Tuesday, October 26, 2010

(Over) Analyze This

How it is: Writing ain't what it used to be. Not these days, at least. Some days I drag myself kicking and screaming to the page, using any excuse to skip looking at my latest work all together.

Some offer guidance or answers to my recent lack of enthusiasm. They say things like, "Everyone has a slump," or "Take time away." My favorite advice, which I lay on myself all the time, is "Maybe your story sucks." That said, I'll spend hours thinking about it, poring over the pages with a damn microscope looking for a fix to jazz up the pages.

Lately I've been recalling the days when I started my first novel. Seven years ago this month I completed my first manuscript, over 225k words spilled out in eight months (strange, yes. Back then, not so much). Nothing could keep me away. I literally wrote morning, noon and night, every day including weekends. I LOVED that story. The fact that I had no idea how to craft a novel never occurred to me. Not once did I stop to think about plot. I just knew the story in my heart - it was organic. Once I finished my first novel, I put it to bed and began another following the same process.

After the completion of manuscript three things slowed down. Blame the eye explosion - enduring four surgeries to repair a detached retina slows one down a bit. But it never stopped me. The day my goddess eye doctor recommended staying away from the computer, I picked up pen and pad and continued the writing process.

Today I have no physical excuses for not writing, it's all mental. The creative part of my brain feels like it has been scrubbed with a wire brush. Nothing comes. No love, no enthusiasm or ideas. I'm left to wonder. Where did the good times go?

With answers not forthcoming, or obvious, I've reviewed my personal writing journey looking for answers, anything to make sense of it all. Here are a few thoughts and/or reasons on why my muse has gone stealth:

1.) In the beginning I wrote with great abandoned, clueless to the craft. Publishing wasn't in my thoughts. My work went unseen, the first two months no one in my household knew why I spent so many hours on the computer. I loved the characters I created and to me, the story was a masterpiece. Due to a freak ice-storm that knocked out the power for days, I told my husband how I spent my hours, revealing the story to him. He was my first supporter and fan, saying that many people dream of writing a novel, but few actually do it.

2.) Fast forward to mid-manuscript number two. Husband asked if I considered publishing. That thought put into motion my quest, including research and finding out where to begin on such a path. This involved opening the doors to reveal what once was my private venture. One person's thoughts evoked a wide spectrum of roads, adding more eyes to the mix. I joined Romance Writers of America, not realizing at the time that romance not my genre. But hey, those chicas knew the publishing ropes - I credit my choice for advancing my muse as well as knowledge base.

3.) The RWA. If not for them I never would have shared my work, making it subject to strangers' eyes. Contests a-plenty, I entered. One thing I found helpful by entering RWA sponsored writing contests was that the contestant remained anonymous. No names, I became a number. That being the case, judges' comments were based solely on the writing. I had several great scores, and a few not so great. The process thickened my skin as well as improved my talent (I believe).

It helped that contestants remained anonymous. Praise for my work came honestly.

4.) Honest opinions. I forged relationships with fellow writers. One in particular I call the "perfect balance" - she always told it like she saw it - she didn't praise if not warranted, yet let me know when something rocked.

5.) Editors. I have found there are many forms of editors. Those who actually know the craft and can back up their expertise with strong credentials; ones who know the craft, etc., yet tend to over-criticize, using such buzz words as "not buying it" (God, how I hate that phrase); and finally there are those who say they can edit, period. I've had three experiences with editors. Two credentialed; two who used the term I despise; one who had nothing to back up the title. I'm a firm believer that every manuscript needs an editor's eye, but also believe editors need "perfect balance" and not become the Simon Cowell of editing.

Ultimately in these past weeks I've felt abandoned and have begun to analyze my situation. I've recently become reclusive, have strayed away from blogs, distanced myself from other writers and worst of all, stepped away from my manuscript. Although the above five topics depict my writing road, it reveals a common denominator: Other writers. The good of it was great, the bad of it horrible.

Without mingling with other writers my writing world shrank. Without other writers I no longer hear words of praise (and I heard a few along the way). Funny how one kind word strengthened my work ethic, erasing all the bad comments or contest scores completely.

Perhaps that's what I'm missing. Kind people possessing genuine praise (not my sister or husband). Is it time to rejoin the creative human race again? So many questions, so much angst, what is a girl to do?


Natasha Fondren said...

I think writing is the hardest thing I've ever done. Conservatory was difficult, but I loved every moment. There is no doubt I wrote a ton more when I didn't have writing friends. My writing friends have made me happier, and there have been some blogs that have been helpful, but there has been no benefit to my actual writing from having writing friends. I'm fine with that... I'm friends with writers for the friendship, which I treasure.

On the whole, I regularly consider withdrawing for awhile. I wrote so much better alone.

My biggest problem right now is I've sorta lost faith in guys. I don't remember what it's like to be kissed, even. So it's hard to write a sexy story, when I can't seem to drum up attraction for an imaginary guy, and I'm sort of afraid I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life and afraid I'll never be kissed again. Silly.

So my strong point... sexy guys... is totally gone right now.

Kath Calarco said...

"So my strong point... sexy guys... is totally gone right now."

OH NO!!! You need to watch reruns of Magnum P.I., lol.

*sigh* I wrote a ton more before I joined writing groups, too, and thereafter I was happy to visit (on-line) and network with them. Truthfully, I wish I had a group to human interface with. I tried out the local RWA chapter, which was in ruins. Needless to say, it didn't work out. Funny thing is, I hear about areas such as the Southern states that have scads of RWA chapters. Dunno why that is, but here in NYS they are few and far between. Not that I want to rejoin another RWA chapter, just saying it seems weird.

You're right. Writing is the hardest thing - it's a true mystery as to why.

Robin Bielman said...

Writing is damn hard. So what's a girl to do? I think follow her heart. Period. Forget everything else, don't think too hard, and try to enjoy every day. You've got a great heart, Kath ~ it would be a shame not to share it!

Amy Sue Nathan said...

First, give yourself a break. You know the deal, the score, the big picture. You're honest with yourself. All of this will lead back to writing.

But I agree - having a support system of writers, who are the only people who 'get it' even if you have many around who support you, is key for some people. Find the place and the folks who help make you want to write, write more, write better. For me those folks are on the internet -- like you.


Kath Calarco said...

Binx, what would I do without you? Always reminding me of what matters - that's you. I'm grateful for that, you know. :-)

Kath Calarco said...

Amy, I'm doing exactly that - giving myself a break. Some days I feel the urge, but it's not strong enough to pull me to the screen. Yesterday didn't helped - sunny skies and 70 degrees outside. No way I'm sitting in the house when that happens. After all, I do live in the snow belt.

And back at ya, chica. You are that for me, too.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth: this blog was inspirational to me. Your writing made a difference in at least one life today!

Kath Calarco said...

Rebbie, your comment made my day. Whenever I've made a positive difference I feel as though my life on this planet is complete. :-)