My Writing Life or I Go to Extremes

“Call me a joker, call me a fool
Right at this moment I’m totally cool
Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife
I feel like I’m in the prime of my life
Sometimes it feels like I’m going too fast
I don’t know how long this feeling will last
Maybe it’s only tonight

Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m shot
Sometimes I don’t know how much more I’ve got
Maybe I’m headed over the hill
Maybe I’ve set myself up for the kill
Tell me how much do you think you can take
Until the heart in you is starting to break?
Sometimes it feels like it will”

I Go to Extremes – Billy Joel

I’m in the middle of Billy Joel kick right now, brought on by the return of the Billy Joel Channel on SiriusXM this week. I have a 40 minute drive to my day job, so I really rely on satellite radio because otherwise, I have to change the station two or three times to pick up an FM station that I can stand…ah, the joys of country living.

This song has played a couple of times already and I’m afraid it’s now stuck in my head.  But I was reflecting on it and it’s sort of a description of my writing life lately.

I recently completed my story for the Strange New Worlds Fan Fiction Contest and submitted  it last week. I tried to work at it consistently all of last week, but my work was anything but consistent. I wrote all weekend and was psyched that I had the first draft finished. I went to work on the draft Monday night and found myself so tired, I couldn’t stay awake at my computer. Tuesday, I hunkered down after work and worked all night on it. I repeated again on Wednesday and Thursday when I finally submitted it.

Great, I thought, now I can return to my novel. I had a big chunk of time Sunday afternoon, I’ll dive right in.

Except, I didn’t. I spent all Sunday afternoon and evening playing Civilization and not even looking at my novel. I was out of sorts, irritable for no reason and generally in a pissy mood.

Fast forward to today…back to work and a hellish trip to and from home through lake effect snow. And tonight, I dove right in, wrote a bunch more and now I’m writing this.

It seems to be the way this works for me recently. The Reluctant Captain grew out of the NaNaWriMo Challenge (write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, see nanowrimo.org for more information). It really was a heads down exercise in where I ignored the world around me and just wrote like a man possessed.

For this novel, there have been different factors at work. One is that my day job has demanded huge amounts of time from me. This, as well as the holidays, contributed to very slow progress. When I had time, I would write, but mostly, I didn’t. Work has leveled out (for now) and so I have more time and I’ve tried to use it effectively.

But then I have days like yesterday. It wasn’t exactly writer’s block. I knew where I was going with the story and I just had to start typing. But I didn’t. I felt like I couldn’t. I felt like the second verse – “Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m shot,Sometimes I don’t know how much more I’ve got” That was me yesterday.

Today, when by all rights, I should be more tired (getting up at 5:00 AM, having two “delightful” drives through a lake effect snow storm and an equally delightful day at work), I get more accomplished in three hours than I did all of the weekend!

So my goal for the rest of the year is to try to moderate the yo-yo nature of my writing. As the old Aesop fable of the tortoise and the hare says “Slow and steady wins the race”. I have to remember on days like yesterday, I’m never as awful as I think I am and on days like today, I’m never as brilliant as I think I am.

Until next time, happy journeys!

Mike

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