B is for Blog

I know, it’s been a while. First and foremost: we are healthy, and Portland is not on fire.

When I started my long silence, it was because I had started work on a book. In the past, I’ve been too quick to blog about my projects, leaving a sense of failure and disappointment in me when they fail to meet completion. So this time, I kept it close to my vest and just wrote. And wrote. When I was done, it felt great for almost a week. And then I looked at what I had written, an unmitigated mess in the first person, and felt no small sense of despair.

The book sucked.

For a while, I let that realization rule me. But in the last few weeks, I’ve taken the manuscript back up and begun to look at it, not so much as a first draft as a really detailed outline. And I’ve begun rewriting it, from scratch, and frankly, I like what I’m writing these days. I can see where I dropped the ball in the first draft (besides writing it in the first person), and I think I’m correcting for that in this pass.

H is for Hawk

But even that doesn’t explain the long silence, or my breaking it. For that, I think I owe a nod to H is for Hawk. I’m only a few chapters in, and although the writing is great (really, I see why it was so acclaimed), I’m struggling because it’s bringing up memories and feelings I thought I had control of. After a brief discussion of goshawks vs sparrowhawks, the author’s mother called to tell her her father died. And just like that, the pain of last year fell on me again this week.

Which strangely brings me back to here. After my parents passed away, blogging became less important to me. I had a few times where I tried to bring it back – NaNoWriMo, and again earlier this year. But there has been so much going on, from soft apocalyptic pandemics to George Floyd and all that came from that. Blogging just wasn’t on my billet.

But I found myself crying the other day at what is happening in my own backyard. While I don’t live in the two to four square blocks where everything is happening (despite rumors, Portland is not burning), the idea that our own Government was using troops against its citizens is repugnant. What a dark day for the Republic. Last night, DHS finally started pulling out of Portland. If the media is to be trusted, it was also a peaceful night. What a sad statement.

And yet it somehow got me out of a rut, because here I am. Blogging. And remembering I do have a voice, and thoughts to share. Feel free to leave a comment below, its really the only way I know you’re out there. (Assuming I haven’t forgotten to re-enable comments).

Hello, it’s me.

Hello, it’s me. I know it’s been a while. It feels like years, even though it’s only been a few months. How the world has changed in the three months since my last post.

I should start by saying I didn’t stop blogging because of the soft apocalypse. To be honest, in a lot of ways nothing has changed much in my life because of the lockdown. I worked from home before, I work from home now. I didn’t have a significant out of the house social life before, and that has remained status quo. With only sporadic outings for undeliverables, what I miss most is the freedom to run out and get something. Not enough to risk a contagion, but that’s what I miss.

So why the silent treatment? Well, and if you follow me on twitter (and you probably should, it’s the one platform I’m active on still), this is not surprising news. A few weeks ago, I finished the first draft of The King’s Lament. There is a lot of work to do on it still, starting with rewriting the first six scenes for POV corrections, plus all of the revising and massaging I think the story needs, but I am fairly satisfied with the rough draft. I finished around 60k, which is a meaningless number for now. I know there are scenes and chapters I may yet add, and for every had and still and that I remove, there will be plenty of text stirred in.

I was silent on the blog because I have a bad track record of talking up a story when I’m working on it, then never finishing. I wanted to avoid that this time, so instead I wrote the story first. Novel, I know.

Long time readers – and this takes little effort given how sporadic my posts have been – may recognize the working title. This is actually a book I tried to start writing last Spring before my life was turned upside down. I’ve still not quite recovered if I’m honest. The coming week is the anniversary of my father passing, followed a few days later by my mom. I’m in my mid 40’s, and I won’t lie, I’m still shaken up when I say that. I guess you’re never too old to tremble at the realization your parents have passed.

So there we are. A blog post, to remind the spammers where I am, and an explanation of my absence, which is namely to say “writing.” And sure, I could have blogged about other things besides writing since February, but let’s face it, I can’t keep a secret for more than a few days. Ask my wife.

And since it was the song that came to mind when I started writing this blog post:

How deep is that drawer?

I was trying to work on a post about creativity for the blog. It had graphics, and memes, and was really a deep introspective on how I struggle to manage creativity in a life of interruptions, peppered with the observation that as I get older I am finding my creative mojo time is getting earlier and earlier in the day. Where once I was a night owl, now I’m more of a “let’s see if I can get up and get some things done before anyone else wakes up and realizes I’m awake. Starting with the dog…”

Guess I don’t need to write that post since my summary is more than most people will get out of it. But I did like this graphic I was going to use for those times when the creativity faucet is set to max.

But surprise, we’re still going to talk about writing. One of the pieces of advice you often hear is that when you finish a piece, you should put it in a drawer. The time recommended varies, and really, it varies because no two people are alike. I’d wager not even identical twins who both happen to be writers in the same niche genre would have the same habits or techniques.

I thought I understood the advice. I dutifully put a story aside when I finish it, set a timer for three months, then come back to it later. Usually. OK, I’m not so great at that, namely because three months later I’m either not in the same mental space, or I try but it just doesn’t sit with me at the moment.

Well, today I found the box under the box where I hid the boxes under the boxes. I found some stories I wrote not three months ago, not three years ago, but over five to ten years ago.

And let me tell you, they are crap.

I remembered the salient points of these stories. I’ve even referred to them in notes for ideas as “I wrote about this thing once and it was cool!” But today I actually found those stories, and to sum up:

They are at best incoherent. And that’s being generous. I picked them up wondering how much work would be needed to make them usable. I put them down wondering how I could ever have written these.

I am not despairing, and neither should you. I think if you have the means to look at things you wrote years ago, you should. If nothing else it’s a great study in how you’ve improved. In my case, it was a reminder that it’s better to start fresh with the “talent” (ie, practice and hard work) that I’ve accumulated over the intervening years. Because when I look at these stories, although I see the gem of what I was trying to do, I also recognize that this isn’t how I would write them today. My voice has improved, my storytelling has developed.

Maybe at some future point, I’ll post those old stories – along with a critique of where I think they went wrong (is there that much red font in the universe?). Or maybe I’ll post that other blog post, the one about how do you find the creativity faucet when everyone keeps siphoning your time.