Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Submerged Kingdoms of the Mind

I am participating in a blog tour on Monday. This means I will be posting answers to four questions about writing here on my blog on Monday. My friend Kelly Dunn asked me to be her guest for this tour "chain." She already posted her answers last Monday here:

My guest will be Christina E. Pilz who wrote a wonderful book I highly recommend called "Fagin's Boy," who will post her answers to the four questions on her blog on June 30. If you want to check out her blog now (and hopefully on June 30) you can do so here:

I tried to get other guests but they declined. I was hoping to have at least two. Maybe at the last minute I will get more guests for this tour.

I started this blog four years ago, made some posts, then forgot about it. I intend to remedy that from now on. I will be posting once a week (at least) on writing related topics, and any other things that may be occupying my brain in the moment.

Right now I'm focused on making adjustments to the very ending of my new science fiction novel "Letters to an Android." That novel was a blast to write. I wrote it off and on for about five months in between traveling for my business and a lot of stress-related moments. I literally feel like I often had to steal the time to write it. Sometimes I spent hours on it late at night. Sometimes an hour here and there during a busy day. Because I am a fast writer, five months to write a novel is excruciatingly slow for me. When I had downtime from my business, I was able to write big chunks very quickly.

I love the feeling of writing a novel. Hell, I love writing. It's just so damn fun. This is the result of a lot of growth and inner contemplations and wrestling with my art over long periods of time. There was a point in my writing life where writing became very stressful and worrisome to me, where I forgot about telling stories about characters I fall in love with and spent too much time thinking about what I should be writing, about right and proper ways of writing and storytelling, about genre, marketing, subject matter and audience. I would become so overwhelmed with all these factors that I thought I should be concentrating on and applying to my writing (as if they are some sort of magical ingredients) that I was no longer having fun. I was trying to identify as a "writer" instead of just playing with the puzzles of the beauty of words and how they form images and emotions and express my own longings and desires and dreams (the fun part that I love!) I began to live too much in my head, and focused too much on what other writers were doing that I was failing to do. Even as a published author and an experienced one, I became over-sensitive to rejection. Everyone is sensitive to rejection, of course, but I began doing damage with my own poisoned thinking, telling myself I just didn't fit in with any genre or group, that I was doing something wrong, etc. I became so frustrated that I made a very big decision to take a break from writing altogether. Of course this is an extreme reaction to my dilemma, but that's what happened.

I had no plan. I still continued to journal for myself and write poetry. Beyond that, I didn't do much else with my writing. I didn't know if my break would last two months, two years or forever. I did not allow myself to think about it. The relief was great. The pressure went away.

I do not recommend this action to everyone, that's a sure thing! But for me the break lasted nine years, and I don't look back with any regret. Instead, I just look forward now.

When I decided to get back to writing again, I had a long talk with myself. It was not just a cut and dry thing. My talk lasted about two months. In essence, I asked myself if I really wanted to get into that "writer" mode again. I made myself aware that everything I did was a choice, and every label I might use to define myself (such as "writer") is not really an identity, just a descriptive noun. I knew I could write. That was not in question. The question was: why write?

My answer would fail to satisfy me if it pertained to the outside world, if it contained anything about "selling," "making a living," "gaining awards, prestige." In other words, while all of us crave outside validation, my answer needed to exclude that into the "extras" category and not be my reason 'why'.

I told myself I would only begin again if I was having a good time. I told myself that I must write only what I love and not what I think others might want to read. I wanted/needed to write what I wanted to read. That may seem selfish, but what art isn't? And why do it in the first place if it's not something you yourself can love? If you write for audience approval only, aren't you limiting your scope and turn a thing of love into a four-walled, harshly ruled job? Creativity has a hard time flourishing in such circumstances. That isn't to say I wouldn't be tempted by a good monetary offer to write something to specifications, it just means that if I am going to write my thoughts, my dreams, my stories, then they must first and foremost be for me. I'll write what I want to read. And I'll have damn fun doing it. If the fun begins to wane, I'll command it back by diving into the subjects that fill my heart to overflowing.

I promised myself that if I stopped having fun I would stop writing. No fuss. No muss.

My lesson, if there is any lesson to impart, is this: In any art too much thinking "in the head" is toxic. I believe the subconscious mind knows what it wants and should be allowed expression without all the filters and programs and labels that stop it up and create writer's block. This does not mean I don't have an idea or a general story in my head before I begin a story or novel. It means that to allow it to flourish I don't cling, I just let it go. Sometimes stories will download into my brain but in order to get them on the page in an un-forced, natural way (without allowing logic or labels or outside fears to interfere) I need to daydream them onto the page. That means letting go, having fun, playing as I played as a child with my stuffed animals and dolls.

I'm not saying there aren't frustrations that accompany art. I would like to make a living at it, of course. Wouldn't that be grand? But the pressures and disappointments that go with an expectation of that take too much away from me. I can't allow myself to think like that. I can produce volumes, but only if tell myself it's play. It's a neat trick and it took me a long time to learn it!

1 comment:

  1. Wendy, I love your story about your "talk" with yourself, about you going through discovering why you were writing, and what it would mean to you. There's so much external pressure to write for reasons that the World thinks is important. I think it's more important, as you point out, to write from the heart.