Wednesday, February 15, 2012
VISITING DIGNITARY -- RACHEL CAINE
GUYS, I WANT YOU TO WELCOME NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR RACHEL CAINE, a wonderful author and dear friend, whose Revivalist, Weather Warden books and Morganville Vampire Series are great MUST read books. SHE SO ROCKS. Trust me on this.
THE GAME OF CONCENTRATION
Two weeks ago, I was happily immersed in deadlines. I know that sounds contradictory, right? Deadlines are HELL, ask any working writer ... they eat our time and warp our lives around them like black holes. You can almost hear us complaining as we disappear over the event horizon: DAMN YOUUUUUUU DEEEEEAAAAADDDDLLLLLLLIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNN ... but we never get to the last "E" because of the time distortion.
Happily immersed in deadlines. I finished edits on the second Revivalist novel, TWO WEEKS' NOTICE; I also did proof check on BLACK DAWN, the 12th Morganville Vampires novel coming out in May 2012. And then on February 1, I popped my head up out of my little foxhole, thinking I would take a short breather before diving into the next book, due Very Soon Indeed. I was looking forward to some rest and relaxation.
And the pile-on began.
Like, home repair. Some of you may remember my Great Squirrel Invasion of Ought Six, where squirrels chewed through my giant-sized, multi-level roof and set up their own playgrounds, parks, and condominiums, and were evicted only with great effort. Well, this turns out to be Invasion 2: Bigger and Better! Because this time, they brought their friends: Birds. Rats. Raccoons. Oh, and sappers, because we had possums and armadillos digging under our foundation, too.
This is what happens when you have four or five books a year, plus travel: you really don't do those property walk-arounds like you should to make sure everything's cool with the trim and roof and foundation. Nah, you say to yourself, it's fine, and I have another deadline, so it'll wait.
Indeed. UNTIL IT DOESN'T. Which is now, for me. As I write this, there is yelling, hammering, singing, loud music, sawing, and a very nice repairman looking in my window and waving as he replaces rotted soffit under the eaves of my house.
And yes, I've been writing while this is going on. It will go on another full week, after which we will have another set of contractors coming to fix even more issues. Deadlines don't stop coming for these things.
I laugh a little bit when I hear would-be writers say they can't write unless conditions are completely right, because this is how life is, at least for most writers I know ... a continuous parade of distractions that attempt to keep them from doing the work. We're especially vulnerable to it because we're working "at home" generally -- a condition that leads to family interruptions, soliciting phone calls, deliveries, friends dropping in, and a thousand other reasons not to write. It's dead easy to find a convenient distraction ... my construction example is extreme, but the fact is that you can make your own distractions even if none exist. Tile to be grouted. Something you just HAVE to watch on TV. Etc.
But as a writer, the job is to somehow ignore your way through all of that and come out the other side, with words. Good words.
Excuse me for a sec ...
Back now. My construction guy rapped on the window and asked me if I was a writer or something. I said I was. He wanted to chat about how he'd always wanted to be a writer but never found the time. I told him you never find the time, because time isn't just laying around ... you cut the time out of your schedule, every day. Then I apologized, put my headphones on, and sat back down to finish this blog.
I haven't done really well on my concentration these two weeks. My immediate family had, in no particular order, construction, a fire, a flooded apartment, doctor appointments, hair appointments, hospital visits, surgery consultations, surgery, refinancing of the house, another surgery, dental appointments, meetings with producers, and a reptile show.
And a near miss with death.
On Friday a few days ago I was heading home after a day of running errands, sitting at a major stoplight, when a giant crane truck bulled through the intersection at right angles to me, crane raised, and took out light poles, traffic lights, and about a ton of high-voltage wires. Transformers exploded like bombs. In the chaos, something hit my car, and at first I thought it was the light pole ... but no, it was LIVE HIGH VOLTAGE WIRES, draped over the roof and across the driver's side and passenger doors.
And my very first thoughts were, (a) wow, I can use this in a book! then (b) dammit, if I die now, I'll never get to finish writing BITTER BLOOD. Okay, my third thought was (c) how do I get out of here? ... but it was definitely third in line.
After 20 minutes on the phone with 911 (I suspect they thought I try to grab a live wire), the Arlington Fire Department pushed the cables off my car, and I was finally able to escape my brush with doom. While sitting there, I saw one of the most interesting, yet appalling, demonstrations of concentration I've ever seen ... a BMX bike rider raced down the street and effortlessly jumped through the obstacle course of all of the hissing, sparking downed wires. Never even slowed down.
Now THAT'S concentration. I think it was a great visual example of what we all have to do as writers: avoid those potentially lethal distractions that could ground us.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to concentrate. Noise-cancelling headphones full power!
-- Rachel Caine