In Which I Muddle Through a “Blah” Writing Day … Week … Month …

img_6619By Lisa Alber

I don’t know what’s going on with me. I’ve written 700 words on three different topics for this blog post and nothing’s working.

  • Goddess-y neighborhood coffeehouse anecdote? Yeah … Could have been humorous or thought-provoking. Now, it’s just as dull as my thoughts.
  • Novel development process? Perhaps, but this has been a problem for the past month–whatever process I thought I had doesn’t seem to be working.
  • Novel research topics? <yawn> Feels like you gotta be here in my head to be interested in these topics, and, frankly, I’m not even enthused right this second.

This is a truly strange feeling. Normally, once I get going, I’m OK. Blog posts are *never* an issue. I can always spin a thought into 500 decent words.

So, I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s the same thing that’s hampering my novel development process. A few days ago, on my personal blog, I was certain it was the election cycle clogging up my brain. Could be. Have you read the articles about the anxiety that this cycle is causing? Election anxiety is apparently a thing–and this thing is affecting folks in record numbers. If this is what it is with me (and I won’t know for sure until later in November when I can look back on these weeks), then, holy crap, what kind of toxic environment are we living in at the moment?

And why am I susceptible to this anxiety? (That, my friends, is probably a question for a therapist.)

You’d think I’d be able to shuck off BS and rhetoric and worry and fear … I succeed for a little while then find myself online again, sunk in articles and commentary. My brain’s been taken over by — politics. ACK.

There’s something worrisome going on that’s larger than either of the candidates–don’t you feel it? Something might have to give, to seriously give, at some point … But maybe that’s just my anxiety talking.

So how to muddle through? I’d actually rather not muddle. I’d rather just do–but if muddling is where I’m at, I figure there are a few things I can do:

  1. Show up at the computer at my regular writing times.
  2. Open Scrivener (my writing software) and the last file I was working in.
  3. Engage in one thought related to whatever’s in that file.
  4. Write something in relation to that thought.

That’s about it. Normally one thought leads to the next–but I can’t count on that at the moment, it seems.

One thought does keep going through my head: This too shall pass. I didn’t understand the simple yet sublime wisdom within these four words when I was younger; now I find them a comfort. The election cycle will pass and so will this funky headspace I’m in.

Here’s my contract with you: I just opened Scrivener, and I see that my last brainstorming thought for the next next novel (for 2018, cross fingers!) related to a character named Kevin, and his quest for answers about his birth family. So here’s what I’m going to do right now: his character sheet, which is to say his character arc and motivation for this story.

OK!

How do you muddle through when the going gets sloggy? Are you feeling any election anxiety–how are you coping?

Hypocrisy R Us

by Elizabeth Engstrom

Facebook is killing me.

I am as invested as anybody else in the coming election, but even the people who lean the way I do are annoying me beyond belief. Even though I know I will become increasingly obsessed as the election draws near, right now, it’s too much.

So what can I learn from this with regards to fiction? What aspects of the human condition can I glean from this madness, so to enrich my work?

First: we are all the heroes of our own stories. I’ve always known that, and this statement is a solid center point in all my classes about writing fiction. The characters all think they’re doing the right thing. Or they’re doing the wrong thing, wishing they had a choice.

Everybody in real life thinks that if the world would only vote the way they voted, or parent the way they parent, or eat the way they eat, or drive the way they drive, the world would be a better place.

Second: we have little patience for those who do not vote, parent, eat, drive, etc. the way we do.

Third: We love to spout the memes, but they are for instructing other people, not for introspection as to how we might be the change we want to see. We’re doing just fine, you see, wasting gas and throwing plastic water bottles into the trash while telling other people to save the planet.

So what is the bottom line here? Are we all hypocrites?HYPOCRISY

Apparently. We say one thing and we do another. Why are we so surprised when the harsh spotlight on political candidates illuminates their hypocrisy?

This is what makes literature so important. We toss characters into unbearable conflict and watch them work their way out of it in ways we would never imagine. We never see ourselves in this type of conflict (we all work hard to avoid conflict), so we’re fascinated by our reactions to the characters. And we learn about ourselves from the safety of a favorite reading spot.

But are our characters always consistent in what they say and what they do? Are we cheating our readers by not pointing out the hypocrisy of the human condition? Or are the best villains the ones who blatantly tout their duplicity?

Think through your list of favorite villains. Are the best ones unapologetic about their treachery? I think so.

Humans are wonderfully complex creatures. How lucky we are to be in a career that gets to mine all the treasures so deeply planted in our psyches.

And tomorrow I will continue to decry the political noise on Facebook even as I add to it.