Freedom of Writing, inspiration, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing prompt

A Writer’s Life

Where do your ideas come from?

Seriously, what sparks your ideas to create? From a blank page/screen flows a myriad of words, strung together in just the right way to evoke emotion of every kind. To stir the ability of every reader, to forget where they are and immerse themselves in imagination.

When I think about this, I really understand the power of language. Writing is a superpower, especially in the hands of a Master. Ok now I am humbled. I have a long uphill climb to reach that lofty peak. Will I make it? Who cares, the fun is in the journey … right?

So that journey. That’s where the ideas spark, bake, incubate, grow, die and flourish. (Not necessarily in that order either.) You hone your craft, realize your style, and find your voice. I wish it were so simple! Angst, doubt, and fear cloud reason. They insist you’re a hack. That tiny voice nagging in the background, you know the one; it tells you the story on the back of the cereal box is more brilliant than anything you write! (I haven’t read a cereal box in years.) Yet, you keep writing. Why?

Personally, if I don’t, I’ll have an aneurysm from the pressure of the squirrels multiplying in my head. Or a heart attack from bottling up my emotions. So I write. 

My oldest son messaged me the other day. “Mom, I had a four-day weekend. In my head I finally worked out what was wrong with my story, but I didn’t write a word. I’ll never make it as a writer. I’m too lazy.” Did I mention angst?

This made me think why writers don’t write. It’s not lazy. It’s working forty-plus hours a week at a job that has nothing to do with a writer’s life. It’s being surrounded by people who don’t write unless they must and people who don’t outwardly show creative curiosity. I told him I get it. When you write, you immerse yourself in that process. It’s difficult to get started when you know your life is going to interrupt that process multiple times.

Personally, it took nearly two years of full time writing for me to enter a space where I could immerse myself, yet keep a bead on the world around me. It took stepping out of the working world. It took distancing myself from the people who distract me from my purpose. It took surrounding myself in an environment conducive to unleashing my creativity. My son doesn’t have that luxury… yet. His time will come. Until then, it’s all fits and starts.

Yet, I know not every writer or creative requires this, or do they? I know experiences, travel, interaction with the world, produces the ideas. But the time spent typing the words (or handwriting) requires stretches of solitude. The immersion into the process. 

Definitely the writer’s life isn’t for everyone, but I’ll be damned if I go do something else ever again.

SLRandall, writer and artist


28 thoughts on “A Writer’s Life

  1. My ideas are inspired by Wonko the Sane. “Wonko” being a childhood nickname bestowed by his mother. Wonko added the epithet “the Sane” to his name in order to reassure people of his sanity. That sanity was called into question frequently, not least because of Wonko’s repeated insistence that he was visited by green-winged angels on scooters. These angels were later revealed to be the guardians of God’s Final Message to Mankind.
    (Which was, “We apologize for the inconvenience.”)

    Liked by 4 people

        • Funny, I just watched the Sandman about Calliope’s story. When I first read it about a year ago, that story stuck in my head. It distresses me. How can you want to be a writer and not have anything to write?
          I say, Imagine sitting in a French Cafe … If the other three show up … fantastic, if they ghost me … I’ve still hoarded a thousand ideas while sitting an Americano and wolfing down a buttery croissant!

          Liked by 4 people

  2. mimispeike says:

    I will write about this later.

    For now, I want to say, Sly is what it is, and if I were to alter my approach it would not be the wide-world view I have written. I beat myself up over the fact that it isn’t E.T.A. Hoffman’s Tomcat Murr, a brilliant work told in the first person. He gets deeper into Murr’s psychology, but Murr, for all its charm, doesn’t have the breadth of incident of Sly.

    I wish I knew a way to have my cake and eat it too, but I don’t.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Mimi, you are a treasure. I love that you wear your life’s journey through sly. That is epic in and of itself. Your lyricism throughout your writing reminds me a bit of Chaucer, but in modern English I can understand. Perhaps two hundred years from now, Students will be studying Mimi Speake and the tales of Sly …

    Liked by 5 people

    • mimispeike says:

      Bless you for that. I’ll bless you forever.

      My husband has always told me, “Ya, I know you’re writing your autobiography.”

      Sly’s problems are my problems. His troublesome family is my troublesome family, or a variety of it. He is so easy to write.

      Liked by 6 people

  4. MamaSquid says:

    In Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” he talks about knowledge workers’ optimal performance conditions and the uninterrupted 90 minutes needed to get into the flow state. I have a toddler and a job so I find it challenging to get that 90 minutes carved out, and then of course you have to have something in mind to write. I’m also a person of few ideas. But I was reviewing the state of science fiction romance the other day (which is to say, reading) and so much of it is the same. A million variations on Kidnapped by the Alien Warlord. (They all have the same title, too.) I get it, some people like what they like and they only want more of it. I’m not here to shame anyone for what they like. And I have enjoyed some of those stories, but when that’s all there is, the creative pool stagnates.

    That’s why I read broadly outside my genre, and I think it shows. I cut my teeth on Salinger, I read everything from John Irving to Lois McMaster Bujold. The result, what pours out of my head, is neither commercially mainstream nor much like anything else out there.The hero of my WIP is a five foot nine inch revolutionary megalomaniac amputee who is addicted to stimulants. And he’s doing a damned sight better than the protagonist of my first WIP, a shiftless, violent alcoholic with zero ambition. It’s not for everyone, but it’s for me, and of me, and for people like me who enjoy political, philosophical, and emotional complexity with their smutty escapist genre fiction. What I do is really, honest to god different. I’ve been thinking about what Neil Gaiman said about how you have to write the stories only you can write. There will always be smarter, better writers out there, but there will never be another you. And for me it’s a massive psychological battle between putting those stories out there and obsessively trying to perfect them before they see the light of day. I can’t seem to let stuff go. Especially when I know it could be so much better if I just devoted another four years to it!

    We don’t all get to have the full time writing life. I’m not sure if it would help me or hurt me. But I’m very much aware that for better or worse (mostly better) this is the life I’ve got, and I’ve got to find what works for this absolute madhouse of a life I’m living in the moment. It might really mean learning to let go.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I need to introduce my son to your POV…
      I wrote through all of my employed years with the goal of writing full time. The moment I got to switch… I suddenly thought I had nothing to write… yikes! That’s when second guessing set in.
      In hindsight I consider the super busy … time carving moments to be the forge which slowly taught me how much of the universe there is to create from.
      It’s time someone created a new genre … did not hip-hop and grunge do that (oh and glittery disco)
      You’re brilliant Mama… keep that torch lit … we’re right behind you!

      Liked by 4 people

      • MamaSquid says:

        The best thing he can do for himself is to find a writing community. I’m lucky I found one that meets in person, that we all became the best of friends and that we all are serious writers – it’s lightning in a bottle. But the Internet has opened up so many possibilities for community beyond one’s front door. You need to find other people, however you can, who struggle with the same creative demons, who will give you honest feedback that strengthens your work. A team who will applaud your successes and ease the pain of your failures. It’s just too hard of a thing to do without friends.

        Liked by 4 people

  5. From the Writers Co-op very first post, April 26, 2016, by Curtis Bausse.

    “This is a site where we swap and share news, opinions and experiences about writing, from first paragraph to finished product and beyond.”

    “There’ll be anecdotes and analysis, thoughtfulness and humour, awards and recommendations, opinions, rants and wackiness. We don’t expect to work miracles and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But what we do take seriously is writing itself. Which means we’re also keen to help writers explore whatever path might lead somewhere interesting, and help readers find good writing. If that sounds like a programme you could tune in to, you’ve come to the right place.”

    Here we are!

    (Click on “Here we are!” above, to read first post.)

    Liked by 3 people

    • First … Great First post Curtis. I got lost in reading the discussion that ensued. Sue, as always your insightfulness is so spot on and timeless. Sure you posted 6 years ago, but has much changed in the world of publishing? I have no idea, six years ago I was deeply embroiled in union politics. (Still haven’t had enough baths to wash all that off … but definitely acquired some great characters from my time in the trench).
      But your points remain valid today. Personally, I have decided if I can make an income that at least matches minimum wage I’ll feel like I’m on the right track. Social security is only five years away for me. I can limp til then.
      I’m not even sure I would have the energy for large book marketing hustle. Not that I won’t keep trying and working toward publishing, but I think I’ll go the organic route and if my kids ever have kids, perhaps my grandkids will benefit.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I think of Ray Bradbury advising: “Write a story a week. After a year: 52 stories. One or two of them are bound to be good. ”

    You are smart to realize you must isolate yourself or otherwise minimize the damage to your psyche and writing goals caused by dead-eyed, small-souled cynics who shit on your dreams. Friends and family members can unwittingly prove to be the worst psychic vampires: They only see you in a narrowly defined role. (You’re writing? Oh, that’s nice. It’s good therapy/a mostly harmless hobby/something you’ll drop in time.) Read, read, read… and write. Live the writer’s life, as much as possible… “as if”. As if you were already published. As if you were taken seriously by critics. As if you had a reading audience clamoring for your next work. Continue to write in the nooks and crannies of life. And recognize the voice of Resistance for what it is: The doubt, fear and angst most writers experience facing the blank page. Above all else: Remember to have fun!

    PS. If your fictive writing has as much vivacity, raw honesty and good humor as your posts do you need no further sword-on-shoulder knighting from one of the grumpy tribe. Simply continue. Cheers!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Carl! I got my first nay-sayer at age twelve. I found some little blurb at the back of a magazine or some such, advertising a writing contest. I was excited. I knew I could do it. I told my Dad (Dad was a school teacher btw) I needed his permission and ten bucks to enter the contest.
      Total and utter obliteration to my dream of being a writer … Dad said, “Forget it. You’ll never make it as a writer. Do something else.”
      Likely I went to my room and wrote in a notebook all my anger and frustration. Fortunately it was my “call to arms” so to speak. I decided then, I would find a way to be a writer. forty-five years later … I made it. Still not published, but closer than ever before. The kids are grown, doing their own thing. Dad has written his own novel (Irony abounds) and wants me to help him publish it. My opportunity to show him what real support is.
      As for the grumpy tribe … I’ve never felt more at home. Y’all are terrific. Thanks fer having me!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Oh, yes! We all have such you’ll-never-make-it Eyeore anecdotes from naysayers. My stepmother destroyed my journals and forbid me to read books (they’ll make you weird) or write fiction/poetry (waste of paper). So grateful, these many years later, for her unremitting hostility to the written word! Unlike other kids my age who had to work hard to freak out their parents by having sex and getting into drugs, all I had to do to cement my bohemian rebel status was to secure a library card and a second-hand manual typewriter from my aunt. Done and… done!

        Liked by 3 people

        • And therein lies our inherent optimism … when the universe crumbles to dust, there will be a writer and a photographer standing around thinking, There’s a great story here, and the photographer will look at the rubble and say, oooohhh look at the photo opportunity. Take that all you nay-sayers … we’ll still be around when dust buries the rest. I’m pretty sure we’ll have a bartender too … hmmm GD here’s a story idea for you … The bar at the end of the universe … perhaps thats a memory from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or perhaps it’s inspired by the same. Either way … I intend to show up there and I expect to see you lot gathered at the bar.

          Liked by 3 people

  7. mimispeike says:

    I am not prolific in terms of number of works, but my stories are often multi-part epics. They are all plays on themes that I have taken from the realm of fable/fantasy into a hugely distorted real world.

    Sly, solidly set in a time and place, is my version of Puss in Boots. I go to great lengths with screwball arguments and mountains of detail to explain why a genius cat who taught himself to talk and read and write is not beyond the bounds of possibility. I do the same with my plot. I try to keep it wacky but semi-plausible.

    Celestine and Her Sisters is my retelling of Cinderella, in verse, illuminating many areas of the traditional tale that have never been properly explained, and a lot of snark thrown in on top.

    My idea for Maisie in Hollywood was a mouse character based on Louise Brooks. My idea has grown way beyond my original conception, which was to create a typical movie star bio enhanced with faux-photos and posters from her major films.

    ‘On Gaudy Night’ was sparked by a title. Gaudy Night is a mystery novel by Dorothy L. Sayers. Gaudy Night was one night a year at some or other university, with the return of graduates to a dinner. One special celebratory night a year for animals in a garden, a night of fun and feasting, what could I do with that? That was my kick-start. This one is another piece of intricate verse.

    There is nothing astonishing about any of my ideas. It’s what I do with them that’s unique. I concentrate on characterization. I write believable (in terms of personality) folks, I bring them to life, and they write their stories for me.

    They often completely rework what I’d had in mind for them. I let them drive the action. They take me to places I probably wouldn’t otherwise have gone, and that’s never not a good thing.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Perry Palin says:

    I don’t know that I have a writing life. I’ve had stories published in journals and magazines, and two small collections of short stories published. I built a small but appreciative readership. I made a little money at it, though not much. I have a novel that I may or not submit for publication. I’ve met my modest goals as a writer. I am interested in other distractions, and they keep me from the keyboard.

    The distractions include three grandchildren, and soon to be four. I got blue ribbons at the county fair for my trout flies, my honey, and my antique fishing lures, and the honey and lures took purple as well. (If blue is best in breed, purple is best in show.) The last two weeks have been the busiest of the year at Sorefoot Farm in the bee yard, the gardens, and the orchard. We harvested our honey with the help of a new beekeeper, and we’re going this week to help with hers. We’ve had old friends for dinner and live theatre, and other old friends for luncheon. I’ve been to doctors three times this month, with at least three more to come. When do I write? Later, maybe.

    I follow the co-op, though I don’t contribute enough, and I’m a member of a writing group that meets in person each month. That’s my current writing “life”. When I do write something, my ideas come from people I have known. Hardly anything is more interesting to write about than people, how they behave when challenged, how they deal with one another. Sometimes I watch a drama on TV or read a mystery or thriller, and wake up from a dream, not of the drama or the book, but with elements of them framing my next story.

    I don’t need long periods of quiet time to write. I’ll “write” a short story, or a section of a longer story, or a chapter of my novel, completely in my head before I go to the keyboard. This isn’t efficient, but it lets me write a story while driving my car to the city, or driving a tractor across a pasture, or picking blueberries in the garden. The computer work, then, is editing.

    I think I am less serious about writing than the rest of you. I’ll hang around, if you’ll have me. I like to write. I don’t need to write. I peck away at what I like to do, and it’s nice not to need to do anything.

    Liked by 5 people

    • You’re a serious writer, Perry. You understand one of the most essential aspects of art: it must support life, not the other way around. And what is maturity but a sense of perspective, balance and priorities? I may be the half-mad poet surrounded by books and sculpture (since vanished, alas!) in his filthy garrett apartment, but you are John Boy Walton writing well-received, thoughtful, folksy works atop Walton Mountain. Very different kinds of writing; one every bit as serious and important as the other.

      Liked by 5 people

        • Perry Palin says:

          Yes Carl. Mimi said “grace.” I’ve been called lyrical before, but never graceful. And I’ve been reading A River Rurs Through It long before the movie. I read it for the pacing and the sounds of the words, and for the message of family love and loss.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Perry Palin says:

        Thank you, Mimi. My publisher told me I wouldn’t make much money on that first book, but I would make some friends. He was right. You’ve given me something more important than money.

        Liked by 4 people

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