Slowly I Turned: Distrait

Trouble, trouble, trouble: the famous Edna St Vincent Millay quote does come to mind. The same worries, the same distractions, the same outcome: a withering of creativity. I’m reading now, not for the enjoyment of reading as much as for the temporary escape it provides. Writing stories would be a better escape, if I could settle my mind on any of a number of projects in storage.

Instead, I have two nonfiction projects I promised myself I would complete, one for this week and one by the end of the month. Writing nonfiction has a peculiar effect on me, probably because I live inside my own head too much. When I’m engaged in a story, I live with it around the clock. The characters live around me, and my attention is always with them to a large degree, whatever else I might need to do during the day. By contrast, a nonfiction piece sits behind me, staring holes into the back of my head. Lying in bed at night, I argue with it. When I come to grips with the piece, I’m aware of nothing else for a time– but I can walk away from it as soon as the piece is done. Many a story I have regretted having to finish (the Makkarios series especially), but never a nonfiction effort. With those, I am more likely to regret beginning than ending.

Don’t mistake me: I do find enjoyment in the struggle a nonfiction article presents. It’s an intellectual challenge as well as a creative act. But it can be likened to taking a quick shower, whereas fiction is a long soak in a hot bath. The latter relaxes; the former invigorates. I’m beginning to wonder if I need the shower to wake me up and clear my mind, if I’m to regain my stride in my genre of choice.


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Fantasy novelist and essayist H.M. Snow, author of the Last Book of the Kings series and the novella Faerie Tales for Travelers.

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