It’s been a strange and long trip lately with regards to my writing. As anyone who doesn’t solely make a living writing – and that’s most of us, no matter how successful we are (or not) – it’s hard to find the time and energy after a long day of the real world. Like Harry Chapin said in Cat’s Cradle,
…my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you…
In other words, the day to day can be overwhelming at times (even if none of the kids have the flu). And writing? It slips. It falters. It loses it’s magic after 12 hours of work and trying to make time for the kids and spouse and everything else in the adulting world.
And yet, plenty of people do it, and far more successfully than I. Feeling too exhausted to write, when I do get those few free minutes, and I’m not prattling about on this blog, I end up spending them on trying to improve the process. “Surely,” I tell myself, “the problem with my writing is that I’m not using the write tool, or the right tracking, or the right environment.” And then I tail spin in a random direction, neatly avoiding ever coming close to writing or, more importantly, completion.
At some point, this cycle becomes less about writing and more about inventing the perfect setting for the craft, and the art of writing itself loses both its joy and its appeal.
Time to fix that, no?
Now, ever since reading Douglas Smith’s Playing the Short Game, I’ve tried to adhere to the philosophy Doug espoused: put that short story out there, and keep putting it out there until it sells. I’ve had to veer a fraction – he advocates only selling to the best and never accepting less than professional rates, which is truly an admirable goal. But when all the professional paying venues have turned you down, you start sending it to the less than professional venues. The fact is, though, that the stories I’m sending out now are the same ones I sent out two years ago, because I haven’t written a new short story since leaving Virginia.
Time to end that cycle, too.
This week, I realized with no small bit of sadness that I have made more and been more successful with my short stories than with the two novels I published combined. Don’t get me wrong, I love the longer format, I enjoy being able to write the longer pieces, but they don’t seem to do as well as my shorter pieces. That doesn’t mean I plan on stopping writing novels, but I do want to spread my writing out a bit again.
When I’m fully engaged in writing – when the story is in my blood, when you can see it in the air as I exhale – I can crank stories out like mad. I want that back. The way to getting that back is not to be worrying about scripts that monitor and report my word output. It isn’t by coming up with the best suite of tools and piecing them together like a classic watchmaker.
It’s by writing.
To that end, I find myself rereading this repost from Dean Wesley Smith on his blog. This isn’t the first time I’ve read this article – I even have a copy saved in Pocket – but every time I read it I find it helps rekindle that flame just a bit. I don’t know if I’m as brave as Smith wants us to be. I don’t know if I have what it takes to trust the Heinlein rule of never self edit. But even if I can incorporate a little bit of what he suggests, so long as it is enough to help me break my self-made walls and have fun again, then that’s enough for me.
I don’t think that’s going to change the frequency of my blog updates, unfortunately, though next week there’s a small chance of a flurry of posts while I’m in San Francisco for work. But who can tell. But I do hope to share more writing updates, more frequently, as the summer ends and autumn approaches.