It's been months since I've written much besides Facebook comments. Usually, I've at least got a couple of fan stories on the boil, or some poetry, but right now—nada. I've been so busy working with others on their creative projects or absorbing new material in the form of travel that my head has been empty of ideas. Not inspiration, just ideas. It's not inspiration that moves a writer; it's perspiration and ideas. What's the difference between inspiration and ideas? Lots of people are inspired to write. I know loads of people who want to write novels or poems or short stories. But they don't know what to write about. They have no questions they want to ask, no hypothetical situations they want to explore, no important thoughts they're trying to communicate, no point they want to make, no insights to share. Without that, what you're writing is just . . . blather. My dad used to say about writers and books that they should leave the messages to Western Union and there's something to be said for that. Nothing kills a good story more than lugubrious didacticism. But every story worth telling has a point and it's the author's job to make that clear without getting in the way of the story.
Anyway, I'm making myself get back in the saddle again. I've finally gotten the urge—and the necessary distance—to go back to my decades-in-the-making novel and do that last revision. I started the other day in Starbucks when I couldn't get my wifi going and discovered the synch program hadn't given me the latest version of something else I wanted to write. But the itch has been there in my head for a while, thanks, oddly enough, to Facebook. I've got enough writer "friends" there (Charlie Jane Anders, C.E. Murphy, Charles de Lint—people I don't know personally but admire; and Jennifer Ouellette, Christine Hamm, and Allyson Beatrice, whom I do know) who post regularly about progress on their own work that it's been, well, inspirational. Because, you know, you can talk about being a writer, but if you ain't writin', you ain't no writer.
The first four chapters were relatively easy, though I think they could probably still use some trimming down. But now the hard part comes: the reorganization, the slash and burn, the killing of my darlings. I'm not the same person who wrote the last draft of this book and it's been a significant change. The person I am not could have written this story ten years ago, and the person I was then could not rewrite it as it should be. Which is why it sat for ten years. It's a story that needs to be told but I needed to change to tell it. When I wrote it, I was struggling with depression, with family health issues, with becoming a whole, individuated person and that shows in this book. Now, it's not as if I think I'm done with that process—no one sane ever is—but I've gotten over the first big humps, the ones that needed to be done before I could write this story (or perhaps any other stories of my own worth telling).
The point of this story today is that distractions are not always a bad thing. Writers grow at different paces, and just because you're not churning a new book out every year doesn't mean that you can't ever churn one out. And just because you're not a wunderkind publishing your first book at 17 or 22, doesn't mean you never will.
Now it's my turn.