Friday, October 11, 2013

Writer Burnout as You Approach The End

Yeah, yeah, I know, writing a book is a marathon. Don't remind me, because I'm feeling the burn, baby! Here are Seven Signs you may be utterly toxic from struggling to the end of that elusive finish line:

--Coffee, ordinarily delicious and comforting and an aid to your muse, tastes bitter and disgusting and you never want another cup again.

--Your husband arrives home to find you in tears. Mumbling how you are in the last 50 pages and your book makes no sense and you think you have to delete the whole thing and start over.

--To take a break, you read a great, fabulous author because you only read the best when you are finishing your best draft, but instead of inspiring you, you start to cry. "I can never write like that! Why bother?" (This time it's Kristan Higgins, The Best Man. So wonderful!)

--Your ass hurts from BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard). And your hamstrings, and your calves, and all the tendons in your hands.

--You know that this, your "final" draft, is almost done. You pray for it to be done. All you want is relief. Your characters are suffering, heading right into that blackest of moments, and you are contemplating heading out the window. You are laughing, weeping, mumbling to yourself, and in total despair. And just to tip yourself over the edge, you know this will not be THE final draft. Beta readers, agent will say no no no and you will have to wash and repeat. Probably multiple more times.

--You appear in public in sweats. Your deepest darkest secret is sometimes you don't even dress until just before your kids come home from school.

--You keep saying, "I'll clean [insert something appropriate here]______ when I'm done," a task you despise. But right now it's looking pretty good as a diversion. Scary!

I don't know how this marathon will end. All I want is to muscle through and be done. I pound my head against the keyboard and drink my bitter coffee (better than eating through the fridge). I'm not a believer in waiting for inspiration to strike. Every day I sit here and slog it out, and every day I fix the slog from the day before. And most days I do this with a kind of joy I've never experienced before.

But burn out is burn out and when it reaches this level, sometimes you have to cave in to it and replete the muse by taking a damn day off. Maybe even two. Because you simply cannot write if you are insane. So today...I'm outa here!

Combating burnout...suggestions welcome!

South Carolina beach, a more tranquil place than my mind today!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Writers: So Maybe Hearing Voices Isn't That Crazy After All

One confused little violet who thinks it's May instead of October.

I had this crazy idea to ask everyone, well, my writer friends anyway, why they write. I don't know why, maybe (make that probably) to understand why I write. If you really stop and think about it, we spend months writing a story, living with the characters we create talking in our heads, waking us up at night and forcing us to write their words on sticky notes before we forget them.

Does this sound familiar?

More importantly, is this normal?

The mission of understanding why we (I) write with regard to our (my) mission in life is a really big topic that can't be tackled all at once, but I read something recently that helped me understand something really intrinsic about, maybe I'm not so crazy after all.

The great writer and activist George Orwell (1903-1950), whom we all know from his classic novels Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, wrote an essay in 1946 called Why I Write. Here's one of many parts that caught my eye (It's a little long but I've bolded what I thought was fascinating):

"But side by side with all this [writing activities he describes], I was carrying out a literary exercise of a quite different kind:  this was the making up of a continuous 'story' about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to imagine that I was, say, Robin Hood and picture myself as the hero of thrilling adventures, but quite soon my 'story' ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head:  'He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted onto the table, where a match-box, half-open, lay beside the inkpot. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across tot he window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf', etc. This habit continued until I was about twenty-five, right through my non-literary years. Although I had to search, and did search, for the right words, I seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside. The 'story' must, I suppose, have reflected the styles of the various writers I admired at different ages, but so far as I remember it always had the same meticulous descriptive quality."

This just bowled me over. The description of an inner narrative that reads like a book...does anybody else's brain do this? Well, mind does and that is scary, but to have it described,'s very validating! Like, it might just be almost normal to hear voices in your head (if you're a writer, anyway).

So do you hear voices in your head? Have you for a long time? Do you know why you write? Do you see yourself in this passage? Feel free to share. (I'm going to share the thoughts I've been collecting next week.)

Everyone stopped to take pics of this fabulous rainbow yesterday.

No impatiens in Ohio this year--they all got killed by a fungus last year. But somehow found this one single flower in my garden!