Subscribe to this blog

Monday, 14 January 2013

Just Write

How do I write?
It seems like an odd question to ponder because the obvious answer is "sit your booty down at the computer and just do it." But that's not the answer to the question. Of course I could just make my fingers move (I'm working with my boys on 10-finger-typing, so finger motion is the way to earn minecraft time in our house), but unless the brain is attached and engaged, I might as well take dictation from my boys.  Actually, that's not a bad idea, especially where the nine-year-old is concerned.

But I digress.

A better, more accurate question might be; what's my process? Not that I think anyone is particularly fascinated, but it's the thing people seem to be the most confounded by - how did I a: come up with my story, and b: find the time and discipline to write it?

First, I read a lot. A whole lot. I read every YA book that looked even remotely interesting. My niece, Alexandra, is an inhaler-of-books. She chooses them based on length - the longer the better - and a corset on the cover never hurts. I started buying her used copies of all my favorite fantasies (re-reading them first, of course, since I was amassing a box for her Christmas/Birthday present) like Ender's Game, Dragonflight, and On a Pale Horse. Then I moved into uncharted territory, and I picked up The Thief, Graceling and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. And even after the box was packed and sent, I kept reading, this time trolling amazon for cheap kindle books with good reviews. I found the Timber Wolves series, Mythos Academy, Girl of Fire and Thorns, and Under the Never Sky. And the more I read, the more I realized I could write something for this audience. An audience like me, who needs great characters, a solid story, a kick-ass heroine, and magic: some great superpower to take the ordinary world and make it something extraordinary.

So believing I could do it was the first, vital step. The story elements themselves came together early in the morning while it was still too cold to get out of bed, or last thing at night before drifting off to sleep.  They solidified during long story conversations with my husband, a filmmaker, who always sees the movie in his head, and with my friend, a fierce fantasy reader who introduced me to Patrick Rothfuss and his brilliantly elegant books. Finally, the story began to unfold on the page.

Which leads to the second part of the question. Finding the time happened naturally. Story ideas woke me up at 5am and then 4am, and so I just got up, turned on the coffee machine, and got to work. Finding the discipline was harder. The dark house with only the dog to keep me company was good incentive, but every excuse in the book could be invented once the boys were up and the day began. One year dragged into two, and my self-esteem fell with every passing day the book remained unfinished.

Self-esteem is a tricky thing. Nothing makes us stronger, more creative, or better at our jobs, and yet nothing is more fragile and easy to destroy. The list of culprits is long and varied, but suffice to say, when our self-esteem gets taken out at the knees, it's almost always ourselves holding the bat.

But then I had a great conversation with our friend, Sophie. My husband was on location so I had to be both parents and sole caretaker of our lives. It was an excellent excuse for not writing, but Sophie called me on it. Taking care of the house could wait until Ed got home. I didn't need to be the mom and the dad in the family, just the mom. And when I wasn't being the mom, I needed to write. No excuses, just write. It was a much bigger conversation that had to do with male and female roles in a couple, but the heart of the matter was put up or shut up. And so I did. And a month later I was finally finished.

So the answer to "what is my process," though seemingly long and complicated, really boils down to this: I read everything I could get my hands on, indulged my imagination, fell asleep when the kids did, wrote before my chickens were awake, and then, when insecurity and excuses threatened to take me out at the knees, I stopped trying to do everything perfectly and just...wrote.