What do you do when the writing isn’t working?
Well, in my case I freak out. Usually when the writing isn’t working it’s one of two things: Either I really don’t like whatever I’m trying to force through, or I’m sick again.
Being sick is still sort of on the differential. Why? Well, because I know the novella I finished didn’t “close” right. Something surprised me right at the end, and I suspect I need to go back and foreshadow the heck out of it, etc.
Only, Rhodes to Hell gets finished today, before I do that, because I need to make up for last month, but also because I really need to “rinse” my mind so I approach the novella clear-minded.
I plan to release it on the 15th, it’s called Lights out and Cry and it’s in the shifter series. It’s a novella, because it’s a piece that doesn’t fit either with Bowl of Red or with All Hot. It’s the birth bit, and I wanted to get it out of the way.
This doesn’t mean I wanted it to a) introduce the big bad for the next cycle/perhaps the rest of the series. b) feature the death of a major character.
Heck, I was going to release it as a “not required in the series.” And then–
Anyway…. moving right along.
As some of you know, I started this year by making a plan for writes/releases. As we all know this is a bad idea, and no good will come of it. However, D*mn it, this is starting to make “business level” money, and needs to be treated as such, so it makes “Dan and Sarah supporting money” so that when Dan retires (at most in 2 years, I suspect. His music and writing are calling him) or cuts way back on his day job, we can go on living in the style we’ve become accustomed to. (It’s not a great style, but it’s ours.)
Two things happened almost immediately: I didn’t want to write any of the scheduled stuff, and was lucky to do 100 words a day. And I could write like the wind in the evening, on the unscheduled ones.
Which, you know, immediately sent me into “Well, that’s just me. I’m being rebellious against the schedule.” Followed by “What’s wrong with me, actually?” and blah blah blah.
I spent over two months doing this, dragging my behind and getting so depressed I couldn’t even remember my characters names. There might be more to it, in this. I’ve been feeling very very ill, and finally decided to add an hour of walking (on the treadmill, while doing social media and blogs in the morning) to my routine. So far, absolutely no weight has been lost, but I DO feel way better, and my brain seems to have come online. I still hate this, but that’s because of the ADD not the walking. I like walking, moving around, doing things, etc. I just get bored. Which is why I clean with the headphones on, listening to stories. Otherwise I’d never clean.
Oh, yeah, that’s the thing to remember: I’m ADHD AF, and I swear it’s gotten worse since menopause, which apparently is not unusual.
But yeah, being a writer and therefore all into the psychological barriers to the hero of the story, etc. etc. etc. I immediately go from “Can’t work” to “Ah, it’s psychological!” right? Followed by the usual writerly worries that I’m broken, that the writing “thing” has just moved on, that whatever mechanisms of aging and changing (We women are like tinker toys. I swear every few years something gets taken away/added/changed that completely changes the way our physiology works and with it our psychology. So, it’s in a way a legitimate fear. It’s also insane. It’s also something every writer male and female fears. We are actually an utter and complete mess.)
Running on this, I just kept getting angrier and angrier at myself. And more and more depressed.
And then the other night, I was on the laptop (which is my social media computer) and explaining something to a friend. And I looked down at my hands typing, and realized I was typing at my normal speed, and also that I hadn’t seen that in quite a while.
And understanding dawned like a big giant nuclear fusion fire coming up over the horizon.
You see, in November I turned 60. For various reasons, but mostly because it ended up being a really unpleasant day, we didn’t do much to celebrate. Couldn’t get the kids out here, and frankly we didn’t feel like going out.
Here I should point out my normal birthday celebrations are the stuff of glitz and glamour. Some of my very favorites involved going to the zoo and the Natural History Museum in Denver, and then hitting the Greek diner on Colfax. So, you know, I’m the last of the highest high rollers, and I demand a lot for my birthday.
Only I couldn’t even get that, (Well, the equivalent here) and I was depressed. So I thought I’d buy myself one of the qwerty toys retro keyboards. I hated to, because they’re so expensive. But they’re so pretty. And having a pretty office makes me happy, and–
So I bought it. And it looked lovely in my office. And it gave me a little jolt of happiness.
I bought the wrist rest, of course, but it was still making my wrists hurt, so I bought another wrist wrest to put in front of the wrist rest. It still felt slightly uncomfortable though.
And then I realized it was slowing my typing. Not a ton. Just about 20%.
The problem is that this then hooked up with my ADD. That slight slow down was enough to pop my own head out of the story and make it impossible for me to stay in there.
So, my brain kept thinking of other, more interesting things I should be doing: crocheting. Cleaning the cat box. etc. etc. etc.
And I kept trying to re-direct. And popping back out.
The only time before that I found myself in this loop is when my glasses are so far out of prescription that seeing the screen is an effort. Then I start wanting to do anything but write.
This time I was perfectly fine writing the off-project. On the laptop. Because it didn’t have a fancy keyboard.
And because the laptop is the social media computer, I was also developing a raging case of social media addiction.
Anyway, so I regretfully put my beautiful, fancy keyboard away — the problem honestly is that it’s not wide enough. The keys are too close. — and brought out the old battered one that has seen me through the last 15 years or so.
I immediately finished Lights out and Cry and am now trying to finish Another Rhodes.
LOAC is a bit of a mess, partly because it had sat for so long in my mind accruing bits, I think. So, it will probably need a thorough go over and rewrite. Tomorrow.
In the meantime, I have figured out what was wrong, and it’s not psychological, and it won’t take as much to solve.
In some parallel world, I’ll end up in therapy trying to figure out where the writing mojo went, and nothing will work.
So, when the writing stops look to easily solvable “mechanical” things first. Sometimes it’s the little things that get us, and taking care of those will fix the big ones.
And my fancy keyboard has just become the “remote, away” writing system, because it works with my tablet, and it’s super compact, so no lugging the big laptop case with me when I might just want to jot down notes while out for the day somewhere.
In the meantime I’ll write on the old keyboard. And do it fast.
When the weather is good, I take the kids to school by foot or by bike. The bike I’m using isn’t all that great—it’s too small for me, and a single-speed cruiser—but it does the job. Loudly. (I’m pretty sure it’s the chain, since it only clicks and pops when I pedal, but it’s a weird sound and I don’t need a bell to warn people I’m coming.)
At any rate, after a burst of bad weather, I was having a lot of trouble with the bike. It took a lot of effort, and I was lamenting my out-of-shape state, when I suddenly thought to check the tire pressure. Oops. Pumped up the tires, everything was fine.
Mechanical issues absolutely affect your performance. Before you blame yourself, make sure that everything around you is optimized. (And if you’re feeling depressed, go through the checklist of being fed, being rested, getting sunlight. If you are, get a blood check for iron, thyroid, and vitamin D. Mechanical issues *first*.)
“Mechanical issues absolutely affect your performance.”
Yes. I do my running on a treadmill, and due to a move I went a little bit without doing cardio and then went to a gym that had a different model.
I was…noticeably slower than I had been, and I thought the problem was me. Well, until I took a trip, used another model of treadmill, and was able to easily maintain a pace that I was struggling to maintain on the model at the current gym.
I get spoiled by my big DAS Keyboard, because it lets me type at speed. I can’t do that on a laptop keyboard – too small. And I lock up the computer I go so fast. That’s not a problem with Big Keyboard. It also lets me have the laptop on a stand so I look at it, now down toward it. That’s another help for productivity.
Now, Day Job, allergies, and Life happening? Not so helpful. 🙂
I also can lock up computer when going at top speed. Hence the nickname Tazmanian writer, because husband thinks I’m a relative of Tazmanian devil.
Y’all are making me feel inadequate. (Rueful Grin) If I’m in a groove, I can hit 34/wpm. (Which is still a huge improvement over longhand.)
That QuirkyWriter keyboard is beautiful.
But I remember learning to type on an old mechanical typewriter with round keys. And getting my fingers stuck a lot.
That DAS keyboard lineup is pretty impressive. I’ve been looking at building myself an Alice style keyboard (because gear acquisition syndrome), and there’s not much chance I’m getting it done under the price point of that 4 Pro model.
Phantom, I don’t think Corsair keyboards are hot-swappable, but if I’m wrong, you might want to try a stiff Halo True switch under the spacebar. (They’re kind of backwards tactile switches. They press easily until they engage, then the resistance gets progressively stiffer. You can still bottom out the keys, but you’ve got to work at it. They take getting used to. I’ve got them one of my keyboards, and I’m still deciding whether I like them for general use, but under the spacebar and return, I absolutely love them.)
I have a budding Keyboard Hobbyist here that tells me similar things. Young Relative is all about those linear switches. Computer nerds, all the same.
I’ve been looking at/salivating over the Keychron K10. It has a lot of nice features and is wireless, unlike the Corsair, for about the same money. Hefty battery life, nice switches. Gear acquisition syndrome for the win.
I see on their website that Keychron makes an ALICE setup. It is spendy at $200 but it has a full-up aluminum frame and all the fancy switches. Hefty and strong like bull.
On the whole I do love my Corsair though, it or one of its poor worn-out brothers has seen me through 6 3/4 books now. That’s a lot of typing. ~:D
Might check to see if the Logitech G613 keyboard is still for sale cheap. It’s quite a nice mechanical keys, a built in rest and both USB and Bluetooth wireless.
Drop.com has quite a few different mechanical keyboards listed. Wired & wireless. Lots of different layouts. I hate numpads and the space they take up. One of the keyboards I have doesn’t even have function keys, just a modifier key to access them. Gives me quite a bit of desk space back. There are some that are even smaller as well as ortholinear keyboards.
I can recommend the Drop ENTR if you’re looking for a basic TKL (meaning, full size, but no number pad). It’s solid as heck. No fancy toys to speak of, just a plug & play mechanical keyboard, with white backlighting, that’ll last you for years.
It does mean getting used to the Halo True switches I talked about above, or using linear (Gateron Yellow) , which might be a dealbreaker for some.
Some of the keyboards let you select what kind of switches you want. I also added the rubber bands to quiet it a bit. You can also look at WASD Keyboards https://www.wasdkeyboards.com/
I bought the rubber bands from AliExpress for a few dollars. Another good article is https://switchandclick.com/the-best-o-rings-for-silencing-your-mechanical-keyboard/
Hey, this is a writer’s blog, I figure this sort of content is very relevant.
I can’t stand the linear key switches – and I don’t think any self-respecting touch typist could, either. Maybe they’re great if you’re a gamer.
My favorites are TKL with real Cherry Blue switches, or Brown when I need quieter, or the real buckling spring (I don’t have a Model M, but do have a USB Unicomp with buckling springs).
My normal speed when going full tilt (hasn’t happened in a while) is 3k words an hour.
I have the big Corsair keyboard with clickety MX-brown switches. I don’t type very fast, unless I’m blogging and don’t care how it comes out. That’s when the other denizens of Chez Phantom start complaining about the ruckus and me smacking the keyboard too hard.
Particularly the spacebar for some reason. I really whack that thing, the finish is wearing off in one spot from my thumb hitting it all day.
Funny thing, been blocking on the wip for what I realized are two different reasons. The first is I still don’t understand the main character’s core wound. What drives him to actually stay, as opposed to bolting at the nearest opportunity?
The second problem was, I hadn’t thought through the mechanics of the brain ripper. And I’m at the spot where he’s being turned into the monster, so clearly he has to be taught how to use it. When the idea had been introduced, none of the characters were even remotely interested in an explanation, but if he’s got to figure it out, clearly it needs to be more than hand-wavium.
I hadn’t even realized it was a problem either; I just couldn’t figure out what came next. The solution turns out to be electric eels.
Still don’t have a resolution on the core wound though. I’m sort of thinking moral injury, but at least now I canove his stuff forward enough to find out.
Hurrah for easy fixes!
My WIP wasn’t working, hasn’t been for a while now. I realized I was just checking in on various characters to see how their romances were going. Which is nice, but it isn’t an adventure book.
Yesterday, on a road trip to buy lathe tool inserts (which sounds super boring but wasn’t. Except the boring bar, it is very boring (bwaha!)) I realized I’ve got literally Chekhov’s Gun in the middle of the book. I spent a goodly while on exposition of a rifle for killing nanotech zombies and/or demons, but I haven’t killed any yet. I also have Chekhov’s Powered Battle Armor waiting for somebody to wear it in anger.
Now I can move forward and have a nice satisfying ending with lots of explosions and shooting bad guys. Yay! ~:D
I might’ve heard something to the effect of “a good time with a bad girl cures all ills” once upon a more interesting (in the Chinese way of meaning) time. Note that I do not recommend this advice at this time. Especially when it comes to writing.
Get healthy. As mentioned elsewhere (ATH I believe), your health affects your brain. Eat good stuff. Good for you stuff, too. Get off your kiester and *move.* I don’t care if it’s flat on your back, sweat a little. Get that heart rate up.
Engage your brain. Relearn calculus, orbital mechanics, learn how to cuss in a new language, learn how to code or plumb a sink or put new brake pads on your vehicle. Do something cerebral even if it’s dumb.
Engage in something social. Start a simple argument about sandwiches with a friend and defend your position and honor with verve. Even if it’s not the one you usually prefer. Social activity is brain activity. Don’t be a closet dumb. Take the risk.
Pet a cat. Or dog. Or horse, pig, or spider or whatnot. Some things like appreciation of beauty and playtime with pets are like little energy bars for your brain. When they run out, you get foggy. Or at least, so I believe.
And practice your people watching/gossip mongering skills. These are good things to mine for plot purposes, and can sometimes kickstart the creation engine. Best done with a friend, so you can compare notes.
And if all else fails, put digits to keyboard and write the most abysmally awful thing you can think of on purpose. Sometimes going to the dark side shakes something loose so you can get writing again.
Or, y’know, just wait a bit. The writing thing comes back. It always comes back. Whether you want it to or not. *You cannot escape the writing.*
Sarah needs to “rinse her mind”, shall we start a group effort to brainwash her???
I’m in the middle of running a diagnostic right now – because I have gotten two writing days in the last two weeks, and no more. I am absolutely dry when trying to come up with a blurb for Mike Watson, and at this point, I can’t even manage to read fiction… or nonfiction.
I mean, my love is recovering from surgery still, we’re focused on several other projects that aren’t writing, I’m trying to diet (This body may not be “beach-ready”, but at least I don’t want to look “beached whale”), and we swapped out mattresses, as well as I’ve switched from my primary computer to the travel laptop for most communication. For all I know, it’s as simple as getting something back in my diet or swapping out the air filters in the house because they got clogged with cedar pollen and dust ahead of schedule.
Or as complex as “I just need my husband healed up and a vacation.” (Neither of which are likely to happen on a schedule I can force)
…and neither of which are getting Mike’s blurb written right now, as he’s getting ready to publish.
Diet is enough to do it.
Thank you for this, it made me re-evaluate some things.
I switch stories.
It’s very important, if you do this, to master the art of switching BACK, so that you circle around rather than abandon them entirely.
The recent “for want of a nail” moment for me was bad finger posture when dealing with some heavy volume data entry at work that messed up the left middle. Doing better now, but was doing nine-fingered typing for a while.
Good Heavens, do you need a (USB-capable) Model M keyboard?
The big bulky ancient things that if you dropped it, it might dent the floor?
No. A tiny one works fine, actually. mean the new super flat ones.