Deadlines and the Writer Brain

I have a monthly writers’ group meeting on Sunday.  Once again, I don’t have a story ready.

I tried.  I have half a story (admittedly it was written in May.)  Clarion West taught me that I can write a story ending in the few hours I’ll have available before Sunday.  There’s just one problem: we send in the stories ahead of time via email so everyone has a chance to read and edit and form intelligent comments.  I like this method.  I just have trouble with deadlines.

I love Duotrope.  I love Duotrope’s calendar of upcoming anthology calls and themed submissions.  I sometimes write up a story to order.  But invariably I miss the deadline.  Or actually, sometimes I don’t miss.  I write up until the last minute and then paste on the last words: THE END, and in a month or so I receive a polite form rejection that doesn’t (but should) say, “Why did you waste our time with this potentially good but obviously rushed piece? Where’s the respect?”

I am glad they don’t pull out the stops on the rejections.  Deadlines deserve my polished best, not my “what can I finish in this last hour?”

Many of my writer friends put down a set amount of words per day.  I’ve never been able to do this.  I use blocks of time for different tasks: a few hours to outline, a few hours to write.  I can brainstorm and jot ideas, phrases, character bits, in short periods of time, but I haven’t successfully trained myself to write for, say, an  hour and an hour only a day.  Or to a set word limit.

But you say, “There’s always 30 days in an open submission call!  That’s plenty of large tracts of time to write a good story!”  And… yeeesssss, there would be.  Except for the brain change.

I need quite a bit of time to switch from workaday brain to writer brain.

Gotta wake up the guys in the basement.  Gotta make my cheeks tingle with potential.  Gotta close my eyes and open my mind and grab a story from the ether.

A long time ago I learned that my muse leaves me alone if I leave her alone, but if I bother her she bombards me.  I carry pen and paper at all times because (even though I seldom use the jots that spring out of the air) I want to reinforce the muse’s involvement.  And I love what she says.  My editors do too; I sell stories that come from who the heck knows where, but I do: my muse.

Then I sleep and then I wake and work and my muse is stunned into silence.

And I gotta wake her up all over again.

The words call me, though.  Perhaps the muse dreams!  I feel the stories in there, just out of reach, so I do, I reach, I put in the effort and the hours to wake up and dream.

Because I like story.

2 responses

  1. To the Muse YOU exist only in her dreams. Why wake her? Her delight is to chase you as she lucidly dozes.

    Creation is like a pile of pixie-dust, the synergistic inverse equivalent of a vicious-helix auger spiraling a pit into the earth’s crust – the more you take from it, the bigger it gets.

    You could try the Rotsler method; write prolifically – fall asleep at the keyboard, wake and write until you’re hungry. As you are servicing your needs, think about improving the story. work until tired (rinse and repeat.) He knew that one in ten of his stories would be published. So when a call came, he would reach into his hundred+ collection of unpublished finished manuscripts for one close to the topic and spend a month polishing it to glossy finish rather than spending a month knocking out an outline and submitting hack.

    I will repeat as I have in the past, be prolific.

    [This is the second time I tried to post this, the first one was better – especially in the muse paragraph, but your bloggy-thingie dumped my prose to the bit bucket because it didn’t like how my email address was formatted. Argh (voiced in frustration!) But I felt it was important enough for your development as a world class writer, that I followed my own advice; I slept on it and recreated it as best I could when I awoke at the keyboard, then took a shower as I thought about tweaking it.] —(o=8> Wiz.

  2. Yay! New Blog!

    I have the same problem changing gears to writing mode. If the A/C guy or the termite inspection guy comes, I can’t write while they’re around, and it takes me a while after they leave before I can start up again. Same thing if I run an errand in the morning.

    I wish I could learn to stop and start up quickly as so many writers are able to. My weeks tend to have many distractions and my writing suffers for it.

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