Posted in Lessons Learned, The Writer's Life

Writers Aren’t Hermits After All

291826_364783330281701_2094463518_nI fell prey to a stereotype a number of years ago that nearly cost me everything. You see, Hollywood and other media outlets have created this vision of what writers are. So often people have an image of what writers do that includes being sequestered away from the world, agonizing over every word, while we’re chain smoking or drinking heavily. Whether we’re actually alcoholics or just addicted to coffee or teas is another discussion entirely but, it is safe to say that the stereotype has us all addicted to something. I am certain that there are a great many authors out there who fit this stereotype quite well but, I am not one of them.

It strikes me as amusing that people think that we don’t interact with others or that we are hermits. We’re artists and in order to write about people, to create characters, we must actually interact with people to have an understanding of different personalities. We must, as Julia Cameron says, “fill the creative well” with ideas and inspiration. And ultimately it is in living life that we find that drive and push to be inspired to create whatever we become known for.

There is no denying that writing takes a certain amount of solitude. We learn that there are critical times in which we must get away and focus on what we need to accomplish. We do agonize over the right words, the grammatical faux pas, and even the right descriptions for our settings. It isn’t difficult to lose yourself for hours, days, weeks, sometimes even months while finishing a project. But the fact remains that eventually, all writers must get out of their offices and experience something outside its confines.

419149_427914573910922_1192315579_nI’ve always been a very vibrant personality. Just ask my mother, or any of my friends for that matter, and they will all tell you that I am quick to laugh, quirky, personable, and compassionate. They will also tell you that I can be quite the ham if you put me in front of a microphone. But that happens rarely these days. They’ll also tell you that for the last few years, I was very different from the person I had been. And they’ll likely say that they were worried about me.

It is funny how things can get away from you before you even realize it is happening. In my case, it was a sort of forced hermitage. Yes, I was writing but things came slowly. I was in a situation where I couldn’t go out and be around people other than my parents. And because I was trying to save a marriage that was failing miserably, I allowed it to happen. In the process I gained a lot of weight, became depressed, and eventually came to feel so isolated that I really didn’t think anyone would care if I just disappeared. There were days in which I sat for hours staring at my blank screen wondering where the words had gone. Other days, I gave up and played computer games or just slept. It was a dark time in my life that I honestly don’t care to repeat.

I suppose my ex thought that by keeping me at home the words would come and I would just be an overnight success and he could stay home after that. I don’t know how many times I tried to explain that counting on the books to make consistent full-time income was unrealistic. I mean, every writer wants to be a best-seller and make a million dollars. It isn’t a bad dream as long as it is tempered with a dose of reality. Keeping me at home wasn’t the way to make that dream a reality though.

Artists, including writers, need to be stimulated. We need fresh air, laughter, people to talk to, and experiences to write about. To relay anything to our readers we need to be able to experience it first hand. From the feeling of silk on your skin on a bed to the rush of riding a roller coaster, everything can be an experience. Emotions need to be experienced. Falling in love, coping with death, the birth of a child, parental love, the loss of a job, or even the thrill of taking a big vacation all of these things we can imagine but, to truly relate them we have to go through them ourselves in some way.

Putting the writing aside, you can’t sell books if you don’t meet people to tell about what you’re doing. You can only do so much of that online. Forums, facebook, blogs, and other social media will only take you so far. If you’re boring and all you post about is the fact that you released a book, it won’t get you any brownie points with the public. It certainly isn’t going to sell books.

Personally, my life has changed tremendously in the last six or seven months. I’ve gone from being at my lowest to feeling as though I’ve found not only my calling in career but also in life. I am experiencing emotions like love on an entirely new level. I am living life again and taking advantage of time with family and friends. I’m meeting new people, reacquainting with old friends, and it is very much a process of rediscovering myself.

My fiance doesn’t let me stay too busy for too long writing. Yes, he knows and understands that I need to work but he insists on getting out and doing things together. Whether it is taking the munchkin to the park, going out for ice cream, or going to church on Sunday morning we try to keep it simple. We try to make the most of the time we get together. He encourages me to go to writers groups and do things that I enjoy even if he doesn’t. We share so much that it seems rare that there is something we don’t want to do together. The truth is, it is really amazing having someone that is truly supportive of my efforts and what I want to do.

You can meet writers everywhere. We are out there among the waking world. We’re at the gym, in your Sunday school class, at the restaurants and cafes you frequent, and no matter when you walk in a bookstore, you’ll likely find a writer somewhere amongst the shelves.

Posted in Lessons Learned, The Writer's Life

The Writer’s Life : Technical Fails

I’ve been virtually pulling my hair out for two weeks after a technical mishap with my current work in progress (WIP). I’ve been working on this series idea for years. It is complex, will be five books long (as it is currently planned)and has caused me many sleepless nights trying fix plot elements and character flaws and researching various elements for the story. I already have months worth of time invested in this project. So you can imagine my absolute panic when 15,000 words just disappeared from the manuscript.

scrivenerI use Scrivener for writing. I compose practically every piece of writing using this interface because it is vastly more reliable than any other word processor I’ve used in the past. The major features are incredible and I may discuss them in detail later however, the feature that is most relevant to this situation is that Scrivener actually saves if you stop typing for two seconds. It is an automatic thing that happens when your fingers stop moving across the keys. It has saved me a lot of hassle. When you close the program at the end of your session or day, it creates a back up, which I typically email to myself and then back up onto an external drive on a regular basis for safe keeping. So, that this large of a chunk was missing absolutely baffled me.

It isn’t as though I haven’t lost manuscripts in the past. Every writer has. Whether it is misplacing handwritten pages in notebooks or losing a flash drive, or an email lost in cyberspace, it happens to the best of us. What was strange about my experience is that it wasn’t just the last 15,000 words that I’d typed that were missing. Chunks were gone from various scenes in odd places. But mostly what was gone were the parts that I’d found the most challenging to write.

angel1This project has some very profound thematic elements that are deeply rooted in Christianity. I suppose I can admit that I feel a sort of divine inspiration through this series and for the most part, it has just flowed. That the words are gone is a bummer but, I’m trying to take it in stride. In fact, I’ve sort of taken on the idea that the way it was written just wasn’t how it was meant to be. I’ve gone back to the drawing board with the missing parts and have tried to sort out the continuity issues with what was missing. Ultimately there isn’t much I can do besides plug on.

I’m not sure that there is really a lesson in all of this. I back my work up regularly to avoid these mishaps. Perhaps the lesson is that sometimes things really are just out of our control.

Tomorrow is the Big Game Day. I was invited for the day to spend time with some dear friends and my boyfriend. I think I need a day off from it actually; just to recharge a bit and get my bearings again. I’ll be talking shop helping a friend set up a blog of her own and likely looking over a story for another friend but, I don’t mind talking shop and helping people out when I can. The guys may likely be engrossed in the game. While I am not necessarily a football fan, I’ll be enjoying the company and laughing all the same.