How to (Almost) Kill Your Writing THing

*I don’t normally echo posts here from Mad genius Club, because a substantial number of you read both. But I have a feeling this one is somehow important to echo. And it explains some of the stuff that’s been going on. – SAH*

The price for the gift is to exert the gift.

Have you ever realized that most of the depictions of magic in fiction are a decent description of the writer gift?

I mean, it should be no surprise to anyone, right? What else are we writers going to talk of? What else will we equate with magic?

Perhaps that’s not true — I don’t know — of writers who aren’t what we call “gateway” writers. I hear — but it’s hard to know for sure, you know, because fiction writers lie. It’s kind of what they do — that there are writers out there who function solely on the rational side of the brain. I have heard them in panels, on blogs, even in my own writers group, assure me that they come up with the plot, rationally, and rationally cast characters for it, and rationally pen every single word.

Maybe they do. I’m almost sure that is true for some of them, because I’ve read their books, and they are utterly and completely lifeless. Interesting intellectual exercises.

Sometimes, if the premise is interesting enough, they will carry you through. But you won’t say “Oh, I would love to meet so and so in that book.” You don’t remember someone’s passion or sacrifice. You don’t… The book is not about real people.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be diverting, but you come away detached.

… For some of us it’s not like that. And the choice is never between writing or doing something more productive with our time.

We can pretend. Oh, boy, we can pretend like anything. Catch me in a crowd of “we’re all professionals here” and I will tell you I can write or not write. And that if writing stops paying I’ll walk away and go do something else.

But you know? I lie for a living.

Writing is… Something I do, because I need to do it.

It is also something at which I was always good, as far back as I can remember, or at least since I started writing at six.

Am I saying I was publishable at six? Oh, dear Lord, no. Most of my writing then was, to be honest, bad fanfic (of Enid Blyton.)

The thing is, it was better than I had any right to be. I hadn’t done the work. I had no idea what I was doing. And yet… there was life there.

I no longer have those writings. Whichever remain have probably long since been eaten by rats in the family’s outbuildings. Heck, I no longer have my first novels written in the US. They were written in media I can no longer read. And that’s probably a mercy, because the current me, the person who actually knows how to tell a story, cringes and wants to hide at the things I do have. The clumsy, hasty introductions, the dramatic scenes that aren’t, and most of all, the stories that are utterly incomprehensible unless you are also in my head.

The weird thing in those, and from what my husband tells me — I don’t know — in my earliest novel written in English is the grace notes, and the things I was given for free: the characters that live on the briefest of descriptions, the emotions that shine through, the urgency, the… life.

I can see it, even through the cringy bits.

This was not something I learned. It might be something I can’t learn.

Sarah, how do you write characters? Well, they are in my head, and they talk to me. Not that I hear them, physically (Oh, dear Lord, trust me, this might make me a rarity among … for lack of a better term “gateway writers.”) but I feel them there. I know who they are. I know what they do in their scenes that aren’t in the novel. I know what matters to them, what’s in their heads when they wake up. I know them, either as close friends, or as the guys down the street. They’re themselves.

And that comes across.

The learning? The craft?

Yeah, you should learn that, but that is not the inexplicable gift. The craft is what tells you what scenes to show — even when they upset your characters (rolls eyes to the inside of head. Shut you. I don’t want to hear it.) — craft and practice are essential. Even the most gifted of artists is a mess without the craft side. And if you study and practice enough, the craft becomes part of the gift.

Look, think of the gift as fire you are given. It is just fire — and if you let it run wild, it will consume you, and leave nothing to show for it, but ash — and there’s nothing amazing in it. Except that you have it, without knowing how to make it. You were touched by the divine fire, and life pours out to your stories, but if the stories suck, it’s a waste.

So you study and work, and if you’re lucky and apply yourself, and sometimes rewrite and re-shape the fire, you have an immortal phoenix, shining through the centuries for all others. (Which btw, passes through being entertaining. Because nothing that people fail to love lives forever.)

The problem is that the price of the gift is to use the gift.

And the magic in most fantasy books warns of the downfall. There are many ways of killing the fire, the life in your fiction, the passion, the strength of your writing thing.

I always liked Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar description of ripping your magic channels through by doing something you shouldn’t be able to do, and being left with a hurt/half-dead magic. Because that’s what it fell like when I pushed through a book I had to write, but which I didn’t want to. Forcing the gift into it left me sore and tired, and wondering if it would ever come back.

Yes, I do know. The working artist must have schedules and produce regularly. I’m not telling you otherwise. But I think there’s ways around it.

Usually the way I came back from that was to take a few months, read my old stuff, pick up an old thread, write some fun stuff.

Then came the year of homeschooling and writing six books, none of which I wanted to write for various reasons. That was fifteen years ago, and I forced it through.

Here I should explain that teaching, any teaching, pulls from the same place as writing.

That left me… dead. I described my writing after as “arid.” The grace notes, the fun stuff that just falls in wouldn’t. I’d have to reach for it, struggle.

Oh, there were exceptions. A Few Good Men came through, against my rational wish not to write it. (Look, it’s space opera, about a future USAian revolution, with gay male leads, and the world’s weirdest romance, for various reasons.) But it wanted out, and I wrote it in two weeks (if you count the six days I took off for urgent reasons.) Or I wrote it in a week and a day.

My autoimmune was acting up, and I felt like hell, but each day that week and a day I got up and wrote almost 20k words, and I wasn’t tired. I was flying.

And the Dyce books started out as drudgery, but they had a song of their own, and they ripped through me in about 3 days each. (Hush you.)

But in between books the recovery time was longer. And anything that didn’t have a force of its own became harder to write. A short story could take me two weeks, suddenly. And novels were started and floundered, which is why I have about twenty of them half written.

Forcing myself to finish one, just made me silent for months.

Now, some of this, don’t mistake me, was physical. Each of the last …. oh, 20 years in Colorado, my auto-immune has been worse, and my thought more muddled. I wasn’t sleeping, and I wasn’t functioning properly, and any treatment was a brief patch over the abyss.

…. I thought it was getting old. I knew some of it was burnout. The complete disproportion between how much I loved or worked on a book, and the result it achieved. My inability to influence cover or marketing, or …. any of it. And then my doctor told me that I was actually suffering adverse effects of altitude. Which led to trying to get the heck out of dodge fast.

(Despite everything that has happened politically, and everything I don’t like about my poor, beleaguered, beloved Colorado, I don’t think I’d ever have left without that. A part of my heart, a large one, will forever remain in the Rocky Mountains.)

I’d already started trying to do stuff for the burnout. Small wins pull you out of that, and the fact Another Rhodes sold amazingly was part of that, as was how well Barbarella did.

And three weeks ago I wrote a short story for LawDog’s Saints of Malta Antholoy, and yeah, it took forever, but it took forever, because I’d forgotten what it was like to have a voice come through. I’d forgotten and didn’t trust the voice that tried to sing through me, like an expert player through a disused harp. And so the poor story squeezed through backwards and sideways. The first thing I got was the last paragraph, and had to fumble in the dark, until I figured that out, and then had to TRUST the voice screaming to come out.

I don’t scruple to say that might be the best story I’ve written in the last 7 years at least.

And then, suddenly, I could feel it, the old flame struggling back to life.

… I no longer remembered what it tasted like. It was like… trying to speak a tongue in which I was once fluent but no longer really remembered.

I told a friend it felt like French. I used to be fluent in French and speak it without hesitation, think in it, as I think in English.

Now I can’t. I know the words. They’re there, in my head, but I don’t TRUST them, and so I never say them. I understand French. I just am afraid to speak it.

And that’s what was happening both in writing that story in finishing Bowl of Red (ALMOST , truly, almost. It’s been more mundane things that stopped it yesterday and today.)

I’m now, slowly, haltingly, learning the language of creation again. Letting the writing thing come through.

And I’m glad I got there before I read the last thing I tried to write before getting out of Colorado. It is a half finished novel, and I looked at it the other day. And I was scared out of my wits.

It was dead. Not bad, as craft, mind. But dead. LIFELESS. There’s nothing there. It’s a hunk of dead words. I can redo it, but I’ll have to start from page one and recast it.

I’d never ever ever have read anything of mine that was so devoid of life. I didn’t know I could write stuff that dead.

So… How did I ALMOST kill my writing thing?

I’m starting to get glimmers of that.

You can’t kill a writing thing by ignoring it. Eventually it seizes control and makes you write it.

But you can kill it by forcing it. By forcing it to write what it doesn’t want to, what it blatantly despises. (Note there are three books of mine I’ll never re-issue. Not unless substantially rewritten.) By forcing it again and again over and over to write and put life in what it doesn’t want to write or put life into.

Over and over again. Don’t play. Don’t enjoy it. Don’t give it time to recover. Plunge again and again into the battle, with your ever more battered little fire, till it’s all just ashes and nothing.

Heck, for all I know my physical issues in some part at least are part of this.

Because writing is part of who I am, woven through my being. And the price of the gift is to use it. But … not to abuse it.

So, does this mean I’ll write less?

No. I think I’ve figured what “re animates the embers.” I am going back to what I used to do. I read the old stuff. I find the threads that work. And I write experimental things I’m not sure will work, but feed my soul.

I try new things. I go where the life is, and stay there a bit. Even if sometimes I still have to force the harp to sing, when it wants to run off and catch butterflies.

I am now planning for built in periods of rest. Not rest in silence, but rest in letting the fire have its way a little, feed a little.

So it can grow anew.

It’s all still very fragile and tentative, as I grope my way back to where I was 15 years ago.

But two things I know: The price of the gift is to use it.

And: You must let the gift be its best and do the impossible now and then, or it dies off.

So. This is how I almost killed my writing thing.

And how the fragile, bloodied, almost dead thing is at last stirring anew.

123 thoughts on “How to (Almost) Kill Your Writing THing

  1. My goodness how you have poured your heart out. So what you describe seems to me to be true of all ‘gifts’ Disuse, forcing, etc lead to lifelessness and listlessness. The disuse of my superpower has left me empty, aching and frustrated. I ‘remember’ the feeling of the gift coursing through my brain and mind and body, the exhilaration and sometimes the accompanying terror.
    For me it was ideas for product or businesses that would explode fully formed in my mind, waking me in the night with every detail laid out including the people to involve and energize. Unfortunately in several cases I lacked the craft to take advantage, to build and to go forth if you will. So the gift has languished and I seem only to use for small things. Even then folk ask how did you see that in there? I have no real answer.

    I feel great gratitude for the writing you gift us with in your blog. You challenge, encourage and occasionally cajole and I appreciate it greatly.

    1. Western, you just said what I wanted to, but so much better. Thank you, and especially Thank Sarah.

    2. In all that spilling out of the your magic, I heard echos of the Wizard of Earthsea series, where the young magician exhausted his great gift…Don’t let it happen….

  2. I am now picturing you as someone dealing with some ancient of equipment, long idle, but at least minimally kept up, getting it ever so slowly fired up again after SO VERY LONG… somehow, a Rumely Oil Pull comes to mind. It’s huge. It’s ponderous. It’s likely dangerous as all get out… but once you get that sucker going, well, it GOES and anything in its way… well, now, that just ain’t a place to be.

        1. Saw one at the Indiana State Fair. I may have photos somewhere, but it was long enough ago that they would’ve been with a film camera, not a digital — and if the film wasn’t developed, it may well not be possible to get it developed.

          But yeah, I have a fascination with early tractors and steam traction engines. Wrote a few articles on them, back when there was a market for articles for ready-reference books for libraries.

          Maybe if I can get back to my steampunk ‘verse, some of that knowledge can show up in it.

          1. An engine modeler friend did a couple of the Rumleys. One was half(!) scale, as a stationary engine, while the other was a quarter scale model. We used to joke that he’d use manhole covers for the flywheels.

            I can’t remember if the cylinders were 10″ or 12″ in diameter. John liked to build them big.

            (He also did a 1:1 replica of the Wright engine used in the Vin Fiz cross country exploit. It’s now in the replica flyer in the Hiller museum (at least it was in 2001) in San Mateo.)

          1. Look up Fred Dibnah on the tubes of you. The BBC did a bunch of documentaries on him, he was the last true steeplejack in the UK. Used to bring down factory chimneys for a 20 quid. No health and safety inspectors there.

            He restored a lot of old steam engines and rebuilt a steam traction engine that he used to drive about in.

            Fascinating guy.

            1. Sounds like the spiritual brother of the gent who back-engineered a lot of Roman artillery, especially the smaller field pieces. Archaeologists loved him, because he documented everything, including what didn’t work, and his replicas function the way ancient illustrations and descriptions show.

              1. When time permits, I’ll go to the local threshing bee sponsored by the EDGE&TA (Early day gas engine and tractor association) chapter. Haven’t been there in a few years, but it’s only a dozen miles away.

  3. Thank you, I needed to hear this one.

    For me writing uses a lot of the same energy as dealing-with-people, so my current job is… suboptimal for writing. (Then again, can’t write at all if the rent’s not paid, so.) And I can definitely attest that allergies and other physical pain whittle down the concentration you need to draw all the fragile strands of Idea together.

    But… yeah, giving it some playtime seems to help. One nagging Idea I currently have is a magical alternate history, it’s going to take a LOT of research to get right (and I so want to get it right!) – and yet I think the research time and new material also helps a lot in getting stuff currently in progress done.

    I mean, you can’t help but laugh when you find out there was at least one time the Dutch were taken to court in Nagasaki during the time of the Tokugawa-era closed country because they attacked a ship that could call on Japanese law. And because of the profit to be made in the Japanese trade, they had to pay up. Picture all those starched lace Dutch collars, and Japanese lawyers in robes….

    And laughing definitely helps keep you from burning out!

    1. So my takeaway from this is you possibly have a major project that I need to read once you’re done…

      1. Look up C. Chancy, if you haven’t.

        Lots of stories up, I’m a pretty strong fan.

        1. When the library is unpacked, if you want to borrow some of the Chinese history stuff, I can send you pictures, and then put whatever you need in a media mail package. If you don’t find what you want online, that is.

            1. Well, we’re lining the living room with stupid, cheap bookcases. Doesn’t matter, as long as the books can be out. They say the winter will be cold long and snowy, and I want to do research…. 😉

  4. Sarah, what you say is so true. I once started falling into the trap that would have killed my flame. I could not sell what my heart needed to write despite professional editors starting to recognize my talent at the craft. What I had to say was not what they wanted to hear, so I tried writing something that bypassed my heart but kept my craft. My beloved waited until it was rejected then gently told me that my recent writing didn’t have the spark I had in me. Since there were no alternatives to traditional publishing, and I needed to make a living, I turned my creativity to a long and successful career in software. The spark and the craft were never extinguished. I found outlets for them even in business.

    Then, about 10 years ago, I decided to see if I could still write, and I wrote a short story that sang to me. It still warms my heart. My flame had not withered in disuse. It had been sheltered and grew strong somehow in its imprisonment. First it came out in writing for my colleagues to show them how I had managed 40 years in a constantly changing business. Then I started sharing my thoughts and experience on LinkedIn. It chafed that I had to get approval to publish, but it usually just took some time rather than censorship. Now, as my software career is winding down, I can’t seem to stop writing wherever I can–sometimes here, sometimes on LinkedIn, sometimes for my colleagues on our internal social media, and other outlets. Yes, I know a blog is gnawing, rat-like at my lower brain stem, so I’ll have to give it food with a WordPress site before it eats me alive. Lately I’ve found fellowship with an underground community of writers and artists where I’m slowly, painfully learning how marketing works.

    Next is learning how to illustrate to make covers for my work, then a return to an abandoned novel length collection of interwoven stories. After that, maybe the novel I started many, many years ago and didn’t have the talent to write. Then, who knows, but facing the open sea with only the stars to guide me thrills rather than scares me.

  5. “Here I should explain that teaching, any teaching, pulls from the same place as writing.”
    I’ll have to ponder that one.

    1. @ Frank & Sarah > Not “any” teaching, GOOD teaching.
      Been there, done that, watched others – it really is the same as what Sarah says about writing.

  6. I really felt this one. I am just restarting to use my gift again, both poetry and short story. (I’ve never been able to get the length I need to write a novel. I think I need to start with short fiction and work up.)

    I had to burn things out to get myself through seminary after college, then through hospital chaplain training, then a couple Army classes. It was only after I finished CGSOC that I could start back writing fiction again. I’m hoping I don’t need to do War College or I can find a way to do both or I’ll lose the progress I’ve made getting back into writing. Now I just need to figure the rest of the self-publishing process out (I’ll look at MDG when I’m ready).

    So, thank you for this. I needed the reminder that I need to shelter and restoke my gift and learn to trust it again.

    1. Padre0875, Self publishing is easy. Amazon will walk you through it, perhaps Smashwords will too.

      Self-selling? That’s a whole other issue. Remembering always William Goldman’s sage words about Hollywood–nobody knows anything–my current experience says, covers sell. Archive Sarah’s current series on covers over at MGC.

      What else sells? A lot of good, published work–eventually (and by eventually I mean maddeningly slowly). And yes, it has to be both good and published. Each additional work you put up for sale increases (maybe not exponentially, but more than addition would warrant) your chances of all your work being discovered. If you want your message found, you’ve got to toss a lot of bottles in the ocean, each one with a Scheherazade hint to the next.

        1. Sounds like a post in the works. “At THIS (things may change in either direction or both..) point in time, consider A, B, C, and for these reasons AVOID X, Y, and Z.”

      1. Self selling. Arrrgggghhh! Awful. Hard to do. Yes, must do, but hard, hard, hard. There are great salesmen (some die, wasn’t that a book? No, a play?) Yes, but for me, this is a contentious subject. I’ve had a few unfortunate meals at restaurants that have a ‘one customer ‘once’ policy. In other words, serve them crap. Most will finish it, mostly, and pay you. But never come back. If they’re situated in a place with a lot of traffic, that business plan works. Some writers are that way. They are super-sales people. They have tens of thousands of fans, posses of ‘friends’ and they sell really well. And yes, success is measured in sales. After all, if nobody, or hardly anybody buys and reads your stuff, what good is it doing? For the world or yourself? But… I don’t want to be too negative (I know I go there too often), and I really like what you say about ‘EVENTUALLY’ I think you are right, at least I hope you are. I think that if you ‘self-publish,’ which is what we do when we publish on AMZ and other vendors, it may take years… more than ten, for our work to find enough readers to make our expenditiers of time and effort pay off. Yes, and I like your ‘toss a bottle in the ocean’ example as well. Very apt and that’s how I’ve looked at my efforts. Best!

        1. There are a few tricks. Writers are notoriously bad at selling their wares at Cons, but they know they should go. Ever been to a panel where the writers stack their books up in front of themselves like they want to hide behind them? And then they go on and on introducing themselves with an inept sales pitch, hoping some of it will stick when, in reality, nobody’s listening because the audience wants to hear what they have to say about the topic.

          When they made my wife moderator on a writer’s panel, she told everybody. Introduce yourself with just a sentence or two. At the 30 minute mark, we’ll have a commercial break, and you can hawk your books. It worked perfectly. After a half-hour of back and forth discussion, she called for the commercial, and everybody just reminded them of their name and books. They didn’t have to so a long, inept sales pitch because they’d already made their case for how brilliant they are. So many panels we went to with authors we’d never heard of, we waited endlessly for them to get past the introductions, eventually found ourselves interested in one or two of the previously unknown authors, but, by then, we couldn’t remember what they’d written. Con panelists, stop that! That is anti-marketing.

          Community engagement can work, but my experience is that for every 15 thoughtful comments I make, I get one back, so expect the hard work for a slow payoff. The value for a writer is that they get next to nothing to start with, but, if they do it right, they can still sell what they wrote 50 years ago. Not an easy bargain to live with, and not everybody has the constitution for it.

          Our hostess has over 4K followers on this blog, and probably several dozen of us serial commenters. How many years of daily columns did that take? And some of us don’t even read her novels. Ah, but don’t discount good will.

          The old adage (and my memory fades as to which famous SF writer said it) is: Write the work. Send it out to everyone who pays. When you finish the list, start over at the top. He claimed to have sold several stories on their second pass. The updated adage is write the work, publish it, repeat, repeat, repeat. After you have a dozen works online in one place, you can pause to see what sells better. You can try fiddling with cover designs. You can experiment with giveaways and promos.

          Lots of advice from a nobody, never-was, but youse gets what youse pays for.

          1. Ever been to a panel where the writers stack their books up in front of themselves like they want to hide behind them?

            I’ve been to a couple of writer’s panels at Norwescon, and I was on one alternate history panel with three writers once.

            The panel I was on, the other panelists had very little to contribute other than the specific scenario of the book they were hawking; I ended up fielding most of the questions from the audience, comparing one AH scenario to another, spinning out scenarios on the fly, and so forth. (I was there because the panel czar had put me on a “goth men’s fashion” panel and as a favor put me on a couple other panels so I could get a pro badge for cheap/free. I was dressed in my hall costume of a dead Tommy with an assegai through my chest; I have no idea what the author participants thought of me. 😀 )

            The last of the writer’s panels I went to was notionally on “Designing a Magic System for Your Fantasy World” and since I’m a GM whenever I game I was interested to see how they’d done it for fiction and how I might use it for RPG worldbuilding.

            Author #1 wrote a book of historical fantasy with a 9th-century Persian system of magic, so she hadn’t actually designed anything at all.

            Author #2 wrote SF and only could talk about magic in the sense of Clarke’s Law.

            Author #3 had nothing to say about magic system design other than “Ask your characters!” (in a husky and swear to God affected-sounding British accent). As in, your mother-in-law the druidess curses you, does that mean you burst into flame or just have a tendency to stub your toe a lot? “Ask your characters!!”

            And of course they had to namecheck themselves and their books every other sentence instead of actually answering questions. When audience members did ask questions, they got very little other than non-answers or answers to questions the writers wished they had asked instead.

            I’ve been to a lot of useless con panels, but that one really took the cake.

        2. There are few things more discouraging than pouring your heart and mind into a project, and when you’re finished, looking over and saying “it is good”…and then finding nobody interested. Publicity is a difficult thing, (It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it if you don’t want that piece of your soul to perish, unknown and unloved). And then, if you prefere to be diffident and not advertise yourself, but wait for someone else to come along to give your work that push, you may wait a long time. And that gets multiplied if you are naturally introverted, or even a hermit like me.
          So, being modest may be a fine thing, but it’s possible to overdo it, and sometimes there comes a time to be bold. Well, at least a little bit bolder than I am entirely comfortable with…

          1. Oh, I know it. One of the things that killed me as a writer is that my wife doesn’t read for pleasure, and the only person who has shown any enthusiasm about being my alpha reader keeps badgering me to write something that is not the story my brain wants to tell. That part of me has been virtually dead for more than five years now, and I have no idea how to get it back.

    2. For those of us like balzacq who’ve had our own Con experiences, I offer this little anecdote about my beloved. Some of my co-locals may recognize some of the panelists–or not.

      Once Sharon was a guest at a local SF Con, and she was on a panel discussion of “Where do You Get Your Ideas?”

      The panel consisted of a young writer at one end next to a professor of Rhetoric who fancied himself (and dressed) like a pirate, Sharon, and another local writer at the other end. As the discussion started, Sharon later told me she could see me bouncing in my seat because we’d had a conversation at dinner the night before that provided the perfect example. I so wish I had recorded what followed on my phone. I had started recording and then put my phone away to save the battery as the panel droned on, the young writer trying and failing to say something profound, the Rhetoric Professor/Pirate spewing a long philosophical monologue that seemed to cause the other local writer at the end of the table to doze off (he doubtlessly had partied too heartily the night before) although he managed to keep his eyes open until nudged and then said something about rewarding himself for a few pages of good writing by letting himself write pornography.

      Sharon contented herself with mostly making sharply observed comments about what the others said, until it came time for concluding remarks, and Sharon, with her always perfect timing, calmly pounced with a mischievous smile on her face like that of a lion leaping to take down an oryx. I should have whipped out my phone, but I was too unfamiliar with how to record video on the phone and couldn’t take my eyes off what was unfolding.

      “Let me give you an example,” Sharon began, “Last night, my husband and I had dinner at the hotel. I saw they had my favorite entree, prime beef, on the menu, so I asked, did they put sage on it? Of course, like every other restaurant in America, they did, so I dejectedly found something else to order. As the waitress left, I grumbled to my husband,

      ‘Why do they always put sage on prime rib? I hate sage!’

      ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘I grew up around here. Sage is a weed, not a spice. If you’ve ever walked through the hills around here, you’d come to hate the stink of sage.’

      ‘And rosemary on lamb. I hate rosemary! Somebody should make those spices illegal!

      ‘Good luck with getting them to do that,’ he replied.

      Grumbling further, I then said, ‘When I rule the world, they’ll be outlawed, at least in restaurants.’

      My husband just smiled at my goto ‘There ought to be a law’ comment and said, ‘Taking over the world would be a lot of effort. Wouldn’t it be easier just to be a mad scientist and take care of it yourself?’

      ‘Yes, I’d hire someone to create a molecule that would kill off all the sage and rosemary in the world.’

      Young writer is fascinated, the Pirate’s eyes spring open wide in horror. Local writer’s glazed look hasn’t changed.

      My husband pointed out that there might be ecological consequences to wiping out the 2 whole species of plant.

      ‘All right, then I’ll just have him insert a part of their DNA to make them poisonous.’

      Young writer is fascinated. “Oh my God,” Pirate says softly, maybe even being worried that my wife, the Chemist, could do that. Local writer’s eyes still glazed.

      ‘What if that makes the bugs and animals that eat them unwilling to eat them, and they just grow everywhere and take over?’

      ‘All right, then I’ll have the molecule just poisonous to humans.’

      Young writer, grinning from ear to ear, is looking over at Sharon. Pirate literally starts banging his head on the table. Local writer’s glazed look hasn’t changed.

      ‘You really wouldn’t want to be responsible for killing anyone, would you?’ my husband asked.

      ‘Fine, then I’ll have the scientist use a molecule that just makes humans sick.’

      Young writer leaps up from his seat, throws his arm in front of the Pirate, pointing at Sharon shouting, “That’s what I’m talking about!” Pirate rocks back in his chair, almost falling over muttering, “Oh my god, Oh my god.” Local writer startles awake, and swivels his head trying to get some idea of what just happened. Audience applauds wildly as they get up to leave. Husband grins from ear to ear.

      I swear to you on a stack of bibles, that’s exactly how it happened. If I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’.

  7. Sarah, you’ve just articulated what the Church teaches about supernatural gifts or “charisms.” They’re given for a purpose, and if you flout the purpose, the gift can be withdrawn for a time. And yes, Writing and Teaching come from the same place. This is known. Best resource on all this is “Fruitful Discipleship” by Sherry Weddel. Who is based in Colorado Springs, ironically enough.

          1. Irish/Scottish poets came in families, and were only supposed to marry other members of poetic families. But there was a fairly clear Christian era understanding of poetry (and the associated prophecy and insight) as being a charism from the Holy Spirit. Welsh poets too, and of course the whole vates thing for the Romans.

            Genes are probably the toolbox….

            1. Genes, eh? A few singers and musicians, an artist that later learned storytelling, engineers, a painter, a travelling preacher, a drunk, some housewives, more than a few farmers that moonlighted in moonshine making, soldiers by the handful (in nigh every war we could track back to the Hundred Years War with a few minor conflicts here and there), some thieves, a minor Lady that saved a king, a few rebellious rabble rousers…

              Come to think of it, there’s storytelling in a lot of those lives. Just not as a paid vocation. Might be something to that notion.

  8. When I was younger I could write like a long, slow exhale. One sitting, one story. I wrote horror and slasher fic. Sometimes a bit of fantasy. I quit writing completely in 2003. Stuff happened. Started again a few years ago. Things changed a lot during that time.

    Starting it up again sounds a lot similar to what you went through. Currently, no way in heck am I as good as I once was. And at the same time, I’m a different person. Some things come through cleaner now than they ever did. Others might be gone forever. I’ll never write pure horror again, that’s almost sure.

    Figuring out what makes the curse- I mean the gift- go is a good thing. Probably even better for the old mental health in the long run, too. Too much even meaningful suffering can wear on a soul. You’ve got to find a little bit of light now and then to lift you up again.

  9. “Here I should explain that teaching, any teaching, pulls from the same place as writing.”

    Heh. Yeah, it was easier to write when I didn’t have a Day Job as an instructor, just from the sheer mental energy available at the end of the day. There’s a reason that the progress on the books has slowed down, and now is mainly on the weekends after aggressively trying to deload the stress and care for myself.

    On the other hand, I’m not trying to force myself. When fellow writer friends are all “Sprints in 15 minutes!” I look at it and go… “nah.” Because I’d have to force it, and I don’t have the energy to force it and to recover afterward. And this, my gracious hostess, is why you hear me say “I’m a hobbyist! This is a hobby!” Even as you point and make duck noises at me, because two paragraphs before in the same conversation I’m elbow-deep in the keywords for Amazon Ads.

    But it’s a reminder to myself not to strip the channels. It took 8 months to get the last book out, and this one’s going to take it’s time, too. (It started exactly as you mention – when blocking on between two graves, I pulled out this old work that sang to me still despite having stopped 14K in, looked at it, and went “Wait, what if…” and started from scratch. Playing on this let me make progress and finish Between Two Graves, so now I’m back to this one, to see if I can finally finish it.)

    Take it easy, take care of yourself, and have fun!

  10. Oh, Sarah, I so needed to hear this.
    You’re the only person who writes about that crazy joyous awful agony that is the gift.
    And mine was crushed before I could walk, so just now, since the parents are dead and the family is destroyed, am I free to listen to the voice and understand most of my crazy behavior in life was just rejecting the gift.
    And now? Well, learning how to craft the words, how to create things with my hands, and how to teach–if I don’t do these things I get sick.
    I really appreciated this blog today. Thank you.

  11. Yeah, gifts are tricky.

    I’m not sure if I have nurtured mine right.

    In some cases, I may be badly screwing myself up by doing it wrong.

    I find this pretty hard to navigate.

    Might simply be the usual dice game with my health, might be badly managing my social thinking, might be an extremely abused gift, or other stuff.

  12. I was really starting to worry about you. Thank you for completely alleviating such a misguided emotion!
    BTW I appear to have survived COVID-22 relatively unscathed. Ivermectin seemed helpful, but I am jealous my chain-smoking spouse recovered much quicker on same regimen. The clinical side of me suspects that proper dose is a mg/kg thing so she got a much more potent treatment, but my heart knows she’s just too stubborn to stay sick for more 24 hours.

    1. proper dose is a mg/kg thing

      Everything I’ve heard about ivermectin is that it’s exactly an mg/kg thing.

      Which is why that one “study” that “debunked” ivermectin was so deliberately shoddy: they capped the dosage, so the obese people in the study — the ones specifically known to be more susceptible to Covid — were getting an insufficient amount.

      1. Oh, c’mon man, give me some artistic license. 😉

        We only had # 8 12 mg tabs between us, split down middle, as it were. I knew I could get a better response at higher dose, and I was sick – could barely swallow 72 hours – but she had more serious risk factors, and I’m a gallant and chivalrous sort…. …yet was astounded at HOW well it worked for her, maybe even a little jealous.

        1. Glad you had the stuff. We are young and healthy, just weathered the stupid bug, but damn was it yucky.

          Feel better quickly, eh?

    2. Please pass on to her– and you remember this, too!– that you need to not overdo it even after you’re “better.”

      Our house was down for nearly a month with a “nasty cold,” everybody else recovered just about the time they publicly recognized that COVID existed. I, being an idiot, took until nearly February to be mostly-better, because I lose my temper and muscle through. Going off of everybody else, if I’d taken a day or two of baked pizza for dinner type solutions, would’ve been much easier.

      You can make yourself very sick trying to muscle through after you’re better but not at 100%; if you or she feel weak, please listen to that, take it a little slow, it’ll cut your recovery time.

  13. I think for me, development work, writing, and any sort of creating all come from the same place.

    Which is probably why I would get so deep into building games or music when work was in a rough patch. The catch with music is I could never quite get to the skill level to create new music, so it could feed things for long. (Even if the notes are in your head, if you can’t get the instrument there before they’re gone, it’s just not going to work.)

    Oddly enough, building games or game build configs feed that itch too. The last few weeks I’ve been working on character/skill/gear builds for Elder Scrolls Online. It’s been fascinating trying to put together something optimal for what I wanted to do with it, but I think I’ve gotten it to the point that more tuning isn’t going to do much of value.

    Writing was the same sort of way for a long time. I’d have parts of ideas, but didn’t have the knowledge of how to turn them into complete stories. A lot of the folks here and at Mad Genius helped with that considerably.

    Then last year, our company decided that certain answers were pre-ordained. And what good is an engineer when the answer is already set? I hadn’t made the connection before, but that’s around where I started writing in ernest.

    Maybe AI finally develops the ability to make endless addictive content in a few more years, and all of this comes to nothing. Maybe I’ll make cabinets then? But I know if I’m not making something, I’m dying inside.

    I guess I need to remember that more 🙂

  14. Forcing a gift is the equivalent of abusing it.
    I’m pretty damn strong, even at 63; but I can easily overdo it moving rocks while stone wall building. Strained muscles, especially lower back ones, do not like being abused that way, and will spend the next two to three weeks reminding me of that.

  15. Our Hostess said:

    Here I should explain that teaching, any teaching, pulls from the same place as writing.

    Living in a household with two teachers (one Chemistry professor, one 8th grade math teacher) I have observed that this is so. I suspect that the issue is that story telling (or at least explaining a narrative) is a large part of how describing new information to an audience (teaching) is done so using some of the same kind of faculties needed to create coherent plot and characters. Both my wife and daughter find it exhausting. One might expect this to be so of the teaching act itself (both being introverts) interacting with 15-45 students itself is exhausting. But the preparation, ordering the narrative so it may be successfully consumed/used by the students seems to be just as draining (if not more so) than the actual teaching with its inherent human interaction. That is a very interesting insight.

    1. I think of it as “story all day, brain dead at night.” Which is why writing the Merchant books is almost [almost] impossible during the academic year. They require more brain because of the language level than do contemporary urban fantasy.

  16. they come up with the plot, rationally, and rationally cast characters for it, and rationally pen every single word.

    See, e.g., the works of James P. Hogan.

    1. Have you read “Voyage from Yesteryear”?
      I don’t see how anyone can fail to be moved by that book, but maybe it’s just me.
      I still get chills reading that even though my copy is falling apart from so many readings.

  17. I have been writing as a hobby for 4 years. My wife badgered me into writing because she claimed that I was a natural storyteller. The last two months, as my wife’s ALS advanced, I tried to “force” my writing in an attempt to get just one more story for her. She edited chapter 13 but died before chapter 14. Now I am having to…rewrite the story. Forcing is not the same as flowing I discovered. Embellishment versus outright lying I suppose.

  18. I cannot write fiction. Trust me on this, I have tried. However, a large part of my career has been spent teaching. And my personal teaching style includes the use of what I call “war stories”. Could also almost be called fables. “This could or did happen, learn from others mistakes or successes.” But coming from the same place? I’m sure of it.

  19. There is a difference between the rational type of writer who outlines and plans everything, and the writer with no oomph.

    I mean, look at David Drake. Clearly he is not unemotional; clearly his books are not soulless. His muse breaks keyboards and computers, for goodness’ sake. If he were also hearing voices in his head, that would be very bad.

    I suspect a lot of this has to do with primary or sneaky “shadow” modes of processing. Outlining and the physical act of writing are both good for people who “think with their hands” in some way. If you say, “Write about a space collie,” that collie will come to life only by writing about him.

    This is probably most true for people who are not strong on mental images, sounds, etc. I can barely picture or hear anything in my head, although I have a strong memory. So it has to come out before I can do anything with it.

    Some people come up with characters in an external way, and others in an internal way. But some people who talk to their characters cannot make them live on the page — whereas other people who will explain how this is a bog standard trope character will make that character breathe, sing, and do tricks!

    Do your best, leave room for creativity (however way it comes), and it will probably come out okay.

    1. ‘Space Collie’? Is that going to be your story for ‘Fluffy Yeet Cow Space Marines’ whenever Lawdog gets around to opening that anthology for submissions? 🙂

  20. For me, best creative flow comes from the Venn of metalworking (no welding), writing, and orchestra playing. Unfortunately, it has proven next to impossible to get all three in reliable doses!

    But fits of lucid writing still flash through, and I think they are finally beginning to talk to one another.

    Another VERY resonant post, Sarah, thank you.

  21. Granted that I grew up knowing realiry was different than TV, Movies, and books. And my parents and grandparents taught me, in less vulgar terms, to compare how fast my hands filled after wishing in one and pooping in the other.

    However, please don’t call shared daydreams “lies.” You’re not trying to keep us from learning about Great Aunt Edna’s death, not trying to teach us 2+2=5, and not trying to cheat on us.

    You’re trying to entertain us and teach us interesting truths. JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and others did likewise.

      1. well, as Aristotle observed, in fiction you can be more philosophical than when writing history. In history, a man who wrestled with a decision and finally came to a crisis where he had to decide can be hit by a truck. In a story, that’s a cop out.

        Imaginary stuff can make it even easier.

  22. Interesting. You sure are prolific and have a helluva work ethic, all things I admire. I have a lot of thoughts on writing and writers, but writers are super sensitive souls and I keep some of that to myself. As a member of a writers group, and the only one who’s published, several members want to write their series– most of them like series — in ‘seat of their pants’ mode. Some have a five book series in their heads, and they can’t write the first chapter of the first book. Some have five book series in their heads and they cannot give me a summary of what book one is about. It’s all in their heads. Two people have been promising me an outline of their first book for years, and I still haven’t gotten it. I’ve told them that I am not going to sit down and read your 250 thousand page series and ‘story edit’ it. It’s too late then. And as a 74 year old guy, I don’t have that much time, without giving up the time I need to spend on my own writing. But, still, they cannot give me that outline. Told one guy, okay, your novel, later produced as a movie, by YOU, and we both are sitting in a movie theater and your movie opens… what will we see? They cannot tell me. They go on and on and talk process, and character analysis, and world building, and all kinds of shit… but they cannot tell me what their story is. Still… I like these people and I enjoy jawboning with them. (Good thing they don’t read this blog, at least I don’t think they do.) Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience on here. It’s encouraging.

    1. Theme and archetype and etc. are all theory.

      Theory is theory.

      If theory cannot be applied usefully to a problem at hand, then it should be filed away along with all the other theory that cannot be used to solve that problem.

      Lots of occupations have a specialized jargon that drastically eases the challenge of communicating to your fellows about occupation specific problems. When you are communicating with your fellows in jargon, or think you are, it can feel like you know what you are doing, and are doing the best job of communication that can be done.

      But, there is another level of skill in thinking and understanding. That is, when you can concisely explain part of your occupation, in ordinary words, to regular people who have never worked the occupation.

      1. “But, there is another level of skill in thinking and understanding. That is, when you can concisely explain part of your occupation, in ordinary words, to regular people who have never worked the occupation.”

        Bob, the Reader thinks you are making sense again. The Reader saw so many engineers flounder with this – and it became a critical skill as the Great Big Defense Contractor the Reader worked for pushed more and more non engineers into program management positions.

        1. Having been at times a tutor of mathematics, I’m of the school of thought that claims that you don’t really understand a subject until you can explain it to a nonspecialist. There were a couple of times I caught myself trying to explain something I didn’t fully understand, and I didn’t know that I didn’t understand it until I tried to explain it to someone else. I’ve seen other people do that, too.

          1. Yup, Benedict XVI said he learned the most about theology from getting put in charge of the 1st grade religion class at his first parish assignment (after seminary and getting his doctorate, IIRC). This was also a big mercy to the college classes he taught later.

            1. It also helps that the man is, from what I understand, a complete theology nerd. Always helps when the teacher adores the topic.

              1. If you can find videos of him being interviewed where he gets distracted and starts geeking out– you could drop that guy into the middle of a comicon, at a booth, and he’d be able to drag in other geeks by geeking out at them.

  23. As others have said in different ways we only have so much mental energy to use each day. If we use it teaching when we reach the evening we don’t have untouched stores to write or paint or do music – anything creative. THINKING takes tremendous energy and sucks down your blood sugar.
    You’ve been whipping yourself into a frenzy over the craziness that is politics every day for a long time. It leaves not an erg at the end of the day and no satisfaction you’ve ever accomplished anything – you haven’t. It’s an exercise that if you really want to pump that much energy into you should just run for office. They’ll run you off in record time when they see you don’t want to be a cog in their machine – either party machine or the minor flavors that go nowhere. That might be good because it would teach you they have no place for (decent) people like you.
    I’d much rather see you lavish your gifts on your writing that has a positive effect on people’s lives. Politics never does. It eats them up and dehumanizes them. It has to be a soul killing as being a Mafia hit man.

    1. They just had a study that says that thinking hard (ie, doing cognitively challenging tasks) for a long period of time does build up waste products, just like using your muscles hard for long periods. So if you start having a headache from thinking too hard, maybe there really is a problem.

      And apparently your brain will then poop out on any difficult tasks or decisions, and people will tend to default to whatever is easiest. Just like when your muscles are tired.

      1. This is definitely a thing. I can only flog my brain so long before it grinds to a halt and I get to the stage where I can’t brain anymore. Having sufficient blood sugar makes a difference as well. Your brain runs on glucose, and if that’s in short supply, I notice mine getting balky. Normally, I can concentrate quite well…too well, in fact. Multitasking is hard. But if there are other things going on, such as something highly emotional or if I am sufficiently physically tired, or sick, I can’t concentrate.
        I’m still trying to figure out how this brain thing is supposed to work.

  24. I suspect that moving to where your body wasn’t fighting you might be helping, too.

    Like folks who break a bone and mostly heal, but don’t stop hurting until the rest of their health is good enough that the body can focus on more long term fixing.

    …. of course, like any other repair, the longer it sits, and the more work you have to do, the more little jobs you run into that also have to be done!

  25. I totally get it. I am fairly new to this ‘writing thing’ and won’t say I’m pro, nor hobbyist, but I have a couple up and running so, ,
    But I have been trying to force the sequel out and it keeps smacking back: smacking with a 4×4 beam!!! I need to do as I did with the original; just let it flow and figure it out along the way. (Pantser? Nope, more like chaos monkey!!!)
    But trying to force it has seriously hurt me, emotionally and in esteem.
    I’ll give it a throw and see what happens when I just sit and let the voices talk.

  26. In comparison to my lifespan, my gift is pretty old. (There were comic books, as I recall, before I was ten – drawn in stick figures, with Evil Guy in Black as the villain and Super-Me as the hero. I don’t really want to think about it beyond that – the cringe is strong with early work.)

    In comparison to actual writers, I’m the kid plucking at guitar strings and trying to figure out notes while staring in awe at Van Halen and the other greats. I’m not sure how my gift works yet.

    Reflecting on my work though, I can infer a thing or two. Despite being an INTJ to the bone and someone who wants to have all her ducks in a row, trying to outline stories doesn’t really work well for me. (Despite how much I want it to.) If I finish the outline, I’m suddenly no longer interested. And I rarely even finish the outline. The things I’ve done best with, overall, fall into two categories – a brief scene that doesn’t have to be a full story on its own, or a long story I plan out five scenes in advance. (Basically: Have an idea. Write the first three scenes. Sit back and figure out what will happen next with which characters, and write notes on the document for the next few scenes. Go away for a while, then come back and write those handful of scenes. Plot out the next handful, then go away again.)

    And I think epic trailer/movie music of various kinds helps. Ashley Serena does fantastically creepy songs (I’d put money on her having siren heritage, if that were possible). I’ve also discovered Secession Studios lately, and they do gorgeously dark work. (I’d recommend Secession Studio’s Demise of a Nation, but I’m worried that’d hit a little to close to home for some. My white wolf (as opposed to black dog) apparently feeds on darkness. And he eats like a hobbit, too.)

    1. Once you outline it, the story feels– done.

      I’ve had some luck with super vague notes– if it were directions, it would be “leave Seattle, go to Salt Lake city, the place with the dino statues, then Biloxi”– and then write those scenes I can SEE— and THEN string them together.

      1. I don’t outline often, but some stories seem to call for a degree of it…

        I tried to write a story once with a person who said they didn’t outline. I thought this meant they didn’t want to construct one. The story was long and involved and I kept being afraid that I’d forget things, so I compiled all the plans we had already talked about into a document. As soon as I shared it, the collab and the story were dead.

        …I don’t even like the ideas much anymore, but it still makes me sad to remember.

          1. Well done, Miss Sarah. The ability to set a goal and carry it through to the end is even less apparent in modern society than I’ve ever known. You are in rare company.

            May you sleep the sleep of the just, wake rested, healthy, and content, may the coming day be kind to you.

              1. Cleanliness is close to godliness, as they say. More concretely, a writing thing is done and a house will be clean. Both of these things are good.

    2. I outlined an SAO/Blue Exorcist fic once. It’s a great outline. I’ve never written it!

      I think in part it’s because as another commenter mentioned, I don’t really “see” things well in my head – I have to write it down to find the story. And the outline writes it down, so….

    3. Works fine for me.

      I consider it a really, really, really rough first draft.

      But back in the day when I didn’t outline, I had much more polished first drafts, which would peter out in the middle and die. So I told the stories that they had to tell me where they were going and how to get there or they don’t get the full treatment.

      1. Fair.

        I think it’s one of those things where everyone’s gift works differently, and you need to figure out how yours works before you can get it to run properly.

  27. Not only does “teaching, any teaching, pulls from the same place as writing” but it also seems (i.e., acts like) many other kinds of creative work do too. (See one fictional but clear-thinking inventor on this, just below.) And the better “connected” a person is to the unconscious roots of creativity (see Carl Jung and especially his “active imagination” on that, talking to one’s fiction characters might be a pale shadow of what that method often can be and is), or to the gifts such a person “has” — the more likely the gift itself is likely to have or need some say in what’s done with it. Or even come with an integral, built-in set of “ethics” (as Jung and followers often have put it) as to what is “right” or “wrong” to do with it, “your” gift as it actually exists and works. So maybe one ought to think in terms of the gift also having you, in return…

    THIS is why I say it’s important to learn and practice. Not just air-dream. That’s not working.

    And that’s also one of the main points of the Jungian tradition, too — you can’t simply think about these things (you and your unconscious), you have to do something physically; produce a transcript of what you “imagined” or a painting or a written work of “fiction” or something else material and tangible. (At least in “the Jungian tradition” as I’ve read of it, by people incl. Jung himself — though some of his later works like “Aion” and “Mystery of the Conjunction” tend to make one feel much “like a flatworm at the opera” to steal a line from V. Vinge.)

    One of Jung’s first-generation students and analysts, Toni Wolff, was famous for not abiding any such intellectualizing… often she’d meet you at her office door and ask what you did, physically and concretely, over the last week. If the answer was nothing… bye! Come back next week, when you’ve done something! (Door slam optional.)

    1. *many other kinds of creative work do too. *

      I’m not a writer or a teacher, but back when I was running a tabletop RPG I would finish a three-hour session and collapse in a chair totally exhausted.

      Of course, I never ran the kind of game that was a tactical combat simulator where I hid behind a DM screen the whole time; my role was more like “improvisational theater coordinator” where I spent most of the time on my feet drawing on a whiteboard and performing up to 6-8 non-player characters complete with voice and mannerism acting.

    2. From a barely-started hard-steampunk alternate-history SF series; the viewpoint character’s own Buda-and-Pest of 1852 is still almost like ours, ‘failed’ revolution of 1848 and all. (Budapest as such hasn’t quite been invented yet, but soon will be.) And since I seem to be a ‘gateway writer’ (at least when I get much of anything done), her thoughts are more her own than they are any ‘creation’ of mine… and they go right to the heart of what creativity is and does and what it demands, and her creativity isn’t much about writing or teaching at all… So imagine young Emese Hunyady, standing on just-built Chain Bridge over the Danube, very late one night:

      That was why she was here, in this breezy-cold cloudy near-midnight over water.

      To ask and to answer.

      To keep her burden till it killed her too, or choose another way and follow it.

      Her parents and brothers had made their choice. They had gone away, made all their complex and careful arrangements to meet and see her again, when and if.

      They had chosen to follow freedom, as long as it stayed, and then wherever it fled.

      But Emese and Erzébet had been sisters in the march, that day, from here to there and from building to building, reading that paper over and over, stronger and surer and stronger with every new repetition — until the immovable had begun to move[…]

      And now she held the weight of all they’d done together in her two hands.

      She could throw it all away, right now, literally and in every deeper way.

      Become a dressmaker in Buda, or Vienna. Nobody would ever think of her else.

      Forget the books and machines and the other bright airy nothings, which without her might well never have a habitation and a home. (Those were far more satisfying things to stitch together than cloth, lovely and beloved as that was for her.)

      Because they, unlike the other, would get her noticed far beyond one shop window.

      Forget the politics, forget freedom, surrender to what was. Or hide in it, at least, as a hunting-bird hides unsuspected in the lofty shadows of a barn.

      Watch (only watch) from the dark, as she half-hid in it and watched from it now.

      From her silent owl-perch here in the midnight dark between.

      Between Buda and Pest, between one day and the next, between earth and sky and air and water. Between a past bright with promise and dark with blood and death… and a future that even she knew not of.

      She found her right hand moving as if at its own command, drawing back to throw away over the dark water freedom and struggle and strife–

      And finding herself staggering backward away from the railing with the sudden striking, staggering weight of it, more than an anvil, more like a wagonload of them.

      As if that future cried out, somehow to her, no, little one, you may not. Not yours.

      In other words,can we actually decide freely what we will do with our gifts? Or do they get a say in things, too? The Original Post certainly takes a position on that!

  28. I learned about libraries at a tender age and it became a habit I never broke. Nowadays, most of the books I read are borrowed from Kindle Unlimited. However, I have a question: Do the authors get any compensation when one of their books is borrowed?

    1. Yes, KU has a pot of money from the subscriptions, and based off how many books are borrowed, and how much of it is read before it’s “returned,” the author gets a cut of the pot.

  29. I had one of these random flashes of creativity earlier this year, and I’d desperately love to know how to do it again. I told a relative one day I’m beginning to sound like one of these neurotic artists struggling with their muse.

    In April – early May, I taught myself modern 3d graphics, invented some noneuclidean 4d graphics, and blasted out this program in under a month. I knew as I began how I eventually wanted it to work, and intuited how it was going to behave: It all seemed to come from somewhere else in a single unit. A month of frantic work, and it was done. And it was almost entirely like my original vision. (Seriously, how often does that happen, and for such a counterintuitive thing?)

    And … I haven’t been able to do anything like it since. And it’s driving me nuts. I can zombie through something when my muse doesn’t wanna, but it’s nothing like as coherent or powerful, or interesting as when I can work under inspiration.

    The other heartbreaking thing is when inspiration strikes and I can’t afford the time to really work on it, because the thing goes away and I can never get it back.

    I stop by blogs like yours because it seems you deal with a similar sort of thing.

    PPS: The project was a total commercial failure, but I almost don’t care.

    1. When I started doing crafts I briefly (very briefly) entertained doing it commercially. Quickly learned that absolutely murdered, flat lined, any desire to do crafts. For whatever reason, programming and design, didn’t get murdered when I went commercial. Looking for work, or why I never went independent contractor, OTOH, did. Not programming or design was the motivating factor. It was the drive to solve problems presented. Some problems were a lot easier than others (route work). There were enough, just enough challenging, that were what kept me at it for 33 years.

  30. It’s been said that a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems. Does anything like that apply to writers?

  31. A sci-fi writer, I forget who, said “I just sit in front of the typewriter and open a vein…”

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