Here is the promised guest post! Anderson explains why and how he writes. I don’t know about you, but I always love to hear about how different people’s writing processes differ. It’s a very interesting read. Don’t forget the international Kindle Fire giveaway and to stop by tomorrow for an excerpt and giveaway of a signed copy of Kingdom. It’s definitely a cover you want on your shelf.
Of Toddlers and Redbull: Searching for the Flow State on Four Hours Sleep
I am out of my fucking mind
That’s the first thought that pops into my head when, at five o’clock in the morning, the alarm goes off and I tumble out of bed.
And it’s time to write.
Anyone who writes with any sort of consistency does not do so by choice—it’s a compulsion, a horrible affliction that drives men and women out of warm beds and into dank basements or sweltering attics where they hunch over keyboards and sometimes—hell, frequently—accomplish nothing. Sure, there might be some words on the page, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good. No sane person would choose this as his or her desired occupation, let alone hobby. So why do I write? Simple: I don’t know any other way to exist.
As part of this month’s Kingdom blog tour, I was asked to discuss how I write. But when I started to describe the how—the early mornings, the criminal amounts of Redbull, the solitude, the constant (and often futile) search for the “writer’s trance”—it dawned on me that I should also explain why; this isn’t normal behavior, and probably warrants clarification. And I wish I could offer some sort of reasonable explanation for why, four or five days a week, I wake up at the crack of dawn (sometimes after having been up until God knows when with my two year old son), abandon the nice warm bed I share with my beautiful spouse, and trudge down to a cold basement and make-up stories about a fictional metropolis I call “Tiber City.”
It’s something I’m driven to do; a compulsion; a burning need to try and make sense of life through story. And to share those stories with others, so that maybe, together, we can have a little fun while stringing together some sort of coherent explanation for “why.” Sounds heavy, I know. But life’s heavy and if it weren’t, we wouldn’t need to tell stories.
Devotion to the Craft
In my experience, the key to successful writing is consistency. When I was younger, I thought writing was sheer magic; that at the drop of a hat I could summon a Kerouacian madness and boom—an hour later 1000 words of perfectly polished prose. I was young and had some talent and wanted to believe all the myths about great writers—the romantic notions of wild, undisciplined, chemical-fueled bouts of creation that resulted in genius. But as much I wanted to believe in these tales, there was a single, undeniable fact ruining this delightful fantasy: the stuff I was churning out (sporadically, and only when it felt “right”) wasn’t very good. Actually, it sucked. But for a while, I clung to the notion that any sort of regulation or discipline would somehow taint the storytelling magic. (Note: This was also a rather clever excuse offered up by a young man who lacked discipline and drive).
It wasn’t until I met Jack O’Connell, a writer from Worcester Massachusetts whose world-building skills are unparalleled (check out the Quinsigamond saga), that I learned how most writers (most real writers) find any degree of success: discipline and routine. Jack explained (and provided numerous essays by writers I admired to back it all up) that writing was basically a blue-collar gig and like any other craft, required hard work and a certain set of tools. The writing itself could still be magic, but you had to show up for work every day with the right equipment.
And as horribly unsexy as that sounds, I soon realized how right Jack was: In order for the magic to come, there has to be repetition, focus, and attention—just like any other religious or meditative state. Indeed, I’ve found that that magic and madness that overcame my heroes—that ecstatic writing trance—came only when I was deep into the routine; when the distractions were minimal and I was ready to work. And even then, that sublime experience others have called the “flow state” doesn’t always arrive. But when it does, there is almost nothing better.
Road to Kingdom
Now, several years after I first began jotting down notes about Tiber City, this insane ritual of early morning writing has yielded “Kingdom.” Its my answer to that strange compulsion that drives writers to write, and the beginning of a trilogy that will be both a deeply personal love letter to my wife and son and an attempt to answer some of life’s big questions. And, of course, to engage and entertain readers. Despite all my ramblings about flow states and discipline, at the end of the day, writers must also entertain. Kingdom is dark and intense, but it’s also got plenty of sex, drugs, and violence—the stuff that makes genre fiction so goddamn fun.
Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope I can entertain you all for years to come.