The Edge of Maybe, the phenomenal new novel by Ericka Lutz, is about the earthquakes in a happy life when a past indiscretion comes calling. I loved the book, and I always follow Ericka's Solo column at Literary Mama, so I am now thrilled to host Ericka on my blog!
Ericka is also the author of seven non-fiction books for parents and teens, including On the Go with Baby and the bestselling Complete Idiot's Guide to Stepparenting. Her award-winning short stories and personal essays appear in books, anthologies, journals, and online. Thank you, thank you, Ericka!
My Writing Life Cycle by Ericka Lutz
I've published eight books and a lot of other stuff, but I've never written the "right" way: writing daily as a discipline, preferably in the hours before dawn (then drinking myself into a Hemingway-esque stupor). No, there's a lot of time when I'm not writing. Not just days or weeks, but months and sometimes even (though I'm embarrassed to admit it) years.
Here's my rhythm: nose to grindstone until my nose is ground flat, and I have to grow a new nose. Or, as translated into a handy graphic:
Ericka's Writing Life Cycle
ANYTHING BUT WRITE
At this stage, I don't write, I won't write, please shut up about it. I read. I go to garage sales. I take a flying lesson. I catch up at the day job. Get a new puppy. Refuse to write. I deny that I feel sucky about it, or maybe I don't feel sucky about it at all. Writing? Why in the world would I want to do that?
PRETEND TO WRITE
Then, at some point, I decide I'm going to write again. Ha. Wish it were that easy. One summer, I told my husband I was working on a novel. Instead, I was gardening – feverishly, obsessively. I learned how to lay my own stone paths. I got muddy and strong. I spent too much money on plants. The garden looked great. I looked great. The novel languished on her daybed, pale and weak. "Gardening IS writing," I said. (Was I really pretending? I didn't know I was on the verge of a short story filled with gardens, weeds, and the beauty of poisonous flowers.)
SNEAK INTO IT SIDEWAYS
After pretending awhile, I return to Not Writing. I volunteer at the zoo and learn about hyena-care. I read my bio-grandfather's letters from 1919, fresh out of the army, full of himself, studying at Cal, and living in the Berkeley YMCA. I remember how we got drunk with our realtor after we closed on our house, and her telling us about her ex-husband boiling himself to death in an Indian sweat lodge. I stand on a ladder to change a light bulb... . And I realize I want all this in my next novel: hyenas and sweat lodges and light bulbs and long dead grandfathers, the thinning of the veils in times of grief and craziness, our responsibility to our relatives. I decide I want ghosts.
'FESS UP, FOCUS, FIELD TRIPS
"I'm writing another book." I say the words out loud, and so then it's true! This is the fun part, before the plot happens and I can make it a thriller! A mystery! An historical novel! My favorite part is here, before the writing, the in-breath of possibility before the output of reality. I begin to take notes on character. I go to a homeless shelter and plan a visit to my long-dead grandfather's grave.
TRICK SELF INTO WRITING
It's scary. I want to do it but I don't want to do it. So I write down a line when I'm not looking. And another. I keep a notebook by my bed, and jot down a fragment of a dream… and it's just that, a fragment of a dream. I go to my freewrite group and do unrelated exercises. I stretch the muscles. Get ready.
WRITE LIKE THE WIND!
And… then here it comes…. The Binge! I take three weeks at a writer's colony and barely come down for meals. The challenge of Nanowrimo? Ha! I write 50K words in 24 days without breaking a sweat. I live in two world, the Real and the Written. I write and edit, get feedback, write and edit. Months go by. Years. I'm done. Exhaustion. Collapse.
DEAL WITH THE REAL WORLD
Submission rejection submission acceptance edit reedit launch promo. (Or: submission rejection submission rejection submission give up and move on.)
ANYTHING BUT WRITE
And then it starts again. I don't write, I won't write, please shut up about it.
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