I have been working simultaneously on two very different writing projects for a couple of months now. Initially I thought one would take off and I’d have to shelve the other, but it hasn’t worked out that way. So far it seems that this is keeping me going, because when I hit a sticking point on one of them I work on the other one for a while, and sometimes when I go back to look at the first one again, whatever it was that had me jammed up has resolved itself and I can get some forward progress again. It may be that when I get stuck I need to leave things alone for a while, but for me that is more difficult than it sounds. I like writing when it has become a habit, but if all I’m doing is pounding on the same old rock, it can get discouraging, and that, I think, is what triggers those long dry spells that I fall into now and then. At least now I have a venue, I have something else I can do for a while, and since both projects are up into the thirty thousand word stage, they begin to feel real.
I’ve read a lot about how your subconscious works along with you as you write, but I think mine has a pace of its own. I don’t think my subconscious likes to be nagged. When I manage to leave it alone about one story and go try to catch myself up on the second one, it’s free to think about my first story without too much interference from me.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that working at a steadier pace keeps me on my game and I haven’t had the sensation I’ve gotten in the past, that thing where I begin to think I have to learn how to write all over again. When I’m in a groove and things are cooking I feel more comfortable with the process of saying what I want, the way I want to say it, without worrying overmuch about what people are going to think. I think that’s fairly important, at least in fiction, because your characters have to use and abuse the English language on the page the same way they do in real life, otherwise they begin to sound like the talking heads on the six o’clock news.
Lately, though, I’ve begun to lose some writing time to MTV live. The other night, first the Alabama Shakes and then Joe Bonamassa blew me away. I kept saying, okay, right after this one I’m going back to work but it never happened. That girl who sings lead for the Alabama Shakes, man, she has got some pipes. You get sick of saccharine pop stars with baby doll voices and you want to hear some real, check her out.
And Bonamassa is so good he’s just sick.