Saturday, July 13, 2013

On writing: WE'RE CLOSED.

Right now, I'm in the middle the ultra-big-final edit on an entirely new book. It's unlike anything I've written before, and it's taken several revisions to get it right. From the moment I wake up-- at 6am? Really, brain? To the moment I fall asleep, I'm thinking about this book.

And you know what? I haven't read another book in weeks.

I'm not looking for new music, I don't want to talk to anyone, I wear the same pajama pants for a week, I'm not on Twitter a ton (for me), and I had to walk away from my first viewing of season 1 of The Legend of Korra because the story was taking up too much headspace.

The neon sign behind my eyes says CLOSED.

And that's okay.

When writers give advice on writing, they often tell you to take in a ton of media. Stephen King supposedly writes four hours a day and reads four hours a day. Soaking up bad media helps solidify your feelings about what's important, and gorging on good media opens up your mind to new ideas and primes the pumps for good storytelling and excellent characters. Some of my best ideas have come from TV shows, internet articles, and photosets from Tumblr.

But.

Sometimes, you have to close all that down, lock the shutters, and hunker in the skull bunker while you work through your story.

Sometimes, you need darkness and quiet.

Sometimes, you get selfish with your headspace.

Sometimes, you eat nothing but capicola and cheese for two weeks because thinking about food is pretty annoying when you could be thinking about your story.

I think this fact can get lost when so much writing advice is about opening yourself up to possibility and staying malleable and curious. But being CLOSED is a big part of my writing cycle, especially in the last big edit, when I'm making sure that every Chekhov's gun shows up in a drawer later, every i has its jot, and that opening line still makes sense compared to the last line. There's a time to be out in the world, experiencing things. And there's a time to be only in your story, using every bit of your resources to make it as great as it can be.

Sending your story off to its next level is an amazing thrill, but it's also generally a little terrifying. Whether you're querying agents, sending it to critique partners, or are lucky enough to just shoot that bouncing book baby off to an agent or editor, chances are, you feel a rush of adrenaline as it leaves your hands. WILL THEY LOVE IT WILL THEY HATE IT DOES IT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL OH GOD, etc.

And the best way for me to celebrate that feeling is to finally switch that sign to OPEN, give my brain the day off, and pick up the book I've been dying to read. It's my reward for the hard work, and it's the equivalent of opening the windows on the first day of spring after a long winter.

I would also suggest taking a bath and eating something besides charcuterie at this point, too, but you don't have to take my word for it. If the cats are following you around with their mouths open like they're smelling a dead skunk, you'll know it's time.

Open up. Be free.

And, seriously, take a shower.

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