… to NOT do a lot of stuff. If that seems negative, well, it probably is. But I have a lot of bad habits and because I work alone I tend to let myself slide, cut myself slack, and generally slither into a pool of questionable behaviors. Some of these behaviors deal with chocolate, and wine yes, but mostly I’m talking about writing habits.
I’ve been writing fiction — by myself! generally — since 1984. I had been teaching broadcasting at a community college in Wyoming, which at the time seemed like a dream job. Especially in the middle of Wyoming. There aren’t too many professional jobs in a field as esoteric as broadcasting and communications anywhere, and in a little town in a giant county in a low population state, very few. I felt blessed. Especially when I gave birth to my second child with only one final exam to go in spring semester. But as things turned out, they cleaned out my desk and gave my office to somebody else over the summer and I didn’t go back. I did a little PR hack work, publicized the heck out of a town centennial, then turned to fiction. And never looked back.
While I’ve been involved with writing groups over the years, many of them excellent, I don’t do that much anymore. I’ve moved a couple times as well and searching out writers in new towns is like the proverbial needle in a haystack. Where do they hide? Who knows, but they are probably like me, working at home, solitary, on my own schedule, and liking it that way.
But sometimes, well, it just makes you weird. You start shouting on twitter and facebook about your books, endlessly, wondering if that hollow sound is your voice returning unheard. You make a nuisance of yourself to your friends and relatives. You wait eagerly, trying to look nonchalant, as your friends try to sell your work to strangers. (Thank you, friends, know you are so appreciated.) You try to explain your work to others, faultingly, then give up. Your family doesn’t understand. They leave you alone if you’re lucky. But then you are…
You have to be happy in that solitary state. Susan Isaacs once told me, “it’s our dirty little secret… we just want to be left alone in our rooms.” So true. Without that alone time I go a little nuts. Then I’ll swing the other way and get bonkers about not seeing anybody for days and go on mad cleaning sprees and hang out at the mall just to see people. It’s a strange life but over nearly thirty years it has felt so right to me. Writing fiction makes you introspective, if you’re lucky. You consider the human existence, what it might mean, how it begins, how it ends, and everything in the middle that matters. Which is a lot of stuff to think about. You can’t put it all in one novel. So you grab onto one idea and run with it until it reaches its natural narrative end. Then you do it all again, and again. May we never run out of ideas, and people to write about.
Back to my bad habits, since you’re all dying to know. I confessed to one the other day: my messy office. It is a source of marital friction especially since my current one is right off the front hall, in plain sight. Right now, despite my pledge to spend ten (okay, fifteen) minutes a day keeping my office tidy, there are piles of manuscript pages on the floor in front of the white board where I am rearranging scenes and trying to figure out the structure of my new manuscript. I *will* tidy up the piles and get them off the floor tonight! I will! I know people who do this and they seem perfectly sane. Well, sort of sane. For me, tidying up is something your boss makes you do, or you do on your own once a year when you finish a project. Or your mother is coming to visit. Otherwise, forget it. Chaos reigns. I like it that way.
My next resolution is stop tweeting about my books and obsessing about sales numbers. With the advent of small press publishing at Amazon and all the other outlets, you can get your sales data in real time. This is a revelation because for ages and ages, publishing companies have sent you royalty checks for books you sold a full calendar year in the past, and that was the only way you knew what you were selling. But now I know, for instance, I sold one copy of Jump Cut today. One! (Only one. Or rather, not none!) This is a plus/minus situation. I would really like to not think about books I’ve already sent out into the world and get on with the next one. Because we all know it will be better than the last. Or would be if I spent more time on it and not on the internet getting weird about sales figures.
And lastly, I would like to write here more, spend more time being personal with all of you whoever you may be. Because it’s a lonely life being a writer. Not in a bad way at all, but it is just me most of the time. It’s my dirty little secret that I like it that way. And my dirty little secret that I don’t.