Friday, April 22, 2011

Living in deep head space

I try to compartmentalize. Sometimes I fail.

Back when I first started writing, I thought I was busy, because I was studying for my Ph.D. Really, though, what I was doing was switching between two head spaces - the studying one, and the one associated with the trilogy I was writing.

Looks so simple now.

After I had my first baby I had to re-boot the system and figure out how to fit in writing again. I got the hang of it. I had my real life children-motherhood mode and found tiny places where I could have enough room to escape into a small bubble of my old head space. I gradually grew those bubbles bigger until I could alternate more.

The more I write, though, the more head spaces I need. My writing depends on being able to immerse - to put myself deep into a place that isn't at all like the way I would ordinarily think. Recently as I've been writing For Love, For Power, I've been reaping the rewards of putting myself so deeply in: small moments are happening in the text that jump out to me as "real." Not only as things that are likely to happen in my caste system, but ones that would happen all the time there, and whose significance isn't exaggerated, but which fit precisely into the whole context - like when a servant replies to a question with "I couldn't say, sir" and my noble boys glance at each other with a shared look that says, "yep, he's under oath."

The hardest part is that I have more than one story I need to write. Three, in fact. And the head space issue is precisely the same for each one. There isn't a story that I can write by just skimming along the surface. I have to give myself to it, or it doesn't happen. I try to build in time that lets me drag myself out of one and put myself into another, but it's still hard. Yesterday the novel was rolling, and I could hardly manage to get back out again into real life, much less give any thought to the other two stories I'm currently working on.

I don't think I'd change this. I don't want to start skating on top of a story. I'm just going to have to decide when to take a breather from one and engage the other, or the other. The deep head space is that place I always loved going when I read books as a child. That I can find it for my own stories as an adult is exciting and rewarding - worth the sacrifice. I just keep trudging along, figuring that somehow it will all get done, and that keeping the balance will get easier.

Good luck with all your writing today. I hope you find that deep head space that I love so much.


  1. I always write a lot of stories and novels all at once. I find it much easier when I get stuck with something, to let my subconscious work on it while I do something else.

  2. Indeed, I do the same, Patty. I suppose I could call it managing two opposing trends. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I play writing leap-frog, myself, though I've made commitments right now that mean I'm "stuck" working on 3 works in the same story-verse, right now. But I did that to myself on purpose.

    It helps when you can find a "theme song" for a story. That's part of why I have trouble with this story-verse I'm working on. I'm struggling to find theme songs for the stories.

    When you have a theme song, you can train yourself so you start thinking of the story as soon as the song plays. I did that for a NaNoWriMo one year, and that song still sends me into thinking about that story whenever I hear it.

  4. I'm currently juggling my PhD with my writing - and it's not easy! I have to set myself deadlines to stop (particularly) with the writing and ensure I'm devoting as much time to the PhD as necessary. I have to admit, I've been failing on that one recently. I love my writing too much!

  5. Carradee, I think the theme song is a lovely idea, but unlikely to work for me. I confess I can't hear music when I'm working, even if it is playing! Thanks for your comment and good luck with your projects!

    CharmedLassie, good luck with your Ph.D.! I had exactly the same difficulty myself, but I did manage to finish. I'm sure you can do it. Thanks for commenting.

  6. That's also how I work when writing, and it leaks over into real life so I have to pay attention and determine if my reactions are appropriate for the environment I'm in. I tend to arrange things so I'm not writing on two works at the same time, though I can be writing, editing, and planning separate things at the same time. Well, that and programming is my other headspace that influences everything.

    No real suggestions or anything. It's just fun to see someone else who writes like I do :).

  7. Fun for me too, Margaret! Thanks for commenting!

  8. That's what my husband dubbed my other universe. I get so lost in it sometimes and he is so sweet to leave me there for a good while. Great post.

  9. Thanks, Raquel. I appreciate the comment.