Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sometimes, cliches work.

It was quiet. Too quiet.

Cliche? Probably. But it's not an excerpt from my novel. It's an excerpt from my life.

See, my recent layoff means a lot more time at home. Time with no one else around. Time I foolishly thought would result in hundreds of pages' worth of smoothly flowing prose.

I was wrong.

Problem is, when I'm home, there's stuff to do. Laundry. Yard work. A basement in need of cleaning. And that's not to mention the soul-crushing time-suck that is the job hunt. And it turns out all of those things are pretty persistent when it comes to being heard. They fill the silence. They never shut up.

That, to put it plainly, sucks. See, for me, writing fiction is all about quieting my mind until I can hear the story, and when my mind is cycling from one practical matter to another, that quiet's hard to come by. And add to that the fact that, without a day job, I've had little in the way of input of the actual living, breathing person variety -- the richest source there is for character mannerisms and matters of voice -- and the story-signal in my head gets even harder to hear. So what's a frustrated writer to do?

Well, this frustrated writer packed up shop and headed for the coffee house.

Seriously, is there any bigger cliche than that? I always used to roll my eyes at the self-important jackasses clacking away on their laptops with a latte at their side; they always looked to me like they wanted the world to know that they were capital-W Writers. Now, I guess I'm one of them.

Granted, I tend to tuck myself off in a corner, and I take my coffee strong and black and don't you even think of offering me a fucking caramel whip. But there I am, clacking away. A stranger in a strange land, I tell myself, as if every other writer in the room isn't thinking the same thing.

Turns out -- for me, at least -- it's not a matter of self-importance, it's a matter of psychology. Home was once a refuge, but now it's my place of work. Getting play done there ain't easy. And until this writing gig gets a hell of a lot more lucrative than it is, it falls solidly under the heading of play. (Hint, hint. Anybody out there got a book deal for me? No? Okay then, moving on.)

So I leave home behind. I surround myself with chatter -- with people. People whose every word, every laugh, every weird-ass tic is grist for the fiction mill. (Grist For The Fiction Mill. That would've been a better title for this post, I think. No matter.) Is it cliche? Yes. Is it a lazy writer stereotype? Oh, hell yes. But is it working? So far, also yes.

And as long as my fiction doesn't wind up filled with self-important latte-sipping jackass writer protagonists, I'll take it.