My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Writing About Not Writing (And Ukuleles) by Arielle K Harris

Writing About Not Writing (And Ukuleles) 
Arielle K Harris

I am a writer who has written things. Among them, I self-published a novel retelling Beauty and the Beast, titled Bestial, in September of 2016, and then shortly after released a very silly short story called The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When: A Steampunk Time Drama in Eight Acts – which has inexplicably remained in the top 100 on Amazon for its genre for the two years since its publication. I have written guest posts here before, including a series on story fundamentals in early 2017.

But then something happened around the summer of 2017: I stopped writing.

I could blame the fact that at that time I needed to get a job, and the one I was qualified for is a field which is emotionally and physically draining, requires long hours and late nights, and can be utterly heartbreaking. I could blame the fact that I now had to do a lot more juggling in order to be a single mother with these responsibilities, and that I just needed a little damned break. I could blame so many things, and at times I do exactly that in order to give myself a free pass, but ultimately it was no outer influence that stopped me writing. It was just me.

Something happens when you let hard-won habits slip – inaction becomes addictive. The longer you let it go the harder it gets to pick it back up, each day of your lapsed discipline feeling like a weight you must lift in order to start again. You want so much to do it, to make beautiful things that have extraordinary meaning, but it’s so very heavy by now and so difficult just to try. Your fear of failure becomes practically insurmountable.

For almost a year I let this feeling overwhelm me. I would try half-heartedly to write something short-form like a poem or song lyrics from time to time, but never attempted another novel. This summer, however, I realized that it was coming up on two years since I published Bestial, and that at the time of its release I had told myself I would try to write a new novel every year. So I did something drastic.

I bought a ukulele.

“What the hell does a ukulele have to do with novel-writing?” I hear you cry out in bewilderment and perhaps a little bit of concern for my mental well-being. “Are you becoming some kind of rabid hipster?”

No, my dear readers, I was not succumbing to a lifestyle of mason jars and flannel and beard-appreciation. I was merely looking for inspiration.

My creativity has often been tied to music, I have sung in bands at university and I have written songs since I was an angst-ridden teenager. I needed a kick in my creative ass, and a shiny beautiful instrument with which I could be challenged was the perfect kick.

So I started writing songs, spending my evenings attempting new and unusual finger contortions when I used to sit in a stupor watching bad television. I wrote lyrics that spoke to me. I made beauty again.

And then, because it still wasn’t enough, I joined a MeetUp group for writers. It was a special kind of writers’ group because there was no emphasis on sharing your work or having workshops of any sort. I sought it out for this very reason as I’m the kind of writer who needs to write in solitude and I can’t think of a worse kind of hell than doing writing workshops. Sorry, fellow writers who enjoy those, it’s just not my jam.

On a random Thursday night, we met at a downtown Boston steakhouse, drank cocktails, and talked shop. I found myself feeling oddly like I belonged in ways I hardly ever do in a social setting. And when we talked about our respective works of writing I shared mine and felt validated. I was a writer; I had written, and even published. I then found myself later explaining my methods, and told them about the discipline I used to have and the schedule I used to keep. How rigorous I was about remaining focused for an entire “work day” of writing. I heard myself speak and I respected my past self while simultaneously feeling disappointment in my present self. Not writing was not just a failure of my discipline, it was also a failure to be who I am as a creative individual. I was not trying hard enough.

So when Chris sent out his call to ask his former guest bloggers if any of us were able to offer a new post, I knew this was a challenge I had to meet. I no longer want to feel disappointed by myself.

I should be writing.

Arielle K Harris is the author of the novel Bestial as well as the ridiculous steampunk time travel drama short story The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When. She is responsible for one very opinionated small human as well as a writer, poet, falconer, knitter of many half-finished scarves, drinker of tea, enthusiast for wine and sometimes has been known to have wild birds in her spare room.

She can be found online at her own website: www.ariellekharris.com as well as on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ariellekharris/ and her published work can be found on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/author/ariellekharris

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Nano No-no

I made a mistake. I decided to use NaNoWriMo to assist in scheduling the first draft of book 6 in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, Renko’s Challenge. I wanted to work around a couple of planned trips, one of which involves some friends who are visiting Japan for a Buddhist pilgrimage that I will join and the other a planned ski trip at the end of January.

My first draft will be 75,000 to 85,000  words, because 50,000 words, the NaNo goal, is at best a novella, unless you write in a couple of very specific genres.  i started early and planned to continue until my friends appear in mid-December.

But even as modified, this just isn’t working for me.

While I can see the utility in encouraging writers to write daily, I can see the utility of deadlines, and I can even see chasing word counts and participating in groups that talk about all this, it’s not being useful to me.

I normally don’t have a problem working to deadlines or being a self-starter, yet those are the things NaNo encourages best. That’s not the help I need.

I want to love what I do, but what I am feeling is anxiety. I don’t like it. I don't need a community to get my draft done. I need peace and quiet.

I’m cutting my losses and only worrying about meeting my publication deadline of June 21, 2019, or so.

Sure, my books are very well reviewed and they do sell.  Another one even attained best-seller in category status recently. That’s fantastic, but If I don’t love what I do on a daily basis, why am I doing it?

I tried to fit myself into other people’s systems. That’s a huge mistake, one I hope never to make again, and I don’t want you to make it, either. You may love NaNoWriMo and want to do it every year. You may find your check-in groups and informal competitions helpful in meeting your writing goals. Use them if and only if they are useful to you. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Writers have individual processes. It’s up to each of us to discover our processes and to honor those processes. Only then will we love what we do and produce the best books we are capable of producing.

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here (book one in the series is always free!!!):



Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Monday, December 3, 2018

And Some Days The Bear Eats You (Personal Update)

The car I drove to Reno broke down.

At least it broke down IN Reno, and not say Donner summit or something. It's in a Trader Joe's parking lot, and we're going to try to figure out if it was just the cold or something worse tomorrow.

As a sometimes real-time exposé on the life of a writer and the things we have to take on the chin (and if we want to get paid for this fucking gig, come back swinging) sometimes we get to see cascade failures in frightful, real-time detail. When G.R.R. Martin or Stephen King have a bad couple of months no one really knows. I mean maybe a book release date gets pushed, but usually you just don't hear anything and then the book shows up on the shelves and no one but the writer and maybe their agent ever knows how badly things went for seven or eight weeks.

But here at Writing About Writing you get to see the train wreck happening. And the reason I do that is because I think a lot of young writers who think there's a secret formula sometimes need to see someone get clobbered by life and just keep coming back to the page even as their wiping the blood from their nose.  I have written through break ups, through a loved-one's cancer, through depression, through pet death, and basically through the non-hyperbolic worst shit I've ever been through in my life.

The last two months have been such a time (not terribad like 2016, more just spectacularly frustrating). I booked this little mini-getaway long before the wildfires that filled the skies with smoke and cut my productive hours down to one or two in the early morning before my eyes started hurting. Then came the holidays––a particularly busy time for both of my side gigs. Then came the vacation that I set aside plenty of time to write before in prep....but my laptop battery died. And then we got here and I had time set aside to write (yes, even on vacation)....but the car broke down.

And so I'm banging out a few words while Cap and I should be snuggled up and watching Netflix in our post spa-day glow.

I hate to feel like I'm spray painting my teeth metallic and telling you to "Witness me!" but notice that my productivity takes a hit but not a hiatus. Notice that I'm frustrated but I keep plugging away. Notice that I'm dying to get to December 8th and my new fire-free, working-laptop, non-vacation, not-fucking-stranded-in-a-Trader-Joe's-parking-lot, genuine, Grade A writing schedule, but I'm not going to sit on my thumbs until everything is perfect. And as much bullshit as keeps coming, I don't stop writing. I just do it as much as I can, before the smoke gets bad, in harried moments between 40 hours of other side gigs, when I get to a place I can plug in, or in hotels after a frustrating hour trying to get a jump (to no avail).

So that's all I've got today, I'm afraid. An extra shitty day with the impeccably bad timing of being on the end of an entire frustrating month and the folksy wisdom that OF COURSE some shit is going to affect your writing, but don't ever let it stop you.

Perhaps the next time we meet, I'll have a boring story about the car that just wouldn't start in the cold, would start when it was warmer during the day, and we'll be back on track with scheduled posts right away. Or perhaps you won't hear from me until next week, and I'll have quite the adventure to relay.

But no matter what happens, no matter how irritating and table-flippingly infuriating this all gets, and how my Official Blog Writing™ is impacted, as long as I have the capacity, I'll keep writing. From a waiting room in an overpriced car repair shop if I have to, while I pretend to ignore the receptionist supercilious glare at my commandeering of the plug, but I'll keep writing.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Poll: Best Genre Book (non SF/F/Horor) NOT Written by a Cis Het White Man

What is the best genre book (or series) [that is not SF/F or horror] written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQIA+ community?   

Please follow this link if you're wondering why this poll has some particular limitations.

Our latest poll is live and HOLY CRAP are there some tough choices here. From your nominations (and seconds) has come our current poll. 

Everyone gets three [3] votes, but as there is no way to "rank" votes, you should use as few votes as you can stand to use

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

If you're on mobile you can scroll ALLLLLL the way to the bottom and click on"webpage view" to see the side menus and get to the polls.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Technical Difficulties

Hi everyone,

Due to a dead laptop battery and a forgotten power cable, today's post will go up tomorrow. (So you have just a few more hours to nominate or second.) Short version: I thought for sure I had enough battery power to be able to gather nominations and post a poll, but it turns out I go from 100% to dead in only about 10-15 minutes.

Everything is better now, and I even have a lead on a laptop battery, but I don't want to post after most of my audience is asleep.