Thursday, August 9, 2018

Focus, on

As per usual, I think about blogging, and then I do something else instead. I wish I could sit down with some of the personalities that do this sort of thing regularly and well, and pick their brain about how it is for them.

I mentioned some time ago that I was using a very simple organizational tool that laid out all my projects and let me tab notes about the progress of each. (I'm still brainstorming on the first act of the play, but the script for the comic is about ready to be put down. The short story is slipping, though, so I'll be attempting that soon.) I've continued to use it, even more so now that the novel is marching along. I'm almost 30k in, and it's transitioned from concepts floating around in space to story elements with relationships to each other, details in between. I have an idea of where it could actually go, and that feels pretty good. But one of the bullets lower down the priority list was concerning my networking and submissions. The idea that continues to glare is the simple thought that a person can write a million words, but unless someone is made aware of them, it won't much matter, in regards to reaching others. Not that I write all that much, but similarly to this blog, to reaching out, I tend to keep my hands inside the coaster and twiddle along by myself.

So, I finally submitted novels to agents for representation. It was a strange revelation, that I had two novels, completely unattached, ready for submission. Distinctly different, each several drafts into the process, Beta read and double spaced. My goal some time ago was to get some novels completed, and then make submissions. I know I'm not good at promoting myself. I would rather pay someone a percentage of all my earning potential to help me with something I'm that weak at and not at all interested in. I made that decision, and then went on to writing in the meantime. Evidently, years passed in the offing, and when I lifted my head from the grindstone, I had work to present. I was also happy to discover that there are new agents just like there are new authors, people who went to work for publishers fresh out of grad school, with the contacts and the networking savvy to do the job. All they lack is a stable of clients producing content they could sell. I read through a bunch of submission guidelines, and conformed a few packets. Penned query letters and sent them off. The next step is waiting. Always waiting.

In the mean time, I feel like I'm almost halfway through the current novel. There have been some surprises, and the shocks rattled my confidence at points. But I remember the dusty advice: get it all down before you realize it sucks. Writing is a neurotic activity. The other day I was operating a drywall lift in a friend's basement wondering aloud at why I had such a desire to write. "Because you're a writer," he said, then, "it needs to go toward you." He didn't really understand my thought, but then again neither did I. Neither do I. Also, while I wasn't paying attention, I went right over the threshold of the 10,000 hours where I am unlikely to deeply enjoy doing anything else with my life but this thing I've committed to.

Which is the brighter side, I think. I've had some challenging experiences, too, but I'm practicing this week, at acknowledging the bad parts only enough to mine out the potential for good that they carry.

Which is to say I'm still putting one foot in front of the other. Also still lots of stumbling. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Water water everywhere

Just over a week in the new place. I missed my first great opportunity to write, but I only feel a little bad about that. In the time since bringing in the last box, a few different ideas have bubbled up out of my nighttime thoughts, one of them so strong it formed into a kind of sense during the next waking day. I feel good. I will put words on the page again.

It's also June, which is obvious, but was not so apparent to me as when I went over my mental list of things I wanted to accomplish over the next few seasons. Primarily, I'm getting back up onto the submission horse. The house that accepts submissions without an agent will be opening its doors again this winter, and I would like to have another offering. The plan was to write all year on the latest novel. And now it's June.

So, a step back to organize, in a real space others who might keep me accountable could see.

First, the novel. I have things outlined up to a certain point, but I need to go back and familiarize myself, to wade into all of that tone and theme. It's also a modern setting, so all the research I did, and everything I've learned since will be of import. Deadline is Christmas.

Another would be a short story, the thing that came up out of a dream, and stuck. It connects with another novel I wrote, and could serve to wet the appetite, or wet the feet, of someone thinking of diving into that world and story. I think it has good placement; I have good feelings about that, too.

A while back, years, I tried and failed at writing a stage play. In the time since, I've seen more, and read more, and understand more. And in the period when I wasn't devoting so much focus to one specific project, all sorts of things occurred to me. Several of them were scenes for the play. In addition, I got a chance to talk to some professionals in the field, and I feel ready to at least attempt the first couple scenes of the first act.

In that same vein of just sitting back and letting my wheels turn, I also made some headway on a contemporary novel which I have been collecting ideas for, for even longer. Back when I had the support of mentors and advisers and a college campus, I was at a workshop where I received good advice before I knew what good advice sounded like. I'm not sure if I'll ever go back to school, but I've always fancied the Twain quote "I've never let schooling get in the way of my education," and so this thing will be written, whether or not I'm in a program designed to get it published.

Which is a lot. After all, I still need to make more submissions and find an agent and network and all of that. The metaphor I will be going with is breaking the surface of the water to find no land in sight. I was drowning, and now I am not drowning. But there is still so much more work to do. I cannot even entertain the thought of rescue. Which is a lot. And I'm sure there will be cramps, and hunger pangs, and so, so many hallucinations. I may even pick the wrong direction, or end up spinning in circles, tossed by powers out of my control.

But if I just keep swimming, I'll make it eventually.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Back in my daze

I've always found journeys interesting, from those most strictly defined to those unbound by figurative language. I find myself in position these days to stare into the back of many a contractor's vehicle. There's a surprising amount of carpet, and a somewhat unexpected amount or pride, also. What perplexes me more than anything though is how often the painter is surprised at how much space they're missing, that there was no plan to haul away what they just purchased. Staring at the back of their head, or the side of their face, all of their posture begs the question of "how did it get like this?" Much like the carpet, the shelves tell a story, the paint splatters, the piles of equipment, the disparate pieces of various machines, broken poles, ruined brushes, scraps of paper and plastic and plans.

Recently, a kind of fog lifted for me. I had a few different things rolling downhill at me, and after dodging a few of them (or, letting a few of them roll over me, then recovering) I cleared a bit of brain space. I wondered what had happened to this blog, and my writing, and my stories, ones I had written, ones I was in the middle of writing, and ones I had only the barest ideas of. I was convinced that for one particular story, I had come up with the greatest name for a character in contemporary American literature. I think I was safe to feel this way because I was also convinced that I would never find the name. I had to go back four years in my catalog of musings and scribbles. I blinked when I looked at the date. Surely, it hadn't been that long. But rolling back the clock also showed me what my productivity was like, month to month, season to season. It had been four years. It had been over a year since I had even thought of this idea. I also found that name. The me of now and the me of 2014 had very different sensibilities. The me of now found the name to be far too unsubtle, clumsy and heavy handed. A small part of me was aware that I was a still growing, my tastes still changing, but mostly I was disappointed in myself. Shaking my head looking at the pile of refuse wondering how things had become so junky and ruined.

After I was done pitying myself, I understood the biggest takeaway was that I found my notes. I knew back then that I wasn't ready to write the story, so I had to put as many notes down as I could conceive, and time capsule them forward to a better, wiser version of myself. And while I can't be sure the package landed on the correct doorstep, I was energized to receive it. I made immediate plans for past novels, current novels, future novels. I didn't have to squint for an inkling of how I would spend this year in my writing. I updated my inventory of people and circumstances and conversations. I even remembered this dusty space and decided on some words to commit to a post. I felt like myself again.

So, the immediate thought would be a question. Where did I go? If I wasn't myself, who was I? If I was lost, how did I tumble off the trail? But, I think with a few steps' distance, the more important piece isn't a question at all, but a statement of fact: you can make it back. Perhaps wherever I was I had to go to find that.

Full is good.