Odd Questions About Writing

So, with all the writing I have been doing lately, I am afraid to look at my wordcounts. They are arbitrary anyway and really only serve the purpose to myself that yes, I am writing. No, I’m not screwing around. I try not to be one of these people who go around telling people that they are writers, but only do so to serve the purpose of getting into a party with a bunch of cool kids.

Writers aren’t cool. They might look cool on the outside, but inside they aren’t. They think too much about things, and that isn’t cool. Cool people are dismissive, they know everything already. They don’t need to waste their time putting their thoughts to paper because hey, like, whatever man.

The other day I hit a snag. I was buying Legos with my kid and the girl at the cash register recognized me from the other times I had been there. She reminds me a little of myself at her age. She writes stories and even had a Lego character clipped to her name tag that was from one of her books. She writes Fantasy and told me that a bunch of other writers were in that day building characters for their books. When I told her (reminded, since she’s heard the same thing from me for the last year whenver I go in) that I write too, she asked what I wrote.

I told her I used to write steampunk and fantasy, but recently I was working on a literary piece based on life experiences, she glazed over. I remember that feeling too. I remember when I wrote fantasy that I often felt that my work wasn’t taken seriously. But on the other side of that now, I felt like I had tresspassed. Sorry, but I did my time in the genres. I will probably go back to it eventually. But here, I felt like an interloper. Not that it matters.

I remember being in that place years ago. Most people who consider themselves writers, especially if it is fan fiction or dreams of becoming the next Tolkien or GRRM or Robert Jordan don’t read anything any of their friends writes either. It’s a lot of conversations where you are just listening well enough to know when it’s your turn to talk. But oddly enough, I felt like I no longer had that authenticity because I’m not writing fantasy right now. Listen, I just do what the story tells me to do. Sometimes I don’t have a choice.

I expect to die young because the story will no longer have any need for me and it will finally let me expire. Thanks, story. I’m glad I didn’t sleep right and wrecked my health for years for you.

Anyway, I bring up the word counts because I am writing my guts out lately–even though it isn’t genre fiction–and I had a few questions that keep popping up in my head.

  1. How much do I actually need to tell?
  2. How much sex needs to go into the story before it is less War and Peace and more 50 Shades? I want to stop before it gets to Tropic of Cancer.
  3. If I write about topics that aren’t considered popular opinions in the mainstream, will that ruin my chances of being published?
  4. All these words and paragraphs and chapters…how many will I wind up shaving it down to anyway? Is that why it takes two weeks to read a book that took five years to write?
  5. If I write it well enough to get my car egged if I drive through my home town after it is published, is that a good sign or a bad one? Asking for a friend.
  6. If I sell in mainstream/literary fiction, will I be cast out of the Garden of Genre forever?
  7. If I piss people off with this and become friendless, is it okay if I cry myself to sleep on a pillow stuffed with one hundred dollar bills?

I promise not to think I’m cool if this book is published. I know I’m not cool. I’ve had 45 years of the world’s abuse to remind me of such things.

Hello, Brain. (You bastard).

Last night I was up until 5am. I turned in for bed at around midnight. I thought I was tired. I was tired. I just lay there and turned over and over and over, unable to sleep. I read for a while. I’ve nearly read A Moveable Feast after just about a week, which is saying something for me. I’m a slow, careful reader. At about 3am, I sat up and using the Notes app on my iPhone, I wrote a short chapter, or at least a long scene. About 1700 words. Then I wrote notes for several other scenes. At 4:30, I said to hell with it, took another swig of Jamesons and went back to bed. It had no effect other than a fear that my teeth are going to rot out of my head at this rate.

I think I finally fell asleep at around 5am. I woke up to my 7:45am alarm, telling me to get my son out of bed and ready for online schooling which runs like IngSoc in 1984 with its 8am mandatory meeting and a whole slough of annoying Zoom chats and monitored time on reading an math apps scattered throughout the day. Because, you know, why be flexible with time in an online learning environment?

Dear school, I have some notes…

I went back to sleep and actually had some dreams, but I get woken up by the sound of cereal being poured, or my son talking to his teacher over the Zoom interface, or some asshole mowing his grass at an ungodly hour.

The problem is weird to explain to people and one I haven’t experienced in my life. It used to be that I could write any length of writing and feel satisfied. I would go to bed, feeling accomplished, and sleep like normal people. Only now I write, and then my brain says “Wait, remember this? If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget.” So I write it down. That and the 1,000 other things I need to get down. I feel this almost spiritual connection with the writing now. I am not the creator, but the facilitator, pulling these ideas from whatever source, and putting them into the story. The story needs me to tell it. The story won’t let me sleep until it feels like it has been written.

Sometimes I think when the story is done with me and I have outlived my usefulness, I will just drop over dead. At least I can rest if that is the case.

Dropping off social media has freed up a lot of time. But I can’t help but wonder if my sleeplessness has something to do with interrupting a familiar pattern. My Fear of Missing Out might be affected since I have the urge to open Facebook or Instagram, but really am apathetic as far as what I will see there. Right now I have email, Messenger, and WordPress.

Writing at night is what my brain wants to do. When my son is home, I’m not being interrupted by racket that he makes, having to stop and make meals, or pick up the messes he excels at leaving all over the house. There are not the endless questions and interruptions of a kid who is bored and starved of other human interraction because he is learning online.

When he is gone back to his mom’s, the house is too empty for a few days and I miss the sounds of someone else. There is no middle ground. But late at night, after the assholes in their hotrods stop racing up and down the highway, and there are no garbage trucks, or shitheads bouncing basketballs in the park behind my house, and only the sound of crickets or barking dogs is there to cradle my smoking mind, I can write. In the cool darkness. No landlady poking around with the lawnmowerman looking at trees, no door to door salesmen selling new shingles or extermination services.

Just me and the writing.

Too bad I also enjoy sleeping too.

Hangover

Yesterday I got a lot of writing done. I started off the day a little late, after beating myself up most of the day before. You might not know it to read my last post, but things were not good. I had a few deadlines which would have been due today at 2pm, but first I had to take care of some other things.

I visited with my therapist for an hour and got some things lined out. It will probably be my last session for a while. She is very helpful, in spite of it just being over the phone due to social distancing. According to her, a lot of the thoughts whizzing through my head are attributed to grief. Grief over my relationship, my work, and even the general grief many of us are experiencing due to the pandemic. The world is changing and like it or not, we are mourning the loss of how things were before. It just sucks.

After that, I went to my doctor for my yearly physical. She was not happy that with the end of my job I wouldn’t have medical insurance with them…possibly indefinitely. She is a really good doc and has an excellent bedside manner. I discussed a lot of things that are going on, and she pretty much echoed what my therapist had said: Stress. Nearly all of my concerns were stress related and she couldn’t blame me one bit for any of them. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

I wrote a personal blog post, and then I sat down to write one of my paid posts. I decided I would write it and then do the second that was due today when I woke up in the morning. I got it outlined and then a regular client dropped three on me, which I did in the interim. I ate some food, made some coffee and finished the big assignment. I watched a couple episodes of Peaky Blinders. Made dinner. Drank a cider. Read a little. And my brain would not shut up. It was midnight when I crawled into bed and my heart was just going. So, I figured I might as well put the time to good use.

I got up, wrote the next big post from start to finish, and had the whole thing done before 2am. My brain would not shut up.

So I took a melatonin and before long, I was watching patterns ebb and flow in my vision even though my eyes were closed. My brain would not shut up. I fell asleep around 3am. Then I woke up at about 4:30am. My brain still just going and going. I fell asleep and woke up again at 6:30, then 8:30. Then I finally dragged ass out of bed at 10:45am. My head was pounding.

I managed somehow to drive to get coffee. That part is a little foggy. I got home, paid some bills, and made a hamburger. I am not a happy camper, and I blame stress, as well as melatonin. I feel the effects of that even now. I feel drugged, in spite of the caffeine I have been mainlining since I got up. Part of me also wonders if I’m not going through FaceBook withdrawals. I am 36 hours clean right now. When your doc and your shrink both tell you social media is bad for you, it’s beneficial to listen to them.

There has got to be a better way. Eventually, I hope, my brain will give me some damned peace and quiet. Until then, I plan on taking a nap. This evening, I hope to work on the book some more.