I go through long periods of workman-like productivity, weeks and weeks when I simply sit down every day at the same time and turn out good work. There’s very little drama involved during these periods which is why they are the most productive.
The drama comes before the productivity. Days of pulling my hair out, long angry walks in the greenbelt, my mind constantly searching for some kind of inspiration while knowing full well that inspiration cannot be searched for, it has to search for you. During this time, I wake in the middle of the night to jot down hurried descriptions of minor revelations. I let my mind wander on those long greenbelt strolls because that’s when inspiration finds you: when you’re thinking about something else.
I have put the great big fantasy novel aside for now (as described previously, a book has to cool on the window sill for several months before I can make a true appraisal of a draft) and turned my attention to the sequel to The Vengeance Season, still called Pawn Takes Knight. The previous draft of PTK did not turn out well. I learned a lot about the story and the characters and what I wanted out of them but as far as pages, it was a total loss. I had to start this draft, number five, from a blank sheet of virtual paper.
Blank paper, virtual or otherwise, always begins a new bout of raging drama for me. I discovered a lot from the failed drafts, but mostly what I didn’t want to do. It took a lot of distracted driving, long hikes, and lying in bed staring at the ceiling before the first realizations began to trickle in. After a few weeks, I had jotted down all the answers to all of the problems I had encountered in previous drafts, and more importantly than that, I was once again in love with this story.
That’s how I know the period of solid work has begun: I am anxious to write every night. During the difficult times, when I’m casting about for stray strands of brilliance, the approach of the hour for writing comes with a certain feeling of doom. Not because I feel I’m being forced to write (that will always be a choice for me) but because I know that I will not accomplish much and what I do accomplish will be destined for digital dustbin.
But, like most people with at least a mild mental disorder, I have to admit that I miss the drama. You can tell how little I have been thinking outside the lines by the sheer amount of time between posts on this blog. I spend most of my time quietly writing away hoping for some missile of disruption to strike from the outside world. Maybe in the form of an email (you know who you are) or a new movie or novel. Something that gets the heart rate up and returns a little bit of that electricity that distinguishes craft from work.
That’s not to say that the work I’m doing now isn’t inspired. It’s just that it’s filled with the minor surprises that are so important to keep prose lively rather than the thunderbolts of realization that knock you out of your chair. It’s good. It’s fine. To keep myself from getting to antsy, I’m spending my walks thinking about the scifi novel that I will be working on after I finish this draft of PTK.
Wow, that’s a lot of work stretched out in front of me and it will be at least a year before I will have anything to send to agents.
Great. Now I’m depressed.