Why Quitting Writing Is the Best Thing I’ve Ever Done

 

sun-and-clouds-on-sunny-winter-day-sig

 

It’s been one year since I quit writing.

When I posted about this, it was heart-breaking.

I cried.

I regretted sharing my decision.

Then I realized how much I needed to post it. To feel it. To publicly admit it.

Here’s the thing. The biggie. I’ve “quit” writing before but I’ve never really quit.

I’ve had a meltdown over a story or a freak-out about my computer crashing (save your work!) or stopped writing out of frustration because I’d been interrupted for the fifteenth time. I’ve had writer’s block, run short on time, gotten sick, had self-doubt… You name it.

I’ve thrown my hands up and shouted, “I quit!”

Those are probably relatable to most writers. There is always something trying to block your way, drain your energy, waste your time, or stifle your creativity.

But when I wrote that post, I well and truly quit.

When I published that post, something inside me shifted.

This wasn’t a writer’s temper tantrum. This was me letting go of my dream. I waited two whole agonizing months to return.

Though, in the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t a long time, it felt like forever.

I thought about losing the creative outlet I’d been using since I was nine years old. I thought about flash and writing prompts and how much I’d miss those. But, honestly, what I thought about most was the fact that the characters in my novels would never finish telling me their stories. I thought about the fact that I would never write another word about these people.

I cried. Again.

 

Truth is, I was in a bad spot and thought quitting writing would take some pressure off. I thought it would give me more time and energy to deal with the crap. What I found was, by taking writing away, I was less able to deal with things.

You know what? I am overwhelmed. I do have a lot going on. There are shitty things happening.

There were a year ago and there still are today.

I did need a break, but not from writing.

I thought my life demanded I let go of my dream. I thought I had to kill a piece of myself, to make room for a new piece—one that could deal with all of the drama, chaos, and responsibilities. But it broke my spirit when I quit.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved putting pencil to paper and creating stories. I’ve always known writing is part of me. It’s not that I discovered this last year, it’s that I got a reality slap. A reminder that I need writing. Not just that I love it—I need it.

I had to feel this, really feel this loss, to fully appreciate how much I needed it.

I am a writer. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

 

 

The fact that I quit writing played a big part in the publishing of Hinting at Shadows. One year ago I stopped writing and, almost exactly one year later, I am a newly published author. Of a book that I love. One that I’m proud of. One that shows we never know what the future holds. One that proves we cannot bury our dreams.

 

Have you ever given up, quit, or let go of something you loved? Did this hurt or help you? Or both? Did you ever return to what you left?

 

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Penny for Your Thoughts?

 

I am fascinated by pulp fiction.

 

 

But what is it, exactly?

I’d heard of penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and pulp fiction, although I didn’t know much about them.

These cheap magazines and books have a rich history.

Pulp fiction got its name from the pulpy paper it was printed on. It was inexpensive to make and cost very little to buy. How much? Oh, um, something like, I don’t know… A penny and a dime? Yes. And that’s where they got their names.

These were made for the masses. And they were loved. I mean…what was not to love? They were accessible, quick to read, and, maybe most importantly, affordable.

Dime novels (US) and penny dreadfuls (UK) were widely read in the late 19th century. Later, pulp fiction magazines found their way onto shelves, succeeding dime novels and penny dreadfuls but preceding comic books (which some say were just distant relatives of pulp fiction—I can totally see that).

The stories themselves introduced (some) unforgettable characters and were written by (some) well-known authors. Among them, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dashiell Hammett, H.P. Lovecraft, Upton Sinclair, Mark Twain, H. G. Wells, and Tennessee Williams. According to Mashable, Raymond Chandler’s novel The Long Goodbye started out as a pulp fiction book. (This one is sitting on my bookshelf and I had no idea it began its life as pulp.)

These stories were so popular, publishers continued to print them during The Depression and WWII era. Literacy was on the rise as well as a desire to escape “real life”.

But escapism doesn’t have to be well-written.

I’m not going to dump on the stories but I will say they weren’t known for their breath-taking writing. They are not “literary”. Far from it. They’re jam-packed with story. That’s pretty much it. It’s non-stop action, good guys vs. bad guys stories. Okay, that’s oversimplifying it a bit but you get the gist.

 

Pulp Fiction 1

“Oh dear, something is not quite right here!” pulpmags.org

 

So why am I all fired up about this?

It’s appealing to me on many levels.

I’ve had a strangle-hold on myself for months. I enjoy writing on my fiction site, Lemon Shark Reef, because the restrictions I’ve placed on myself don’t apply as much (if at all) over there. I love that site. *swoon*

But I’m all over the place. Which, on one hand, is a really good thing. I love writing from prompts, challenging myself to a set word count, trying new voices, creating new characters. I have so much variety in my short fiction—it’s kind of awesome.

However. When I sit down with any decent amount of time, I just stare. I don’t know what to write. Not because I don’t have any ideas but because I have too many. I also have all that fab flash I could expand into a (longer) short story. Or even a book.

I should revel in the fact that all those ideas are just floating around waiting to be grabbed.

Should. It’s not where I’m living right now.

My post about getting the hell out of my own way? Yeah. Really? How?

By placing more limits on myself.

You heard me.

I had a frickin’ epiphany.

Amidst the chaos of my life, I need some order. (If you had suggested even a few years ago that I should let someone tell me what to write and how to write it, I would have laughed in your face. I know. I’m rude.) Yet, here I am. Inviting it in.

Please, for the love of all that is good and covered in chocolate, someone tell me what to do.

Ah! A formula. There’s a popular blueprint by Lester Dent. (Which is such a cool name, he could have been his own character in a pulp. Just saying.) So why don’t I just go ahead and follow that, write something, and get back to my life.

I tripped across this great post on Twitter by Icy Sedgwick, who writes pulp fiction. I was intrigued. She says we should try writing this. Hmm…

Pulp fiction is so far out of my comfort zone I’m going to need a passport.

But, hey, I already have a map, right? So I can’t get lost. And, when I get there, I’ll learn the language through the immersion method, explore the famous landmarks (there are tons of sites with archived pulp).

I might love the land of Pulp! Eh. I might not. But I will have an adventure and, right now, that’s just what I need. Ditch the perfectionist and bring on the fun, you know?

Pulp was cranked out. Quick and dirty. Tell the story. This would really get you writing a book (or three) in a short amount of time. With much of pulp fiction, it didn’t have to be good, it had to be done.

This genre or type or kind or whatever of writing has the good, the bad, and the ugly of storytelling. Pulp novels were also known as “potboilers” which is a not-very-nice term to describe crappy writing that pays the bills. Some authors have called their own pulp a potboiler, hurling wicked rude literary insults at themselves. Others have said it’s a fun way to practice the craft and, hey, while you’re at it, look at my pulp that’s now a famous book (and movie).

My thoughts?

As far as books go, there is good writing and bad writing in every genre, in self-published as well as traditionally published.

As far as pulp goes, what I’ve found is that there are a lot of articles leading back to Lester Dent’s famous formula and cool historical facts. But what I’m not seeing is a definition. So I’m still stuck, by the end of it all, on my original question: “What IS pulp fiction?”

I’m left with the answer that there isn’t a clear answer. It is its history. It is its formula. It is what it is.

And I want to write it.

How dreadful can a penny dreadful really be? Only one way to find out.

 

Do you read pulp fiction? Have you read dime novels or penny dreadfuls? Which characters do you know from pulp? (Tarzan doesn’t count. Sorry. Everyone knows Tarzan.)

Are you going to try writing some pulp fiction?

 

Great Book for Writers…NaNo or Not

 

I’ve never written a book review on here before.

 

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And I’m not going to.

I will say that this book is made of awesome.

I’m late to the party. I should have posted about No Plot? No Problem! in October before all you nutty NaNos took on the completely insane challenge of finishing a book in thirty days.

But I’m here now. Because I am having a problem. A writing problem. (I’ll post more about that later.)

So I was searching my bookshelves for some inspiration when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a marvelous book sat unread for two years! And in November, to boot. Before I write another word, let me say I have never participated in NaNoWriMo. And. Yet.

This is a stupendously marvelous writing book. Yup. It’s all that and a bag of chips.

Oh, no! Not (another) book about writing.

Well, technically, it is. Sort of. But not really. In other words, it’s not a “this is how you are supposed to write” book. It’s a cheerleader (with more clothes). A guide. A tiny, written friend with advice and support. Also, just enough writing tips and anecdotes for me to call it a writing book but not enough to drive you crazy or contradict all the other books you’ve read about how to write. It even offers to take your “Inner Editor” so you can write a shitty first draft that would “absolutely horrify it”.

The entire first part of the book contains tidbits of remarkable wisdom like “don’t write within view of a bed”, sections like “Eating Your Way to 50,000 Words” & “The Happy Side Effects of Limited Planning” (which appeals to me very much), along with tips like how to host a writing day:

Ask all attendees to turn off the ringers on their cell phones, and set a timer so everyone knows exactly when each session ends and the glorious break time begins. Should anyone continue to type after the alarm marking the end of the session sounds, chop off their fingers. Don’t be afraid to be a tyrant. (53)

And the excellent “law of exuberant imperfection”:

The first law of exuberant imperfection is essentially this: The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy. 

the older we get, the more scared we are to try new things. . . . what do we do when we have free time? The tried-and-true activities we’ve already perfected. Like talking on the phone. Or walking up and down stairs. Or getting drunk. . . . Exuberant imperfection allows you to circumvent those limiting feelings entirely. (32-33)

And this charming truth:

The universe loves novelists. During the novel-prep and book-writing period, you’ll watch, delighted, as the cosmos parts to reveal a rich vein of pilferable, copyright-free material explicitly for your noveling use. A couple will sit down next to you on the bus and proceed to have an argument. . . (72)

Right? Oh, man, I love when that happens. *sigh*

The second part is dedicated specifically to NaNo participants—broken down by weeks. Very helpful if you’re into that sort of thing. And more power to you. (Really. Love and respect to my fellow writers during this hectic Novembery time.)

Reading through this again made me realize two things. Three, actually. 1. Chris is funny. He is. 2. I’m not trying to crank out 50,000 words in a month and this book is still wonderful. 3. My husband has always supported my writing.

 

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How cool is this?

 

You can get a copy here, if you so desire. But it’s different from mine because I have an old copy, as you can see from the inscription here, and Chris has made all sorts of shiny, new words for you.