Shall I set the scene? Shall I share the detail? It’s raining, those first spring thunderstorms where sun erupts just as often as lightening. Every tree remembers more about it’s kinship to a coral reef than to my hostas, and I am not working today because it is raining and there are no government permits to beg or horse-trade for. I should be writing. I’ve got Wagner’s entire ring cycle blaring in the background. That usually works, except when it doesn’t.
Peter Ball kindly gave me the advice to write in the morning. A before work ritual. I’ve heard that before, in college I believe. I tried Pete, I tried. But I go to work at 4:30AM and often don’t get home until 8PM. And the three times I got up at three and wrote for an hour produced several near fatal accidents while driving, and what’s more- no copy. So that’s out.
Then when I cozied up here to write this I took a look at Maggie’s daily musing and found her asking the same questions. Except I don’t really think she has much to worry about. We used to occasionally challenge one another with story “rules”- length, plot, a specific character or an action so on. It got really devious and I WILL BE FUCKING DAMNED IF SHE DIDN’T PRODUCE STORY AFTER STORY, EACH BETTER THAN THE NEXT. Really, the last one I required to be: set in the future, not on earth, contain an early 20th century pop culture reference and be 1100-1200 words long. The monster in this story, this absorptive identity cloud of flesh, still haunts me. It’s a chimera, a hydra and it is gently knocking on the view ports of an orbital aesthete’s hundred-mile-high sanctuary asking it to “let me in.” Still get shivers. So today she writes her rules:
Maggie’s Rules For a Productive Writing Life-
1. I would adhere to a regular work schedule.
2. I would not only write rough drafts, I would edit them to completion and submit them.
3. I would produce at least a small, measurable body of work each year.
4. I would trust my process.
5. I would continue, with defined effort, to pursue an excellence of craft, always striving to be better than I am right now.
6. I would be aware of the market trends and news, but without self-judgement.
7. I would have fun and be relaxed.
And I counter, not with rules, but with observed behavior of my own life of letters:
1: I will throw myself into my work life because I’m lucky to be employed after three years without a job and I will sacrifice my home life, family, friends, and creative interior to fulfill the demands of my job until such point that I burn out completely do something really regrettable and then write short fiction again for a couple of really productive years.
2. When I do write they will be the roughest of components with half explored avenues and plot holes that might not even be complete. I will store them on and unsecured hard drive. They will be lost.
3. I will write 300K words in one year- in four months of one year, twenty three complete stories. I will not write again for half a decade. I will endlessly reread and minutely tweak these stories.
4. I will loathe my process.
5. I will let great works of writing move me to tears, anger and fear while always deriding myself for my lack of ambition and talent.
6. I will consistently send fantasy/slip-stream stories to hard-sci-fi markets and stories about the nuances of Schwarzschild Radii and LaGrange Orbital mechanics to “Dragon’s and Elves Digest.”
7. I will carry my desire to publish like a great millstone around my neck until I drown in disappointment and self betrayal.
Yep, it’s gonna be a great day!