Writerly Update: ManWhore Surrenders the Spotlight (For A While)

I have a confession to make. I have been cheating on the Man-Whore.

Doesn’t that usually work the other way around?

I knew this would happen. In fact, when I compiled my “Life List” goals, I gave myself a year to complete the first draft of the Man-Whore Chronicles. For my more ambitious writer friends, that might sound like not aiming high enough. But for me, that was just keeping it real. Part of it is that I struggle to find enough writing time around my job, my fitness goals, and life in general.

But the real issue – or maybe it isn’t a problem at all – is that I am a fickle writer. If I would spend every writing session on Man-Whore, I could probably have a draft done by Christmas. But, as Man-Whore would say himself, “that’s just not how I roll.” Sometimes there’s just something else in my head that is clamoring to be written, and it won’t stop banging around in my brain until I let it out.

Recently, what has pushed Man-Whore out of the spotlight has been another short story. Usually, as my plots come together I can piece together the events, snippets of conversation or people that inspired them. But this one sort of slammed into me as I was sleeping one night.

Without giving away too many details, this latest venture is the story of what happens to a young couple when they move in with an aging uncle. On the surface, the uncle’s health and mind seem to be failing, but of course there’s much more going on than that.

It wasn’t until I had finished the first draft of this piece and put it into the “incubation stage” that something odd dawned on me. This is the second short story I’ve written in six months that focuses on struggles with an aging relative. The first one, Stalling the Sunset, is my fiction sample here on this blog.

I don’t always write based on personal experience. Sometimes I am inspired by a news story or a random conversation. But when I can’t pinpoint where a theme is coming from, it usually means my mind is trying to push something in my subconscious up to the surface.

I knew my mind has been wrestling with the issues of work-life balance and financial security (or lack thereof). But until I sat back and thought about the road my short fiction seems to want to follow, I had overlooked just how bothered I’ve been by this whole concept of aging lately. I’ve been chewing on it like a tough, unpleasant piece of meat that I don’t want to swallow.

Of course I know that growing old is a hell of a lot better than the alternative. But that doesn’t mean I think its pretty. In the last few years, I’ve watched my grandparents – both in their early 80’s – go quickly downhill. I’ve seen firsthand how all the planning and prepping and living life well doesn’t always pave a smooth road for the later years.

For the most part, my grandparents did all the right things, with ever so much more success than I’ve had so far. They avoided all the bad habits that are supposed to break down your body. They both worked full-time, steady jobs their whole lives and saved for retirement. Even so, their savings and pensions have not been enough to get them comfortably through all the medical issues that have come with this stage in their lives. On top of pain and frustrating physical limitations, they have to struggle to make ends meet.

That, quite frankly, scares the shit out of me.

I get angry because I think they deserve more. I get frustrated because other than companionship and what help we can give, there isn’t a whole lot me or my family can do about it. Those are the unselfish reactions.

Then, of course, there are the selfish thoughts – the fear that I’m also looking at my own future. Those thoughts have taken root in my head without me realizing it. They scare me, so I bury them deep, and forget they even exist.

Until, that is, they push their way to the surface in the form of stories. The stories are dark, and the characters themselves are unpleasant. But they have to come out anyway.

I’d rather be working on Man-Whore. After a writing session that focuses on the novel, I’m often lighthearted and grinning, if tired. Even though the plot focuses on a dead dude, there’s humor and entertaining adventure. These short stories about old age are, to me, much more stark and depressing.

But I’ve learned something as a writer. If I try to force myself to work on one piece while my mind is obsessing over another, all I end up with is distracted, sub-par writing. There is a time to reign in the subconscious, and a time to just shut up and follow it where it wants to lead.

I don’t intentionally write as a form of therapy. But if that ends up being a side effect of my word addiction, so be it. After all, that’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a shrink.


About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
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14 Responses to Writerly Update: ManWhore Surrenders the Spotlight (For A While)

  1. L.S. Engler says:

    I think it’s only fair that the Man-Whore gets cheated on in return, really!

    But I can totally relate to this sort of writerly distraction. There’s a reason starting a new novel and working on three projects at a time has been working fairly well for me! The other project not only sounds really interesting, but also pretty moving, too, and just think, if it gets a little too much, you know you have the Man-Whore to fall back on to lighten things up a little.

    Good luck with everything, either way!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Very true – he’s definitely there to lighten the mood when I need it! I’m encouraged by how many other writers work on several things at once rather than one project at a time. I used to worry that it was a sign of lack of focus, but I’m starting to realize it just might be the way many of us work best!

  2. starzyia says:

    I can relate to taking on the different writing projects, I write, and I have bipolar… so I work on what I feel like working on when I feel like working on it. Basically I have several promising pieces that will all be finished about the same time… whenever that time ends up being!

    I can also relate to your feelings watching your grandparents, my parents are approaching the same age (dad 80 next year, mum four years younger) just the medical emergencies and conditions they’ve had already have me concerned… I am not married with kids… I’m still living like I was in my twenties, I dont’ think I’m ready to be able to cope with their needs yet! Sometimes I just look at my dad and panic.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      That’s really tough – I’m lucky in that for the most part, my parents still have their health (they’re in their early 60s). I think it is a scary thing to go through no matter what, but especially when you don’t really feel like a “grownup” yourself, which I usually don’t lol! The fact that I”m as old as I am often takess me by surprise : ). I think the other good thing about working on multiple projects is that there’s always something brewing – you never finish one thing and then look around and go “what next?”

  3. Another well written post. ” Follow where it leads you.” I like that. Sometimes it’s better to submit than to fight . Depending on the situation. We believe in you Pam! Have a great, inspiring day.

  4. Catie Rhodes says:

    Sometimes you have to write about what’s on your mind. My parents are at retirement age, and they want to retire. My dad is ill..blah, blah, blah. I think we’re going to end up having to support them sometime in the near future. Scared doesn’t cover it.

    This is just your subconscious trying to work this out. Let it do its thing, and you may get some ideas on what’s the next right thing to do.


    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks Catie! Your situation would scare me too – hugs right back at ya. I’m really thankful for the outlet we writers have for our subconscious to ponder and deal with these things.

  5. I’ve been pushed or pulled (I can’t tell which anymore) in so many different directions regarding my writing, that I just write what, when and where this writing-spirit moves me. I’ve come to see writing as a process, not an outcome. Maybe I have that luxury because I have no illusions of making money from my work as a writer. I do know that forcing myself to work on something because I’m supposed to be doing is the quickest route to writer’s block that I know. So give yourself some credit for coming up with another creative idea and going with it. Your other project(s) will be waiting for you–they are loyal.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      “Your other project(s) will be waiting for you – they are loyal.” That’s SUCH a good point. In some ways, our writing projects are like dogs – our best friends who give us unconditional love no matter how busy and fickle we may be ourselves. Thankfully, they don’t require pooper-scoopers or chew holes in the couch, though : ).

  6. Aurora says:

    Stay with your writer woman wherever she may lead… even if it means putting some writing projects on hold and visiting with the old folks… or blogging your brains out… years ago a writing instructor said this simple thing: Writers write. I didn’t really get it until later but I write because I cannot stop. I think most of us who write are like that, blog or otherwise. The big project will get done, if it’s meant to. Meanwhile, thanks again for sharing another inside look at our very own writing dilemmas… sigh… at least you felt guilty, I don’t feel anything… just nothing… when I think about my big project… but it’s there… will be there when I’m ready and so will yours. As long as you are writing, it’s all good. Write on 🙂

    • hawleywood40 says:

      That’s exactly what I”ve been telling myself. If I’m getting sidetracked from my “big project” because I’m writing something else, that’s acceptable. If I’m sidetracked because I wanna stare at the boob tube or go see a shot fairy, though, then I have to make myself go stand in the corner : ).

  7. Amy Isaman says:

    After reading your post and all of the comments, I feel much better about myself. I always have 3-4 books going and 3-4 quilt projects going, so why on earth do I need laser focus on one writing project? Odd that we allow flexibility in other creative endeavors but have to learn that lesson in writing. Thanks, yet again, for your insightful posts!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Great point Amy! This got me thinking about how I actually WANT myself to have flexibility in the gym – other than cardio I don’t work the same muscles every day. The legs get to rest while the arms get worked, or vice versa. Then the abs and back get thrown in somewhere. I’m going to start thinking about writing the same way – the novel writer takes a breather while the blogger gets a workout, the horror writer gets a day of rest while the humorist hones in, etc …

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