Seasons of Inspiration

Tornado Warning

Image by RaGardner4 via Flickr

Here in Indiana, weather is…unpredictable.  The calendar may say that we are firmly in the spring season, but nature has its own ideas.

Last week, I…

…hid in the basement during a tornado warning.

…took pictures of hail pelting my car.

…pulled on my fuzzy boots because it snowed. Again.

…woke up in the middle of the night as a thunderstorm rolled in and I thought a tree crashed through my roof. (That’s happened before.  Twice.  So, you can understand my paranoia.)

…basked in beautiful sunshine as I ate my lunch outside, to the delight of my sun-starved skin.

It’s both awe-inspiring and humbling to see the influence that nature has on us and how we in turn, respond to it.

I have been working on a couple of Works In Progress now, which isn’t as confusing as it seems since they’re so different and are at different stages.  My first WIP is in a revision stage, and honestly, I plan to focus on it more this month than my second WIP, which is only in the rough draft stage.  So even though first WIP gets more of my structured writing time, I still let my muses play with second WIP during random times like driving to work or while my store is empty.  That’s the beauty of a rough draft: unbridled creativity and imagination.

My first WIP, I started writing in the fall during NaNoWriMo.  It’s dark and disjointed and looking back, probably reflected the madcap emotional turbulence of both NaNoWriMo and working through two retail jobs during the holiday season.   My second WIP was born on a bitter morning, the bleak winter landscape a perfect setting for a character filled with the helplessness, anger, and resentment that biting, sub-zero temperatures can create.

This week,though, something odd happened as I drove to work.  Well, two things really.  First, because of extremely gusty winds (I’m talking blow-you-into-the-next-lane-without-warning gusts), I ended up driving 5-10 miles under the speed limit.  (No comment on my normal driving speed.)  Second, I realized that I was dreaming up words for another WIP.

Now, this bout of inspiration didn’t just happen.  The WIP my muses brought to mind is one that I’ve had in the back burner for basically my whole life, but I have never dared to capture it in words.  My current WIPs were born out of fun ideas that I followed to their inevitable conclusions.  They are exercises in my mental stamina and discipline to finish a task. This other WIP, though…it’s different.

This WIP (which for clarity we’ll call third WIP) matters the most to me because it encompasses all of my unspoken fears, hopes, loves, dreams.  It’s basically a straight window into my soul.  As such, even thinking about it both inspires me and intimidates me.  I’m too emotionally invested in it, which is why I never felt like I can write it the way it needs to be written.  The way it deserves to be written.  So, I’ve gotten used to just ignoring it.

But then, the wind whipped just right and I imagined a curling wave.  The humidity and warmth reached a specific threshold and I delighted in memories of tropical sun showers.  My cautious wariness of other cars brought to mind the winding road to Hana (on Maui).

Now, I can’t help but wonder: should I follow my muses into this third WIP?

SO TELL ME: I know writers find inspiration everywhere, but do YOU have seasonal “moods” when it comes to your WIP? Do YOU find yourself reading a book or genre during specific times of year because it “felt” more like summer or winter?

Janus

As janus rostrum okretu ciach

Image via Wikipedia

I think it’s fitting that I’m born in the month named for the god of beginnings.

I love change.  I love new ideas, new initiatives.  Which is great when I see that I need to formulate new action plans to get to my desired results.  Not so great when I know the course direction is straight ahead, and the pace is slow and steady.

I’ve been working on my current Work in Progress for some time now.  It was my NaNoWriMo story, and though I’ve only been shaping it since November, I’d been thinking about it for some months before that.  I even thought that I could write one story before November, and write another one for NaNoWriMo.  Easy, breezy.

So, in September, I did attempt to write this story.  And then, 10,000 words later I stopped, feeling too discouraged to continue.

Then, I decided to re-plot this story.

Again.

And, again.

Each time I had a different history.  Different characters.  Different worlds. Different story.

Then, October rolled around, and I decided to plan out my story, scene by scene because this time, I was not only going to start a novel, but also finish one.

And I did.  And I’m happy.  Believe me.

But I’m also tired of it.  I admit it.  I have other random story ideas that I’ve dutifully written down, and have neglected in favor of writing and finishing this one.  I’ve kept my head down, and continued scribbling on the Hot Mess, though the want for something new and shiny is always there, clamoring for attention just outside my consciousness.  (I hear the waves breaking against the shore from the setting of another story as I type this blog.)

I know that I need to continue to do what I know was successful, in order to sustain the change that I want to make in my life.  I need to look behind, to what has passed, for perspective, so that I can look ahead and press on down my path.

But Tell Me: Would pursuing some of those bright, shiny story ideas be such a bad thing at this point? What would YOU do?

Write it Out

Notebooks

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes, I have trouble saying what I mean.  I either fumble my words or go into a meandering stream of “likes” and “you know’s” as I float toward what it is I meant to say.

Usually, I’m at my fumbliest when I lack proper sleep and rest.  You can imagine how bumbly I was at the height of the holiday season when sleep was at its lowest and the people interactions were at its highest.  It’s like my mouth was falling down the stairs.

All that to say…

This past week was more challenging than usual in terms of writing.  I know this may be contrary to say, but it’s like I had too many words.  I wanted to address so many things in my Work In Progress (aka, The Hot Mess) that the words got clogged somewhere in the assembly line that starts with my brain elves tinkering with ideas, and then shooting those ideas down through my fingers to become inked words on paper.

Most of the time, a morning session of stream of consciousness writing can get me to push past that clog and get the assembly line back in working order.  This time, though, was the first time in a long time that I found I had nothing to say.

I tried writing on my laptop.  I tried scribbling in my notebook.  I tried writing in different environments.  I even tried writing other things, like new pages for my blog.

Nothing.

The malaise in writing culminated to yesterday, when I had the day off to catch up on my writing, a habit I adopted from my NaNoWriMo days.  The only thing I seemed to have words for were crits for my friend, WookiesGirl.  Though I had plenty of comments in my crits for her, I could barely write the email that went along with those crits.  (I also owe Melissa an email about my WIP.)

Then, I encountered this post and just shook my head.

I was so focused on getting something for my WIP that I forgot the very reason why I started Novel-writing in the first place: to have fum.

Sure, I have goals, and I like to achieve them.  But the reason why I started my goal was the fun and joy of writing and creating new worlds and characters.  I enjoyed the challenge of it.

However, I became so focused on it, that I didn’t give my brain elves random things to work with.  Heck, I didn’t even give them time to rest and recharge.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and the sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.-Kahlil Gibran

So, yesterday, I read without guilt.  I tweeted without guilt.  I watched Firefly and Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 2.  I had dinner with my husband, and laughed at how awesome we are.

And, when I got to my desk this morning, a torrent of words splashed on to the page.  I couldn’t scribble fast enough.

So, Tell Me: How do you revive your muse?

Thursday Thoughts: Just Get It Written

Fumbling Toward The End: The Reveal*

(*an actual “scene title” in my Scrivener App.)

Start as close to the end as possible.

–Kurt Vonnegut

So, I’m kind of in this little writing challenge that happens each November.  As a way to grow The Novel’s word counts and keep it interesting for me, I decided to dedicate my kamikaze-do-or-die writing days to the second half of The Novel.  My purpose for my kamikaze writing days (other than the fact that I needed to be realistic with my schedule since I work in retail for my FT AND PT paythebills jobs in the heart of the holiday season)?  So that I can race along to the finish, and then go back to the first half of The Novel and fatten up those scenes.  I’ve said this before, but success breeds success, and the more “wins” I can achieve, the more motivating it is for me to continue.

In these mad sprints to glory, I’ve realized a few things.  First, I have completely drowned out my Internal Editor and sent her packing to live with my closet trolls.  (Take that Internal Editor! Chew on some socks, and last year’s belts!)  Second, that in focusing on the end, I have a clearer grasp of my beginning.

Method Behind the Madness

When I tell some people that I aim to write 5,000, 7,000, even 10,000 words in a day, I sometimes get asked: “Is your story even coherent with that volume of writing?”  The answer: Yes; in a way.  It is to me.  Since I plotted, outlined and pretty much pre-planned The Novel scene by scene.  Is it anywhere close to being published?  Of course not!  I write better quality e-mails than this Story-As-Is.  I definitely wouldn’t send this drivel to any crit partners or beta readers.

Do I care?  No.

Because that’s the point of this beautiful, awesome thing called “NaNoWriMo” and my kamikaze-do-or-die writing days: I don’t have to get it anywhere close to perfect.  I just need to get it written.  THEN, the real work of revising, editing, polishing The Novel to the point where EVERYONE can actually read and understand it will come to play.  THAT is when I will beg and plead other writers to beta read, critique, and otherwise rip my work to shreds (but nicely, and with purple ink, rather than red please).

I don’t dwell on the fact that The-Novel-So-Far has  shifting points of views, perspectives, and a LOT of telling and not showing in the efforts to just get the story down and written.  Believe me, I’ll still go back and get to those points.  (I mean, there’s at least 20,000 words waiting to be born back there that I can add to my word counts 😉 ).  The value of them to me is just the idea that they exist.  Those words are already there, and all I need to do is tweak them.  This thought allows me to Just. Keep. Writing.  And really, as a beginning writer, that’s what I need.  Good habits.  Momentum. Progress in the right direction.  Writing a story straight through till The End seems like the right direction to me.

Little Darlings

I know that Faulkner said that writers ought to kill their little darlings, but I choose to categorize that little bit of advice to the “Revision” process rather than the “Just Get It Written” process.  I love reveling in the random phrases and words that my fingers type up so quickly, my mind wasn’t even conscious of it.  Besides, the Little Darlings need to get written first before we can kill them and give birth to True Genius (*cue angelic choir music*).  At least, that’s how I look at it.

In these sprints, I’m able to get to the heart of the matter.  Capture more essential, urgent things.  Hear more random tidbits and snippets that I don’t even realize I’m writing.

She laughed again. I need to stop being so hilarious to this woman. She’s starting to piss me off.

–A random line that I didn’t even know I’d written until after my break.  I don’t even use “piss” in daily speech.  Silly muses.

And, in the heat of the moment, I discover more intensity from my characters, my worlds, my words, that I wouldn’t have had I been plodding along.

Of course, there’s a time, place, and purpose for everything.  Do I do these mad dashes all the time? No.  I think I would crash and burn after not too long.  I believe in balance.  But, in the spirit of the challenge, in the spirit of motivation, and in the spirit of my compulsive need to reach all of my goals, I think these mad dashes bring me the most peace.  It affirms to me that when push comes to shove, I have the discipline needed to make writing my lifelong career.

I know that I can be good, even great, in a variety of roles.  But, stories…they are my passion, and I would love to see the day when my passion and paythebills worlds align.

Just keep writing, fellow dreamers.