The Flossy, Flossy, The Glamourous

So Kami Garcia did a post about her glamorous writing life which is actually glamorous, and Sarah Rees Brennan did one about her glamorous writing life which is much closer to the reality of my writing life but I MISS YOU, INTERNETS. I wanna talk to you.

So here’s mine!

9.20 am: My phone alarm starts buzzing. I tap it to make it go away and burrow back into the pillow.

9:40 am: After buzzing a few more times my phone has decided I am clearly not going to get up unless forced. It starts playing a cheery little tune. When I am awake, this tune is melodic and peaceful. When I am asleep it is a torturous invasion of a warm and happy land. OKAY PHONE I AM AWAKE STOP YELLING AT ME.

Is it a Retail Job day? It is not! Therefore it is a Writing Day. Shall I go back to sleep? Maybe! But today I am awake enough to realise that perhaps the world has tried to say things to me, and I must discover them. So I grab my phone and check my email, twitter, and tumblr accounts for signs of Contact.

… I am a nerd, have I mentioned?

If I have anything reasonably urgent to attend to, I will get up right then. Otherwise, I will stay in bed and read for a while.

KAREN: Oh, Catherine, when will you and Andevai make the sweet sweet sexy times?
COLD FIRE: MAYBE NOW.
KAREN: Really????
COLD FIRE: Haha, just kidding, once again they are interrupted by Perilous Politics.
KAREN: Curse you, Kate Elliott!

10:20 am. As soon as I get out of it, I MAKE MY BED. Unf*ck Your Habitat has instilled this habit in me and it really works to make my day more exciting organized. Then I set a timer for 20 minutes of shower/dress/clean things.

Often this is the only 20 mins of cleaning things that happens all day, so I like to get it done first thing. It brings a lovely glow of accomplishment that can carry me through much of the day.

By this stage I am generally starving, so it is time for breakfast and the first Diet Coke of the day. Usually my dad is in the kitchen.

DAD: Good morning.
ME: Hi.
DAD: Cold, isn’t it?
ME: Yup.

I am not super verbal in the morning.

I take breakfast back to my desk and Do Things. Sometimes writing, more often tooling around on the internet. Penny Arcade might have put up a new comic. Perhaps Heather at Dooce.com has provided me with her trenchant insights on motherhood and poop. Unf*ck Your Habitat might have pictures of disgusting messes virtuously cleaned away. The Hairpin probably has a decent article or two, plus links to more things.

And then there’s tumblr.

Sweet, sweet tumblr.

While this tooling around looks a lot like (and mostly is) time-wasting procrastination, it’s also a really necessary part of my creative process.

No, seriously.

STOP LAUGHING.

This is how I connect to the world, and how I learn things about it. Occasionally someone at Retail Job will ask, “how do you know that?” and the answer is almost invariably, “I read it online”. Most obviously, social justice is important to me and my work, and a lot of social justice communities and discussions are reflected on the Internets. And I am constantly picking up little nuggets of information to add to the soup of ideas floating in the back of my brain.

I am not talking about directed research, although I do plenty of that too (yesterday, rogue waves and songs in Somali, Arabic and French. Today, non-nuclear EMP generators, the physical progression of anorexia, and what shark species appear in the Red Sea). I’m talking about being open to things that might, maybe many years later, become reasons for directed research. Cooking blogs! Science blogs! A narrative about how if you’re a married actor hitting on a model it might be a good idea to check she’s not live-tweeting you!

I didn’t do it on purpose; I never consciously thought, “I had better spend 2-3 hours a day clicking on links and being interested by stuff online because that will immensely increase my exposure to ideas and events and creations that will in turn inform my own work”. No, I was totally in it for the procrastination! But that was the effect, and now that I have consciously recognised this as a valuable part of how I work, I feel way less guilty about said tooling time.

Depending on when I got up or how much tooling I do, I probably begin writing by about noonish. I try to write in blocks of 200 words at a time, because that is not too intimidating a number when I get started.

Some days, writing is like, hey! This is awesome! Shit is happening. There’s some flirting, or an argument, or something has blown up!

And some days it is endless descriptions of clothes and moving characters from one place the next. I would gladly never dress my characters but 1) that is poor characterization and 2) my friend Melanie would be horrified. She has more than once constructed wardrobe look books for her characters. She has more than once done it for my characters.

I try not to edit too much as I write. That is for later! For a first draft, I just get the words down. However, since I am currently writing Cheerbaby Goes To State* on a tight deadline, I am consciously aware that I need to write clean plot. That means not too much indulgent wandering off into plot dead-ends that I know I will have to cut later anyway. Every explosion must count!

I have generally been better at this since that time I edited Guardian of the Dead eight times, three of those times with massive plot changes. I am so glad that was something I did with my first published book, when I had plenty of room in my contract. If I had to do that now, to deadline, I would probably continually vibrate from stress.

But I’d get it done. I have not missed a deadline yet!

These writing blocks are interspersed with things like laundry, or lunch, or World of Warcraft, or baking, or more internet tooling. And talking to friends, did I mention that? I have been doing that all this time. This is how I have a social life!

I also do various administrative things; I might write a blog post, or respond to interview questions, or critique a friend’s work, or do some actual research, or email my agent:

Dear Barry,

Have you read that Secret Secret Shush Shush* chunk I sent you? Is it outstanding or merely brilliant?

Love, Karen.

PS, more explosions needed, y/y?

Karen:

Actually, more emotions needed. Add feelings.

Barry.

B,

UGH FEELINGS. OKAY FINE.

K.

Internets, why are boys so emotional?

Anyway, those little 200 word bits gradually add up over the day. At some point I eat dinner, which has generally been lovingly prepared by my father. If it is a Monday (Criminal Minds), Wednesday (Castle) or Friday (Sherlock Holmes) I will watch murder TV with my mother and happily predict the plot for her. Occasionally I will snort and say things like, “Garcia couldn’t really do that” or, “Ahahaha that is not how authoring works” and she will tell me to shut up.

Eventually I finish my work for the day. if I have leisure time left over, I’ll do my nails or watch a DVD or… tool around on the internet. But the day always ends with reading in bed.

KAREN: Oh, Catherine, when will you and Andevai make the sweet sweet sexy times?
COLD FIRE: RIGHT NOW.
KAREN: You so lie.
COLD FIRE: Nope.
KAREN: REALLY???
Cold Fire: They’re kissing, dude.
KAREN: Bless you, Kate Elliott!
COLD FIRE: AHAHAHAHA J/K POLITICS INTERVENES AGAIN.

*Not its real name.