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.

Saturday Evening Post

Get it? Because it’s Saturday evening?

Last night I was pretty frustrated with myself. Two days and almost no writing. I’ve gotten to the point where I start to get a little squirrely if I don’t write every day. But this is my son’s last week of Summer Vacation, and not a very great summer vacation at that. Last summer, we went to hot springs and swimming and visited grandparents and so many other things to fill his mind with new experiences and broaden his horizons. This year, as all of us know, we blew through Spring and are finding ourselves at the end of summer vacation without having done much other than sit at home and gain weight.

So for the last several weeks, we have been using our time together to ride bikes, go places, spend time together, and not play video games as much as he would like. Much to his frustration and disappointment. $45 at a farm supply store got us inner tubes a few weeks ago, and since then, we have been hitting several places along the river, tubing! It gets us out into the sun, it gives us a chance to exercise, and we don’t have so spend much money, other than gas and snacks for the trip.

This week we did a number of things, which I will write about on my travel blog. Unfortunately we have been spending so much time together and I have put my focus on getting him on a river or a bike lately that I don’t get a lot of time to write. Usually after he falls asleep. The barrier I am running into though is by then, I am tired. If I start writing at 11:00pm, then I know that my brain will continue to keep writing until about 2 or 3am. Then we have to get up, I have to feed us, and the whole process starts all over again. I don’t have the luxury of writing all night in a cool, quiet house when he is around, so I tend to play more with him and work more when it is just me.

I didn’t work much at all for the last few nights, and to my mental state, it shows. The other night my brain decided to work, but it didn’t produce anything. It just fretted over structure and which chapter would come next. I still didn’t have any answers. Then, yesterday, a really bad burn on my right hand delayed my writing for late afternoon and the evening. Just a reminder: if you are using a steel skillet as a broiler pan, just remember it will probably be very hot even a few minutes after you pull it out of the oven. Use an over mitt to pick it up. Not your bare hand.

Raw aloe does help. But it only does so much.

Last night I was up really late, just scrolling through social media, then reading a little bit. I finally fell asleep at about 3:30am and woke up at 10am. I had a series of nightmares which are pretty common to me…and BOOM, that was it! This was the next chapter I needed to write! This was the transition in the story! I picked up my phone and went into Notes and just started Writing!

Tonight, after a cat nap post-inner tubing again, I sat down to visit with a couple friends online, and once they faded out (as people usually do when you are visiting on Messenger), I decided to transcribe notes from my phone into Scrivener. As it turns out, I had six or seven files to move over from the last few days. Mostly little snippets of dialog or a theme for a scene. But the chunk that I wrote this morning was 1600 words. Boom. An hour’s worth of work using just my thumbs on a Notes app.

Today I actually feel good about the writing.

There are some days I feel like the book is demanding that it be written. These sleepless nights are usually the confrontation between an active mind and an exhausted body. In my case, the mind usually wins, but the body is useless and painful when it doesn’t get sleep at night. Sometimes the boredom of solitude gets to be a little too much. There is also the problem of money and what to do when you are looking at quickly running out of it. I have to heed to call to write and put the words down. I can’t worry about structure and plotting and all that because that kind of thinking is actually getting in the way of how the story is asking to be written.

It’s weird as hell.

Progress

Today I wrote 2000 words. At the end of those 2,000 words, I realized that I didn’t like where things were going. It was in first person. I’m used to writing in first person on my blogs, which I do regularly, so lately that voice has been a lot stronger than my usual third person. What this story needs is a good third person POV. Limited. The biggest difference is that a first person POV allows total immersion into the mind of the narrator. A third person POV brings you back out a little bit. In some ways, it allows you to let the work breathe just a little bit.

I got the words down, and am breaking down how things need to feel. How the story needs to work. It will also give me some more wiggle room on novelization instead of thinly veiled autobiography. I can take my character into strange new places. I can get crazy with the absurdities.

I basically lost a day of writing as far as word counts go, but as far as working on the story goes, it needed to happen. I got some solid feedback from some people I spoke with about the POV change.

But I also ate a bunch of junk food and went to get coffee twice. I missed my son. But I also had a conversation with an old friend about books and movies and all sorts of other crunchy goodness. I’m going to let the story breathe tonight and not work on it again until the morning. Maybe I’ll come up with something as I dream.

Hopefully the dreams aren’t the same as they had been. I’m sleeping a little better. Tonight, weird wind storms dropped the house temp down to 63 degrees. After a day of 81 inside. Up in my hometown, my mom’s garden got snowed on.

Update: After posting this, I started on the new 3rd person POV version and got 1500 words in. A good day of writing. Now I’m going to go black out.