By Alex Segura
I pushed send and my baby was gone. It sounds like a country song you’d hear blaring from a jukebox in a dive bar.
It’s also a tad melodramatic, I know, but I felt a weird void a few weeks ago when I finished off a round of revisions and sent the manuscript to my second Pete Fernandez novel, Down the Darkest Street, to my agent. The book has consumed my writing life for years. While I’ve worked on other stuff – comic scripts, songs, short stories - The Book has loomed large as the top priority.
Now, it is far from done. My agent may have notes. The publisher will have notes. My wife will have notes. So, yeah, I will revisit this book. But I was dealing with a serious case of “what now?” for a second.
So what did I do? I wrote something else. I dove into the third book and it felt great.
It was nice to jump forward – to deal with my characters in a different stage of their lives, to have a sense of what had gone on before and have it inform their new adventures. At a more basic level, it felt good to write something different. A different set of circumstances. A different conflict. After months and months of wading in the minutia of Book 2 – from commas and copyedits to rewrites - it felt good to get my hands dirty and build something.
I surprised myself and wrote a lot more than I expected while away on holiday. I was that jazzed about where things were going. Which isn’t to say everything I wrote was gold. In fact, it’s safe to say a big percentage was crap or will be changed at some point. But writing is about doing – keeping things moving and staying active. Writers write. That’s it. You can think about it for days on end – how you want to structure a reveal, how a character is going to be introduced, whatever – but it’s all ephemeral until you sit down in front of your computer and work it out and make it real. Put the time in. Keep going. Let the bad stuff out so you can get to the good stuff. You’ve heard all the platitudes and clichés, but they’re often repeated because they’re true.
I’m not a big believer in writer’s block. There have been very few times where I feel like I just can’t write – and maybe that’s because I know that not everything I put on paper is going to be great. In fact, great is rare. But writing is a process that will hopefully bring you closer to great through work and repetition, and it’s like working out any other muscle: the more you do it, the stronger it will get.
My point is, don’t let the lags and lulls become bigger gaps that take you away from the one thing that brings freaks like us creative happiness: writing.
How do you deal with lulls and downtime? Do you transition quickly from one project to the next? Curious to hear.