Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A State of Chaos



At any given time, my life is in a state of chaos. This is not how life is supposed to be. And yet, looking around, I don’t see where it’s all that different for the rest of you.

What do I mean by this? Well, for the last 2 months – at least – I’ve been trying to finish a book I’m writing on spec. However, I really needed to write these proposals. Then this thing called Christmas intruded. Then there were various illnesses – not mine – and the great grades crisis. Events and emergencies swirl around me, sometimes sucking me out of my – I say it is, and you can’t doubt me! – zen like state, to make me do something about them.


Why do I say this is not how it’s supposed to be? Because it’s not how books are. This, of course, is because we lie for a living. And we have to. Anyone writing life as it really is would end up in the remaindered bin, if he got sold at all. In fiction, people want to see a story that has clear lines. (Not that I don’t try to reproduce this real life effect, by creating two or three secondary plots, so that there are other things going on. In past decades, they didn’t do that, hence the much shorter more linear – and better selling – novels.)


In turn, of course, these plots teach us that life is supposed to be orderly and make us really frustrated with our messing lives. Well, make me really frustrated.


A side effect of this is that I’ve found if I don’t take art classes, my writing dries up. Why? Are the brain areas linked? Quite possibly. But, more than that, I think – explaining why just doing art at home is not the same – it makes me shut down the words and follow verbal-visual directions to what I’m doing. This, by itself, rests the mind and brings me back, refreshed to my work. Mind you, I still have to fight the cats and the kids for writing space afterwards, but at least my mind works.


This having to fight life to write is so pronounced that all sorts of people have developed superstitions surround it. The idea that the moment you try to write reality attacks or you cause a hurricane of events around yourself, or whatever, seems to infect most writers at one time or another.


So, the writers out there how do you tell the winds and the waters "be still?" Sometimes it’s amazing to me that anyone manages to create anything at all. Do you as readers ever marvel at it? For everyone – do you think working outside the house would help? Do writers and other artists feel this effect more strongly because our production is not essential except in the monetary sense?


Sound off while I go into my office and try to finish three proposals! I’ll be back intermitently.

21 comments:

C Kelsey said...

I wish I could make things pause while I go write. I still have to finish a couple short stories that are turning out not to be very short (which then leads to the problem that they're too long for a magazine and too short for a novel). Plus I've an actual novel in the works. I promised myself I'd write an entry to the Jim Baen Memorial short story contest. Oh, I finished LKH's latest book with a distinct "I can do this better" feeling - which has led me to hunting for a magazine that publishes Urban Fantasy so that I know exactly what audience I'm writing to. Luckily, that story has a self-imposed word count of 5,000 or less (Of course I focused so much on how I could do it better, that there's an entire novel in my head now).

All that, and everytime I try to write, something else happens. I went to a favorite diner last night to write, but my food arrived before I'd even written a sentence. So, now there's a snowpocalypse supposedly hitting here today. I'm hoping the power goes out. My laptop is fully charged and I will sit there and write! :)

Ellyll said...

I'm just in awe that you have (even intermittenly) a zen-like state. The closest I've ever gotten to one is a sort of mental fetal position. ;)

And, apparently, I'm not allowed to bind and gag the children. (Who knew?)

Headphones, sometimes. I'm killing my hearing so I can write. ;) And sometimes I have to leave the house entirely, and sometimes I have to (gasp!) give up the computer entirely and go to a notebook where there is no chatting, forums (forii? fora?), or interesting blogs...

Good luck with those proposals. :)

matapam said...

Wait for everybody to go away.

Do all errands and shopping.

Turn off all the noise.

Avoid MGC, email, blogs . . .

I'm going to hate it if my consultant husband starts working out of the house full time. He not only plays music, he thumps and slaps pencils down and complains out loud when his work isn't going right, then he turn on a game and kills something, and goes happily back to work . . .

Amanda Green said...

Sarah, you've heard my complaints -- probably ad nauseum -- about trying to work at the house. I can do it, but only when everyone else is gone. Otherwise, there are too many distractions and too many interruptions which usually begin with, "I'm sorry to interrupt but do you think...". Since I'm not a morning person, getting up early to write is a lost cause. The brain just doesn't work then. And I try to work at night after the house is quiet but am usually too tired by then.

My best work is done at one of the nearby coffee shops, mp3 player going. I can get more done there in a couple of hours than in a week at home. Of course, then you run into the whole expectation that you buy something while there... ;-p

I'd kill for a week away in a hotel or a cabin where there are no outside distractions.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Sarah,

I do sympathise.

I am so tempted to run away to write. The life of a monk holds appeal for me.

I know someone who became a serial writer in residence at libraries, writers centres, that sort of thing. I know someone else who takes her lap top to the local coffee shop. They supply the coffee on tap and she supplies the inspiration.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Chris,

You HAVE to carve time to write and then make yourself doing it.

Oh the novel -- for years I had a cartoon on my fridge. Someone xraying a writer's head. "Yep, there's a novel in there. And it will have to come out."

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Ellyll

Next you're going to tell me it's illegal to duct tape teens into a long cigar-like shape and hang them by their ankles out the window! And here, I've convinced the neighbors it's a new therapy...

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Pam,

Weirdly, today I'm suffering from Dan's NOT working at home. The cats are ALL on me. ack. There are not enough hands. And you know the purr damages human minds.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Okay, Amanda, how much are hotels in the riverwalk going for? Let's run away and share a suite for a week or two and write.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Rowena,

No. Coffee shops are worse. Last time I was writing in the one near me there was a group of College Pratts (TM) arguing that it was sheer stuborness for the US to refuse to adopt the EU ways with public transportation because they'd really loved those while on vacation in Europe.

Next thing you know, I'm drawing maps of the typical European city, the typical American city (let's just say it doens't work so well here. For instance, my husband drives from downtownt o the suburbs for work. He's not alone. It's a mad crisscrossing, not a regular pattern. Portugal is getting like that too, which is driving is way up), pulling up statistics on work schedules (very scrambled for US) AND such and no work got done. Plus, I was riled the rest of the day.

This is sad. The inability to keep my mouth shut will be the death of me...

C Kelsey said...

Sarah,

Yeah, I have to make time. Sadly, this "superOMGstormofDOOM" that was supposed to hit us turned into a little fuzzy kitten of boringness. So I guess I'll have to artificially knock the power out tonight by hitting a couple of switches. ;)

Kate said...

Chaos? Never heard of it (she says from the wrong side of entirely too much of the white stuff, which is STILL coming down, and tries not to look at the evidence of house-keeping skills that would do a midden pit proud, or think too much about the ever-present rolling disaster of work gone feral).

And I don't HAVE kids, so the roll of duct tape solution any good to me. I don't see the company management holding still long enough to be duct taped to the ceilings.

Chris McMahon said...

Last year I really took a battering. I started to feel like I should not stick my head up over the ramparts at all. I guess the only conclusion was really just carry on - batten down the hatches and turn the prow into the wind.

It seems to be the same for other writers I know as well. Part of the problem is the sheer amount of time required to advance your craft and achieve any output.

matapam said...

Chris, I think the problem is that so many other people don't think you're _working_.

C Kelsey said...

Chris,
And so few people realize how much work it is... :(

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, matapam & Chris. So true! A while back I was working three days as an engineer and three days writing - six days a week. My family persisted in asking - 'So how is part time working out for you? Must be nice to have that free time.'

Its weird that you tell people that you are a writer, but they never make the connection that you actually spend time writing.

Holywood has a lot to answer for - shows like Californication.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Chris

Forget Californication. Sliding doors has to be one of my favorite movies, and when you get to the scene where she's saying "I know we'll be millionaires when you're done with your book" my writer friend and I laughed so hard we hurt ourselves. The rest of the theater was deadly still, and I'm sure couldn't understand why the madwomen were laughing.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Matapam

You know, I have this dream of renting a very small office downtown and going there for my work hours, thus not only ensuring I walk enough every day, but also that people KNOW I"m working.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Chris,

I've lost at least one friend who can't understand she can't call me at any time of the day or night and have me stop writing and talk to her for hours.

:(

This is why so many of a writer's friends end up being friends. Unfortunately not many of them close by, so socialization is difficult.

Stephen Simmons said...

Sarah,

Being someone for whom the writing bug-bite is still very recent, I can already relate to this VERY strongly. To my wife, and to Thing Oneand Thing Two, I'm "spending time on the computer". A single story sold for ten bucks does not a convincing argument make, in their eyes, that this is "work".

And it's VERY difficult to write a tragic post-battle scene with a playful beagle trying to climb into your lap ...

I find that my hour-long commute can be extremely productive - IF I can manage to remember the material long enough to get it out through my fingers when I get home. The times that hasn't worked out have been maddening, though.

keythong said...

Sarah,
I took a radical approach and changed my sleep cycle. I drive the cats out of the room, start up the coffee maker, fire up the off-line P.C. and sit for three to four hours until the Deann gets home from work. It means I have a short night- 3 hours, and I nap before working another couple of hours. But I get three hours of quite. I've got more work done on this schedule in a week than I did before in a month (I fall off the new schedule when work hours shift) The cats are mad at me about it. But it seems to work.