Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: creative mind

My Year In Writing, Thus Far

Since 2012, I’ve been highly conscious of how my writing goes over the course of the year. I keep an eye on when I write, and how much I write, and how long I take to write it. Recently, I even went so far as to create a logsheet for my blog posts, which I should have been logging long before now. I use my logsheets to monitor just how my writing’s going.

Normally, my writing fluctuates wildly. I’ve discussed this fluctuation here before, I think. I’ll go through periods where I’m writing daily, or nearly so, and I’m racking up tons of words. Then I’ll have times where I don’t write at all, do very little creatively, and generally wail about my lack of creative urges with regards to my writing.

So far, this year has been different. Things haven’t been quite as dramatically different as before, and I’m not quite sure just what to make of it.

My creative urges have been more consistent. I say creative urges because it’s more than just adding new words to projects that I’ve had going. Generally speaking this year, on days when I haven’t written, I’ve done other things with regards to my writing. I’ve worked on character sketches, or brainstormed for different stories. Or I’ve drawn sketches of different aspects of the story, usually clothing concepts, as I’ve taken up drawing. No matter what I’ve done, I’ve done something creative on the days when I don’t add new words to some writing project.

And it’s been nice. I’ve enjoyed this steady flow of creativity. I don’t get as frustrated about not writing when I’m doing other things related to the writing. Sure, I’d like to add new words to some project or another, but it doesn’t dig into me and drive me batty no to do so. It seems that as long as I’m doing something to express myself creatively, no matter what that thing is, I feel content with my creativity.

I hesitate to predict what this means. What I’d like it to mean is that my mind has stabilized to the point where more steady and regular creative expression will happen. That I won’t have any more of those maddening dramatic swings from creativity to non-creativity. I want this to mean I’m returning to the state of mind required for me to write daily. But I hesitate to make that declaration, mainly because I don’t want to get comfortable with this mental state only to, in the next few months or so, fall back into those dramatic swings. This is a plateau. I’m doing my best not to get my hopes up that it means things are “normalizing” for me now.

Though, to be honest, I’d be very happy if this were the new status quo. It’s been wonderful so far.

There are Times I Wish . . .

. . . my creative mind would do what I want it to do, instead of haring off after whatever it wants to.

This is one of those times.

Back around the 9th-18th of May, I came out of a writing downswing with a focus on TPOM3. I spent those 9 days making important breakthroughs on the plot—the kind of breakthroughs that I’ve been waiting for, it seems like forever now. The last time I’d touched TPOM3 had been back at the end of January, when I was forced to give up working on it when I couldn’t force any of the breakthroughs I needed so much to come to the front of my mind.

Then, February 4th, my friend Bryce died. That threw me into a two-month writing downswing. I surfaced briefly in April, fiddled a little with Masks and a couple other projects, then dropped into another writing downswing until May 9th. When I came out of that with TPOM3 on my mind, I was happy, and even more excited when some different chats with friends brought me the breakthroughs I needed on it.

Then another—brief, thankfully—writing downswing hit.

I came out of this one slowly. Someone said something in chat, my mind flashed on a proverb about those who lie with dogs get up with fleas, and I had a brand spanking new character who didn’t seem to fit anywhere I’d already created. When I couldn’t figure out where Mutt fit, I gave up trying to force him into any mold and waited for him to talk to me.

I ended up writing the first scene that came to mind on the 24th. I had little prework done on the project, barely knew Mutt, and had no freaking idea where his story would go. Then, to my surprise, three more scenes followed the same day. I had all of a ten-minute break between the first and second scene before a major character spoke up.

Between the third and fourth scenes, I named characters, taking a naming “alphabet” from a list of, if I remember correctly, Norse names. I changed a couple aspects of it to give it its own look and started applying the list to everything I needed to. By yesterday, I had a rudimentary magical system, a number of characters named with brief bios, and plans for a number of religious factions—as well as enough plot points to tell me I have two, possibly three, books in this series, which as yet has no title.

And, as happy as I am that my mind is running on this new idea—I try to be grateful that I get creative ideas at all—I still wish I was focused on TPOM3.

Why I Think Writing Isn’t Magic

For me to equate writing with magic removes what control I have over my creative output, from coming up with ideas, to building worlds, to actual writing the stories, and editing. I lose enough control periodically with unpredictable writing downswings which vary from creatively inspired (where I come up with copious worldbuilding notes and/or ideas for other stories) or completely barren (where nothing happens creatively at all).

Writing, for me, is 10% inspiration, 90% work.

Part of that work is extremely fun. Going out with friends to take a break from writing—square dancing is extremely good for that; it totally takes me out of my head to the point where I’m not thinking of my writing at all. That’s something I need. I live too much in my own head. Also, I need to socialize, and square dancing is my primary social outlet.

I also read. Mostly recently I’ve been rereading old favorite books. Got Holly Lisle’s Arhel books in fact, tried to put them on my Nook, and, what do you know, it doesn’t want to let me read them. Says they’re the wrong format. So I’m going to fiddle with it later. I’m also reading stories for my writing friend, Jennifer Amriss. If you look around the site, you’ll see her list of slated projects. I’m reading through one of her completed stories for edit notes for her. It’s an exchange; she does the same for me. One skill we both have is the ability to create a story which doesn’t need a lot of rework—our completed stories tend not to have massive plot holes or other issues which require rewrites or extensive edit runs. Mostly what we do for each other is point out discrepancies in books and spelling errors and offer suggestions for how to fix the issues we see.

Sometimes, I’ll watch DVDs. I don’t do this very often. Haven’t in fact, for a couple years now. I’m just not in the mood for watching anything, and when I do get in the mood, I tend to binge on my movies. I’ll watch the entire Star Wars series (yes, even the prequel movies), or I’ll go through my Star Trek TOS movies. Sometimes I’ll pick random movies, or go by genre (all fantasy, or all Christmas movies).

To kick-start my writing if I have the drip of inspiration but not the immediate drive or ability to focus on writing, I may take my laptop, Portaplotty (my portable external hard drive), and whatever else I need to my local Beans & Brews coffee shop. They have free internet, so I’ll log online, buy a drink or something to eat, and hunker down to write. This helps because 1) being in FM Writers chat isn’t a distraction—I in fact get uncomfortable if I’m unable to login there, so it’s something of a necessity; and 2) I have no distractions there; all I have on Rover II (laptop) are my writing programs, Tweetdeck, music, and internet. No games, no reading materials (I often have chapters/WIPs of Jennifer’s open on my desktop, and I deliberately don’t open them when I’m on Rover II), and only my website and FM Writers up online.

I use all these things to refuel my creative mind so I can actually write. That’s the work part of writing, much of the 90% that goes into my writing. If I don’t do these things, my writing suffers and I don’t get the inspiration.

To be honest, much of my time when I’m able to write is spent sitting at the computer seeming to do nothing. Since I write from open-ended outlines, I spend a few hours wrangling ideas for one or two plot cards before settling down to write a scene. If I feel inspired to do more cards, I do them. If not, I don’t. I obey this requirement even when I’m at the coffee shop.

If I find myself completely unable to wrangle out an idea even when I’m feeling the ability to write and have ideas—say, an idea for a plot card isn’t coming easily—I’ll read a bit. If I’m at home on Homer II (desktop), I’ll play a little Bejeweled 3; it’s a simple game which doesn’t take all my brain power to play, so it leaves my mind free to wander until I get the idea. Other times, I’ll chat with friends in FM Writers chat, or do an edit read-through of one of my other projects.

But for me, writing isn’t magic. I like retaining what control I have over my creative processes. Saying “it’s magic” removes that ability from me. As someone who suffers a mental illness which periodically takes control away to varying degrees, I have an almost obsessive need to control other things in my life, and my writing, and how I view it, is one of those things. Also, I put too much work into my writing to disregard all I do for it. To me, calling writing “magic” is belittling the effort I expend to write good stories and create believable, logical worlds. Everything I do, from talking to family on the phone, to reading, to taking my writing to the coffee shop to work on, goes into my writing.

This is the reason why I usually refer to my creative processes as my writing mind, or my subconscious, or my creative mind. I feel that using the word “Muse” takes too much power away from me. Of course, I’ll refer to my creative processes as my muse jokingly, but when I’m serious about my writing and its processes, I don’t. Because writing is work, and it takes focus and attention and determination. None of which I believe the word “Muse” indicates actually happens.

But this is just me. It’s how I respond to my creative processes and writing.

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