Friday, January 15, 2016

There and Back Again, an author's tale

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

When it's time to sit down and write, it is often the hardest thing for me to do. Most days, I write from home. I've a cozy little office and a cozy little chair and once I'm settled, it's all very charming. But those minutes (years!) that it takes my brain to transition from regular old me to SUPER ME--the me who tells stories--is not at all easy.

In fact, to make a go at this author thing, I've had to become an expert at ignoring. Everything, really. I have to ignore the stack of bills at my elbow and the half built Lego Lighthouse on the corner of the desk (the only place the 7yo is convinced will be safe from the destructive 11yo). I have to blatantly ignore the laundry and the dishes in the sink--and there are ALWAYS dishes in the sink.

I have to pretend I'm not really in my jammies, but wearing a cape and shiny spandex and that I have superpowers and, to be honest, by the time I've gotten everyone dressed and fed and off to school, sometimes my imagination has crawled back under the covers.

But I'm disciplined (most days!) and I do eventually make the leap from frazzled mom to author with a book to be written. Some days I make the shift smoothly and other days I'm less successful than Ron Weasley attempting to apparate out of the Ministry of Magic. Remember that? Left a chunk of his arm behind. Splinched. Awful, yes? But I understand just what it is to be half in one place and half in another.

The good news, I've learned, is that once I'm in, I'm in. Once my story has hold of me, once I've tumbled into the half-penned adventure, I'm all the way in.


Well, I share an office. For the last year or so, my husband and I have shared a space. I love having him home. Love, love, love. Some days I love it more in principle than in practice though, because the truth about his job is that he's on the phone for huge portions of the day. Talking. Out loud. Laughing sometimes. Being friendly and charming. But, you know, out loud.

I've had to resort to earphones.

And in this way--ignoring all the OTHER THINGS and with James Horner's various movie scores destroying my eardrums--I disappear into a world of my own making.

But, here's the thing. Transitioning into my story isn't the hardest part for me. It's transitioning out.

Because writing is such an immersive experience, I struggle immensely when it's time for me to hang up my cape and be mom and wife and dish-doer again. It's difficult to wrap my brain around day-to-day tasks and to give all of my attention to those who so totally deserve it--my husband, my kids, my friends. For a fair amount of time, I'm half in one place and half in the other and, while that's not ideal, I've had to learn to give myself some grace.   

Because writing is so very solitary. It is not an easy thing to climb in and out of worlds. We're like travelers in that way. A few wistful hours with the imaginary friends and then back home for dinner with the ones who truly matter. Making the journey there and back again so often is both brave and hard. And the longer you're a storyteller, the more you're alone in your writing cave, the harder you'll have to work at your apparition skills. But do work at it. Being splinched is messy.
I don't know that I have much advice today except to say that when you're writing, be writing. Your whole body. Your whole mind. That adventurous brave soul. Be there. All of you. And when it's time to be home again, be home. Be present with your family and your friends. Go, do, play. Engage. Let your mind rest. Your writing will be better for it. And when you struggle with the transition between here and there, give yourself some grace. With practice, with discipline, you'll get better at it.

Tell me, is the leap between real and pretend taxing on you? Do you find it hard to switch roles? 
How do you handle it?


  1. For me, getting into my story is the hardest. The best way I have to conquer it is to look through some sketches I've done of my characters or read some of my favorite scenes in my WIP to get my mind back into the feel of the story. That's what works for me, anyway. :) Thanks for the thoughts, Mrs. Dittemore!

    1. I love it! Creating your own cave experience is so helpful!

  2. I can definitely relate to this. Thanks for the encouragement. :)
    Music always helps me switch roles, so to speak. So does being outside on a nice day, for some reason. If I'm really struggling, actually putting on a cape(let) or getting one of my stuffed dragons as inspiration/muse. (Ok, yes, the latter can also be a distraction under certain circumstances, but it does help too! Seriously!)

    1. Changing scenery can be an awesome help, can't it? And I love the capelet idea!

  3. Lately, I've been really struggling to get into my stories and sometimes I wondered if there was something wrong with my writing muscle. It's encouraging to know I'm not the only one who struggles with this!

    1. You are so not alone! I deal with it on a daily basis and I can only say this: do it even when it's hard. Practice, routine, they really do help.

  4. Ooooh, I loved this post! It's hard for me to get into a story if I've just finished a draft, but it's also hard for me to get back to the real world with no word count goals or scenes to finish when I'm done with a draft. Sometimes I'll randomly think, "Wait, I still have to write this chapter, right?" then realize of course I've done it already since I finished writing the story already!

    And yes, I do get confused and distracted when I'm writing a draft. I have to force myself to finish my homework FIRST then think about my story!

  5. I come from a big family (9 siblings + me!) and i, unfortunately, do not have a special writing place aside from either my mom's sewing space or the kitchen table.
    and coming from a big's also a loud and active family.
    Most times, I try to transition my writing time to a point where most of the littles have gone to sleep, but the truth is; that's not always practical and my writing has felt it.
    Thus saying, transitioning INTO my story is the hard part, but I've also unlocked the super power of, with enough time and a loud enough music selection, I can root myself into my story in even the loudest, oddest, of places. XD

    1. Ooo, I feel ya, Ashley. I also come from a big family, (I have five siblings, so you still have me beat!), so I have to get used to tuning out, too :).

  6. Great post, Mrs. Dittemore! Going from real to pretend isn't normally hard for me, but when it is that's typically because I'm bored of the story I'm currently writing :). And so (since I'm unpublished and get all the privileges of being so) I will sometimes take a break on that story and write something else until I feel like going back. And by that time I'm normally not as tired of it as I was :D.

  7. I have a hard time escaping into my story because I can't always spend a lot of time in it. I do a lot of work with my hands, and off and on, they can get quite painful. I'm not sure how to get lost in a story when I might only write 100 words at a time throughout the day... :\