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Crazy Farm Plan Grows Teeth — Part One

I am a cyclical creature, but living inside the cycle, subject to its awful whims, it doesn’t SEEM like a cycle. It seems like what is real and true. It is partially because I ma not SEASONAL, so I can’t just say, OH It is WINTER, I get blue in winter. For me, the cycle is built around the books.

Here is how writing a book goes:

1) Have a big idea. Prance around. Be enchanted with myself. Kiss my dogs on the lips. Kiss strange dogs on the lips. Be sassy. Purchase shoes.

2) Write a bunch of it. See that it sucks. See why it sucks. Bog down.

3) Suffer. Lie down. Cry. Watch bad television. Read comforting books I have read fifty times before, my go to soother-books, SO often reread that I remember individual sentences and wait for them with a weepy, sick nostalgia: Persuasion. The Solace of Leaving Early. The Hobbit. Beauty. The Passion. Red Dragon.

4) Announce to Scott that I CANNOT write this book. Announce to EVERYONE that I cannot write this book. Announce to Scott and everyone that I am quitting writing and I cannot write this book, and then go lie in a dim room and cry. For days. Or weeks. Sometimes months. Eat transgressive foods.

5) Begin espousing Crazy Farm Plan! From a prone position, begin to mournfully toot and hoot about how I HATE where we live, I HATE my house, I HATE the Traffic, I HATE that WALMART came and murdered my small town, I HATE how we have turned into a suburb, I MISS THE COUNTRY, I HATE the McMansions, I hatehatehate the HATEFUL MALL, I HATE that if I want to go out to eat we have to drive 45 minutes to Decatur because I REFUSE to give 50 bucks to some AWFUL CHAIN that just hands you crap food that is BAD for you and drowning in fat to disguise the fact that it is NOT GOOD FOOD.

I ONLY want to have goats. And a turkey named Gustav that we never never eat. And piglings. And a horse and a saucy pony to be his friend. DUCKS!!!!! I say, WE WILL GROW DUCKS AND OUR OWN ORGANIC VEGETABLES! (Nevermind that I have never so much as planted a HERB in my garden beds, never so much as PULLED A WEED, never so much as turned on a SPRINKLER, nevermind that I hate dirt and bugs and for nature things to touch me! I am going to FARM!

I wallow in tears and filth and never get out of yoga pants and swear this is all I want, but am too dank and sorrowful to begin to actually make it happen.

6) Realize what I have done wrong with the book, and BOOM, Hello, suddenly I am Manic Pleased Me. I come roaring up fronm the black and salty depths and I feverishly scribble as much as I can each day and in between the scribbling, I do 50 hundred MORE things that have been put off and off during the wallowing….
This is the time when closets get cleaned out, when rooms get painted, when parties get planned, organized, cooked for, and executed, when I runrunrun in my pumped up kicks as IF I WERE being shot at, but I kinda like it.

OH HOW I LOVE PHASE SIX.

And when it comes roaring through me like a TRAIN OF ENERGETIC DELIGHT, I start actually farm shopping, start trying to apply for mortgages, start calling up chicken farmers and asking for sample crates of hens.
Scott has to STOP ME because, you see, he hates crazy farm plan. He is pretty sure it will end with him feeding the sheeps and ploughing the back 40 while I lie in the bed and cry and watch every possible episode of Firefly a bunch more times and curse Fox for screwing me out of my rightful 5 – 9 seasons of its amazingness, all the while saying, “I can’t write this book…”

Everyone I love recognizes these phases and says , in the black, bad part, “This is just how you do, remember last book? When you did this same thing?” And I genuinely do not remember it all that clearly…Like childbirth, the really awful part fades when the joy of creation part comes.

This time, when phase 6 hit, Lydia said OH HI THERE, PERSON! I KNOW YOU! YOU ARE THE ONE WHO GETS THE SHIZZES DONE. I KNEW YOU WOUL DBE ALONG SHORTLY.

You see, I am writing my 8th book now, what will be my 6th published, and the cycle is readily apparent and mapped and traced and perfectly understood by EVERYONE outside of it.

Even I recognize NOW, finally, that there is a pattern – for about 4 books I told them all they were cray-cray for reals, that I did NOTHING like this for Book Previous, but now, finally, for the last four books, I am starting to see they are right.

And it matters not a fig. Knowing doesn’t get me out of bed. Knowing doesn’t; make the weeping stop. Knowing can’t kickstart the manic, OH WOULD THAT IT COULD, because oh oh oh do I LOVE me some manic! But the wild unstoppable energy happens when the book gels in my head, and I cant; find a way to MAKE that happen on my planned timetable.

The only thing that knowing has changed….is Crazy Farm Plan. Knowing gave it TEETHS.

To be continued, but, before I continue, are any of you this way? Cyclical? Is it seasonal or creative or driven by some other awful force? WHO TOLD YOU? Or did you somehow know yourself, even though you lived inside it, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, is there anything you can do to jumpstart OUT of the mean red parts?

27 comments to Crazy Farm Plan Grows Teeth — Part One

  • It kinda hurts my heart a little know it is so painful for you to bring us all so much joy. So thanks for your suffering!

    I understand the crazy plan. Mine is sorta always there, in a fantasy-style format. I dream of a milkable animal from which I can make cheese (see, I saw this little old woman in Poland with a cheese shack and a field of sheep…). Definitely chickens. Some smart, herding dogs to organize my milkable livestock. But then three days later, I swear that after my youngest leaves for college I am moving to the beach. So. Which will win? Probably the easiest one.

    Anxiously awaiting part 2.

  • Oh goodness I love this so much. Because I’m pretty sure I hit the majority of these phases (except the farm thing because I have zero desire to feed another thing that makes me clean up it’s poop). But the ridiculous crying and watching TV and dreading…ALL the time. I think my cycles are a bit shorter—days and hours, up and down all the time. Fun for all, I’m sure.

  • Your #5 resonates with me in a way that is so viscerally deep it’s probably in my DNA. Hate where we live, want to move to a farm, MISS HAVING DOGS, bring on the farm.

    However, I don’t own yoga pants. I don’t think they make them in my size.

    Oh, and I don’t get a book at the end of it.

    But my farm longing isn’t cyclical. I’m sure I do have cycles, I think everyone does. But I don’t at all recognize mine. It’s just the way life is.

    Crazy Farm or not, you make good kids and good books! And bless the Scott for keeping your Crazy in bounds. Much love!

  • Yes … cycles. I hate that somethings (news to me) they (seem to be) last YEARS. WTF?!?

    or … this isn’t a cycle and it’s my new life AND I DON’T LIKE IT ONE BIT. The inability to achieve (or know what will turn on) the manic is HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE. (please witness the decline of house cleanliness, maintenance, joy, writing, feeling empowered, etc.)

    Anyway – like Sandy – I’m glad YOUR cycles bring us great stories. And great blogs. And (maybe a modicum) some self-forgiveness (or hope).

    And I am glad Scott helps keep the crazy farm from erupting into actuality. (because I would hate to see our sweet tulip even MORE overwhelmed).

  • ohhh yes I know the cyclicles…and they know me, like the song lyric about Mood swing, I feed you.
    Like the other commenters, I have no fabulous work of fiction finished when I crawl out of my navel and marvel at the great big world out there. 5HTP helps me slither forth. Exercise helps keep me out. Barefoot running with my daughter (Born To Run, aMAZing book) makes me feel like a bad@ss in my very own neighborhood, no alcohol needed, for absolute free.
    Do NOT read The Food Lovers Garden whilst in the throes of Crazy Farm Love. I am thisclose to ordering blue honeysuckle and Egyptian walking onions, despite the fact that I killed umpty tomato plants last summer…

  • Brigitte

    Heh, hubby was just talking getting goats yesterday. Im just unsure what I’d DO with them, besides alternately rant that they ate my garden and coo at their cute sassiness.

    I have no cycles that I’ve noticed. I wallow a bit (but not as manically) and then feel better for a bit (but again not as manically – which means nothing gets accomplished in EITHER phase). I instead live vicariously through people like you! And vicariously is much less painful than ACTUAL. 😉

  • Karen in Ohio

    Well, Joss, I do have a farm, and it keeps me from doing any writing.

    So there’s that.

  • Jessica (the celt)

    I so, so, SO want to go out and live out in the country on a tiny farm, like I did when I was a kid. I want animals and, now that I’m in MN, a nice tiny lake to sit near with my friends. (There weren’t enough lakes going around when I was growing up in IL, so this wasn’t a part of the dream back then.) I want two of all kinds of animals and about a million barn cats. Of course, this dream also has me being independently wealthy, so I can take care of all these animals, but still…

    I have cycles (not seasonal either) where I’m extremely okay with where I am and then suddenly, boom, I’m wanderlusting in my head about living abroad and getting away from it all. I keep trying to get hubby to move to at least Vancouver, if not a remote Irish or Spanish village, but we’re here. I’m in the midst of “I need to get out of here! I want to move! I want to be free! I want to LIVE!” but my husband is sure that it’ll just settle down eventually. I think we have at least two more months of this particular wanderlusting to go, since I have been looking at living costs in about ten places now. ;~)

    *sigh*

  • Shelley S

    Sure I have cycles, but mine are hormonal. Other than that I am just one who loves the outcome of your cycles. But I was just reading up on bi-polar cuz there’s a DNA trap near my world. The official word on snapping out of it is to do stuff. One who loves you is supposed to show you the list of things that get you out of the dumps then you do them until their happy infections take hold. So while it’s hard to force the book fix to the fore, you can go to funny movies, do yoga, dance like a fool, play with the kids. Easier said than done of course.

  • I actually LIVED on the farm when I started writing, and I’ve conveniently forgotten the midnight runs to bring the horses in during thunder storms and the daily shoveling of horse poop. (But boy, were my biceps big.) I never got goats though — I had to put them in my book since my husband drew the line at horses. Now when I wallow I wax nostalgic about the farm days, and my husband rolls his eyes and gives thanks that we live in a place with paved driveways.

  • Scottsdale Girl

    I like to believe I am fairly even tempered and mood-ed. Of course I don’t ask anyone in my life to confirm this belief. Because la-la-la I can’t hear you!!!

  • I haven’t charted any sort of cycle with my bouts with depression so I couldn’t say, BUT!

    “Oh, Captain, my Captain!” I had to break out the Firefly and relive the awesomeness that is Nathan Fillion and Joss Whedon and SPACE! <3

  • Oh yes, I am like this. Well, I really do kind of hate where we live right now, that’s not cyclical. But the book thing–yes and yes. My name for stage 2 is ‘the 30 thousand word crisis’ because like clockwork every time I write a book, I hit the wall at 30,000 words and realize that it sucks and 70 to 80 percent of it is going to have to be scrapped. But I don’t know HOW to make it better, and as a writer there is just no worse feeling that that feeling that you’re not doing the story you’re trying to tell justice. That the story is THERE trying to communicate with you, but you’re too stupid to understand the language it speaks. I hate that!

    What to do?

    a) at this point, I trust the process. Don’t get me wrong, I purely and totally hate it every time, but after 8 books published, I do deep-down trust that the story WILL come with time.
    b) I create something else–something that is emphatically NOT a book. I can’t tell you how much this helps. For me, it’s sewing. Dolls and clothes for my little girls, stuff like that. But I can’t sew, you say? Neither could I until I was feeling SO mentally ill with a book-in-crisis that I had to do SOMETHING so I taught myself. Seriously–I knew nothing. I had to beg my husband to set up the sewing machine, read the instructions, and then show me how to use it after I bought it because he’s the one who’s good with machines and instruction manuals. He was like, Um, baby, learning to use your sewing machine for you is really not in the ‘husband’ job description. But it really, really helps to be able to have another creative outlet that CAN go well, even when the book doesn’t, to be able to look at something and say, I made that!

    Congrats on reaching stage 6! My current stage 6 is being interspersed with my stage 7: The book is CLAWING at me, begging me to get it down on paper and I CAN’T because I have a 2 year old who never naps and no writing time. Lather, rinse, repeat. 🙂

  • Lia

    Funciting! That is all.<3<3

  • My last “cycle” lasted two + years, so I’m not so sure it’s a cycle but more of a monumental stretching of threads and seams to make this growing soul fit into old wine skins. ‘Twas a doozy. I have a feeling it will happen again some day. And I don’t look forward to it, but I am hopeful that next time around I’ll see the signs sooner so God doesn’t have to use the seam ripper.

    I don’t know any way around it but to have people who love you on speed dial, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and sit down when you need to. I think you’re doing those things. . .and when you hit your next manic stride, it will put a spring in ALL of your Best Beloveds’ steps, because we will HEAR it in your blog.

  • You just described my writing process precisely. PRECISELY. And once again have made me feel normal.

  • This sounds about right, only in place of your Crazy Farm Plan, I have Urban Hipster Plan, where I will sell the house and move to a super-cool city, with walkable neighborhoods, with mom and pop restaurants, with public transportation, with arthouse cinemas on the corners and music venues upstairs, and people who think like me and want to have dinner out on Tuesday night even if it’s a school night. But with no pollution, except I still have a garage with a car in the basement so I can run away to the country when necessary. That’s all. Just that. Because all that will most definitely make writing the next book so much easier. 🙂

  • ali

    Oh, my word — this entry is beyond fabulous. I came her from a link on Deanna Raybourn’s blog, and I couldn’t be happier. First, I totally get this. Second, you posted a picture of PIGS and MAL from Firefly! Total freakin’ win, with a side of awesomesauce.

    Love this.

  • Yes. Yes….Yes. I too, come from Deanna Raybourne’s blog, and yes. I’m on the cusp of entering the energy stage and pulling the ms. outta my butt. Yes. Thank you for posting this.

  • All that Roxanne said. And also, yes. And as I’m in my 40s now, the cycles seem intensely more pronounced, regardless of their kind.

  • Well…I don’t have eight books under my belt, but I recognize the cycle you’re describing for different reasons and with a variation on the symptoms.

    Anyway, you might enjoy “Steven Steps on the Writer’s Path.” It makes parallels between the writing journey and the stages of grief. The big point I took from it was to NOT resist the weeping. It’s unavoidable – possibly even required to get through to renewed productivity.

    Sorry, Scott.

  • DeAnna Williams

    Thank you for giving me permission to fly my writer “freak flag”. Deanna Raybourn’s blog enlightened me about this blog and I’ll be checking in often!

  • Look, the manic person is WRITING FUNNY BLOG POSTS!!! Yay!

  • Michelle-who-is-Shelley

    I know that there was much more to this post that was very important, but oh how I miss Firefly and I am renewed now in my sadness that I won’t get any more seasons of Mal, Jayne and ever-so-wonderful Wash.

  • Cyclothymia! I have it too. Read Touched With Fire, if you haven’t already. I’m hoarding Grown Up Kind of Pretty for one of my phase 3’s. 🙂

    And if Crazy Farm Plan gets to the point of enactment, there is a 10-acre one with fenced pastures, barn, pond, and big private house on my lane, for sale. 🙂

  • if i have cycles like that, i’m not good at recognizing them, but the Crazy Farm Plan i definitely get. except mine is called Tiny Farm and will be all miniature versions of normal farm animals. did you know they have mini cows? and chickens. and goats. and horses. like the regular ones, but bitsy. of course, we live in the city and my husband has little to no desire to go to the country, but still. Tiny Farm!

  • Heh. Here’s my favorite piece of advice from a recent post by Colin Nissan on McSweeneys.net:
    “KEEP IT TOGETHER
    A writer’s brain is full of little gifts, like a piñata at a birthday party. It’s also full of demons, like a piñata at a birthday party in a mental hospital. The truth is, it’s demons that keep a tortured writer’s spirit alive, not Tootsie Rolls. Sure they’ll give you a tiny burst of energy, but they won’t do squat for your writing. So treat your demons with the respect they deserve, and with enough prescriptions to keep you wearing pants.”

    My phase 5 fantasy is Airstream Gypsy. Wherein I purchase a vintage Airstream (the silver bullet 1970’s kind), gut it, renovate it so that it evolves into a luxury mini-palace on wheels with all sorts of amazing fabrics and tiles and such, then tour around the country doing…uh, stuff that I can’t do right now. Mike spends a LOT of time reminding me (1) the cost of gas is astronomical, (2) I truly hate to drive big-ish vehicles let alone hauling a MONSTER Airstream around, (3) most RV parks are not really very pleasant places to hang out, and (4) two words: toilet maintenance (ewwwwwww!)