a dispatch on distractions and the other writing time

I don’t usually duplicate tiny letters here, but it’s been awhile since I’ve updated and so… I’m getting back to doing these weekly (or close to) so sign up at http://tinyletter.com/gwenda if you want them in your inbox.


I write this with a cup of coffee in my Justice League coffee mug (which I bought for C one long-ago xmas and promptly claimed, oops) and listening to a mesmerizing instrumental called “Wolf Like Howls From the Bathhouse” by Sonny Smith (from my spotify weekly discover playlist). I usually listen to that playlist as I’m taking my longer dog walks at some point during the week, these days accompanied by the rambunctious, inexhaustible Izzy or Izzy-ma-belle. Except I realized as soon as I put it on, I hadn’t listened to it in weeks and weeks.

Stay with me here.

I’ve been picking up and putting down a lot of books in the last month or two as well. Or reading short, one-sitting pieces, comics mainly (Margie Stohl’s Captain Marvel, guys, the first issues are so good). Last Friday night, I started a book I’d asked C to bring home from the store, the inimitable Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes. A writer I trust 100 percent on book recs (Kat Howard) had enthusiastically mentioned it on twitter, describing it as murder mystery where clones on a spaceship must solve their own murders. YES, IN. I love Mur’s writing and that is basically a description of my favorite kind of book.

It was like pleasurable lightning to the brain, in the way the right book is–especially when you’ve been in a slump or not reading enough. I realized just how loud it’s been in my mind, or rather, how much the noise from outside intrudes right now. And, boy, is there a lot of noise. And, as previously discussed, it can’t be ignored. The calls must be made, the fight fought.


I purposely structured my year to have big chunks of writing time this winter/spring. Being in fight mode constantly means stress chemicals flooding your brain, means fragmented attention, means your immune system suffers (or is it the bad habits that makes it suffer, or both, she said, blowing her nose). Even my usual downtime staple, television, has been mostly me hitting pause to check twitter of the evening in these past couple of months.

The best moments this month, the moments that remind me why I do this, haven’t been at my desk, feverishly news reading. There have been bright spots there, but all when writing fiction. The better moments have been at events where writers read from or talked about their work, hanging upside down at aerial yoga, at dinners with friends where we laughed over drinks and made random jokes, or on those dog walks. I did love scarfing One Day at a Time on Netflix, a show like a hug, an antidote to the news.

And so… It’s time to get back to work. For me, that means taking in a lot of things that require me to be quieter in the mind and more attentive. I write best when I go on wanders through museums, long winding dog walks (Izzy and I keep seeing discarded playing cards around town, and it’s very I Am the Messenger), listen to new music or a playlist or a non-news-based podcast, watch a movie (without checking twitter or Facebook). So I’m pulling out the old alphasmart neo, the keyboard that connects to nothing except my fingers for writing sessions starting next week. I’m probably going to actively ration my online time, something I’ve never had to do before–I’ve never really had a problem balancing internet time with work; procrastination is part of my process, but it’s usually active procrastination (is that a thing? does it count? probably not)–doing something else while my back brain is figuring out a story problem. Never before have I had this problem, where it’s disrupting my ability to get to work.

Because the first lesson of being a professional writer, in my opinion, is protecting your writing time. Which can definitely mean from yourself and your bad habits, but also from the world and its many distractions. Your writing time isn’t just the time at the keyboard; it’s the time away from it that brings you back there with things to type. I’m not saying I’m not going to engage with politics, as that’s obviously not an option. But. I’m going to be making an effort to engage the world on my terms, rather than its.

Because trust me, it will steal the words from all of us this year. This next four years. And every moment of joy.

I refuse to let it.

Joy is important; the small moments, littered through a week that are bright bubbles in the sea of ordinary life, and so I’m going to do my best to grab them as they surface.

I’ll let you know how I did next week.

Some newsies:

– I’ve got several events coming up in the region in the next few months–the first is tonight, at the InKY Reading Series in Louisville with the delightful Sarah Combs. We have the same cold and everything. Come out and see us!

– Podcasts! I was on two recently. The lovely Rachael Herron does a podcast that’s all the questions writers tend to skip to at the end of interviews, namely just the writing parts, called How Do You Write? We had a blast chatting. And this week a new episode of Speculate! dropped featuring me and Kameron Hurley talking about healthcare and writers with hosts Mike Underwood and Greg Wilson.

– This coming Thursday, I’ll be at Joseph-Beth Lexington chatting with debut author Lara Donnelly about her fabulous Amberlough, which I’m almost done with, and was more brain lightning, following Six Wakes. I’ll sign whatever you want me to sign, and it’s sure to be a fun discussion.

– The Cirque American books are all on sale at Amazon this month! The print editions of Girl on a Wire and Girl in the Shadows are $4.99 and Girl Over Paris’s digital edition of the collected graphic novel is just $1 (yes, ONE BUCK, and it’ll open in your comixology app). You can also preorder the Supernormal Sleuthing Service: The Lost Legacy–we’re writing book two now! And I’m working with the publisher on some preorder things for Lois Lane: Triple Threat, about which more soon (the book description has been updated though if you want a little more info on what’s coming in the book itself).

In the meantime, I wish you all moments of joy in the coming week.

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