Sunday, 16 January 2011

My Brain is so Frazzled I Can't Even Think of a Title

I don't think I've experienced writer's block before, so I'm not sure I'd recognize it if I saw it. Is it that feeling everything you write is crap? Is it the brick wall you face when you're supposed to be writing a story? Is it opening your Twitter account instead of your WIP?

Or is it lack of confidence, second-guessing every word you type, backspacing and starting over about a hundred times? To me, it feels like neglecting a house until the paint peels and the windows are broken. The muse needs a coat of paint and a little TLC, but the job seems overwhelming.

The last several months have been... interesting. I had two WIPs on the go, and had to decide which to finish. One was literary women's fiction and the other was an up-market thriller with a premise that changed every time I looked at the world news.

After consulting my writerly pals, I decided to finish the women's fiction and started querying almost exactly a year ago. I had enough requests to keep me going. One agent requested revisions and I complied. It was close, but no cigar. I don't regret the exchange with the agent - she was so encouraging and made me feel like I was creating something worthwhile. In the end, she passed, but I have a cleaner, leaner and meaner book in hand.

Others offered similar feedback which compelled me to chop the manuscript in pieces and convert it into a YA novel. Now I'm starting a second round with the new title in hand, and there is still a lot of nibbling going on, but no real bites... yet.

All the while, I was asking myself, "Why am I doing this? Why don't I quit and do something else?" Everyone says an author should be working on the next book while querying.

After all, we don't wait until one kid is in college before having another one, do we?

It's like waiting to see if my first kid is going to be a ballet dancer or a rock star. After all, it's easier to hand down a set of drums than to buy a whole new set. I could continue with character-driven novels or switch gears and write a romantic suspense. I enjoy both, but I don't know if my future agent will.

While I'm mulling it over, I'll tell you about my first experience with a polo pony. How's that for switching gears?

My best friend had been taking polo lessons all summer and her boyfriend presented her with a polo pony. The pony's name is Maya and she's white with little brown freckles all over her. The first thing my friend did was commission me to paint a portrait of her, which I did. I'm posting a copy over there with my other paintings.

Maya was a rescue horse and hadn't been ridden for a while. She had become a bit "green" and needed to be brought up to speed with careful training. Much like my WIP *laughs*.

Earlier this winter, I had a chance to ride her.

Polo tack is a nightmare to put on a horse. There are so many straps and buckles, you need a diagram to remember it all. Maya stood patiently while I fiddled with her bridle and almost put the bit up her nostrils.

I hadn't ridden in five years, so when I got on her, I felt like I was going to slide off. I walked her around the arena while three youngsters zoomed circles around me in preparation for an upcoming indoor game. My friend, still a novice polo player, watched and laughed from the viewing room. I wasn't doing a very good job of warming up her horse.

Polo ponies are ridden in a different style from Western and English. There are two reins, and you hold them in your left hand only, even if you're right handed. The right hand is supposed to be for the mallet, but I wasn't holding one. The horse is trained to follow the ball, much like a cutting horse is trained to follow a dodging steer. Thus, steering isn't as much of an issue. Just stay on!

The stable owner's son, who was about ten years old, sidled up beside me on his bay mount. Our legs gently bumped together as he explained how to make the horse go faster. I guess he was tired of watching me playing it safe while he booted around at top speed.

He leaned forward and guided my rein hand up Maya's neck. "Its okay to canter, ya know. Just put your hand up here, behind her ears."

I laughed. "Trust me; you don't want to see me canter. I'm so out of shape my legs already feel like rubber. I'd fall off."

"Suit yourself," he responded with a shrug. He shouted, "Hyah!" and kicked his horse into a hard run while his mother shouted at him to slow down.

I nudged Maya to a trot, but when she speeded up I lost my nerve and slowed her down again. She must have thought I was some old fuddy-duddy.

I enjoyed my ride, but it was before Christmas and I haven't had a chance to visit again. I was given permission to ride Maya anytime, but I'd like my busy friend to be present to help saddle her because I still haven't figured out all those leather straps.

Thanks for listening to my rant. I promise to whip my flagging confidence in the butt and to get cracking with my writing again.  I'd already started a polo mystery, but now I wonder if it should feature a teen protagonist. There I go... second-guessing again.

It's time to canter.