Waiting

Waiting again. This time for the furnace technician. The same boiler that serves our radiators also feeds the hot water heater, of which at the moment we have none (hot water, that is). So. Waiting. I should be better at it by now. In this avocation you certainly get a lot of practice.

The advice everyone hears, once a piece of writing has been submitted, is: Don’t Wait! Write! It’s good advice so far as it goes. For one thing, it keeps you doing what you should be doing anyway. For another, there’s a good chance you’ll have a finished piece ready to submit elsewhere before the first one sells or comes flying back (Figuratively, as almost no one does that now. It was a paper thing.) Never having to pin all your hopes on just one possibility, which may (likely will) disappoint you. Doing your work, also a coping mechanism for waiting.

But you wait anyway, despite all the defenses and deflections and denials. There’s that one market you really, really want to crack before you die. There’s a special piece that you just know is the best thing you’ve ever done and you want it Out There! Rather than sitting in some editor’s queue. And if it gets bought, then you’re waiting again, until it’s actually out there, which means there are lead times and what’s bought in March doesn’t get published until October, if you’re lucky. For books it’s even longer as a rule. Before you even get to that point there are edits to get through, and then you’re waiting (again) for editorial approval of the changes, or more corrections and the process starts again…. Then there’s the gap between buying and the check arriving, and don’t get me started on that.

Waiting.

I seem to be living in reverse. When I was younger, I had more patience. I find it’s a scarcer commodity as time marches on. Too conscious of the passage of time, too aware that the time to get things done and find whatever it is you’re trying to find in your work, in yourself, is very finite. Any time spent waiting feels like wasted time, even when you’re not just waiting, you’re also waiting. There’s no real escape from it. Just make it share the time it wants to take from you with whatever doesn’t involve waiting. You can’t get rid of it, but at least you can make it earn its keep.

Walking the Tightrope

You know all those “author bios” you see when you read a story or book and have something like this pop up at the end?

“Johnny Authorboy is the author of many novels, of which he is the author. He likes cats and chocolate, but not together. He lives somewhere in Wyoming, but he’s not sure where because the road isn’t marked.”

Or maybe: “Elizabeth Page-Turner is the author of the bestselling “Empirical Empress” series for Goshwow Books. In her spare time she collects celebrity belly-button lint.”

Yeah, those things? We have to write them ourselves. Continue reading

“Typical”

In these divisive times, most people of whatever political bent do tend to agree on one thing—other people’s dreams aren’t that interesting. Proper dreams are full 3D VR experiences, complete with touch, smell, sound, color, emotion, the full range of human sensory experience. Telling the dream loses that, unless you’re a good enough writer/storyteller to shore up the gaps, and even then you’re down to something like “I flew from one mountaintop to another! It was amazing!” And the listener nods politely and changes the subject.

So I will tell you about a dream I had and immediately change the subject. Sort of. The dream, in its odd way, was the subject. It was a fairly prosaic dream which I will not embellish. Essentially, there was a writer’s group I was part of and we were looking for a place to meet. We eventually found a venue where dozens, if not hundreds of writers were already meeting, so we joined in. There was an invited Guest Speaker. I was listening to what he had to say, or trying to, because every other person in the room immediately broke up into small, intimate groups of five or six and started discussing their latest works. One woman was even narrating her most recent story via interpretive dance and method acting. No one was listening to the speaker except me, and I just thought, “Well, that was rude.”

Once awake again, I revised that comment to one word­­—“typical.”

What I was seeing in the dream was an overt example of writerly ego out of control. Never mind you. What about me? It’s sometimes called Writer’s Arrogance (WA) and it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s essential. Especially in the white heat of creation, where you must believe, to the bottom of your soul, that you’re making something worth another person’s time to read. Not to mention that it takes a great deal of self-confidence to face down the other writerly emotion, Crippling Doubt (CD). Which is likewise not always a bad thing, especially when it comes time to revise. There CD has to edge out WA so you can take a good hard jaundiced look at what you’ve written, and pinpoint the flaws so you can fix them. However, CD cannot be allowed to beat WA during the creation process, or nothing gets written. There’s a balance, or should be if this thing is going to work.

The dream was an example of WA run amuck. No one in the dream was capable of listening to anyone except themselves. I’ll give the Guest Speaker a pass because he had been brought there specifically to talk about his work. Only no one except the “I” of the dream was listening. Hmmm. According to several psychological theories, everyone in a dream is just a reflection of the dreamer. All those aspects of me, not listening? Then again, if the Speaker was just me talking, maybe I wouldn’t listen either.

There could be a lesson there, or not. I don’t pretend to know. Maybe I should listen more and talk less. Or at least not be so rude about it. It’s a thought.

 

Freeing the Ladybugs

Ladybugs don’t belong inside. Nothing I’ve read so far reports on this habit of theirs, but I’ve noticed that sometimes Ladybugs apparently find a way inside a house to lay eggs (or the larvae crawl in), and then, when these hatch, can’t find their way out again. Too often I find their sad little dried out exoskeletons in a windowsill, inches away from freedom and whatever they had planned for their lives. Eating aphids? Probably. Spawning? Surely.

The last few days have involved painting the area around certain windows in preparation for removing the nasty old blinds that came with the house and replacing them with clean modern shades. Which has dictated a lot of time futzing around windowsills, and finding the ladybugs congregating there in twos and threes or whatever. So I have to pause whatever I’m doing and free them. I used to do the same thing at my old place of work, again in the spring when they start hatching out. It’s kind of annoying, really, and the ladybugs aren’t usually cooperative, but I have the compulsion. I probably don’t do a lot of good. Maybe it does no harm.

I think of the story of two people walking along a beach where thousands of starfish have been washed up in a storm. As they walk, one paused to pick up a still-living starfish and toss it back into the sea. “Wait a minute,” says the other. “There are many thousands of starfish here. Do you really think that made a difference?” The first just shrugs. “Sure made a difference to that one.”

Well, That Was Just Careless

After getting a couple new submissions under my belt I thought perhaps I should take another stab at organizing my story files a little better. I tended to let that slip a bit when I was concentrating mostly on novels, but since I want to do both, it doesn’t help to neglect one in favor of the other. Anyway, I was going over my submissions files, cross-referencing with my finished stories and noticed something odd.

I have lost a story. Completely. Gone. Poof.

I have no idea of how I managed this feat. I’m usually pretty careful about keeping copies and backups and such. I did have that one scare last year when I was certain I’d lost everything, but fortunately it didn’t turn out that way when I found, you guessed it, a current backup, so I was at least reasonably certain that the story I was missing could be found in my files.

Nope.

I knew I wasn’t imagining writing that story. I wrote the bulk of it during a meeting of my old writer’s group. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering or such; it was just a fun story that I hadn’t done anything with as far as subs go, since I couldn’t think of the right market for it. I’m still not sure there is one, only now I’ll have to rewrite the thing–literally. I can do it. I remember enough of the plot and tone so that I’m at least reasonably confident I can recreate it. Still, more work for something that should already be done.

In penance, I’m putting up a new Story Time. I was about due anyway. This one is “A Pinch of Salt” from MYTHIC #2, edited by Mike Allen.