Category Archives: Scotland

On Making Time and Complicating Life on Purpose.

“How will you find the time?”

This has become the most asked question in my life. In exactly six months, I will move to the UK for a year, to do a Masters Program at the University of Edinburgh. It’s a crazy and terrifying and totally surreal thing to think about, and I’m very excited to have the opportunity.

But it’s got me thinking a lot about time, and the making of it (notice I don’t say ‘finding’ — I hate that phrase, ‘finding time’). Again and again and again I field a version of the question, “Why? Things are going so well for you! Why would you interrupt it? Why would you make your life more complicated? And how will you find the time?”

I don’t mind the question, exactly. But here’s my answer:

I’m a really strong believer that you expand to fill the time you have. You learn this the hard way: when you wake up fifteen minutes before a class, you discover that you can actually don clothes and sprint across campus in fourteen and a half. When you only have two hours a day to write, as I did in school–or as many do, stealing hours of time before their children wake or after they go to sleep–you discover just how focused you can be.

I have had the immense luxury for the last few years of being a full-time author. But so many people have writing careers without that luxury, some by necessity and some by choice. I believe there is room in life for writing, and room in life for more than writing. I actually believe it’s essential to make room in life for more than writing.

Imagine you can hold your work time in your hands (and let’s for the sake of argument assume you have two of them).

Now imagine that in one hand, you hold writing. In the other, you hold a job, or school, or both. Now let’s say you have the luxury to become a full-time writer, and you empty that non-writing hand. I don’t believe you should put writing in that second hand as well. In fact, for the vast majority of creative people, I don’t think you can. Or if you try, I don’t think you’ll end up with two hands’ worth of work to show for it. We have a creative capacity, and while that’s different for each person, I think it’s fairly constant for that person. A ceiling of efficiency, if you will. For me, personally, my creative capacity is roughly 3,000 words/day. I don’t enjoy writing more than that. My focus falls off, and so does my quality, and I know that about myself.

When I was in college, and stealing two hours in a coffee shop each night to write THE NEAR WITCH, I reached my creative capacity. These days, as a full-time writer, with 18 hours at my disposal instead of 2, I usually hit the same point. Yes, I get to fill the rest of the time doing a myriad of other authorly things, but the simple creative math of it is that my writing sits in one of my two hands, even when the other is free.

And even if someone can stretch themselves, push themselves, take up 8 or 10 or 18 hours of their day with writing, I don’t necessarily think they should. Even if burnout weren’t a factor, I believe that part of being a writer is finding things to write about, getting out in the world and absorbing new information and experiences.

So really, for the last few years, that’s what I’ve filled my other hand with. Movies and travel and books and research and chance and adventure and risk and wrong turns. Those are my true luxuries as a full-time author. For me, being a full-time author has allowed me neither stability nor comfort, but the ability to risk the second hand. Writing is one of the most important things in my life. It is woven into the fabric of who I am. But it cannot be the only thing. It shouldn’t be the only thing. I would not be a good writer if it were the only thing.

So “why would I complicate my life?”

Because life is for complicating.

It’s for living. It’s for taking wrong turns–and hopefully a few right ones. It’s for going on adventures, and learning new things, so that if the Archive turns out to be real, your History will be interesting enough to read 😉

And “how will I find time?”

I won’t. I’ll make it.

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Seven countries. Nine cities. One month.

A month abroad goes something like this:

Home → Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland → Oslo, Norway
Oslo, Norway → Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland → London, England
London, England → Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic → Vienna, Austria
Vienna, Austria → Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg, Germany → Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, France → Dover, England
Dover, England → York, England
York, England → Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland → Home

In photos, it looks something like this:

LochLomond

ArthurSeat

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Oslocemetery2

Munchgrave

Oslosculpture

Oslo sculpture garden

LondonStJamesPark

Praguemarket

Praguerooftops

Mozartgarden

Viennacocktail

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Strasbourg

 

Englishchannel

In words…well, I don’t have any.

There are no words for how I felt standing by the bonfire on Calton Hill during the Beltane Festival in Edinburgh.

No words for walking a character’s steps in London.

No words for the view of Prague from the top of the palace steps, or Vienna’s museum quarter with its majestic architecture.

No words for the cozy streets of Heidelberg, tucked into the hills, or the trains gliding through familiar France, or the strange stillness of the grey English channel.

There are no words for those things. Or if there are, I haven’t found them. I haven’t wanted to, just yet.

But in the months leading up to the trip, and during the month abroad, I’ve been asked one question more than any other: WHY. Why did I do this? Surely there’s a reason. In truth, there are three.

And since I’ve only given little snippets of an answer, I thought I would take the time to try and explain.

1. Wander.

If you’ve followed the blog for more than a month or two, you know I have wings tattooed behind my anklebones, both as a nod to Hermes and a reference to my persistent wanderlust. I have a very, very hard time sitting still. It makes me feel static and small in the worst way. Moving, experiencing, making wrong turns and right turns and seeing the world, it makes me happy. Much happier than buying clothes or shoes or a house or whatever else people use money for. I’m lucky in that right now I only have to worry about supporting myself, so I have the freedom to (scrimp and save and budget and plan to use) my resources for travel. Besides, I subscribe to the adage that you can’t write about life if you spend life writing. Yes, I spend a vast, vast amount of time writing, but I would rather do it on a boat or a train or tucked in the corner of a foreign cafe than sitting at my kitchen counter (though incidentally, after a month abroad, I am sooooo looking forward to my counter).

2. Wonder.

I’ve been thinking about moving to Scotland. Yes, really. One of the best things about my job—one day I will do an honest post about the pros and cons because both are manifold but today is not that day—is the geographic freedom it affords. I don’t have to live in a specific place in order to write books. Two years ago I moved to England for three months and lived in a shed in someone’s back yard (it was all I could afford) while writing THE ARCHIVED simply because I wanted a change of scenery. As a full-time author (a title I hold onto by writing multiple books a year, and one I don’t anticipate to last forever), and one without a husband/S.O/children, I can truly take advantage of the lack of locational confines. So I do. I first visited Scotland a couple years ago, and fell instantly in love. I wanted to confirm that I still felt that love, and I do.

3. Words.

The first two weeks of the trip, which were spent in Scotland with an author friend, were purely for fun (though I wrote a short story, a proposal, and more than 10k of a book, so, I mean, productive fun), the entire second half of the month abroad was actually a research trip for a new book. It took a great deal of careful planning and budgeting, and I’ll likely be spending the rest of the summer eating ramen, but it’s been totally worth it. As for the project itself, the only thing I’ve said about it, and the only thing I will say until it’s written, is that it’s about a twisted love affair between a French girl and the devil. It’s set largely in present-day Brooklyn, but the story is spread over three centuries in Europe, so…yeah.

That’s why I went to Europe.

I wanted to see things.

I wanted to try things.

I wanted to breathe and eat and drink and feel inspired.

I wanted to live in the future and look at the past and I wanted to jot notes on every scrap of paper I could find and feel breathless and remember that I love what I do.

And in two days, this weary little traveler will return home to her kitchen counter feeling all of those things and more.

And ready to write.

Scotland trips and VICIOUS things.

I’m writing this on my last full day in Scotland, trying not to feel heartsick and bonesad. Truthfully, lovelies, I meant to update along the way but I got drawn into the city, the adventure. The thing about living in the future (six hours ahead of my old time zone) is that the world begins to feel kind of far away. Which is wonderful, when you’re trying to write a book.

But I thought I’d give you a glimpse at the mischief we–myself + Rachel Hawkins, author extraordinaire/traveling companion–managed while here:

+ We took a metric ton of photos from our apartment because um look at the view:

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+ We were thoroughly traumatized by the National Museum of Scotland, because it’s like walking into the internet. It is a natural history museum, a history museum, a cultural history museum, an art museum, and approx five other kinds of random ass museums PILED ON TOP OF ONE ANOTHER. And there was a clock with tortured people and it was scary. As Rachel and I now say, that museum happened TO us.

+ We had cocktails at the Balmoral (which is pretty much what you can afford if you decide to go to the Balmoral.

+ We attended Beltane, a pagan solstice ritual on Calton Hill, overlooking all of Edinburgh. We came to refer to Beltane as the Tits and Fire Festival, because, well…

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+ We climbed Arthur’s Seat, a very, very high point looking out over the city. And then we took tea.

+ We went on a day-tour into the countryside and learned about William Wallace and bloody battles and lochs and such while listening to Scottish pop music.

+ We ate A LOT of food (seriously, we’ve been here for 14 days, and have not had a single. bad. meal. Good job, Edinburgh).

+ We bought wee heilan coos, AKA our new spirit animals:

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+ We discovered a corner of the city that is dead quiet, and also probably costs more to live in than the combined sum of our lives.

+ We walked down to Leith, by the water, discovered we couldn’t actually get to the ocean, and went to the pub instead.

+ We discovered millionaire shortbread and these little caramel candies with chocolate centers that we CAN’T. STOP. EATING.

+ We went to Greyfriars–TWICE–and discovered first through experience and then through research that it’s one of the most haunted places in the world. This is the tomb of George Mackenzie, a recognized poltergeist:

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You guys, you could FEEL THE CREEPY SH*T the moment you walked into the massive graveyard. We went in the first time knowing NOTHING about Greyfriar’s history, and had chills the whole time. Then we got home and looked it up, learned about its reputation, and promptly went back for more.

+ We hung out with the lovely Cat Clarke at a divine little bookstore near the university.

+ We discovered not one but two splendid little farmer’s markets and ate sausage rolls and crepes and can you see a pattern in this trip? FOOD.

+ We wrote at both Spoon and Elephant House, the two places where J.K. Rowling is said to have worked on Harry Potter.

+ We had an absolutely unforgettable time.

I have to be very honest, lovelies, and say I’m having a hard time letting go of this city. My bones are so very happy here. I’ve written a synopsis, 10k on my current project, designed cards, and finished a short story, all in two weeks. But there’s much more adventure to be had–I’m off to see a friend in Oslo, then set out on the research portion of this trip, to London, Prague, Vienna, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, Calais and York–and I know I’ll be back.

I’ll definitely be back.

But before I can come back, I have to come home for VICIOUS things! <–segue master right here.

Things are beginning to stir up in the VICIOUS world, lovelies!! We’re 4.5 months away from my twisted little comic book without pictures hitting shelves, and I’m getting bouncy.

In case you haven’t heard, I’m going to be at BEA later this month, signing galleys! I’ll be wandering the expo Thurs, Fri, Sat, but will be signing on Friday, May 31st, at Table 17, from 2-3pm. And you guys, these galleys, they are GORGEOUS, remember?

Photo on 2013-03-29 at 13.11

But not only can you get your hands on one of them! If you come to the signing, or find me during BEA, I will give you one of THESE:

trading card group final

THAT’S RIGHT. VICIOUS TRADING CARDS.

A lot of you have wondered/mused/speculated how VICIOUS, my first adult novel, will differ from my YA. I’ve said that I think it’s as different as a book can be, while still being ME. But at last, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can take my words.

Tor.com has uploaded the first two chapters RIGHT HERE, and it would really mean the world to me if you’d click over and give it a look.

Here’s a little snippet for you:

Sydney eyed the grave, tightening her fingers on the wooden grip. Victor had already begun to dig.

“What if . . . ,” she said, swallowing, “. . . what if the other people accidentally wake up?”

“They won’t,” cooed Victor. “Just focus on this grave. Besides . . .” He looked up from his work. “Since when are you afraid of bodies?”

“I’m not,” she snapped back, too fast and with all the force of someone used to being the younger sibling. Which she was. Just not Victor’s.

“Look at it this way,” he teased, dumping a pile of dirt onto the grass. “If you do wake them up, they can’t go anywhere. Now dig.”

Onward and upward, lovelies.

Onward and upward.