Thursday, February 17, 2011

I, Writer

Howdy, stranger.

It's been too long.

The last time I was here, I said I'd take a week or two to rest. A week or two become three and a half months. No doubt time I will look back upon as an old man and wish I could have back, swear now I know how to use it. Don't they say youth is wasted on the young? Enough of it has been wasted on me, I think.

Maybe I shouldn't be so tough on myself. I didn't stop writing because I was afraid of the rejections or failure. I stopped because I was tired. All summer and into the fall, I tried to cram in all the experience I didn't get in my teens and 20s before my 30th birthday. Like a midlife crisis, but instead of sports cars and girlfriends ten years my junior, I overcompensated by sitting in front of my laptop so long that I got a monitor burn. Yeah, I had "OpenOffice" seared in my forehead backwards for a week.

I even had trouble reading. I'm usually able to sit down for hours with a good book, but it was getting to the point where I wasn't reading much of anything, and even after I took a break I was having a hard time reading without getting distracted.

Wasn't all bad, though. I received a lovely new Nook on Christmas, and that has completely cured me of my reading trouble. I've already torn through three books this year (China Mieville's Iron Council and Looking For Jake, and Cormack McCarthy's The Road) and I'm deep into another McCarthy tale, Blood Meridian, as well as Mieville's latest, Kraken. (I know, kind of McCarthy-Mieville heavy. Don't worry, I've also got Jeff VanderMeer's Shriek: An Afterword) on deck, and even a non-fiction by Physicist Brian Greene entitled The Hidden Reality, which is about quantum physics and parallel universes. So I'm really back into the swing of it, as far as my reading goes.

The reason I titled this entry "I, Writer" is because once I started reading again, it wasn't long before I started feeling that old pull again. Every time I'd turn it on I'd get drunk on words and story and have to shut it off and write. Got about four thousand words into a short before I ran out of steam. Hey, it happens.

Then I got a personal rejection for "The Machine" from the friendly folks at On Spec magazine. They said the plot was broken because the initial setup was steampunk, yet the characters were modern. I was blown away by this response, because I definitely did not intend the story to appear at all steampunk.

How do you like that? Accidental Steampunk! I just started a new genre.

Anyway, I went back and revised it, and that really got my blood pumping. Not just the revision itself, but that I really, really loved it. I think I did a great job! I really do. I only wish I had gotten it this polished before I sent it out the first time. I'm starting to run out of pro genre mags, as this is easily my most well-traveled piece. But it's off at another market, and we'll see what happens.

As for me, I've already begun working on another piece. Literary, not genre. Nice change of pace, I think. It's about a boy who gets bullied at school. I can already see the Cormack McCarthy influence in it (No quotation marks, very few commas), and I'm really enjoying myself. I'm telling the story out-of-order, as well. Don't know why. It just feels right. That's the thing: I'm feeling so artistic lately, like I've got all this creativity inside begging to be let out.

I'm excited to feel this way, but it's tempered with regret for what had to happen to get here. I also have to confront what happened at the writing group, as unpleasant as that will be. I know my reasons for leaving were sound, but I have to ask myself if I was really just in a bad situation, or if I might have brought the troubles on myself. There were some good people there. Mike was much too distant for my taste, and I wasn't comfortable with a fellow relatively-unaccomplished writer being "in charge", but I don't know that I handled it correctly.

I was put off by how she spoke to me, but could I have handled it better? I feel  I may have started counting enemies before anything happened. Maybe that combative mindset hurt me.

I don't know how well it would have worked out in the long run regardless, but I can't deny that I learned something from it, even if those lessons weren't the ones intended.

Anyway, I'm just glad to be writing again. This time around I know what my priorities are, and in what order they belong. I write because it's fun, not because I feel like I have to get my career going. I'm not going to be a famous author by 30 (since I already am 30) so I can stop panicking. No more pressure. No more deadlines.

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