This is partly to do with my current project of writing an Urban Fantasy series, and partly to do with the temperature in my building.
See, in New York, most apartments take advantage of radiator heating. With so many apartments crammed together it’s cheap and efficient. Also most apartment buildings are pretty old, especially where I live, and they sort of got stuck in the olden times in some odd ways. For example, I don’t have any outlets in my bathroom. Or take The Dakota. It’s one of the premier residential addresses in the world, an apartment building that has been used in movies, houses celebrities, and was the site of John Lennon’s tragic shooting. It’s one of my dream places to live. And yet it was built in 1884 so you have this landmark building where absurdly elite people live, but there’s no central air. They can’t exactly tear the thing apart to install something like that so everyone has window units. Not that that’s the end of the world, but it’s quirky.
Anyway, in my apartment the radiator has been going full blast for about a month now. I have no say in the matter. The building’s heat is either on or it’s off. I’m supposed to have some sort of control with a knob next to the radiator or something but that never works. I moderate the temperature in my place by opening and closing the window.
But the temperature isn’t the issue. The real issue is the drying effect. When the air itself is dry like in a New York City winter and you’ve got a radiator ticking away…well my mouth is dry and my skin is dry and my eyes are dry and I feel like a package of desiccate.
Or that’s how I did feel until I broke out my defensive measures. Every year when the radiators start coming on, people all over the city break out their humidifiers. To stay warm you need the radiator (once every few years the pilot light goes out on the boiler in my building and I get to experience a few hours without heat…it a cold that defies description) but then the air gets scorched so to counteract the radiator you need a humidifier. It’s a fun game of cause and effect.
And so I sit here, listening to the radiator hiss and watching the moisture billow out of my humidifier and I find myself thinking about writing. At this juncture I’m unsure of whether to press on with writing the aforementioned Urban Fantasy series and see what shakes loose through sheer pressure, or to step back and let everything coalesce in my head and examine it from afar and see if my past choices dictate a clear path. And I am struck by how much of this process is about finding a balance instead of learning a set method.
It’s just like my apartment. If I decide that my radiator can go to hell and crank my humidifier full blast, my clothes will literally be damp in a few hours and I’ll be miserable. If I say to hell with the humidity and let my radiator reign, I’ll be unable to swallow and inevitably get sick about eight times this winter.
It occurs to me that it isn’t about either device being “correct.” Neither one is right, but neither can be ignored. It’s about utilizing both of these tools in order to create a balance that makes my apartment comfortable.
Too often I see authors discussing how they write and it comes across as if they’re picking sides. They either outline or they work in the moment. Go Team Outline! Go Team Spontaneity!
And if one works especially well for you, well, yeah, you should use that one more often.
But it’s not the tool you use that’s important. It’s not the process that matters.
What matters is your work, your final product, your story.
So instead of worrying about how you write, maybe give some thought to what you write. Take a moment to remember your goal and then make your tools subservient to that goal, even if that means using multiple tools to find a balance that works.
Also…please send hot chocolate.