Words beget words

Some lovely news from the last few days:

  • My story “A Pair of Ragged Claws”, published last year  in Black Treacle, will appear soon in audio, in Bizarrocast
  • Today, Flash Fiction Online accepted a creepy Christmas story, “Hairbrush, Socks, Pencils, Orange.”

I’m about 30,000 words in to the as-yet-unnamed novel in progress, the one I started in December, which still doesn’t have a name. I had hoped to be farther along on that by now, but one of the reasons for the slow progress is that I began 2014 by writing several short stories. It’s been a productive winter.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about one of the very few bits of parenting advice that was any use to me when my child was a baby: Sleep begets sleep.

I can’t remember where I first read or heard this (I can’t remember much from those first months) but it was a revelation. One possible conclusion, when you’ve got a baby like ours who just never wanted to go to sleep, is to shrug and say “Maybe he just doesn’t need a lot of sleep.” At some point, we realized that the problem was the opposite: we weren’t putting him down for naps often enough. The counter-intuitive truth: the more often we got him to nap throughout the day, the easier he’d be to put down for each nap.

I find writing to be a lot like that. Creativity is not like a bucket that refills at a constant rate, unconnected to how much you let out the tap at the bottom. It’s more like a pump. The worst thing I can do, if I’m stuck or uninspired, is to say, “Oh, I’ll take a few days off and let my subconscious go to work. Maybe an idea will come.” The idea is not going to come. Not for me, anyway. Not unless I hunt it, or trick it by hunting something else.

Often, I’ll sit down to write a set amount of words at the end of the day, feeling completely uninspired. I’ll eke out my word count, and then I’ll shut down the computer and go to bed. And then 20 minutes later, sit up and make a note, because I’ve got a new idea. And then in the morning, I’ll email myself a potential short-story title and make another note.

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