The Journal, Wednesday, September 4

In today’s Journal

* Topic: A Perfect Storm
* A couple of recommendations
* The numbers

Topic: A Perfect Storm

Bear with me as I work my way through this. It has a point. I’m recording it here and publishing it only because some of you might find yourselves in a similar situation. The form of this post was predicated, in part, by Alison Holt’s excellent post at Pro Writers Writing.

First, it would be easy, in this moment, to say I’ve had a good run but that run is over.

I could easily lapse into full retirement, puttering around the house, meeting with my mentoring students a couple of times a month, and otherwise doing little or nothing at all.

I won’t do that, but only because I’m fortunate enough to know that having lived a lot of years and being “old” are not necessarily synonymous. In my definition, being “old” is a state of mind; it’s that place where a person finally stops trying.

Recently, I encountered a perfect storm, and it hit at a perfect time, just as I started a new major scene while writing a new novel. Frankly, had the novel stalled, I might well have assumed the run was over and retired. But the novel didn’t stall. I just stopped writing it. (I remember thinking What’s the point? In retrospect, that should have been a clue.)

Over the past few years, it’s been fairly easy for me to schedule and balance the various aspects of my life: writing, learning, leisure time, medical situations, family emergencies, and so on.

Balance is important. It’s what enables me to focus on writing when I’m writing, learning when I’m learning, camping when I’m camping, enduring what comes when I have to, etc. With balance, nothing is lost, and no one activity slaps against or overlaps or impedes any other. (Again, bear with me. I’ll get there.)

Spreadsheets are wonderful tools. After I had a realization this morning, I looked back at my 2019 Annual Production spreadsheet. I found this:

Over the course of May and June, I wrote a 72,000 word novel, an 18,000 word novella, and a 24,000 word nonfiction book (in addition to over 72,000 words of nonfiction in the Journal). So just under 187,000 words, or an average for those two months of a little over 93,000 words per month.

In July, I started another novel. But without me realizing it, the outer bands of the storm began to hit early in the month, and during the whole month I wrote less than 8,000 words of fiction. Even as the high winds and heavy rains whipped around me I still managed almost 34,000 words of nonfiction. Still, that was quite a drop. And I didn’t recognize it.

Then toward the end of August (the 26th, to be exact) the storm hit full force. In that whole month, I wrote only 16,000 words of fiction and 28,600 words of nonfiction.

September came, and this morning I finally realized I’m in the midst of that perfect storm I mentioned at the top of this post.

The bands of rain and wind are various situations, the strongest and most impactful of which (in no particular order) are

* a medical concern and looking forward to a treatment that should alleviate it (but due to concerns about medication, not until October);

* the almost overwhelming deluge of information I’m learning and new concerns that stem from what I’m learning;

* the Need to Read for pleasure and then study;

* the emotional drain of having recently acquired a windfall from a deceased relative;

* a desire to re-set some priorities;

* the strain of not writing fiction although I’m a fiction writer (Heinlein’s Rule 1);

* the evolution of this website and my author site; and

* maybe most important, the fact that The Novel Isn’t Stalled. I don’t have writer’s block, etc. I’m just not writing. That one factor was massively confusing to me. (If the novel were “stalled,” I would immediately have identified the critical mind as the culprit.)

Those are the bands of wind and rain, and they’re only intensifying as the center of the storm draws closer.

To add to my confusion, I know my writing didn’t drag to a halt because of the bands of rain and wind. After all, we’ve all been through all of those situations before and either kept writing or returned to it fairly easily.

This morning I finally realized (recognized?) that my writing slowed and then stopped because my conscious, critical mind was lurking in the eye of the storm.

My critical mind wasn’t driving the storm, but it took full advantage and crept in while I was concentrating on those bands and the confusion caused by all of them hitting at one time.

I’ve only just recognized the problem, so I don’t have a magic “fix” to offer (yet). And even if I did, it would be a fix that’s right for me but might not be right for you.

But now that I understand the problem, the fix (and returning to writing fiction) won’t be far behind. Here’s how it’s playing out:

I will alleviate one of my situations tomorrow. My doctor will alleviate another one on October 3. Between now and then, I can schedule learning and reading time, work on revising my websites, and prioritize other concerns to leave more time for fiction writing.

And remember (again) to keep the conscious mind at bay, where it belongs.

So there it is. I hope some of this helps.

One of the more valuable lectures I’ve ever listened to is Dean’s Advanced Business lecture on Estates for Writers. I highly recommend it. It will scare you straight.

He also recommended picking up a copy of M.L. Buchman’s Estate Planning for Authors. I also recommend that.

Talk with you again before too long.

Writing of Blackwell Ops 7: Glynn Marco (novel)

Day 8…… 1253 words. Total words to date…… 15916

Total fiction words for the month……… 0
Total fiction words for the year………… 374653
Total nonfiction words for the month… 1380
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 248090
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 622743

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 195
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Journal, Wednesday, September 4”

  1. Harvey, it’s always instructive to have you analyze what’s happening along your writing path. And helpful (to me anyway) to see successful, prolific writers (that would be you) share your own journey and struggles. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron tried to get successful film directors to share their early films with students– no takers. But for new artists it’s so helpful to know that successful artists in their field didn’t arrive fully formed. Thank you for being willing to share your daily process– win, lose or draw. It’s a great inspiration and kick in the pants when needed most!

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