Most of my life is going great, just not the writing. I’m happy, I’m content, and I’m not feeling any pressing need to write these days. I’m thinking the contentment and the not-writing are connected. Nothing is bothering me, so there’s no need for type therapy. Ahh.

I am reading more. Ray Bradbury and Steven King both recommend it as a necessary precursor to writing, and good cross-training. Of course, it’s also just fun.

This morning I checked in with myself to see if I was still working on any of the goals I set for 2010. Yes. Some more than others.

Writing hasn’t been at the top of my list. Journal entries are down, blog posts are way down, and I have written one short story and half a poem since January. It’s pretty bad.

My one comfort comes from looking back to this time last year, the first year for which I have any consistent record of when I wrote. I slumped in the first quarter of 2009, too (if you check the archives, you may notice a lack of February). I guess that’s not much comfort, really, but it is a pattern. It’s news I can use: I slump in late winter. Now I can decide if I want to tackle that as a problem, or schedule ten weeks off and have a few posts in my file to put up while I’m hibernating.

The half poem was left unfinished in early January. The short story was March 22, about the third sunny day of the season. So, should I do cloudy day writing drills? I’m picturing this: if the sun disappears, I sit down with my laptop for fifteen minutes. It could help me form a new habit, or at least break the one I have. Or maybe spring and summer marathons would be more productive: if I’m feeling charged, rev up the word count and build a stockpile against snow days. Then I could leave the hibernation time alone and not worry about it.

March is over, and I have a lot of ground to make up. A warm season sprint is the default option for 2010. This deserves some more thought before next year, though. Maybe setting my “writing year” to begin April 1st would give me the chance to meet all goals by Christmas, and take anything I get from under the snow as a bonus. That might feel better than playing catch-up for nine months, like I’ll be doing now.

Echolocation in Libraries

February 25, 2010

Last week I was wandering through the library in search of a good book. It was frustrating for while; I couldn’t find one. But since I was in a library, I figured it had to be possible.

At first, I looked in the vicinity of an author I enjoyed but had read too much of in the past year, and that didn’t work. Next, I hunted by genre, searching out authors I knew, but didn’t find anything I hadn’t already read. After I gave up on that, I found a relatively new book by one of my favorite YA fantasy authors (Patricia C. Wrede–and I recommend Calling on Dragons, for a start), but I can’t remember what the heck I was doing in the Ws.

That’s when I started thinking about how I’d made some of my best library finds in the past. For example, there was the day I got lost in a huge university library and stumbled on The Silence of the Lambs. I was thoroughly devoted to sci-fi and fantasy at the time, and that book opened up a new and fascinating world that was terrifyingly similar to the real one.

I had stopped midway down one aisle, and was looking around. No idea why; I really wanted to get out, but I kept looking until I saw the book that held two of my favorite-characters-to-be. I couldn’t even read the spine at that distance. It just looked… attractive, in spite of being the standard library book brown.

So, Ms. Wrede in hand, I imagined I was back in that enormous library, and slowly turned so I could see more of the shelf in front of me. It worked! One spine caught my attention, and this time I could read the title: Those Who Favor Fire. The author got it from a Robert Frost poem, and she put it to good use. I like Frost, I liked that poem, and I enjoyed the book.

I was perhaps happier than it made sense to be, on my way out of the library with my prizes. I felt like I had successfully stalked and downed something I was going to eat that night.

How do you do it? Aimless wandering, the traditional browse, echolocation?

P.S. Fire‘s Publishers Weekly review on Amazon contains spoilers.

Charity Plug

January 28, 2010

I’m going to be surprised if this guy ever does anything I don’t want to back.

Teaching Friends

January 20, 2010

A friend of mine is taking a creative writing class, and she asked if I would look over her work before she hands it in. Sure. I’ve had a few other incidents of friends asking about stuff I know how to do in the past week, and although I enjoy feeling helpful, I’m starting to think about setting up formal classes with fees.

I’m also amazed by how much there is in creative writing that can be taught. My friend’s assignment required just one paragraph in her protagonist’s voice. There were some creative riffs in that paragraph I would never have thought of, but also a mound of technical aspects that I could comment on (ending sentences with prepositions was not one them):

Use of adverbs, interjections, and multiple adjectives. Varying sentence length. Consonance. Formal versus informal language. I didn’t touch on the cool stuff she came up with except to compliment the coolest part (which involved an aardvark). If she hadn’t rocked it, I might also have critiqued her use of imagery and metaphor.

All of which made me want to read The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. I’ve started it twice, but never got farther than the end of the first chapter. Opening the book at random just earned me some information about poetic rhythm within a sentence. Scansion marks everywhere; very exciting.

Mr. Gardner knows how to teach. Despite my recent helpfulness and visions of teaching profits, I still have a long way to go. I suppose I could start by deciding which side of this preposition-at-the-end-of-a-sentence issue I really want to come down on.

Hmm.

Calm Writer, Someday

January 15, 2010

I’m working on this. Uninvoked made a good point on Tuesday. I’m doing the set-goals, work-really-hard, stress-out-about-it thing, and in addition to being stressful, it’s not entirely necessary. At least, not every day.

Part of me knows this, and another part argues that daily attempts on goal is a good way to score points and get stuff done. It’s January and I’m into resolutions and goal-setting. Guess which part is winning.

If you’re like me, try this site.

Fiction for Beginners

January 12, 2010

Last week was the week I was supposed to get right down to it: writing a novel. Most days I feel like I’m pretty good at this writing thing. I got a really nice compliment on it the other day. I can crack open a file and find evidence that I have gotten college credit for being good at it in the past. Once or twice, I even got published. I have more than five linear feet of desk space devoted to books about the craft and trade of writing.

I still have to drag myself to the keyboard.

My fiction writing student got a rejection letter last week. It was an email from an editor, and it had those magic words: “try me again”! This is a big deal. I was thrilled and I told him so. I am, apparently, also good at teaching beginning fiction.

And yet… I am such a noob. I wanna be like Dave Barry and the rest of the “we don’t get writer’s block” set. Or like Steven King, and everyone else who knows how to sit down in a chair, at the same time every day, no matter what.

So, 2:00 PM is the new Novel Writing Time. Jerry Cleaver suggests that people with my problem try just sitting there for five minutes, thinking, “This is novel time,” for the first week. I don’t think I’m doing quite that badly, but I guess I’ll find out for sure tomorrow. My cell phone has this nifty alarm feature; that should help.

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