Monday, July 9, 2018

Stuck in the Brambles of My Mind

Sacchi Green

I don’t know how I’ve managed to write anything, ever. Without deadlines I’d never finish anything, although I generally manage deadlines that I’ve promised to meet. Many a story hasn’t made it in time to meet the deadline in one or another Call for Submissions where I’ve made no commitment. Sometimes another chance will come along, and I can manage to finish an abandoned story in time, although by then it’s morphed into a somewhat different story, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But I can’t multi-task when it comes to writing. If I’m supposed to be writing one thing but get stuck, for one reason or another, I can’t work on any other writing project. I procrastinate and avoid, and think longingly of other things I want to write, and Calls for Submission that sound tempting, but I don’t let myself turn to another project while a current one is hovering gloomily over my head, which all too often means that little or nothing gets done.

 I keep plenty of other kinds of metaphorical plates spinning in the air, though somewhat wobbling at times. Just now I’m handling selling my father’s house (where I grew up) now that he’s in a long term care facility, and dang, that kind of thing is complicated, what with realtors and lawyer-speak and town restrictions and clearing out sixty years of a family's accumulations. And I visit my dad almost every day, taking him to doctor appointments, and lunch twice a week, while also caring for another family member with severe effects of Lyme Disease. And I manage to keep my traditional vegetable garden going, so far, in spite of a crazy deer who seems to think tomato plants are tasty. Housekeeping, not so much, but I get by. Anyway, I can multi-task when necessary, when there’s no avoiding it and other people are affected.

But I can’t work on more than one writing project at a time. I don’t think it’s a matter of not being able to think about multiple things more or less at once, but of recognizing my tendency for procrastination and trying not to put off one thing and turn to another. That, of course, is totally unproductive, since nothing gets done, and I might at least be managing partial stories that could be finished up when another chance comes along.  Maybe I’m punishing myself for getting stuck in a major project like my first novel (which is, however, essentially done now, having taken as long as I used to take to write ten or so short stories.)

I guess I used to be more prolific, but even then I couldn’t manage to have more than one story in progress at a time. And I haven’t managed to follow the prime advice for writers, which is to write every day, no matter what, no matter how stuck you may be, or how blank your mind feels. And…well, okay, no matter how distracted you get by following Facebook and/or Twitter and all the ways that news both fake and factual and generally depressing batters at your consciousness.

But look, right here, in spite of having nothing to say, I’m finishing a piece of writing that I’ve committed to doing, and on time. I’ll take my sense of accomplishment where I can get it. And maybe now I’ll go spend an hour on something else I should be doing, like revising a never-quite-finished story I want to include in a collection of my work so that there’ll be at least one piece that hasn’t been previously published. Unfinished stories do come in handy, after all, although this particular one may be unfinished for good reason, and stuck beyond hope amid the brambles of distraction and procrastinative tendencies of my mind.  


  1. Another single-author collection of your work! This sounds like something for you and your readers to look forward to. Although I certainly wish your father good health and long life, you know that the complications you currently have to deal with on his behalf won't go on forever. Eventually, you will have more time to write.

    Sometimes a piece of writing can be rejigged for different venues. Currently, I'm working on book reviews of four upcoming books (uncorrected advance copies) from Lethe Press, which Lethe (i.e. Steve Berman) would like to have reviewed, I'm sure, though no one asked for this. Our next topic here is, "What I've been reading," and I will have plenty of material.

    Meanwhile, I have an idea for a story to submit to "Saints and Sinners," deadline October 1. Jotting down some notes will prevent the idea from floating completely out of my mind.

    One of the books I've reviewed is a single-author story collection, and most of the stories were originally published in journals of spec-fic, but they are new to me, and presumably to other readers. A paperback book can reach people who don't read on-line journals, or not regularly. So a collection like this is worth putting together.

  2. Thanks goodness that crazy tomato-plant-loving deer doesn't live anywhere near me! Husband keeps threatening to use my dad's old BB gun to shoot the squirrels who have now devoured ALL of the peaches from his peach tree, ALL of the pears from his pear tree, and are now working on the apples. Me, I'm just salivating, waiting for the tomatoes! Especially the 2 cherry tomato plants that are verdant and doing so well. I'll do like I do every summer, go out to pick the ripe ones, and less than half will make it into the house. The rest will be devoured while I'm out there! If any deer threatened them, I'd be out there with the BB gun myself, and to hell with Bambi!

    Keep on writing, even if only during cracks in time. That's how I write, since I have so little time to give. But things do get written...and in the summer they get submitted. There's never enough time to get to everything you want to do. But hopefully you can squeeze in enough so that you have a feeling of accomplishment.

  3. Sacchi, I’m pretty impressed that you wrote a novel in the time it used to take you to write 10 short stories. Seems like a really good rate to me.

    And keep at it, whenever you can. I’ve been writing long enough that I raise an eyebrow at those smug declarations about writing every day. Sure, it’s good advice. But it’s not the only advice or the only way. And sometimes it’s just not what’s realistic.

    1. Well, I used to write about six stories a year, so that's not a very good rate. I think I only wrote one short story this past year, while I was working (or resisting working) on the novel. I did edit an anthology, but that's a different kettle of fiction.

  4. Sacchi, give yourself credit for all the spinning plates.

    I've never been able to write every day. Probably never will. We do what we can.

    I was wondering, though, whether you've ever tried writing with a partner. If you commit to providing a chapter to your partner within a certain time, that can help push you forward even when you feel stuck.

    1. I did co-edit with a partner for several books, and at times helped with her own writing, but on the whole that experience has convinced me that I'll never do that again. Probably.


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