The Grindstone by Lee Thompson
Thanks to the talented Cate Gardner for having me on her blog and you for reading! The Grindstone is something I’ve always been familiar with, and luckily, something I’ve never shied from.
I’ve always heard that writing is hard work, that it’s lonely and depressing and all that bullshit. But if you’re a writer you’re probably in contact with at least a dozen sisters and brethren every day. Probably a lot more than that. Writers love to talk, to crack wise, and be the center of attention. You got your own church going. The Word is God. We worship together at its feet. I’m sure the art of creation may be hard for some people (though when a writer feels the burn, look out, because they’ll write a story beginning to end in one sitting) and who really has a right to complain about doing what they love?
I’ve been fortunate. I’ve lived an illustrated life and have plenty of ideas for fiction. I’ve always had a strong work ethic and commitment to completion. I enjoy doing the best job I can for me (mostly) and other people who appreciate it (the other part of mostly.) A lot of people won’t get the finer nuances I want to strive for, but some will. I know that not many people can make a living off their writing, even though we all dream of it, and for the most part believe that it’s somehow within our reach, thinking that, secretly, we’re better than the next guy. Then there is so much emphasis on networking, where you have these dumbass motherfuckers who think you’re a stepping stone to their success while there is no substance to their ‘friendship’. Screw all that noise. If you help someone, do it because you want to. If someone helps you, be grateful.
Keep it fun…for me the whole process of creation is fun. Finding ways to write in layers, write efficiently so that my first draft is as tight as I can get it, knowing what I want to say before I even pick up my pen. Editing and structure and plot and POV and dialogue and foreshadowing and theme. All a goddamn blast. A big part of the joy comes with taking all those puzzle pieces and constructing a tree you can hang your troubles on.
Scare yourself... unless we lived a sheltered life (and even that can be scary! There’s a great unknown world out there filled with all kinds of shady people!) we have plenty of deep rooted fears and everyday agitations to draw from and connect with other people (readers, writers, plumbers, mothers, policemen, angels, trolls, pigmies, etc.) so write some of them down and use them. Could be that it’s the honesty that sets your story apart from many similar stories in the slush pile.
Some things that scare me: being betrayed by someone I love. It’s happened. I hate it. Not only the horrible emotions—confusion, rage, sadness, etc—that come with it, but all of those good memories from before. People are strange. People do funny things.
A lion eating my mother is also scary, but I’ve never written about it. Though the death of someone you love—a horrible and painful death, whether fast or slow, that you can do little to stop—is dreadful. Prison is scary (or any situation where we lose our freedom, lose our identity, lose our souls to our addictions and insecurities and other people.)
Success scares me. With more success come more demands, or a stifling period where people want you to keep writing the same thing for the rest of your life. Suffocating, that’s what that would be, unless the writer is wired to write the same story their whole lives. More power to ‘em. That’s not for me. I want to grow. I want to fly to other planets. I want to see what lies waiting in the abyss of my soul.
Laugh at yourself… like me and your parents and your siblings and your friends, you’re not perfect. A little light-heartedness does the body good. It can add some pep to your step. It can color your scenes and give them balance. Sure, there are a lot of shitty things happening in the world, but that’s nothing new. Every generation before ours has had their struggles. Every individual has their struggles, only most of them we never hear about, because usually all we get from each other is the tip of the iceberg.
Drag your life into it… if you’re like me there are probably plenty of things that really get under your skin. People throw trash out in the hall and parking lot of my apartment. Pisses me off. How hard is it to put something in the trash? Do they think it gives them a leg up because someone else will have to pick it up? Are they just lazy?
I don’t like lazy people much either.
I don’t like talkers who say they’re going to do this or do that and never move their feet more than a step in that direction. I don’t like people invading my personal space. I don’t like the dating game. I think it’s ridiculous how people pose, how they strut their best qualities and hide their inner turmoil as if it doesn’t exist. I don’t see how lies from the start help grow anything worthwhile.
My philosophy on The Grindstone is simple and something most professional writers have said for centuries.
Sit down and write.
Or just walk away.
Put up or shut up.
In NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN John McDonnell has his work cut out for him and he steps up to the plate despite his fear, despite the uncertainties (which there are a lot of) waiting down the path. Most of his troubles are self-inflicted and human because I’ve always found it irritating when people pass the buck, throw the responsibility for our problems on supernatural beings or technology or religion, when we’re the worst monsters of all. But the supernatural creatures play a big part as well, starting an arch in this first book that lead John and his friend Mike on their journey in later Division novels and novellas.
But every choice has repercussions.
Wisdom blossoms through pain and mistakes and sacrifice.