Insulated Writing

There is another side to being a writer that seldom gets talked about. Writing as a form of insulation. Mass shootings, government in a death spiral, racism run amok. All these things make keeping a clear head for writing your novel difficult, even when you attempt to avoid the news, as I do. But the churning is insipid, creeping in through waiting room television, the radio in stores, from coworkers and strangers in line at the grocery.

What’s a writer to do?

Plunge into the world of your novel and don’t come up for air. Insulate yourself from the outside world by concentrating on your world and characters. (Although if you are writing something political and contemporary, you’re pretty much screwed. Sorry. )

I safely insulated myself in the head of my protagonist, concentrating on what drove her and her various predicaments. All well and good, until I found out my insulation wasn’t air tight. Or world tight. News from the outside crept into my character, until there were a few dark turns and talks I never intended. It leaves you wondering, did that really come from me? Should I be keeping my characters in cotton wool? Why won’t the world leave me the hell alone, can’t it see I’m busy creating?

I didn’t want the outside world influencing my story. I want a blanket fort, with me inside, typing away. I want to be oblivious, so caught up in my fantasy world that coming back to reality would be a shock. I want to live elsewhere. Or elsewhen.

It doesn’t work that way. The world doesn’t care what I want. It insists I be more aware, open my eyes, look around, and oh, yeah, I need to tear away that insulation. Let some dirt in on my pristine novel. It will be better for it. And for me. I acquiesce, and throw my blanket fort back on the bed.

Bring it world. My protagonist has magic. And so do I.


A Mental Mugging

I had the occasion to be in several waiting rooms the past week and found the same annoyance in all of them. Blaring televisions, usually spouting a certain unintelligent ‘news’ station. It’s damn aggravating. And people are just riveted, staring at the black box on the wall, drool dripping down their chin. Well, I may have exaggerated the last part, but not by much. Vacant eyes and vacant gaze.

When did we start undervaluing the benefits of silence? Is internal contemplation so painful we have to fill every waking moment with noise?  Am I alone in preferring my wait time not be populated with background blather? The worst I do is read a book, check Instagram for pretty pictures, or do some navel gazing. And I’m trying to phase the book and phone out and just use the time for a little mindfulness practice.

Several people mentioned to me my place of work should have some background music in the office. Oh, hell no. First comes the inevitable fight over country or pop. (Nobody listens to the blues anymore.) I would hate the constant, insidious noise leaking into my brain. Worse if it was a radio station with its irritating commercials and shouty preaching. I pity retail workers, especially at holiday time. How many Rudolf’s can one person take before they snap and stab a customer with a candy cane?

Silence. Consider cultivating some. Embrace it. Reflect. What would it hurt? You may learn something, or may just learn the lack of noise makes you very uneasy. All progress. Or you can be like me when you find yourself alone in the waiting room. Reach up and snap the television off.

There, I feel better already.

This is Your Brain on Writing

As you may have noticed, I’m still pretty much Missing in Action on the Internet/Website/Blog. Still writing on the newest fantasy novel. With two weeks vacation at home, I managed to boost my word count to 80,000. The end is in sight. And I think I know how to get there.

One thing I learned, that surprised me, was to trust my brain. The reason it surprised me is because I can walk into WalMart, step inside, and totally forget what I went there for. If I made a list, I get home and discover things that never made it onto my list. So forgive me for being skeptical about the powers of (my) brain, and the ability to make story out of half coherent sludge.

On a different side of the equation, I probably thought about this story for two years before ever trying to write it. That’s a lot of time to mull things over. An epic game of ‘What If’. I’m convinced my fascination with science had a lot to do with it. I’ve mentioned before I have no background in science, really, except the Earth Science and Biology I took in high school. Then came college and I took an elective in Astronomy, and everything changed. I could calculate light years. I could ponder things like the planets, the universe, cosmology, and physics.

Those things percolated in my brain pan for years, until a resurgence a few years ago of my interest in physics. I started reading about it, the different branches, the philosophy behind each. Not having the math background for much of it, my degree in philosophy came in handy to dig out little nuggets of information I could understand. So they plopped into my brain, along with some reading on traditional (witch) magic, and a reread of Tolkien books. Lots of them.

My brain got cooking, and a few years later, served me up a fine mix of elves, witches, magic and physics. Even some engineering. Yeah, surprised the hell out of me, too. The scary part was I remembered things I read years ago, and I was able to do some quick research, confirm ideas, and go forth with writing.

The last part about trusting my brain? I wrote without outlining first, without having a definite ending, without really knowing who all the players on the page. And my brain came through, built a plot as I wrote, characters appeared when I need them, some fully fleshed out, some shy and hiding in the shadows, waiting their turn. One thing my new and pushy brain enforced was no going backwards, only forwards. No jumping back to start editing when still in rough draft. Only rereading the previous days writing to get in the groove again. Full speed ahead. Dominoes falling. And it worked. I trusted my brain, and it didn’t let me down.

I’ve been short changing my brain by thinking I was a space cadet, couldn’t remember things, didn’t have the chops to mash different fields together. My brain pummeled me from the inside and proved me wrong. Trust in yourself. That’s all my brain asked. And I gave it a try. Have you trusted your brain, lately?

Writing Torrent

Well, I’ve been gone a while I see. But it was for a good reason. I’ve been writing. No poems this time, I had an idea for a new novel so I dove right in and had my own personal NaNoWriMo. Except this one took 6 weeks for 50,000 words. Yeah, hard for me to believe, too. I’ve been averaging around 8000 words a week. When you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll. You don’t want to break the streak.

I’m doing the seat of the pants method. I have a loose story idea, and I’m just spilling words out on the page in a somewhat linear fashion. No going back, except to read what I wrote the previous day to get back onto the mood of the story. Keep chanting, ‘It’s a rough draft, no need to be perfect.”. Full speed ahead. Any ideas for a previous part I realize get jotted down in my notes section to be slotted in or unfolded when the time for revision is at hand.

Forward, ever forward. I have a good handle on the main protagonist. Her and her sidekick sprung forth, full blown, from my writer’s mind. It’s good to feel like Zeus. The bad guys are taking shape and form, they’ve already started to make the protagonist’s life miserable. The secondary characters spoke up and demanded places in the story. My head is full, trying to empty it out onto the page.

Poetry, alas, has taken somewhat of a back seat. It’s still moving forward, a line at a time, thanks to the collaborations I’m doing with Kathleen Cassen Mickelson. (Thanks, Kath.)  In a way, that’s a good thing. It forces me to really concentrate on one line at a time. And the time off from poetry will help clear my head so when I go back to editing poems, it will be with new eyes. So here’s to new work, walking up in the morning with scenes in my head, and a fantasy novel desperate to be born. What’s new with you in the writing realm?

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