Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Hundred & Fourteenth

A dark forest sits beneath a starry sky. Creepy black goo drips over the scenery. Whimsical white letters read: “Fit the Hundred & Fourteenth: You Can Never Get Ahead of Time.”

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA.]

YOU CAN NEVER GET AHEAD OF TIME

Hello, All! Melanie here.

I was a little worried when we hadn’t heard from X the week before last. Now, I know she’s occasionally gone silent when things get busy, or she’s been thrown in jail, but this time felt a little different. 

We would have to go without another update this week until this email from Tod Boadkins came in at the last minute, so pardon the late post. 

If you’re new to Writer X or haven’t been following her recently, X has been promoting the music career of her best friend and demon, Tryxy, to varying degrees of disaster and success. Sometimes, the two are indistinguishable.

The silence of the last week was due to a serious injury. X’s boyfriend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, writes on her behalf.

Without further ado… 


Subject: Hi

Hi Gladys,

I’m not sure you heard the news after the lightning storms of this last week, but X has broken both her hands. She’s requested that I write you on her behalf. For some reason, X is convinced that if you don’t receive at least one email from her weekly, something cataclysmic could occur. You’ll receive at least one email from me on her behalf over the next 3-4 weeks as she heals lest the world crack in two. 

I could use your help, namely with X and Tryxy.  

They’re very close. I’ve heard a lot about BFF relationships between writers and demons.

Hemingway’s relationship with an unnamed demon summoned by absinthe and champagne is famous. The speculation about J.K. Rowling is more recent. Everyone knows about Neil Gaiman’s demon bestie Crowley, who inspired much of his work. In these examples, I note two things: 

1.) The demon BFF relationship has a moral gray area that may or may not contribute to excellent writing.  

2.) The relationships are examples of writers and demons who ACTUALLY get writing in as opposed to—well, we both love her, Gladys—but as opposed to what X does. 

What happens when you have a young demon with a love for hot Cheetos, cats, and Lil’ Nas X and a writer with a passion for hot pink, Brandon Sanderson, and destruction? Whatever damage that can happen is mitigated by TIME. If said demon is currently enrolled full-time at Miskatonic Online University and working on their music career, and said writer is writing, there’s only so much trouble the two have the TIME to get into. 

But suppose said writer writes as rarely as the solar eclipse totality we witnessed last month, and said demon is FREAKING OUT about their upcoming festival performance and unwritten songs. In that case, that leaves both with a surplus of TIME, and the sky is generally the limit to how mad things can become. 

And the sky is also a terrible place to fall from. One would be lucky to fall from the sky and survive, having only broken both their hands. 

I digress. 

Where I need your help concerns art, time, and X and Tryxy’s latest plot. 

We all know that X thinks of herself as “the next big epic fantasy writer of all time” and I am envious of this belief in oneself. As it so happens, many (but not all) of the “next big epic fantasy writers of all time” also thought this of themselves, and I fear—deep within my anxious soul—that there is a correlation between this belief and that outcome. 

However, X appears challenged in understanding the correlation between actually writing and becoming the next big epic fantasy writer of all time. 

Tryxy also seems similarly challenged in his own artistic pursuits. He’s had some songwriting success. Everyone knows “Ninevah Burns In My Soul” is the quintessential summer bop. And yet, now that DemonKitty is getting booked for shows, Tryxy seems to have a bit of the old once bitten/twice shy about writing enough original material to fill an hour-long show. DemonKitty is set to perform at a festival at the end of May, but they still have fewer than five songs. 

Maybe “once bitten/twice shy” isn’t appropriate, as I’m not sure what he was actually bitten by. “Fear of the blank page” is better. If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon, it’s when a writer wants to write, but when they try to start, they become overwhelmed by expectations of having to write something brilliant, so they fail to start. 

In fact, fear of the blank page is going around this house with all of its terrifying symptoms, including a total lapse of reason. I’m afraid I’m coming down with it, too. 

With the festival clipping nearer and nothing written, X and Tryxy hatched a plan to get their hands on another time machine and jump into the future when DemonKitty is presumably successful and on world tour. Then, they could watch Future DemonKitty perform and know what songs to write. 

You and I know this is a categorically bad idea, Gladys. Not only because of X and Tryxy’s disastrous history with time travel—what with Tryxy getting stuck in the summer of 1789 in Paris this last fall, and nearly getting banned from time travel altogether, not to mention the whole abduction of Ursula Le Guin to bring the legendary author to come live in a secret tower in our local library while subsequently failing to ever visit her—not only that, but because this isn’t how writing actually works. 

People who are new to writing and haven’t written at all tend to place a great deal of weight on ideas. They believe that great writing consists of great ideas and fail to understand that writing is simply a craft like table making but with words. Ideas don’t make stories; the act of story writing develops ideas. 

To build a table, you have to show up and do the work. That’s where the genius happens. It’s no different for writing. Sure, ideas are a part of it, but they’re a small part. You can’t wait for inspiration to write; if it strikes, you won’t have the craft to make it come together and truly develop it. 

Writing under the auspices of inspiration is likened to being struck by lightning. You can’t wait for lightning to strike; you have to go out day by day, climb the lightning rod, and wave down the lightning. 

Which leads us to X’s injuries. The librarians won’t loan Tryxy the time machine as the last one he borrowed is in the Seine of 1789. So X and Tryxy got to ordering time machine parts online and spent the last week or so piecing a time machine together rather than actually writing. Then, they needed to power it up with a lightning strike because “that’s what the movie clearly said” and…

Lightning struck. 

While X had shimmied to the top of the lightning rod on the town clock tower. And while the lightning struck a quarter mile away, the sonic boom gave X a good startle and she went rolling off the lightning rod and slid down the roof, over the gutters, and plunged headfirst into a dogwood tree, breaking both metacarpals. 

But we still have this damned time machine and two artists, one who actually has a valid excuse for not writing for the first time in her life and the other who has invested two weeks into solving his problems with time travel and is knee-deep in sunk cost fallacy. 

Now they’re talking of using the ghost time machine to first travel back in time and prevent X from falling off the roof, and then forward in time to DemonKitty’s first world tour. 

And X’s casts are itching her so badly that I’m starting to think I should let them. 

I should go. I have to get X some dinner, and then I’m off to a weekly meeting with the Ink Black Coffee Club Critique Group. Following that, I’m going to pop in and say hi to Ursula Le Guin. 

Regards,

TB

P.S. X wants to say something to you and insists on typing it with her tongue. Gah. This is her from her writing from here out.

i t’s f i ne ga ldsy

w et key boar d

P.P.S. Not to mention, how can you ever become famous in the future if you never write in the present? God, this keyboard is GROSS.


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2 thoughts on “Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Hundred & Fourteenth

  1. Finally some sensible advice on writing, naturally not from X. But the world hasn’t split in two yet, that I’ve noticed anyway, so I guess it worked.

  2. I know right?? How does one tell if the world splits in two nowadays? Seems like it’d be hard to hear over all the general cracking.

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