Process, Schmocess

 

My trusty, late-night writing companion

I’m shy/not shy about discussing my writing “process.” I actually dislike the word “process” when it comes to writing because it makes writing sound both vaunted and ridiculously precious at the same time.

I’m often shy sharing mine here because the posts on TKZ are created by professional, grown-up writers. Most have regimented schedules, produce work, reward themselves, and move onto the next project. They support families and/or themselves. Writing is a job. They also have other jobs, whether they be at home, or working outside the home. They blow me away every day with their dedication, creativity, and professionalism.

Weirdly, I’m also a professional, grown up writer. Though I’m a professional writer who has resisted schedules all her life. The ADHD is an issue. My brain can truly hyper-focus, but when it’s not hyper-focusing, it’s constantly on fire. It can’t be still at all. It constantly searches for novelty and stimulation. ADHD meds clamp down my creativity like an empty yogurt carton trapping a spider in the front hallway. Oh, and the yogurt carton has the Complete Works of Shakespeare on top of it. No more web-spinning, fly-sucking, or terrorizing the kiddies for that spider! (Hmmm. That about describes my creativity, though I’ve never actually drained a fly. I found myself weirdly desirous of eating a dead one once–but that’s another blog.)

Every so often, I dive into schedules and calendars and self-help books and organization projects. They delight me! The future immediately looks so bright! I love the idea of not writing at two in the morning because I couldn’t settle down all day to the work. (I don’t enjoy overnight writing, but I often do it out of necessity.) Schedules discourage writing right up to deadline. What a brilliant concept.  I’ve actually done it a few times and it was AMAZING. Like Graeter’s Ice Cream amazing. First kiss amazing. (Actually, my first kiss was kind of awful. But that’s also another blog. Or not.) Finding six Hershey’s kisses from last Christmas at the back of the cabinet when you’ve been out of chocolate for an entire day amazing. Dang, that’s a great feeling, isn’t it?

I’ve been in next-book mode for months and have restarted it three times. We’re talking between 30 and 50 pages started. I just couldn’t figure out WHERE the book needed to start because it’s a story with a higher number than my usual amount of turning points. (Hey, I used one of those professional writer terms here. Woot.) This is a big book, a big story. It’s opened in different time periods and with different characters. Also different POVs. Many (more sensible) writers would’ve moved on to another idea by now. Another writer might have been at their desk daily at 8:30 a.m. and gone through the three restarts in a few weeks.

Did I mention I’m 56.5 years old? I’ve been writing for thirty years. Honestly, my meandering process has changed little. I’ve written ten novels (eight of which have been published, 2 will remain unseen), anthologies, short stories, essays, blogs, articles, book reviews. There were even several profitable copywriting gigs. Somehow I’ve produced a reasonably significant amount of work.

But I still hunger for the right schedule. The right way to work. The right amount of finished pieces. I still imagine there’s a Platonic Ideal of Laura’s Writing Career out there.

Perfectibility is the eternal illusion. A quest at least as old as the first cave artist who sketched an Ibex that came out looking like a prairie dog, scraped it off and tried again. And again. Funny how we look at so many of those cave paintings now and think them wondrous. Are they perfect? Who’s to say? By what standards can we judge ancient art? We can classify it. Trace developments over time by looking at similar work. Say one artist’s work is somehow better than another. But each effort stands alone. Human creations are imperfectible, just like humans. (My opinion, y’all. I’m not itching to argue religion or philosophy here…) Here’s the cool thing I’ve discovered about the desire for perfection, though: It keeps me striving. As long as I don’t constantly kick myself for not ever being perfect, I still get plenty of satisfaction.

I will probably die with the notion of the Platonic Ideal of Laura’s Writing Career in my head. Oh, well. It’s definitely far less difficult to live with than it used to be.

Every time I post on Facebook these days, I get some stupid message about how people really respond better to posts with pictures. “Posts with pictures are more popular than posts without pictures, Laura Benedict. Why don’t you include some pictures in this post? And, by the way, you can go ahead and add your photos to this post, and we will automatically remove any preview links you’ve already included in the post, thus completely destroying it. You may then add pictures to your new post.”

So I’m going to add some pictures here. This is what my life has been like over the past five days in which I was hyper-focusing on the third start on this novel. I’m pretty sure I got it almost right this time, in the tradition of horseshoes and hand grenades.

They’re not lovely pictures. But in my life, creation is messy, and occasionally people have to make their own dinner.

After the photos:  Tell us about your process. Or your quest for perfection. Or creativity/work habits that really work for you. We are always open to new ideas here!

Where I slept last night because it’s not fair to disturb a sleeping husband at 5:00 a.m. when he usually gets up at six.

Trust me. You don’t want to see the front.

Sustenance. All the food groups. Plus, I roasted those pecans on Sunday. No one can say I didn’t cook.

I think a dozen clementines, two apples, and a 1/2 grapefruit count as nutrition, yes?

Uniform. Or as I like to call them, Second Jammies.

Bonus: Sometimes if you take the dog out to pee at 1:30 in the morning, there’s a ring around the moon.

Husbands can feed themselves. Birds can too. But I can’t convince Husband to go out and hop around the pole to entertain me when I look out the window as I write.

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What Scares YOU?!

spider

Photo (c) Copyright 2015, New Media Investment Group.

It is almost Halloween. The Just Born Candy Company (the fine folks who bring us Marshmellow Peeps!) have Ghost, Tombstone, and Pumpkin Peeps (as well as some pricey limited edition flavors) out right now. They don’t have Spider Peeps. I consider that to be a good thing, for the reason set forth below.

Long time TKZ visitors will recall that I have blogged on the topic of fear and what scares you and me. Given that we are approaching Halloween, I thought that we might visit it once again, giving our more recent visitors a chance to weigh in as well. Fear is a great inspiration for writing. Take what you fear most and write about it, spinning the topic out to its worst case scenario. I have three major fears: 1) spiders, 2) spiders, and 3) spiders. I apparently have some notoriety in this regard as, when one does a image google of me, a couple of pictures of spiders appear within the montage of America’s Most Wanted posters. How nice. I also don’t care much for heights or closed-in places. Put me in a spider-filled coffin suspended fifty feet in the air and you might as well kill me. In fact, if I’m ever in that position, please do. I spray the interior and exterior of my house twice a year with an insecticide called Suspend (and a tip of the fedora to Carl Causey, husband of author Toni McGee Causey, for that suggestion!) but, as this article in the Friday morning news demonstrates, the spiders in my house and their homeslices have merely withdrawn and are regrouping on a bridge in Columbus, five to ten thousand strong, planning a flank attack even as I type. I’m waiting for you, demon spawns, with a sprayer full of Suspend and cleated boots and a twelve-gauge shotgun. I don’t care what the guy in the video in the article says, about how interesting they are, or how their fangs aren’t sharp enough to pierce the skin of a human being. Is he nucking futs? He’s gonna let one of those things get close enough to you to determine whether or not its fangs will break your skin? Not me.

There was a time during the past year when I was driving over that bridge twice a night, every night. No more. The current occupants are probably busily weaving the largest web you’ve ever seen, even as they chitter, “{{{wherrrzzz Joezzzz?}}},” ready to drop it on me as I drive by. It won’t happen. Obviously, I won’t be traversing that route until the temperature is somewhere south of zero and they are all curled up in a glare of ice. And those folks who are walking on the bridge to get a peek at what five thousand spiders — at least — look like? Unbelievable!

So what scares the living daylights out of you? Have you written about the topic of your (ir)rational fear? Do you plan to?

 

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