Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Picking Up Old Habits, Putting Down Old Doubts

By Matt Sinclair

As the weather has gotten warmer, I’ve allowed my twin daughters to explore an unheated area of the house. We have an attic that one day (God willing) will become our second floor. But we keep it off limits because there’s lots of stuff we don’t want them to get into for safety reasons and because they have been known to break a thing or two...or three.

One of the girls loves the attic and grabs my hand to lead me upstairs at any opportunity. While there are many things I don’t want her playing with up there, there’s also some I’m glad she likes: for example, musical instruments.

“Drum!” she says, as she smacks the skin of my conga drum. Or she runs her fingers across my acoustic guitar. In the days before daughters, I played a lot of guitar and wrote a lot of songs. I’ve gotten out of both habits. But seeing the joy on my daughter’s face as the sounds and rhythms come alive makes me want to foster that love of music in her any way I can.

All writers are different. Some need to write every day; others may go weeks without writing but write thousands of words a day when they return to the keyboard. You work within your circumstances or alter things to fit the writing schedule. Matching talents to habits is a wonderful thing, but it’s not always feasible.

Still, when you’ve gotten out of a habit, you find yourself battling twin anxieties: “I bet I can pick this right back up if I make the time” versus “I’m so out of practice I’ll never be able to do this again.”

Like most anxieties, neither does anyone a bit of good.

Lately, I’ve had to place two novels on the backburner. One is the already trunked novel that I resolved at New Year’s to get into shape and eventually publish through Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, the other is the work-in-progress I believe could be good enough to land me an agent and one day warrant better distribution through a larger publisher. (I know the math, but there’s still a part of me that wants a traditional deal.)

But life gets in the way. New priorities emerge. Bills beckon.

I wish I had advice based on experience to share how best to squash your doubts and anxieties, or offer a few bullet points of pithy tidbits to help you squeeze another half hour of writing time into your day. The best I can offer you today is this: Keep thinking and keep writing. Keep appreciating the seemingly mundane moments of life that morph into verisimilitude when you write about them. Listen to the world around you. Remember, what might be out-of-tune to your trained ears could open the world of possibilities to those who’ve barely heard the music before.

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published its latest anthology, The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, which is available via Amazon and Smashwords. Earlier in 2012, EBP published its initial anthology, Spring Fevers, which also is available through Smashwords, and Amazon. Both anthologies include stories by fellow FTWA writers, including Cat Woods, J. Lea Lopez, Mindy McGinnis, and R.S. Mellette; R.C. Lewis and Jean Oram also have stories in The Fall. Submissions for its next anthology close on Friday, April 19. Summer's Edge will be published in the summer of 2013. Matt blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68


Jemi Fraser said...

We can't be effective writers without living life to the full - and when you've got little ones, life is very, very full! Treasure those moments and they'll be there when you've got time!

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks, Jemi.

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