Monday, March 15, 2010

The Coping Classes

It's been an upsy-downsy busy week, writing, spearing fish, writing, re-doing our drivers licences, writing, talking to an Australian agent about a non-fiction book, writing, talking to someone about an e-book seminar, writing, long e-mails to Misty and Eric about the latest book, writing etc... your life does become interwoven with your writing. I'm never too sure whether it would be better to have a dull non-chaotic unworried life (and I have had little pieces of that... somewhere down the line) and escape into an exciting writing bit, without the disturbance, or if the disturbance feeds back into it. On the whole I could part with the 'worry' aspect, and being able to order less chaos when the pressure is on... would be nice. But that's not going to happen so we deal with it.

The big question is just how you deal with it. If you want to be a career writer, you cannot let it overwhelm you. You have to evolve mechanisms of coping and continuing. For instance I KNOW my unhappiness leaks into my writing. My state of mind when writing MUCH FALL OF BLOOD - and dealing with having to leave my country and the way that tore at me, and my mum's death, was not a good mental place to be. Add that to the uncertainty in the industry and the fact that I would have to leave my comfort zone - and risk my family - canine, feline and human was tougher than I was really up to. But I could not stop writing to get past it, because that's my income. So: - coping strategies - firstly I was even more disciplined than normal about daily wordcount - I dropped the numbers a bit, out of reality, but did not stop. Secondly - it was going to leak so why not make it a factor in the book, make the book more powerful by writing about those things. I suppose aspects of what loyalty and indeed patriotism mean are strong recurring (non-PC) themes in my work. MUCH FALL OF BLOOD is probably more about these things than any other book I've written - but I tried to use this as building blocks, not just a catharsis (who the hell wants your catharis or your misery? but they might want your solutions and your passion)and kept the story aspect strong.

I won't know - until the reader-feedback starts - if I got it right.
But how do you do it?
What strategies do you have for working past real life intervening and influencing?

23 comments:

C Kelsey said...

We shall see how I do trying to keep a regular writing schedule with real life doing it's real-lifey things at the same time. The goal is 8 - 10,000 words per week.

Kenn Crawford said...

Very nice post. I write as a hobby so I do not make an income from writing, but I have had quite a few things happening all at once when I was supposed to be writing my novel. Like you, I lowered the daily word count I set for myself and just kept writing.
Some days I wrote complete jibberish, other days I couldn't focus on my novel at all so I wrote about the things in my life that were bothering me and I really let it all out! Breaking my own rule of "never throw anything out" I did delete these personal rantings because I did not want people to stumble across them, but it was nice to be able to "get it out of my system" even if I was the only person to read it. Nonetheless it was "out" of me and I seemed to be able to focus more on what I wanted to be writing, when I was writing.
Not sure if that's the best method for coping with life while writing, but I finished my novel, so it worked for me.
~Kenn

matapam said...

It is very difficult to understand something well enough to write it, without having experienced it. We discussed that yesterday with regard to the hold history has on a people, or lack thereof.

However painful, you have to feel at least a shadow of the emotion to even start from. For instance, as a parent, now that I've had a child seriously injured, I know that icy chill of absolute terror, and I can imagine going further down that road, only dimly seen before.

While life is being interesting for you now, Dave, I suspect you'll be writing from a base of bone deep understanding, newly acquired.

I think that only if you led us into deep misery and bad endings that this would negatively affect your readership.

Jim McCoy said...

I personally fight hard to find time to write the stuff I want to write, but I do make time. I work full time, go to school full time and take care of my daughter while my wife is at work. The latter is a 30+ hour a week full time job in and of itself, as my wife works days and I have my daughter from the time she wakes up until I go to work/school. I have to wait until after I get home from work/school (depending on the night) to do homework and write. I usually try to do about fifteen to thirty minutes of writing a night before falling asleep on the couch reading something for pleasure. The main thing for me is just the straight discipline to force myself to do it. Yeah, it's tough, but it won't get done if I just give up on it and I AM GOING TO FINISH THIS NOVEL.
If it doesn't get published, then whatever. As long as I can get it done and submit to a couple of different publishers I'll be happy. But honestly, for me it just comes down to forcing myself to do it.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Dave said:

'(who the hell wants your catharsis or your misery? but they might want your solutions and your passion)'

I love this comment it is so true. I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel because, sometimes in real life, we can't see that light.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Matapam,

I hope your child is recovering.

As a mother of 6 kids who have had their share of accidents, I know that terrible clutch of cold terror.

Dave Freer said...

Chris - you can guarantee real life will try to intervene. Each unto their own method but I found a _daily_ minimum worked a lot better than a weekly one for me. Shorter period = less inclined to put it off to the very end. I'm now actually thinking of making it a morning, afternoon and/or evening minimum (you must do 2 of these three Dave. You cannot fish/dive/walk/go to sea/climb unless you have sufficient clocked up as spare.)

Dave Freer said...

Kenn, the 'every single day' works for me. And words do pile up.

Dave Freer said...

Matapam I agree - the one 'difficult'point sometimes is going to be getting something which is also proabably outside of your readers expercience field across so it means something/can be accepted. For instance if a first world society (such as the US) has a romanticised view of a nomadic life on horseback - and you go and live with a bunch of camel-herders and find that it's almost anything but that romanticised view... you're going to need to be quite a writer to show this.

"I think that only if you led us into deep misery and bad endings that this would negatively affect your readership"

I agree. And this I will not do.

Dave Freer said...

Jim - writing is about self-discipline. You're doing it right.

matapam said...

Rowena,

It was years ago, and in the end amounted to a broken arm that required surgery and lots and lots of bruises. So, a full recovery, but a very sharp emotional memory.

Stephen Simmons said...

"Into every reign, a little life must fall ..."

Like some of the others here, I'm not a pro, at least not yet. I write when I can manage the time, and that doesn't happen every day. But, having grown up in the household of an alcoholic who began his recovery during my adolescence, I learned a thing or two about "accepting the things e cannot change" and living my life around them. The stories progress in my head, even if I can't get to the keyboard ...

Matapam, I had that experience in reverse, a long time ago, and have wondered for forty years how my mother got through it. She is a (retired now) ER nurse and volunteer rescue squad member; my seven-year-old self was on my way to meet her at the grocery store when I was hit by a drunk driver. Just as she was coming out of the store. She was the first medical professional on the scene.

Chris McMahon said...

Not sure if I can hand out too much advice, Dave. Last year knocked me for six. Mind you - I did keep writing.

It has always helped me to write early in the day, as the first thing I do. Then if the day gets crazy, or something comes up, I have at least made some progress.

It mought sound like a no-brainer, but don't forget to sleep. I am the worst culprit on that one - I am always cutting sleep then collapsing into a heap.

Mind you those two pieces of advice work against each other if you need to get up early to write. Mnnn. Yep I'm no help.

Kate said...

Coping... What is this thing called coping?

The way my job is right now, my goal is down to the uber-simple. Try to write SOMETHING non-work related daily. Anything. Even if it's only a few lines and gets deleted later anyway.

Writing remains something I sneak in when I've got a moment or two, and slip a sentence in here, another there. Plays hell with continuity, but it's better than no progress at all.

Just as well the only deadlines right now are for work things - which, since that's where the income comes from, tends to take priority.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Right now coping is an issue. I swear I hate writing proposals and then waiting. I don't cope well with uncertainty. Add to that that the younger son is having one of those years again (though that seems to be smoothing out) and I pretty much just want to hide in a hole and write. Unfortunately no hole available, and my normal coping strategy of holing up in a hotel to write is nixed because what I'm writing is NOT under contract and I can't financially justify spending the money.
So, writing happening incrementally while the house is being slowly changed to give me a place where I can close the door and write.
My signs of extreme stress are that I can't read fiction (no space left for the emotions) and,in the more scary cases, I read non stop about dinosaurs. Why dinosaurs? I don't KNOW.

matapam said...

Dinosaurs, eh? Boning up on Dragon Archeology, more like. You know, the parallel world where the asteroid missed? Yeah those poor scientists who come though for a peek at Mammal World . . .

matapam said...

Drat. Just realized what was missing in my parallel worlds Urban Fantasy. Dinosaurs. Now at the end of the Grand Cycle, when the worlds merged and then split, just which sorts or dinosaurs left traces, and what did the results look like? Creature from the Black Lagoon? Mermaids? Hmm . . .

Dave Freer said...

Stephen, coping with my kids injuries (and I'm an ex-army medic - I saw things you didn't want to think about, just deal with) was incredibly difficult. I take my hat off to your mum.

Dave Freer said...

Chris... As one 'sleep is expendable' to another - how do you stop your brain being in overdrive so you CAN sleep. I know I'm rubbish when overtired, but its really hard not let myself be there.

Dave Freer said...

Kate dear ;-) - given a desert island, a tribe of willing slaves at your beck and call to answer to your every imagined whim and megatonne of dark chocolate... why do I feel you would still be lurching from over-busy chrisis to next deadline ;-). You are to these things what the raingod is to water, and I am to misadventure. ;-) Still may the megatonne of Belgian dark chocolate come into your life.

Dave Freer said...

Sarah - I detest writing proposals and waiting of course is my favorite passtime - especially when I KNOW (which publishers seem sadly ill-informed about) that theys GREAT books needing to be written now, if not yesterday. And how is the postage-stamp collection for sending me some shark-bait going?

Dave Freer said...

Rowena said -

'(who the hell wants your catharsis or your misery? but they might want your solutions and your passion)'

I love this comment it is so true. I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel because, sometimes in real life, we can't see that light.

Rowena -So... why does this seem to bypass so many writers? Books - especially in bleak times are comfort food, and uplifting. They're a crutch, a shelter and lift. We KNOW life isn't always like that. Does that stop us wanting it to be?

Kate said...

Dave,

Rowena -So... why does this seem to bypass so many writers? Books - especially in bleak times are comfort food, and uplifting. They're a crutch, a shelter and lift. We KNOW life isn't always like that. Does that stop us wanting it to be?

At a guess because most writers are kind of fragile and there's something cathartic about bleeding all that misery and despair onto the page.

Which is all well and good, but readers are not ersatz psychotherapists and don't need what should be written and then put aside.

Plus, there is an audience in the intelligent angsty teens - and anyone else with that mindset. That was when I found Donaldson's Thomas Covenant Chronicles and devoured them avidly. Now? Can't read them.