Creative Brain

After driving for a week, we have landed (however briefly) in Kentucky. It’s peaceful. Quiet. We are mere paces from a lake, and I can hear the water from my open window.

It’s been raining the last couple of days, and I am basking in its glory. After spending more than six months in California – most of it in Los Angeles – I haven’t seen proper rain in what feels like forever. I love the rain. It reminds me of the British Isles, where I live in my heart. It’s the perfect weather for doing most everything I like to do, including writing and crafting and drinking warm drinks and the wearing of layers.

I’ve had a weird summer. A lot happened, and it was a pretty mixed bag, though the most crucial things, in my opinion, were good. Most notably, I wrote two books. I published one of them and I am currently being reviewed by a publisher for the other.

Sometime in the last week of March or the first week of April, a friend contacted me and asked me to meet her to look over an outline for a book. I said yes. Stephen and I drove all the way back to Los Angeles from north of San Francisco. I met my friend and had coffee and scones and talked about Writing All The Things. Suddenly, for no reason in particular, it all seemed possible.

Last summer between July and September I had a good spell of writing. I was in Qatar in the Middle East, and then in England, and then in Ireland. I wrote 3,000 words each day I worked, about seven single-spaced typed pages. I got two-thirds of a novel written, and about 10% of another on started, and I blogged, and I wrote some essasys and short stories. I had never been so productive.

We flew back to the US and I struggled a lot with transitioning. I pined for the UK and Ireland – still do, in fact. My writing tapered off, and for a couple of months I could hardly write at all. Then, in April of this year, quite unexpectedly, I began writing. A lot. I worked every day with my friend/writing partner in LA. We came to town for a week and stayed for four months.

I set a minimum goal of 2,000 words a day. That’s an achievable number. For me, the first 2,000 words are the hardest. 1-500 are okay, but 501-1500 have me reconsidering my career path and all of my life choices. 1501-2000, I’m watching the word count ticker go up, telling myself I can do it. I can. Even on bad days, I can struggle through 2,000 words. Even with several bad days of only 2,000 words, a book will still clip along at an encouraging pace. A week of 2,000 words and you’re at 14,000, and that’s a solid respectable start.

At first, I was exhausted. Then, I started consistently going over. I pushed myself in 500 word increments, and I kept up. I read that the famed author Stephen King writes 10 pages a day. I calculated it out to about 4,000 words, more if there’s not much dialogue. I hit that number and then exceeded it.

My best writing day so far clocked in at 6500 words, over 16 pages.

I finished “The Heart of the Alchemist” in under 5 weeks, from the moment of “Hey, I have an idea…” to clicking “submit” to a publisher. They told me they wanted it in less than two business days, and I had signed a contract a couple of weeks later.

The second novel took longer, due both to the rewrites I had to do (ugh) and other things that happened. I got sick for two weeks. My dog of nearly 15 years died. I was present at a shooting. I was working with my editor from the publishing house on my other novel. Stephen and I were running an Air Bnb. But I got it done. Then, after such a frenzy of writing, and with the anxiety of the coming changes and the stress of the less than pleasant aspects of the summer, I took it slow for a while. I crafted a lot while watching historical dramas. I laid out a third book and agonized over it. I started writing it and decided it needed to go in a whole new direction.

Then, all in the same week in mid-August, “The Heart of the Alchemist” was released, I submitted my second manuscript to a publisher, and we left Los Angeles. We road tripped up to Oregon, saw the eclipse, headed south again to do a house sit for a week and a half in San Francisco, and then crossed the country to Kentucky, where I now write this.

I’ve been nervous about how to continue. My writing partner is far away. I can’t walk down to a cafe to work like I did in Santa Monica. Everything feels so different. What if I fizzle out like I did last October?

It started raining. I embroidered and drank some extra coffee, sighing a lot and looking out the window. I walked down to the lake and watched a bright red leaf float by on the dark waters. And I felt like writing. So I tried on a couple of novels to see which one fit, and I landed on one with a spark (picture Harry Potter waving wands in Ollivander’s to see which wand chose him, and then finding his with the golden light and the fancy music. That’s me, same magic but with books instead of wands). Yesterday, I wrote over 5,000 words, just over 11 pages. I feel relieved.

Learning to manage my creative brain has been a difficult and surprising process. I feel like I am just now starting to discover some of what works for me. I’m sure as I grow and experiement and observe, my understanding will continue to change. I think exciting times lay ahead.

For now, it’s raining and I feel hopeful.

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