Deadline Diaries

Five Romance writers tell all.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oh, Be-have!

Posted by Christine

I know I should. But…

Honestly. Truly. I am really, really trying to behave.

With my current work-in-progress, I mean. Hah. Had you going there for a moment, didn’t I?

Seriously, though. All professional writers know the drill. We’ve read the best books on the subject, books like Anne Lamott’s amazing, true and inspirational, Bird by Bird and Julia Cameron’s fabulous The Artist’s Way and just about anything by Natalie Goldberg

The drill is simply this: Show up. Get to the page every day, make page goals. Hit them—hmm. That sounds rather violent—well, and then, you know what? Writing, in its own way, is violent, on occasion. There’s a lot of digging that goes on, hitting the vein, watching the blood spurt and all that, going places within that sometimes aren’t pretty. Because there’s no getting around it. If you’re writing something you hope someone will put down their hard cash to read, you’ve got to deliver, baby. And all the clichés are absolutely true on this whole delivery thing. You may groan when someone tells you, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” Groan all you freaking want. You better be crying when you write that reconciliation scene. You’d better be taking a page from Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone, sobbing your heart out, buried in wet tissues, moaning, “God, that’s good…”

And am I carrying the whole “writing as a violent activity” a bit far? Okay, okay.

I’ll try again. Make page goals. Achieve them. Yes, much better…

And really, what was my original point?

Wait. I remember…

Funny, but behaving—in the writerly sense, as defined above—used to be easy for me. When I was starting out as a writer, I behaved as a matter of course. I didn’t have all day to write. It wasn’t my actual job or anything, so when I came to the page, it was glorious, naughty, exciting, stolen time.

And even for the first few years after I began to support myself with my writing, it was all just one big miracle to me: That I got paid for the writing, which meant I could write more, because I didn’t have to spend eight hours a day slaving away at some day job just to eat and make the rent.

But slowly, over the years, my sense of the naughtiness, the lovely, amazing stolenness of my work has…eroded? Degraded?

Whatever. Now, well, you know, it’s my job. And it’s become so tempting to find clever ways to make it naughty again.

This is the true scariness of the human mind. Well, at least my mind, which is a place only I go and everyone is happy about that. Just ask my family…

So. Clever ways to be naughty. Oh, like for instance, not showing up at the page for a few days. And then freaking out when I get there and realize no veins have been opened recently. I have to start at the beginning and build my story, my world, my characters’ reality. It’s very exciting, in a very emotionally violent way.

And, honestly, it is not a good idea. It is not the way to go.

So here I am on my current project, and I have, honestly and truly, been behaving. Not just trying. Actually behaving. I show up daily, I achieve my page goals.

And you know what? I feel…really good about that.

Though naughtiness does tempt me. And I’ve decided that’s good. I need to be naughty right there on the page. I need to always remember the miracle that is this job.

I guess I always secretly believed it would get easier. It just doesn’t.

All of which, Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron could have told me. And did.

How about you? What are your clever ways to be naughty and not show up for work? Come on. Whether you’re a writer or not, I know that you know ways you are naughty…



At 8:49 AM, Blogger Susan Mallery said...

Hi Chris--this is a subject near and dear to my heart!! It's all about showing up for the page and lately I'm so guilty of having trouble with that. (Lately being the last 6 months.)

I have great, lots of travel. Getting sick, moving, looking for a house, moving again. Settling in a semi-strange place (Seattle). The writing is the push point and I hate that.

I miss the writing, which is a good thing. So I'm back into it and wow, it's not easy doing the pages every day. But like you, I'm making myself and it's getting easier.

It's like being with a friend you haven't seen in a while. At first it's awkward, then it gets better, then you're laughing and talking and you remember everything you like about this person and it's totally fabulous again!

You know, non-writers are going to read this and think we're completely mentally unstable.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Maureen Child said...

Hey Chris!!

It is all about showing up and getting the pages done, you're right. And ooh, I do like to give myself the day off! The one downside to working for yourself--I'm such an understanding boss!!

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Christine Rimmer said...

Maureen, exactly. I'm a very understanding boss, as well. LOL

Susan, what? Mentally unstable? Moi? More Mwahahahas...

And I so agree, it *is* like getting together with a good friend after too long apart.

Then again, was it the divine Nora who said--and yeah, I'm totally paraphrasing--that the key is just never to stop writing, to always keep your hand firmly in the game. Because it's just so dang hard to get yourself going again?

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Kate Carlisle said...

Mentally unstable? You say that like it's a bad thing!

I feel like I've spent the last year re-writing, what with contest requests and such. I'm about to start a new book and I was afraid I'd forgotten how to do it. I finally wrote the first sentence this weekend and it was like letting out a breath I'd been holding for months.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger Christie Ridgway said...

I'm at that very beginning stage where I'm dreaming up new story ideas. Oh, this is where it's really naughty because I can think of =anything= and not have to actually follow through with it.

It's really fun at this place too. At first I'll panic and think I have no stories in me, and then...oh, the ideas start bubbling. It's powerful and exciting...and I'm trying to cherish this part becuase you know the day will come when you'll have no idea where to go next with that seed of a story that seemed so fruitful at this stage.

At 6:22 AM, Blogger Christine Rimmer said...

Christie, oh, yes! I love that part, when it's all just endless possibility. And then, I get to the midpoint and things start...sagging. And I know it's time for the real pick-and-shovel work.

And of course, in the end, a story works best of it *seems* effortless. Somehow, though, it rarely is...


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