Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Creativity Comes At Night…or I’m a Vampire

Ever since I was a very small child, I could easily eschew the normalcy of sleeping at night and being active during the day for the strange wonderment of sleeping in the day and being up – and creative – at night. There was, and is, for me something comforting about crawling under the covers of a cool, crisp sheets with an eye-mask on and dozing off to the peaceful sounds of my fan (I love my white noise. Don’t mess with my fan) and the distant vibes of life in the city going on around me. Then, in the cool darkness of night, I love to be up, checking out late night television (it’s wonderfully awful) and writing away at whatever my current work in progress of the day is, while my neighbors sleep and everything is still.

Yet, there was always one fly in the ointment of my late night creativity: the fact that the rest of world always insisted I be awake somewhere during the day: grade school, high school, college, graduate school, work – all happen during the day. It’s a big day-lover’s conspiracy or something. But my desire to write comes at night (and in the middle of work meetings, formerly in the middle of math classes), so what is a gal to do?

There’s little I can do about it. At least until I win the lottery and get to write from home full-time.  Many times people have said to me, “But you’d be bored, if you won the lottery and stayed home.” My answer: “I said that I’d be writing. Writing is not boring. Writing is life.” Of course, they would retort with, “You only think you’d like to not work outside the home anymore.” My final reply is inevitably, “Give me the $300 million and allow me to prove you right.” They never pay up though.

What I can do is try to set aside some time every evening after work to spend one or two hours writing in quiet. I don’t watch a lot of television so this usually works out for me, except on Wednesday nights, when the gods of television mock me by putting the only two shows I watch (Supernatural and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) on opposite each other. Why? I cry out to the universe. The universe doesn’t care.

So now that I’ve been home from work sick, I have been indulging my penchant for late-night writing by plugging away on my laptop until two or three in the morning. This is effectively screwing up my sleep patterns for weeks to come but I’ve hit a breakthrough in a pivotal scene in my (for lack of a better explanation) check-lit novel and helped me finally pen the opening pages of the middle grade reader I’ve been musing over for several months now.

My sickness has allowed me to have free license to say, at three in the afternoon, “I’m going to take a nap now” and then to say at one in the morning, “I’m writing because I don’t feel well enough to sleep.” I’m milking it while I can and my writing progress is thankful for it.

No, I don’t know why my creativity blossoms this way, but if I ever find a vampire in my genealogy research, it will make so much sense.

Cooking Shows & Writing Flash Fiction

I’m home sick from work so my automatic go-to is to settle into the couch and watch cooking shows. What I did when I was sick in the days before food network television is all a blur. As a vegetarian, one might think I wouldn’t be interested in watching celebrity chefs slap around meat and spices and discuss how delicious it is (hint: I’ll never know), but the truth is I like the small, compact segments that give me a start to finish in under 30 minutes.
As a writer, that same principle applies to the recent trend for many readers and writers alike: the creation and absorption of bite-size stories in the form of flash fiction. Writing flash fiction is a lot like cooking. You do it in one burst with the thoughts/ingredients you have in front of you, work on it until it’s done, and come away with a singular, easily digestible creation.
The fun of writing flash fiction is to see how complete a story can be created with the fewest words possible. My writing group has a fun flash fiction challenge every February, where we always produce more submissions than any other month of the year. There’s just something so do-able about writing a story in under 1000 words. That’s the beauty of it: beginning, middle, and end in under 1000 words. It’s the joy of being done and actually having something to show for it.
The biggest challenge of being a writer is how long it takes to just be done. As someone who was stuck for six weeks on page 113 of an approximately 285 page first draft, I loved turning to the medium of flash fiction to get a moment of closure in the middle of the madness that is novel writing.
Now I just need to find the time to cook something.

Free Time, Being Sick, and Writing

I can't believe it's been two years since I last updated this blog. I confess I moved to another blog site, for no real reason, but now I'm back.

As a writer who also works full time at a non-writing job, I’m always bemoaning to friends, family, co-workers, and my writer’s group, I need more free time to write. I get 21 vacation days a years from work and people are always trying to be helpful and tell me to take a vacation day off and use it to write. If only life was that easy.
Life is not that easy because 1.) I save my vacation days for actual things with family. I can’t not be available for a family event because I spent my leave days on myself. Well, I could technically but I wouldn’t….because of guilt. Which brings me to … 2.) guilt. When I take too much for myself, I feel guilty. I actually feel guilty about a lot of things and taking time for myself is one of them.
But then I got sick. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I got sick at work. I went home at 4:30 pm on a Friday (which is early for me), crawled into bed with an Advil, and hoped I’d feel better in the morning. I didn’t. So far, I’ve been home sick for a week and it looks like I will be out sick next week too. So, after five days off of work, how much writing did I get done?
The answer is none. Not counting this blog, I’ve not written out more than a bunch of bills. Why? Well, first and foremost, because I’m in pain and, since my current work in progress is a romantic comedy, pain doesn’t put me in the right mindset for the characters, unless I wanted them to all start killing each other. For the record, I don’t.
So I’m sitting here faced with the conundrum of my existence as a writer: I never have time to write, but when I do have time, it’s just not the write time. I know I’m supposed to suck it in push through the pain. My characters would. However, I just want to roll over and watch re-runs of L&O:SVU because <insert whiny voice> I’m sick, darn it.