Monday, August 08, 2016

The Most Critical World-Building

a discourse on creating a creating kind of space


We closed on Big Pink two and a half weeks ago. We were in the Hotel Purgatario for a full month. I wasn’t getting much done for the six weeks the house in Colorado Springs was under contract, and certainly not for the week when we had the house up for showing.

Thirteen weeks. It’s a long time to be out of the novel-writing rhythm, but it is what it is. 

Now it’s going on fourteen weeks. I’ve got most of the office in order, most of the boxes unpacked. We’re not happy with the movers, as they were not gentle with the boxes, and indeed lost one altogether. 

There are other stressors. An older home in need of repair was all we could afford in our budget, and this old house seems to have something going wrong with it every day. It’s a potential death by a thousand cuts that could ironically put us back into the same nigh-insurmountable debt that compelled us to sell our house in Colorado Springs.

I look at the wipeboard I have on the wall inside my reading nook and it’s full of people I have to pay. Our first bills. Today I’m an accountant, I think. When do I become a writer again?


Ever more impatiently, comes the answer.

I’ll do it when I do it.

And I know it will only happen when I have enough space cleared, inside and outside of my head.
Even so, not quite yet.

One thing I’ve learned about myself throughout the long, arduous process of writing my first novels is I cannot simply write anywhere, at anytime. A familiar space in a familiar place is necessary. For years, the southwest corner of my finished basement office served this purpose. Now that place is gone. I’m three hours away in another house, another town, in another part of the state, 1,000 more feet in elevation. My workspace is a south-facing attic dormer room.

From basement to attic. That’s good, right? It’s a larger space, with plenty of room for nervous pacing, and even a sweet nook for reading (when there’s not a cat in the chair).
Dammit, Jack....

Still, it’s a struggle getting into the writing mindset. It’s hypersensitive, special-snowflake, neurotic bullshit, and there’s nothing I can do except push through it until I’m finally through it. Whenever or wherever or whatever that is.
Place butt in chair. Arrange hands in home position on keyboard. Come on, son. You got this.


It’s the most critical kind of world-building there is for a fiction writer. Facebook posts and the occasional photo essay are one thing. A place where I can lose myself in a fictional world in which the dead return to eat the living, and people resolve their conflicts accordingly, is another project entirely. 

I imagine the scenes happening wherever I am. I’ve been working on the character arcs for my leads all the while. Sitting down and processing this information into a narrative that people feel compelled to follow is the issue. The space is every bit as mental as it is physical. And I’m not there yet.

I’m getting there. Every day is a little bit closer.


“What is the human’s problem?”
“Who cares? We’re cats.”


I’ll do it when I do it.