Nearly two weeks ago, my last post talked about accidental novels. I’d introduced these three new characters in Saints at sea, and I had all these grand ideas about a prequel novel for their adventures before we get to Saints at sea. It was exciting, and I was plugging away at Saints at sea, putting in work every day. I’d reached 78k, and I was so happy with how the story was going.
And just like that, it stopped going. I’m not really sure what happened, but my brain started to reroute itself, pretty much overnight. By the time the weekend had passed, I was thinking about this bookstore romance that’s been in my brain for a little bit now. Over the weekend, I figured out all of the characters, wrote up an outline, and got to a place where I was feeling pretty good about it. I told myself it was just a quick diversion from Saints at sea. I used to do it all the time with fanfiction. I’d stop in the middle of a big one that I was writing to dash out a quick one on the side, and then go back. I’d even done it a couple times with my earlier novels–pause while writing something original to write up a quick fanfiction. This felt like that. Give me three weeks, four tops, and I’ll have a fast 80k written for a bookstore romance, and then go back to Saints at sea.
I wrote three chapters for the bookstore romance, and they were good. I like these characters. They remind me a lot of where they originally came from, but they also have a lot of their own idiosyncrancies that make them completely different. (Last night, Alex asked me why all of my novels have broken boys, and I really don’t know, but the main character in the bookstore romance is broken af, and it’s beautiful.) I shared the first chapter with Jen, she was an ALL CAPS kind of excited, and then–it was gone.
I stopped writing it. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it was just–not what I wanted in that moment. I tried not to be discouraged because Saints at sea still needed to be finished, so I went strolling on back to that, but on my way, I was thinking about how Gordon and the bastards have a lot of high fantasy elements, and hmmmm, you know what would be interesting? Maybe doing some work on Ronan? So, I switched directions, hopped on over to Pinterest, and did some serious work. Figured out actors for all of my main characters, plotted out what POVs might be a good idea, decided which characters to get rid of and which to keep, finally definitely decided on my plot and how the story begins, and then started to think maybe I could write out an outline. I pulled up the last version of Ronan’s story, realized I actually had to go another version back since I never finished that one, and didn’t even get that far before I was back to not doing anything.
What is going on with me?
Like, why is it so goddamn hard to focus on one idea?
Whatever. Okay. So clearly I need to take a break. The weekend came, and I spent all of Saturday finishing up Lost in Space. It was amazing, and I can’t wait for the second season. I caught up on some Nile vlogs, binge watched Buzzfeed’s Eating Your Feed, and started rereading an old fanfiction of mine. Sunday was Father’s Day, and after waking up early to go to Todd Farm, I didn’t do a whole lot. Read some, hung out with my dad, just generally lounged. I was starting to feel like, okay, I’m ready to be back to work, I’m ready for this break to be over, I want to write things.
And literally nothing has happened since then. I’m so frustrated. I want to write, but I don’t want to write anything that I have right now. Which isn’t even true, because I do want to write Saints at sea, but every time I even think about it, I just get this weird ughhhhhh feeling and go read something instead. For a half second, I thought maybe what I needed was fanfiction, and I started coming up with ideas for one, but that fizzled out super fast. I haven’t written fanfiction in ages, and I don’t know if I’m likely to ever do so again. Each time in the last year that I’ve tried has died before it even began, and I’ve made my peace with that. I’m happy writing my novels. But I’m not writing my novels right now, so what the hell am I supposed to do?
What made things worse is that I’m not really enjoying the books I’m reading this month. This happens sometimes, weeks where the books are good, but not great, and so my reading is lackluster. I’m not saying that I outright haven’t liked anything I’ve read this month, and most of them have gotten four stars, they just haven’t been that kind of all-consuming oh my god I love these characters so much kind of books, so I’ve been reading slower and just sort of moseying along. That’s also aggravating, though, so combine not reading a lot with also not writing at all, and I am just losing my marbles. I hate this so much. I hate not being busy with a book. I hate not writing. I know that sometimes breaks are necessary, and that they’re good for you, but I just–I don’t feel burnt out? I don’t feel like I need an extended break? Maybe I do, and I just can’t see it, but my creative productivity has been through the roof lately, and it’s been so exhilirating. I’m so happy.
So why can’t I write?
I don’t know. I don’t have an answer.
What I do have, though, is Oliver’s crystal in my pocket for the last four days. What I do have is a printed copy of the last Pen boys draft. What I do have is Setting Out by Citizen of the World on repeat for the last two days. What I do have is James’s snide voice in my head.
Yesterday, I made the mental health decision to leave work an hour early so that I could go to yoga. I hadn’t taken a class in who knows how long, and even longer since I’d taken one with Jenny. I’ve posted about her magical classes before, and how often times wild things happen to me in her savasanas where all of a sudden, I just know. I know exactly where I’m supposed to be next. So, I stuck Oliver’s crystal (sunstone for my poor sad boy) in that little pocket on yoga pants, surrendered to my mat, and prayed.
Give me guidance, savasana. Show me the way.
The other day, I nearly ran over a turtle. I didn’t see it as I was pulling into my parking space at Barefoot, and when I ran out of the car after, he was boogying away from my car, going much faster than I had ever seen a turtle go. Initially, I thought this was clearly a sign from the universe to slow down. But as I thought about it more, it seemed to me that the turtle was telling me to pay attention. Focus.
The thing about Oliver is that he doesn’t know where he’s supposed to be. When we first meet him, he’s just lost his mother, moved all the way across the country, and is trying to find his footing again when he’s not even sure he wants to. He’s depressed, teetering a little too close to suicidal, and can’t really figure out how to breathe on his own. The Pen boys are a godsend for him. Harrison, Dad friend archetype to the core, swoops in and wraps Oliver up with understanding, kindness, and friends. He brings Jasper and James with him, who are prickly and rude, but also keenly aware of the kind of emotions Oliver’s feeling, and they’re everything that he needs. I’m not saying that the Pen boys save Oliver’s life, but I am saying that they show him life is worth living. Throughout the novel, he starts to figure out where he’s supposed to be, or rather, where he wants to be, who he wants to be.
Pay attention, the turtle says.
I’ve been feeling lost, unmoored. I’ve been carrying around Oliver’s crystal because that’s pretty much how he always feels. And then, on a whim, I asked my boss to leave early yesterday, and when he said yes, I texted Alex, asked her if she wanted to go to class with me and then get dinner in Salem. I broke a couple road rules trying to get to Barefoot on time, twisted and sweat and played on my mat, danced through a couple handstands when everyone else was gone, and then we drove into Salem to go to Life Alive, get tea from Jaho, and walk down to the Wharf. We shared life stories, giggled our way through some partner poses, and eventually meandered back under the setting sun.
Last year, kind of around this time, after one of the worst nights of my life, I did something pretty similar. I asked my boss if I could take a half day, went to Jenny for a private healing, and then, under her guidance, asked my brother if he wanted to go to Jaho with me. We got tea, walked down to the Wharf, and just sat together, listening to the water and watching the sunset. It was exactly what I needed then, and last night was exactly what I needed now.
Am I saying that miraculously I’ve figured out what I want to write? Hell no. But the turtle is onto something. Pay attention. Why am I carrying around Oliver’s crystal? Why have I been listening to his song on repeat? Why did I ask my dad to print out the last draft of Pen boys? Is it because I’m going to see Erin this weekend, and I’ve been craving the beach like crazy, and all I can think about is sitting with her on the rocks at Wingaersheek last year in May and whispering, teenage boys and magic–that’s what’s next.
I miss them. They were the first thing I wrote after Jack broke my heart. It was almost like the universe said, oh, someone told you that you were a terrible writer? Well, here. Here’s an idea to prove every single person wrong. Yes, Saints is in better shape than the Pen boys, and yes, I’ll probably submit that first, but those boys are more than anything I ever imagined. Landon holds a very special place in my heart, but Oliver is like Alex to me (the Destroyer, not my friend). Alex the Destroyer invades my every waking thought. He’s there in the car with me when I’m singing out loud, there telling me to kick ass when I’m working out, there when I’m not paying attention and his thoughts are louder than my own. Oliver is there, too, but quieter. He’s there when I’m listening to Sleeping at Last at night, he’s there when I’m curled up with a book and tea, he’s there at night when I’m driving without music and the stars are out. And maybe it’s because Alex and Oliver take place on Earth and that Landon is somewhere else entirely that Landon doesn’t do this to me, but there’s something to be said about coming back to characters who haunt you. I can’t go back to Alex–he’s done, and I’ve let him go. But Oliver?
I don’t know. We’ll see. In three days, I could be right back where I started, unsure of where to go, or I could be working on the third draft of the Pen boys. I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.