Okay, the long-aborning manuscript is finally off to the agent, and I finally have a little down time. (Or, at least, catch-up-with-the-rest-of-my-life time.) So why, at the very moment I ought to be nibbling bon-bons and watching Top Chef, am I starting a blog?
It's time to feed the beast.
There are only two things that make any sense for me between massive writing projects. One is to start reading with a vengeance, all those other juicy novels I've been putting off diving into because they would be too distracting during the home stretch of my own work. Any genre or style, because you never know what idea or image or quirky turn of phrase is going to spark some exciting thing in the deepest recess of your own imagination. Back when I was reviewing books for the SF Chronicle, it was studying the shape of the narrative, the music of the language, and what did and did not work, that got me energized about writing my own novels in the first place.
The other way to keep the juices flowing is to keep writing. As a film critic, I write for publication every week, but reviewing the work of others is not the same as expressing my own ideas. (Well, it is, but I have to at least pretend to refract them through the prism of the film at hand.) I also write a newspaper column on any random thing that pops into my head. When my deadline was every other week, it's amazing how many ideas were pinging around in my brain, ready to spring forth, fully-formed, like Athena, when I needed my 800 words. But now that my deadline is only once a month, the whole process has become sluggish. Tiny germs of ideas are sliding back into the primordial ooze before I can grasp them. The well of my imagination needs filling. The beast needs to be fed.
Writing begets writing, a least in my brain. Email correspondence with other writers is often my only lifeline while mired in writing my own fiction; it helps me process through whatever block, or doubt or angst or trepidation is weighing me down and get back to work. It also-sometimes, if I'm lucky-puts me in touch with ideas I didn't know I had. So, welcome to my writing strategy. Feeding time starts now.