It’s funny, I always insist that I don’t suffer winter doldrums, and yet this year I feel as though I am. There’s a thin sheen of “meh” over everything, the cause of which I can’t exactly put my finger on. It could be the weather, but normally I love cold weather, even though my Puerto Rican genes should be dictating otherwise. It could be my new apartment. I still feel as though I’m getting used to it, and the fact that there are no windows in my room, so I rarely know what time of day it is, or that it’s tiny compared to the house where I used to live, so I feel like a caged animal pacing the same square footage day in and day out makes getting used to it difficult. That is, when I’m home. This past month has felt like an endless barrage of babysittingcomicshoparticles, all happening in a blur, and opportunities to see friends and family have been rare. When I’m home, I’m working. When I’m out, I’m working. And even when I am out with friends, I’m thinking of the work I should be doing. Then a bunch of my articles hit all at once, and I feel proud, because I’ve produced so much! And then I feel not so great about it, because look at the kind of life I’ve been living to make those articles happen. A blur that, when slowed down, taken apart, and examined, reveals what seems like a big, blurry nothing.
However, two things happened recently that gave me some perspective. The first was that, sadly, the producer and director of The Pack, my friends Liz and Alex, decided that they didn’t have the time to devote to the project anymore, which is totally understandable, but had me a little bummed just the same. I really love this story, and if I hadn’t found time to work on it, it’s because I’ve been focusing on how to make writing my living, rather than just a hobby, and in doing so, I’ve focused on the opportunities that pay, rather than the ones that don’t.
That situation led to a great chat with my friend, writer Adam Hunault (if you’re not reading his blog, you should be. He can be really insightful when he remembers to post!), who sort of broke down what I’ve been doing in a way that I hadn’t been able to see clearly on my own. He’s good at that. What it boils down to is this: I’ve been devoting too much time to the writing that doesn’t matter to me, and not enough time to the writing that does. Or, how Adam put it, I’ve been writing to short-term opportunities and ignoring longer-term goals for myself.
You see, the whole reason I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little girl is that I love telling stories. I love creating characters and worlds. I love making stuff up! Yet, I’ve spent the past couple of years mostly focusing on creating a geeky, non-fiction niche for myself; on making myself valuable to a community and a market to make myself easily salable. Don’t get me wrong, I love that, too! I enjoy being a part of a vibrant community, and I’ve developed skills that I didn’t know I had. Apparently, I’m not bad at creative non-fiction and, for some reason, people find my articles, essays, and interviews entertaining. Or, at the very least, informative. But the times I’ve been happiest were the times when fiction poured out of me. When I was sitting in Charles De Gaulle airport on the way back from a month in France in 2007 and my short story, “Talking About William,” fell out of me in one fell swoop. Or, when I wrote the original first three episodes of The Pack, and my pen couldn’t keep up with how fast my thoughts were coming. (Yes, I usually write all my fiction longhand first. Even scripts.) Or, as I was working on my spec script for Castle, and I spent weeks turning the characters over in my head to see what they’d do. Or when I wrote my short story “December,” suddenly inspired by a piece of music.
I rarely feel like that when writing articles, unless I’m extremely passionate about the subject matter (Caprica and Doctor Who ring some bells), or I manage to turn non-fiction into an opportunity to write fiction. (Step away from the holoband, Sasha!)
A couple of posts back, I wrote about the importance of creating opportunities. That’s still true. At some point, you need to stop writing for yourself and start getting your stuff out there to other people. The thing is, there needs to be a balance between doing that, and taking the time needed (and it does take time) to hole up and write the things that matter to you, even at the risk of people forgetting about you.
I realized something interesting about myself. Not good or bad, just interesting. A big part of why I write, aside from getting to make up stories (which I haven’t been doing lately), is to get people to pay attention to me; to make myself understood; to be seen. Every time I get to post another link to an article I’ve written, people notice. I’ve been interacting with writing the same way I used to relate to acting, treating writing as if it were live performance, hungry for immediate feedback. I love when people comment on my posts and articles, and having conversations with people at the websites where they post, or Twitter, or Facebook. And I’ll admit it, I love it when people comment on the flurry of activity they see in my corner of the world, marveling at how much work I do and how much I’ve accomplished. It makes me feel good in the moment.
The thing is, the act of writing isn’t glamorous, which is a difficult thing to accept when you’re as showy a person as I seem to be. I crave human interaction, and the act of writing is really solitary. There’s just no way around it. No one’s going to sit around and watch me write a novel or a script then applaud me when I’m done. That’s not how it works. And I see now that what I’ve been trying to do is cater to an audience without creating what I love. I’ve been feeding one part of myself while ignoring another, and someone who isn’t balanced (let the “crazy” jokes start now!) isn’t going to be very happy. I haven’t been happy, because even though I’m doing what I love, I haven’t been doing what I love – if that makes sense?
Now that I’ve made the decision to make writing my living, and those articles are where my rent comes from, I can’t very well stop. That said, I can be better about prioritizing projects and making more room for my fiction. I haven’t been very disciplined about keeping any sort of a schedule, and I think if I did that, it would make a world of difference.
I’ll talk about my specific writing goals another time, but I’ll end with the knowledge that I need to be willing to not be seen for a while. I need to not be such a god-damned show-off. I need to be willing to put my nose to the proverbial grindstone and plug away at the long-term projects that matter, even though no one can watch, or cheer me on, or pat me on the head. If I don’t, I’ll never get out these stories that are swimming around inside me, and I’ll continue to make myself miserable.
Though writers always tend to find new and exciting ways to make themselves miserable, don’t they?