Taking a Book Break


Katrina Monroe QuoteI picked that quote, mostly because it made me chuckle. I know the myth goes that writing is easy and perfect and never work, but that’s bullshit. Sometimes it is work, and I’m okay with that. But on the flip-side, I haven’t written at all this week, and I’ll be honest … I didn’t miss it. I thought about doing it, I knew I should do it because I’d made the goal, but I didn’t spend the whole week beating myself up over it.

That is relativity new for me. I excel at beating myself up for not being perfect, all the time, every day. I know this probably isn’t the thing “real” writers should say – because “real” writers are supposed to either a) write orgasmically every day, or b) grind it out robotically no matter what else is going on in their life. Which I also think is bullshit. I could get into a big rant about how most writing “rules” are written by already established white dudes, usually in their 50s or older, with fewer family and societal obligations, running their mouth about a lifestyle that most unpublished writers (especially writers who are women) can’t maintain.

But I’ll attempt to stop there, before I go into the whole spiel. That’s another blog.

Instead of orgasmically writing (or grinding) something out … I wrote a 3000+ word blog, does that count? Sure, it’s not my original goal of writing fiction, but I put words on the page. And this week, that’s enough. I spent most of the week reading, and I’m not gonna lie, it was fucking great. I’d been struggling with a Guy in Real Life (see previous blog) for almost two weeks – to better frame my frustration: I can read a 300 page book in anywhere from 1 to 5 days, my average is 3 – it was a huge relief to get GIRL off my mental docket.

After that I blew through Shades of Milk and Honey (review pending after a reread) and then dove straight into Dragonfly in Amber. Starting the next in the Outlander series was like falling into a cozy night with old friends. Incredibly satisfying.

Do I hope for more progress on The Secret Nerd Project next week? Sure, of course. Progress is the whole purpose of ROW for me. But for right now, I’m glad I spent the week reading instead. I feel like, because I allowed myself to rest, my writing will be that much better next week. And now, on that note … I’m going to read some more Dragonfly and fall into bed as early as I can.

Until next week, fellow writers. 🙂

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Categories: ROW80, Secret Nerd Project, Writing
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14 Responses so far.

  1. “Maybe part of writing to a schedule is to learn that if you stop for a week, it won’t all just go poof!”

    I wonder if this isn’t where a lot of writing “rules” come from. Fear of losing the creative spark. Because if we can just control it, bend it to our will, we never have to face the fear that we might lose it. I know I can be like this, I tend to swing between “let’s plan everything!” to “fuck this shit” with writing fairly often. Finding a happy middle is a work in progress.

    As far as not know how to write a book – all I can say is: yes. I’ve begun to wonder if part of my struggles with my main book (Open Season) is because it deals with personal things like identity, loss of a parent at a young age, being psychically different and learning how to be loved, which are all things I’m working on right now. So I think the book might be slow because it’s just as much about Nora’s journey, as it is my writing it.

    Does that make sense?

    Writing for 48 hours … or to have that kind of staying power. Do you still manage a 9-5 while writing that much?

  2. Owen O'Neill says:

    People (like those bosses I had) don’t like what they can’t fathom. They didn’t quite understand how I got reports written, so I imagine they didn’t trust it. I think maybe that is part of the writing “discipline” thing. If you write every day like a good little writer, maybe that makes you “trustworthy”? Maybe that “proves” to yourself or others you really are a writer?

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the statement you’re a writer even when you’re cleaning the house, etc. I can see that being hard for people to grasp and maybe their faith gets shaken. Maybe part of writing to a schedule is to learn that if you stop for a week, it won’t all just go poof! But, yes — you are a writer until you say you aren’t. (Which is what my friend did.)

    The series we are writing now is based on a concept and characters I thought up in 1989-90. (I don’t recall exactly when.) It took until Nov. 2011 (when I finally approached Jordan with the idea) to get the idea really rolling, and turn it into something viable.

    If I had gone forward and pushed that idea when I first thought of it (and sold it), I might have beaten David Weber with the kick-ass female naval officer genre but 2 or 3 years. Maybe it could have been my heroine, and not Honor Harrington, that became a never-ending, pulp-churning industry.

    Now I would have loved to have all the money, but the books would have sucked. I didn’t know how to write them back then, and without Jordan, I wouldn’t know how to write them now (without them sucking), But working together, we produce books that make us happy and we actually sell a few. For me, that’s was worth waiting about 22 years.

    So when I think of new writers struggling and worrying about their output, what I think is: I took me over 20+ years to get the novels I wanted written out there — and then I needed help. Ya gotta be able to beat that!

    It comes naturally. I’ve always been strange like that. I can stay up and work for 48-hrs pretty easily and often do. Then I sleep for about 12-14 hrs. It tends to make a 9-5 job a bitch, but it comes in handy when there’s a deadline.

    Owen

  3. Owen,

    Congratulations on the pending book! And may you survive the niggling stages with your sanity intact. I imagine it’s the book version of “development hell”, a pain in the ass but (hopefully) leaving you with a better book in the end.

    Wow, that is just mind boggling. If the client was pleased with your work, you weren’t late, over budget, incomplete or inaccurate … what the hell was your boss dissatisfied with? There is nothing left! What example were you setting; writing well, swiftly and in a matter that please your client? For shame, sir.

    I must say it’s a huge relief to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t write every day or every week. I’m not a Nora Roberts type, I don’t want to have my face stuck in a computer screen during holidays, vacation and so on. Passion and dedication are wonderful, but so is balance. To be honest, while I love writing, I just can’t imagine myself on my death bed going, “Gosh, I wish I’d ignored my friends and family so I could’ve cranked out another book.” That’s just not who I am.

    “I’ve seen promising a new writer fall prey to this and just give up. Very sad.” It’s funny you should mention this, because I’m learning recently (day by day, sometimes hour by hour) that the only failure in writing is quitting. Even if you don’t write for months, years, decades it’s no one else’s right to judge. While I know the writing part is (obviously) important, it’s not the only thing that defines an author. I’m a writer when I’m daydreaming, when I’m cleaning the house, mindlessly scrolling through social networks ;). Just because I might not be writing everything single second doesn’t make me any less creative.

    Harper Lee, Emily Bronte and Margaret Mitchell only ever wrote a single novel. I’d never have the mouth (read: stupidity) to say they aren’t authors (or writers) because they don’t fit a specific definition. And yet in writing circles we do it – and allow it to be done to us – all the time. It’s a snooty part of the writing business I’d gladly see stamped out.

    24 hours straight? [whistles] Is that something that comes naturally to you, or did you build up to that kind of discipline?

    Jessie

  4. Owen O'Neill says:

    Jessie,

    Sorry I missed your reply as well. We have the launch of our third book coming up and thus I’m in “niggling detail hell.” But thank you very much for your reply, and I agree wholeheartedly with what you say.

    I’m not too cognizant of what Stephen King says (I admire him, though his writing is not for me — and I wonder: did an adverb bite him when he was a kid?) or Neil Gaiman, but I certainly had bosses that had that attitude. I even got called on the carpet for not writing in a “disciplined” fashion as they did. My invariable response was: “Am I late?” “No.” “Am I over budget?” “No.” “Is my output incomplete or inaccurate?” “No.” “Is the customer satisfied?” “Yes.” “Then what’s the problem.” “You just aren’t setting a good example.”

    So now I write novels. I don’t write every day, sometimes not every week. Other times I write 24 hrs without a break (or more). I am lucky that writing is pretty much all I have to do these days. Then I meet with my co-author, we combine our inputs and we thrash out something we feel is okay. It’s a mess without rhyme or reason, but it works for us (I wouldn’t wish it others), and it’s gotten three novels written (and she has one of her own).

    But blathering aside, I will merely echo what you say: people need to teach new writers how to find what works for them, and stop making them feel bad that they aren’t writing “enough” or aren’t “real” writers, or are “just kidding themselves”. I’ve seen promising a new writer fall prey to this and just give up. Very sad.

    Thanks for casting the light of sanity on this topic.
    Owen

  5. Owen,

    Let me start by extending my deepest apologizes for not replying sooner; I received the email with your comment while I was out of the house, and was so excited to reply, and then got derailed.

    I think rules can be useful for new writers with no experience and no idea where to start. It makes the process of putting words on paper just a tiny bit safer, offering safe margins to experiment in, without going free for all at a page. We like safety, and I think we’re somewhat conditioned via schooling to stay within the lines.

    Also, if Great Writing Figurehead says it works, then who are we to argue, right?

    When it makes me grit my teeth is, a bunch of people (regardless of gender) demanding this is how you have to write to be successful or you’re doomed to failure, is an incredibly narrow view of how to succeed. Very black and white, with little flexibility to accommodate life or family. Because if you don’t write every day – without regard to your own desires or needs – well then you’re a fraud. All of this is usually coming from people who were established in the 80s or earlier.

    I’m talking about the Stephen Kings and (much as I adore him) the Neil Gaimans of the world, who’ve been doing this and getting steadily paid to do nothing but write, since before I was born. If you’ve got a gig where you can write everyday, with no kids to tend to, no homes to manage, no illnesses or woes to keep in check … well, I tip my hat to the lucky bastard. But I don’t think it’s realistic for the Established Author to expect a Working Parent / Student / Person to follow that same path.

    I’ve found that, too. When I force myself to write every day without fail, it’s at least 80 percent shit. Which means I’ve got much more editing to do than if I took my time with it. I’ve found that I can usually write 3-4 days a week and still a) feel like I’ve accomplished something, b) not hate everyone at the end of the week, and c) not completely drain myself dry in the process.

    I think instead of teaching writers to follow someone else’s rules, we should be encouraging them to find out what works for them. I think it could prevent a lot of agony and creative anxiety if we were kinder and more understanding of other’s processes.

    I hope I haven’t gone too far off the rails here. 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It’s a rare treat that I get to discuss writing one-to-one with a gentleman (my writing circle is almost exclusively female) and I appreciate that you shared your point of view.

    Lastly, “I agree that beating oneself up is rarely a good idea. I used to do that. Then I learned that the universe was always willing to take on that job …” that is spot on, sir. Spot on.

    – Jessie

  6. Owen O'Neill says:

    I just wanted to thank you for this post and that quote. Despite being older (I guess), white, and I don’t know about the established part yet (I’ve been a “professional writer” pretty much all my adult life, but none of that was for public consumption until I turned to fiction in 2012), I have to agree with you about whoever it is that make up those “how to write” rules, guidelines, whatever they are.

    In fact, I have to wonder how well they work, even for those who promulgate them. In addition to writing (back when), I was responsible for editing reports written by others. And there were people with enormous discipline who came in every day and pounded out so many pages like clockwork. And then I got them handed to me and I had to make them make sense. (There was often a lot of head=>desk-ing involved.)

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that writing well is not easy for anyone, and there are no “rules” for doing it. When I read the stuff written by those “real” writers to which you refer (who are supposedly are either a) writing orgasmically every day, or b) grinding it out robotically), it tends to read just like the latter — mechanical, dead, repetitive prose. It makes me wonder if these people (whoever they are) actually know what good writing is.

    I know I struggle with my writing and so I cheated: I went out and got a co-author who can do the things I just can’t seem to get right brilliantly. So I suppose I’m not a real writer either. But if you know what good writing is (and I seems like you do, based on what I’ve read here), I think one has to take it when it comes. I agree that beating oneself up is rarely a good idea. I used to do that. Then I learned that the universe was always willing to take on that job, so I stopped. (No sense in giving it help it does not need.)

    And I do like the idea of throwing glitter at the screen.

  7. [laughing] Oh I approve. That motto is perfect. 😀

  8. Our club could be the “Unreal Writers”. Our motto: Fake it till you make it … or until you decide to go read a book instead.

  9. Thank you, owlypants, for the kind words and I’m glad my post was encouraging! I love that quote and I appreciate you sharing it. I’m definitely one of those writers who – on the whole – prefers to have written. There’s times when I’m on a roll and writing is great, but on the whole I find editing far less stressful than fighting to gets words on the page.

  10. Absolutely, don’t get me wrong I love writing, but I love writing because I fell in love with reading first. I think I started reading on my own about six, and I didn’t start writing until I was tweleve / thirteen. So there’s a noticeable gap. Books will always be my first love.

    And if you’re not a “real” writer, than let’s form a club because I’m right there with you. 🙂 There’s times where I’m in the flow – so to speak – where writing is great and I feel like I’m flying and time passes without knowing. But on the whole? Editing is far easier because I have something on the page that I can shape. It blows my mind when people say they hate editing, for me it’s one of the best parts.

    Never worry about being long-winded or wordy in my comments. As you may have noticed, from this very comment, I tend to be long-winded myself. 😀 Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  11. owlypants says:

    Your post is a great reminder to listen to your instincts, especially when it comes to re-charge. I really appreciated it!

    Also, one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard about writers is that “some people love to write, and others love having written.” I remind myself of this every time the actual writing part sucks (which it does more often than not).

  12. Hey, I would ALWAYS rather read than write. Reading someone else’s already-polished words is so much more fun than struggling with your own crappy ones! I’m one of those people that enjoys the feeling of having written more than the process of writing, and I always have a sneaking suspicion that I can’t be a Real Writer, because surely Real Writers don’t feel like that.

    All of which is a long-winded way of saying: good for you! Glad you enjoyed your break.

  13. I don’t believe that life ever becomes drama free or easy. What I mean is that – in my opinion – it’s generally easier for older, established male writers to set those “golden writing rules” because they have fewer default parental and societal obligations than a female writer does.

  14. Beth Camp says:

    Thanks, I really needed to read your post! Especially that part about we don’t need to be perfect all the time! The process of setting goals works . . . most of the time. How our minds work to generate that story will never be a cookie-cutter approach. I do read advice from other writers — and especially like Joanna Penn — and even some of those old white guys. Sometimes I gain enough insight or adapt what they’re saying to my circumstances. Please never think that because someone is a little older (or retired) that life settles down to a drama-free zone of easy writing. I just want some of that glitter to throw at my computer screen!