Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That Ain't It Kid

Hello. Yes, I've been absent for a few days. No, I wasn't sick, hurt, maimed or dead. I was just tired (or at least I think that's what's been my problem). Not sleepy-tired, just wore-out. Or maybe the tired that usually has 'sick and' in front of it. Most likely a combination of both.

You see, the writing lately just hasn't been coming out. I've started several scenes and a couple of new stories, but I get a few paragraphs in and am overwhelmed by the urge to set fire to it all. I even thought about getting a day job (which is impossible since I homeschool, but the thought was there). I didn't even want to blog.

Sounds like my usual semi-annual thing, right? Kinda, but this felt much worse.

Have you ever seen the movie version of A Chorus Line? There's a song in there called 'Dance Ten, Looks Three' that seemed to sum it all up for me over the weekend. (My subconscious even got it stuck in my head, so I could review the lyrics all day Saturday.) The especially poignant part goes something like this: "Dance 10, Looks 3, and I'm still on unemployment, dancing for my own enjoyment. That ain't it, kid. That ain't it, kid." Rewrite it so it's this business instead of dancing, and you get the gist.

About the same time the song popped into my head, it occurred to me that it's now been four years since I started querying for my first book. Four f'ing years. Still unpublished and, in essence, dancing for my own enjoyment. That really ain't it, kid. I didn't start doing this to end up doing what amounts to little more than mental masturbation. I started writing to be published. And sure, I had the same ol' newbie belief that I would write a book, and selling it would be the easy part. Silly me. Or maybe naive would be more correct. My own naivete astounds even me sometimes, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, the whole thing hit me like a ton of bricks. Four years and five books (five totally finished, six if you count the one I never edited). Three books sent through the query machine wherein my confidence was folded, spindled and mutilated. And I'm just now starting to send the fifth book through. (The third book never went through - not sure why at the moment, but I just never queried for it. But that's a post for another time.) Sure, I'm getting some positive attention on Manhunter, but I'm also getting some negative, and for some reason the negative seems to overshadow the positive. Which is what hit me, knocked me down and kicked sand in my face.

So, what did I do?

I quit. Or rather, I took a mini-vacation. I stepped away from the computer and the notebooks and the pens. I took out my crochet hook, and my skeins of yarn. Friday I just sat on the couch and crocheted until my hands cramped. I didn't think about anything writing related. I watched television and let myself get lost in the repetitive motion of a single chain stitch. By Saturday, I decided I was making another blanket and had a good start - and had that song stuck in my head. Now I did start thinking about writing, and the thoughts weren't good. This is when I thought about chucking the idea of ever getting published, and therefore chucking the idea of ever writing another damn book. Instead, I considered what I would have to do to sell my handiwork, how much each piece would be worth, and whether anyone would want to buy this other product of my creativity (because if I was honest with myself, no one was buying the other products, if you know what I mean). I thought about finding myself a good eight to five job with a real paycheck and forgetting this writing thing.

On Sunday, I figure I was halfway through crocheting the blanket, which was now going to be a gift for someone. (Because setting up an online store to sell crocheted things would mean I would have to crochet some stock ahead of time, and these blankets usually take me weeks to finish.) As I continued to crochet, I started thinking about the actual work again - not all the peripheral stuff, but the actual putting word on paper part. I just let my mind wander over the stories. I thought about all the problems I'm having with Nano, and I saw some ways to fix what's wrong. I wondered where I was going with the story and what to write next, and some key things fell into place. Between strips of color, I picked up the notepad and pen - jotted notes to myself on these issues.

As of yesterday, the blanket is about 80% complete. I have three pages of notes on Nano. The worst of the crap is over (for now) and I think I'm almost ready to get back to work. Hey, I'm blogging, and that's gotta stand for something positive, right?

It may still be Dance Ten, Looks Three, and I'm dancing for my own enjoyment, but for right now, that'll have to do. Quit writing? That ain't it, kid.



Kristen Painter said...

I know multi-pubbed NY house authors who have these same thoughts. You're not alone.

Debs said...

I know how you feel and do go through the same thing, wondering what the hell I think I'm doing all this writing for. But then, like you, I give myself a break and come back to it.

I really don't think we can help ourselves.

JenWriter said...

I've read Manhunter, and I truly think you are a terrific writer. I really only think it's a matter of time with the right agent and the right manuscript. You can't give up yet! Plus, I've read many success stories where it's the author's fifth or tenth book that ended up getting published. I'm hoping it's this one for you, but if it isn't, it could very well be the next one.