The writing bubble I’m in right now…
Today, I’m interrupting my writing flow for a little bit and doing the social network check-in thing because I need a break. Maybe you know this from personal experience. or maybe you don’t, but writing is a lonely business. We word bleeders spend an inordinate amount of time all by ourselves. Any given day, we can be found clacking away over keyboards and cramping our hands with our Bic Rolling Writers; capturing things and storing them in cheap lined spiral notebooks we found at Walgreen’s; hoping we can read our hideous handwriting later. Especially the parts that had us so excited that we started writing like the guy in A Beautiful Mind. Which is disturbing, because we do consider ourselves “normal”;even though there may be times when we can’t lay our hands on clean paper and seriously considered asking for a friend’s white shirt as a stand in. That’s normal. Right?
When I feel like stopping to check in with the world on Facebook, or Twitter or Linked In or some other place where people who have real jobs might wander through once or twice a week, I’m torn between feeling like I’m connecting with real people or just doing the wraith thing; a drive by past those who build stuff or heal things or do some work that counts as “real” in the wide world.
I used to feel that way until I started “following” some of my favorite authors and other creative people on Twitter; Christopher Moore, Lilith Saintcrow, Brandon Sanderson and others. There they were, stopping their own writing day to be a human for 140 characters. Some post periodically throughout the day when they just need to vent the steam lid of their head. Like me, they do it so the world they are writing doesn’t become more real than the place where we actually live. They tweet about food they are cooking and odd things they were researching for their latest books. They post photos of their dogs and comment on current social situations they hold an opinion about. They behave as if they didn’t spend thousands of hours dreaming and writing in worlds that hold dragons and demons, and post apocalyptic necromancers. I liked that.
Writing, like many other creative endeavors that don’t require other people to help you make it real, isolates us. It can take its toll on the people you live with. It takes its toll even on our pets, like my Great Dane, who comes to lay at my feet and occasionally let’s out a vocalization that sounds remarkably like “Why the hell have you been in that chair for seven hours?” Her eyes get sad when “mommy” disappears again into the invisible place in her head where the characters live.
I had fair warning that this would be part of my life as an adult. I was that weird kid in the corner of the classroom, especially during a writing assignment, who was hunched over her desk and writing like a madwoman, page after page, and stealing glances at the clock to see if I had enough time to wrap it up with a bang. I’d finish what I was writing and let out a giant exhale and finally look around at the kids nearby who were staring at me like I had grown a giant horn atop my head and I might start yodeling any second now.
When teachers asked us what we wanted to do with our lives, I really wanted to say I want to make people laugh and I want to make them cry when they read what I write. I want to make them see what I’m seeing in my head and sometimes, I want to make them so sexually aroused that they’ll really need to take a cold shower. I want to make them fall madly in love with the characters that I make-up and I want them to quote a line one of them said because it meant something personal to them. I want people to read my writing and I want them to begin to look at the world around them differently than they do right now. I want to write things that help people find answers to questions they didn’t know they had. I want them to relate so well to one of my characters that they color their hair the same color, paint their room to match or maybe even get a tattoo somewhere on their body and every time they look at it, they’ll think of that character and what he/she would have done in their place.
That’s what I wanted to say to the teacher who asked what we wanted to do with our lives. Instead I said, “I want to write.” It sounded less maniacal; less arrogant and grandiose. But what I wanted actually was grandiose. Who wants to write things that are forgettable? What I glimpsed as a kid, that little bubble of creativity that surrounded me in a classroom while I gleefully raced my pen across the page at the teacher’s starting gun-that bubble only fit me inside of it. There’s only enough air in there for one, and though you can see the world around you, you are removed by a thin clear membrane from its touch while you are inside.
Social networks allow a writer a moment outside the bubble where they can check to make sure the world is still out there. Leaving word breadcrumb trails and graffiti humor on the walls of Facebook or Twitter let’s us exercise our word demons. Jumping jacks! Give me 50! Go! When we read another writer’s description of their writing process and the small things they do to maintain balance in their lives when they come out of their own creativity bubbles, well, it let’s us know we aren’t the only weird kid in the corner. Like you, reading this, right now. Hey, Weirdo! How’s it goin’ over there?
I’m a new member of writer and author groups. By new I mean, three weeks. Not new to writing though, I’ve been writing for so long that the home made blue jean maxi skirt with fabric inserts I was wearing when I wrote my first poem has come in and out of fashion several times since then.
My past writing has been the, under 1,000 words for magazine articles, poetry, marketing copywriting, essays, opinions and blog post style. Now tackling novels, I am experiencing something new; The Wall. I have three manuscripts going right now; each in suspended animation at around 22,000 words. The one I most want to dive into, a Celtic druid time travel MS, had me in an artistic tizzy. When I would pick it up to see if the muse is home, I swear I could hear elevator music. It’s annoying. The pace, the flow, the stamina required, the seven thousand gallons of coffee for novel writing is just, well, different. I wanted to find some other writers to speak with about the literary walkabout I needed to embark on in the Outback of my mind. Where do I start? What should I take along? What should I leave behind? Will there be spiders? (Please, say no.) Without a clue what my first step should be in finding the commiseration I was seeking, I resorted to doing what I usually do when I’m stuck in a creative whirlpool. I did something completely unrelated and hoped like hell while I was distracted, a way would open up for me and I’d be awake enough to see when it happened.
A friend of mine calls the powers in charge of serendipitous stuff, “The Set Designer’s Of the Universe.” She says they sit up above us and move things and people and opportunities around so we either don’t crash into it or we do…on purpose. She says they laugh their asses off when we finally smack our forehead and catch on to what they’ve been up to.
A few weeks into just doing things unrelated, I saw a post on Facebook from a local artist, Barb Hranilovich. Her work is amazing and during a food bank event planning job a few years back, I got the chance to paint ceramic plates with her one day. She worked so fast and her vision was clear and steady and within the short time we had, she made three different pieces that were astonishing in their detail. In March, I saw her Facebook post on a workshop she was teaching on the art of making little felt heart sculptures. She called it HeartFelt. I have lots of heart things around my home and heart shaped jewelry. Love them. Perfect. Love her. Love her work. I’m in. As I sat at the table in the Grove Gallery in East Lansing learning and making my own little felt heart, we women started to yak. The woman across from me told us all about a new group she helped form; the Capital City Writer’s Association. A whiplash inducing head swivel locked my eyes to hers and she told me about their first meeting (the very next Saturday) and how to join. Tunnel…light!
At the meeting, they talked about Romance Writers of America and the group leader casually mentioned that there is a local chapter that we might want to look into and by the way, romance writer’s as a genre, are the most organized author groups in the world. I heard that. I wrote it down. A few days later I went online and joined RWA and just for the heck of it, I looked up the local chapter, MMRWA. Their monthly meeting was in a few days. I saw the address of the meeting and did another whiplash double take. Not only was the meeting just a couple days away, not enough time for me to start stacking projects and excuses in front of it so I couldn’t get there, it was less than two miles from my house. What? Ok. I can follow a sign that’s lit up that big and in my face.
I went to the meeting not knowing what to expect and just “happened” to sit next to author, Diane Burton. She writes sci-fi. SCORE! I am, arguably, the biggest sci-fi fan in the Multiverse. At the end of the first meeting, she did a brief head’s up on a talk she’ll be giving at the next meeting. It will be on book jacket blurbs and elevator pitches. She gave us the home work of writing a short blurb and tag line describing the book we’re working on. My grown son was in town for a weekend visit so I tossed the homework to the family and said I was having trouble doing it. After giving a five minute synopsis of the story so far, the boy child cocked an eyebrow at me and said, “She holds the future. He holds her heart.”
WTF? Did he just do that in ten seconds? Yes. Yes, he did. We talked a bit about storylines, characters and situations I was wrestling with and as if someone poked a hole in the dam holding back the water of creativity, it just started to flood out. I am now deep in Celtic Druid Time Traveling World Changing Romantic storytelling.
Here’s where I lay out the weird parts of this story. The Facebook post for Barb’s workshop drew me in because I saw a photo of a heart she had made. The book I have been working on for several years is called The Grove. The gallery where I took the HeartFelt workshop is called The Grove Gallery. I was, literally, holding my heart, when the woman told me about the CCWA. The CCWA led me to the MMRWA and an open chair on a corner led me to a seat next to Diane who gave the home work that I took home and with an open heart, shared with my family who led me to a breakthrough in writing progress of the book.
So, to wrap this up, here’s my advice for when you hit your own wall. Look around you and pay attention to what excites your heart. Follow it wherever it takes you and while you go, pay attention. Following the heart will always lead you to exactly where you need to be to do what is next for you. Trust your heart. It’s a text message from The Set Designer’s of The Universe and in case you didn’t know this already, they always have your very best interests at heart.