Writer’s Crack!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWriter’s crack is real!  No, this isn’t about the pants-sliding-down-while-you-type crack, like the plumber’s crack of comedy gold.  We’re talking about things that put you into a frenzy to write a newly inspired story.  Every writer has triggers, and if you’re lucky you can find them and use them to get out of a slump.

A couple of years ago, while browsing through a used book store, I found a book about English fairy tales and–of course–purchased it.  (That’s it, up on the need-to-read shelf.  The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by W. Y. Evens-Wentz.)  The subject has always fascinated me; it was not my first, and certainly not my last such book.  Some weeks later, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I had a moment to crack it open.  The introduction (Yes, I read introductions, prologues, glossaries, appendices, and maps.) was both pleasantly surprising and completely cringe-worthy, in the way of dusty, old, and almost forgotten books.  Apparently, I had in my hand a recent reissue of a book that JRR Tolkien had referenced for his world building.  Even more pleased with my lucky find, and hopefully under the influence of a little mystical foresight, I happily delved into the first chapter…

AND FIRMLY SHUT IT, bookmarked on chapter two.  The after images in my head, while my body lay snugly anchored on my couch with the book clasped in unmoving hands, spun like leaves heralding the start of a stormy spring.  The stories!  Characters!  Battles!  Lighting, tempests, swords, grief, love, fear, and loss that is an ache that pierces to the soul’s depth.

I held completely still.  The overfull brain must not be disturbed.  A new/old world sloshed against the sides of it.  For a dry and dated tome, first published in 1911, it held a surprising lushness.

I was aware of movement deep in my psyche.  There was something lurking in my mind.  Lurking like an elder god and getting called to the surface.  The Leviathan rises, or worse…

Unfortunately, I already had three multi-book story arcs that had been clawing at the insides of my skull, rudely pushing each other out of line and snarling to be first.  I closed that wonderful book HARD–like the doors of Tartarus–just to preserve my soul from the punishments I likely deserved.  It contained the breath of Titans snoring, and (as anyone who has lived with a chronic snorer learns) I heard the sound of something nearing an awakening.

It sits on my shelf, unobtrusively, but whispering to me I quiet moments.  I know that like Pandora, I am doomed to open it…

Eventually.  For now, it sits.  It’s writer’s crack, or something like.

Hopefully, a story is really in there, but I think I may need to be a more experienced writer to do it justice.  It’s not the only story I have saved for later in my career.  For now, I have my other stories that I am currently passionate about, and willing to learn on.

This past weekend I added three more of The Lost Library book series to my shelf, risking collusion among them.  Myths are my weakness, and my wellspring.  I–apparently–like to live dangerously.

And that, folks, is about as close as I get to a written book review.  Not an Amazon review (I’ll do those anytime for books I like, especially for independent authors), but an actual blog review.  It’s not my thing, and lots of other people do a really good job of them.  And despite the heavy-handed use of metaphor in this post, it really doesn’t begin to describe what was happening to my brain.

But, I am curious if this has ever happened to any of you?

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It’s Not About The Word Count…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADaily writing.  It’s a surprisingly controversial topic for writers, but only because the word “writer” applies to everyone who wants to use it, and that as it should be.  Writers are as varied as something with lots of… variety.  Like plants.  And pop up randomly, like…

Ok, it’s spring here!  How can you not be inspired by spring!  Sheesh!

Daily writing is just a way to attune your mind to use words effectively.  Establishing this habit was the way I learned to feel like a writer, and to make words my every thought. My point of view became different from before.  I began to think about the words my thoughts used.  Random conversations I heard become models of dialogue. While noticing a transient moment of natural beauty, I reached for words to preserve it, and then I could transmit the fleeting moment to another.  Life’s travesties and joys became plot points for me to harvest.  I was the observer of the universe, noting the contrasts of chaos and order, and how they exist side by side.  The entire spread of time and existence were my writing prompts.

The painter never learns to paint without learning the way of the brush.  And the paint.  And the canvas.  Or the mouse and pixel. One thing I am certain of, and it is Art Finds A Way.  Very much like nature.

We all have obstacles in our path, and some of us have obstacles the size of the world. Real, everyday life sucks out our creative drive, burning it up for a bit more energy to just survive.  But a lot of us–I suspect–have obstacles exactly the size of our egos.  If we want to write, we find those obstacles and name them.  Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being judged. Fear of sucking, despite our best effort.

I am asking you to put those fears aside and just write.  Write every day.  Find a way.  Ignore publishing for now.  Ignore peer review, and beta readers, and editing.  Don’t wait for NaNoWriMo. Don’t wait for the new laptop, or writing class, or whatever it is that is stopping you.  Form words into sentences and put them down on paper, or the screen, or the voice recording.  YOUR WORDS.

Give yourself an easy word count goal.  How long does it take to get down fifty words, or five hundred?  If time is limited, use that as your marker.  How many words can you put down in a fifteen minute break?  Can you do better tomorrow?

It’s just like anything else you have to learn.  You MUST practice, and if you don’t cheat yourself, you will get better.  Faster.  More coherent.  And when you figure out there is a missing technique you need, you research it and work to apply it.

Lots of people will tell you the word count doesn’t matter.  And they are right, the numbers don’t really matter.  It’s the effort behind the numbers that is the important bit.  Numbers are just a simple marker of effort expended.  Be proud of it.  Give yourself the gift of watching the goals being met and exceeded.  Pat yourself on the back, or have some chocolate.  Reward yourself.  Shrug off the awful days, the days you simply can’t meet your goals, and try again tomorrow.  Momentum is the key; keep moving forward.

And try to avoid sounding like a greeting card, or motivational poster, like I just did.  Not everything you write will bloom gloriously.  Just keep shoveling those words.  Spread them like manure.  Something will grow.

If you haven’t figured it out this is mostly a reminder for myself, since I am starting a daily word count goal, TODAY.  Updates on my progress start here.  I apologize for the wide distribution of a bit of random rambling, but I also hope it will find its way to those who are struggling. You are not alone.

Am I going to count this in my word count goal for the day?  You bet your sweet ass, I am.  Then I’m going for a walk.