Decompress Smart, Not Hard

Just a little catch-up today, since I have two books hanging fire in copyedits and another round of revisions.

For those of you asking when RECKONING will be out, I think it’s later this year–November 2011, if my memory serves me correctly. Yes, it will be the last book in the Strange Angels series. Dru’s story must and will come to a close.

Libba Bray tells you what it’s like to write a book, every time. I laughed so hard I almost cried, nodding my head over and over.

Here’s a post from Jaym Gates on decompressing, and how it’s necessary.

I do not disagree with Ms. Gates, but my non-disagreement comes with a couple important codicils. I am firmly in the “Gotta write every day” category. I don’t see how it’s possible to produce quality work in a timely manner without that practice and habit being built up over a reasonable period of time. This is my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. I’ve gotten flak for it, sure, but I’ve never seen a compelling argument for any other way.

That being said, there does come a point, when you have professionally or consistently written for a while, when you can take some time off. Because even during the time off, some part of your brain is still working on the story. It becomes a reflex. Still, this is dangerous. It’s easy to get out of the habit of writing every day, it’s easy to procrastinate, just like it’s easy to get out of the habit of regular physical workouts. An occasional day off, or a necessary decompression or two, is something one grants oneself while hopefully being fully aware of that danger. It’s good to take a vacation, but the hard part is getting back up on the horse again afterward. It is that–the determination to get back up on the horse–that is critical and crucial, and being in the habit of writing every day maximizes one’s chances. Human beings are wired for habit; make it work for you.

Here’s another codicil:

Back in the long ago days when I actually WROTE on a regular basis, that quote headlined every writing advice post I read. That was back when I had all sorts of world-building charts and questionnaires and Debated About First Person Vs Third with Great Seriousness on Official Writing Forums. At that point, you could probably have told me that standing on my head would get me published, and gotten instant obedience. (Jaym Gates)

World-building charts and questionnaires might be useful tools in moderation, but they’re not writing. Debating on online forums is not writing. A lot of new or aspiring writers make the mistake of thinking procrastination or the Internet is actual writing work. It’s the same principle the diet or self-help industry makes its money from: people confusing the effort of reading the books/watching the DVDs/whatever for actual effort spent getting exercise or doing hard nasty self-work. One gets an ersatz jolt from the book/CD/DVD, there is a flush of feeling good, then sooner or later the flush wears off, the problems reassert themselves, and a new diet/self-help book is sought.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend time outlining or on the Internet. That would be hypocritical as well as false. What I’m saying is: when you think you’re burning out on writing, look at the effort you’re spending on things you mistake for writing, and cut those things out first. Do not cut out the writing first thing. The writing is the whole point, cutting it out is shooting yourself in the foot. If you’ve cut away the procrastination, the Internet, all the little fiddles and indiscretions we use to hide from the writing, and you’re still burning out on producing the story, then it’s time to consider decompression.

And now, time for me to take some of my own medicine, get the hell off the Internet, and get some of these copyedits wrangled. I’ve got wordcount to get in today, too.

Over and out.

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