Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A day in the life

The last time I was working simultaneously on multiple large writing projects at once was when I was finishing my dissertation and drafting the novel that eventually became The Sword Between. And by simultaneously, I mean working on both projects every day so that my brain had to toggle back and forth between the two. It was easier then.

Partially because the writing styles were so different. Writing academic nonfiction is like writing speculative fiction only in that the component parts for both are words, and I say that as someone whose academic interests have always overlapped heavily with her creative ones. So switching from arguments and footnotes and translating dead languages in the morning to characters and fight scenes and, okay, sometimes translating dead languages again, in the evening was a pretty clear mental switch. Sure, there were frustrations - I sometimes felt like I might never finish anything, and would simply write and write into some verbal event horizon, but I coped with that by writing a lot of flash fiction. (If you want to read it, it's all on this blog. Search "free fiction.") The power of typing *ENDS* got me through a lot.

It also helped that writing the dissertation was my day job. None of the things I am actively writing (versus doing research on) right now are part of my day job. Yet even though classes are not in session, I spent about two hours yesterday dealing with day job things. Summer vacation simply means not teaching. It does not mean not working.

So this is the part of the learning to be a writer process where I learn to work on multiple creative projects at once. It's tricky. I made my page count on my revision yesterday (this is the thing I work on first, because it has the most pressing deadline), but it was work. Not so much because I was working on any terribly difficult scenes (I should hit the worst of those this weekend), but because writing is a job. And like any job, sometimes your brain would rather go walk on the beach than sit at the desk. And even at the desk, it would rather play Plants vs. Zombies than figure out the emotional beats for the secondary character.

And the work for the day isn't done when the page count is made. Because there's the rewrite on the next book, or the next scene for the ballet I am writing with my wonderful friend, Megan. And I cannot just let them sit off to the side, neglected, because then I will lose the thread of the story, or stop being able to suspend my own disbelief in the speculative elements, or the nasty voice of doubt inside my head will grow to loud to be drowned out by my own excitement about doing something new and different.

Maybe this sounds like I'm complaining. I'm not. Yes, the work is hard, and sometimes frustrating. But I am lucky - I am doing work I love, on projects I love, with people I love. I will say it again: I am lucky.

But I talk here a lot about how writing is awesome and wonderful, and how excited I am that this is the thing I am doing. All of that is still true, and it hasn't changed, and I hope it doesn't. But sometimes I feel like I am painting a disingenuous picture, that by not talking about the days where my job as a writer really feels like a job, by only celebrating the acceptances and not mentioning that I still get rejection letters (just last week, in fact), by not talking about the days where I am full of doubt, that I'm not actually being honest.

And I say these things now not because I'm trolling for hugs, or pats on the back, or remarks in the comments about how awesome I am, but just as a reminder that I am a working writer. I'm at the beginning of my career, and so there's still a learning curve. I'm still figuring things out. And this is what that looks like.

No comments:

Post a Comment