Yesterday was Halloween, which in addition to the trick-or-treaters and piles of candy, seems to call out some very strong opinions, especially all over social media. People who love Halloween and people who hate it. I’m probably somewhere in the middle, myself. I love carving pumpkins, chilly weather, changing leaves, and my kids’ excitement. I don’t love the over-priced costumes (we always wind up making our own out of odds and ends we have on hand; this year I had a water spirit, a pirate, and a super hero) and the candy that no one in my family can eat anyway due to food allergies. (I’m also generally pro on the great pumpkin-spice debate issue, but my husband is legit allergic to even the smell of cinnamon, so that’s kind of out in our house). BUT there is one aspect of Halloween that as I was considering the holiday, I realized actually related to a writing issue I was having this week, and that is the fun of playing dress-up, the sheer freedom and excitement of pretending to be someone you’re not for a few hours.
For me, that’s really what writing is: sinking deep down into a character until I know her inside and out, letting myself become her while my fingers are touching the keys . . . letting that connection fill me with experiences and abilities I’ll never have, being carried away to a world I’ve never seen. At root for me, writing is magic. It’s fun, in the same way that hot-gluing seashells to a headband or donning a mask is fun for my kids. I’m immersed in a world where literally anything is possible, where the only bounds are those of my imagination. That doesn’t mean that my writing never takes me to a dark place or a raw or uncomfortable one, but still, even in those moments . . . it’s magic, and there’s just nothing else like that thrill of being fully immersed in a world I’ve created.
And yet . . . it’s that very magic that’s sometimes easy to lose track of along the way in the writing process. Because although it’s true that while writing fiction, we’re bound only by the limits of our own imaginations . . . it’s not as though there are no external pressures to be considered. Publishing contracts, the ever-changing market, sales numbers, reviews . . . and then of course there’s just the pressure, if you’re someone lucky enough to write as a full-time job, to produce a finished book on schedule, because your family is counting on the income. It’s an amazing gift to be able to earn a living at writing, don’t get me wrong, but still, it comes with the price-tag of that kind of pressure attached. [Read more…]