Shouting into the Void

So, I’m a writer, at least by the basic definition of the word. I’ve even kept to steady writing schedule so far.

But why in heaven’s name am I bothering with a blog? Shouldn’t I be working on my manuscripts, not piddling away my precious time on the internet? And why on earth should anyone listen to me?

Well, I can answer the first two questions, at least.

You see, I’ve always felt a bit like an uninvited guest in writerly circles. That friend-of-a-friend, begrudgingly tolerated but not actively included. Although I have just enough work under my belt to not be actively snubbed, I’ve never much felt like I could join in their reindeer games.

Critique groups seem to always be geared towards polishing grammar and syntax, rather than any big-picture discussion of style. It’s even gone so far that I’ve been told outright to not bother submitting work for critique until after the first draft is entirely complete and edited. That, of course, leaves me in a bit of a lurch; my entire problem is that I need feedback before that point, so I can get there.

Discussion boards are often limited to the works of published authors. This I understand; it’s much easier to moderate a forum or topic when there is a completed work to use as the basis for conversation. Trying to moderate any sort of discussion about an abstract topic like “world building” or “the creative process” would be about as easy as trying to herd ferrets, and likely about as rewarding and productive as well.

Any kind of workshop is either focused on the absolute basics of writing, or more often the process of publication and book market. While I know some writers truly thrive by having a jumping-off point with current market trends, I am not one of them. At best, I am confounded and confused; at worst, I feel as if I should throw out all of my unmarketable ideas (read: all of them) and perhaps become something more Adult and Responsible. Like an accountant.

Overall, the overwhelming attitude that I’ve encountered has been of the opinion that first drafts should be treated a bit like sex: done behind closed doors with the lights off, and for god’s sake, you don’t talk about it in public.

And here I am, with my half-finished first drafts, struggling with that dreaded middle of the book, and desperately wanting to talk about it.

Of course, Mr. Neil Gaiman has some of the best and most strangely uplifting advice about exactly this subject. And, as it usually so happens, the simplest solution tends to be the best. As he so eloquently puts it:

You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

(For those of you who haven’t read the full pep-talk: do. I highly recommend it.)

So, why am I not doing just that? Keeping to my behind-closed-doors writing schedule, hammering at those unfinished drafts?

Well, as I said in my previous post: I’m not a writer who works well in a vacuum.

There are some times that, no matter how long I bash my head against a problem, I simply can’t solve it. I have to step back. Remove myself from the situation, lest I get frustrated and take it out on the unwitting scene in front of me.

But, more than that, walking away is the only thing that ever works for me. The answer always seems I come only once I stop looking for it directly.

Usually, it goes something like this: I’ll sit down with my beloved to have a good rant about the latest Impossible Problem in my manuscript. I’m not looking for a solution, just to vent about all my wasted time that day. As I get going, I’m pointing out pieces I hadn’t connected before. Suddenly, the more I talk, the smaller that Impossible Problem seems to get. All at once, something comes into focus and… I’m not as blocked up anymore.

Or, sometimes a good rant doesn’t do it. But when I hear the right song, the mood hits me. The scene busts into my mind like a music-video.

Or, as I pass by someone on the street and overhear a snippet of conversation. From it springs a character, fully formed, as Athena from Zeus’ brow. A whole new dimension to my story has suddenly been added.

I never know just when or how that blessed “ah-HAH” moment will strike. But what I do know is this: the more I get out there, the more I do and experience, the more likely it is to happen.

Starting a blog was just a nice, concise way to pull myself away. Here, I can focus on my writing, without looking at it directly. Instead of spinning my wheels on a scene that isn’t working, I can keep my creativity flowing in a medium that doesn’t have any real chronological order to it. I don’t have to worry about my posts conforming to a timeline. They can all be blissfully self-contained.

Sure, a private journal could do that just as well. I used to be a fairly avid journaler once upon a time. But with that, I have no hope of helping anyone else. Here, as I stumble through this strange process, I might be able to illuminate it for others. Perhaps my own trials and solutions will give someone else their own “ah-HAH” moment. Or, barring that, perhaps it’ll just be an enjoyable romp.

And so, that’s why I’m here as opposed to hiding away like a hermit. Whether or not I’m worth reading, though, is entirely up to you.

But, if you’re lost in that same void between The Beginning and The End like me, at least know at least you’re not the only one.

And you know what? I want to hear about your journey there, too. No matter when you may have stumbled upon this, tell me about your work-in-progress. Give me a summary. Tell me what you’re excited to get to. Or tell me about the currently problem that’s got you stuck.

I might not be able to help, but it’s always more fun to be lost together.

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