SKINNY BLACK BLINKING LINE

It’s a tricky thing, beginning with words. It’s critical, in the first two dozen syllables, to reach out with a sudden, merciless, vicious grip, grasp your reader by the throat, pull him close, and murmur into his ear with the voice of a lover,

“Come with me. It won’t hurt…much.”

You write those words, you lay that trap, and then you pray like hell you’re someone’s siren. Sometimes you are (and that, friends, is a powerful drug). Usually, you’re not. Usually, the words echo back at you, a lone voice in an abandoned cave. Or worse, you never actually give the words the fresh breath of someone else’s eyes, and they linger in that powder blue nowhere purgatory, otherwise known as The File on Your Desktop You Pretend to Ignore (most of my words have ended up here).

Being a writer takes guts. It takes vulnerability. It takes a rigid and supple will. It takes discipline in the extreme and free-thinking in the extreme. It takes an artist’s spirit and a business guru’s acumen. It takes the thickest skin you can imagine, and the most tender soul. It takes yin and yang. It takes duality.

God, it sucks. Don’t get me wrong; it’s wonderful, too. But it sucks.

It sucks (and is wonderful) because once a writer realizes she is a writer it’s all over for her. Once a writer realizes what she is, a writer is what she will be until the day she dies, no matter her level of success or failure. No matter how vehemently she’ll try to deny her art when her muse decides to go on unannounced hiatus.

The particular muse in question has been missing for years. Years. If you happen to see her out and about, could you ask her to send a postcard home? It’d be nice to know she’s alive.

But I’m not here to talk about muses or the agony and ecstasy of being a writer. I’m here to talk about words; specifically, those first words. Because here’s the honest-to-God-truth:

Those first words you read in that novel on your bedside? Or the first words in that biography that’s gathering dust on your bookshelf? Those aren’t the first words that were written in that book. Most likely they were crafted months after the book began its long sojourn down the treacherous birth canal of the writer’s mind; those effortless words (oh, God, how every writer hopes those opening lines look effortless) that you read in a matter of seconds were most likely written and re-written, culled back and replanted, sanded down and polished, subjected to a wrecking ball then built back up, until the author was covered in dirt and sawdust, high on fumes (and most likely running on fumes), hardhat discarded at her feet, blood dripping from the place in her chest where she cut herself wide open for the sake of the cause.

Authors suffer for great beginnings. But as hard as those very first few words are to get just right, there are harder words. I’m talking about the words that are hiding behind that skinny, black, blinking line at the top of the page. Every writer knows that every story must begin in the nothing-land of the blank page (blank analog pages are just as intimidating as their digital counterparts, btw). The cursor or pen is a portal of sorts, opening up the inner chambers of our minds so that we might channel the worlds and characters and stories that live so vividly in the gray matter behind our eyes into the stark black and white of the page. The goal, in the end, is to do those stories justice—to relay them with words that give them fidelity.

It’s a daunting and intimidating matter, to step into that skinny, black, blinking line and unleash the worlds that are compressed in our minds, safely kept under wraps in the sleepy spaces of our imaginations.

And it’s at this place—staring down that small, mighty cursor—that I find myself. Because the truth is, I wasn’t being completely honest before: my muse has already written home—I’ve just been too afraid to acknowledge her postcard, a 4 x 6 matte black affair, written in silver script:

I’m coming home, and I’m bringing the story with me.

Friends, Archethenia is near.

The story is coming home.

teal

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Anxiety

IMG_5042It happened again.

I was having a productive morning. I wore makeup. I did my hair. I dressed in something other than leggings and a sweater. I ran errands. I was ON TOP OF THINGS. I was GETTING THINGS DONE. The radio was on. I was singing along loudly, not giving a damn what people in neighboring cars thought.

And then I pulled into a parking space for a store I needed to go into, and it hit. Hard. Out of the blue, sudden, crippling anxiety. Thank God I was parked. I couldn’t go inside the store–couldn’t bear, even, to open my car door. Somebody would greet me just inside those doors and I’d have to talk and my mouth would be filled with invisible cotton, and the smells would overwhelm like a cloud of suffocating gas, and the lights inside would be bizarre and make my brain hurt…

…and even though I KNOW that a simple smile and nod would be enough to send the helpful sales staff on their way…

…and even though I KNOW there is no cotton in my mouth…

…and even though I KNOW there wouldn’t be anything remarkable about how the store smelled…

…and even though I KNOW the lights really aren’t brazen and harsh…

brain knowledge isn’t always enough to rein in a sneak attack of anxiety.

I let myself cry for a bit. Then I took a deep shaky breath and drove home.

Only I didn’t end up at home. I ended up at our local music store. I forced myself to turn off my car, walk inside, grab the ukelele I’ve been daydreaming about all summer, and buy it.

THEN I went home. I sat on our back deck and learned the four easiest chords possible. After about an hour of clumsy strumming, I began to feel better. Breathing became easier. I’m still on the verge of tears, but the space in my chest has opened up again.

Breathing is good.

teal

p.s. Still no progress on the book, but just posting this little piece feels like a small victory against writer’s block. I’ll take it. ❤

 

The Block

So much of life is about change and learning to adapt and go with the flow.

You guys, writer’s block is a real thing. To be honest, I always kinda scoffed at people who complained about the dreaded block because I really believed that if you sat your ass down in the chair and forced yourself to put words on paper, it would happen.

And then I got The Block.

At this point, Shrilugh is dead in the water. It’s sitting in the middle of a yuuuuuuuge ocean and no breeze or current seems to be available to drag it out. I fought it for several months, then decided to take a hiatus from writing altogether to chill with the Took for a year, and I have been chewing and gnawing and shaping and molding the story in my brain all this time and…

I’m getting nowhere.

Ever since publishing in 2012 I’ve been pushing so hard–to learn the business AND get better at marketing AND write better than when I started AND write faster than a snail (which is my natural pace, and the enemy of any indie-pub author. Well, that and book pirating. Fuck you, book pirating). But I think that all the pushing has led to a nasty little thing called burn-out. And burn-out has produced the fruit of writer’s block.

Nom-nom-nom. Eat it up, writer-girl.

I am not hanging up my hat–I’m a story-teller at heart–but I think it will be good for me to shift gears for awhile. Shrilugh’s conclusion is going to have to wait. I think letting go of the story for a while will be good for me–and ultimately, it. Hopefully, as I open up my hand and let go of the dream that was Shrilugh, the words will begin to come back to me. Words that will open doors to new worlds and fresh stories.

And then maybe, one day, those words will take me back to the place where the leaves glow at night and a girl discovers she is more than she was led to believe.

Thanks for sticking with me through so many cliffhangers and so much silence.

Loads of love,

teal