There’s so much writing I could have done and so many ideas that I had and so many things I wanted to work on that I didn’t. I like too much having things in my head rather than doing the work.
— Sheila Heti, author, Motherhood and How Should a Person Be?
Sorry I’m a bit late again, but here’s the truth of it — I didn’t want to write this post. In fact, when I found the quote above by author Sheila Heti in an interview she did (really, more a conversation she had) with William Fitzpatrick of The Rumpus in 2012, I stared at it a long while, and then tried to find something else. The quote just… bothered me, or should I say, it resonated with me.
I looked for other quotes, trying to find something to describe how I sometimes feel overwhelmed lately because I’ve taken on so many different blogging commitments, and all by choice — even though my plan since early this year was to pare down my blogging time to give myself more fiction time. But in a way, that’s also exactly what Heti’s quote is about.
So before I dig into it, let’s take a quick break to check out this brilliant origami dragon by Czech deviantartist Petr Stuchly, posting as PeteriDish. This one is called Light Dragon, and he made a dark version also. Petr writes that this dragon is “Proudly claiming one of the best books about origami with a triumphant roar. (Origami Design Secrets by Robert Lang. Pricey but absolutely comprehensive guide to figurative origami design…)” But don’t let to book fool you — all of the origami designs in this post were created by Petr himself!
So, as Heti says above, “there’s so much writing…” For me right now, that means the short random artist features (that rarely stay ‘short’) in my off weeks, in between:
- The monthly Birthstones Dragons series, which I’ve been really happy with this year, but that do take a while to put together. (I’ll also need to find a new monthly feature to take its place next year, and I haven’t had any good ideas yet!)
- These monthly Writing Thoughts posts, which require inspiration and quotes and dragons, and then for me to sit down and write something coherent that other people might find interesting. (So far, so good, I hope…?)
- And since that wasn’t enough, now there’s the new Renaissance Fest series that I’m thrilled to be doing to keep Fest alive after a great season. (But for a few days before I really hashed out the new posting schedule, I almost let it take over my site completely!)
And finally, off in concept-land, there’s an in-depth feature I want to write about (and even pitched to and got approval from) a group of super talented musicians that I really admire, which will require me to interview them, and then to write a piece like my article From Swift to Star Wars to Steampunk: The Funny Dark Sides of Celtic Geek Musician Marc Gunn, which is a little bit terrifying!
Know what’s not terrifying? This next gorgeous origami by Petr called Weedy Sea Dragon 2.2. Can you believe this is one sheet of kraft paper?! Petr also posted this crease pattern image — I have no idea how that turns into this, but I think it’s magic!
Okay, so with the exception of the not-yet-started interview article, everything I just described used to be things in my head, but I didn’t leave them there — I brought them out, did the work, and published sixty-seven posts so far this year. And my stats and readership have already surpassed all of last year, with two months yet to go. Yay me! I should — and do — feel really accomplished!
So then why does the Heti quote still bother me so much? I knew the answer, of course, but my awesome and supportive husband put it rather nicely:
“I think it bothers you because you’re not writing anything other than your blog. And you never set out to make a blog, you set out to write a book. Now, it’s fine if you’d like to make a blog, but if it comes at the expense of the book, I think it’s something you’re going to regret.
The key to achieving anything is consistent action. But you’re not making the kind of progress you want, even though you write pretty much every day. You’re not writing what you want to write, you’re writing like a job.”
Well, that’s true. This three-year blogging experiment of mine hasn’t quite gotten me the results I’ve been looking for yet… but it’s definitely been worth it, just like this design from Petr called Dragon Test Fold. In the comments of his post he explains in great detail all the minor things he’s changed in this version and what he likes and hates, such as the three wing claws, how he needs to use a stronger paper so it will stand alone next time, how he changed the number of toes on the feet, and how he “messed up the tail.” But just look at this! That is still an amazing origami dragon, don’t you think?
For all the things I have gotten out of my head and done the work on, my husband is right — I still have so much writing I want to do, but I’m not doing it. That’s the crux of the issue, the reason Heti’s quote bothers me so much.
I love my blog, but I want to get these ideas out of my head! I want to tell you about:
- The kids from Sky who discover the last dragon in their world, and then discover the world is much bigger than they thought;
- Neeka’s problems in the cyberpunk near-future, where a drone race leads her and Tolo to intrigue, adventure, and I still don’t even know what; and
- The historically based multi-faith group of scribes in 1100s Spain who changed the world with the stroke of a pen.
But when I sit down to write just my fiction, I’ve had so much writer’s block lately. I’ve tried writing sequentially, following my outlines, and that only worked for a little while. I’ve got my new island idea, and that’s had a few good results, but I just can’t get comfortable jumping around in the timeline of my novel, since who knows what could happen in chapter seven that changes the whole trajectory of chapter ten?
And where’s the time anyway? Why didn’t I win that $1.6 billion U.S. lottery jackpot so I could quit my day job to just write all day, and blog all night? *sigh* First world problems, I know…
Here’s another origami piece by Petr called Western Dragon. And interestingly, just like all of Petr’s sculptures, this is just one sheet of paper, green on one side, red on the other. “One sheet (not necessarily a square) and no cuts are my rules,” he says. Two different sides of the same paper create something amazing… hmm…
As much as I love this blogging job I’ve given myself (and I’m not quitting, don’t worry!), I’ve never looked into monetizing the site, so it’s a labor of love that I’m literally paying myself for with “exposure” — which is the worst thing you can offer to an artist when you ask them to create something for you!
So I had a crazy thought —
Maybe I should start paying myself with TIME, instead!
It’s the latest in my ever-growing list of “new plans” — write for at least 30 minutes on my fiction, either before or after any session where I sit down to work on my blog, every single time, deadline or not. Yikes!
It’s an early Christmas present to myself, just like this last design by Petr, Origami Birthday Dragon, was a present for fellow deviantartist Sunjinjo. He writes, “This dragon is based on a bird base and a lot of improvisation. Very similar to my old design of a dragon which also used a bird base as the starting point, but this one is simplified.”
So here I go improvising once again. When I first devised this plan, I thought I would force myself to write fiction strictly before each time I worked on my blog, but for the past few days, I’ve literally forgotten to do this somehow (even though I’ve been working on this very post).
It just means I’ll have to work afterwards sometimes, which is all right — I just have to remind myself each time:
There’s so much writing I
could have donewill do and so many ideas that I hadI have and so many things I wantedhave to work on that I didn’twill. I like too muchhaving things in my head rather than doingand I’m going to do the work.
I know I’ve got a lot of fellow writers in my readers, so I’m curious if you’ve ever tried something like this, or what your own process is to ensure you balance your fiction/blogging life? Leave me a note in the comments!
Next week we’re on to Ren Fest #4 featuring pottery and glass, so stay tuned! And then November Birthstones, Thanksgiving, and then I’ll let you know how this new plan is going with another Writing Thoughts post!
Thank you as always for your patience with my late post and of course for reading, take care, and stay creative!!
All artwork except the quote in this post is by Petr Stuchly, posting as PeteriDish
+ Light Dragon, Weedy Sea Dragon 2.2, Dragon Test Fold, Western Dragon, Origami Birthday Dragon
+ Sheila Heti quote image from Quotefancy.com