The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Writing – and Composting

I call my writing style outrageous…

… wait.

Change that.  I call my working style outrageous.

I don’t write outrageously.  The words that come out onto the screen from my keyboard are not bizarre or out of this world or strange. It’s the way they come out that I think, I wonder, is different than other writers.

Or maybe not so different, but it is what it is.

I belong to a group on Facebook called “The Dragon’s Rocketship,” which is a wonderful, warm, welcoming place for those who write fantasy or science fiction. That group is also home to a number of talented writers, some who write the most brilliant original material and very prolifically. They are fully and deeply engaged in the process of writing all the time.

Every day.

I get so much inspiration and entertainment and joy from the snippets of their writing that they post – the previews, the “look at what I wrote today” bits. It’s like having a deep insight into the mind of some of my new favorite writers. It’s a joy and a blessing.

Yet, it’s a curse.

For you see I’m not writing every day. At least, I’m not writing something that’s ever going to be published. I’m not working on the sequel of Dry Land (although I tried to but nothing worked) or the next book that I plan on putting out there on Amazon or sending to an agent. I don’t even have a solid idea, really. Scratch that. I have some ideas. Had some as recently as yesterday. I always have ideas. I just don’t have one that I really want to write.

And that’s the key for me. Want.

With Dry Land, I visited the Kennedy Space Center and a few weeks later the idea for the book hit me full on like a ton of bricks. Right between the eyes. Slapped me across the mouth. All those phrases and cliches that describe when an idea grabs hold of your brain, and buries itself deep inside. It’s happened with other things I’ve written of a more fan fiction type of venue. And it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing when it does.

But it hasn’t happened since Dry Land.

I wish I had the impetus to just sit down and write. But to do so for me feels like a chore. It feels like I’m writing empty, hollow. I need to be passionate about a story. I need to have something that I can’t help but think about as I’m trying to sleep at night, or when I just wake up in the morning. I need to have something that invades my mind as I drive to work or back home. I need to WANT. I need… to need. I need that drive. That shove. That kick in the pants to write. To get the story that’s taking over my brain out of my brain.

If I don’t have that, to me, what I do write feels forced. Contrived.

So, if you ask me why I’m not writing my next book yet, that’s why. I don’t currently have anything new that’s given me drive to write it. No new character is currently screaming in my head to make me give him life in a book. No character is feeding me bits of dialogue. No scene is being impressed deeply into my mind.

And that’s okay.

A friend of mine just affirmed that for me. She likened my (and her) writing process to a compost pile (ewwww! I know). Right now, my compost is well… composting. It’s brewing and breaking down and settling in, thoughts mixing with experiences, mushing together with ideas and fermenting with inspiration. And one of these days, my mind will take a pitchfork, turn it over and it’ll be a mass of filthy, fly-ridden, stinking… erm. Wrong metaphor.

It’ll be a supply of fertile soil in which to plant my next book. But it needs time.

So, if my working style in writing is odd or outrageous, then it’s okay with me. I’ll be happy to sit back and watch my writer friends dig through their own piles and be joyous at how beautifully the seeds sprout life. Until mine is ready.

Black Belt Writers

As I’m sitting here, two and a half hours away from my brown-stripe belt test, I got to thinking. Which is an odd and dangerous thing, me thinking. But I did it anyway.

In the American TKD school I attend, the brown-stripe belt is the last bastion before the coveted and hard-earned black. Now, we are taught, most carefully, that black belt is not the end of the martial arts journey. It’s really, only the beginning. I watch the black belt “masters” class on the floor before my adult class on Tuesday nights, and I marvel at the unfamiliar, difficult-looking katas and self defenses and weapons work they do.

But then, I also think back to when I was a white belt, just starting out, just learning the first few moves of the form “Journey,” and watching the red and brown belts pull off the “Matrix” kata with seeming ease.

But now I’m testing on “Matrix” today, along with three other katas, including “Journey.” And I know now it absolutely wasn’t easy. Not easy at all. Fun yes, but a lot of hard work. It’s been a long trip, but the road ahead is much longer.

That all being said, I think now about writing and publishing. It may seem to some, it did to me, that the publication of a book, whether via the traditional way or via the self-publication route, was akin to the black belt of the writing game. Sitting in the desk chair of a new author, just starting out with the proverbial “…Once upon a time…” is likened to learning that first front stance and double middle block in “Journey.” Starting out a new novel… it’s like sitting on the sidelines and watching black belt authors on the floor of a masters class as they spin and kick and jump through their double digit glowing reviews and high sales.

Publication, it may seem, is the end all be all of getting the story out of the head and onto paper (or into Scribd or Word), getting it through the editors, beyond the agents, past the publishers, and finally, out there on Amazon, the Barnes and Noble bookshelves, or the local libraries.

But, like the earning of the black belt, publication is not the finish. It’s only the kickoff.

Having your book published is only the start of a massive learning curve, a period of smile and cry, test and try, discard what doesn’t work, and keep what doesn’t. It’s a period of going back and cringing at that bit of editing you still don’t like. It’s reading others’ works and dripping with jealousy over their fine, fine prose. It’s learning to take the good with the bad, the harsh, strange reviews with the glorious praise. It’s learning to press the flesh, virtually and in reality, to get your book out there, to get it sold (or given away) to get it to eyes that will see the words and minds to give the words the gestalt of life.

Which is really, what every author wants – their blood sweat and tears driven story to be on display, to live in the mind and heart of another. Quite like what every black belt wants – their years of hard work, their integrity, discipline, and honor displayed for all to see on that strip of stitched canvas around their waist.

I’m excited about my test today. I know it’ll be hard, the entire process of getting to where I am was a long, hard, wonderful road. It’s not black belt yet but it’s close. But again, I know, it’s not the end. There’s so much more out there, and I can’t wait to learn it.

Edited to add: I did pass my brown-stripe belt test. And like the rest of my journey, the test was difficult, but fun. Black is next. Bring it on. I’m ready to kick the door down. I say the same about my writing and publication of my book. What comes with that too… bring it on.