“"...till by the end you feel you have lived many lives: which is perhaps the greatest gift a novel can give."”
Ursula K. Le Guin

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

what writers can learn from a sack of angry raccoons
Wed 2017-04-19 23:53:49 (in context)

So apparently Chuck Wendig and I have something in common, and that's a birthday in the back end of April. (Also we're both writers, but I would like to stop the comparison there before it becomes too depressing. I mean, what have I published in the last 5 years, right? NOT 20 NOVELS, THAT'S WHAT.) I'm not sure what I'm going to do about my birthday, but Wendig's using the occasion of his to reflect on the lessons of his writing career. Said lessons, he hastens to emphasize, may not necessarily be transferable to other writers--that's the first bullet point right there, Writing Advice is Bullshit and Largely the Product of Survivor Bias:

Even the list below is just meÖ spouting off. Theyíre lessons that apply to me, not to you. Maybe to you, itís gold. Maybe itís a sack of angry raccoons, I dunno. The only writing advice you can count on is: you gotta write, and you gotta finish what youíre writing. Everything else is variable.

I'm down with that. And I'm pretty much down with the whole list, actually. If any angry raccoons are involved, well, maybe they have cause to be angry. They're not saying anything that strikes me as fundamentally untrue or less than useful.

Some of it is really reassuring for me. Take number five, Find Your Damn Process--Then Challenge It:

You have a process. So go find it. Maybe that means writing 2k every day, reliably. Maybe it means writing 15,000 words every other weekend. Maybe it means you write in coffee shops, or in the crawlspace under your house. Maybe it means you eat a handful of bees before you begin. I dunno. Thatís on you to figure it out, and while itís important to figure out what you write and why you write, itís also incredibly necessary to figure out how you write. You may think how you write is the way others have told you it must be, but that doesnít make it true. Also important: when your process isnít working, you need to evolve it. Your process isnít one thing forever just as you arenít one person forever.

I bolded a bit there 'cause it's speaking to me. My current process, the one I was so proud of coming up with, the whole 5 hours a day thing, morning shift, afternoon shift, fill out a time sheet, check the boxes on Habitica, do the daily gotta-git-dones... it's not working. I hate that it's not working because it ought to work and I don't know why it's not working. But it's not. And maybe I have to acknowledge the possibility of some answer other than "Try HARDER tomorrow."

I don't know what the right answer will be, but it probably starts with "change something." Change what? To what? I don't know. But asking the question generally comes before answering the question, I guess. I may not like the period between ask and answer, since it's filled with confusion and despair and flailing around and going WTF I CAN'T EVEN, but I suppose it's inevitable to spend some time there.

Which means this bit is also reassuring. From number 24, You Know A Whole Lot Less Than You Know, And Thatís A Good Thing:

Every day of a writing career is exploring a new planet. All the truths you hold are likely half-truths or even cleverly-costumed lies. Embrace that. Every day I know less than I knew before, and I find that oddly and eerily liberating. It means I donít have all the answers and neither do you.

So it's OK not to have answers. Not having answers is a necessary state of art, and in fact life.

What is also necessary: continuing forward, despite that lack of answers. Despite the lack of success. Despite the lack of hope, even. Quoting number 25, which--given all the times I've gritted my teeth to hear someone say, "Not everyone's cut out to be a writer, so there's no use encouraging the ones who aren't"--sings harmony with my heart of hearts:

Writing as a career takes a certain kind of obsessiveness and stubbornness, I think: the willingness to put a tin pail on your head as you run full-speed into a wall, hoping to knock it down. Again and again. Until the wall falls or you do. Sometimes I think maybe that the thing that separates those who have it from those who donít is simply those who decide, ďFuck it, Iím a writer,Ē and then they do the thing. They choose to have it, to count themselves among that number rather than those who donít. But I have no idea. I donít know what the hell is going on. And neither to do you. What I know is this: writers write, so go write. Finish what you start.

The rest is negotiable.

It may look like I've already quoted the whole darn article right there, but, honestly, there are 25 bullet points in that there list, and Chuck Wendig wrote them all, which means they are (mostly) verbose and profane and hilarious. And also wise and inspiring and reassuring. At least, I thought so, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Besides, I didn't have much news of my own to share. I mean, I got up, I took care of some household necessities, I wrote, I went to see the Doctor Who Season 10 screening at the local theater. Things are OK. They're just not news.

The Volt is back in full repair, by the way. The part that needed replacing--essentially, the charging port--was more specific to the make and model of car than I thought, so I actually had to take it to the Chevy people in Longmont. They spent about three hours chasing down warranty approval and one hour doing the actual repair, so I got very familiar with their waiting room. Too familiar. I kind of had to take a break from the waiting room and go skate around Sandstone Park for awhile. And I have to say they weren't very proactive in giving me updates. Even when they were done, it was like the dude was on his way to another errand and since he just happened to be passing by he thought he'd mention that "We're all done whenever you're ready." Dude. I've been ready all afternoon, where were you? But, hey, all's well that ends well, and I went on to treat myself to Popeye's fried chicken because I was practically at I-25 and 119 anyway.

And now the car is fully functional, the still extant manufacturer's warranty paid for it all, and I was able to charge it all the way up not far from the movie theater tonight, and it's all ready for John to drive it down to New Mexicon for the weekend. The end.

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