More Like It

This evening I met up with a friend to do some writing. She had a whole bunch of brainwaves while we were discussing our respective current works-in-progress, and I was very happy for her and very excited to be there as she was having these flashes of inspiration – it even rubbed off on me enough that I forced myself to go back to Tallulah and make some more notes, after about a week of putting it off after the grueling slog through those past 2 chapters.

It got better this chapter, I have to admit. It was pretty much exactly the opposite experience that I had with the past 2 chapters, because I actually enjoyed this one quite a lot. But the things about it that worked – clear focus, decent enough pacing, lack of filler – brought into keen focus the stuff that wasn’t working in the earlier chapters, and makes me worry about what I’ll find going forward. There’s a part of me that wants to put Tallulah aside until I’m done with my UF kick, because I’ve got the bug and Tallulah is not a story that should be told in typical UF fashion: it’s not about action, it’s not supposed to be fast-paced, it’s not about witty banter, simmering sexual tension and/or domineering alpha males claiming women like insurance, and I am in the mood to write me some of that. Perhaps it would be best for the story, and myself, to instead get this out of my system so that I can come back to Tallulah sometime later down the road in the correct mindset to make it work.

Then again, after the chapter 2 rant I made a couple of weeks ago, I went and read over a re-imagined chapter 2 that I wrote back in 2015, just before I decided to take my hiatus, and I really liked it. It did everything that I wanted the current official chapter 2 to do: it was coherent, it felt like the things that were happening were happening for a good reason, it seemed like there wasn’t any distracting filler, and it felt like there was a clear focus in terms of where the story was going and what I, as a read, could expect to get out of it. All of which is part of the allure of these UF novels I’m currently addicted to, despite how many, many ideological tensions as I have with them. So perhaps this is actually the best time I could have picked to get back to work on Tallulah. 

But ultimately, as I said a little while back, I really do feel like the main thing I want to do is just read, rather than write. I’m going to keep going with making revision notes with Tallulah – it’s mostly reading anyway, and I want to make a decision about this book. Because if I decide I am going to leave it for another little while, then I’ve got some options to explore if I want.

Or I’ll just continue to enjoy the most reading for pleasure I’ve done since my year-long YA kick a few years ago, and more reading than that entire year by several times already. I’ve branched out from the 2 series I was reading to start off with, and have gotten a bunch of first books of various different series out now to get a taste for what other fantastic beasts are lurking in the urban fantasy jungle. Thus far, I think Ilona Andrews is my new favourite, with her – or their, as I discovered, and I have to wonder if the co-authorship is what gives it a slightly more solid, well-realised feel than some of these other books so far – urban fantasy setting that is strikingly similar in premise to ideas I’ve had over the years. I’m not bitter that they did it before I did, though; it’s just inspired me to revisit that idea with some new vigour.

I may not have much motivation of my own to write these days, but more and more I’m finding that other people’s work is inspiring me, and I appreciate that a lot. It’s always nice to not have to just rely on your own steam to get things moving.

There we go

You know what I love? I love spending months, months of my life devoted to the angst of writing, trying to identify every source of my motivation – or lack thereof – in order to better master myself and manipulate my inner workings to more efficiently operate along my chosen trajectory. I rant about what the Problem is in the hopes that, by the time my words are spent, I will be some the wiser as to what that Problem is, and I rant about it again, and again, and again, because it keeps changing. I’m trying to write something that I don’t want to write. No; I’m not writing enough, letting my mood dictate my work ethic. No, wait: I’m not listening to myself honestly. Or maybe I am and what I honestly feel is apathy. And so on and so on.

What I love is, after all of that shit, after trying to see through the mire of my own confusion and lack of motivation, all it took to get me interested in writing my post-Nano story again after giving up not just on it but on writing altogether – not forever, but for a while – was having somebody else to write with.

It’s seriously that simple: I like writing with somebody else. It helps. I can’t even describe how much it helps. It gives me the motivation to write things I would otherwise be riddled with brain-twisting anxiety about; it gets my focus out of my head and onto the page. And I’m not talking about having somebody there who is coaching me through it or checking on my progress every half hour or whatever (mostly because that would be fucking horrible and patronising if I wasn’t asking for it explicitly). I’m talking about a person I get on with – my best friend in this case – and who is also writing their own thing. It’s about being with somebody who is doing the same thing as you. It’s about the energy that comes around when you’re with somebody working through their own process of self-motivation; and no, when you get together with somebody to write, you don’t always write a lot, and sometimes you don’t even write at all. Sometimes you get distracted, distract each other, etc. – and that’s fine. Why wouldn’t that be fine? It’s about the energy. If you come together with the intention of working on your project, though, chances are that’s exactly what will happen. It is a very rare occurrence for me that I actually get no writing done when I have a writing buddy – for that matter, it is also a very rare occurrence that my writing buddy gets nothing done. We who write know that sometimes you just can’t get the words out, can’t find the motivation. That doesn’t change. What changes is your context: you’re no longer struggling by yourself and trying to spur yourself on to work; you’re no longer left to wallow when you can’t. You have somebody else there. You can see them working and try to motivate yourself again; you can commiserate with them in your mutual inability to reach your own goals.

And then you write, and my god, nothing compares to the writing environment of another person writing.

It’s such a simple thing, and it’s changed everything, my plans for this year. I’m going to write. I’m going to finish something. And I may well finish it soon. That’s the big thing. No, I don’t know how reliable having a writing buddy is, simply because life gets in the way. But what I do know is that, actually, I had the right idea in taking a break, because I did need to do things differently; and I did have the right idea when I realised that I’m not just a writer, because I need other people. So now I’m writing with other people. It’s a complete sea-change for me; and I spent most of 2012 writing with a friend, but not until this year did I realise just how vital it is to my process.

I am a writer who just does not want to write by myself, and I am proudly unashamed of that fact. Because why bother? I’m not making money out of it, it’s not like this is a guaranteed career for me or anything; I may as well do it when I feel the most productive and motivated, and it seems that’s when I’ve got somebody else to bounce off. And it’s the most enjoyable writing experience I’ve ever had. And has always been, actually; when I was younger and just starting out, experimenting with and forming my writing habits, I was much less sensitive to “noise” and therefore wrote in the living-room, full of distractions – and loved it. It was the most productive period in my writing career. I think all that’s happened is that I’ve come full circle, and done what I hoped I’d do: I’ve reconnected with the enthusiasm for writing that I had when I was younger. It’s a different kind of enthusiasm, but it comes from the same place. I always wanted to share my stories first and foremost, and sharing the writing process is just another way to do that, to make my stories more social – which is how they were always meant to be.

I wrote just over 1800 words yesterday and just over 1400 today. I’m working on something that feels like it works; it feels like I’m getting a little closer to the Great Story I felt welling up inside me while simultaneously not having to give up on what was looking like an overly-complicated story. And it’s not that the complications have gone away; it’s just that now I have the energy required to meet those problems and see what I can manage.

I guess what ended up happening is that, as soon as I decided I needed a sea change, I got one.

I suspect I am incredibly luck for that.

And so I am grateful for it as well. This is exciting. This is empowering.

This is the best start to the year I could ever have asked for.

To writing, and beyond!