When I was in school (roughly twenty years ago now, yikes), I was always carrying around a notebook and generally scribbling something down any chance I got: diary entries, letters, stories, fanfic. I wrote a ridiculous amount of words back then (most of them not very good).
Then what happened? I graduated high school and things changed. The world said I had become an “adult”. The fanfic I was writing at the time turned into a drama-filled burden, so I quit that and decided to put my effort into other written work instead. But I also got a “real” job (then another, and finally another), bought my first house, and started to have “life things” going on, many of them not good. I wrote less. Then a lot less. Projects stagnated, then were shelved. Some of those not good “life things” actually got pretty bad and for several years straight I basically wrote absolutely nothing worth mentioning.
2010 was the turning point, sort of. I was still a godawful mess that year, but I was also getting more involved with EVE Online. Solitary Pilot became a thing, and between 2010 and the fall of 2012 I wrote 225,000 words on that website. I’ve since added more, but that was the bulk of it.
Holy shit. 225,000 words! Gimme a minute here, mind is blown.
Okay, so, obviously I was not the slow writer when that was going on, and looking back on it now, I have to say that is actually a pretty epic achievement. But how many words did I write for any of my other projects during that time? Eh. None, though in June 2011 I did have one very excellent conversation with a creative buddy about how to resolve several entrenched problems with Heart of the Empire. My writing for EVE Online was going so well, I hoped to keep riding that wave and I had every intention of getting back into my original work. I really did! Alas, the “road to hell” and all that… Obviously I didn’t actually get back to HOTE and when the shit hit the fan at the end of 2012 all my fiction writing ground to a halt again. Nothing at all was posted to akaIronDragon.ca until the fall of 2014 when I started trying to revamp this website, and while Solitary Pilot did see activity between 2012 and 2014, almost all of it was out-of-character content. It was like I didn’t know what fiction writing was anymore.
I realized recently that I am the slow writer. No two ways about it. Even though I have nothing to show for it, all these years I have still been “working” on my various fiction projects via the process described by the pie chart. Mostly I’ve been in the first three wedges. A lot. The problem is getting around to that last wedge: writing actual sentences. I need to write actual sentences.
The “life things” aren’t so bad anymore. After 2014 ended, I wanted to get back to doing all those things I hadn’t been doing for all those years. I had to fix my domestic situation first, and that took some doing. In the meantime, I started playing other games and began writing here about that. Most recently, I learned to crochet, and have also been writing here a bit about that. There have still been some other “life things” I’ve had to deal with along the way that have beaten up on my creativity, but lately, you know, things are getting better. Even if I haven’t been writing creatively, at least I have been writing something.
But Heart of the Empire continued to sit there, staring me in the face every time I posted something else to my website. When will you work on me? it asked. Argh. For the longest time that story has felt like this massive stinking mess with no easy point of re-entry. Soon, I would tell myself. I’ll work on it again soon.
In June of 2016, having still not touched HOTE at all, upon the encouragement of a friend I threw up my hands and said, fuck it, I’m going to start writing a brand new “just for me” story, simply for my own personal enjoyment, because I can. Even if it turned out to be the most horrible, embarrassing, ridiculous thing ever, I should just write something. I was out of practice trying to write “serious” fiction, and thought that was probably another reason why I was avoiding HOTE so much. Why not work on something I could let loose on and have fun with, to rediscover and reawaken the writer of myself? No pressure, no audience, just do what I wanted, and to hell with any rules or expectations. So I did. It was hard to get started; I actually felt intimidated by the idea of writing this silly piece of fiction even though I kept telling myself the whole point was to not take it seriously. Now it’s just shy of 26,000 words. I might not finish it; I might turn it into something else. (No, I won’t post it anywhere no matter how much you beg!) Still… I have been writing actual sentences.
In November of 2016 I started reposting some of my early Solitary Pilot writing on fanfiction.net as an experiment, not just to see if I could expand my readership a little, but also to see if revisiting that old work (and doing some minor editing and revision) would help me get back into the right frame of mind to continue roleplaying in EVE, finish off the threads that need finishing, and begin writing more “serious” fiction again. It seems to be working, at least a little bit.
But still no work on HOTE.
This past Christmas, Mat visited me for a couple of weeks. We spent a good portion of our time working on creative things together, talking through ideas and encouraging each other to overcome creative roadblocks. I think our most productive sessions happened while at the coffee shop up the street from where I live. He wrote a little about the fruits of that effort here. For me, he helped me look at things I have continued to be stuck on for Heart of the Empire, and though I’ve now (temporarily) unpublished the existing chapters from the site, on Christmas Eve I also, for the first time in I don’t know how many years, updated some of the other HOTE content still on the site. Mat helped me fill some holes and get crucial worldbuilding work done. It’s not much, but it is a start. Thanks to him I think I have a way to get back into this story, and that is awesome.
Mat’s visit highlighted something vital to me. The slow writer—or, at least, this slow writer in particular—is also slow when working in a vacuum. All those years I didn’t do much of anything? They were also years I didn’t really have any creative buddies to share my work with in the same way I shared when Mat was here. When I think about it now, a good portion of what I wrote on Solitary Pilot over the course of 2010 and 2011 was also greatly helped along thanks to other people who willingly brainstormed with me, gave feedback, reviewed my work, and so on. I can rattle around in my head and daydream in the shower all I want, and a writer’s work should mostly come from their own effort…but sometimes there’s just no substitute for a creative friend’s encouragement to help get the wheels turning and keep them moving. Thanks, Mat.
I’m hoping I’ll stay in that last pie chart wedge for the next little while.