Fourth Street this year gave me three new projects to work on. I cannot, of course, split my attention in three NEW directions and hope to get anywhere. I have a finished novel & short story in revisions, two commissioned projects (one very close to finished, one barely begun), five unfinished short stories, one serial Patreon project, and one novel. The idea of adding a short story, a novella, and a novel on top of that is absurd. I do that, and I never get anything done.
So what do I do, when my cup overfloweth? I write brief intros, take extensive notes, grit my teeth, and file those projects in the back. Then I turn back to The Hellion Prince, my novel in progress. Fourth Street also showed me that I need to re-pace the third act, insert falling action, stop delaying revelations and burn story, stop writing connective tissue and quilt again. I re-outlined act three with two new one-chapter scenes that trace an important character arc, and if I write 1000 words every day on The Hellion Prince, I’ll be finished by the end of September. So the new Arthurian novella; the FBI-profiles-vampires short story, and the Incrementalists spinoff novel that looks like Ocean’s Eleven, the Thomas Crown Affair, and Inception had a baby – those wait.
I just have to lean in, let those beautiful, exciting ideas marinate a while, and eat my vegetables.
Today I finish my commissioned project (science fiction poetry by the spiritual heir to Gabriele d’Annunzio) , and I get to that first new scene in Hellion Prince. Tomorrow I work on finishing a Byzantine short story about demons, and I work on the next scene.Starting new projects is like dating someone new – there’s that NRE, new relationship energy, a spike of elation that makes you want to focus everything there. But I’m married to my novel. And finishing projects is way, way more important than starting new ones.
One year, one 4th Street, and more than ten thousand words later, I’m teaching myself not to be intimidated by the blank page – or the amorphousness of a blog with only one post to define it.
At 4th Street this year, Jon Singer taught me how to induce a light hypnotic trance, and I’m writing to you now from the tailing end of it. It’s immersive, encompassing. Tricky to describe. The best I’ve managed thus far is that I have a sense of being the work I’m doing – there’s a perceptual lensing, discarding awareness of self and surroundings for awareness of process. This is both encouraging to a flow state in which I can move words quickly through my fingertips, and, I hope, beneficial to the words themselves – I had an utterly different post composed a moment ago, and I erased it, because the ideas didn’t compress the way I wanted them to.
I’m going to be doing this every day – the trance induction, I mean, although hopefully there will be regular blogging, too.
I’m very curious to hear from anyone else – do you experience trance or flow while writing? Does it come naturally, or do you bring it on? And what does it feel like? generally, in a writing flow state, I’m too intensely directed at the words on the page to think about the shape or heft of the state of mind, but here I’m more introspective – I can’t be sure if that’s because I’m writing about the experience, or if the state of consciousness itself is different.
Anyway. Enough navel-gazing for now. Time to go commit acts of fiction.
I read a lot on WordPress, but I haven’t kept a blog off Dreamwidth in ages, and even that one’s been collecting cricket noises for a few years, as other social media devoured my attention. Still, when I was at 4th Street this last weekend, at least three or four of the interesting and admirable writers and fen I met had WordPress accounts, and so, social animal that I am, I’m following suit.
Okay. That’s enough warm-up to take away the blank page anxiety of a new blog. Time to go back to pretending to be fictional people, and save the labor of sounding my barbaric yawp over the rooftops for later.
Coming Soon: What I learned at 4th Street this year.