Thursday, May 27, 2010

Writing as a Job

Today is my day off from the job that currently pays my bills. Starting tomorrow, I work six days in a row, anywhere from 7 to 9 1/2 hours a day. Last week, I worked six days, seven shifts, close to fifth hours. I'm tired as anything, and I still got up on my day off, before the crack of dawn, to write. I'll do some housekeeping issues, and be writing by 6:30. By nine, I'll have popped out at least ten pages. I may take a break for a little, but then I'll be back writing, and by the end of the day will have close to two chapters done.

I talked about inspiration, or stubborness, in my last blog, and this is what I mean by stubborness. I hate getting up early. I've been doing it for nearly six years, and it doesn't get easier, you don't learn to like it. The only thing I've learned is that while I don't need caffeine to function first thing, I do need at least 20 minutes of total alone time in order to not snap people's heads off. But I get up early anyway, because if I don't, the day will go by, and I will have no more pages.

I'm not one of those writers who treats writing as a job with a boss. I know that nobody is hovering over me, pressing me to write more pages. I know that I have no time clock. The only deadlines are the ones that I set for myself. And I definitely don't have a paycheck.

At this stage, writing is something like volunteer work. I'm not getting paid. But every little bit that I write is something that eventually will serve a larger purpose. It's not something being done for fame or glory or because it's required. It's something that's done because I want to, because I have an overwhelming desire and urge to do it. It fulfills me, in the same way that volunteer work fulfills a lot of people.

But eventually, I do want to move from a volunteer position to a paying one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Inspiration...and Non-Inspiration

Some people are under the impression that as writers, we walk around in a haze of inspiration and creativity. I'm much more likely to walk around in a haze of confusion and absent-mindedness than anything else. That isn't to say that on occasion I don't have ideas pop into my head and I have to search frantically for pen and paper to write them down. I just tend to get more annoyed when that does happen.

Inspiration is almost always confused with force of will and determination. I can honestly say that I am never inspired at six in the morning when I sit down in front of my computer. I'm not inspired five minutes later, or thirty minutes later. But if I can sit myself down and start writing, that part of my brain that actually does all the writing will wake up and get going, and before I know it, I've got a good dozen pages. But again, this is not inspiration--this is willpower and stubborness.

Non-inspiration is just a way of saying I'm lazy or annoyed or pissed off. Let's face it, sometimes life is really, really frustrating, and just the thought of sitting down and writing a sentence shoots that annoyance to new levels. On those days, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that anything I write will be complete, utter crap. And since I'm already feeling lazy, wasting my time doing something I'm going to have to undo would really, really piss me off.

Having said all this, I'll go back and shoot myself in the foot and say that inspiration, that hazy mist of creativity, does exist. It can come from a song, or a snippet of conversation, sometimes just looking at a person is enough to get the creative juices flowing. One of the major scenes in Shades of Desire was inspired by a Nickelback song--I could almost see the action unfolding, like a music video of sorts. The entire premise for New Moon Rising came about after I wrote the first page completely on a whim--at the end of the first page, I had no idea what was going to happen, no clue, until I got to the end of the first long scene. Now, I'm so deep in this particular world, I couldn't imagine it not existing.

Whether you call in inspiration, determination, or non-laziness, something pushes us to write. And thank God for it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Writing How I Talk

One of the first things I hear from people who both know me and have read my writing is, "I can tell it's you," or "That sounds just like you." I'll admit, I have a distinctive way of speaking. It's a strange mixture of regional culture, family culture, and 5+ years in an industry where I hear a little bit of everything. My friends and I have sayings adapted from television or movies, twisted and turned and spun around until they're absolutely our own. My verbal quirks are theirs, and visa versa, which has a lot to do with how I write.

Every writer has a voice--I think we can agree with this, even if we may not like a writer's voice. In the same way, I'm inclined to believe that every generation has their own voice. By no means do I talk in the same way that my mother does, or the same way that my grandmother did. My sister and I, even though we're only three years apart in age, have a slightly different way of speaking as well. Not really word usage, or sentence structure, or anything so technical as that, but more sayings, phrases, and attitude.

So when I write about a character in the same generation as myself, give or take a few years, it's not surprising that the character, whoever they are, sounds like myself and my friends. It helps that I tend to stay in one region, because I'll admit, I have no idea how people, in say, Seattle or New York City converse. I'm going to go with the assumption that they don't talk about things like cow-tipping (no, I myself have not done it--but I know people). But where I come from, you're just as likely to hear about the latest political scandal as you are to hear about the latest high school football scores, usually in the same breath.

Is it easier? Sometimes. But sometimes it's harder, too. But then, that's almost everything about writing. Sometimes the easiest things are also the hardest--one of the reasons I love my work.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Opening a Vein

(Thanks to Shea McLeod's blog--more specifically the quote--to supplying the theme for this post.)

I've always been one of those people who's on the fence about therapy. Do I believe it works? Absolutely. Do I believe it would work for me? Not real sure. I tend to face most of my problems, and so I don't think sitting in a comfy chair or laying on an uncomfortable couch in a darkened room while someone nods their head sympathetically would really do me a lot of good. That's what I have friends for, to ramble and pick things apart and obsess and so on and so forth.

That's not to say that some things don't come spilling out on paper. Oh, I haven't gone through half the things my characters have gone through--my life just doesn't have that level of drama. But their reactions, their feelings--a good deal of that does come from me, my past experiences, my own feelings.

I have a bad habit of talking about my characters like their real people. My best friends and fellow writers know and understand, and even though the conversations can get a little crazy when I start going off on a rabbit chase, they're still easy to follow. When I was bringing them up to speed, I got to one particular part in the latest chapter. And even though they're very different people, and they received the info at different times, their reaction was the same--"That's a little harsh."

To get all of you on the same, haha, page, the main character, Cari, has had her parents murdered, has flashbacked to the night she miscarried what would turn out to be her only child, has found out the town secret (and boy, is it a doozy), and come face to face with her parents' murderer. Our girl is having a rough 24 hours. Her ex-husband, Mike, has just dropped another bombshell on her. I'll just post the "harsh" part directly.

“Fuck you.” It probably would have come out better if I wasn’t a half second away from full out sobbing. “I’ve loved you since I was sixteen. Sixteen. I’ve never regretted it, until now.”
(Forgive the formatting)

Now, they didn't object to the language--if they did they wouldn't be friends with me because I curse like a sailor. No, they thought her declaration of regret was harsh. They didn't really have a reason behind it, just the thought that it was harsh. Which was interesting to me, because both of them are---let's call them volatile. One of them has thrown a hair dryer at an ex-boyfriend. The other had a five minute rule--if she called her boyfriend and he didn't answer, he had five minutes to call back. Or it would be ugly.

Me? I didn't think she was harsh enough. I'm not one for violence, but I would definitely be looking for something to cause some lasting physical damage. But since they both had the same reaction, I had to step back and think--was I, as the writer (in theory, the one in control) being too harsh?

This is the point where that nifty title comes into play, and the therapy talk. As writers, we're given the most amazing gift, the ability to tell a story. But it comes with a price, at least for most of us. I'm sure there are some writers who can tell a story without pulling out pieces of themselves--I'm not one of them. When I write a scene full of emotional turmoil, it's not just emotional for my characters, but for me. If I'm not moved by what I write, how can I expect other people to be moved?

Writing is like opening a vein. Like letting little drops of blood hit the page. It's messy, and exhausting, and exhilarating all at the same time. It's self-discovery, and discovery of human nature, and if that's not therapy at it's most basic level, I don't know what is.

But even if it's not, it's a helluva lot cheaper than therapy. And I didn't have to lay on any weird leather couches.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Typical Sunday

I'm going to go out on a limb, and say that my typical Sunday is not quite the same as your typical Sunday. I could be wrong (it's been known to happen, sometimes even more than one time a day), but for the majority of people, I'd say that my Sunday is more like something out of their worst nightmare.

Sunday starts at 4:30--in the morning. Yes, in the morning. I'm at work by 5:30 (ok, 5:45, but close enough), and I kick off what could be anywhere from an 8 to a 10 hours shift. I haven't pulled a straight 10 hour shift in a while, and I'm not complaining about that at all. Come football season--which reminds me, I need to find out ticket prices for the FSU v. Florida game--a 10 hour shift is much more likely.

The job that gets me up at such an ungodly hour in order to pay my bills is one that keeps me on my feet, no break, no stopping, and a lot of ingratitude. Yes, I work in the restaurant industry, or as I call it on a particularly bad day, the ninth level of hell. I won't say where I work, or who I work for, just because it's something that you can't really pull a CYA on. Besides, if I truly hated it (which is only on some days), I wouldn't still be working there after nearly six years.

Most people sleep late on Sunday, or late-ish. They get up and go to church, maybe, or putter around the house. But it's astounding the number of people who go out for breakfast on Sunday mornings. Astounding. When I was growing up, Saturday was the going out for breakfast day, because Sunday was church and then Sunday dinner. Maybe people just don't do Sunday dinner anymore.

Sunday is busy. Ridiculous, insane, sick busy. On average, there are about 13, maybe 14 girls (yes, we're all girls--men, you're awesome for some things, but every guy I've worked with has been a whiner--just saying) going in and out of the kitchen, getting drinks, traying food, bringing back dishes, and so on and so forth. Add in 2-3 dishwashers and at least 6 cooks, and the back of the house is pretty packed.

Which says nothing about the front of the house, or what most people call the dining room. Our average turn in an hour is about 120, 130. We've done 145+, sometimes for two or three hours straight, and that gives a whole new definition to brutal. We've got extra chairs on the ends of booths, people squeezed in next to each other--it's more than a little crowded.

I'll leave how people act up to your imagination. If you're interested, there are any number of blogs out there by people far more disgruntled than I am. But if you've ever worked in anything involving sales, you'll understand the dynamics of a buyer/seller relationship, and how some people don't understand that rudeness really doesn't get you very far. Actually, it gets you nowhere, except for someone remembering who you are, and going out of their way to avoid you at any time in the future.

After my shift, and the journey of getting home, I always have the best of intentions to wash the smell of hell off me, and then put in some time writing. It doesn't always work, because, let's face it, sometimes I make it to the bed, and pass out for hours. But sometimes, and those are the good days, I make it to the computer. I throw on my iTunes (and we'll discuss my crazy music tastes some other day), read over what I last wrote, and then sit down, and get to my real work.

Except, since it's what I love, most of the time it's not really work. Yeah, I have to work my brain, but it's still what I love. So my Sunday, what I love, really happens when most people's days are ending.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Welcome, and all that jazz

We'll call this exactly what it is--an introductory post. I find it funny that as a writer, I've never really been one for blogging. Maybe because I talk as much as I write, and I get all the blogging out of me via talking. Which didn't really make any more sense to you than it did to me probably.

However, I'm going to take the time every day to throw something of interest out here. It may be a paragraph or two of whatever I'm working on, which could be one of two things. It might be a rant about the job I endure in order to pay the bills, one of them being electricity, which powers the computer, the other being cable, which literally hooks me up with the internet. It might just be me trying to work through some weird situation that my characters have left me in (they're tricky like that).

The point, though, is that I'm going to have something for you to read. Because, really, isn't that the point of a writer? To get people to read?