That R-word thing everyone’s doing today, & the State of the C.

Hello, out there, blogo-romancelandia-writer-sphere!

I hope everyone is recovering from the holidays and 2013 in general.

My year and holiday went out with kind of a fizzle, and that’s perfectly fine by me. Last night, the husband and I had a brief visit to one party, saw some lovely friends, and went home early for a quieter evening together alone. What’s obnoxious is that even in that light, I still managed to have an anxiety thing. I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ people – who go on and on about their mental issues. So let me be clear – I just find it weird and kind of fascinating that this is an actual thing that people ‘have,’ if that makes sense. Taken from a blurb on this site:

When you experience anxiety, your body is essentially in fight or flight mode – an evolutionary adaptation that prepares your body for danger. Anxiety is the faulty activation of this system, causing your fight or flight system to operate even when no danger is present.

(emphasis mine)

That I have an actual misfire of something is annoying, but also incredibly interesting. And a bit of a relief, that there’s an explanation for these random andrenaline surges.

Anyway, my point is that much of yesterday and last night, before the ball dropped, I was planning this blog post about resolutions and anti-resolutions. Full of rantastic goodness and inspiring things. Then, of course, I made monkey bread with insane amounts of cream cheese icing to take to the party, and probably had too much sugar on an otherwise clean stomach, and there were fireworks and a stressed out dog, and that godawful Jenny McCarthy on teevee, and I just couldn’t deal with writing my aspirations for the year. Today is much better. (Seriously, though – am I just old and cranky, or is it not a wee bit ridiculous to continue firing off loud-ass boomers until well past 130 in the morning? Assholes.)

So, yeah. I’m always on the fence when it comes to these things. On one hand, “New Years” is nothing more than a marker we’ve made up – one that even only applies to our western culture. And resolutions can be ultimately so unhealthy and unhelpful. At the same time, it’s impossible for me not to get a little swept up in the hype. Christmas is over, and there are several months of quiet ahead. Choosing the right resolutions could potentially help utilize those quiet months, maybe even plant some seeds for real change.

Before I get into my personal shit, there, I do want to give a nod and link over to the great Chuck Wendig and his Writing Resolutions: 2014 and Beyond. If you’ve somehow found my blog and still have not heard of this man, I don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re from. God only knows I yammer about him enough. But it was probably his post that ultimately pushed me into going ahead and doing the R-thing this year. Sort of. I’ll get to the other stuff in a minute (this is a long-ish post).

Wendig (and I always kind of want to add an ‘o’ to the end of his name) rehashes much of his advice, which is excellent advice, because really, after a certain point you can only say so much about writing. Just as you can only read so much writing advice before you really just have to start writing or quit altogether. This is a point I reached in 2013, where I got badly burned out on writing advice and publishing blogs and book review blogs, etc. I also suffered the reading blahs, where nothing in my nook appealed to me. Sadly, this did not inspire me to take a break from reading and get down and dirty with writing. Instead, it triggered anxiety and inspired me to stick my head in the sand and play hours of bejeweled and minecraft. I let myself get lost in comparing my failures to others’ crazy success, even if their ‘success’ was nothing more than cracksmoking levels of wordcount. And, in the end, I lost touch with why I write and how to love writing.

Chuck’s post still has a lot of rehash, but the part that sparked my lightbulb was this:

I WILL GIVE MY WORK THE TIME IT NEEDS

Sometimes a story comes out fast. Sometimes it comes out slow. And this isn’t just about a single story: learning to do this thing and do it well may not take the arbitrary 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell suggests, but it’s not learning to play beer pong, either. Overnight successes never are; what you see is just the iceberg’s peak poking out of the slush. This takes time. From ideation to action. From writing one junk novel to a worse novel to a better one to the ninth one that’s actually worth a good goddamn. From writing to rewriting to editing to copyediting. Don’t “just click publish.” Don’t just send it off half-baked to some editor or agent — they get hundreds of stories a day that are the narrative equivalent to a sloppy equine miscarriage or half-eaten ham salad sandwich. Don’t punish your potential readers by squatting over the Amazon toilet and voiding your creative bowels into the digital porcelain. Take pride in what you do. Go the distance and get shit done. Not just a little bit done, but all-the-way-to-the-awesome-end done.

and this:

I WILL GET EXCITED ABOUT WHAT I’M WRITING

Ten years of freelance writing taught me one thing: you have to find a way to get excited about a day’s worth of writing, or it’ll juice your mind like an orange in the hand of Andre the Giant. It’ll kill you and your love of it, because writing stuff every day that isn’t precisely yours is — well, it’s many times better than doing the hard work of being a retail countermonkey (been there), but it still becomes a kind of drudgery. And so what you do is you find a way to be excited about the work. You still make it yours. You own it. You claim it with the flag of your voice thrust into the earth of the work. And this is true with any writing you’ve got going on, whether it’s a personal project or freelance or a story you’re forced to continue at the hands of a rabid fan who has kidnapped you and hobbled you by chopping off your foot (YOU DIRTY BIRDIE, YOU). Discover your own door into the material. Find the You-shaped hole in every story. Getting excited during a day of writing makes it go easier. It makes it fun and insane and is one of the many things that can elevate the raw ore of craft to the glittery baubles of art. Get geeked about your story. Write what thrills you. Every day of writing, sit down and ask: what am I going to write that excites me today?

Going back a few blog entries, writing is lonely work, when it gets down to it. And if you lose sight of *why* you write, it becomes a non-paying job where your motivation is guilt and inadequacy. That’s just no good.

I’ve been having trouble with The Beard. It’s far more plotty than its predecessor. The Switch was a long time in edits and foot-dragging, but it was ultimately intended to be a pure smut novella, a one-off. Then I got intrigued by Will and Emmaline, and then the other characters started filling out in my head, so I pursued it. But that world – the rich, spoiled, country-club elite in their late 20s? I can’t fucking relate to that! How the hell do I do this, I’ve been wondering?

I recently delved into the first of many old journals. Old as in 1991. The year I graduated high school, pined and angsted over the love of my life, wrote half the time in Theban script, and eventually migrated from Virginia to Boston for college. There’s a lot of embarrassing drama in there, and so much insecurity. But there’s also a person. People. And experiences. And somewhere in all that mess is a state of being I’d forgotten, happily. But in forgetting that era of late teens and 20-somethingishness, I’d lost touch with a type of character. Incidentally, the age and type of character I am often writing about. Lucky me – my old, uncertain, young-adult self left me a gift, a bouquet of buds that can unfurl into fictional characters I can remember and actually relate to. And hopefully, better describe so that readers can relate to them, too. 

And, so, one of my 2014 ideas/aspirations/projects:

Read the Journals, take notes, get inside my characters’ heads more realistically.

(I know, not very exciting except to me – it’s one of those behind-the-scenes resolutions)

And on a similar note:

Actually journal again.

I have a crazy number of old journals to slough through. I used to journal like breathing, which is why I was so prolific at it – most of it is a bunch of whining tripey shit. As I matured, I guess I grew out of navel-gazing. And now, I struggle with the idea of journalling; I hate the thought of writing about how my house is falling down around me and how we owe the government money we don’t have. All the same, there are always gems tucked in amidst that crap – moments of beauty and poignancy. And pen-to-paper *is* important time.

Going *back* to Chuck’s Wisdom and the whole love-your-words thing, I’ve also been conflicted over genre-writing. Romance and Erotica is my main thing. But did you know I was also a songwriter? There’s a whole other side of writing that I love, that has no place in these genres. Don’t argue with me – it’s the truth. Abstract imagery and from-the-gut descriptors are about as appropriate and reader-friendly in Romance as filet mignon at a vegan brunch. Both are totally valid and potentially delicious, but it’s useful to know where things go.

At the same time, I have these story ideas in my head and notebooks that – well, it’s not fair to me to keep neglecting them just because ‘they won’t sell.’ Particularly when I’m barely making enough on what I do write to buy an occasional cup of coffee. And, so:

I will play with my black sheep plot bunnies on a semi-regular basis. (This may or may not include fan fiction, if I damn well feel like it)

Don’t worry, The Beard is still getting written, as is everything else. But I have to ease off the bad feelings and anxiety and learn to love the words again. That’s what these resolutions are about.

I also have some non-writing resolutions:

In 2014 I will finally restring my piano. Bass strings for pianos are damned expensive, as are tuning pins – restringing an older instrument like mine will require a slight increase in pin size. But I love my piano so very much. It’s been a long time coming to do this. Right now, however, I am focusing on the action – the moving parts and guts, reconditioning them as much as possible.

Building up a repertoire for paid piano gigs. I need to be supplementing my income, and since it’s stressing me out too much to make writing the only thing to fill that gap, I am turning to my 35-year-old skill, brushing off the rust, and making myself available for weddings and parties and whatnot. Not right away, but I’m spending the next six months building up a repertoire for it, hopefully in time for wedding season.

Continue my journey of focusing on health improvement rather than weight loss. Pretty self-explanatory. Don’t troll my blog on this, either – it’s not up for debate or discussion. I’m exercising and eating for health and to ease anxiety. Focusing on weight loss only causes me anxiety and unhappiness, has never in all my years resulted in any permanent change or improvement, and has never actually helped my health. If I never lose another pound, I don’t care – as long as my body continues to grow stronger and my cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose and other shit stay in the healthy range. This would be the same regardless of weight or size.

Listen to more music. On this, I actually mean to start a focused habit of regular deep-listening. The kind we used to do in the studios in college. In fact, now that I think about it, this month I’ll need to set up my Tannoys downstairs in my music area. Related to this, expect to see a weekly music geek-out post.

Read more. Similar to the music thing. Very much about feeding the soul.

Have more orgasms. Something we all should aspire to. Orgasms of all shapes and sizes. Good for the body *and* the soul.

Take a damned vacation. The husband and I haven’t been on a vacation since our honeymoon. We’re pretty broke, so ‘vacation’ might be nothing more than camping in the mountains, a weekend in Savannah, or a longer weekend in NOLA (I really, really want to do that last one).

I think that’s about it. I have some other ideas I’m kicking around, like doing a weekly tarot card writing project – picking one card out of a deck, studying it separate of its textbook meaning, and maybe writing a one-shot for it. I’m also not completely letting go of the idea of a sloppy serial. That one might actually get more attention as I’m perusing the journals, since the original draft is such a total marysue self-insert from those times. 🙂

Anyway, peace and love and delicious lusciousness for 2014, y’all! Here’s a humpday hottie to get us started:

Unf.

 

Just… damn.

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