I threw down this weekend. Either the current work in progress was going to reach it’s logical end or my ass was going to fuse to the kitchen chair while I stared at the computer. I like to think the work in progress won. It reached it’s logical conclusion sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning. It’s a little over 10,300 words of first draft, but it has a definite beginning, middle, and end. It has protagonists. It has sex. OK, technically it has lots of sex linked together by a few short passages of not sex. I’m writing Smut here, not reporting for the New York Times, so I’m ok with that.
So what am I doing now? I’m taking a breather. And by “taking a breather” I mean I’ve momentarily turned my attention on doing some editorial work on another project while the WIP percolates a bit. I like to think I’ll take the first read through of it before the end of the month, but we’ll see how everything fits together. Being busy is a good thing. Working on multiple projects is a good thing. But it does mean that my days of blasting through a story a month are probably finished for a while. I like to think everything I dive into has some merit and contributes to making me a better writer overall, but before any of that, I have to settle in with the idea that speed is not necessarily our friend in this process. Like the first draft of this new “sugar daddy” story, coming to terms with that reality is yet another work in progress.
Once chapter left… and as usual, now that I’m closing in on something to actually show for my effort, it’s getting harder and harder to put words on the page. It’s funny how that works. I’m sure there’s something deeply psychological behind that, but I’m a poor simple smut peddler, not a psychologist, so I won’t delve too deeply into that mess. Let’s just say that any little thing that can be a distraction, has been a distraction.
It hardly seems fair that my big push to finish also coincided with the first really beautiful weekend weather that I remember seeing in months in this part of the country. I could tell you I regret spending too much time outside, getting the year’s first hint of sunburn, but that would be a sham. I enjoyed every single minute of it. The only thing I didn’t enjoy is looking at this little project today and finding it exactly where I left it on Friday. The writing gnomes have once again let me down, so I suppose there’s no choice but to put my shoulder back to the wheel and my nose back to the grindstone and get this thing beaten into a satisfactory first draft.
How hard could it be, right?
Unlike most well-intentioned suggestions, I almost never sit down with the intention of writing anything other than a short story. I like the format. I like that it gives me the chance to explore lots of different worlds over the course of the year. I like that I can serialize them and develop a longer narrative over time. For my purposes in writing – doing it because it’s something I’ve always loved – short stories are where it’s at.
They’re also my favorite type of written work because I get to reach the end of a story more often than someone who’s sitting down to write a novel. It’s nice to get that head rush of being finished a couple times a year instead of maybe once in three years. Like an addict, maybe I just need my fix. Who knows?
The best news of the week is I feel like I finally have the crud behind me and I can sit down and get some writing done again. Even if my mind is still a little slow because of the meds, I’m at the keyboard doing work again. I was too zoned out to really miss it much over the last week, but all I can say is it feels awfully good to be back here grinding it out. The pages are adding up and I think we’re probably a chapter and a half away from hitting a first draft. Maybe this time next week I’ll have something to show for the effort. On a Thursday night, it’s hard to complain about that.
I’m not dead yet, though I feel a bit like I could be stone cold in a moment. Between the medicine coursing through my veins and the lack of sleeping at night, there’s absolutely nothing getting done here that requires focus for more than a few minutes at a stretch. Honestly, the most I managed over the weekend was shuffling from bed to couch and back to bed. I like to think that I’m beginning to see some signs of improvement, but they’re slow in coming. Honestly, this blog post is the most writing I’ve tried to do in the last four or five days. And just getting these hundred-odd words out has left me feeling like it could be time to go back to bed. I’m hope that by the end of the week I’ll be recovered enough to get back at it. Taking this much time away feels awful, and that’s just badness compounding badness. I’m ever-so ready to get back to the routine (and the grind).
I made it through all this long winter without catching any of the bugs going around. I thought I was home free from cold and flu season. And that’s where I was wrong, because now that the first happy days of spring are here, I’m nearly flat on my back with some kind of sickness. Even if my brain wasn’t being crushed under the weight of medication, the rest of me wouldn’t feel nearly up to sitting in front of the keyboard and getting the job done. Sometimes you just have to know when to yell “uncle!” For me, that time is now, so I’m taking a few days of unscheduled down time. I hope everything will be back in working order by Monday’s update, until then, if you need me, I’ll be on the couch desperately wishing that the only thing wrong with me was writer’s block. That, I can work through. This mess just seems destined to run its course.
I’ve heard the old saw that football is a game of inches. The same could be said of writing, except I don’t think of it as a game. A week or two ago I was slinging words with wild abandon. It felt like I couldn’t get them on the page fast enough. Now the pendulum has swung and I’m back in the trenches of just eking out words here and there with my fingernails. As mentally prepared as you think you are for the point when the good times stop, you’re never really prepared for just how damned hard, intimidating, and downright frightening the blank page can be.
The only bright spot is in simply knowing that moment is coming… and knowing that at some point you’ll come out on the other side of it. The words are going to come harder for a while, but if you’re patient – and if your a glutton for self-punishment – they’re still going to come. At some point, they’re going to start coming in a torrent like they were before. You’re not going to know when or why they start flowing again, but they will. That’s what I tell myself anyway.
Just now, my faith that the wheel is going to turn is just about the only thing keeping me glued to the keyboard. If I can’t say anything else about writing, I’d say that the think I have the hardest time remembering is that the good days never last, but neither do that bad ones. If you’re exceptionally lucky the former simply outnumber the latter as you struggle to get the job done.
Writing can be an awfully lonely place. It can be manic. It can be depressive. It can swing you between joy and rage at the drop of a hat. But if you’re a writer, you’re sitting down and doing what you do because not doing it at all is an even more disturbing thought.
Slow and steady wins the race. If you can’t say anything else about writers, perhaps you can at least say they’re a reasonably patient people. We tend to know sitting down to our task that it’s not going to be finished by the time we have to stand back up. It might take a thousand straight days of sitting down before we consider ourselves even in the same zip code as finished – but as a group, we sit down and keep sitting down every night and turning our thoughts to the world we’re trying to create.
I’d dearly love to tell you that I’m a patient person. I’m the furthest thing from it. I want instant gratification just as much as the next guy. Realizing that I was a writer buried inside a number of other shells has helped moderate that impulse a bit. It’s taught me some tough lessons about deferred gratification, persistence, and staying the course even when you know you’re never going to get any credit for the final product. It’s a good thing writing is so rewarding to the soul, because the process is a brutal mistress. I hate to think how many times I’ve howled in rage at an blank Word document only to come back the next night and try again.
This week I’m making progress. I know I harp on it too often, but progress feels really, really good. It feels even better for those of us who have spent too much time not making it, or fighting for it, or not having a clue how to get there from here. The word count is steadily increasing. The story is unfolding. The biggest complaint I have in the world is that the day job keeps interrupting my writing time… but since I also like being able to pay the bills while I practice this craft, I’ll take the lumps and keep moving.