Friday, January 27, 2012

in real life

Ah late January when it feels like it will be 45 degrees and raining for all the rest of our lives. When our early enthusiasm for shiny New Year's resolutions has given way to feelings of 'I want to stay in and eat/ drink the contents of the cabinets including the baking chocolate and the vermouth that's leftover from the time we decided to get into martinis even though we don't like them.'

Readers, I don't want to get up in the mornings to work on my novel. Any more than I want to do any of the long list of ambitious and worthy things I laid out for myself as goals when I was on vacation in the desert right before new year's. It was warm there guys! And sun-shiny! And planning to do things whilst drinking a mojito by the pool is way easier than you know, doing them. 

But something other than this mid-winter inertia inhibits me too, I realize as I roll over to smack my snooze button to high heaven every other morning. Fear.  

My new project is set to be a bit more ambitious than my last few novels because it's going to be good deal more personal. The relationships and experiences that inspired and fueled my past novels were fascinating ones in my life but ultimately fleeting. Now I mean to write about something that cuts much deeper. I can only imagine all the nerve endings I will hit along the way and I must admit, I'm a little scared to go to that place. Even though I know I'm ready, even though I know it will be cathartic, even though it's only fiction and I'm not naming names. 

I want to know from those of you who've done it: how, how do you survive the experience of writing a memoir?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

what we talk about when we talk about writer's block

Ah, writer's block. The chupacabra of literary types the world-over. But is writer's block a real thing or just an excuse not to write? What do we even mean when we say writer's block?

Writing regularly takes a lot of discipline and few of us are so perfectly dedicated that we don't go through periods where we don't write as often we should (if you do, kindly keep it to yourself). But when you have those times when you just can't put pen to paper (metaphorically speaking), what exactly is it that's stopping you?

I recently had lunch with my very wise mentor Patricia Geary (whose work you should all go read immediately) while on vacation in California. We discussed the usual things: what we were writing, what we weren't writing, who I was dating, how her family was doing. I had a lot to share about my adventures in self-publishing, but had to admit that I had not been as diligent as I wanted to be about working on my novel this past year. 

I have a pretty typical publishing sob story: I've written a couple of novels, had an agent, experimented with self-publishing (just e-books, not the hard POD stuff). That's all to say that I've had my close-calls and disappointments, my ups and downs, all of it adding up to many, many more pages written than people who have read them. Pat knows the story, of course, and she pointed out that having been through all of this makes it difficult to sit back down and get going on a new book. At some point the sense of  “am I really going to sit back down and write yet another book that no one will read?” can get overwhelming. “That's what people mean when they say they have writer's block,” she said.  

It rings true. Sometimes I skip a day (or ten) of writing for the same reason I might skip the gym: laziness, inertia, plain old just-don't-wanna. But sometimes it feels like something deeper. I mean I know why I go to the gym; the benefits are obvious and evident. The why regarding writing (of the creative rather than the paid variety) is somewhat less obvious and asking myself why am I doing this? can leave me not so jazzed about it and feeling downright fearful. That said, this fear cuts both ways--I've worked with plenty of writers who feel paralyzed trying to live up to a past success. 
I've never been blocked in the sense that I couldn't find something to write about, couldn't pull characters or plots from my imagination that interested me. If I can get my butt in my chair for an hour a day, something will come out, it's just that sometimes that chair is the most terrifying place in the world. This is part of the reason I write when I first get out bed in the morning: there's no time to let the doubt set in. Plus, my thoughts in the early morning tend more towards mmmmm, bacon than toward existential dread.

What do you think about writer's block? Inevitable burden or mythical beast?

Friday, January 6, 2012

friday I'm in love

                                                because Fridays are for pictures of puppies running 

Hey. It's the first Friday after the holidays, how much does it suck to be back in the office? 

Sorry, I wouldn't actually know the answer to that question because I work here and it's pretty consistently awesome but I remember what it was like to be stuck in the office on a Friday. 

My point is, you probably need something to burn through the remaining painful hours until quitin' time so may I humbly suggest you read chapter 11 of my novel here on the Gloss? While you're at it, read everything else on the Gloss because it is the very best thing on the internet. Or you can always do what one reader did and download my whole book (here or here) to read on your iPhone in the storage closet if that's how you roll. 

Happy weekend! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

this year's love

I called my gym (which has odd hours sometimes) to make sure they were open on Monday.  'Oh, we're open,' the woman said, 'all the gyms are open today. And packed.'

Right. New Year's. Every year around this time, the number of people in my gym triples for three weeks before it inevitably goes back to normal, and by normal I mean 'works out in jeans guy', 'stinky hipster guy', 'sings along loudly to his headphones guy' and all of my other favorite weirdos. It depresses me not because I mind sharing treadmill space with these resolution-havers but because I know that not many of them are going to make it. It a vivid reminder of how difficult it is to make a real change in your life.

New Year's is an especially bad time to resolve to change your habits. Who on earth is motivated in the dead of winter? Bright shiny calendar year or no, this time of year all I want to do is sit on my couch watching Happy Endings and eating pie.

It's also true that none of the big-ish things I accomplished this year--self-publishing my novel, getting fit (and losing fifteen pounds), confessing long-held, unsaid feelings--had anything to do with New Year's resolutions. I did these things because I was genuinely, deeply compelled to do them, and that just doesn't come from the turning of a calendar page. 

So, best of luck 'I'm going to take out all of my feelings on this elliptical' lady--you're going to need it.

What did you accomplish in 2011 that you're proud of?