Back in the Saddle

Monday again, and the first time in two weeks that I am sure enough that I will make it out of this cold alive. Semi-normal day yesterday, which left me tired but accomplished, so time to see about getting back in the creative saddle again. This is both an exciting and daunting project.

Let’s take that one at a time. First, the excitement. Not coughing, not leaking sticky goo from my eyes, and not having a throat made of sandpaper (well, most of the time. Cherry cough drops, I still love you.) are all things I highly appreciate, as well as the ability to concentrate for more than ten minutes at a time, and I have missed my daily trips into 18th century England and one very complicated romance between two unlikely lovers. I finally get to start preparing for Christmas, my very favorite holiday. Tomorrow,  I get to combine a trip to the pharmacy for Real Life Romance Hero with a writing session at Panera, and, best of all, a twilight walk through the park, which is lit up for the season, and I can take pictures. Were we not between ovens, I would be churning out batches of cookies in celebration. Absence does make the heart grow fonder when it comes to writing, and I am very eager to get back to that.

Even so, there’s the daunting aspect. I’ve been away from active work on this book (okay, these books, as work on two novellas also fell by the wayside) for two weeks. Ugh. I am insanely grateful I don’t count words at this stage of the game, because I would probably give up in disgust, and the mere thought of miscarrying yet another novel is more than I want to even think about if I want to get back in the groove. It’s easy to get discouraged when friends have cover reveals and new releases and new sales and I’m staring at a blank page and wondering if I have ever met these story people before. Add to that the fact that ‘not enough layers’ and ‘clean sweep’ can apply to the same project at the same time.

On the one hand, that doesn’t seem entirely fair, and on the other, the thought of a fresh, blank document excites me. The fact that this is not the first time on the same project makes me want to punch things (I suggest keyboards in this instance) but if it’s going to make a stronger story, and a stronger writer, well, okay then. I’d tell anybody else that it seems perfectly normal and natural to have been knocked back a couple of paces by that much sick time, and that it’s not time lost.

Perspective is always a good thing. During that time, I read, and did art journal work that helped me see that, when a scene (or project) isn’t working, it’s likely one of those two things. Kind of like a sketchbook for writers. The only thing I actually sketch is boxes at the time, and even those aren’t something I want to show around, but all those layers of playing “what if” and “how about X” and saying “yes, and” to myself do sit in my mental crock pot and simmer together into something I might not have put together if I were actually looking to do so. Alchemy, that’s all I’m going to say.

That, and permission to trust myself. Still working on that one, and it’s scary. If I keep the story in my head and in my head alone, then I can’t fail. The story and the characters, and the writer herself, get to stay safe and protected. Nobody can hate them. Nobody can not “get” them. They can’t stumble and fall. They can’t grow stronger. Nobody (but me) can love them. I know these characters well enough to know that they aren’t going to stand for that. The last two, really.

So, I keep what I have, and I open a new document, set up my bullet points and blorch onto the page, as many layers as the substrate will hold. Spew it out now and make it pretty later. That’s what subsequent drafts are for, after all. Reading a friend’s ms and talking to writer friends on the internet reminded me of the joy to be found in storytelling, which is as important as the craft and discipline. It’s a balancing act. That sneaking away to scribble down the movie in my head is the first step toward a finished ms, a new sale, a cover reveal, a great review, and all of the rest. The story has to happen first. Nothing else can happen without it, and none of that can happen without me. Daunting and exciting both, that.

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