On Writer’s Block, Reasons/Excuses/Explainations, and Working It the Fuck Out

Nobody wants to hear another story about how you couldn’t write right”
– Circa Survive

It’s been a really long time since I’ve updated my blog.
It’s been a really long time since I even tried to get anything published.

So, let’s work it out.

I’m trying to write every day, like Henry told me to.

This seems just as good an excuse as any:

This morning I threw my hat in with a dozen or so Bizarro authors who are going to take Bradley Sands up on his offer to band together and do a novella in a month, a la NanoWriMo, for April.
People like Cameron Pierce and Carlton Mellick III can churn out a novel in three days. I am not one of those people.

At first I was hesitant because I don’t have anything substantial to work on. Then I realized how stupid that is, how long its been since I wrote anything longer than a page or two (of fiction) and that even if it sucks I ought to do it for practice’s sake.
And I should tell everyone about it so I have to follow through, or I’ll look like an idiot.

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. Scribbling in journals about boys I had crushes on (hint: damn near every dude with a pulse) and wanting something more. Weird rants, bits of ideas for things I would never expand. But always writing.
Until the last couple of years.

A Brief History/ WTF Happened (some of which you may or may not already know)

In 2010 I went to a writer’s workshop that birthed the idea for my book Trashland A Go-Go. The book was put out by Eraserhead Press in 2011 and I sold the shit out of it for the chance to win a contract with EHP to write more books.

The year I wrote Trashland was fucked. My closest friendship was put to the test when my friend met a dude, not uncommon among lady friends. Then more so, when that dude’s best friend died while driving his car that we were all in, the day after I slept with him.

Any one out there keeping score: that’s two men I’ve slept with in the last 3-4 years who are now dead.

It was complicated to say the least. We all moved into my apartment, and it was my hope that we’d be a support system for each other during a fucked up grieving period. Things never really work out the way any of us plan.

During that time my friend/mentor Kevin Shamel told me to write the idea from the workshop for that years NBAS. He gave me two weeks to complete the story before we went into edits. I took three.

It was exactly what I needed to move forward. I still cried, I still thought about it, but I had something else to focus on. A reason to make myself stay home and work toward something instead of drinking my face off. Which I still did.

Rose and Kevin presented us with our books for the first time in Rose and Carlton’s room in the Ad House at the Edgefield and I started to cry the minute it was in my hands. Because I worked for it. Because it was there. The culmination of all the shitty feelings I’d had during that time, and a bunch of other times, but it was printed by someone who thought it was worth publishing.

I spent the next year focusing on sales, pushing my book to earn the chance to publish more books. I didn’t worry about new words. Those would come later. There would always be more words. I worked on some stories about the adult shop where I was working and not much else.

My parents were proud. Both readers. Both grossed out with what I put out into the world, but proud nonetheless. (My dad brags about me to the people in his biker organizations.)

Toward the end of 2012 (September) my parents were in a motorcycle accident and I had to go to Memphis TN. It was serious. My dad was in pretty bad shape, and my mom much worse. Her injuries were so severe that she was essentially being kept alive by machines, and a substantial portion of her brain had been removed. As a family we made the decision to let her go. Because she wouldn’t have wanted to live that way. She’d said it a hundred times herself. We all knew.

I woke up the morning it was to be done and threw up for an hour, as is customary when someone I love dies. I hold all my emotions in my gut. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with stomach cancer.
My brother and I flew back to Arizona, where my dad already was because he conned the hospital staff in Memphis into thinking he was well enough to go home (he wasn’t and the trip home nearly killed him) I stayed for another two weeks. I slept at the foot of my dad’s bed, took care of him, tried to take care of the house, cried in the shower, and came home a few days after the funeral. Then spent the next…forever, feeling guilty for leaving.

I stayed in bed for three days and didn’t even tell anyone I was back after being gone for nearly a month.

I worked for 3 weeks straight without a day off so I could go to BizarroCon and be told that yes, they wanted more from me.

I didn’t realize that I was going to shut down and not have anything to give them.

Not for lack of trying. Or at least the minimal effort that I was able to manage.
At the workshop, my idea was praised and won the competition we had for the pieces as a way of rating them. It was, by total coincidence, very similar to an idea that editor Jeff Burk was already working on. So, while the idea was good, it would not be accepted by the press.
We held Pitchapalooza online where everyone spat out a billion ideas per minute and I had a total of two. One of which was approved of, but not an acceptable second release.

Which is just as well. It was going to be a morbid, sewer scouring, version of “Are YOU My Mother?” and so soon after the death of mine, it probably would have been crap. Self indulgent, miserable, further fecal humored, crap.

I continued to scratch away in my notebook, going over and over what happened in Tennessee and reeling over some dude who never mattered, because I just didn’t want to be alone. I needed to feel something else, so I drank my face off and wasted time with him. And wrote about it.

But no fiction. Not even a blip of an idea. I was completely discouraged by myself and the blandness of the ideas.

My relationships with everyone crumbled, because I just couldn’t see the point in half of what they cared about. Because it was the end of the world to them, but so trivial to me.

I read Sam Pink over and over, hating everyone and happy someone else zoned out the way I do.
But I don’t write like him. And even if I did, he got there first.
So what do I write now?

I listened to a podcast recently, where friend and fantastic author J David Osborne talked about treating his characters as real people, doing them justice, making choices for them as though they are real people, and letting THEM tell him where they want to go/what they want to do. Drugs may or may not have been involved in his explanation, but words flowed a little better after that.

Somewhere along the line, I got scared to write. Afraid to put words down, because they wouldn’t be just for me and they may not be good enough.

But who cares, so long as they are happening.

Now I’m trying.

I’m trying to develop better habits. With my schedule adjusted to working my day job mostly in the evening, I have a lot of free time. After my grandmother died and things in my familial life got weird, I quit drinking, got even more depressed, and just stayed in bed until it was time to go to work. Which I still do sometimes.

I’m spending more time with music, books, and words than laying in bed watching mindless television. I’m making it a point to get up, make some coffee, and sit at the machine and type. Because that’s what I am here for. That’s what’s always felt right to me. So, that’s what I’m doing right now by sharing all of this with the interweb/all of you/whoever reads these things.
I opened up a tumblr a few months back, where I put bits of ideas and memories that I tend to put into a poem format. It’s not all gold. And that’s okay.

Get there, work it out, and the fiction will come.

I wrote an opening scene the other morning for a piece I’ve had brewing in my head for a while now, and it felt good. Even if it goes nowhere.

Baby steps.
Last year at BizarroCon (apparently where all of my ideas are born) I had an idea for a project to work on with a bunch of lady writers, but have struggled with momentum and being the person in charge. I refuse to let them down or fuck up this project. So, it’s time to get my ass in gear.

Along the way, while I’ve struggled with words, there have been a lot of people encouraging me and letting me know they enjoy my writing and can’t wait to see what is next. And to those people, real life friends, interweb friends, writer people, and people I barely know, thank you.

I’m trying. Finally.

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