I’m back. I didn’t mean to take two weeks off from blogging, but that’s what it ended up being. It’s not that I haven’t written anything in two weeks, just that what I have written was for a class. I feel like I am coming up from deep water at the moment. I came home yesterday afternoon once I’d finished up with the last of the final exams, and I did some math. Really easy math. How much would I have to write every day in order to produce 200,000 words this summer? Once I had that number, I talked to my First Reader and took the rest of the day off. Last night? I binge-read. When I have the time and no guilt holding me back, I read very quickly, and I’d finish one book and roll right into the next one. I’ve been working my way through two series, and I wound up alternating back and forth between them. Dana Stabenow’s Liam Cambell mystery books, which are set in Alaska and while they aren’t the most brilliant of books, are still fun reads (and the first book in the series, Fire and Ice, is free!). And Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series, which was highly recommended to me and it’s as good as they said it was.
But that was yesterday. I think I went through four books in eight hours, give or take, as I was doing other things in there, too. I wasn’t just reading to forget my sorrows and drown my troubles. Finals week was pretty rough, but it was over. No, my idea was that I needed to reset my brain so that today, I would be able to write fiction. Granted, I still need to do some reading. But I need to switch over to different books, and make notes while I’m reading. This book I’m working on will need me to read Kjelgaard, L’Amour, Andre Norton (specific books, I had Galactic Derelict to read the other day and it didn’t help), and probably Heinlein’s Juvies. Like I did with the Pixie for Hire series, I want specific flavor notes, and they will help get my brain all oiled up and ready to purr like a kitten.
Last night was mind candy reading. Today it’s time to figure out how to actually turn the production back on. I have a few methods for this, because by now this is a familiar place, coming back to fiction after a semester-long hiatus. I finished Dragon Noir in February and haven’t written anything but blog posts and papers since then. I have no idea whether any of this will work for you, but it might, and frankly I haven’t had my coffee yet, nor time to think much since I left a warm bed. So here you are, and here I am, trying to get my brain started. It’s not, title of the post notwithstanding, as easy as a push-button start. It’s more like a cranky little outboard motor with one of those pull-cords you expect to break off in your hands any second, so you have to pull hard but not TOO hard and…
I’ll go do dishes. Sarah says that works for her, too, or ironing. Pretty sure that Sarah and Amanda and I all find that standing in the shower works. It’s not the running water, I don’t think, but the mindless task that our body can take care of while the bulk of our mind is set free to wander. Given that I’ve taken two weeks off of pretty much everything, I know I have dishes to do. Or, if the First Reader did all of them, I’ll find something else to clean. I know I need to organize and catalog the library again, we were unable to find a book last night that he needed, something that we both find frustrating… except that library organization will probably wind up like it usually does, with me sitting on the floor next to a heap of books, reading.
I’ll go for a long country drive or walk. This works both with and without the First Reader, and we have about six hours of drive time scheduled for tomorrow, heading down into Kentucky to visit family. I am sure that if my brain still isn’t running smoothly by then, that will do it. We bounce ideas off on another, and he tends to spark my mind very well when I’m stuck on a plot point. Today I am working at a party, and we will talk during that drive, too. The walk will hopefully happen, although our skies are rather gray at the moment. Any of these work because again, they get you doing something that you don’t have to think too much about, leaving your creative mind free to frolic off into… wherever.
I’ll write. This sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes just the act of making words happen starts to get the process moving. Once I have finished up with this blog post (after this paragraph, I think) I will pour myself some coffee, take the time to clean off my desk (it’s a foot deep in books right now, and I’m not joking about that. I have textbooks to sell/trade, fiction, and… dunno what that stack is…) and then I will write. Something. Might have to pitch it, tomorrow, once I have the distance to read it objectively. But today, it will prime the pump, like I vaguely remember on one engine you had this little bulb thingy and…. oh, who am I kidding. I know nothing about engines. Heh. There is a reason I write more horses than cars into my books. I’m about to write about a spaceship, and that will be a matter of ‘push the button and it goes’ because as an author, that’s my perogative. Now, if only my brain were so easy to deal with.
I spent five years getting out of my legal brain when I retired before I could write anything that didn’t sound like a deposition or a police report. I’m impressed that you can get out of academic learning so easily. We do what we must to allow the words to flow. Best of luck to you!
Practice. I have spent the last couple of years figuring out how to toggle it back and forth, because I must write (money, after all, I have a mercenary brain) and I can’t write during school days.
When I was doing non-fic and fiction at the same time, I’d make a break. Non-fic in the mornings, then close my folders, and go take a walk or do chores – while listening to certain kinds of music (black metal, epic music [movie trailer type stuff], big symphonies.) That became my official mental signal to switch, and I could ease into fiction easily when I sat back down. Granted, I was writing narrative history and not things like legal documents or scientific papers, so that may have also helped ease the shift.
Mood music helps me usually, too. And yes, mental switches are a good thing, they set up a nice unconscious equivalent of leaving one room and going to another.
Art works for me. I have trouble doing art and writing in close proximity, so the art effectively turns the writing off for long enough for it to reset.
I can’t do art until my verbal mind takes a nap.
Starting can be hard but satisfying. Verbal mind is a cranky child.
Dana Stabenow’s Liam Cambell series is fun and light. I enjoyed it a few years ago, and again more recently now that I live in the area where the books are set. Not quite up to Louis L’Amour’s attention to detail with regard to locations, I still know where most of the action takes place.
The Mercy Thompson series is good, but I vastly prefer the off-shoot series, Alpha and Omega, despite the fact that it’s mostly romance (I’m not fond of romances). That said, the latest AO book, Dead Heat, was ruined by an editor. An excellent premise and an excellent author, but the prose was so grammatically correct as to be unreadable. I’m a retired technical editor, and so as I’m reading it I’m finding myself re-reading sentences because they just don’t make sense; then, it occurs to me that everything is grammatically correct — in other words, “technically accurate.” Technical accuracy has no place in fiction, with the possible exception of hard sf, and then only sparingly used. Too-grammatically-accurate prose destroys the flow of the story, unless you regularly read post-graduate text books or technical manuals for fun. IMO, the prime audience was left scratching their collective heads and not enjoying the book much simply because it was too much work to read.