My Process - Travis Martin

The deep dark abyss has spewed up a gem of a man for you guys to read today. This guest blog is from the multi-talented Travis Martin. Travis also makes awesome hand bound journals which you should check out.


I wrote Sweet Adaline about eight years ago, give or take. Before that, I never considered myself a writer. The title seemed outside my passions. Outside my construct as an artist. I was a dick adolescent with grandiose theatrical self indulgence. I muted all that with a military stint that tainted my artistic ambitions. That went for half a decade. But somewhere in there I started fixating on music, and one album from a band called the Afghan Whigs, Black Love, got under my skin and in a way reignited my passion for creation.

            I hadn't been on stage since College and even though I aspired to be an actor with a recognizable name, I still wasn't pursuing it. But that album was digging deeper into me, beyond the words, beyond the melodies. It became this anomalous thing that I was sure had a story to be told, and I became sure I was the only one to tell it. Not the story that the musicians had in mind but, I guess you'd call it Fan Fiction, it was a story that needed to come from me.

            So as I said, my writing career didn't come from some pre-teen epiphany. It just started to boil in me. So I struggled to pieces the images of dreams and day dreams and songs I was writing and new music affecting me, into a construction someone might want to read. Some two years after all that started, after various beginnings and outlines that never took hold, after a divorce and into a new career, and after my final return to the stage in a semi-pro staged production, a play I actually got paid for, I sat the fuck down with a revelation about one character and his impact on another.

            The words that drizzled out were imagined from a traumatic idea, and it felt good. I realized right there that this was not a cozy story and kind of accepted that what ever this thing became, it was to be niche at least. And I didn't really care much at all about genres or marketing or even how to get it out there. I only knew that I had to get it out of me. It took more than a year, and dissolved an engagement with an incredible girl. Writing this thing was akin to heroin, and I had to get to the end. I was as infatuated with it as I'd ever been with a woman or a performance. New ideas took me to darker places, further from parochial marketability, and it was my gift only to myself. My Everest. My own Private Idaho, whatever the fuck that is.

            I finally got to an end. I didn't count words, but I counted pages. Just over three hundred, double spaced. And pages I was proud of every one. I knew where I ended to go back and foreshadow to supplement my out come. I'd developed that delusion that this was Lit and it didn't matter what I'd done to my characters, my only real loved one's. This was the next great whatever.

            And when all was said and done, and I was alone again, the editing started. And that's where the shit hit the fan. These were the micro-breakdowns. Entire pages of shit. An entirely implausible chapter here and there. I cut it up like a Freddy flick. I had, again, countless Final iterations.

Finally, I blurbed it and submitted to agents, and one after another, was turned down. All until I just boxed it up like another skeleton, Focused on my career and told myself I'd moved on. But it was an event, a child of sorts. Already I'd begun to find a more appealing story line. A few years later I moved to Portland, wrote a few plays that I did nothing with. Took the title of writer because, fuck them, that's what I'd become. I was obsessed with my stories.

            Here I am again, eight years later, two valid novels in the chamber, scouring to find those old iterations of Sweet Adaline. Because that was a story I needed to tell. Those are are the stories that define us. Those are the stories we tell. The stories that make us writers are the things that need to be told. The rest is superfluous brain candy. And that's what I dig for when I force myself down to the keyboard to write.

            Write what you need to. Not what's marketable. That will come.  


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Let me tell you about a ... uhh ... friend of mine. She was sitting on the toilet, minding her own business, doing her... business, when someone stuck their head around the door and started screaming really important information at her. I...she... had never got off the toilet, flushed, washed her hands and run back to her computer so fast in all her life.

That, dear reader, was an attack of the muse. To non-writers, the concept of a muse must seem like a bizarre imaginary friend that creative types carry around with them. I suppose that’s true in a way. Let me tell you though, that friend, is temperamental at best, often shows up at inconvenient times (see above) and if you throw them a party - put everything in place just the way they like it and dress yourself up all pretty, you’ll be disappointed to find they don’t turn up.

There is a reason my muse popped up whilst I was ‘otherwise indisposed’. I believe that inspiration sits on a very fine edge between the conscious and subconscious. During those moments when you are awake but not really paying attention to anything, you’re just functioning at a base level of awareness, running on auto-pilot, and your mind regresses into some hidden cave full of treasures. The vast majority of my plot and character revelations occur whilst I’m in the shower. Something about the white noise of the water, the soothing feel of getting clean and the utter bliss of warm water sends my mind into writer mode. My poor husband is learning not to speak to me until after I get out the shower and sit down at the laptop to frantically type up the shit I’ve just thought of. I get irrationally mad at him if he distracts me; it’s as if being brought back into the real world will cause me to forget something important in my imaginary world. Actually it’s not irrational to get mad, because that does happen. I’ll wager most writers have had that moment when they wake up in the middle of the night with some amazing revelation of story that they simply needed to act on and write down.

The trick is to try and replicate that state of mind during the times when you are sat with the document open – or pen in hand – ready to write. No easy task, granted. How to achieve that will vary from person to person. I like to listen to some calming instrumental music and zone out. It also helps to take a long walk or just sit quietly for a time with a blank mind.

The muse is a fickle creature, but when he/she wants to play it feels like you’re opening the best present ever on your birthday. Best of all, it’s free.


Write on.