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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Still Leaning on Steven Brust

Yesterday I seemed to have lost the plot again.  I’m not sure why.  The week started off promisingly enough.  I primed the mental pump by reading a scene from Steven Brust’s novel Teckla, and soon found myself bubbling over with enthusiasm.  I grew almost shaky as I wrote.  My characters emerged quickly; their dialogue flowed.  Their desperate—yet regal--clash of wills defied me to release my pen.  

Once, when circumstances necessitated I take a break, I took my notebook with me and kept writing.  (Let’s just say it’s the smallest room in the house, okay?)  By the time I finished the scene I was working on, I had exceeded my target limit, and was proud of what I’d written.  Better, I hadn’t really needed Brust at all: my characters, and perhaps my willpower, had won the day.  I tried to celebrate with a little more of Teckla, but I couldn’t keep my mind on Vlad’s conversation with his Noish-pa (grandfather).  Vlad’s dilemma over how to resolve his problems with his wife should have consumed me, yet my muscles still felt shaky, and my concentration…poof!  

So I did what Vlad does when he’s struggling to resolve the tensions and issues that threaten to tear him apart.  I walked (albeit through the streets of San Diego, not Vlad’s Adrilankha).  Eventually focus and will returned that afternoon, and I gradually cobbled together an entry on Richard Castle’s latest novel.  But that took longer than it should have, and by the time I shaped it into its final form, it was time to retire for the evening.

Yesterday morning, I again found myself staring into space, knowing what I wanted to write, but my pen lying still in my hand.  Had I not prescribed myself a little more of Teckla, I might not have made it through.  “I want to write,” I reprimanded myself yesterday afternoon.  “Why should I need another author’s help?”  Then my mind harkened back to something Robert Silverberg wrote in his introduction to “Born with the Dead.”

“So every day’s work was an ordeal.  Sometimes I managed no more than a couple of paragraphs.  At best I averaged about a page a day.  Writing it required me to do battle with all kinds of internal demons, for the story springs from areas within me that I found it taxing to explore.”

I take heart in knowing that one of the most prolific, celebrated, and bestselling authors the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre has ever produced once struggled so, even after he had matured as a writer.  Likewise, the terrible dilemmas Vlad Taltos confronted in Teckla were drawn from battles Steven Brust waged in real life.  My own battles seem rather small in comparison with those of my literary heroes.  And I am meeting my targets, producing far more than a paragraph or two each day.  So perhaps I shouldn’t feel so bad for (occasionally) relying on another’s experiences, skills, and stories to carry me through my own difficult periods.  

Had Robert Silverberg been able to read Steven Brust, might he have found it easier to battle his own demons?  As he’s a well-read man, no doubt he had others who inspired him to keep writing.  I’m certainly glad he emerged victorious with “Born with the Dead.”  For, like Brust’s novels, the story resonates with me, and I will treasure it always.

Who knows?  One day (assuming I get published), a struggling author might well find sustenance and support in something I’ve written.  

Teckla is available in the omnibus edition The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust.  “Born with the Dead” can be found in Robert Silverberg’s Phases of the Moon: Six Decades of Masterpieces By The SFWA Grand Master.

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