Frozen Brain Makes Blogging Hard

I’m the first to admit, I love Texas weather–most of the time. The last several days, not so much. Here in the DFW area, our current temperature is 1 degree with a wind chill of -11. We have about four inches of snow on the ground and the roads are icy. The last I heard, there are still hundreds of thousands of folks across the state without power and the rolling blackouts that ERCOT promised would be only 15-45 minutes are hours and hours long. We’re being asked to conserve energy and stay off the roads. Making matters worse, especially for the power grid, the storm system that dropped all the white sh*t on us didn’t limit itself to DFW. Most of the state was hit with extremely low temps and snow or ice. So my toes are cold and my brain is frozen. All of which makes blogging difficult this morning.

Because of that, I went looking for something that might trigger a few cogent thoughts this morning and came across a post by Kris Rusch, linked by The Passive Guy. One think Kris said that stuck with me is this:

And I’m writing on a project just for me, something I haven’t done for a long time. The project just for me does some things that long-time friends might not approve of. The project just for me discusses a few things that people in my world probably would prefer me not to discuss. The project just for me is a tiny and somewhat joyous rebellion in the middle of the cluster**** that has been our lives in the past year.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy that little bit of freedom. I know quite well that the project just for me will eventually get published. In the past, I would have lied to myself and said I wasn’t going to publish that project at all.

These two paragraphs resonated with me for two reasons. One is simple. I know an author who has such a project, one they’ve worked on off and on for years. One they have often said they couldn’t publish because of how people would react. One they now find themselves working on again. One I–and others–have said needs to be written, for the writer if for no one else and to hell with what “everyone else” thinks. And yes, Writer-X, I’m looking straight at you.

But it resonated with me for another reason. I realized the other day as I was doing some final edits on Jaguar Rising that my last several books/stories fell into that category. I wrote for me. I wrote the story I wanted and in the way I wanted. I quit fighting myself and trusted my gut for a change. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.

As Sarah and others will tell you, I tend to get too much in my head and second-guess myself. That’s especially true when life starts hitting me about the head and shoulders with things I have little to no control over. I do control my writing so, in those times, I tend to tighten the grip on writing too much.

Or, as Sarah says, edit the life out of my characters.

I fight against it. But it’s how I cope–until I get hit over the head, usually by Myrtle the Evil Muse, and forced to stop.

And I realized as I editing Jaguar Rising, I’d started doing it again. I knew it subconsciously but it wasn’t until I took a hard look at it yesterday that I realized what I’d done. The opening felt forced because I was forcing the characters into a situation they wouldn’t be in, at least not at this point in the series. I’d let myself fall into the trap of not letting established characters be who they were.

So out came pen and paper–well, the ReMarkable tablet because I didn’t want to get out of my nice warm cocoon of blankets and cats–and I started doodling. I figured out what the opening should have been and blocked it out. Hopefully, I can get it written today. Assuming my fingers and brain don’t freeze.

I’m going to let my characters be who they are and I’m going to let myself write the story I want and not what the controlling brain wants it to be.

So here’s my advice this cold morning: give yourself permission to write what you want to. Don’t worry about what the critics might say. Sometimes, you have to simply lift a finger in salute and say “screw it”. And, as Kris commented (and I’m paraphrasing), after the clusterfuck 2020 was, we all need a moment or three of doing what we want, not what someone else tells us to.

The featured image is out my front window yesterday morning.

25 comments

  1. Blessings of indie you really can write what you want. No publisher, editor, or smarmy back bench SJW types to dictate that THEY would much prefer you write it to THEIR satisfaction.
    And monthly sales, not drawn out quarterly if that reports will be your indication as to whether you nailed it or not.
    By the way, the richness of your characters has always been one of the things that draws me to all of your stuff. Do keep it up.

    1. Thanks, Uncle Lar. If my brain thaws out, I plan to do some work this morning. Hopefully–and if you’re interested–I’ll have something for you by mid-week next week.

  2. We got 5″ of fluff on Sunday. Low of -9 F. High yesterday was 9F. The next batch of snow looks as if it will scoot south of us and get the South Plains. It includes some ice in the snow. We are having the blackouts up here, too, and schools are closed to cut down on power use. (That and in some of the modern buildings, if the lights go out, you are in true total darkness. Not good.)

    1. I think we got 4″ officially at the airport, a bit more than that here at the house. Roads are icy today after folks drove some yesterday. So that only makes things worse. Outages are spotty up here but there are some who have been without power for a full day or more. A huge swath of Tarrant County and parts of Denton County are under a boil water order due to the water plant going off-line without power yesterday. I’m glad it isn’t worse, but I’m ready for some warmer weather.

  3. Here in Indianapolis we got somewhere around ten inches, with some blowing and drifting (less in the city, more in the countryside) and I’m looking at a monumental shoveling job in low-teens temperatures. At least our electricity has been staying on, so I’ll have a warm house to come back inside, but we aren’t going anywhere today. We’re hoping to be cleared out by tomorrow so we can get to doctor appointments and other necessary activities.

    And yes,I took note of Kris Rusch’s blog post last week , and blogged on it myself at my LilveJournal: https://starshipcat.livejournal.com/901368.html. It really made me think about just how much my writing has been shaped by the years I spent struggling to get into traditional publishing, back when it was the only game in town, trying to figure out what the editors really wanted, as opposed to what they said.

    1. Leigh, it is amazing the number of authors who are realizing the same thing. I started out trying to break into trad publishing but quickly became an early adopter of indie publishing thanks to Sarah pushing me. Even so, a lot of my thinking was framed by what I’d learned trying to break in and it still sneaks up on me sometimes. Then I have to step back and remind myself that the only ones I need worry about are the folks with the money willing to buy my books.

      1. It’s also fighting all the conventional wisdom of business. “Find what the customer wants and give him that” Doesn’t work as well in the creative world as it can in more conventional business. I’ve been fighting that a lot lately, especially as I get the ‘conventional business’ end of things sorted out. I have to keep reminding myself that the books that seem to work the best are the ones the writer wants to write. So the weird space opera with the Scarecrow piloting the bastard child of the Serenity and the Millenium Falcon is going to go up right next to the more conventional fantasy of Bearskin as fast as I can get them up. And I’m not going to worry whether the current thing I’m writing means I’m comitting romance until it’s time to market the silly thing. So it’s not just the people who spent so long trying to break in. It’s a problem all around. Just “What does the audience want” takes the place of “What does the editor want” and is as hard a target to hit.

        1. Actually, I think there can be some good interplay between the customer and artist/artisan. Just like in manufacturing, you need some interplay between sales and engineering – if it was up to the engineers, nothing would ever ship! Along those lines, needing money can be a great motivator to get books finished. And I’m glad Tolkien didn’t totally follow his heart, and write TLOTR in Elvish….

          1. I’m not sure even Elvish was developed enough to write it in that language, and typically you write your text in the language then translate. Tolkien is a very weird case. He’s more a world builder that got distracted by a novel than a good baseline for novelists.

            I was thinking more the books we got in Iraq. Interchangeable thrillers and interchangeable romances. And also the long running series that seem to go on long after they should have been allowed to end and seem to loose something along the way.

            Yes, we have to remember we are trying to put our story into someone else’s head so they get the same story we do… but the flip side of that is that it IS our story. And if it’s not OUR story, burn out and boring are both waiting.

    2. Is there anyone else here in the Indianapolis area?
      (A couple more, and we could have a get-together without it being awkward.)

    1. Actually, we don’t ike it and never really have, with the exception of pockets of liberals in Austin and similar areas. We look at what’s happening now and curse Obama and his push for green energy and the energy companies that invested in it, taking advantage of federal tax advantages, etc., without taking steps to make sure backups were in place. Then we get a bit philosophic abut it, at least those of us who are long-term or life-long Texans. Every 20 years or so we have a terrible week or two of winter. Ice storms that beat anything in the record books, snow like we haven’t seen, etc. We just don’t usually see it across the entire state at the same time and that’s where the problem lies right now. This isn’t an instance where power can be diverted from other parts of the grid without problems because everyone is cold and wanting to be warm.

    2. Aaaaand I’m out of class tomorrow as well. All the districts are staying closed because of the rolling blackouts. We can’t go on-line because we’d have teachers and students dropping in and out as the power drops in and out. SIGH. But we do have power, and it is getting warmer, thanks be.

  4. The two snippets that you pulled from that post, I can agree with wholeheartedly. The rest of it, though, not so much…

    First problem is the apparent complaint that her inner voice has been suppressed – that voice being a full-fledged social justice warrior. Makes me wonder where she has been the last few years.

    The second issue, and a far more serious one to me, is her assertion that “bad think” should not be published. While carefully not naming the editor or the anthology, which gives nobody else the ability to judge for themselves whether it is “bad think,” she states that it needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history, only available to those “bad thinkers” that want to dig it out. No. Just NO!

    (I would note that Asimov’s “Before the Golden Age” is no longer published. I wonder if some of the pieces in that anthology are ones that were selected for the “bad think” anthology that Kris disses – they would certainly fit.)

    1. She might be talking about Andrew Fox’s Hazardous Imaginings, which I guess has been getting a little bit of attention? The story descriptions sound completely awful, which I gather was the point, but that says nothing about what any author *did* with the extremely un-PC set-ups involved.

      Which gets me thinking a bit about the Social Justice Warrior (TM). (And to attempt to keep this MGC compliant…) It’s really not defined by a person’s opinions AT ALL. It’s defined by what you figure ought to be done about your opinions. Right? So someone can be an equality absolutist or have very distinct ideas about the fabulousness of all possible orientations, consider meat murder, or anything at all, but the definition is always based on what a person believes they are morally compelled to do about it and how.

      And it’s a very strange mindset that imagines that anyone who creates a science fiction world must be promoting that world, and if they are promoting that world, that they must desire to use the tool-box of the State.

      So “I want to put all of these social issues and ideas and situations in my novel” just seems like Classic science fiction to me. Some of the Old School feminists, for example, were not the least bit shy about it. But “that other thing should not be written and should not be published” is a completely different sort of thing.

      What boggles the mind somewhat is the idea that there were some ideas or scenarios that were “too far” somehow. Maybe your mom would be offended and you make sure your grandma never finds out, but too far for the *genre*? How?

      And all I can think, really, is that Writer X should get hers written and published first. 😉

      -Synova

      1. Et tu Synova? I thought we were friends. I introduced you to Havey-cat. You have a standing invitation to hide in our guest room and write.
        And this is all the kindness I’m to expect in return?
        SNIFFLE.
        Writer-X.

    2. Almost every time I see KKR excerpts on TPV, I have no desire to ready the OP or her books (except maybe to comb through them looking for things that offend me).

      Maybe KKR is different (and maybe she’s not really a SJW, but I found her talk about “bad think” to be juvenile), but from what I’ve seen, most SJW’s have no clue how to really read (and no desire to do so).

      1. Personally, I am like you – I find her fiction to be rather “meh” (although I don’t comb through it just to find offense).

        On things like agents and Big Media (not just tradpub, but movie studios, comics, etc.), she is largely spot on – from long experience with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

        On running a writing business, she is also quite good – for a business in her position. I.e., a large backlist to which she owns the IP, several successful midlist series in different genres, and a large fan base. Not very useful for a startup, although there are a few gems.

        Politically, though, she exhibits a great deal of ignorance and parochialism. For instance, one time when she went on a rant about Obamacare being good for small business. For hers, yes, that has less than 50 employees, doesn’t plan to ever come close to that number, and doesn’t want to bother with providing benefits for the ones she does have. No insight whatsoever into the disaster it was (and still mostly is) for other small businesses – or those individuals who are too “rich” to avoid the tax, but too poor to afford it.

        So, I do take a look at her blog every so often. It is occasionally useful.

  5. Meanwhile, one character has to refrain from telling another something until the moment when he sees it in action, so his reactions there are unaffected by his knowledge.

    Especially his reactions earlier would be enough to derail the story.

    Good thing they don’t quite trust each other and could easily be interrupted.

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