Creative distance

I’m not in a hotel room, currently.  It’s actually an apartment we’ve rented for a week, for slightly less than a hotel room for the same period would have cost.  We’re in a different hemisphere for my best friend’s wedding, and today we’re being left to our own devices while we recover from the weapons grade jetlag of 25 hours flying.

When we were planning our day earlier, I realised I’d have an early afternoon lull after going to the shops, because my wife will be taking a nap and I find it difficult to sleep in places that aren’t a bed at times that aren’t night.  When I realised I’d have this time, my first thought was “Great, I can get some writing done”, and as I thought that it occurred to me that getting some writing done in a rented apartment was one of the things I had been looking forward to most in this trip.  Not as much, obviously, as seeing my best friend in the world marry the man she loves, but certainly a big attraction of the time off and away from home was to drag out my laptop and sit and write somewhere interesting.

It’s the “away from home” part that I found most interesting when reflecting on this.  I write at home, of course.  Probably the majority of writing I’ve done has been in my house and at my desktop (or between 2010 and 2012 my laptop).  However, nothing in the world makes me feel more productive, and more compelled to write, than being somewhere else.  It’s why I organise writing events in cafes all year round in addition to the 10  or so write ins we put on  during November for NaNoWriMo.  It’s why I insist on taking my laptop with me even if we’re just going to a hotel overnight.  Being away from home doesn’t necessarily make me WANT to write, but it makes me feel more CAPABLE of writing., and I’ve had to wonder why that’s so true of myself.

I think part of it is that my desktop is where I do everything when I’me at home.  It’s where I watch TV, it’s where I play games, it’s where I talk to people.  We barely use the front room of the house for anything unless there’s a show we really want to watch together, because watching at my desk is so much easier. (I even have my tablet set up as a a second screen, so I can play Guild Wars 2 while watching Star Trek Voyager, but even as I type this I realise there are of depths of nerdery I should leave unplumbed). The downside to this is that it means I’m writing on the same device that contains all my favourite distractions from writing.  Usually I can concentrate, but sometimes it’s the equivalent of having to do your homework in an amusement park.  Which might be the weirdest analogy I’ve ever made.

Grabbing my laptop and going somewhere else to write therefore has two effects.  It distances me a little bit from my fun distractions (I do have games on the laptop but they tend to be slower and simpler and less immediately appealing) and it symbolically moves me out of my recreation space and into my writing space. By going to a cafe or a hotel room or somewhere that isn’t my desk in my office I’m giving myself the instruction “this is writing time, you will write now”.  That instruction doesn’t hold as strongly at my own desk, unless I’ve got other artificial constraints on me, such as it being November.

I’ve always been someone who sucked at self-discipline, needing external structure to flourish.  Hence taking to NanoWriMo so hard.  Hence enjoying writing flash fiction and other forms of structured, confined fiction.  Hence a blog about trying to get 20 rejections in a year.  And hence my fondness for hotel rooms, cafes, and other non-home locations that give me not just permission to write, but an (artificial) obligation to do so.

One of the tricks of writing, I think, is fooling yourself into doing it.  Being more creative than you think you have energy for, finding reserves within yourself that you have to access now and can choose to access later.  Being distant from my usual workspace and my usual habits has helped me identify one of my methods.

Acceptance #2: Angels at the Border

I just got told that a story of mine has been accepted for publication.  At a paying market.  This marks the first time someone has paid me for my fiction.

I’ll give more details as they come (and will probably massively oversaturate publicity when it’s published) but I just wanted to give this brief note of happiness.

Writer’s Bleak

I don’t have writer’s block.  I know what I need to write, I think I know how to write it, and at some point soon I’ll sit down and do it.

But I’m not writing.  I haven’t written this week.

I’m not going to get political on here, because this is a themed blog and the theme is keeping me on track with my writing, but I’m certainly not the only person who is having a hard time of it politically recently.  Fill in the details you’d imagine were true and those are the details that are probably true about my general political opinions.

The US election result was announced nine days into National Novel Writing Month.  At that point writing saved me because I could hide in it.  I wrote faster this November than I have in any previous November.  I wrote more in this November than any previous November.  While I was writing I could pretend that the rest of the world wasn’t happening.

And now, having wandered back into the rest of the world, I can’t do that any more.  This has been a long and draining week, in part because it’s my last week in work before I go on holiday, and the combination of work stress and worry about politics has meant that I’ve woken up early every morning for the last seven days.  I’ve slept badly and not been able to properly relax, and the thought of working on anything creative has felt more like a chore than a joy.  I’m sure it will change but right now the world is pressing on my hard.

One side note here: since the election I’ve seen a few people who should know better say things that suggest that adverse political conditions will at least lead to a blossoming of counterculture.  This is bullshit, at least from my point of view.  Adverse political conditions give a TARGET to the creativity of a counterculture but they don’t create the counterculture.  Never Mind The Bollocks and Rocket To Russia both came out when Callaghan was in 10 Downing Street and Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  Woodstock happened with Wilson on one side of the Atlantic and LBJ on the other.  You get great art in oppressive times.  You also get great art in permissive times.  Humans make great art all the time.

Back to my self-indulgent moaning.  I won’t always feel too drained to write.  For one thing, I have a write-in with my nano group this Saturday so I’m going to force creativity on myself.  For another, I always write more in hotels than at home, and I’m going to spend a good portion of the next two weeks in places other than home.  So this is a temporary lull.

I just wish I had the energy to go somewhere other than the real world for a bit.

Rejection #2: Clarksworld

Received a rejection from Clarksworld for Angels At The Border.  Have to say I was sort of expecting this as they’re one of the better paying markets, but I thought it was worth shooting for the moon on my first try out with this one.

Onward to other things.

Impostor Syndrome

This was a story written for, but not used by, 101 words.  I’m putting it up here to see if people think it works as a story.  Feel free to comment on it here or elsewhere.

Impostor Syndrome

I watched Michael make the tea, and wondered if this was really him.

It looked like him, he made the tea the same way – adding milk before removing the teabag, yuck – but there something wasn’t right. When he looked at me for a moment there was someone else behind his eyes.

“There you go, Sue,” he said, setting the tea down. “Just the way you like it.”

I smiled and sipped the tea. Just as bad as Michael’s always was.

I’d check with headquarters. After the effort I’d gone through to replace Sue, they wouldn’t have sent a backup.

Would they?