Monday, February 27, 2012

In which I take a moment to mope

Writing is not a simple process. It is not something that you can just pick up and do, like making a sandwich. It requires concentration: sustained time and attention. Any interruption slows the process, not just by the length of the interruption itself, but by the additional time it takes to get your focus back on your project, to figure out where you were when the interruption came, what you were trying to do, and where you need to go next. Put simply, it takes time to get your head into a project, and it takes time to get your head back into a project after your attention gets pulled away.

I state this as a general principle, but I will note that the larger and more intricate a project is, the more true this principle becomes. So, rattling off the sort of vignette that I like to put on this blog takes much less focus, and can continue in the face of far more interruptions, than working on the rewrite for my Great Pulp Fantasy Novel. Which brings me to my next point:

Raising children is not a simple process. Kids - young kids, at least - require constant time and attention, just to make sure that they don't manage to kill themselves or set the house on fire. They are a never-ending source of distractions. (Inspirations, too, but definitely distractions.) Secondborn, to pick an example, loves Elmo with a deep, strong love. The easiest way to distract him from, say, trying to open the dishwasher in the midst of the hot water cycle, is to offer him a chance to watch Elmo. Even so, he is seldom content to watch Elmo by himself. No, he can only be truly satisfied if one of us (or both, preferably) are watching Elmo with him.

As you might imagine, this is not conducive to creating what you might call "a good writing environment". Especially since, at least when I'm home, it's virtually guaranteed that Firstborn will also be roaming the house, and very probably trying to arrange some sort of battle in which various transformers try to destroy each other in the midst of our good china.

So, to recap:
1. Writing requires focus and concentration to the exclusion of nearly everything else.
2. Children require constant, vigilant supervision, to the exclusion of nearly everything else.
3. Therefore, working on the Great Unpublished Pulp Fantasy Novel (or any other noteworthy writing project, for that matter) is fundamentally incompatible with wrangling small boys.

As a result, progress on my writing projects has essentially ground to a halt since the boys came along. This is not surprising, and I've mentioned before that it's very much a matter of priorities. Moreover, as the boys get older and better able to play with less supervision, I expect I'll be able to make more progress. (In fact I was just starting to get some of my time back from Firstborn when Secondborn came along. So I've got good reason to hope, here.)

Nevertheless, it's frustrating. Sometimes it's very frustrating. There's nothing quite like having a scene in your head, or a sudden flash of insight into a story, and knowing that there's at least a fifty-fifty chance that you won't be able to sit down soon enough to capture it before it gets away. There's also nothing quite like sitting down with an hour or two available, and realizing that you're entirely too tired/sick/inundated by allergies to focus on writing.

Which brings us to last night: I didn't even try.

Instead, I read a little bit. I played Infamous on the PS3, 'cause I finally have a PS3. I drank some sake.

And then, right around midnight, I realized I was finally relaxed and recuperated, and ready to write. Just exactly when I needed to go to bed, in other words. And since work is very much trying to kill us right now, I really couldn't afford to be exhausted and unfocused at my job. So... When I finally could have done some writing, I went to bed.

In the interest of preserving the delicate sensibilities of my readers, I will limit my response to a single, small "argh".



  1. I song-write so I understand where you're coming from with the "flashes". I try to carry a small notebook around, just so I can jot down a few word, or a hook that popped into my head while in the car.

    Of course, the brilliant "aha!" flashes always seem to happen during the most inconvenient moments. When I finally have the time to sit down and song-write, I then have to spend an hour just to piece together all my ideas.

    Your sons sound adorable. & [as a half-Japanese girl] I'm glad to know there's some Americans out there that appreciate sake. I don't understand America's obsession with Jack Daniels.

  2. Thanks! I'm fortunate, in that there's a little store near me that sells a wide selection of wines and beers, including some pretty decent sake. A couple of years ago, they were kind enough to talk me through some of the available options, so while I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I can at least identify what sorts of things I like to buy.


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