Monday, December 7, 2015

Perils of the Writer: Fetishizing Your Process

NaNoWriMo ended last week, and while I don't participate and don't think it's a good way to write a good novel, I do think it can be an excellent exercise to learn about your own novel-writing process.  I certainly wouldn't knock on someone for doing it, especially in an attempt to kickstart oneself towards the daunting task of Writing A Novel.
I sometimes say writing a novel is like running a marathon, but if anything, it's carving a tunnel through a mountain with just a sledgehammer.  And there are days when it feels like you're going to die with your hammer in your hand, as the song goes.*
I think, though, that one's process is incredibly personal, and you can't really dictate what it ought to be.  Even to yourself.  I do think there are many people who get an idea in their head of what their process should be, and get frustrated when it doesn't yield results.  I think, for example, several people are in a different place on the plotter/pantser axis than they feel is the "right" place to be.  I think one of the hardest parts of becoming a writer is determining what your process actually is, and then honoring that.
Case in point: my brain is often distracted by Something Shiny, especially when I'm trying to force my way into the rhythm of getting started.  One thing I learned was that trying to starve it of Something Shiny-- disabling the internet, for example-- never helped.  It wanted the shiny, and depriving it would just make it seek out the shiny further and further afield.  So I learned I needed to feed that need for shiny, in a way that didn't distract from my ability to work.  This is where pop music with my headphones come in.  Something catchy and earwormy that I can put on repeat so it becomes a mindless drone?  Perfect.  What works best?  Multi-song mash-ups, the more complex the better.  The shiny-craving part of my brain is happy, and the creative-work part can get on it.
THAT SAID, I also need to embrace that situations may not be ideal.  You can't pull the "Oh, I would write/craft/create if I only had..." sewage, because that's being twee and pretentious.  Yes, I could do so much better if I had a private office in my home or a Magic Writing Shed.  But I don't get those.  Not having those is no excuse not to produce, especially now that I've launched something, and those things have expectations tied to them.    I can't be all, "Oh, the muse isn't speaking to me right now."
In other words, if you can't maximize your writing process, do what you can.  Work's got to get done.
Fortunately, they haven't-- yet-- invented the machine that can replicate my work.  Once they have that, though, I will be there, hammer in hand, determined to beat it. 
Collage 2
In the meantime, we're now eight weeks out from the release of The Alchemy of Chaos.  At this point last year, I was still in a state of semi-panic over Thorn's release, a part of my brain still convinced it was all some elaborate prank.**  I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm serene about it's release, but I'm far, far calmer right now than I was last year.  That said, once I start to see a bit more pre-buzz about Alchemy, I'll be the happier for it.  
*- As a kid, I remember seeing an animated short of The Ballad Of John Henry where, in his battle against the machine, he was actually smashing through the rocks and making the tunnel, not driving the steel rails in.  Which doesn't make a lick of sense, but the imagery stuck in my head.  YouTube has failed me in finding this particular bit of animated nostalgia.
**- I honestly half-imagined some amalgamized middle-school bully jumping out from behind a bookshelf at the store, "HA!  You thought you actually had a book coming out!  GOT YOU!"

1 comment:

redaly said...

Oh my god! I remember seeing that animated short too! And even at the time I was all 'seriously? What is even happening here- did no one think this through?', which I suppose was my critic gene activating.

At least two copies of Alchemy pre-ordered in my family, wishing you fantastic success.