Why I can’t write Part 2

So I just had an epiphany.

I was writing an email to a friend, I like to let her know what I’m working on even though sometimes I feel quite intrusive because she’s made of awesome and does all the awesome things (more on confidence and conversations with other creatives later). I wrote sometimes I get discouraged or find things hard because a project feels too big for me to handle. And then I thought about that.

Havoc’s Moon, my work in progress, feels too big for me to handle.

In a way, that’s kinda cool. I feel like I just got a positive diagnosis or something because I’ve identified something I can work with.

I’m not going to shorten my book. One of the things that made writing Past Life, my sci-fi novella, fun was its smallness. So I just need to figure out how to translate that into a longer thing.

I’ve got way more characters in The Slaughter Chronicles and many plot lines. Whenever I think about my story I feel like I’m looking at a huge world map, my scope is so wide I can’t see any of the topography clearly.

So now I’m going to work on zooming in.

Why can’t I write?

Writing as a person who has a “day” job. I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m not a business person. I can’t afford to just write and make money off of my writing. I have zero expectations that writing will make me financially stable. But writing isn’t a hobby for me, writing keeps me alive. Writing gives me the strength to go outside my apartment and exist as a human being in a society filled with other human beings. Sometimes being human is scary.

But I’ve found, more harshly than previous bouts of writer’s block, in the last few months I haven’t been able to write. I haven’t found myself capable of putting the ideas forming in my brain onto the page. I have several works in progress and several ideas for how to make them awesome but when I turn on my iPad to write I can’t make the words happen.

So what do I do?

When I can’t write my books I want to write anyway so I want to try journaling. Why can’t I write? Experimenting with a lack of focus. Just do it. I feel like there is nothing to do when I KNOW that there are a lot of things to do. What is writer’s block? What causes this feeling of NOTHING? Is it stress? Is it a starving muse? Do I need to separate myself into pieces and step into each piece like a favorite t-shirt or an uncomfortable uniform? Should there be a writing Jess who doesn’t care about the work day/doesn’t exist in the work day and a working Jess who has to suffer through all the tension and anxiety of making money so writing Jess can write and ignore all the unpleasant things? I don’t think that’s the right way to go. I don’t think separation is healthy but I haven’t yet figured out how to explore healthy ways of writing and working.

Mental health and physical health. I have to take care of myself. On the physical side I have pain and stiff joints. Going to the gym hurts, yoga hurts, tai chi hurts. Demoralization of the body. I feel tired all the time. I’ve tried going to the doctor and finding a diagnosis but so far all the tests for all the possibilities have come back negative so there needs to be more exploration there.

On the mental side my job is stressing me out. But that’s a very broad explanation of the problem. The problem is my reaction to people and situations and no matter how much you meditate or exercise mindfulness trainings, the machines still beep and the people are still there and the endurance of dealing with an unpleasant situation is very draining.

When I get home from work all I want to do is sleep. Before I go to work, when I have a few hours in the morning where I can write, I feel paralyzed because I am afraid that if I don’t prepare myself extensively by worrying/fantasizing about everything that could go wrong and mentally preparing myself for the metaphorical end of the world I won’t be able to function when I clock in. This is not healthy, I know that, but I still do it.

Of course the answer is more meditation, more mindfulness, more reading and indulging in inspiring books and tv/movies/documentaries. And cuddling with the cats.

More thoughts about why I can’t write:

Self-doubt. If I get so stressed out that I can’t write, why do I think I can write when I’m not stressed? This is another illogical thought because I CAN write, I have written several things that make me happy. Deadline pressure? I want to get things done on my schedule, release Havoc’s Moon in October even though I need to write at least 40,000 more words and how the hell am I going to do that AND edit AND market it? Even though I am totally capable of changing my schedule it’s a goal and DAMMIT I want to meet my goal even if it’s starting to be unrealistic.

Pacing. I find outlines constricting. So I don’t help myself by just writing, there needs to be direction. I like writing sprints, doing 10-20 minutes of free writing or whatever and fitting those pieces in wherever they fit. But I have to be in the right mindset for free writing, I have to bee in the right MOOD. I’m cringing as I write this because, as Gurney Halleck (Frank Herbert, Dune) said, “You fight when necessity arises–no matter the mood! Mood’s a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It’s not for fighting.” Fighting, of course, isn’t writing but maybe it is. I feel like it is sometimes, not because my book is an enemy

(even though plots and characters can be frustrating. One of my main characters decided he wanted to be the bad guy when I was sculpting him to be one of the good guys. He was extremely adamant that no, he didn’t want to work with the other good guy, he wanted to make the other good guy’s life miserable. Thanks for that.)

but because writing is self-preservation as well as self-expression. So I need to get over my mood. How do I do that? Does it circle back around to less stress and more meditation, less worry, more money.

Just got a pang of stress looking at the clock and realizing I have just under two hours before I have to be at work. It’s okay. I’ll eat something and figure it (the anxiety) out later.

I don’t think making “things” “better” is the answer. Things=life and better=an abstraction. I think in order to be able to write I have to let myself open up to the writing, even if the next day I think it’s crap, even if the ideas aren’t going anywhere or wanting to come out.

I didn’t think I would be able to get any writing done today and yet here I have a blog post, not what I wanted to write but I still wrote something. And that is, at least, something.

Physical(ity)ly

Now I only write numbers.

05 line the 26 day line 2018

My initials are not letters but curves in the road, a roundabout, a punctuated swirl.

I never write my initials the same way twice

But the lab techs and quality know every time it’s me because they

Analyze beautifully

I don’t know what they write I do know

I don’t write words anymore, only numbers

And lines

10 line 04 line 2017 JH

And so on

And so on

With ballpoint pen

I used to hate writing with ballpoints but you can get used to anything if you do it long enough curls in the road like a ribbon, a strand of hair, a stray thought that begins where you are and takes you where you want to be with who you want to be with but if you lose focus you have to error correct and then there are more numbers and more lines

The physical physicality of writing

NEW PROJECT: Cover Reveal and Micro Blurb

She pretends today is a day where Tiffany is up with the doctor, which she is, only she’s not alive. Those days are boring because there’s no one else to talk to once she tells Nathaniel NO. He doesn’t take it personally but he always loses interest after that. She pretends Tiffany isn’t dead, she pretends the last four days haven’t happened and she never heard her retching into her toilet or cry between mouthfuls of bile. She pretends she doesn’t know what Tiffany’s fear smells like or what her blood smells like.

She sits on her cot and pretends the bullet hole above her is the eye piece of a telescope and the ceiling is the sky of a strange, alien planet with a dozen moons. The Exile’s Moon isn’t alone or exiled anymore and her sisters, Ghost Moon–where she imagines Daddy and Tiffany live now–and Havoc’s Moon, the patron saint of troublemakers and prisoners, is always full to bursting.

So I’m working on a new thing. A new thing that isn’t so new, a story that I started in 2015 when I started dating my husband. We both love stories, we both love stories about anything monstrous and supernatural. He has whole universes of frightening and amazing characters running around setting things on fire in his brain and he was kind enough to let me play with some of them. His imaginary friends and my imaginary friends get along really well.

Regina Slaughter is a werewolf. She’s 23 years old and is–I use this term loosely–the Resident Assistant of an apartment building that her adopted father and Alpha of the Iron Wolves converted into a sanctuary for all the supernatural beasties who want to enjoy the perks of the human world, like free wi-fi and 24 hour pizza delivery, without risk of being eaten by larger predators or those members of the human race who have taken up the mantle of Hunter. Hunters kill everything that is not human without remorse or mercy.

Ever since Regina was rescued from a prison/laboratory and the Hunters who imprisoned her, she has cared for and defended her new family of wolves and any wayward soul who happens to stumble into The Bramble Tower. So when the pack Beta, her adopted uncle, is found murdered, Regina will do anything to bring his killer to justice.

Havoc’s Moon is the first book in The Slaughter Chronicles (of which I have outlined like 10 books…yeah…) and Regina is my half-feral protagonist. She is fierce and tender and slightly out of sync with reality. Her best friend is a ghost girl who lives inside her head and her pet dog looks very much like a cross between a starfish and a blender.

I’m tentatively planning to self-publish this book on Halloween this year. Usually cover reveals only happen one or two months before the official release date. (I wanted to do a marketing plan or schedule but I have no idea how to advertise or market my stuff.) But I want to share this now because I want to. I want to share my progress and my writing plans with you. Also, if I tell you that I’m going to do something I have a better chance of doing it.

Also, as the book grows into a full fledged novel (omg yes an actual novel) I want to release the prologue early, on Instafreebie, as a promotional goodie for all of you. The prologue is Regina’s backstory and I think you all would really enjoy it.

Stay posted for updates on that release.

I’m really excited to share Regina’s story with the world and I am so happy that I have the technical skills to self-publish, so all you have to wait on is me finishing the book 🙂

This amazing book cover was designed by Robin Vuchnick at mycustombookcover.com. I’ve had an absolute blast working with her on this first cover and wolf art for this series. I have her slated to design the covers for books two and three as well. I’m seriously over the moon about her work and if you are looking for someone to design your book cover you should seriously consider her 🙂

When you try to talk to your spouse about writing

Me: Can I ask you a question?

Mr. J: …Yeah…

Me: Do you like my writing?

Mr. J: Sure.

Me: You sure?

Mr. J: Yeah.

Me: You promise.

Mr. J: I’m a little confused by your formatting.

Me: (here we go) Explain.

Mr. J: You know when you have really long lines. And then a short line. And then another short line. And then a really long line?

Me: (laughs)

Mr. J: (laughs)

Me: (zero composure) You mean my paragraphs?

Mr. J: No (defensive)…unless that’s what they are…

Me: (falls over)