Writer’s Block? Try Writer’s Berlin Wall.

Writer’s Block? Try Writer’s Berlin Wall.

(Note: I am frustrated and venting.)

I don’t like the term ‘writer’s block.’ It’s an icky term. It gives us this mental image of a blob of half dry concrete perched on that handy-dandy box of ideas that roosts inside the creative center of our brains. While this might feel accurate, it is in no way helpful. It makes it seem like this very easy process of removal. Just pick up a sledgehammer, or a local martial artist, and give it a good whack.

japanese-girl-breaks-bricks-with-forehead

(I feel like this could be a useful skill during the apocalypse)

I know, I know. There are a lot of websites out there that tell you that writer’s block is a lie. That it’s something your brain just made up and it doesn’t actually exist. All you have to do is keep writing and you’ll be fine. Or my favorite “If writer’s block is staring you in the face, write about it.”

Yeah…no.

Let’s put some things in perspective first.

Three weeks ago my book came out. (Go check it out)  So far it’s done better than I expected for a first time publication. It hit #3 on the mystery and thriller genre, and #5 on the shapeshifter/paranormal tag. Overall, on Amazon at least, it rests at #7435. I was pleasantly surprised, even though I found a typo or two when I went back and re-read it.

efb5431c91d587f5a6bcc998994d86d7

(I hate commas.)

Yeah, that’s pretty accurate to how I feel since the work went through myself, a very talented editor, and several friends. I was fairly sure that it was free of errors. But hey, I can’t fix it now.

Then a very dear friend told me that I’ve been really hard to get a hold of lately. “You’ve been so focused on writing, I feel bad trying to get your attention.”

And then the spouse says, “Well, I can’t really ask you to do anything. You are always working.”

There was a hurricane. Flooding in the downstairs. And money demands from the IRS. My kitchen was a mess and my spouse kept trying to clean everything…which sounds great until I felt so guilty about not cleaning that I couldn’t concentrate on anything. This eventually turned into me getting into a snip fest with pretty much anything that walk into my line of sight.

Isn’t creativity grand?

7x5yy5g

(I assume each of these actors tried writing a screenplay before filming these scenes)

So let’s look at the list we have here.

  • Feelings of creative inadequacy
  • Guilt for alienating friends and family
  • Anxiety over household chores
  • Hurricane over which I had no control but felt like I should
  • Money issues
  • Household tension

 

Wow, those all sound like anxiety inducing events. Maybe there is some kind of correlation between anxiety and disassociating from your creativity, which may or may not feel like the literary equivalent of hair in the drain. So the nay-sayers who don’t think that writer’s block is real can sniff decade old draino and stop telling me that what I, and thousands of others feel, isn’t real.

Seriously though, horror

Seriously though, horror

I write naughty things. I find something glorious about describing the feel of satin hands sliding across sweaty skin. Or whispered promises and candlelit dinners. It’s fantastic. I’m not ashamed of it. At least I’m not till my conservative 80 year old grandfather looks me in the eye and asks me what my books are about.

That conversation went about as well as you can expect.

That being said, I have a deep and abiding passion for horror. I have a ridiculous collection of horror films (new, old, and remade), I have a slew of shelves devoted to the literary version of the genre, and I even wrote a screenplay based off of the mysterious case of Elisa Lam.

I think part of it is because I live in (almost) rural Virginia. We are very proud of our claim to be the ‘most haunted state in the US’. There is even a very lucrative series of books out there that collect all the local stories. So here I am, surrounded by the idea of ghosts, witches, and mysterious murders, what is a writer to do?

It’s a tad bit hard to cross the genre of romance and horror without it falling more into one than the other. Perhaps I ought to take another pen-name and devote that time and energy to the bump in the night stories.

Or not. Who knows?

Ghostwriting

When I am not bashing my head against my own work, I am bashing my head against a client’s. In some ways I find this a very freeing (and lucrative) way to keep writing, even when I have no inspiration with my own work.

My niche, so far, has been writing short stories revolving around alien romance. Who knew that I could bring my love of smooches together with my love of futuristic political arenas. It’s pretty neat.

I get to make my own hours, pick the clients that I want to work with, and when the writing is done I can send it out and not have to worry about someone’s poor opinion reflecting on my personal work.

However, it is not without its flaws. There are some clients who think that writing is very easy and straightforward. They do not understand that it is not particularly feasible to write an 80k story in a matter of five days, much less do so with perfect grammar. So, there’s that.

At the end of the day, though, after everything that has gone on in my life recently. It’s really nice to be able to tell people that I’m a writer, professionally.

Procrastination, you Little Bitch

I recently chopped off the last four chapters of my book because I felt they no longer suited the story that I was attempting to create. It was the emotional equivalent to slicing my baby in half. I literally cried. I do feel that it was the right thing to do, but ever since my creativity for the project has been stifled.

I am sure there is some psychological reason why, and that’s fantastic, but that’s not really helping me right now. Every day I open up the word program and scroll through my work and type in a way that can only be described as listless.

So what do I do? I distract myself in the hopes that my muse will bite me. I look up recipes, I knit or sew,  watch horror movies (because that always puts me in the mood for romance,) make gifs, giggle over cute animal videos, play video games, visit the library, mess with my doll collection (don’t judge), I read, and when all that fails I clean.

It’s getting to the point where my house is organized. It’s insanity.

I guess my issue is this. My first ending was typical. MMC and FMC confess their love, come together and overcome the obstacle that has been set before them and end up together. Happy-Happy, Joy-Joy. But as I started to write it the little character voices that live inside my head were like “Dude, stop.”

I wasn’t writing the story of Claire and Owen, I was just mimicking the stories that I had read before, in my own words. I was a genre parrot who was trying to force my round story in the square peg. You’d think that once I realized this and corrected the words would just flow, right?

Yeah…not so much.

What’s happened now is that I have an ending. I have a plan for one at least but I’m pretty much terrified that people are going to read it and feel like I cheapened them because it doesn’t go the way that the paranormal erotic-romance normally does. I’m afraid that readers will be upset and wont read any of my future work.

So here is my question: Would you read a story about two characters who had a sexual relationship but ended up being friends at the end rather than romantic lovers? Not because of some great emotional tragedy or something like that, but because they both realized they just weren’t romantically compatible, even though the sex was great?

Seriously, help.

The Daily Life of a Writer- Day 4

Today’s post is (much) later than usual. Today is my grandfather’s 80th birthday and I spent it roaming around with family. My family comes from all over the south, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia. They are hard working, blue collar, well meaning christian folk who love to fish, watch football, and drink beer.

I sometimes wonder if I was dropped off by aliens. Oh, don’t get me wrong, my family loves me and I love them but I’m pretty sure that if blood wasn’t involved our relationships would have been forgotten a long time ago. Which would have been a terrible thing because I would have surrounded myself by people who talk and think like I do and that’s not the best way to get a well rounded perspective on life.

My Poppa (that’s what we call my grandfather) survived my grandmother by nearly fifteen years. He comes from striking German/Jewish stock and is as gruff as they come. You will know, when he says something to you, that he absolutely means it. the wording may be blunt but he doesn’t like to pretty things up. He is willful, firm in his way, and takes no nonsense from anyone. I love him desperately.

It was wonderful to see him again but, at the same time, a stab. He’s getting older. His always proud stance is becoming hunched, and he can’t stand for very long anymore. It’s surprising to see what time can do to a man who bent to nothing else.

It is important to note that my Poppa is yet another person who formed my desire to write. My Marmee (my grandmother) was an avid reader, and even took her title from her favorite book Little Women, and she was the person who sent me books every birthday and Christmas. But it was my Poppa who told me that if I wanted something in life, with enough hard work, I’d make it happen.

And since the man never told me a lie to make me feel better…I believe him.

Vampires En Vogue

Over the past few years, thanks to the Twilight boom and a great many other YA books that ran along the same vein (pun!) vampires have seen a boom in popularity. This has made some of us jump for joy and some of us cringe.

If your like me you probably did a little bit of both.

It was a really weird for me to witness I was in my mid twenties when my younger sister shoved a novel in my hands and told me that I absolutely had to read it. She and I had exchanged novels before and I trusted her opinion. So that evening I cracked the book and gave it a little look.

I did, in fact, read the entire thing. When I got to the end of it I set the book aside and decided I probably wasn’t going to read the next book. The story just didn’t do anything for me. I understood that the author was trying to take a mythological creature and try to make it her own by making them shiny but it just seemed to fall flat in the character department and the story felt…really dysfunctional.

About six months later everyone was talking about it. Like, seriously…everyone. I was a little flabbergasted (isn’t that an awesome word?) and I didn’t really know what to do with it. I thought perhaps I might have judged the book to harshly and borrowed the rest from my proud Team Jacob, sister and read the rest of the series.

I still didn’t like it. There were parts of the book that made me legitimately uncomfortable. But what surprised me the most is how many people were frothingly protective of the series and how many were vehemently opposed. The most amusing battle of the two wars were a gaming buddy of mine who is a middle aged African American 6’4″ guy and weighing in somewhere near 400 pounds  going up against another friend of his who was tiny, redheaded, and befreckled. The dude was Pro-Twilight. She was not.

What amused me most were the people who thought that this fandom was going to last forever. I tried to explain, so many times, that this was normal and that it wasn’t even the first time I had seen the vampire craze come and go.

Vampires were HUGE in the Victorian Era. I mean, they were the thing. I don’t know if you are aware but the oldest lore about the creature we call vampire revolves around a recently dead becoming possessed, they were more like really quick mildly fresh zombies. They smelled and were gross. It wasn’t until the publication of the (weirdly named) Varney the Vampire that they took on a more aristocratic ideal.

And it became a craze. The serialized publication became a BFD for the era. It would go on to inspire the story Dracula. Then there was Carmilla (Oh my god go read Carmilla) Which inspired…well you see how this went.

Sometime in the late 80’s to early 90’s Anne Rice’s books became a really huge deal. I don’t know if it was the publication of the White Wolf gaming books Vampire: The Masquerade (and the 90’s drama of the same name) or what. But everyone I knew was reading whatever vampire stories they could get their hands on. A while later they were declared “Like, so last year.”

Unless you were me. I continued to be pretty obsessive about the monsters of the Victorian Era.

The difference, I think, was the era that Twilight was born into. The Era of Social Media has a large impact on what’s cool and what isn’t. But it seems to me every couple of generations the bloodsuckers pop up…because they just wont stay dead.

Why is this so important to me? Because I love writing about vampires and werewolves and witches (oh my!) and the fact that people are beginning to get like, seriously upset about this subject confuses me.

“Why are there all these stories about vampires falling in love with human. I don’t fall in love with a cheeseburger” Then dude, I hate to tell you this, but you are totally eating the wrong cheeseburgers. But joking aside…I do not understand why people are STILL so angry about this.

Are you angry that women are swooning over vampire dudes? Then go write about the perfect vampire lady. It would be awesome to read that. I guess what it comes down to is I think there are far more pressing things in this world to be upset about than vampire people and their mortal love interests.

The Pseudonym Controversy

Recently the literary world has been alight with the exploits of one Michael Derrick Hudson who used a pseudonym in order to sell some of his work.

Using a name other than the one you are born with isn’t anything new in writing. In fact the newest thing about ‘pen names’ is actually the term itself (used first in 1864) but the practice of it is far older than that. The Japanese have ‘art-names’ which can change multiple times during their artistic careers going back for soemtime. The Persians use takhallus for their poets, which is the act of adding a geographical moniker unto their given name to differentiate between poets over time, something they’ve been doing since they started writing.

But I digress. Noms de plume are nothing new, not even in America. Mark Twain, Stephen King, and even Dr. Seuss are heavy practitioners of the literary name game. So why, exactly, is Mr. Hudson being placed under fire for this?

Because his pseudonym of choice was Yi-Fen Chou. In case you are too lazy to google it, Yi-Fen Chou is Chinese in origin. Mr. Hudson is not. He’s Caucasian.

Mr. Hudson wrote a poem entitled The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve, and submitted it under this pseudonym for publication to The Best American Poetry of 2015, an anthology of (you guessed it) poetry. Funny enough it wasn’t the first time that he had tried to get that poem published.

It was the fortieth. No, seriously…the fortieth time. As in 4-0. Having played the ‘submit stuff to literary magazines till someone takes a chance on you’ game I know it’s all about persistence. Gotta keep swinging…blah blah blah… while Forty isn’t the most I’ve heard, it’s definitely on the higher end of the submission average.

In an act of frustration, or perhaps curiosity, Mr. Hudson changed the name on his submission from his ‘white’ one to one that “sounded” Chinese.  He submitted less than ten times and was accepted.

By changing one thing on his submission, a thing that should mean nearly nothing, he got recognized for his work. And I’ve got a pretty big problem with that but not for the reasons that some might think.

I’m not saying I agree with his choice of monikers. I don’t support the action. What I have a problem with is what it says about the editors and publishers in our world. It is clear that his poem was accepted because the name was Chinese.

This means one of two things. Either Mr. Hudson’s work was good enough to be published and it wasn’t because he was white and male. Or that we have lower expectations of minority authors. Do you see the problem here?

Now, this discrimination doesn’t just go one way.

I am reminded of the recent efforts by Catherine Nichols to expose sexism in modern day publication. Ms. Nichols wrote a book. I assume she celebrated before sending her queries out to multiple publication houses/agents (50, by the way). Over the next two months she received two requests for the full manuscript and nothing else. Not exactly the best of responses.

Nichols decided to try again. She made a new email account and profile for “George”. She sent the exact same queries out, and lo and behold…received 17 responses to her work. And even more than that…she received comments from the agents who weren’t ready for George’s work yet…constructive criticisms on her potential publications. Something she hadn’t received as Catherine.

That is also a problem.

Clearly Catherine’s work was good enough on its own. Like Hudson, the only thing that was keeping it from being published was a name.

A persons work should not be published because of, or in spite of, their birth. It should be published because it’s good work.