The Bathroom Monologues: What Recharges Writing?

Since my well seems to have run dry, I'll point you to this piece by John Wiswell:

The Bathroom Monologues: What Recharges Writing?: I’ve been wondering a lot lately about how to recharge writing. There are some people who never seem to stop – Stephen King infamously ...

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Paging Dr. Liebster... Dr. Liebster, Line One

A few days ago, I was given the Liebster Award by Katherine Hajer, a gracious writer and crafty artist.
Those who are Liebstered thank their nominator (thanks, Katherine!), answer the questions posed to them, nominate more people, and pose their own questions.
My nominees are:

1. Michael Robinson, he of the Digital Scofflaw blog. Michael has a sense of humor similar to mine, which, although it must be a burden in daily life, it at least got him a Liebster Award.
2. Sabrina Zbasnik, she of the Introverted Wife blog. Sabrina writes about dwarves in space (among other things), which is a pretty cool mashup.

My questions for them:
  1. When did you start writing?
  2. Has anyone ever actually told you not to quit your day job?
  3. Is there a favorite food you eat that gives you inspiration to write?
  4. Microsoft Word: love it, hate it, or something else?
  5. Do you own an reader, or use software? If so, what kind? If not, do you see one in your future?
  6. You're given a book promotion opportunity to sit in a bookstore window and write. People passing by will be able to read your work as you produce it. Do you agree?
  7.  Is there a crowd/gang/posse/support group of writers you belong to, either in person or online?
  8. What's your minimum length for a novel?
  9. "Write drunk, edit sober." Is this good advice?
  10. Can you have a strong opinion about an author's personality, political views, social positions, etc., without having that color your opinion about the author's work?

My answers to Katherine's questions:
  1. Do you have one place you write in, several regular places, or are you a "writing nomad" (write where you can)? I write at different networked computers in various locations. However, I map out ideas with pen and paper all over the place, usually when I'm supposed to be paying attention to something else.
  2. What are your favourite writing tools (either physical or software)? Favorite software tools are yWriter5 and Dropbox. Favorite physical writing tool is my Parker 51 fountain pen.
  3. What is your biggest writing "win" from the last twelve months? That would have to be publishing my superhero novel, "Verbosity's Vengeance", which came out last September. It's a clear milestone in my writing career.
  4. Author and genre comparisons can be tricky, but what are some signs that a reader will like your books (ie: if they liked X book or like work by Y author, they should check out your books)? If you liked The Phantom Tollbooth, Tuesday Next or the Avengers, you'll like my book.
  5. The universe grants you power over all of writer-dom for one day. What's the one thing you make all writers stop (or start) doing? Stop being dismissive of people who have different tastes in literature. That, and stop picking on semicolons.
  6. Recognising that everyone on my nomination list writes in the science fiction/fantasy/horror end of the spectrum — how much time to you spend on planning and envisioning your setting relative to character development? Setting and plot are probably weighted 5X as much as character.
  7. Does your setting come first, your characters, or a combination of both? I'm much more likely to say, "Here's an interesting thing that can happen, let's put someone in there" than I am to say, "Here's an interesting person, what can I do with her?"
  8. How much research do you do when working on a story? I try not to get too bogged down in research during first drafts. You can spend hours nailing down details that you might need to change later.
  9. What are your favourite sources for setting inspiration? Probably movies, followed by real life. I've been fortunate enough to have done a fair bit of travel around the world, but that's nothing compared to the places the movies can take you.
  10. If you could spend time in one of your settings, which one would you pick and how long would you stay there? Setting: I'd love to go out on patrol with the Grammarian. Zooming down rain-slick streets on a meme-enhanced motorcycle, chasing the bad guys to a deserted warehouse and jumping straight into a life-and-death firefight with high-tech weaponry - how cool would THAT be? How long I'd stay: right up to the point of getting my ass kicked. Then I'd drop out and leave the superhero derring-do to the professionals.

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Marvel's magic touch

I never read the Guardians of the Galaxy comics. When I heard that Marvel Studios was making a GotG movie, it was a real head-scratcher. As an ensemble cast, GotG is WAY, WAY downmarket from the Avengers. I know an ensemble movie is different than a buddy movie, so you can't compare GotG with such potential pairings as (for example) Power Man & Iron Fist or Cloak & Dagger.

Even considering the fact that Marvel Studios doesn't have the rights to the marquee ensembles (X-Men & Fantastic Four), why GotG? Why not another minor ensemble like the Defenders? Or the West Coast Avengers?

But I have to say, Marvel seems to know what it's doing. When I watched the various trailers for Superman Broods and Mopes and for Batman Growls Again, I just didn't feel any particular drive to see the flicks, even though I know and (mostly) like the characters. Watching this trailer (which is such an obligatory backstory infodump it might as well be labeled Introducing The Guardians of the Galaxy), I still got a sense of place, of characters, of engagement, and of exciting fun.

Now, instead of wondering why Marvel is wasting its time on this minor-league team, I'm looking forward to seeing the flick. Well played, Marvel. Well played.

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What being apart looks like

It's kind of appropriate that my name falls entirely in the lanthanides & actinides. My superhero/science fiction/grammar humor book is like a postcard from The Island Of Misfit Writers ("Having a great time - wish you were here.").

Much like "Verbosity's Vengeance", I expect that this bit of wit will be regarded as remarkably clever by ~0.0001% of the English-speaking world, although perhaps a hundred times as many will understand it right away (i.e. ~0.01%).

It begs the question of why I insist on telling jokes that cater to the narrow, narrow demographic overlap of (knows the significance of lanthanides & actinides on the periodic table) with (appreciates sadly lyrical metaphors). A screening test to select members of my "tribe"? Intellectual snobbery? Simple self-congratulatory showing off of education and erudition? Needy preening?

Grammar jokes, chemistry jokes... not exactly what appeals to the mass market, are they?

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Writers write, talkers talk, bleeders bleed

On the one hand, there's this post by Gareth Powell, who draws a distinction between people who talk about writing, and who dream of being a writer, but who don't actually write anything. Writers write all the time; talkers just talk all the time.

On the other hand, there's this post from Emma Newman, who talks about the times of recharging necessary after periods of exceptionally high-volume outlays of energy. Output -- refractory period -- output -- refractory period -- output.

I've been burning the candle at both ends for months and months, dealing with lots of things that aren't related to writing. There are no breaks from it; as one thing winds down, another thing winds up to take its place. I'm expecting (hoping?) that things will settle down in a couple of months and writing can resume its place in a more balanced life. Another post tells me that this is irrelevant wimp talk. If I were serious about being a writer, I'd be writing anyway, chewing on the broken glass and stabbing myself with freshly sharpened pencils, forcing the blood to flow and ignoring the pain like a REAL man.

Er, a real writer.

I wonder sometimes if there is a gender-based perspective on the dichotomy of "Be self-aware and use self-care. It's a marathon, not a sprint." vs. "You're the one who wanted to be a writer! Shut up and take the pain!" If so, then I have to conclude that I'm actually a woman, which means I can stop shaving.

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The Three-Ring Binder of Doom

The novel I'm working on at the moment is a hardcopy in a three-ring binder. (n.b. The first version of the preceding sentence had the words "working on" in quotation marks, so as to more accurately reflect just how much work I'm getting done on it.)

I carry this binder from place to place in the same way Frodo carried the Ring of Doom. Like the Ring of Doom, it was pretty cool... at first. Invoking it, I would disappear, and the world around me became wild and magical. I could do things and go places I never could without it.

However, like the Ring of Doom, the longer I carry it, the more fraught with dangerous import it becomes. Lately, using it is terrifying. There are monsters abroad who want nothing more (and nothing else) than my destruction... or at least, that's the vision that's revealed to me when I invoke the Three-Ring Binder of Doom. Terror and horrors await within.

I carry this WIP with me, thinking about it, touching it, dreaming of it, but never, never actually working on it. I recoil from the thought of what nightmares the thing is made of, but I never let it out of my sight. I dare not use it, but I can't abandon it. It defines my existence, it's too important to me, it's too... precious.

My precious, precious novel. My preciousssss......

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Snow days

It's snowing heavily here, coming down at the rate of an inch an hour. It's thrown off the schedules of everyone, cancelling schools, closing businesses and (for me) postponing things I had planned for today. This unexpected disruption in my schedule prompts me to wonder about the writing that I'm not doing, that I've told myself I've put on hiatus for awhile. Yes, I'm focused on adjusting my life to my new job, but it feels like more than that. I'm feeling increasingly alienated from the writing life.

Was it really only last September that I published "Verbosity's Vengeance"? It feels like something done by someone else. Looking at the Amazon page for it, I try to recapture the anxiety over flat sales and plummeting sales ranks, but all I can come up with is tired sadness. It's hard to shake the feeling that the book exists only in my mind, an experience for me to learn from, not as a product to be promoted or purchased.

I pull out the first draft of my WIP and barely recognize it. It's page after page of turgid, fractured, meandering nonsense. The notes in the margins on how to fix it are mine; the handwriting is mine, so the notes must be, too. What's needed is a complete overhaul, not simple revisions. Where is the energy and enthusiasm for this work? Where is the joy? Is it still a work in progress if you don't want to do the work? And if the work seems to have no more point or purpose than shoveling water? What then?

It takes a lot of energy to be a writer, and even more to pretend to be a writer. As the snow falls and the cold settles over the world, I'm left to wonder if, having run out of that energy, I've also lost the ability (or the will) to recharge it.

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