On Being Stuck

So I’m stuck. Not physically stuck in anything, but mentally and proverbially stuck. CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD is 58 pages to the good as of this AM. That’s the good news. The bad? It was 58 pages to the good last Thursday, as well. Why? Because I’m stuck.

It’s not Writer’s Block. I know all about that. I went through a prolonged period of it in the early to mid-2000s. It was my choice to begin blogging in 2008 that actually broke it. The ideas are there but for some reason, I’m having difficulty writing them down. Under normal circumstances, I’d simply write. And rewrite. And rewrite again until I got it right. But now? Now, I can’t do it. Thankfully, I think I know why.

Those of you reading this that know me know how involved I get in the things I undertake. Example: Writing a novel. If you’ve never done it or never tried to do it let me clue you in on a little secret: It’s tough. Damn tough. As my soon-to-be four year old daughter Cara said upon paging through ENDWORLD – A Novel, “that’s a lot of words, Daddy.” And it is. It’s the creative equivalent of training for a 5K. It’s not just the sheer volume of words that you have to string together, though. It’s holding your readers captive, i.e. keeping them interested. It’s stringing your words together in a way that makes sense not just grammatically, but contextually, as well. But potentially more than anything else, writing a novel takes something that doesn’t exist in William MacNuff’s world and something that oft times is at a premium in mine. That “something?”

Time. 

I’m stuck because I know that as soon as I begin the next chapter I am “pot committed,” i.e. CHILDREN will become the same center of my universe that ENDWORLD was for over a year. Slow afternoons at work when I’m not fulfilling my obligations as both an Inside Salesman and an Office Manager. Nights and weekends when I’m not fulfilling my obligations as both a husband and a father. It will become more than a passing distraction that I can pick up and drop on a dime. The process of creating, or in this case recreating William and Maria’s world has always been an overriding factor in both my professional and personal life. And once I go “all in” like I’m about to? Well, I can’t be 100% sure but per the giddiness that I’m feeling in my stomach, right now, this time > Last time. That’s how psyched I am about what’s already transpired, and what’s about to.

It happened during the rewriting of ENDWORLD, as well, I just wasn’t incredibly vocal about it, i.e. I never blogged about it. It occurred, ironically enough, near the end of Part One in a scene that those of you that have read the book likely know very well and those of you that don’t? Well, if you ever do get around to reading it I promise you that you will. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a game changer. It involves the early and unexpected exit of one character and the introduction of another.

The scene that I’m stuck on? It doesn’t involve anything that crucial. I don’t George R R Martin one of my primaries, though I can’t say that one or two supplemental characters won’t feel the proverbial headman’s ax on the nape of their neck by it’s end. Honestly? I only plan big deaths when I write, i.e. deaths that involve main characters. I never plan the demises of the lesser ones. I let the process of writing tell me when someone’s time is up and then I find the most meaningful, and occasionally gruesome way of doing it. Yep. That’s me. I never said that I was perfectly balanced as an author, though I pride myself on being so as a husband, father, friend and family member.

No. The scene that I am poised to write is an action sequence. I’ve written multiple ones pre-this moment in my brief career as a published, albeit self-published author (I’ve got to say, I never get tired of writing “published”) but said sequence? It’s the line in the sand. Once I cross it, it’s “game on.” There will be occasional breaks in the action. There always are, but as anyone that does this knows there comes a point where you simply can’t turn back. Apparently, said point is proportionately the same for me regardless of what I’m writing. Or so it seems after two novels, one completed and one not. Fifty eight-60 pages appears to be my creative Point of No Return.

It was easier “back in the day.” Back in the day, I was an oft times single college student working full-time in my spare time for CVSStress Pharmacy. Outside of that my obligations were few and far between. Plus, I was a lot more… capable of “burning the candle at both ends” than I am now. I’ll let you in on another little secret: There’s a big difference between 20 and 37 going on 38 (in case you didn’t know it) much less 37 going on 38 with a younger child–Natalie–that is just now getting her Toddler Molars in. I’m not going to ruminate on sleepless nights, herein. If you want to read about them, you can check out In Which I Blog Backwards, an entry written over at “Random Musings” by that Madchronicler guy, AKA me yesterday.

What I am going to ruminate on is how different things are now. That’s not a bad thing. I prefer that which inspires me now to that which inspired me then. But I’m not going to lie: Sometimes, I miss being able to just go. Get home, retire to my domicile, turn on my old 286 HP with the monochrome screen, light a cigarette, crack a beer, maybe take a couple of hits off a joint and start writing. That’s part of being a writer. It’s what we all want: To be alone with our characters as we “find” their story. I’d write most nights until I passed out at my computer. The original version of CHILDREN–version 1.0–was written in six months. Let me repeat that: Six months. That’s nothing if you’re talking about a 150 page novella or even a short, 200-225 page novel. But a 400+ page one? That’s impressive. Borderline insane, actually. But that was me, back then.

Now? Now, I’m as much a product of my situation as I was then. The only thing that’s changed about me other than the amount of gray in my hair and my beard and the extra sag to my midsection is… well? My situation and my tolerance for “burning the candle at both ends,” i.e. unless I get between six and seven hours of sleep on a given night I can’t remotely function the following day without a lot of caffeine.

Most nights presently I leave work, pick up my girls, go home, make dinner, get them ready for bed, get them in bed, clean up, and maybe get the chance to sit down in front of my Samsung I5 Laptop with the LED screen for an hour or two before I pass out. I still have no idea how I managed to write ENDWORLD in a little over a year, considering I took a six week long break in the middle because of health issues (bloody migraines; thank God they’re gone, now). But I did it. Hopefully CHILDREN will follow a similar path of evolution. I’m still shooting for May, 2014. I’ve even got a cover in mind. But that = Putting the proverbial cart before the horse. First the story. Thereafter I’ll make it look pretty.

You’re probably reading this and thinking to yourselves Christ, Frank. Get on with it already. You’ve spend the last X-amount of time “ruminating” on something you should just do. You’re probably right. And something tells me that tonight, or maybe tomorrow night I’ll pick up where I left off and write the aforementioned scene. And then it’ll be “game on.” I probably could have written it and not this but do you know what? I need to be true to myself. True to the process. And some days? Some days you just can’t. Call it creative erectile dysfunction or something less graphic. Some days the words elude you, despite how vivid your ideas are.

In short? Some days you’re just stuck. That’s the curse of the part time author. You’re not suffering from Writer’s Block or a deteriorating grasp of the English Language. You’re suffering from something much less malignant than even time, or an absence thereof. That “something?”

Life. 

Happy reading, all.

F.

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3 responses to “On Being Stuck

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