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Still very cold here in Providence. I've not left the house in seven days.

Yesterday began, and I had the story I need to write in mind. But I didn't have the setting quite figured out, or the characters exactly so, and had not decided on certain of the circumstances of the story. So...it was that sort of day. The sort I spend looking for the entry. I researched the Gulf of Mexico, the Sigsbee Deep, brine pools, extremophiles (hyperthermophiles and halophiles, specifically), plate tectonics and the evolution of the Mid-Atlantic, a clipper named Sea Witch (1846-1856), and somehow that led to reading parts of Hamlet, and Poe's "The Doomed City," and its later incarnation, "The City in the Sea." Which led back around to...well...lots of other stuff. Point being, I spent the day reading things that might be related to the story, if only tangentially. And I wondered what writers would do on days like that, before we could suckle at the aetheric teat of the internet. Rather arbitrarily, let's say pre-1994. Did they read from books? Did they abandon their typewriters, and, in frustration, spend the day walking, or sitting in bars? Did they talk to other men and women, and through that interaction find the answers they needed to go back to the blank page?

It was half expected, yesterday's floundering, but that made it no less welcome. Here, in this lingering winter, and with all these looming deadlines, I need productive days. Days that end in four-digit word counts. Yesterday, in a comment to the journal, someone referred to Joyce Carol Oates' published diaries, and her confessions to having feelings of utter worthlessness on the days she did not write. Which hits the nail on the head. And my thanks to Joah, who sent me something written by Isaac Asimov, on the difficulties of being a writer (whether pro or not), an editorial from December 21, 1981. I'll quote a couple of passages:

That is the possibility all of us live with. We sit there alone, pounding out the words, with our heart pounding in time. Each sentence brings with it a sickening sensation of not being right. Each page keeps us wondering if we are moving in the wrong direction. Even if, for some reason, we feel we are getting it right and that the whole thing is singing with operatic clarity, we are going to come back to it the next day and re-read it and hear only a duck's quacking. It's torture for every one of us.


Even after the item is sold and paid for and published, the triumph is rarely unalloyed. The number of miseries that might still take place are countless. A book can be produced in a slipshod manner or it can have a repulsive book jacket, or blurbs that give away the plot or clearly indicate that the blurb-writer didn't follow the plot.

A book can be non-promoted, treated with indifference by the publisher and therefore found in no bookstores, and sell no more than a few hundred copies. Even if it begins to sell well, that can be aborted when it is reviewed unsympathetically or even viciously by someone with no particular talent or qualifications in criticism.

If you sell a story to a magazine you may feel it is incompetently illustrated, or dislike the blurb, or worry about misprints. You are even liable to face the unsympathetic comments of individual readers who will wax merry, sardonic, or contemptuous at your expense——and what are their qualifications for doing so?

You will bleed as a result. I never met a writer who didn't bleed at the slightest unfavorable comment, and no number of favorable or even ecstatic remarks will serve as a styptic pencil.

Of course, Asimov ends by saying that, regardless of these miseries (and many others), he would choose no other life but the life of a writer. And I think that's one of the consolations that I'm missing. This was not my first choice, but it's what I do best. And that's why I do it.

Anyway, I'm running late. There are words that will not find themselves.


( 13 comments — Have your say! )
Feb. 25th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
the head of the nail
I do believe and it seems there's plenty of documentation to back it up that before the gracious teat (as you put it) of teh internets, writers had to at least be amongst people to observe and bounce ideas off of as part of their process -- much more frequently than a modern writer does.

Often times it seems they hunkered down with those that understood it best -- other writers. Think Kerouac w/ Ginsberg and Burroghs; or The Algonquin Round Table; and even the lesser known friendship of writers Dorothy Allison, Mary Joy Fowler, Jane Hamilton and Gail Tsukiyama.

I think that "consideration" time for a story is important. It doesn't always happen as fast as we like it to (mine seem to take a full year to develop), but it's like the old "fine wine" addage.

I can say all day not to beat yourself up, as you are very productive and very successful. But, I also know as a writer myself (albeit not as successful), that inner voice that says you are not is what keeps us going to get the words found and on the paper/screen.

All that said, I'm highly interested to see how the Sea Witch plays into being -- if at all.
Feb. 25th, 2009 06:01 pm (UTC)
Re: the head of the nail

I think that "consideration" time for a story is important.

Yeah, and I can see how one could read what I wrote and think maybe I was saying that it isn't. I'm not. But, on this schedule, "consideration time" has, by necessity, been diminished down almost to nothing.

that inner voice that says you are not is what keeps us going to get the words found and on the paper/screen.

And the need to keep the bills paid.
Feb. 25th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC)
ah! just had to LOLz too at your mood. Giving birth to a story, are we?

...still giggling! love it!

Edited at 2009-02-25 05:55 pm (UTC)
Feb. 25th, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)

Giving birth to a story, are we?

Let's hope it's not a breach.
Feb. 25th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
Apropos of Nothing....
But since you're currently editing The Red Tree (can't wait can't wait can't wait), and I know that's always a chore, just remember: you could be working for this guy:

'Course...I think we actually are. His office is just a lot harder to reach and he doesn't communicate by memos so much as by dreams....
Feb. 25th, 2009 09:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Apropos of Nothing....

Feb. 25th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Apropos of Nothing....
Pay close attention to the "little" details in the picture...like, for instance, the name of the printer, or the "motivational" poster on the one cubicle. It's level of Mythopoetic detail is astonishing.
Feb. 25th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
*looks at your mood* Uhm...congratulations?

I met William Gibson as he was promoting Idoru, and he said that a lot of his concepts come from browsing magazines. I don't remember the exact count, but he said he has a fairly large number of magazine subscriptions (around 100 I guess).
Feb. 25th, 2009 09:52 pm (UTC)

I don't remember the exact count, but he said he has a fairly large number of magazine subscriptions (around 100 I guess).

At this point, I read the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Science, New Scientist, and National Geographic, and that's pretty much it for me and periodicals.

*looks at your mood* Uhm...congratulations?

Let's wait and see what emerges.
Feb. 25th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
The Torgo Room!

Sorry for the off topic reply here, but wasn't sure if you got my email about the potential demise of the Torgo Room. Check my blog for details.

- Christa
Feb. 25th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
Re: The Torgo Room!

Sorry for the off topic reply here, but wasn't sure if you got my email about the potential demise of the Torgo Room. Check my blog for details.

I did. Sorry I've not yet replied. Or posted anything about the imperiled Torgo Room.
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
I don't know if you've seen the story or not, but I thought of you when I read it.

Mermaid dream comes true thanks to Weta
Feb. 26th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC)
Weta provides a mermaid's tail, the Net provides video of her using it...
( 13 comments — Have your say! )