The Funk

Things are going great. The birds are chirping, you have a bounce to your step, there might even be theme music playing in your head because you are THAT content with how life is going.

Then everything is thrown off course. All of a sudden what you were writing reads like crap. Those cute little birds have disappeared, taking their melodies (and maybe even your own special theme song) with them. Life just doesn’t have the same uplifting vibe it had only yesterday. Nothing in particular is wrong, but nothing exactly feels right, either.

That is how I have felt for too many months to count. Before you think this is a pity party, it isn’t. I am still chugging along, and finished my manuscript. In fact, it’s back from a dear editor friend and I’m putting the final touches on it; the plan being to query agents very shortly.

I also have read some amazing (and not so amazing) books. I have a wonderful business that has both ups and downs. Oh, and I am getting paid (just a little) to write! On paper, these accomplishments are HUGE! So why don’t I feel like it’s enough?

You know what I’ve been lacking for so many months? ME. Yep. That’s right, I’ve neglected myself in my push to succeed and check things off my to-do list. I’ve neglected my blog. I sorta forgot why I talk to my best friend every single day: because she makes me laugh. I mean a true, gut-busting belly laugh. I became to wrapped up in my own head that I forgot to take moments to savor my cat high on catnip somersaulting after a toy. Yes, I still went to the gym, but I pushed yoga off the schedule.

So, how does one pull oneself out of a funk? Today, I’m taking time to celebrate my successes AND my failures! I’m going to get a bit philosophical for a moment… People fail when they TRY to do something. You can’t fail if you don’t try. The act of failing is still the act of trying. Hence, I’m going to celebrate my failures because at least I tried. Am I right?

 

Currently reading: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

My Version of the Truth

Someone asked me last night if I tell the truth. What a loaded question. This person referred to a specific event in our lives, but their question got me thinking about my writing. What truth is in my writing?

“Write what you know” is common advice for writers. Does that mean that fiction books represent real events? Maybe, probably, no way in hell. But a real event can be construed so many ways by the “what if this happens?” question that writers ask themselves as they place their characters in the middle of a huge shit storm.

A seed of a truth can be taken, used, morphed, rewritten so many times that the original seed is no longer visible. Does this make something any less true?

While writing, I take an incident– or several incidents– and blend them into a story. The only truth that matters to me while I write is the question I ask myself every day: did I tell this story to the best of my ability? This is one of the hardest questions to answer truthfully, but also one of the most important instances for me to be honest.

So, truth in writing only matters at the end of the day, once the words are on the page. Is this my best work to date? Did I pour my soul into these words? If the answer is yes, then it is the only truth that matters.

Currently reading: Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

Wrestling the Muse

Writing is a job. There are good days, and there are bad days. Bad days are those days where I seem to get nowhere, the days my Muse has decided to stay buried.

More often than not, I stare at a blank page, or a blinking cursor, and wait for my Muse to show itself. It’s not always like that, but sometimes my brain is just stuck. And that’s when I realize that using my brain is the problem.

For me, writing is about discovering hidden parts about myself. In order to do that, I must turn off my brain– that left-sided pesky thinker– and turn on the inner voice. Sometimes I refer to that inner voice as the Muse.

Sometimes it is easier for me to wait until the story bubbles to the surface, bursting at the barriers, threatening to break walls. When I write those stories, the words flow easily, images come quickly, my fingers barely keep up.

But because of deadlines, I can’t always wait until that voice comes through my fingers. I have to go searching for it instead. Yoga, going to the gym, taking the dogs for a walk all help to quiet the left side of my brain.

Sometimes I can write 1000 words, then BAM! I’m stuck. And remain stuck. I have to let go of outside pressures, influences, and turn off the internet. I recently started what I hope to be the final rewrite of my work-in-progress.

And here I am, delaying the writing.

The ass-to-chair method is failing me. I show up each day for the Muse to appear, but all I receive is quiet. So I just begin writing. I write terrible sentences, beginning at a place where I know deep down the story would never begin. But I am writing. And soon 250 words turns into 1000. And I can feel the Muse beginning to poke through the dense clouds of my brain. But I keep writing, knowing most of the words I will cut. For now, though, these words are bringing me closer to the real story that needs to be told.

Wrestling the inner Muse can take up much of a writer’s time. Word sprints, object focus, and other tricks can get a writer writing. Anything to get that Muse out and onto the page is considered successful. Even if that method is procrastination by writing an blog entry 🙂

Currently reading: The Stones of Mourning Creek by Diane Les Becquets
Just finished reading: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls & Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Why I Write

I write because I need to write. That is what many writers say.

I write because I need to feel. I need to process the world around me, take in the images I see, and process the feelings, the emotions that linger long after the image is gone. Writing keeps me grounded. Without writing, I would go through life, not truly seeing what is around me.

As a writer, I sit at the edge of a conversation or interaction. Being a writer means taking into account what is around me, observing what takes place during gatherings or impromptu conversations. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a daydreamer.

I’ve always been a writer; however, it wasn’t until recently that I identified myself as a writer. In elementary school I wrote stories about my cat and dog; middle school I copied Edgar Allan Poe’s style, and wrote stories and plays of the macabre. High school I penned poems of unrequited love (because who didn’t do that in high school?). College killed my creative writing. I was excited to take a creative fiction writing class, but not so excited the mechanics of sentence structure. I stopped writing. I stopped feeling.

Only recently, at my husband’s suggestion, did I attend graduate school for creative writing. I had dreams of being an editor. He had dreams of being married to the next very successful author.

I learned all over again how to feel through words.

Now I write because I need to write. Days without writing negatively affects my mood. Of course I want to be a successful author, but that is not why I write.

Currently reading: What’s Important is Feeling by Adam Wilson