Writing About Not Writing

Dear Wildling,

The above photo is somewhat of a dirty secret. I spent an hour last weekend creating this page in my bullet journal, painstakingly drawing each individual shard of crystal to track my daily ‘writing sprints’. I’ve recently been watching a lot of YouTube writers, having cut waaaaaay back on my social media time and have discovered Rachael Stephen (more about her & others in a future post) who recommends writing sprints as a way to drag your badass writer-self to the party.

I mean, I was excited about this! I had set up a writing sprints tracker last month too, but this was different! They’re crystals, ya’ll! I was going to fill each little shard in with varying shades of purple and blue. It was going to be adorable!

Last month’s tracker which is clearly inferior to the NEW tracker! ;p

Alas, as you can see in both photos- I am rarely writing these last weeks. And it is not for a lack of a want of the act of writing! Why is it so hard to start? I can spend hours plotting, drawing graphs, outlining characters, outlining new and old short story ideas, watching YouTube videos of Vonnegut (our lord & savior, may he rest in confusion) lectures and taking notes for hours! Hours!

It’s certainly not for a lack of projects to work on either. I began writing my first novel, Crick in January- a murder mystery wrapped in a ghost story and early-90’s nostalgia, set in the fictional town of Wallowa, not-so-loosely based on my own hometown and the Finnish-American community I grew up in. I am about 15,000 words into this novel, I know everything that happens going forward, and I thought I had a very good working relationship with my main character, Sammy! And yet, I can not seem to get her home from the grocery store where she was just confronted by Murder Suspect #1 on her first night back in her hometown in twenty years. Poor Sammy, she is probably driving in circles around the Ollie’s Market parking lot, in a rain storm, with a possible murderer staring at her while the automatic doors open and close on his shocked expression for all eternity!

Okay, breathe, Brooke. This is no time for existential crises.

So. . . what keeps us from writing as often as we would like to?

The dishes.

Family life.

Day jobs.

Social media.

Quitting social media and subscribing to a million Youtubers.

Our health.

It is all of these things and none of these things. And we all know how painful it can be for a writer who is not writing. There is a reason that so many characters in horror & thrillers are writers with a block just before the unthinkable happens. Because: It. Is. Maddening.

For me, the two killers of my creativity & productivity are a) the idea that a writer writes every day. Once I’ve missed a day or two or five of writing, the pressure to return is too much. The idea that I have somehow ‘failed’ at being a writer because I haven’t filled in each and every one of those little trackers in my bujo- or because I haven’t updated my blog, or gotten Sammy out of the grocery store parking lot-is honestly bullsh*t. I’ve seen nearly 30 of my stories published over the last several years. In 2019, I wrote a chapbook at just around 9k words, a short story for Nightscape’s Horror for RAICES, and my story Cherub was reprinted in Yearning to Breathe Free at Camden Press (another charity anthology for RAICES in Texas). I’ve done stuff! And I’ve always been a slow worker with my writing. But I bet I would work a lot more if I stopped beating myself up about the days and weeks in between sessions of writing. Will I quit using my bullet journal to track my progress? Nope! This is something new I am trying out (I literally discovered bullet journaling in mid-February) so I would like to see if it does eventually help me create the habit of writing more often. Going forward, though, I think I will try looking at my trackers from the perspective of “hey, look, I wrote at least once last week!” rather than the guilt-parade I usually throw myself.

b) Boredom. Stagnation. Too much time on my hands!

I have been mostly out of work (day-job-wise) as I recover from several surgeries over the last few years and man-oh-man did I really think that I would write with all this ‘free’ time!

Ha!

Anyone who is afflicted with the compulsion to write could have told me that despite the writer’s constant battle with time-management (“If I only had the time to write!”), a whole lotta free time is possibly the worst thing a creative could get (after vehemently wishing for it for years, even). I certainly have the time during the day to write but the dishes need washed, the laundry really should be folded, or (and this is very important), I absolutely must re-watch season 1 of Mindhunter for the third time before I take a three-and-a-half hour nap. Every night, just before I slip into sleep feeling defeated over having not written that day, I think to myself: tomorrow, first thing!, only to neglect my writing projects the entire next day. Repeat ad infinitum.

And the only cure for this bored writer, is to write. Even when (especially when) I don’t feel like it but except when I am busy living my life or being a mom or a wife or a disabled person or a good daughter or a soapmaker.

Some small tricks I have learned along my journey to write more often:

  • Listening to 10 minutes of binaural beats before I start writing really does help me free my mind from the every-day sort of life stuff & get in the mood for writing. I try to find videos that are at least 2 hours in length so I can continue listening as I write. I find this much more effective than listening to music with lyrics, which can be distracting.
  • Doing as much as I can that isn’t writing on a schedule. Eating, sleeping, and everything in between has all become very difficult for me since my thyroid was removed and my ankles rebuilt. But I find that if I at least have some semblance of a schedule for things like housework or yoga (I commit to 10 minutes of ‘mindful’ movement every day), giving myself 20 minutes to write becomes easier/achievable.
  • 20 minute writing sessions can be productive and incredibly satisfying and very often turn into hour-long writing sessions. We can all commit to that right?! Sure! We’ll start tomorrow! ;p
  • Guilt & shame and all their stinky friends are not helpful! In fact, they’re very harmful. Let’s stop beating ourselves up and start building ourselves up. I don’t care if you haven’t written one single solitary word in all of 2020 so far. I believe in you!

And now that I have written for quite some time about not writing, I am going to go ahead and fill in one of those pretty little crystal shards & remind myself tomorrow that I can– we can do this as often as we like.

B.

Dear Friend,

After a tumultuous few years, I am ready to finally begin this blog.

In the last 3 years, I have:

  • Embarked on a journey of recovery from alcoholism. My sobriety date is 12/03/2016.
  • Had the remaining half of my thyroid removed after cancerous cysts were found a second time. My surgery was in March of 2017. I tested at normal hormone levels (I am on a synthetic hormone) in September of 2019.
  • Been unable to work as a care-giver in a professional setting since October of 2017, after my club feet began to finally collapse. I had both my feet fused, in April of 2018 and September of 2019.
  • Written a chapbook, Luminous Body for Dim Shores, which was released in October of 2019.
  • Married the best friend I’ve ever had, on April 7th, 2018. We married on his family’s farm in Illinois.
  • Started a small business, The Naked Wytch, that fuses witchcraft with bath & body products.
  • Moved from Arizona to Washington & am now planning a move to Illinois!

Phew! That was a lot! I have to remember to give myself credit where it is due. Instead of beating myself up for falling behind on things, I need to remember that one is only human, and can only do so much. Yes, my anxiety got the best of me, but that’s okay! Going forward, in 2020 we will talk about:

  • My first novel, Crick, that I am 15k words into writing. It is what I like to call my American Double Wide Trailer Gothic.
  • My new obsession with bullet journaling. I’ll even post my messy-as-hell lay-outs.
  • Anxiety and coping.
  • Alcoholism, addiction, recovery.
  • Soaping and my small business, The Naked Wytch.
  • My thoughts on the many, many books I read-some by friends!
  • Whatever else I fancy or am currently fixated on.

2020 is the year that I write without worrying who is reading, or whether or not they’re reading. This year, I’m going to write because it pleases me to do so. We have so much to talk about, you & I! Do not let this spartan blog entry fool you. Going forward, I will be posting lots of pics, soap recipes, writing woes & adventures, insomnia-fueled meanderings, notes on disasters, and of course, book reviews. If you’re reading this, I thank you and look forward to our talks.

Toodle-Loo,

B.

New Writer’s Crash Course

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When I started out four years ago, all I knew was I wanted to see my name in print. I had notebooks full of stories that I had written over the years but no idea how to find magazines and presses that would be interested in them.

How do you know who accepts submissions from the public?

How do you contact the editors?

What do they even want?

I was completely intimidated by the whole process.

Through a lot of trial and error and Google searches, I figured it out. I met other writers and they encouraged me, helped promote my work, and guided me through the process. I started selling my stories, building my social media audience, and slowly but surely I was on my way.

I wrote this class for new writers because I wanted to teach you everything it took me weeks, months, and years to learn. If you have a story to tell, you should tell it! Don’t be mystified by the process of sending your stories to editors and seeing your name in print. There are actually very simple steps to do this.

In this class, I outline exactly how this works. We will talk about how to find submission calls, how to write cover letters and bios, how to meet and network with other writers, and how to build an online following– and lots more. I wanted to make it simple and painless for the new writer. If you are interested in taking this class and have found this post, I am offering my readers a discount.

Go to The New Writer’s Crash Course and use the coupon code CRASH18 to get the class for just 21.99 (normally 89.99).

 

 

PUPPET SKIN AND STARR CREEK

In lieu of a review of Danger Slater’s book PUPPET SKIN, I will just transcribe the conversation I had with my 17-year-old daughter about it.

Me *tries doorknob to Zoe’s room and finds it locked* *knocks*

Zoe *opens door*: What?

Me: Do you think that, ultimately, PUPPET SKIN is a commentary on, like, how adults always tell you “that’s the way things are” or worse, “because I said so” or like, how we don’t really question our own beliefs and motivations once we are adults and expect you to have it all figured out just because you’re about to be 18?

Zoe *sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce on the floor, leaning into a mirror, meticulously applying eyeliner*: It’s a lot about how… Like, how everything is sort of pointless and trying to find meaning in a meaningless life. But like, in this nightmare world that’s really not that different from the one we live in, if you think about it. *sighs* There is no god.

Me *notices the kitchen shears and a pile of hair*: Tf you do?

Zoe: Oh, I cut off all my hair. *flips jagged locks over shoulder*

Me:… It’s up to us to decide what has meaning in our lives. *closes door* CLEAN YOUR ROOM!

Find  Danger Slater and more of his work on Goodreads.

 

Next up, Nathan Carson’s raucous romp of a story STARR CREEK. Who knew Lovecraftian themes could be so fun? Maybe you did, but I didn’t! Lovers of STRANGER THINGS rejoice! This little novel is similar in theme and story but… Grittier, dirtier. There’s even an authentic 80’s style bike vs car chase—but with ATV’s and an old pick-up truck. The prose is beautiful (“With no moon they could see the cold x-ray smear of the milky Way… And young minds on acid just loved to do rail slides down that vast spiral arm.”), juxtaposed with the dialogue and antics of foul-mouthed, drug-addled, backwoods characters like that of one of the story’s main antagonists, a man named Puppy (“A gallon of undigested dry dog food sprayed out of Puppy’s mouth on a wave of bile and beer froth.”). This is Nathan Carson’s debut novella and I, for one, will be keeping a sharp eye out for his next one.

Find Nathan, his work, and his website here on Goodreads.

Dim Shores, Strange Aeons, and other weird worlds.

 

Very pleased to announce to the world that LOOMING LOW, from DIM SHORES, will be debuting at this year’s Necronomicon in Providence, RI. My story HEIRLOOM will appear in the anthology alongside the works of many spooky, talented folks.
The TOC includes Nadia Bulkin,Michael Cisco, Kristi DeMeester, Brian Evenson, Kurt Fawver, Gemma Files, Richard Gavin, Craig Laurance Gidney, Michael Griffin, Lisa L. Hannett, Livia Llewellyn, Anya Martin, Daniel Mill, S.P. Miskowski, Sunny Moraine, Scott Nicolay, Betty Rocksteady, Christopher Slatsky, Lucy A. Snyder, Simon Strantzas,Jeffrey Thomas, Damien Angelica Walters, Kaaron Warren , Michael Wehunt , A.C. Wise and is edited by Justin Steele and Sam Cowan.

 

Check out the beautiful artwork on the trade-paperback and the deluxe hardcover, and preorder yours here at http://dimshores.storenvy.com/

I am also excited to let readers know that CHERUB– a little story I wrote for anyone who has ever been confounded by the odd nature of the writing muse, or for anyone who was ever a child, especially the precocious kind– will be appearing in STRANGE AEONS this coming September! I will keep you all posted with the details as that happens.

And keep an eye (and an ear) out for upcoming episodes on The Lift at victoriaslift.com and The Wicked Library written by yours truly. Just check those shows out in general, they’re great fun!

It is a pleasure to get to do what I love and love what I do! And in the meantime, I get to work with some really great people I look forward to our adventures together, dear readers! Stay tuned for interviews, advice, and peeks into the weird, weird world of this writer’s life.

Until we meet again,

B.