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

Friday, January 3, 2020

Focus in the Time of Cholera....I Mean Fascism

"Did you change the title but not the picture?"
"Ummmmm.....maaaaaaybe."
*shakes head* "It's a better title, brah, but while this is
a decent picture for 'chaos,' it's not so great for fascism.
Like many days in the past (though fewer before 2016 to be certain), the landscape of developing current events has me in a bit of a spin. However, unlike many days in the past, I am going to accept the ways that will affect my writing instead of standing in the path of the oncoming Deep-Impact-caliber tidal wave and screaming "I shall not be moved!"

It's taken some time to reach the wisdom to know that this simply isn't how I operate and trying to sheer-force-of-will certain things (this being one of them), while technically possible, is like trying to outrun a giant rolling donut with sheer speed when all you really have to do is get out of the way. I have spent too many days thinking I could out-willpower the effect disastrous news has on creativity.

In 2016 after the election in the US the art world experienced a huge phenomenon. At the time I thought it was just me having trouble writing, focusing, and certainly keeping upbeat. But it turned out to have been something that rocked artists with shocking ubiquity. Some of them have found their footing with more speed and success than others. (I'd say I was pretty middling in that regard.) However, understanding that no art exists outside of the world in which it was created is a powerful reminder that these things can be planned for and worked with, but not avoided or "gutted through." I think I tried to do the latter for too many years.

Days like today, after my government just openly admitted extrajudicially murdering the leader of a geopolitical enemy without approval from congress, the gang of eight, or allies, I relive a lot of that lost focus and slippery attention.  I still work, but it's really hard to get into the mindset to write in a fictional world or just blog about writing like there's nothing far more urgent going on. (Yes, I know it's a big world where there's always something more urgent going on than blogging about writing, but some days that fact is a little more in my face than others.) I tend to read and digest a LOT of news, write a lot more political quips on my Facebook page. (It's not even fair to call it punditry––it's really just quips––but sometimes I get on a tear and write several and it takes a while.) By the end of the weekend, there may well be a NOT Writing About Writing post of some kind. I often write more personal posts, like this one.

I want to point out two things––sort of writing-life lessons so you all feel like you're getting your money's worth:

1- I still got up and went to work. Now I really like my job and "work" is two feet from the edge of my bed, but I'm still here writing. I may be "redirecting force" to things I have the attention span and spirit to handle today, but I'm still writing. If there's a reason I'm a working writer, it's not talent, and it's certainly not skill. It is resilience.

2- For decades, I would simply lose focus on a day like today. I would do all the things I mentioned (read think pieces for hours, write on FB, maybe write something more directly reactive to the news than I usually do), and then at the end of the day, I would feel like shit because I "hadn't written." (I had; just not the stuff I had planned to work on.) We all still have to get the work done at the end of the day (or really BY the end of the day) if we want to be writers. So I want to make sure I make this point with some precision and delicacy. This isn't something I give myself "permission" to do because it was a cruddy day on the news. This is something I've recognized is GOING TO HAPPEN, and I'm better off realizing that it's still a day of writing, it still has value, most people who follow me are still informed and/or entertained, and I'll get back to what I was doing shortly.

With a normal writer, you wouldn't see these days. Their book would come out one day later than it would have, and you'd never know they had a bad day on Jan 3rd. With me, I'm deliberately showing you under the hood.

It's kind of like I realized––after years of using up the entire amount of time I gave myself to get a blog post in at the last possible second––that I couldn't just will myself to not do that. No matter how good my intentions were to finish with enough time for other writing, I always took ALL the time I had given myself. I was always going to do that, and that's how my brain brains. So I realized that I was never going to get any fiction written unless I started doing fiction writing first.

There's a lot of discipline in turning creativity into a career, and there's just no way to underscore that enough. (If you're lucky, you only have to keep working full time on your art for three or four years before you start getting paid a pittance and/or somewhere around a decade before you can drop from "day job" to "side gig.") However, we also work with a mental process that is pretty impossible of flying on autopilot, and we may have to acknowledge that not everything that happens can be effortlessly ignored.


What this means for the meta:

The roll over of the calendar is already a time of a lot of admin and last-year-in-review type posts. And in a few days I'm going to do some travelling by train. So our schedule is likely to be "WEIRD" until mid-month.

Not that weird.

  • Though we're almost ready to add back the FOURTH POST™ each week, we're playing catch up with all the stuff that fell apart last semester and particularly last month. Monday I will be holing up to write the December Inside Scoop newsletter.
  • What was supposed to be today's post will go live on Thursday.
  • This weekend Early Access patrons should see part 3 of the Mailbox that I started last week (of which they already have part two).
  • Part 3 will go live the following Thursday.
  • I will be doing a review of the year's best posts on social media. 
  • We have a poll to wrap up. Yeah, I know most of you have probably forgotten about it, so I will do an absolutely last call reminder. 
  • Many of the next few posts will be year-in-review type stuff. Admin gets a little heavy in early January. Posts like "The Year's 10 Best" or "2019's best posts by month." It takes a lot longer to go through and compile all that data than you might think. Plus I have some people to thank and they get their own post because they are AWESOME.
  • The 8th and the 9th and then the 15th and the 16th, I will be on a train. Trains are great places to get some writing done and one of the main reasons it's my preferred method of travel if I have the time to spare, but I will NOT have wifi. So while I may show up on the 10th with some killer articles for the following week and/or some finished fiction, those days likely won't have any post. (There's likely to be some ability to post to FB by phone as we go through major cities, but I'll announce all that stuff directly to FB.)
  • I have set aside some time to write while I'm in Colorado though, and if all goes well between now and then, you should see a VERY cool article on the 10th.
You should get all the same content quantity and quality (though perhaps off schedule), and then after the 16th, things should basically get back to normal.

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