Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Need to be Social

Every year about this time I start to question why I want to write. It’s difficult. Not everyone will like my work. I still have a day job so can’t be very successful. All of these thoughts permeate my thoughts and drive me to question what type of life I want to live. Do I want to continue to fill my spare time writing, fill my thoughts with stories? If you have been reading this blog long, you would know my answer. I cannot imagine giving up writing. It is who I am. If I give up, then I would have to go through a big identity crisis most accept only when encountering “mid-life.”

But it never fails. This time of year the thoughts come around again to question my drive. The cause is simple. Ever since I was fifteen, I have been attending writer’s conferences. And, typically, these conferences happen in the fall and winter months. I need that yearly rejuvenation. I need to mingle with other writers. I need to feel inspired by stories. There is nothing more exhilarating than talking with other writers. Knowing they think like I do, that they love the same thing I do. We swap stories, swap recommendations and just recharge the batteries.
I once read that writers tend to suffer from bouts of depression, more so than the average person. I think many can recall depressed writers in history…Poe comes to my mind. I remember feeling relieved when I heard this. I know, I know. That sounds crazy. But I often find myself, especially when I am alone for hours on end, drifting into my thoughts. My mood shifts and I feel the weight of melancholy. I never understood it. I am a happy individual. I am blessed with a great family and awesome friends. Yet, these moments would come. But, even crazier, the moments often lead to the greatest breakthroughs in my writing. I have the best ideas and the biggest surge in these times. I can’t explain it, but I know it exists.

Part of the reason I think writers tend to be depressed is that it is a solitary job. In fact, if others are in the room while I’m writing, it often stifles everything. I need to be alone. I need to let my characters keep me company. I love it on some levels and hate it on others. What I love of conferences is that social piece otherwise missing. I can mingle with people like me. I can socialize with others who know what it means to have voices in their head (and not think of a tight, white jacket). It’s time to start looking for the next writer’s conference. It’s time to recharge my batteries. It’s time to steal away from the glow of my computer screen and seek out human contact. That’s the only way to stay out of the history books as yet another lonely, depressed, drunk writer.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Warm Up

It seemed like for a long time when I attended conferences, everyone was selling a writing prompt book. Many proclaimed they would strengthen character development or writing suspense. As a young writer, I would purchase these books, excited to “be” in the business. I laugh now because these books have sat untouched on my shelf at home along with other books proclaiming the key to writing the next breakout novel or the best mystery novel. They make me “look” like a writer at the very least. I mean, when you walk into a professor’s office you would expect to see text books in their field. When you walk into a lawyer’s office, you would expect to see law books. Likewise, when you walk into a writer’s “office” you would expect to see books on the craft of writing. The difference is I would certainly hope the professor and lawyer actually read the books on their shelves. But for me, my books turned into nothing better than those cardboard cutouts used to “fill” shelves in furniture stores.

My problem was I never saw the point of writing prompts. I wanted to write novels. When time is of the essence, I felt I couldn’t afford to waste time writing paragraphs that would not contribute to my bigger piece of work. What I didn’t realize was how beneficial the shorts are to the wheels of inspiration. I think I missed this because, if I really think about it, I was actually doing writing prompts in college. A teacher says write a page paper on this or a creative writing class says write a page description of your backyard, etc. I thrived in these classes because the words just flow for me. I think writing prompts are kind of like a warm up before a big race. Since college, I haven’t really done writing prompts…it’s not like my boss is going to assign one to me. I didn’t realize what I was missing until I started Pandora’s Blog.
For the past two weeks, I have developed a character blog for my Atlantis series. They are short, no more than 500 words, glimpses into one of my character’s life. As I’m writing, I can feel the wheels start to turn. It spurs thoughts on other stories. My mind begins “thinking” more. On the drive to work, in the shower, while cooking or walking the dogs. At all these moments of rest, my mind begins to wander. I know it used to do more of this, but, recently, not so much. It is actually rare I focus on writing during these times. But, since the blog, it has started again. So refreshing. Maybe those people all those years ago really knew what they were talking about.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Fairy Tale Life

I saw a commercial this week about the DVD release of Snow White and the Huntsmen. Even without Charlize Theron knocking out a top notch evil witch, I think this move was destined to enthrall me. It speaks to my literature side. Fairy tales always captured me more so than the average story. They grip me deep inside and tug at my creative wheels. Even more so, I enjoy anything that takes the typical fairy tale and twists it to something more adult.

Snow White and the HuntsmanLet’s face it. Grimm’s tales were not very “child-appropriate.” In fact, I laugh when I think of them as being children’s stories. But, we, after all, have a sick way of entertaining children. For instance, have you ever really listened to the words of rock-a-bye baby on the treetop? If not, you really should…and then remember we tend to sing it to children…in that sickening sweet tone...but then again my mind did come up with The Lord of Nightmares, so it could be just me. But I digress. The point is the mixture of childhood fairy tale and the sting of reality is a combination that rarely fails with me. Movies like Ever After and Red Riding Hood steal my attention from the mention of the plot. Even the TV show Once Upon a Time has clutched onto my attention.

What is it about fairy tales? For me, I think part of it relates to the reason I became and English major in the first place. I love the story. I love the plot. And I absolutely love to make connections. One of the exercises we would do in British literature was to connect allusions in pieces to other works…typically the Bible. Knowing the story and seeing the twist brings a smile to my face. But, I think it goes to a deeper level. While I would never…ever…go back to my teenage years, I would love to go back to my elementary years. Things were so innocent. Worries were so minor in comparison to now. Life was just simpler. The stories held innocence as well. But, I am now grown. Life is more complicated and the world is a little darker. The idea of bringing that innocence out of drawings and into physical existence completes the evolution. It takes me back to those feelings upon first hearing the stories and it connects it to the person I am today. Besides, who could deny the appeal of a little magic in the real world? But, hey, if that sort of thing didn’t speak to me then I am writing in the wrong genre.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Teaming up???

Someone in one of my reading groups mentioned their favorite author is writing a series cooperatively with another author. She was nervous about whose voice the story would sound like. I marveled at this, because my mind never goes there when I think of multi authors. It boils down to a difference in thinking. A reader is more concerned about the result. Rightly so. As an author, I always wonder about the process.

My process is so internal. If I get stuck, I will go to my mother for help. As a side note, I actually see the value in having another writer help with these dilemmas. I once had a writer friend I would swap pieces with for a different take. A reader will say, this doesn’t work or this passage needs to be re-worded. An author will say, the plot structure falls apart here or if you move this paragraph down it will create more suspense. Besides this occasional questioning, the writing process is trapped inside of me.

I don’t outline. I don’t do a plot structure. I basically have an idea, sit at my keyboard, and start pounding. The story drives itself. Do I think of where I want to go next? Absolutely. I even plan a few things out. But most of what I uncover is by chance. I will stumble onto a scene and think, “you know, this would be a great connection with what was established in chapter two.” I guess with the lack of plan, I wonder where a second writer would fit in. Do they have to outline and do plot structures? Do they have to do character analysis charts? I imagine if they are not on the same page with their characters, it is bound to show in behaviors and situations. How much time is spent planning and brainstorming and how much time is spent writing? Do they go over each other’s work before continuing?

Which brings me to another question. Who writes what? Do they agree that they alternate chapters or do they sit in the same room and compose jointly? When I was growing up, I romanticized writing with someone. I, of course, thought about having a spouse as a writer. I think I had heard of a famous pair. Anyway, I thought if I could just find someone who had mastered the art of prose then I could mix that with my dialogue skills and…bam!...we’d be a multimillion dollar combination. I have since given up this dream for all the questions above. I mean, what writer would let me tell them to sit back while I write the skeleton of the story so they can fill in the gaps later? As a person, I’m a control freak. I want to control my story, my characters, my direction. I don’t think it is in me to compromise and let someone else take the reins. I actually hate class exercises that do this. But, who knows what the future brings?