I've been writing since I was a wee thing. I got derailed by my crazy adolescence leading to having adventures leading to the rape and subsequent seven years of shock and silence and figuring out who I was now. 'Round the end of those seven years, I met Mousegrrl, who wanted to do a comic but didn't have a story. I had a story. Shayara - the story I told myself to keep myself sane through all those years. My city, my world.
We worked on that together for years; that was marked by some flakiness and not much actual work getting done. When Mouse left the project for good in early '07, I was left with one 8-page comic, a handful of character portraits, and a website I didn't know how to use. I launched it anyway in March '07, desperately trying to write, wrangle art from various friends, and teach myself how to use the website all at once. During my worst fibro flare ever. This... did not work. And I put Shayara on hiatus, burned out and angry and brokenhearted.
After driving myself crazy and breaking my heart and mind on this wheel for so long, I fell into a depression that's highly predictable in retrospect. I decided to haul myself out by writing anything but Shayara, and Wind Tunnel Dreams was born - I wrote in a different world every day.
This worked tremendously, both in terms of hauling me back to functionality and in trms of stretching my brain. Emboldened by readers' reactions, I submitted the first poem I'd written in years - and it was enthusiastically accepted.
WTD led directly or indirectly to many of my publications to date, giving me story seeds or just giving my mind a framework in which to play. It worked to pry the portal to story open.
But it also led to a certain resentment, over the course of 2008. Because writing became a thing I did for money, and a thing I did on demand. I stopped doing WTD at the end of '08 just because I actively resented that aspect of it so damned much. I wanted to write what I wanted to write, and not be chained to produce produce produce.
And... I've only completed one story this year.
And I had to look at why. And the why is really, really clear, just looking back at my recurring lament over the course of 2009 - I keep trying to shove novel-sized concepts into short stories.
Why? Because short stories sell, and I have momentum that I have to take advantage of, so I hafta hafta hafta write short stories. So again and again I started something, discovered that dammit, this was a novel, AGAIN, and shoved it aside to write once I had some short fiction to sell... because editors ask me to send more, and I don't have it, and I need to do this to build a career.
To understand this, it perhaps helps to read this article.
Excerpt: "Now that I live with chronic illness, I can feel the cost of domestic labor; it’s taken out of my hide, as my grandmother would have put it. I studied my spoon theory first-hand. I should be way ahead of those whose understanding is limited by chronic wellness. But sometimes I still find myself surrounded by homemade food and freshly washed clothes and lamenting, “I haven’t done anything today!”"
When you are chronically ill and/or disabled, the pressure to Do Something Today is tremendous. I have this same guilt whenever Adam does a chore - I'm home all day, I should be doing that! Never mind that it costs him half a spoon and it costs me five. He's working and I'm not.
This is a HUGE stumbling block for me - He's working. And I'm not.
So how dare I waste time on things I can't sell right now to help support my household?
And - "He's working and I'm not" is a direct contradiction to "Writing is real work" and "Parenting is real work" and "Managing the household is real work", and I have those things in opposition in my head all the time, exerting more pressure every week that I wasn't producing.
I should note that none of this is coming from Adam. Adam fully acknowledges that writing is my job; he supports and encourages me. This whole guilt trip is my brain.
And part of it is the fact that without a Day Job, I'm at loose ends. I have work ethic like whoa, and no way to use it for pay. (BARCC has been tremendously useful for this, in ways that I'll detail in a separate post.) So I always have that script running in the back of my head, that I'm not working and I'm failing to provide for my family; that in turn puts the pressure on to sell sell sell.
And you know what? The sell sell sell mentality kills my writing.
I've been thinking about this a lot. To the point of telling Adam and Mark that I was thinking of giving the whole this up. Because I never wanted to enter a publication mill. I just wanted to write. And I had lost my joy.
Both of the guys knew that quitting wasn't actually an option; the stories are always there, and the guys asked what they were doing, and I said "They're waiting til I can write them as novels, and I hafta write short stories first, and I will never get to this..."
And finally, talking to Adam, I jumped the groove on that broken record, and I came up with something that works for me. I will jut write them as novels. I will devote May to generating short fiction to toss back into the publication mill to keep my name out there and hopefully keep the publications coming. With the understanding that I get to write the novel-length stories starting in June. I will eat my veggies so I can have ice cream. And this way, there is an end in sight. This is a finite period, and I can structure finite periods.
So that's where that is.
There's more. I will have breakfast, then write the next part.