Work that isn’t work

The last few days, I have had to take a step back from writing. Last night, I took an allergy pill to help with the effects of the wildfires that have been smoking out the Front Range, and in combination with the masks we wear, had been wreaking havoc on my sinuses. The allergy pill dropped me this time and I slept a full ten hours or more.

The night before, I tried to catch up on sleep, heading to bed early(about 11pm), but woke up two hours later with an article idea I needed to pitch to a magazine. I wrote up the pitch and sent it. And then I wrote about 750 words of the article before going back to bed. At 3:30am.

The night before that had been nerve-wracking, with thoughts of upcoming court, a continuation of the Family Law battle that has been raging for the last six years, which I for one was sick of six years ago. I tend to think courthouses are a gathering place of people who have taken some wrong turns in their lives. I’m not a fan of courtrooms and the dregs of society that gravitate towards them. I would rather sit on a barstood in a dive bar for an hour than a courtroom for ten minutes.

But sometimes you have to shift gears and focus your attention on these things, instead of the work that isn’t work of writing.

I really mean that when I think of writing, and sometimes I feel guilty about it. I can sit for hours and peck away at my keyboard, telling stories, writing the lives of characters, and dragging the images out of the aether as they wish to be told. Not a moment of it feels like work, and sometimes I feel like I can’t consider it worthwhile unless I am miserable doing it. I love writing. The last couple days I haven’t been able to write, I have gotten bluesy. Talking with a friend the othe day, I realized that was my problem. I hadn’t written. So, tonight I finally got a chance to sit down and hammer out the second half of a chapter.

The writing is going well. My word count wasn’t that great tonight, but the chapter was completed and I got some good stuff down. Tomorrow is another day.

It is hard as a creative, who was raised in a blue collar family who measure their productivity in the grey hairs on their heads, the lint in their pockets, and the aches and pains in their joints that bear witness to an honest days work. When I tell my stories, relate my experiences–obliquely, and not so subtlely either–I feel accomplished. Moreso than I ever felt pushing papers from one side of my desk to the other at a university for nearly twenty years. It’s hard to justify what you do as a creative, when you were raised to think that kind of work wasn’t honest.

But as anyone who ever tried to create a story out of nothing, or even a story out of something, will tell you. It isn’t easy. If what writing has done to my sleep schedule these days, not to mention my fingers from typing, my wrists, my joints, and my neck, it does beat the hell out of you.

It isn’t turning a wrench or digging a hole, but it is important. At least, for the first time in my life, I feel like the work I am doing is important.

Sunday night

Tonight I finished another chapter. Well, the draft anyway. I’m focusing more on just telling the story and working out the details later in subsequent drafts rather than what I had done, which was to tell the story perfectly the first run through. All that ever accomplishes is frustration and feeling like you suck because it isn’t ever as polished or right as you hope.

Drafting gives you the lightning in a bottle moments that you can glean some truly inspired pieces from the mess and work them in later in better, more efficient ways. Over the last couple day, I covered a lot of ground in the story. Between the notes I took yesterday and the narrative I built today, things are coming along nicely.

I squeezed in some binge watching, and have found Tennison on Amazon Prime. It’s good, but I don’t think it is nearly gritty or cheauvanistic enough. Life on Mars was done better. But I did get coffee today and my fans at Dutch Bros. cheered me on. One of them even said she was baffled by my new sleeping schedule, which believe me, it baffles me too. Tonight, I am running on fumes, still coming down from the third cup of coffee of the day, but my mind sufficiently tapped when it comes to putting words together that I actually like. Even on a draft level.

I keep thinking about the ethics of what I am writing. I understand that no matter what I do, some people won’t like what I write, and that will burn bridges. Not saying a lot of these bridges didn’t need to be burned a long time ago. It’s not as if a lot of those I am thinking about will even care if the bridge even burns. Not saying that I should hinge my life on what other people expect from me either. After all, that hasn’t worked out so well anyway.

I keep coming to this. I think of those inspirational quotes about “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” and sometimes I forget that this isn’t just for women. I think it’s about anyone willing to kick back at the bullshit we are held back by. Today, I could honestly, hardly care less about how people will react to my work that I know personally.

My bigger concern is that once I pour all of my time and heart into this, it will just be swept aside by anyone I send it to for publication. I know I’m not a terrible writer. I know that I have cultivated my voice and have stories to tell that are often very good. Stories that resonate with people and give them an emotional reaction. And I have had editors send back a form letter saying “It didn’t hold our interest” while a bunch of other crap gets published.

Gatekeeping. Gotta fucking love that.

Where are all the great books? The stories that captivate us? Inspire us? So many people complain that even movies are nothing but remakes or superhero movies. Why is that? Because someone is holding the gate. And they really shouldn’t be.

Anyway, chasing my dreams right now leaves me poor in funds, but rich in spirit. I’ll take the latter.

It just sucks that my measurement of success is a handful of people giving the thumbs up or down at a publishing house, depending on what some pencil pushers predict will make them lots of money based on graphs and charts.

Fuck it. I’m not stopping.

A moment of panic

This morning I woke up at around 9a.m. and started writing. Lately I have been using a method where I jot down ideas for a scene or even a chapter right there when I need to on my phone. I finished writing a significant chunk by 11a.m. when I got out of bed. 3260 words. Last night I struggled to get the right ideas down, but eventually I did. This morning, the scene I worked on flowed better. It pieced together the scenes I wrote last night in a good way. It was really a keystone kind of chapter that begins a new section, having played out the last one to the point where I am sick of those characters.

I got the scene down in Notes. Then I got coffee. Then I fought fires through the better part of the afternoon until around 4p.m. when I sat down to transcribe the scenes I had written in bed to my master document. I opened up the file and it synched through to my computer. I watched it as I clicked on the file to select all, copy, and paste it to the main document in Scrivener. And as I did this, the entire file vanished.

Two hours of work. Gone.

I checked in deleted files. I rebooted my phone and the computer. I tried to check my backup hard drive. It was like the computer decided to be helpful and synch what was on the computer over what was on the phone. Because computers are helpful that way. It was gone and not a tech info library in all of the internet was of any help. They just kept suggesting I check the recently deleted folder.

No shit? I hadn’t thought of that!

Of course I had thought of that. It wasn’t there. And unlike the last time this happened, I didn’t think I was crazy and maybe had shaken my phone and accidentally undid typing in a file that hadn’t been saved. It was literally right there. Synched on my phone and computer.

So, I broke down and called Apple Tech Support.

The first person, though she was very nice, was exactly the same kind of tech support I used to work with when I did the job myself twenty three years ago. She escalated me to L2 tech support. Someone in Cupertino who actually knows what they are doing instead of trying to field 50 plus calls a day which can usually be remedied by “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

He took control of my phone and poked around in Apple’s secret files and…

Found the goddamned files. Saving my bacon. My sanity. And getting my eternal gratitude.

The rest of the day, I finished Utopia on Prime and also the most recent episode of The Boys. I got another coffee and prepared to do some more writing. I had some Happy Panda for dinner, poured myself a stout and sat down to write another 2,850 words on a new chapter. And then the words you are reading now.

It’s just midnight now and I feel good about the day. I could keep writing though.

Maybe I will. If I make a tea, I should have another two hours in me before the writing gets sloppy or I black out at the keyboard.

I think I might just let the chapter I’m working on percolate while I sleep. Then I can start again in the morning, hitting the ground running.

I keep holding back, since a lot of the stuff I’m writing isn’t going to sit well with some people. This is a concern. I’m not a robot and I do still have empathy for people. But the story needs to be told, and this is what I need to write if I want the story to be true. No holding back. No pulling punches. Not that anyone ever pulled a punch with me.

Maybe being nice is one of those things to consider in my second draft.