Procrastination or Bad Excuses I Use to Justify Not Writing

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  1. The day-job/annoying boss (don’t get me started)
  2. Financial concerns that tamp down the fantasy of quitting #1
  3. Exhaustion(see #1 above and #4 below)
  4. Deep family concerns (just because children are grown and out of the house doesn’t mean they are not a source of worry, trouble, pain–and joy which means you love to hang out with them and celebrate whatever makes up the joy, mainly that they’re out of the house and we’re away from one another)
  5. The fun/ease of doing anything at all other than staring at a blank computer screen and/or figuring out what the hell I’m really writing about
  6. WHO the hell are these characters bothering me every waking and sleeping hour
  7. The sorry/hard state of the book publishing world, at least in getting any kind of advance and recognition, especially since you’re not very versatile at, say, magazine and essay writing, nor building a HUGE community on social media
  8. Self-aggravation, leading to……
  9. Bouts of deep depression
  10. Obsessive Google searches

Here’s the current procrastination episode: The husband walks into the kitchen while I wait for the teapot to boil.  It’s the weekend, two intense writing days, given  # 1 and #3. The days are just as intense for him–he has a book contract and looming deadline. He mentions that the Authors Guild’s membership fees have skyrocketed and, since I’m no longer bringing any money into the household (#2), I should cancel my membership. True enough–since I’ve stopped writing about food I haven’t contributed any hefty advances/speaking fees. This is because, within the current food/cookbook publishing world, I not only feel I have nothing to say but that I have said everything I wanted to say (#5).  At one time I could’a been a contender; I could’a been somebody and probably could have gone repeating myself, writing the same kind of book over and over again. Instead, I decided to try growing as a writer by working on a series of stories about my teenage friendship with a girl named Clare.* Given the state of the publishing world (#7), the chance of these stories ever being published rests on their acceptance by small literary magazines (I’ve begun to send them out–no response yet).

In any case, I can’t believe what the husband just suggests.  At the very least, Authors Guild hosts my website through which the paltry number of fans and reporters have found me over the years–it’s actually the only remnant of my professional worth (#8 and #9).  I say something to the effect of “Damn, that’s cold” and then list how important membership is to me, the only remnant that I’m a published writer (return to # 8 and #9).  He says he’s sorry–we’ll find the $125 by maybe reducing the grocery bill (#2 again). He’s a good man and rightly feels contrite.

The kettle boils, I make my tea and return to my computer where I spend an hour staring at page 15, in which I am figuring out how Clare talked me into a date with someone who we both found unsuitable (#6). After awhile I click on the internet and google Eleanor of Aquitaine (don’t ask) where I spend the next 25 minutes reading all about her adventurous life in the 13th century (# 10).  I pull myself back to the pages and write three more paragraphs. Finally, I’m in the groove, excited, the world blotched out, totally convinced I’m going to finish this incredibly wonderful story.

The front door opens. “Hey, Ma,” a son bellows from below. I keep typing, hoping he’ll go into the kitchen and stare into the refrigerator for a while.  He accomplishes this faster than I want and pounds upstairs.  If he turns right, he’s in my husband’s study and I’m safe. Instead he tuns left, as always, and collapses into the fragile chair beside my desk, commencing a heartbreaking lament: Why are women so difficult? Why would his girlfriend accuse him of not communicating?

I manage to type a few more words.

“I think she’s going to break up with me.” He puts his head in his hands  and I arrive at #4.

One more reason:

#11–writing a blog post about procrastinating.

He eventually leaves and I return to find where I left Clare and me:–Once more unto the breach: one more day on the fucking river (a private joke between himself and me I’ll explain another time).  I pick up where I left off and begin to write.

*I used to publish the Clare stories on Wattpad but I recently took them down–turns out a bunch of the better literary magazines consider stories on sites such as Wattpad and even you’re own website are already published, even if maybe 10 people have read them. #7 strikes again! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, what the hell?!

It’s All About Me and Clare, God Damn It!!!!!!

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There are now eight parts to the Clare stories and, after completing extensive rewrites, I’m feeling pretty good about them. The logical next step is to begin pushing them out into the world.

There’s two ways of doing this:

  1. Send them to my wonderful agent who hopefully will fall in love with Clare
  2. Get them noticed first through some form of publishing

I started by mentioning them to my agent who says she’ll be delighted to read them when I’m ready to send them along to her. But I think the best thing to do for her would be to complete the series and I’m at least seven stories away from the ending–say six more months if I’m lucky that the world and life stands still.

That leaves #2, so I started with the folks at Wattpad.com, asking them to highlight Clare on their homepage. They enthusiastically replied that they would absolutely consider it, but I should hold tight because it may take six weeks for them to decide.

Exactly six weeks later they got back to me and this is what they said:

We enjoyed your collection of stories, but we feel that it’s a little early to add you to the Featured List as you’ve yet to really engage with the Community.

Additionally, your collection is marked mature and I’m afraid we’re not adding mature content to the List at present.

Well, there you have it, God’s honest truth about how I’m failing Clare: I don’t engage with a Community and the stories’ ratings are a little too, well, risque for the more acceptable rating of “All Audiences (13 +)”.

This signals trouble.

Community–whether upper or lower case–is a word that gets thrown around a lot in publishing these days. My agent has explained it to me several times. Simply put, community means the writer brings along a whole posse of readers with her even before she gets to the starting line because publishers and editors no longer have the luxury of supporting writers until they grow an audience. Thus the requirement that a writer possess not only talent but warm, paying, bodies.

Getting bodies means I can’t just put Clare up on Wattpad. I have to employ every social media option out there, starting with the 35 million or so other writers on Wattpad who I should make nice to by following, commenting and liking. I’ve tried but Clare zaps any energy I have to follow, comment, or like anyone else. Can’t I just say I’m following people? Can’t I simply create a pool of general comments and then cut and paste them to a random, very unselect, population among the 35 million writers on Wattpad (and seriously? 35 million? Think about this for a minute. It’s like all of Idaho are suddenly writing fantasy/horror/dystopia/chick lit! Isn’t that a horror in and of itself?)? Other than that–and yes, I know this would be unethical–I simply can’t imagine I have enough time left on earth to build a community on Wattpad.

What I have been ethical and earnest about is this blog and a website to try to accumulate readers (and thank you to those who have gone on to read Clare). I’m technically on Facebook and LinkedIn, though I rarely post or ask to be connected. My agent strongly suggested I get a Twitter and Tumblr account, which I did, but you won’t find me on them because I’m simply not witty, interesting, smart or clever enough on the fly. Pinterest and Instagram are non-starters, not that I don’t look at them when family and friends ask me to but I can’t imagine why I would use them. Seriously, I can’t imagine.

As for the other reason why Wattpad is not featuring Clare–I don’t know what to say. According to them Clare’s content ‘is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. Stories labeled with ‘Mature Content’ may contain frequent use of strong language and graphic depictions of violence, sexuality, and drug use. Stories where explicit sexual activity is the sole premise of the story are not permitted on Wattpad.’

Clare is sexual, profane, often druggie and, in an understated way, violent, so what can I say–that’s life for the two young women I’m writing about.

So here’s my options:

  • Suck it up and work my butt off to build this community thing;
  • Not look to Wattpad to do much promoting but continue to use it as a workshop platform until the story is complete;
  • Start pushing the work out the old-fashion way, i.e. small literary publications/websites, etc;
  • Just love the hard work of creating Clare.

So here’s my options:
∙ Suck it up and work my butt off to build this community thing;
∙ Not look to Wattpad to do much promoting of Clare but continue to use it as a workshop platform until Clare is complete;
∙ Start pushing Clare out the old-fashion way, i.e. small literary publications/websites, etc;
∙ Just love the hard work of creating it.

Writing 101: Technology Is a Bitch to Writing

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Here’s the title of the new Clare story I just put up:

Parallel Dilemmas or Things We Have to Do to Get Out of Here

(www.wattpad.com/57923440-parallel-dilemmas-or-things-we-have-to-do-to-get)

In the last post I said I was going to use all kinds of mixed media to tell this story: not so much a graphic story as a mixture of drawings, photos and, in a swell of hubris, maybe even a Vine.  The premise centered around two 16-year-old girls about to come into their own. Their emerging bodies are no longer a wonderment. Boys matter but, really, their mystery and usefulness are beginning to prove less a blessing than a distraction, at least to Clare. What they are experiencing, instead, is the first pangs of talents that may, or may not, open up vast possibilities.  In this story, nothing is sure and there’s everything to lose: they may not push enough against a world that may not feel like cooperating unless they do.

Here’s what happened: The original word draft that I embedded with a lots of images wouldn’t translate into the site where the stories are. I’m not a total idiot with technology but for the last 2 weeks this is what I’ve been struggling to do.  The site says it’s simple.  It isn’t.  That I was able to have 2 important images in the story is a miracle.

This leads me to the main point of this post: Being a writer right now is incredible–there’s so many tools to form a story out of what is always  blank white space. Digital and social media offers so much beyond words to convey meaning.  A story born in my head has the possibility to take many forms.  I’m excited by the prospect that imagines and videos and social media can expand my stories in incredible ways.  Yet this butts up against a basic truth about my personal writing life: Each day I struggle to find time to sit in a room long enough to understand what the hell I’m trying to say about the world–my own pushing against a world that by this time I know rarely feels like cooperating. I am of a certain age in which, honestly, time is dwindling away faster than the Wicked Witch doused in water–faster and faster away!

Let me put it this way: I decided to release this story in its hobbled digital form rather than the fully realized text form–which I continue to believe truly communicates the inner lives of my girls because two weeks struggling with technology is two weeks too long.  We  are moving on to the girls’ relationships with their fathers–and what a loaded subject that is!– is brewing up fast.

Clare and her friend have to rely on the fact that their destinies are in the hands of a writer who–as always–is just trying to make them as meaningful as possible.  As always, it’s a struggle, but I’ll figure it all out eventually. Maybe.

 

 

The Clare Stories

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It’s been 15 years since I’ve written fiction. I used to joke that I was the most well-regarded unpublished fiction writer in America, with editors at major magazines and publishing houses saying I was swell, just not ready to hang their hats on.  Obviously that wasn’t true but the rejection letters were things of beauty.  Anyway, I retreated, just couldn’t take the hell, a true coward of a writer.

Non-fiction saved me from a lot of things and I haven’t considered ever writing fiction again.  I tried to make peace with the evidence that I didn’t have the creative talent, the imaginative sense, the abilities you need to inhabit another’s world. You have to do all this with non-fiction, too, but there isn’t as much of a risk–the high-wire act–that there is in attempting fiction.  Facts give you boundaries; fiction gives you air–frightening air.   I don’t know why  Clare and her friend suddenly started to bother me, why I just needed to  explain what it is like to be two teenage girls starting out on life.   They are girls who don’t shy away from adventure, who at the moment aren’t locked into anything.  The world is already imposing on them but it’s to be seen if they falter. All and nothing is at stake and they are teetering. I guess that’s where I am too with fiction, teetering.

I don’t know if these stories are good or not. All those editors may have been right–maybe fiction isn’t right for a writer like me.  But you know, I don’t care anymore. You have to keep trying, right?  What’s there to lose?

The stories are posted at www.wattpad.com/user/PatWillard

Let it rip….