So, I’ve been feeling a little guilty lately. As you have hopefully heard by now, my sequel to A LATENT DARK is up for pre-order on Amazon. This is all great, and while it sort of puts the publishing side of things to rest to a degree, I still have to sit each morning at my computer and make words, because one of the things a self-publisher cannot afford to do is simply lay back and throw money into the air, rolling around on cigarettes and fresh kittens. This is because most of us do not have money to throw in the air, nor do we have a fresh supply of kittens.
I am working on a new project, which is still in its this-is-pretty-good phase but not in its holy-shitballs-I-love-this-book phase. It’s an ugly awkward, teenage phase for my books, where they show me a little promise, but still fall short. It makes writing feel like work.
What I end up doing, are a lot of things that are not writing, while I think about what I am doing wrong, where I need to change direction. Maybe Ethan needs to not simply do that thing he was going to do, and maybe he needs to do this other thing, and maybe that other character is flawed beyond repair, and maybe this whole premise is just one huge cliche trope and maybe I need to broaden the scope a little. Also more gunfights. Zombies?
These conversations are endless in my head when I am gnawing on a story that just isn’t there yet. It lingers like some canker sore you can’t stop chewing on. The only really good comparison I can think of is that it’s a lot like being in love when you’re a teenager and you just can’t stop thinking about that other person. You think about them pretty much every waking moment, when you’re doing the most mundane things, trying to figure out how to make it work. If I could just say the right thing. THen they’d like me back. Then I could ask them to the prom.
But this also means that I am not making words when I am thinking about this. Because sometimes the writing does its own thing. It’s a wily horse that just can’t be tamed some days, and you could sit down for an hour and come up with 2000 words that go a completely different direction. Once that word count is met, I sometimes have to take care of real life things, and then try to figure out what I wrote, was it good, where it goes from there.
So here are the things I do when I am not writing (in no particular order). Because some days everything is easier than writing.
cleaning litter boxes (2 cats and a rabbit)
all the distractions that come with Feedly
staring out the window
chat with friends
critiquing other writers on Critters.org
critiquing other writers in my own head
critiquing TV shows
reading about science things
realizing how hard it is to write science fiction in a world where science fiction happens every day
get super depressed that I can’t think of an idea that won’t be invented next week, or has just been invented last week
pound head on desk
hate my project
wish it could be better
try not to read about writers my age who are hugely successful
look at artwork
look at porn
look at the trees outside my window
read some more
think about my favorite movies and what I like about them
think about my favorite books and what made them great
hang out with my wife
pet the cats
pet the rabbit
consider playing video games
decide that games would be a waste of time
post an article I like
pimp my books a little
research self publishing resources
consider outlining the current project
change my mind; it’s better if it’s organic
go for a walk
go back to the gym
OMG SUCH A GREAT IDEA AT THE GYM–WRITE A NOTE AND USE IT WHEN YOU GET HOME
put another 500 words into the draft
pick up wife from school
talk to wife some more
run an errand
watch any of the shows with the wife while we eat (currently into The Knick, Boardwalk Empire, Bob’s Burger, Doctor Who)
talk about what I love/hate about the episode
do game writing stuff when needed
landscape the yard
All these things are like background noise when I’m in the middle of a project. They might add up to an extra 1000 words, or they might add up to nothing. Maybe I barely make my wordcount that day. Maybe I go way over. Either way, they are all accompanied by a crushing sense of guilt. I should be writing. I should be pushing ahead, I should be exceeding all that wordcount. It’s not going to write itself. Look at all this squandered time. I hate myself.
In reality, the work is the writing. It’s fine and all to think about a book all day–it’s fun!–but it isn’t going to write itself. At the end of the day, I am still adding up my wordcount and if it isn’t at least 2000, I get my ass in the chair and make it add up. Because even 2000 bad words are better than 0 words. Even when doing all these non-writing things might lead to the muse tapping you on the shoulder and pointing to a great idea, you still have to get your butt in the chair.
Writing is work.
Sometimes everything seems like more fun that writing.
Sometimes it is.
But that book ain’t going to write itself.
So get writing.