Kage Baker was a dynamo.
At least, where writing was concerned. She wrote nearly every day; she wrote 8 hours and more every day she wrote. When she wasn’t writing, she did research, worked on notes and outlines, edited her manuscripts and galleys. Her discipline and focus were inhuman, particularly as they were consistent day after week after month after year …
That’s unusual. Most writers will confess they want to do that; they aspire to it, and will share all their tricks to try to accomplish it, along with the myriad road blocks that prevent it. Some writers say they write everything on the verge of writer’s block, grasping desperately for a decent day’s output every damned day. Not Kage.
She wrote like a river springing from the edge of a melting glacier. She wrote like a flow of lava down a canyon in the dark, rushing to meet the sea in a climax of steam and rainbows. She wrote in an endless and irresistible flood, from the time she learned to write at age 8 to the day she died a mere 50 years later. She wrote in notebooks, on legal pads, on candy wrappers turned inside out, in margins, on endpapers, on all 4 of our hands.
I can’t write like that. I will, of course, keep trying – I’ve done lots of things I thought impossible in the last 4 1/2 years – but I haven’t gotten the trick of it. Yet. These last several days I have been stuck in writer’s block of the most pernicious type. I know what comes next in the scene I need to write, but the actual words – won’t – come. When that happens, I start to grieve for Kage all over again, which is agonizing. But eventually, the pain breaks something down in me and the words start to flow again. They don’t flow the way they did for Kage, but they do come. So I’ll be patient.
What I’ve done instead is work at getting a couple of stories actually ready for submission, to real live frightening editors. One, to whom I sent my published CV (1 novel, 1 short story, both from Kage’s notes) has already responded: and if the story I want to submit is by Kage Baker, they’d be ever so happy to see it!
But it’s not. It’s by me, from some of her notes. So now I am come to the crux of this whole writing matter: can I sell a story to a stranger, someone who didn’t know Kage or me from The Time Before? Someone who will trust my ability to tell a tale that may have no more of Kage’s mind in it than what she could fit on the inside of a Junior Mint box?
Oh, this is a scary place to be. And I miss her so much, it feels like broken glass in my chest. I never argued with her about it, but now I finally really know – and understand! – why she made me read the answers from editors …
Well, screw it. Screw it to the sticking point, I hope. Time to be strong, time to be determined and resourceful.
Time to bleed words.