Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Indie life: Fell down the rabbit hole? Or crawled?

Welcome to Indie Life -- the second Wednesday of the month! Time to talk about the realities of self-publishing in the middle of the ongoing sea change that ebooks have wrought.

I posted sales numbers last month, so this time I'll talk about more abstract things...

Maybe this falls under "being a moody writer," but I go through phases. Sometimes I wake up wanting to engage the world, to see all that it has to offer, to suck the marrow from life (as Thoreau said...) and sometimes the world is just getting in my freaking way. It's just distracting me from the scenes I need to write and the notes I need to get down.

Sometimes once I manage to get the real world out of the way, my story's world is nowhere to be found.

That illusion of standing beside your characters and writing down what they do can get so fragile. It's especially frustrating when I know I've been deeper in the narrative dream than I am now. Writing Disciple was a breeze, in comparison to my current WIP. Feels like this story's fighting me, wandering off at the least provocation, fading like a dream that made me get out of bed and put my shoes on.

We all fear writer's block. Staring at an electronic sheet of paper with our minds as blank as it is. There are many supposed treatments and cures for writer's block, but I think it comes down to a much older bit of advice:

Know thyself
What gets your brain burbling? What inspires you? Is inspiration even how you power your writing? We all come into the writing world with preconceived notions about how writers (or artists in general) work. Those notions are based on movies, stories, biographies -- but the truth is, art is different for every artist.

You have to find your own way. To do that, you'll have to experiment and explore. Curiosity is a writer's best friend, IMO (and nosiness is a close cousin, lol.) Try new approaches, rearrange your schedule, meet new people. I once spoke briefly to a painter and he said something I've since realized was true: the universe will give you what you need for your art. (more thoughts on that) It may not arrive gift-wrapped, though. Go looking for it.

Some days, you don't fall down the rabbit hole. You have to jump. Or even crawl in on your hands and knees, scuffing your knees and elbows all the way.

And on a related note:

Be patient with yourself
This all takes a lot more time than it seems like it ought to. Ideas need time to develop and solidify, like a butterfly's wings after emerging from the chrysalis. Sometimes an idea will spring from your forehead full-grown like Athena, but more often ideas arrive in a lumpy mass that needs shaping and trimming.

That isn't something you hear professional artists talk about much, but in my experience it's the way ideas usually arrive. What the pros are good at is quickly shaping the raw ideas into a workable form. They can do it on the fly, in just the space between their brain and their hand (paint brush, mouth, feet, whatever their art requires.)

For the rest of us, a stream of misshapen ideas pouring through your head like, dare I say it, diarrhea, can feel a lot like failure. Like you're not producing anything worthwhile. Wasting time, paper, and effort you could be investing in other things.

Cut yourself some slack. And write down all those messy, newly-hatched ideas. Spend your dedicated writing time studying them like random puzzle pieces you found on the sidewalk and see if they fit together, if they're from different puzzles, or if they fit into another puzzle you're already working on.

It's work. There's nothing easy about art. But keep at it.

These are things I've been needing to remind myself of, lately. How about you?

3 comments:

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

Your writing and storylines are fantastic. It deserves more readership but I don't know what you can do to get them. I am definitely a fan.

planetpailly said...

I like your rabbit hole metaphor. I've gotten pretty scraped up in there myself.

I've tried to teach myself to relax whenever I have writer's block. I've learned that sometimes the reason I'm blocked is that my muse is hard at work somewhere deep inside my brain, putting together a really cool new idea, and she's so busy that she can't be bothered to talk to me when I call. So I just wait and trust that she'll tell me what she's doing whenever she's ready.

-James

L. Blankenship said...

>I've learned that sometimes the reason I'm blocked is that my muse is hard at work somewhere deep inside my brain, putting together a really cool new idea,

Cool thought, I like that. And it explains why ideas sometimes arrive in a sudden gush of related things.

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