Friday, March 16, 2012

The Pattern

I'm a fan of the TV show Fringe, in which "the Pattern" refers to a worldwide outbreak of freaky events perpetrated by a cult of mad scientists and shapeshifting terrorists from another universe.

My Pattern is nowhere near as interesting.

It goes something like this:

First comes inspiration. I start working on a new project, or return to an old one full of new ideas and fresh perspective. Then I become obsessed with the writing; if I'm not writing I'm planning, and if I'm not planning I'm reading writing how-to books or writing blogs, and if I'm not reading about writing I'm writing about writing here on the blog.

Then, after a month or three six of this, I stumble. I hit a difficult point in the book. Life throws me a curve ball and I get thrown out of the writing flow. My muse sneaks away to Burning Man. Mercury goes into retrograde. Whatever.

The novel starts to slide away from me. All of a sudden, my life seems too complicated and busy to spare the time for writing. And when conditions do line up perfectly and I sit down with the laptop, I wind up frittering away the time surfing the internet or watching something on Netflix.

This makes me feel like crap. I feel awful about blowing off the novel, again. No wonder I've been trying to write a book since the last millenium. I just don't have what it takes. I'm a slacker and a fuck up; always have been, always will be.

So I start to avoid the novel. I put away the writing books, stop checking my favorite writing blog. I stop blogging myself. And worst of all, I stop thinking and dreaming about the book; it's too painful to think about it. And without the life my mind breathes into them, my beloved characters fade into ghosts.

Until inspiration strikes and revives them... a month or six or twenty-four later.

No wonder no one has made a TV show about the F.B.I. investigating my Pattern. Talk about zero entertainment value.

This last week, I've felt myself slipping out of the obsession phase of my Pattern. I haven't watched a TV show (other than Fringe) or a movie, or read a novel, since the first of the year. All I've wanted to do with my free time is write. And now I'm having my springtime SAD, I lost a contact lens and have to wear my glasses for a tortuous week (I have sensory issues with glasses; I can't stand to have something touching my face for more a few hours, but I'm way too blind to go without them for more than a few minutes), I'm grumpy as hell, the thought of writing 1,000 words a day every day seems like a nightmarish ordeal, I didn't write at all two days this week, and suddenly I'm craving some other stories in my head. Last weekend I watched an entire season of Toddlers and Tiaras. Toddlers and Tiaras! WTF?! I hate cringe-worthy reality TV!

Okay. I think it's high time I made my Pattern work for me. My obsession phases are useful and productive, and I think it's good to make the most of them. But now I need to find a way to ride through my disenchanted phases without losing the story. Keep working, keep moving forward-- but don't be such a stickler about word count. Maybe plan to take one day a week off, without guilt. Find a good TV show (NOT Toddlers and Tiaras) to get involved in. Read a book. Keep thinking about the story, even if I'm not thinking about it all the time.

In short, keep the wheels on the track until the train's raring to go again.

I wrote 900 words today. They're not great words, but they move the story forward. I started watching Life on Netflix, which seems like an interesting show. Today I started reading The Name of the Wind while The Son and his bff drew dozens pictures of leprechaun traps. (Don't ask.) I'm going to fill the well. Try to get a little more sleep. Maybe bake a batch of cookies. And ride out this phase of the Pattern a few hundred words at a time, until obsession takes over again... whether that takes a month, or six, or twenty-four.

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