This is my grimoire:
A grimoire is a book of spells, but when I call it a spell book, half the people think I’m talking about a dictionary.
A book of spells is like a cookbook, a collection of recipes, but “cookbook” just doesn’t do it for me, and is possibly misleading in case people think food is involved, which it is not, so therefore I call it a grimoire.
Now, I think we have previously established that I don’t believe in anything, so I’m not actually a witch, except perhaps in the colloquial sense of the word, although I would respect you more if you just went ahead and called me a bitch. But I digress.
I don’t use my grimoire to cast spells. I use it to help me remember what I already know about doing the work, which is a lot (I’ve been at this a very long time).
I started using a grimoire for my writing work when years ago I started work on a series. You know how writers and publishers have a series bible so that you don’t forget from one book to the next that your hero has blue eyes and failed algebra in seventh grade? Like that. I called mine a grimoire instead of a bible because I’m just a rebel.
Anyway, I included potential storylines and conflicts and such and I realized that everything I needed to know about the series was in the series grimoire. If I got stuck, I just opened up the grimoire and the answer would appear.
So I like to generalize from one thing to another, and it struck me that if it worked for a series, it would work for writing in general (and life itself, but that is another blog post). That is to say, I already know what I need to know about writing, I just forget it half the time, and then I have days like this:
My grimoire is very personal so I’m not going to show you the inside. But I will tell you about what it contains. It contains what I know, or think I know, about writing. It’s divided into various categories based on what I know I will need. So, for example, I keep a list of accomplishments on one of the pages because every now and then I hyperventilate about how I am never going to do whatever it is I’m obsessing over, and the list helps me breathe again.
It has a little exercise I use for when I am working on a project that carries a lot of emotional weight, like my memoir, or some of my essays about Jessica (as opposed to other kinds of things I write about, such as what humanities graduates are doing with their degrees). I do a little meditation to segue into and out of emotionally difficult pieces so that my mind doesn’t get stuck in “oh those years were so hard” mode when I am supposed to be making dinner.
It has little stories about doing the work. So much of what we say about writing is captured in these jargon-y little adages like that Facebook meme, “You should be writing!” Well, sure, sometimes you need a simple reminder like that, but mostly you need to understand the nuances of your own work and your own process. My grimoire is like this wonderful little guidance system that says, “You have had this problem before, and here are some things that you tried, and here is how they worked.” That keeps me from feeling totally lost in the Sahara without a roadmap.
For example, I know by now that for every manuscript, there will be at least three times when I think the work is utter crap. But my grimoire will remind me that this is par for the course, and so instead of hitting delete, I go for a walk.
In this month alone, I hit the wall on three different projects. I couldn’t figure out how to make any of them be what I needed them to be. Often I need to just finish the book. It’s important to do the work despite feeling resistance sometimes. But I’d finished drafts of all three projects, and I was feeling less than enthusiastic about them, not just for a day or two but deep down in the bone. This wasn’t my usual “Oh this is crap” reaction that eventually goes away. This was a conviction that I was picking the trite answer every single time. But I didn’t know how to fix this. No amount of sitting there thinking would fix it.
But the grimoire reminded me, “Sometimes, you focus on getting the answer RIGHT NOW!!!! but a lot of the time the answer doesn’t come till later. Sometimes, you need to stop demanding the answer right now and give yourself time to work it out.” So I just stopped thinking about these projects, and I went to Mini College, and I decided that I would focus on helping Jessica with her art, and do my paying work and just have some fun. I drew some pictures and had dinner with a friend.
The solution to each of the three problems occurred to me when I stopped trying so hard, one in a slow, growing-on-me-over-the-course-of-a-week fashion, and one in a bang!-that’s-the-answer way, and the third in a gradual illumination as I was reading a completely unrelated textbook.
And that experience will also go in the grimoire.
I imagine that someday, when I am 92, I will hand the grimoire over to some young thing, and see what she makes of it.
From my editor at Crimson: Just a quick note today to say that we’ve got a special Summer Savings code we’d like you to extend to your family and friends for purchases at our new Crimson Store (www.adamsmediastore.com/crimson-romance). If they plug in code: FFSAVE at checkout (lower left side of page), they’ll save an extra 10% off our usual 30% off — so total savings of 40% off their order! The code will be good through summer’s end and expires on August 31, 2014. (Everyone’s a friend.)
And remember, the buy 5, get the 6th free offer is always in effect as well.
From me: You know there are easily 6 of my romances that you’ve never read, so check out Jessica Starre, Jenny Jacobs, and Alicia Thorne (though watch out for her. She can be a pain in the butt.)
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Re-release: One of my favorite romances, A Certain Kind of Magic. Get it here.