Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Not the Kind of Fear I Anticipated

I'm told writing--the good, grand, intense, brave kind of writing that I love to read and want very badly to write--requires facing one's fears. The fear that you won't be good enough. The fear that the words will someday fail you. The fear that this brainchild you've struggled to create is really that one ugly baby that everyone has been forced to admire because no one has the courage to tell its parents the sad truth that not every baby is cute.

While I'm not good with facing my fears, I have striven to overcome them in my writing. To put my head down and put on my big girl pants and push forward. I know my fears and I prepare for them, trying to cut off ambush opportunities with good planning and a flexible but organized writing schedule, nagging Long-Suffering Husband into reading my work and validating my efforts, and the occasional indulgence in a mild panic attack or two.

But even with all that, I also have to accept the idea that there are always going to be fears I won't expect. Things I just won't even realize I was afraid of until I'm smack in the middle of a head-on collision. Fears are tricksey that way.

But still, there are some fears I really feel I shouldn't have to worry about interfering with my writing.

Like the fear of flying stinging insects of death.

No, that's not a metaphor. I'm actually talking about wasps.

Okay, I should probably take this time to explain that I have a deeply-rooted and intense phobia regarding creepy crawlies of all kinds. There is a reason most of the demons in the Familiar world are literal giant bugs. I'm not exaggerating or using medical terms loosely here; this is actually something I've discussed with a therapist and everything. Whatever the technical term is for the fear of bugs, I've got it.

The therapist recommended I get an ant farm. I could never bring myself to do it. I'm sure an ant farm could be fascinating, but they're not exactly designed by the same people who build high security prisons. The ants could, theoretically, escape.

I did live for a while in a crap apartment building that developed a very unfortunate roach problem. Either that didn't count or the idea behind the ant farm treatment didn't work for me.

But let's not dwell on that. I have enough to deal with right now with the wasps. At least, I think they're wasps. I don't really know all that much about insects and I don't want to know. I just know I don't like them and they make me hyperventilate and I get the uncontrollable urge to scratch off all my skin if one of them even comes close to touching me.

And that there is a huge nest of them in the tree outside my writing window.

See, this is the view from my desk:


Cute little slice of suburbia, isn't it? Since we moved here, I've found it quite soothing and I love to sit here and stare and my quiet little corner of the neighborhood while I'm working. I try not to look at the screen while I type when I'm writing a new scene. That road leads only to editing and madness.

But now there's this:


That's a close up--as close as I'm willing to get anyway, even while locked safely inside my car with all the windows rolled up--of the tree in my front yard. I noticed it yesterday and now it's all I can see when I look out my window. Even though I can't actually see it from this angle. I know it's there now, and every random speck that catches at the corner of my peripheral vision is a swarm coming to kill me.

Okay, intellectually, I know that I'm perfectly safe inside my house and that the damn things have clearly been comfortably ensconced in my tree for a while now without ever attacking me. Long-Suffering Husband called our landlord and at some point someone is going to come and remove them.

(Yesterday will not be soon enough for me, but it's not my house and so that's not my call. Now if we owned this house rather than renting it, you can bet your bippy that a freaking strike team of exterminators or bee keepers or whoever deals with this kind of thing would have been on my lawn within the hour and they would have napalmed the tree with my glad permission if that's what it took to make sure the wasps left never to return.)

But I've seen them now. I can't unsee them. They're there. Waiting for me. I'm sitting here writing this blog post and I'm having to force myself to keep typing and stop scratching at imaginary itches on my neck and arms. I'm jumping at imaginary shadows and I could swear I hear buzzing just outside the glass whenever there's a lull the sound of my typing.

And these are mild symptoms. Yesterday I could barely breathe because my throat felt like it was clenched in a vise, my brain refused to process anything and instead thoughts just jangled and lit up all over the place in my head like bumpers in a demented pinball game, and I had to keep my fists clenched to avoid scratching myself bloody. I couldn't bring myself to drive back to the house for over an hour.

I keep trying to focus on "Singed", but all I'm getting is a giant wasp nest sitting smack in the middle of all the words. And it's just not an appropriate story for a random attack by a swarm of evil bees from hell, so that particular mental image isn't really of any use to me. I suspect today is not going to be terribly productive in terms of word count.

Thus I blog. Because I hear that's what all the cool writer kids do when phobias attack and procrastinatory paralysis sets in. At least I'll have to mine for imagery later when I need one of my characters to be lost bone-deep in absolute irrational terror.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not Short Stories

Wisdom of an Inner Editor
Renee is not a concise person. You may have noticed this from blog posts that ramble hither, tither, and yon, meandering on occasion to a completely different point than originally intended.

And that is without the drivel I force her to remove before she publishes those posts.

Renee is very well aware of the wordy nature of her prose, which is at least something. It makes the revisions process easier when I don't have to fight her over the need to tighten things. But every now and again, she'll get the idea to write something short.

The last time she tried to write a short story, we ended up working on a trilogy.

Most of the time she remains safely convinced that short stories aren't in her repertoire and, while she hates admitting she can't do something, we both remain reasonably satisfied. She doesn't beat her head against a wall trying to tell a story in a manner she's not comfortable with and I don't have to hold her and the Muse's hands while I guide them through slashing and burning page after page.

Most of the time. But not all of the time.

And that's why I must sometimes pour an extra cup of coffee and brace myself for rounds of writing and then cutting.

She's writing one such "short" story now. Eager to finish something and needing a better handle on the background of Familiar, Renee signed up for this month's Camp NaNoWriMo. In the abstract, it was a good plan. I like finishing things and I understand the need for background information in story building. I approved this break from our regular narratives.

But she's trying to write a short story. While I applaud her pragmatism in setting a low goal of 10,000 words, as we don't get as much time to write as we'd like and there's no reason to drive ourselves mad trying to hit a self-imposed deadline, I can't help but be... discontented by her naïveté.

There is no way this story will be complete in 10,000 words. She's been writing for a week, she's got almost 4,000 words, and she's barely through the inciting incident. The trial hasn't even started yet, for pity's sake. I cannot see how I'm going to cut this thing down to short story length. By the time she's done with it, it may well be a full-length novel.

Perhaps I can convince her to think in terms of a 30,000-word story and we can call it a novella instead.