Mortar between the bricks

March 1, 2019 Writing  One comment

Writing, for me, has changed over the years since I first began. 

In 2013, when I “officially” began, I was just taking the year after college graduation to finally write this damn story down that had been floating around in my head since senior year of high school. Do you know what it’s like to have something—an inkling, the ether of an idea—floating around in your head for four years without reaching fruition? Then you’ll understand my need to get it down on paper. 

It wasn’t going to be a career, not even then. Sure, pressure from all around me made me feel as though that’s how I had to go about it—seeking agents and publishers. But in the end, I had to do it my own way. I was never one for boxes. Or for doing what I’m told for that matter.

I had every intention of going back to school for my Masters degree. Until I didn’t. 

My second book and third books, Running to Stand Still and The Longest Way Down, came about much the same way as the first. These ideas that had been in my head for years demanded to finally be let out, goddamnit. Who was I to say no?

And in the meantime, life went on. After escaping to Wilmington, North Carolina for a winter, we made the move down to Charleston, South Carolina. 

What I found, though, during the duration of those four years was that when I was writing, I was writing. I wasn’t living. 

I tend to find myself in these cycles of creativity, where when I write, that’s all I live, breathe, think, and do—where I find myself staring at my computer screen for hours on end without even realizing I haven’t drank any water or gone to the bathroom or that I can’t even feel my body anymore. 

I have no balance during these times. And this all in-ness led to burnout without fail every single time. And this burnout led to taking months off in between drafts, in between books, in between projects. 

After The Longest Way Down, I was Done. I really thought I was. I was done with the all-consumingness of writing. I was done not being present in my own life, in my own body. I was done writing someone else’s story instead of living my own.

But then . . . 

Those ideas started bubbling up again, started taking complete form in my mind, banging against the walls, demanding to be shaped and molded and written down, shared with the world. 

And not just ideas for the Holy City Chronicles. I’ve got so many ideas, so many threads I want to follow down the rabbit hole to see where they lead in the recesses of my mind. So many ideas that I’m going to be 85 by the time I actually get around to doing them any justice. 

But that’s okay.

So when I found myself picking up the pen again to write Red Wolf Rising—I just couldn’t resist that siren song—I made a few promises to myself.

I would not sacrifice living my life for writing. 

I was doing it just for funsies—and the second that it became about anything other than having fun, I was done. Dropping the metaphorical pen and walking away. 

I would keep some semblance of balance in my life. 

I was writing the story for me—for my own pleasure—and for my characters, for the story itself. 

And if no one other than my friends and family read this book, or any of my books for that matter, then that would be just fan-fucking-tastic with me. 

No obligations. No second-guessing. No checklists or outlines. No bullshit. Just sitting down and seeing where my imagination took me. Going along for the ride, being apart of the adventure, if you will. 

You see, a while back, I rewatched the entire series of Charmed. (I had watched it every single day during summer break in middle school, but I hadn’t watched it in years.) So every morning, while I was drinking that first cup of coffee, I’d watch an episode. And I found that, then my whole day felt motherfucking magical—imbued with it, like a fairy was hovering above me sprinkling fairy dust all over my life. And that’s how it felt writing the first draft of Red Wolf Rising. When it didn’t feel like that—like magic and mystery, the excitement of the unknown—that was a clue that I needed to look up and pay attention because something was wrong.

But even still, even as I was having the most fun I’d ever had writing, I found myself falling back into old ways—

I need to write for seven days a week. No, five. No, 2000 words a day. No, 1500. Need. Must. Have to. Supposed to. 

That shit got real old, real fast. 

So I’d stop. Hit the pause button until I could get my head on straight again. 

You see, it’s taken this long for me to realize that, for me, writing is the mortar between the bricks. It is not the bricks themselves.

I do not live to write. I do not write to live. 

As the greatest wizard of all time has said, It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. (50 house points if you can name that wizard!

And in fact, if I had to be making money, writing is not the way I’d go about doing it. In another life, I would be a therapist. Or a professional organizer. Or a journalist. All in their own ways dealing with stories if you think about it—the stories of people, of stuff, of life. 

Because writing, for me, is mine. 

My creative outlet. My way of processing my life, of the world, of my thoughts, of my emotions, of what I see around me. My escape when reality becomes unbearable. It’s not a way to make money. It’s not my career. It’s not my identity. It’s just something that I do. 

Like working out or traveling or reading or any other thing that I do. 

And in fact, I don’t even identify myself as a writer because I am so much more than that. 

I’m a creator. An adventurer. A dreamer. A listener of music. A making dinner in the kitchen dancer. A coffee shop people watcher. A Subaru commercial crier (seriously, they get me every time). A gypsy soul restless wander. Really, I’m just a girl in love with ideas. 

So many ideas.

And regardless if I write or not, I create every single day of my life. Just like all of you do. I create my life. Who I am. Projects. Things. Ideas. Relationships. The world we live in. 

I understand now that the place that I write from is the same place that I create my life from. There’s only so much effort and energy to go around—and both those areas take so damn much of both. One must always be sacrificed to the other. 

And that’s why there must be a give and take between the two. A constant teeter-toter searching for that precarious balance.

Even now, I’m still searching for that balance. 

Lately, I’ve found that writing is like coffee. Too little and I just don’t feel right, unenergized, a nonparticipant in my life. Too much and I’m off kilter, not myself. Just the right amount and I’m engaged, alive, here, present. 

I’ve always said that, for me, writing was like exorcising demons. And it is. They’re just no longer my own personal ones like they were for the first three books. Now they’re these ideas—these stories—that bubble up inside of me from everything around me.

But I’m a full believer in the idea of needing to live, to experience life, in order to write. Not for the sake of writing, not for fodder, but because writing without living is empty. 

I have never been one of those writers who can sit down at their desk every morning and write all day long, day in and day out. Who can pick up on a new book the day after they finished the last. As much as I’ve idealized and romanticized the shit out of that image, I’ve accepted that is not who I am. And I’m no longer interested in trying to form myself into being that. 

In fact, I usually write on the couch because sitting down at my desk to write feels too damn much like work for me. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’ve always felt that how I live my life is more important than what I do. 

It’s more important for me to wake up each day and heed the call of whatever it is I feel like doing that day—exploring a new town, wandering the aisles of Barnes and Noble, going for a hike, watching Netflix, writing, working on some other random project, reading, researching learning (I’m always learning something), dreaming, planning our next travels or next steps—than it is for me to meet some obligation someone somewhere (me usually, in my own mind) made up. 

There are those who say you must write everyday. You must meet x amount of daily words written. Blah blah blah blah blah

I used to think that while I was working on a book, that’s all I should do. No distractions, no side projects. That I could get to those things between drafts. 

But what I’ve found, is that, for me, it’s always best to have something I’m working on waiting for me to click on, open the document, and work on. That taking these mini-breaks away from what I’m working on is good for me, for my brain, for my creativity, for my mental and physical health. It’s good for me to walk away from time to time so I don’t get consumed by the fire. In a way, it kind of feels like me making my writing my bitch, and not the other way around like it always has been. 

And that’s why it takes me so long to write and complete a book. Right now, I’m working on the first draft of the second book in the Benson Family series—Running to Stand Still was the first. This book will also be the back door pilot to several other books and series. When will that be done? It’ll be done when it’s done and not a moment before. 

A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to. (Another 50 house points if you can name this wizard)

There’s always been a bit of guilt surrounding the length of time it takes me to write and put out a book. But now that I think about it, maybe that’s just the journey. Maybe that’s just how I create. In a way, how it was always going to be no matter what I did. Or do.

All that said, I sure am glad to have people like you in my life—who get excited for a new book no matter how long its been since my last, even if its been so long you’ve begun to wonder if I’m still alive or not. 

Fear not, I am alive and well. Living my life. Writing my own story. 

And on those days when the siren song of story calls from the midst of the fog (which in all honesty, is more days than not), I heed the call, I pick up the pen. 

Until next time friends, farewell & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity.

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One comment to Mortar between the bricks

  • Lila says:

    Love your words…Love your process. Waiting patiently for what’s next. 😁

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