How To Write When There Is A Rooster in the Basement

#HereBeDragons with a sneak peek at my work in progress.

It’s hard to stay focused these days. Between keeping up with the constant storm of news, processing the constant stream of ugliness, raising kids in a scary world, teaching, and taking care of the rooster in the basement–yes, there is a rooster in the basement. He tangled with an opossum on Sunday evening, lost his comb in a mighty act of heroism, and is recovering in the basement where it’s quiet and warm. So. There’s been a lot going on. The last thing I’ve felt capable of doing is writing. How can anyone write stories when the world is the way it is? How can I justify taking time for this when there are students to teach and children to raise and senators to call and articles to read seeking truth and a flipping rooster in the basement?!?

Yesterday, I got my seventieth rejection letter. I’ve managed to get several full requests, but no offers of representation yet. It’s time to start working on the next book I’ll query, but it’s hard. Hard to focus. To calm down from the latest outrage enough to slip into another world, into someone else’s experience. And it feels like a horrible luxury. But the beauty of that rejection is that it’s reminding me to keep going. Ironically, it’s reminding me of what I can do.

I keep reminding myself that stories matter. They are ways of seeking truth, and the truth has never been more crucial or embattled than now. So rather than keep thinking about the million important things clamoring for my attention, I’m going to dive headfirst into this revision. My voice isn’t loud. It doesn’t reach very far. But I can speak the truth of this story–perhaps this is the most important thing I can do.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to stay focused, to center your creative work in difficult times.

9 thoughts on “How To Write When There Is A Rooster in the Basement

  1. Brenna, first, I want to say that I look forward to your blogs so much. They seem to come just when I need them. I am thinking, “The world has gone mad. I’m so overwhelmed,” and I question myself. Surely I’m overreacting. Then comes a blog from Brenna confirming that yes, the world has gone mad and it is right to be overwhelmed, and even if you are, you can still be human and loving and creative, and you can still see whimsy in the world. At least, you can if you are Brenna. So… those who have rejected you can just stick that in their smoke and pipe it 😉 Thank you for you.

    As to your question: The only writing I’m doing is on paper in the 20 minutes I’m parked at the car line waiting to pick up my son from school. I never thought I would enjoy writing long-hand, but with nothing clickable and no dings and chimes, I actually get words on the paper. Everything else, though, is kind of in the dust. I haven’t touched my blog in ages, and I’m not sure I ever will again. I have a combination of fear and apathy about having my words in the world. Fear, because there is a hungry oppositional monster force of trolls waiting to desecrate the most earnest and heart-felt writing. And apathy because I don’t think I have much to say that isn’t being said better everywhere else. Well…that ended on a less positive note than I meant.  So let me stop wallowing to wish a speedy recovery to your basement rooster!

    1. Thank you so, so much for your very kind words. You encourage me. ❤ And I hear you. First, I'm super-impressed by your 20-minute longhand car-writing. This is how the magic happens for sure. And I get that fear/apathy thing. I'm constantly wondering what I'm doing in the blogosphere, and if I can handle the garbage that seems to often to come along with reaching a wider audience, should I get to that point. And the apathy…..yeah, there are so many people out there saying things I want to say but can't quite articulate or can't articulate as well….Geez. Everything is complicated, isn't it?? I'm really thankful to have connected with you here, and will miss your blog if you don't return to it, but I understand and hope I'll get to read your words in some other format. Here's to roosters and connections and 20-minute magic!

  2. Brenna, thank you for such a lovely post – the wonderful camaraderie I feel from your words – it echoed a lot of what I have been thinking of late (not with rooster and young children, but my own set of things/creatures to care for), and I am still trying to find that new rhythm and groove of focus and groundedness. When I am able to dip into it, however, I feel like I’m home.

    I love the snippet you shared – made me want to hunker down and read more!

    I’m sorry there was yet another rejection – what a process – but I’m glad you were able to hold it up and still find some goodness reflected there.

    1. Thanks, Peggy! Whew…it never gets less exciting, that’s for sure! It’s always so good to be reminded that I am in the writing trenches with some super-excellent peeps. Thanks for being such a consistent, thoughtful reader of words and sharer of thoughts.

  3. Brenna,
    Thanks. You are a constant source of inspiration and self-challenge. For that, I am immensely grateful.
    It’s challenging for me, too (though for different external reasons). Sometimes, I just give myself a break. Sometimes I set a daily (meaning one created on the day I intend to complete it), small, incremental step towards the next goal.
    Playful blessings,

    1. Thanks, Stan. Oh, these challenges…..I have to say that from where I stand, you always seem to handle them with a grace and equanimity that I truly admire. It’s never easy, I know, but you make it look easy, and you do it with incredible kindness and thoughtfulness. You rock!

      1. I value my integrity and therefore your perception. At the same time, I have to continually renew my commitment to my authentic self since the pull to do things purely to please others creeps in.

  4. How to create amid distraction? For my blog, I only write when an idea is so powerful, it begs to be written about. That might happen every two weeks. I can’t compare to someone who is writing to be published! Patience is not my strength. I loved the story with the rooster in the basement. Funny, and using it to describe everyday distractions was very effective.

    1. Patience is really hard for me, too–so hard that I often wonder why I’m doing this! Like you, I have a hard time keeping to a schedule for blogging because I want to only write when I feel I have something to say. I’m leery of putting more noise out in the ether. What this often means for me is that I blog consistently for a couple of months and then let it go for a while as I rest and percolate.

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