Folks, I have been stalled in my writing. Ugh. Groan. Grumble, grumble. I loathe these phases, They don’t come too often, (knock on wood kinahora pooh-pooh, as we superstitious Jews like to say to keep away the bad juju) but they are never good–these times when I can’t seem to get any momentum going in my writing for one reason another. Sure, sometimes I am just plain lazy or tired or whatnot, but it’s another matter entirely when I have the urge and the gusto to write, but find myself stuck anyhow. I’ve said before that on occasion, I find myself in what short forms writer and good friend, Bruce Holland Rogers, calls “the mouth of the Black Dog.” I am not quite in the actual mouth of the Black dog just at the moment, but the Black Dog and I are certainly squared off, testing each other’s nerves over some juicy piece of meat. And I’d like to whoop that dog’s ass clear out of the room.
The last month and a half has been even crazier than usual, which is really saying something. I’ve taken over for my boss while she is on her three-plus months of maternity leave, so my workload has completely changed. Suddenly my days are now filled with meetings and managerial matters galore, and I come home more exhausted than ever, usually working much longer days than I’m accustomed to. I’ve also just finished teaching another poetry workshop for the Los Angeles Review Workshop Series, and was kept quite happily busy in those endeavors. I was sad to see my wonderfully talented students go off into the poetry world on their own, free of training wheels and my constant, encouraging instructions. *sniff*
We’ve put another issue of LAR to bed, and I can’t tell you what a grand feeling it is to close up shop for one short month, and let my brain take a much-needed respite from the never-ending slush pile. Needless to say, I haven’t been able to find a great deal of time for my own creative writing lately, and this is a great and terrible bother. There were more than a few nights when, as much as I tried, I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down in front of the computer again to write, after spending the whole livelong day staring at a monitor, with the sun shining gloriously outside. Ok, so maybe the sun wasn’t really shining because we’ve had one hell of a late Seattle summer, but you get the idea.
So here I am, with an entire month of near-freedom ahead of me. For the month of July, my only responsibilities (besides dog, car, rent, bills, etc.) are my day job and my novel. I can’t even remember the last time my schedule was so clear. I realize, of course, that most people live their lives this way—going to work, coming home, and then hanging out or doing whatever they please. But this is not how I live. No, sir. There is always something else to work on—something writing-adjacent, a whole second day’s worth of work to fit into my evening hours.
So, one might presume that with all this great expanse of time to write, I’d be going at the keyboard as if it were made of candy and gold. But instead, I’ve been spinning down the wormhole of quantum theory. You see, I’ve had to turn myself into a bit of a science fiction novelist for this project, creating back story and legend to support the plot. I have had to turn myself into the creator and keeper of lore. Not so easy, as it happens. Though this novel has a strong element of the supernatural, I want it to also be—at least on some fantastical level—believable. Grounded in actual science. To do this, I’ve looked to the seemingly mystical, nebulous and mind-fucking world of quantum physics.
Though I likely couldn’t explain to a 12-year-old how electricity works, I somehow really enjoy learning about quantum theory. Last summer, while talking late into the night with Kelly and our good friend/Red Hen Press founder, Mark Cull, I made the connection between my novel and quantum entanglement theory, forever linking me to that bizarre scientific arena. And now I can’t seem to stop. I’ve gotten myself so immersed in this research that I don’t know how to climb back out through the wormhole in order to organize, analyze, and utilize all the information I’ve gathered. I’m reading some incredible books, most notably “The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn” and “The God Effect: Quantum Entanglement, Science’s Strangest Phenomenon,” as well as diving brain-first into a plethora of documentary and nerdy TV programs (Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman” on the Science Channel is a personal favorite).
This is not the first time I’ve been sucked into a research vortex for the sake of my writing. I’m actually simultaneously finding myself pulled evermore strongly into research about Armageddon scenarios for my snowpocalypse book. It’s easy to get lost in the research and in fact get lost in all the other accoutrements of the writing process. There is just so much prep and side work that goes into writing a novel and I often turn around, look back at the weeks that have passed, and discover that I’ve spent significantly more time preparing to write than actually writing.
It’s got to stop—today marks the day when I put the research aside and decide how to begin piecing it all together, get back to the task at hand, and make up that damn lore—the lore that will drive this series to completion. I’ve got to channel the lore-generating powers of my literary predecessors—the great minds of Tolkien, Pullman, Herbert, Rowling, and Salvatore—and just get it written already. Tonight—the first evening of freedom throughout the month of July—marks the serious, getting-down-to-business time. I’ll tackle the first set of notes and see what I can make of it all and where it will take me. I’ve set a goal to get three new pages written tonight in addition to this much-needed wrangling of research. After all, the Keeper of the Lore bears a great and terrible burden, and sees no rest until the mission has been completed.
And so it begins.