Taking the time to Wonderbook

I’ve been a bit impatient with myself lately. Three weeks of getting up at 6am five mornings a week (ok, a slept in until 7am a few times) to work on the novel. No email. No Internet. Nothing connected to the outside world until 10am. This gave me four hours to eat breakfast, wash the dishes, read, and write. Some mornings, I spent as much as 2 hours reading and just an hour writing. Other mornings, I stuck to the toosh-in-chair method only to write 250 words in 2 1/2 hours. One morning, I worked by hand on revisions but couldn’t pull up the resources to then type those revisions into the saved document on my computer. I felt exhausted. I knew I was working hard and trying, as I’d promised myself, but it felt unproductive. It also felt harder than anything I’ve ever experienced at the desk.

Recently, I had a revelation. Rather than waking up and slugging along as though there was something wrong with me, I decided one morning that I needed to have more fun. Who cares that it was slow going? Who cares if I scrapped every word I wrote? I needed to have fun, goddammit, and if that meant a bonus cup of coffee and a little more talking to myself than usual, so be it. First and foremost, I’m not entirely certain what I’m doing. How does one actually write a novel? It feels so breathy to me. So goddamn laborious and overstated compared to flashes or stories. No need to fight it. Instead, I gave myself full permission to study the authors I respect in order to learn how it’s done. Where do their pages get breathy and how do they pull it off anyway? What holds my interest? How do they get to their transitions into and out of scenes? How do they get to narrative exposition?

Second, I decided
it was pointless to be impatient with myself because I’m still in book tour recovery. There should be a name for this: Post Traumatic Tour Disorder? Readers know I’m the last person who would make light of PTSD, but really, it’s at least worth considering what 35 public events will do to a person. Especially a relatively introverted writer whose M.O. is living in very isolated, very hard to get to, beautiful places…typically very far from other human beings. The experiences exhilarated me, most of the time, but they also exhausted me, sapping my spiritual and financial reserves. That means I’m only very slowly filling my well back up. My output is going to be pretty small and conservative for while, at least until I fill that well back up (and finally overfill it again). So be it. At least I can name the beast, which means I can choose the best weapons to fight it.

So while I was busy trying to figure out how to make things a bit more fun (play great music while washing the dishes, indulge in reading a little more, talk or sing more to myself), I picked an incredible book called Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. As someone who teaches writing, I’ve still managed to be quite snobby (perhaps unnecessarily so) about reading books about writing. Who wants to do that? I’d rather read books of good writing, then write one myself. But of course, there are some incredible books about writing out there and on more than one occasion, such books have saved me in the classroom. Now, I’m the one that needs saving and Wonderbook might just be the trick. It’s goofy, delightful, thoughtful, inspiring, and deep. Oh, and it’s illustrated. Like, CRAZY illustrated. Is it possible to call it a graphic how-to-self-help-but-much-better-than-both-those-categories book? You’ll have to see for yourself. Check out the trailer. Then buy the book. I’m broke after my book tour and I’m still glad I bought the book. Dare I say…it’s WONDERful. Inspiration abounds! Playfullness and insight have room on the same page! In the same sentence! Slow and steady, I’ll get there. The word NOVEL is like a cave. I’m fumbling around blindly. Thanks to Wonderbook, I know I’ll find a torch sooner rather than later.

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