Friday, February 6, 2015

A new experience

I’m going to be going to Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins today for Neil Gaiman’s book signing. I’m weirdly nervous. I’ve never been to a book signing, and I have the impression (based on nothing, as far as I know) that Neil Gaiman is super-serious and intimidating. I feel like I’ll hand him my book and he’ll look up at me from under his eyebrows, with his face clearly saying, “and?” and I’ll stammer something hideously stupid, and he’ll shake his head and shrug and scribble something on the page, hand the book back to me and shout, “NEXT!”

But that’s cause I’m crazy and I know it, clap my hands.

In an effort to make sure that I actually get there on time, I’m writing both my blog and my story before checking my comics, Tumblr, and deviantArt. Usually those last two are “where I get my inspiration.” I put that in quotes because it’s always avoidance behavior, and I pretend it’s inspiring, and that’s a harmless pretense most of the time. Today it wouldn’t be, so I’m delaying it until I’ve gotten my “important” stuff done. Go me?

This is actually indicative of huge progress for me, though. I was reading over my blog posts the other day, and had a conversation with a writer friend of mine last night, and I remembered how paralyzed I was so very, very recently. The fact that I look at writing two thousand words a day as a minor annoying chore instead of an insurmountable barrier is... it’s extraordinary, in the true sense of the word. And I know how fragile it is. I know that if I take a week off, the day I try to start again I’ll be crumpled into a little ball and discarded on the floor, emotionally. Once more, there will be a seemingly impenetrable shell around my story and I will want to not even try to crack it.

Long story short, a word-per-day goal really saved my bacon.

I can give good advice to people about getting past their writing anxiety, and it really is good advice... but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to follow. There are so many people on Tumblr asking their favorite authors, “how do I write? It’s so hard, I get so discouraged,” and their advice is always “Just don’t stop, pick yourself up again, and keep writing.” I know from experience that the people are asking not “how do I write” but rather, “how can I have something written without having to write it? Writing is hard and scary,” and the fact that there is no shortcut is baffling. How can there be so many books if there isn’t a shortcut? Writing is too hard for this many people to be doing it. What’s the secret? How do I make it easy? And the fact that when they sit down to write it doesn’t flow right away means that they walk away in frustration and say that writing is just hard.

Well, writing is hard. But if you’re writing something you enjoy, and you make the time for it, the difficulty comes from finding the right words, balancing the tension and release, making sure your story makes sense and works and is interesting—the task seems surmountable, even if difficult, but it now seems challenging, instead of hard. And it’s always scary, that’s for sure. But the more you do it, the less you feel like an intruder or a pretender and the more natural it feels. So unfortunately, the advice “keep writing” is the only advice. There’s something in your head. Get it out. No one will judge you. No one will even know unless you want them to. Write for you. Write because you have to.

That being said, I’m not sure I’m doing a good job on my story. Branden says it’s good so far, but I feel like it’s thin skin spread over bones, and surely everyone can see the bones. But it is not for me to judge the quality of my own work (more good advice), only to do the best job I can.

Fun problem: I went back through a few scenes in my story and added cussing. I didn’t previously realize how G-rated the story was before one of my beta readers pointed out that it’s kinda hard to have a gritty detective novel where no one cusses. Or smokes, or drinks, but that’s sorta plotty so I’m keeping that. Plus I address vice in other areas. (I do think it’s pretty much impossible to have a noir novel without the main character having one or more vices.)

An excerpt:

While I was waiting, I surveyed my domain. I did a daily evaluation of atmosphere; I wanted to make sure that my office gave clients what they wanted. It was on the seventh floor: a long, narrow space squished between two other long, narrow spaces on a long, narrow hallway. I had a window behind the desk that I kept a floor-to-ceiling cupboard pressed up against to block the natural light. Natural light was the gritty detective’s natural enemy, as far as Bogart enthusiasts knew. For my part, I liked to cater to that clientele; it suited my mood. [. . . ] The lampshades in my Seattle office were tea-colored, much more to my liking. I kept an ashtray on the desk and a pack of tobacco cigarettes in my desk drawer even though I didn’t smoke. If I had an appointment, I’d light one and let it burn about halfway before stubbing it out in the ashtray. The lacey curl of smoke climbing ceilingward was an aphrodisiac to people who were romanced by their own mysteries.

How goes your writing, or other creative endeavors, dear reader? Any advice for going to book signings? Let me know in the comments!

Word count: 19,394 (䯂)

No comments: