by JT Ellison
Don’t you love having epiphanies?
Those lightning bolt moments of awareness, enlightenment, insight that alters your consciousness, your actions, even the course of your life?
I’ve been on the road a lot over the past two months. Florida, New York, Florida again, Colorado (where I am now) and then to Florida once more, then on to St. Louis for Bouchercon. Six roundtrips in two months – for me, that’s a lot of on the road time. A lot of out of the groove, snatching time to write, long stretches without Internet access, and even, blessedly, some downtime. I have been writing the whole time, and I’ve also been sick. Those of you who saw me in New York got to witness that first hand, and now I’m catching another little summer chest cold. Ugh.
But along these crazy paths, I’ve gotten time to do some thinking. About my work, and my life. About what I want to be doing, and where I want things to go. And with that kind of Jack Handy deep thoughts come the epiphanies.
The first was along a darkened road in Florida. This one was so hand to forehead smackingly obvious that I felt like a true idiot when I figured it out.
I’ve been blogging for many years now. First weekly, then bi-monthly here, and also infrequently on my own blog, Tao of JT. I’m sure every blogger in the world who also writes novels has the same issue—you tend to think every moment spent away from your novel is a moment lost. But it’s something we need to do. Each and every moment in the real world can be mined for blog material. At least that’s my thinking. I’m always examining moments and situations and wondering, “How can I turn this into my Murderati blog?”
I went through this when I first joined Twitter. I started thinking in 140 character updates – how can I share this experience in 140 characters or less, make it relatable and also funny? Thankfully, I trained my mind away from that, because it’s just too easy to get lost in that kind of thinking.
Blogging, Twitter, Facebook – the sharing of information we find important, but the vast majorities of others don’t.
I’ve always viewed these extraneous activities are relatively unhealthy endeavors. Outside of blogging, which has taught me the discipline of deadlines and getting butt in chair to write, even if it is non-fiction.
My epiphany was thus: I’m a novelist, damn it. I shouldn’t be mining my moments for blog material. I need to be using those little vignettes in my fiction.
I think I knew this unconsciously, because so many of my vignettes do get poured into my fiction. But realizing I was thinking in terms of what to blog instead of what to write was revelatory for me. And of course, my first reaction was I must stop blogging.
We at Murderati have seen a rash of authors having this revelation lately. The more we focus on our fiction, the more books we can produce, and in the current environment, which is undeniably rough, the more good books you can write, the better off you are.
Since I’m prone to the drastics sometimes, I forced myself to take a step back, and talked myself off that particular ledge. At least for now. Instead, I have been working very hard to reprogram myself to think in terms of fiction instead of non-fiction. To separate what is story, and what is information. What is narrative, and what is insight.
The second epiphany was during the writing of a book I’m working on. I’ve always said writer’s block is your story’s way of telling you you’re going in the wrong direction. I hit a point in the story that just didn’t feel genuine. Something was very wrong. I started trying to talk it out – to Randy, to my parents. I’d just decided to go ahead and call my agent and get his take when it hit me. The part I was concerned about wasn’t the issue, it was 15,000 words earlier – an action the heroine takes that is … well… I don’t want to be too hard on myself, but the course of events was just plain STUPID. As in stoopid, stupid.
When I saw that, the path to the next act became very clear. Phew.
The third epiphany came early last week, when I sat down to a beautiful long clear writing day and got exactly jack shit done.
I was so mortified with myself that I figured I needed a public tongue-lashing. I wrote a blog and detailed all the things I had done instead of creating – and the responses gave me an interesting thought.
Sometimes, I need a little external motivation. I know people think I write fast, but as we’ve discussed, I am a bulimic writer – I gorge on words during marathon writing session instead of doing a good job of the daily grind. Take one look at my travel schedule and you see how that’s playing out for me. It’s cacophonous. My good habits have been broken. I need to reset, majorly.
I used to be able to do the daily grind. Before conferences and promotions and book tours – all the things that have to happen if you want to get your name out there.
I am a writer. My JOB is writing. So damn it, writing is what I’m going to do, even if I have to publicly report in what I’ve done that day to get myself back on track.
So if you’re interested in that daily grind, I’m writing it up on Tao of JT. I’m posting at 5pm each weekday, just a little snippet of what I’ve done that day – the good, the bad, the ugly. I of course have been feeling a little guilty about this – as I went into last week looking at ways to cut back my non-fiction writing, and instead seem to have quadrupled it. But I know myself, and I know what I need.
The fourth epiphany came just this morning, as I was reading through my RSS feeds. It isn’t exactly a revelation to you that I try to follow a minimalist lifestyle. I am working on finding my inner zen, because the more serene I am, the more serene my surroundings, the better I work, and the happier my family is. This journey has been fraught with setbacks, but I finally feel like I’m making progress. This morning, I was re-reading “30 Lessons from 30 Years” by Joshua Millburn of The Minimalists, and his number 10 slapped me across the face.
10. Finding your passion is important. My passion is writing….
My passion is writing.
My passion is writing. Writing. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, the manipulation of words to convey meaning, emotion and story is my passion.
I don’t need to feel guilty about blogging. That isn’t necessarily time away from writing. It IS writing. It’s all writing. Every time I put my fingers to the keyboard, I’m creating.
Sometimes I feel so new to this game. I imagine my more experienced colleagues are reading this and laughing behind their hands at my naïveté. But hey, we all have to have our own realizations. No one can tell you exactly how to climb the mountains. They can just wave when they climb back down and tell you how exhilarating it is when you reach that zenith.
So, ‘Rati, tell me – Have you had any epiphanies lately?
Wine of the Week: Layer Cake Primitivo Super yummy!!!