Or: The Fine Art of being Interrupted Constantly whilst trying to write a coherent docum… what do you want now? The dog’s throwing up!? oh for…
I am the proud mother of four bright children, and I love them very, very much. I’m also the dog mommy of my First Reader’s poochella, and of course a wife, a lab tech, and volunteer for a cause (which I need to stick my oar back into, sorry Erin) as well as being an artist and an author and sometimes overcoming my guilt enough to actually (gasp!) take time for myself. I’m not trying to bang my drum, here. I got told by my doc yesterday that some worrying heart symptoms are due to anxiety, and I need to ‘suck it up, buttercup’ and find a way to relax more. So this is actually me lining up all my ducks and looking at them ruefully while trying to figure out how to take his advice. Aside from that, it occurred to me today that part of the problem I’m having with writing recently is that I’m having trouble holding onto the story threads. Which is probably obvious from reading the above paragraph.
It can, however, be done. I used to write short stories with one hand while cuddling a nursing baby with the other, and answering toddler questions in between sentences. Back in those days, I could only manage short stories, and assumed I’d never be a novelist because I couldn’t write anything longer than about 5000 words, and most of my stuff was nearer flash (1000 words max) than even short stories. hah! What I had was a case of the Mums. When the kidlets were all off to school, I was finally able to draft and finish a novel. For context, my eldest was 12 and my youngest 6 when that happened.
So you can write while being a full time Mom. I have, but it was all short stuff. The novels came later, and were mostly accomplished when I was in school and had an irregular schedule and less family demands on my time which allowed me to occasionally sit down and devote entire days to just writing. Ah, the heady days of several thousand words pouring from my fingertips.
Now, being back to work and on a much tighter schedule, the challenge is to simultaneously work mentally stimulating job where I’m learning and stretching my brain most days, plus keeping up with kids who want my attention and time after work, and you get the idea. I’m finding the hart part of being a pantser is keeping the story alive in my head. If I have the leisure to sit down and re-read my work, I can usually revive it and begin to write, but the problem is that then I’m out of time to actually write.
What I have started to do is to not worry so much about maintaining continuity. That is what editing is for. I do, however, worry about keeping my character’s ‘voice’ crisp. Since I’d been working on two novels simultaneously, that was a concern, even though they are very different people. But as I get further into the stories, the characters are more developed in my head. Like walking out of the fog and into high definition. Some of that has to do with my focus – I’m a pantser, I don’t know what the ending is when I start writing. Or I might know the ending, and the beginning, but not the middle. Or… you get the idea. Kate Paulk has some excellent articles about being an extreme pantser over at the Mad Genius Club.
If I know I’ll have some time to write, but I’m not there yet, I’ll start thinking about the story before I arrive at my keyboard (Dragon speaking is still not working for me, although I know some of that is simply my own hangups with dictation) so when I finally get my butt in the chair, I’m prepared to write a scene, at least. If I can’t write, but I can read, I do research, which helps the story come out later. If I can’t read, but I can listen, I research – podcasts are surprisingly helpful for this. For fantasy authors, I highly recommend Lore. The episode on werewolves was awesome, even though I don’t write werewolves. But it did get me rethinking my Red Riding Hood stories. I can do podcasts or music at work without taking away from my productivity I’m being paid for.
I have a goal to write daily. Not a wordcount, but just… words. Some words. I’ve been doing well with non-fiction, but that doesn’t pay. So I have been trying to wrap my head around fiction, and here’s the thing: it’s not as easy to step into a fictional world as it is to generate, say, an essay for the blog. There’s a lot you have to gather up and get under control to spin a tale, and some days you might not have it in you. But if you kick yourself and beat yourself up over that, you’re going to teach yourself that writing is painful. Don’t do that. Human psychology is that we’re logical human beings, but we’re also emotional ones, and we don’t do things that cause us to hurt unless the logic can override the emotional. If you make yourself hurt over writing, you’re not going to be able to write. So stop that. Just put words down every day, and don’t judge them. Just write.
Now, I’m going to take my own advice.