I wanted to start to a huge thank you to Dean for inviting me to be a guest, and for writing a guest post on my own blog.
I met Dean through the Speculative Fiction forum on Agent Query Connect, where he is my attitude sensei. No matter what life hurls his way, I’ve never seen him react with anything less than grace and cheer, and I’m trying to incorporate that into my own life, bit by bit.
I’m a college student, an aspiring professional storyteller, and the kind of writer that jump-ropes with that delicate line between sci-fi and fantasy. I’m also about as organized as the Sahara is wet, with a legendary talent for getting distracted. There’d be days when I set aside time for writing, and instead ended up using that time to catch up on a month of missed webcomics or Cracked articles, or I really needed to catch up with my buddies on the AQC chat room, or else a friend would walk into the room and start up a conversation. That’s one of the reasons I love Dean’s blog: it’s a cure for the common me. If anybody needs regular reminders on staying organized and on task, I do—though I still have a couple of tricks up my sleeve. I’ve gotten the first drafts down on two manuscripts, and I’ve got several others in various stages along the line. I’ve got a system, you see.
Growing up, my dad more or less made a living fixing and testing computers, and from the spare parts he made gaming computers for me and my siblings. All of them in the same corner of the basement so we could pretend to have quality family time while we played our games, and only one of them could connect to the internet. When my dad needed to run tests, the designated online computer was always the first to go.
During the day it was pretty hard to do anything that actually counted as writing. As entertaining as it is to watch two boys play Baldur’s Gate and Knights of the Old Republic, all those voices, explosions, screams and battle cries can get distracting, especially when you’re trying to write a steamy love scene between the elfin prince and the angsty American teenager (There are some amazingly talented thirteen-year-old writers in this world, and I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t one of them.)
One night, after years of suffering from insomnia, I finally got bored with staring at my ceiling and I went downstairs to the hub of computers. The internet computer had been stolen away so my dad could test a new firewall for a client. Nobody was awake to distract me. No extra voices, no screams, no battle cries. It was just me and Microsoft Word.
I clicked away at the keys as fast as my suddenly-unhindered mind could go, and I didn’t stop until I passed out on my keyboard. The next night I played video games with my brothers until they went to bed, and then the writing began anew, and I did the same the next night. I started volunteering at the school library during study hall, where I typed my heart out on the Library Assistant’s computer between bouts of actual work.
Once I got into the habit of writing, I got more-or-less addicted to it. I wrote because I had to, because I couldn’t sleep until I got that word/phrase/character/setting/scene on a page and out of my head. When I got married and moved out, that need didn’t go away. I couldn’t type in my bedroom without waking my husband, or in the living room without waking our resident couch surfer. So I piled up my dirty laundry in one corner of the closet, shut the door, and wrote until the scene/character/phrase got out of my system and I started nodding off again.
Sometimes I’ll write on the bus, or I’ll yank out my netbook during class and write down flashes of inspiration under the guise of taking notes. Those methods work, more or less, but I’ve found that the best way to write is to put yourself in a place where there are no distractions: where you can turn off the internet and the television, where people know not to talk to you until you’ve gotten your fix of the written word. I still find that my favorite time to write is in the middle of the night, when sleep-deprivation muffles your inhibitions and your pesky inner editor, and you’re free to write until you can’t see the letters on the screen anymore.
Granted, my system works best when you’ve got something nagging at your imagination, and sometimes you just don’t. Even worse, some days you just don’t want to write at all, and even the most heartfelt attempt turns out a steaming pile of blah. That’s when I turn to editing. Maybe it’s a short story I wrote for a friend’s blog post, maybe it’s the first draft of last year’s Nanowrimo project, maybe it’s that one piece that I’ve almost got polished to the point of not making me miserable. I go through it line by line, fixing the parts that sound wrong, rewriting the sections that sound like thirteen-year-old-me came back and attacked the keyboard while I was asleep. After the first dozen pages or so of editing I’ve finally got myself back in a literary groove, and maybe—just maybe—I can go back to writing again.
Thank you so much, Dean, for the opportunity to come here and share.