First off, I kind of hate January.
Like, we get back to school with the kid, but we’re completely out of the homework routine. Before we can get back into a groove, we head to Ohio to visit the lovely in-laws. When we return, we have half-days at school, makeup work, a project due, a giant field trip the following week, and one last project due. Did I mention that between the field trip and the last project, I got a nasty stomach bug that I’m still not quite over?
Yeah, I kind of hate January.
Now, we’re getting things back on track. Schedules have been plotted. Moratoriums have been enacted. NAPS WILL BE HAD!
So I’m in the midst of a fairly new thing for me, and that’s working on two projects at once.
There’s the book, which is doing to me in part 2 what it did to me in part 1: I have a goal, I am headed toward it, and when I think Finally, I can burn down this building! I discover, no, no, actually I need five more scenes and some chapter switching before I can light the thing up.
There is also the short story, that has been periodically eating my brain since, like, October. It went dormant, so I was leaving it alone. Then over Christmas I got an idea for another short story, like you do when you have absolutely no time and are already writing a novel what the hell, brain?, and as I did the “No, that’s boring, what would make it cooler” dance with Story 2, Story 1 started bouncing around going, “Hey, look, I can do this trick and that trick now, see? Look at me, look at me!”
So Story 2 is hanging out in the notebook,
slumbering like dread Cthulhu marinating, and Story 1 is being written while I also work on the book.
This really isn’t how I usually work. Usually, everything else comes to a screeching halt as I work on one project at a time. One way my personal experiences in being a mom and being a writer overlap is that–in these two areas, at least–I am terrible at multitasking.
It’s interesting, though, because it’s making me notice things. (Bear with me, here we go.)
I keep coming back to this bit of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton Cypher from the BET Hip Hop Awards: We write slow because I build ‘em like cathedrals.  Now, mostly I want to tattoo this on my arm because my big mental stumbling block over the past year or so is that I write too slowly, but lately it’s pinging off these two stories and the differences in their processes.
The novel feels like I’m building a cathedral. Like, it’s huge.  Get the marble, hew the stone, generations of carpenter families are working on this thing, people are losing limbs. It’s a broad kind of work, using (metaphorically) my entire body to pour the foundations and put up the walls.
The short story, though, is delicate. It’s like making a watch, maybe. Or a music box. Fewer pickaxes, more jeweler’s drills. But it’s not just length, it’s the putting it together–like, I feel like I’m using my hands and a magnifying glass to place specific gears into specific places.
They’re both really complicated, and in similar ways, but it’s interesting to see what’s in focus in the short story that, say, is not the focus of the novel, and vice-versa. And the ways I’m coming at the writing of both things–and these two things specifically, because this is not the only way I write short stories or book-length things–are also interesting, to me. I feel like I’m more deliberate with the short, but it’s also a lot looser in its structuring, maybe because I have no outline. The novel seems less reserved  , but it’s got an outline and I’ve done a lot of why the hell not? with it that I don’t foresee with the short story.
Anyway. This is what I’ve been musing about in the car, before realizing I just missed ten minutes of Serial and have no idea what an MRAP is.
I have no goddamned clue when I decided writing in public about my process was a thing I could do. This is weird. Possibly it’s because I’m old.
I will say–I don’t think I’m ever going to be, like, one of those writing blogs that talks about My Process and then turns it into an essay about Your Process, Novice Writer. I mean, right now I’m not even remotely successful enough to feel anything but ridiculous doing that, but even if I get to a point, I think I’ll still feel ridiculous doing that. I mean, beyond an occasional rant about WHAT THE FUCK STUPID ADVICE IS THIS I AM SEEING?!
My blog is doomed to be personal. Ish, anyway. Though I like chatting about process and junk with people; I dig community. (I need to get back onto Codex, I suppose, because January happened.)
1 [back]This wasn’t my main reason for only having one child, but it has become apparent over the years that it’s a primary reason why I won’t change my mind.
2 [back] Which, of course, echoes “Burn” in Hamilton, with “You built me palaces out of paragraphs, you built cathedrals,” which may be one of the most romantic damn things I have ever heard in my life, but I digress.
3[back] Not War and Peace huge. It is longer than just about anything else I’ve written, though, and at the moment it seems more complex.
4[back] Restrained? Maybe less disciplined, the bastard.
5[back] To save my sanity. And now I want to know which of y’all scoffed at the outline and which of you didn’t, because out of my friends and family I think I know who falls into what camp …