More Silmarillion fanart. Elurin, playing along with my headcanon that he and Eluréd survived after being left for dead. Feral elves, yes.
Once upon a time (an era that ended just yesterday), I thought writer’s block (for me) was as real as a vat full of squabbling, cosmic prairie chickens.
Of course, now that I’ve given digital birth to the Squabbling Cosmic Prairie Chicken, it is inevitable that it has burst into sudden existence on some (very, very) distant plane that is the physical actualization of our ephemeral internets. And thus, the existence of the Squabbling Cosmic Prairie Chicken proves that there is, after all, some validity to writer’s block. Even I, burbling font of crooked ideas, can come down with the writer’s block.
By the way–have you ever SEEN a prairie chicken? They’re actually pretty fantastical. (First image yanked from Wikipedia. The second wriggled through the fabric of space and placed itself there totally of its own volition).
(I swear this entry isn’t about chickens.)
I misinterpreted writer’s block. (Again, this is my own personal writer’s block. Writer’s block comes in many sizes and flavors, all depending on the quilldriver.) I used to think of it as a lack of ideas, or a fizzling will/determination–and because these problems weren’t mine, I didn’t believe in writer’s block. If I have one idea, I have many; maybe it’s because my mind is tangential and ekphrastic, but art spawns art which spawns art. My neck is broken from the stew of ideas constantly pounding down on my poor skull. Also, have I mentioned my obsessive single-mindedness? It, too, is spawn: a wicked child born of the drunken, midnight frolicking of a mule, a glacier, and an angry swarm of yellow jackets. My writer’s block is not made of idea-bones and spineless grit. It’s got more to do with fear.
A re-naming, then, is in order. I’ll call my own personal writer’s block (or the one I briefly experienced yesterday, at least) Writer’s Terror.
At the beginning of March, I started a new novel. It has a full title, but for now we’ll just call it Magpie. Quick pitch?
SWORD AND SORCERY…IN SPACE!
I wrote two chapters, then had to set it aside because starting this summer, my book Skyglass is being serialized in Sparkler Monthly, which means hel-tons of writing and editing. But I had time yesterday, and a workshop I needed material for, so I opened up Magpie and prepared to write.
I sat. I distracted myself with tumblr. I ate a banana and peanut butter.
And then I began to doubt the story. Where did this nasty sludge of story-pretense come from? Why the hel had I ever thought I could fill a whole book with this piss about blue skyfire and wyrm/holes and twisted reincarnations of Norse Mythology (only, uh, glittery-er?)? I typed a single word: THREE. Because I was starting chapter three. But my leaden fingers refused to jab-out anything more. They were cowering on the keyboard because they knew and I knew continuing Magpie would be a waste of time.
But fearfully is no way to write a story. You have to be reckless and stupid and bombastic. I knew this, and yet I still couldn’t write.
Briefly, I considered another round of banana and peanut butter distraction, but instead, I forced myself to think about Magpie’s characters–the reasons I wanted to write the book in the first place. And once the characters and I spent a little bit of quality skull-time together, I realized that YES, I still had to tell the tale of my deported magic-wielder/prank-puller of slipstream gender, and that foul-tempered axe-wielder who really just wants to chop off everyone’s head. Plus that bit about a God who falls in love with a trickster mortal.
They’re a trio of mayhem and world-annihilation. How could I not want to write about them? So I gut-punched my fear, chose the beginning of chapter three (aka, the dénouement of the trickster’s celestial sexy-times) and started putting pixel-ink on the page.
In fewer words, HOW TO ASS-KICK WRITER’S TERROR:
- Banana. Peanut butter. Eat. (If chocolate is available, skip the banana.)
- Remind yourself why the hel the story exists.
- If step 3 succeeds, put words on the page. Real. Made up. JUST PUT THEM THERE.
- Smother the fear in peanut butter, and eventually, the words will be sentences. Will be story.
Honestly? This is useless advise. But it worked for me, and if you have a process like mine, you might find it helpful. If you don’t, ignore all of it except the peanut butter. Peanut butter is sticky. It is the universal adherent. The solution to everything.
TODAY is the last day to vote for my poem on eating and horse-boiling (Tattertongue), published last year by Strange Horizons. There are a number of different categories to vote in, and lots of excellent writing to explore, if you feel so inclined. If you happened to enjoy my poem, and feel it deserves ranking, please vote! It’s under ‘poetry,’ then ‘Tattertongue, by Jenn Grunigen.’ Many thanks!
Check out the shirt design I did for Moss of Moonlight’s upcoming album, Winterwheel (which you can pre-order here THIS VERY MOMENT).
You can listen to the single from the album below:
Each time I finish writing a book, I look up, wondering why the sound of battle has yet to fade. Why I haven’t transcended, why my brain doesn’t suddenly feel fat with wisdom, why I haven’t sprouted myself a lovely pair of goat horns that spew story like Loki shoves out baby Sleipnirs. Actually, that’s exactly what my process is like, already–minus the horns and the eight-legged horses.
But I really would like a pair of goat horns. How useful they’d be, for ramming into things when I’m lacking catharsis even after writing THE END on the last page (which , by the way, is something I never do. Nothing’s ever done.).
I don’t have goat horns, though. (Cavan has a giant cow’s horn, but there’s only the one, and it’s not growing out of my skull–how useless.) So instead of smashing things, I go out and buy myself a book. It’s helpful to remind myself I’m not alone in this bloody cycle. More importantly, it’s good to know that some people make the rounds with gore-stained swords and oily guns–I might not be to that point yet myself (I’m still using my canines and ragged nails), but it’s good to see that advanced weaponry exists.
There’s another reason I buy myself a book after I’ve finished writing one, though. The real reason. I buy these books to forget; somehow plunging headfirst into the toothy baby some wretched author birthed makes me forget that the baby (the, uh, process–the writing) exists in the first place. I mean, hel. After I finished The Dream Tree, I bought myself A Dance with Dragons. Problematic, but entertaining.
A week ago, I finished another book (it has a name: FABLE). This time, I’m choosing to climb inside the baby’s mouth. I will stay awake to the cycle of teeth, but I’ll do it from the comfort of a well-cushioned baby’s-tongue. (What have I DONE to this analogy?) Which begs the question, of course–just what sweet, hungry book have I chosen this time ’round?
Since you’ve kept on reading past the bit about the baby’s tongue, I’ll reward you with an answer:
At the Mouth of the River of Bees, by Kij Johnson.
When I’ve finished reading it, I’ll let you know if I feel gnawed, replete, or just slimy with milkblood baby spit.
This is it. My last ekphrastic. Only probably not. But it’s the last one I’ll probably ever write on a schedule (not that I adhered to that schedule very well. My timeline existed conceptually, but not actually). Anyway, this particular poem was written for the book The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson, who wrote my favorite novel of last year, Fudoki (which I also wrote an ekphrastic for).
Previous ekphrastic: Ekphrastic 24/Death Note
What the hel is ekphrasis + Ekphrastic Poetry Archive (For poems about A Game of Thrones, Fudoki, The Hunger Games, Blood Meridian, etc–basically, just the stuff to fulfill your brain’s literary sugar-cravings.)