We never end up with the book we began writing. Characters twist it and turn it until they get the life that is perfect for them. A good writer won’t waste their time arguing with the characters they create…It is almost always a waste of time and people tend to stare when you do!
– C.K. Webb
I’ve noticed, lately, that I often get to the keyboard and find I’m not doing what I intended to do. Like with this blog, today. I’d intended to write this entry (well, not this entry, obviously, because today hadn’t happened yet yesterday) on the regularly scheduled Wednesday, because routine and discipline and all the rest of that good serious writer stuff. I did not write yesterday’s entry because I’d gone two and a half nights with no sleep, and my brain and body were so depleted that I couldn’t focus. (Apart from Pinterest, but we’re talking writing here.)
Originally I’d planned to make this a video entry, but A) forgot about that until I’d already set up for the afternoon at the coffee shop (video entries are best not made in public) and B) my hair and I could not reach an agreement about what we were doing that particular day, apart from a five minute span around breakfast time. I’d planned to still make this a video entry today, but nobody wants to see me with wet hair (trying my best not to touch it while it air dries with product in, because beachy waves, dagnabit, or at least that’s the theory we are testing today.)
There’s a reason I frequently trot out K.A. Mitchell’s advice to A) open the file, and B) change your seat. That’s because they work. So, when I sat in front of the screen this morning, my brain a muddle, that became a signal that it’s time to mix things up. When I retired the previous version of Typing With Wet Nails and started this new one, I’d come to a point where I couldn’t do the old blog any longer. Finding a new clip for Happy Dance Friday became a chore, and Saturday at the Movies, instead of being fun, made my head hurt. So, it had to stop. Clean sweep.
After clean sweep comes more layers. I’d been to a wonderful workshop by Jeanette Grey on making websites with WordPress, and figured it couldn’t hurt. What to put in it? What’s really in my heart and head. That was, and is, talking about the whole writing experience. I love seeing other writers showing off covers and talking about new releases and awards and reviews, and, trust me, I will be one of them in good time, but then there’s the other side of the matter.
There are all those notebooks I have, months of them, filled with venting about how hard writing had become, how arduous it was to get words on the page, how I despaired of ever fitting into the market, how, maybe, I missed my chance and was doomed to spend the rest of my life (a pretty darned long time, I would hope) as someone who could have been a writer. The voice of an acquaintance at a mutual friend’s book launch haunted me. “I knew the author when I used to write,” she said to another guest, and laughed. I didn’t laugh. I shuddered,
Used to write. I can’t think of more horrifying words. (Okay, genocide, fascism, polyester; but stick with me here.) I can’t not-write, and so the writing is worth the struggles. One of my favorite quotes is a Japanese proverb that says “fall down five times, get up six.” That resonates with me, and resonates deeply. In the last couple of days, two writers of my acquaintance have posted about their own difficulties in keeping motivated. I want to let that marinate before I expound (besides this, that is) because I think this is a fairly common malady.
There are a million reasons to quit, but all of them together don’t overpower the one reason to keep at it. I have to write, the same as I have to breathe. There is no off switch for this relentless pull into the story world. That, for me, my natural habitat is historical romance, that, too is organic. The market will change. My need to tell my stories won’t. Logic alone says keep going, and so I do. Muscles grow stronger with exercise, so I keep at it. Fingers on keys, pen on paper, show up, open the file (or notebook.)
When that’s not enough, time to change my seat, change direction. Change my wallpaper. Play different music. Put some goop in my hair. Browse the library stacks. Trust that what I need to go forward is out there, and, if I look for it, remain open to it, things will click. Sometimes that takes a while, and sometimes, it happens in an instant.
With fiction, I’ve come back around to something, I used to do when I’d only first started. Let the characters lead. I’d wanted Hero, for example, in Her Last First Kiss, to be blond and a musician. When he actually showed up, he had red hair and wanted to play with my pens. I tried wooing him back in line by playing the music that was supposed to be his passion; he responded by picking up one of my fountain pens and doodling. Okay, fine. Heroine was supposed to play the pianoforte to relieve stress. Nope. She likes guns.
This brings to mind certain questions- when did all that start? Why that interest? What are you doing with my pens, Hero? These things generally take me away from what I’d intended, but usually to a better place, and I am okay with that.
The good thing about characters being stubborn like this, when they tell me I’ve got it wrong, means that they are real and alive within their world and they are going to help me tell their story, rather than making me do all the work completely by myself. I like to think we make a pretty good team.