's rewind a bit to how I lost my way as a writer. I didn't really lose my way, I guess. I knew who I was, but....Well, just listen a bit.

I changed careers roughly nine months ago. With it came a whole new world for me to get used to. I moved to a new place. I was doing a whole new career - something 180 degrees away from what I was doing before. I had to get used to what I was supposed to be doing with the new job while getting used to a new home. Oh, and my wife is pregnant, too, so we had to dea, with all of the doctor's appointments and all the good stuff that goes along with having a baby.

Out of all of this, the thing that took it in the shorts was my writing. I missed it, but I didn't have time for it. My new career is pretty demanding from a time standpoint, and I was spending extra time making sure I knew what the hell was going on.

I always heard or read that once you quit writing for a couple days here and there it's so easy to just give into the dark side and toss the writing aside altogether. That was never an issue with me, even if I skipped a couple days. But you know what? All those people were RIGHT.

Stopping was easy. And staying stopped was even easier. But I miss it.

I miss how writing my own things felt, and how I felt after I did it. I miss getting done writing, and then jumping onto this blog and dumping out how I felt after a writing session. I miss the networking with fellow writers on Twitter - which helps so much with my writing. I pretty much just miss everything about writing.

Don't be confused here. I used to be a reporter for a newspaper. And after 17 years as a reporter, I walked away from it. I don't miss that one bit. The only thing I miss from that job is I now have to pay to get into hockey games.

I don't miss writing for the newspaper, I miss writing for me.

That's why I'm starting up again. I'm doing it for me. I figure that's about the best reason to do anything. I'm sure I'll start smaller, with some short stories and stuff, but then I'll get back to those two novels that are sitting in the proverbial drawer.

So stay tuned. I hope there are still some people interested in checking out my musings. But if not, I'll be here anyway.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In defense of ignorance

OK. It's been awhile. I've been ignoring my blog and my writing.

Usually, I would say that is inexcusable. But I have a good excuse this time. I really, really do. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been on the road for work (not a good excuse), and going through the process of finding a new job (that's the good excuse).

For the last 17-plus years, I've been a sports reporter. I've never done anything else. Now I'm stepping away from the struggling newspaper business (and floundering newspaper I work for). I'm anticipating this to be a good move for me, even if I'm leaving my comfort zone.

But from my personal writing (and this blog's) standpoint, that should be a good thing. Gone will be the days when I'm too burnt out typing a half dozen stories during my workday to type on my novel or short story or whatever happens to be the WIP du jour. That leaves me jonesing to write, which means my only outlet now is my personal stuff -- a.k.a. the stuff I actually want to write.

I apologize for leaving for so long. And I apologize even more profusely to my muse, who has to feel pretty damn neglected right now. But the blog posts should come more regularly, and my routine of fiction writing should get back into the swing, too.

But maybe not right away. I've got a big move in front of me, a house I have to get ready to sell, and a start to a new career to worry about. So forgive me if the daily updates don't come back fast and furious right away. There's still a bunch on my plate.

I've appreciated the feedback I've gotten since the first couple of posts were slapped together. I hope those blog followers stick around, or at least come back when things fire up again. Just hang with me though this little rough patch, and I promise everything will work out.

Remember: It's not you, it's me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back and forth

I hate tennis.

Well, I don't hate it, but I'm starting to really not like it very much with my writing. I'm going through this rewrite, and I'm starting to feel like I'm smackdab in the middle of a tennis match.

I make progress going forward with some changes, then I find myself going back to a previous chapter for more tweaks, then back forward again. I'm making changes, and I feel like they're improving the thing, but it doesn't feel like I'm getting anywhere.

It's not going around in circles. It's going back and forth. The thing about tennis, is that the ball doesn't go anywhere. It's stuck in that one rectangle the whole time. The only time people cheer, is when that ball finally gets past one of the guys hellbent on keeping it in that rectangle. Right now, that's how I feel. I want to bust out of that rectangle.

There are frustrating things in all phases of a work in progress. But I just wish this WIP was heavier on the progress and a little less on the work.

But I'm almost done with the rewrite. That will most definitely be progress. I'll keep plowing forward, and the key is to not lose focus on the big pictures. Sooner or later, I'll be off of this damn tennis court.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rewrite takes its toll

It's been 10 days since my last post. It seems like 10 years.

Well, maybe that's just how much I've aged in that time. In the past 10 days, I have been enlightened, distracted, overjoyed, embittered, intoxicated, and even bit by a spider. And all of that came about either during or as a result of my current rewriting process.

It's getting to be a bit of a wear on the constitution, to be sure. The problem is that I don't really like second-guessing myself, but it's imperative that I do so. As a newspaper reporter, I hack things out, give it one tidy run through and POOF it's out of my hands. Then I'm on to the next story.

This is much bigger, much more involved, and much more important to me than some story about a hockey coach I crank out in 30 minutes. My writing is me, and I don't want to screw it up. I don't know if my story is better or worse. Obviously, I think it's better - now anyway. Back to the newspaper stuff, I'm used to getting done and it's right the first time and that's good enough. Now, that's not good enough, and it's a little of an adjustment for me.

I've made great headway, and I should be closing in at wrapping up this draft some time in the near future. And then I'll give it to some buddies to read and rip to shreds. But for now, I'm still plowing through.

I've heard time and time again that writing is the easy part, but the rewriting and editing are the parts where the novel really gets done. Sure, it's true. But it's still annoying sometimes.

Whenever I used to see one of those quotes about editing or rewriting, I used to think 'Wow, tha'ts pretty cool.' Now all I think is 'Oh, shut up, Faulkner. Like you had it rough.'

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Zone in

I was cruising through my Twitter feed earlier today, and there was one post that summed up pretty much everything that got me fired back up on my work in progress.

The post was from the always quality feed of @AdviceToWriters, which posted this quote from the great Jack London: "Don't write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story rather than dissipate it over a dozen."

I am not surprised that Jack London said something better than I could, and this is a great point. Multi-tasking is something wonderful - when you've got to, say, conduct an interview for work on your cell phone while you're driving to another interview and you're writing out a grocery list when you're stuck at a stop light. It's not so wonderful (at least for me) when it comes to my creative writing.

When I spread myself too thin, then my writing gets thin, too. I like having juicy hunks of stuff for the reader to take a bite out of, and that takes concentration. So I have to get down with the blinders on dive into one project. I can't have your feet in two different swimming pools and expect to get anywhere. Actually, all that accomplishes is making me look stupid.

I've posted recently that I got some new ideas while working on the new novel. All I've managed to do with them was write them down, but I haven't really written on them yet. Now I know that I'm not going to work on those until this draft is all finished.

Distractions can be a real pain in the ass. And I include Twitter on this list. Don't get me wrong, I love reading what my followers have to say, and I love retweeting the stuff I find particularly insightful/funny/unbelievable/just-plain-honest/etc. But I KNOW I spend too much time on there - time that could be spent editing/writing/rewriting/sleeping.

There is no way to get rid of all distractions, and I doubt I'll stop looking at the internet while I go through the process of wrapping up this second draft. But just because you get distracted doesn't mean you have to lose focus.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Out of the Blue

All I've been doing lately in regards to my vexing/fantastic/rough/fancy work in progress is rewriting, editing, rewriting, editing. I've been so focused on just zoning in on making this second draft one that somebody other than me can actually read, that I was astonished with a developement today.

I got ideas for other stories. Yes, that's right. PLURAL. Meaning more than one idea.

I have no idea where they came from, or which crack in my brain they wriggled out of, but all of a sudden they were there. And that left me scrambling.

As far as ideas go, I can't speak to how anybody else works. I don't ask people where they get their ideas, because the answer is always the same: Nobody knows. Likewise, I don't know where my ideas come from, but when they arrive, they pop into my head and jolt me awake like a fire engine blasting down your street at 4 a.m. At first I'm bewildered and confused and don't know what the heck is going on, and the next thing I know, I'm in a haze trying figure out what the hell is going on.

As a writer, I am prepared for this sort of thing. I carry my lil' notebook around everywhere I got for various jottings and for just such an occasion. But getting everything down is a different story.

Ever have a dream that is so vivid an dreal, but when you wake up it's completely gone? You can't remember anything no matter how hard you try? When I get an idea for a short story or a novel or whatever, that's my biggest fear. I'm so scared I'm going to lose everything before I get it all down that I just start scribbling away furiously in the hopes that I don't lose one drop of that idea that just started overflowing.

In any event, the moral of this story is that I was shocked that all of my concentration on creating my second draft produced a couple of what I think could be very solid stories. I'm always stunned at the peculiar times inspiration hits, but I'll take it.

It's not only going to be editing and rewriting tonight. Add some outlining and creating to that list, too. I can't wait.