Last Day

I sit in the predawn darkness, huddled under a blanket with a cat snoozing at my side. It’s a Wednesday morning, and a cold one. Snow gleams under lamplight outside and asphalt shines through dirty slush.

Today is the last day before the start of the semester, and thus the last day of what I’ve come to think of as Neverending January. Which, of course, is ending.

The CUNY system, in which I teach, has a particularly long break between Christmas and the start of the Spring semester. Often my husband and I will take advantage of this time to travel, but for various reasons we did not do so this year. In fact, this is one of the first times since we’ve moved to New York that I’ve spent nearly all of Neverending January at home (under said blanket and next to said cat).

Once upon a time I believed that vast swaths of uninterrupted time would be super awesome for my writing process, but actual experience has shown this to be false. In fact, I work a lot better when I’m busy and have a sense of pressure. So Neverending January has been a struggle.

Here’s what I’ve accomplished (or not):

1. I’ve rewritten the beginning and ending of the same short story approximately 1 billion times (Sad. Also, frustrating)

2. I’ve Beta read 1 1/2 novels (Not bad!)

3. I’ve processed, organized, mulled, and begun to prepare revision notes based on Beta feedback from Project Awesome (Progress: acceptable but slow)

4. I’ve cooked a lot of things that take all day to make (Tasty, but not writing)

5. I’ve spent a fair amount of time staring out the window wondering if it was going to snow more/less (Also not writing)

6. I’ve binge-watched shows so bad I am unwilling to admit to them in a public forum (No comment)

At the end of all this, I’ve come to two conclusions.

First, we should always travel in January.

Second, it’s probably a very good thing the semester starts tomorrow.

And, on that note, I must go. After all, it’s my last day to pretend that January will never end.

The Solitary Writer

Going through the feedback from my amazing Beta readers I am reminded yet again how much the idea of the Solitary Writer is a myth. And not just a garden variety myth but a harmful one.

Perhaps there are a few rare geniuses out there who can produce brilliant works without any critical feedback, but most of us need an outside perspective. A pair (or three or four) of trusted eyes is invaluable to help us gain distance from our work and see what is and is not working. That feedback isn’t gospel, but it is a good starting point for thinking more deeply (or at least differently) about our characters, world, and story.

Many writers start their journey believing it will be a lonely one in which they must toil in secret, hoarding their words and stories until they are “ready” (read: perfect), a day which will likely never come without the wisdom and support of fellow writers. What a shame.

In most professions, collaboration is not only important but expected, except (it seems) in the world of art. The idea of the artist alone in their garret (or writing shed) is powerful. There is a part of every artist that wishes to believe we can create something amazing drawing only from our inner well of creativity, something that is ours and ours alone. Buying wholly into that vision, though, implies we have nothing to learn and nowhere to go. Our talent is innate, but also inert.

Having someone else look at our works in progress and say “hey, but what about…?” does not diminish either our creative ownership nor our original vision. It sharpens it. Builds it up. Makes it better.

So, today I am grateful to my fellow writers and especially to my Beta readers who have given so generously of their time and thoughts.

You are making me better, and I hope I am doing the same for you.

2015 under clear cold skies

and just like that, another year rolls in.

The end of 2014 was, frankly, a blur from beneath a mountain of used tissues and discarded Sudafed pods and I’m still trying to regain my equilibrium.

But, a few things help, like my short story The Firefly Girl making Tangent Online’s 2014 recommended reading list as a one star (you can see the whole list here, and buy The Firefly Girl here) and finding out my horror story The New Arrival will be podcast on the superb Pseudopod later this year. Yay and double-yay!

Also exciting are preparations to dive into the final revision of Project Awesome after collecting a big pile of helpful Beta reader comments over the holidays, brainstorming ideas for the next novel, and generally thinking about a whole new year of writing possibilities.

Here’s to 2015, lots of words, and no more Sudafed.