This past week I’ve been a little frustrated in my goal to keep my butt in the chair, and my fingers on the keyboard, and write. Life keeps interfering with my attempts to return to normal and it’s starting to really stress me out.
Before the trips we undertook at the end of July and in mid August, I was on a roll, writing wise. I was able to stick to a pretty good daily routine, and produce words at a very satisfying rate.
When I say this to people who are not writers, they’d don’t quite get it. How can they? Now, it isn’t that I think that, as a writer, I’m any better than anyone else. I don’t, and I’m certainly not; however, I am different.
My non-writing family and friend will say, well, just sit down and do it! And they have a point, to a degree. But in reality it is a bit more complicated than that.
Facebook is resplendent with funny little cartoons and posts about writers and their peculiar proclivities. I can tell you that most of those “stereotypes” – the ones that say we writers are somewhat neurotic, annoyingly myopic (focus-wise) and daydreaming hermits – these all apply to me.
I’m happiest when I’m at home, at my keyboard, working on my current “work in progress”. That is never more true than when am able to I slip into the “zone” and become as one with my characters.
What that means is that as I write, my mind becomes filled with the characters and their journey, and if I’ve done my homework right, and if I’m lucky, in a sense I become my characters: so that, as I “live” the plot I’m creating, my words – the characters’ words – are theirs, and not mine.
And you thought authors were sane!
On my latest edit, my wonderful editor had a comment that I really want to have framed. To paraphrase, with each new installment of my series that I create, my characters’ interaction becomes richer, the banter becomes livelier, and the heart of the town I’ve imagined really shines through.
This is what I love about my job. Readers read to escape for a little while. It’s like grown-up recess, isn’t it? You pick up a book, and for a little bit of time you leave your own reality behind, and live in someone else’s world. While you’re reading your mind and heart and soul get a break from the stress, from the handling and the living. That part of you breathes.
It’s all of that and more, being an author.
You’ll hear us talking about things like character arcs and plot points, and you might think that writing is for the most part an exercise in logic and elements combined to tell a story and again, you’d be partly right.
Everyone’s process is different, and every one of us who writes approaches what we do with a completely different mind-set—although there are levels where we can connect to each other with near-perfect synchronicity.
When I’m working on a novel, I don’t get very far if I don’t know the heart of these character’s story. What past events in their lives do they need to overcome? What lessons do they have to learn now? How are they like you and me, but different, and what can we do together—my characters and I—that will somehow touch you, our readers?
Some of those things I really don’t know when I begin my first draft. They are the lampposts of discovery I make as I embark on the journey of writing each individual story.
And more often than not, where I end up when I’m finished is not where I’d thought I would be when I started out.