My Superpower: Betsy Dornbusch

22 Oct

My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Betsy Dornbusch to talk about how Writing In Bits helped make her turn in a story for Neverland’s Library

Neverland's Library

I keep resisting thinking of any aspect of writing as a superpower. After all, there’s a bunch of us writer types around and a lot of what we do is the same: ass in chair, fingers on keyboard, words on page. I don’t think of it as glamorous or magical at all. It’s my job and a hell of a lot of time it’s a slog and I feel like a hack. But I realize other people (readers and maybe other writers) do think there is magic involved. Maybe there is. I got to thinking about life and writing and I realized I do have a particular magical method of drafting that not many others have. I’m not sure if it’s learned or part of my nature, but I know I wouldn’t be able to write anything without this particular super power.

First, let me set the scene: Writing is my day job, but I have kids. Kids who like to tell me stuff, show me their artwork, ask me to watch funny videos. Kids who want me to drive them places. Kids who create copious amounts of laundry. Plus the dog and a husband and phone calls from my mother and friends who drop by and the texting zomgthetexting—I might say writing is my day job but I’ve rarely a week (rarely being the polite term for never) when I get five uninterrupted weekdays to write for 6-8 hours per day, or even in a two hour stretch.

For instance, just this week my family has: a day off from school, a trip to the mountains, a dog in a cone with an injured leg who requires several warm compresses, seven pills, and constant monitoring every day, a little girl sick at home, my very own cold with the requisite sleeplessness and cold pill hangovers, an ever-growing slush pile, an even bigger pile of laundry, parent-teacher conferences, two written interviews and three blog posts, a friend’s signing, two music lessons, two math lessons, shooting club, ten music practice sessions, hair dyed blue (true story), a Target run, a deposition (longer true story), a trip to the mall, my weekly doctor’s appointment to draw blood, two appointments to take care of house maintenance, some early Christmas shopping, a brother who still needs a phone call after his surgery, and 3 days of appearances at a local convention this weekend. I’m sure there’s more but I’m too exhausted to get up and go look at the calendar.

One time several years ago I wrote a book flat out, 20 pages a day. It was shit, utter shit, but still, I beat NaNo rates. All I had then was a three year old and a baby who could crawl but chose not to. I thought I was busy. Two kids in diapers, but I had so much time on my hands I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I also experience a lot more anxiety around writing than I used to. I have an agent, editors, and readers counting on me. I’m extremely invested in the series I’m writing. I’m still in the midst of adjusting my career to fit family and market needs. Plus, my characters make me crazy, the jerks. I get twitchy just sitting here writing about writing.

Now I have…the above. My life makes it very easy to not write much. Writing for hours at a time? Hah! Waiting for three hour blocks of time before I out words on the screen? Never going to happen.

Fortunately, I have one ability, a superpower even, that would be annoying for my boss if I had a cube job but works very well in my life: I can draft coherently in short bits.

I type a couple of paragraphs between cleaning the toilet and bathtub. I jot a few sentences on my iPad in bed and transfer them to my manuscript later. I email myself plot points in the grocery line. I’ve texted myself cool lines of dialogue when I’m out with friends.

I envision some writers tapping their lips with a pen and gazing out the window as they contemplate brilliance. Other writers make me think of that old Saturday Night Live skit with Stephen King who never stops typing despite all kinds of interruptions. But I’ve learned I give myself lots of time to think when I write this way. When I hop up midsentence to refill my teacup, I’m generally thinking of how to finish said sentence and what comes next. I’m not sure I know any other writers who write like me, but I also know a lot of writers who take entire weekends to write and never finish a damn thing. So I guess writing in bits is my Superpower.

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Betsy Dornbusch is the author of a dozen short stories, three novellas, and two novels, the latest of which is Exile. She also is an editor with the speculative fiction magazine Electric Spec and the longtime proprietress of Sex Scenes at StarbucksEmissary is forthcoming from Night Shade Books in 2015.

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