Put Out Day

O put out day! Callooh! Callay!

I don’t know about you guys, but while I’ve been getting my apocalypse on this spring, I’ve just about *coughs* more than doubled the size of our garden from last year. Not that I’ll be able to keep it alive, since I stink at this stuff, but I’m gonna give it a go. And here we are, finally, on June first! Into the garden they go!

I know that’s a pretty late put out day for most of the world, but things run a bit chilly up here in Alaska. And although I could probably slip things out a few days early without much risk (more and more each year, it seems, hmmm), June first is traditionally the earliest date by which you will reliably be past the danger of frost.

So although I’ve been putting in my plants like a madwoman over these last couple days, I’ve actually been prepping for this day for the past ten weeks. Put out day is certainly not the beginning of the gardening process (nor is it the end).

Garden work starts for me with the planning stage. I figure out how much garden space I have and how much of it I want to use. I try to gauge how much time I’ll have to devote to the garden, and I have some serious soul searching about how much chard we will actually eat. Then I pull out my garden journal, go over where various plants have lived over the previous summers, and decide approximately where I want them to go this year.

Once I have a plan, I start to gather my seeds. Inevitably, I pick up seeds for plants that weren’t on my list. I’m not sorry. I take all the seeds I plan to use this year and write down when they need to be started- whether that’s eight weeks out or four or direct seed. I make myself a little chart where I date each week back from June 1st, so that I know when to start each one. At this point, I also start gathering my starter pots and clear off the plant rack with the grow lights that kind of turns into a giant open-faced junk drawer over the winter.

Then I start planting. Pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, and sweet onions need to be started eight to ten weeks early. I fill pots with soil and worm compost and plant those seeds first. I water them and check on them regularly. A few weeks later, I start the next batch of seeds, and then more after. I stagger them so that I don’t start the lettuces or snap peas too soon, lest they run out of leg room while the ground is still frozen.

Eventually, I run out of room on the plant rack. The tomatoes get too tall. I started too many beets. There isn’t anywhere left for the nasturtiums. The zucchinis need bigger pots. That’s when I shove the couches out of the way and everything gets moved to the sunniest corner of the house, where I set up the card table and take over the top of my husband’s Magic: The Gathering cabinet. If there isn’t enough room there, a few things can stay under on the rack, but the lights are turned off. The mint and green onions are left to fend for themselves in the shade.

By now, the sun is up more than it’s not. The sap season is over. The bees are venturing outside their hive more and more. The snow is nearly gone. I shovel the last of it off the garden and put down cardboard to catch the falling catkins and starve the dormant weeds of sunlight before they can get a foothold they will never again relinquish. I rearrange the garden plan, putting the squashes and tomatoes with their orange and yellow blossoms directly across the strawberry patch from the beehive. They should all get along nicely.

I gather the last of the seeds, the things that will go directly in the garden- the carrots, the radishes, the potatoes, as well as extra lettuce and other leafy greens for second harvests. I get horse manure and aged chicken droppings and fresh ash from the birch and spruce trees we cut down and roasted marshmallows and sausages over. I find I don’t have enough compost from the last year, so I have to buy some, which feels wrong. I amend the soil with all this rot and poop and refuse, and it makes my soil dark and rich. I water it and put the cardboard back on top.

The days are warm now, in the fifties and sometimes higher, and the snow is all gone. I start putting the plants out during the day, when the sun is high and hot, and then bring them back in at night when the temperature drops to the thirties, and then to the forties. I water them in the mornings, or at least as soon as I remember. The tomatoes are already blossoming, so I put them up by the beehive.

Things are almost ready.

Working together, my family tills and weeds each row, pulling out the spreading rose roots, shaking the dirt from the pulled grass. We cut down high bush cranberry and birch saplings and willow shoots. We clear a new row. We put in a raised bed for the kids. We plant the apple trees. Everything is coming together.

The seedlings are overflowing their pots, their roots starting to peek out the drainage holes in the bottoms of their cups. I worry I started some of them too soon. (Sorry, lettuce, I tried.) They stay outside from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. I chase the chickens away when they get too curious; they go eat grass and dandelion shoots instead.

I put in the direct seeds and pull out the janky old sprinkler, cursing it when it gets stuck watering the edge of my driveway every two minutes. I worry over the apple trees. I fuss over whether I put down too much dung. I Google how much ash I should have added. I transfer the hardier plants into the ground- the peas and the overgrown lettuce.

Finally, it’s today! The rest of the plants go in, and more second harvests are started as well. The sun burns hot overhead, and then dark thunderclouds roll in and everything gets cool and windy. I worry for the leafy, swaying tomato plants and retreat inside, scratching at my collection of mosquito bites. I watch, craning my neck at the window, as the rain begins to fall.

It is a perfect put out day.

There will be more work tomorrow, and more the day after, for all the long, bright weeks of summer, until I bring in the last of the potatoes and pumpkins and beets and carrots. I’m a terrible gardener, but I love it. Maybe some day that love and continued effort will transform into skill and calories, like some alchemic magic.

Writing is like this too. At first, that story seems so beautifully impossible, like a perfect dream that I don’t know how to bring about. But it isn’t brought into the world all at once. It happens with a single seed pressed into three teaspoons of soil, repeated over and over again. It happens when what starts out looking like a brown lump of bird poop ends up being the fuel for some other stroke of brilliance. It happens days, and then weeks, and then months at a time. It happens failure after failure after failure, and then a breakthrough. It happens with tearing down and ripping up, and throwing in the compost heap and rotting away and trying again. It happens with one glorious bloom, and then another, and another.

Worthwhile things take time. Worthwhile things take work. Worthwhile things take soul. When writing gets tough—when you’ve lost your chard in all the weeds and the chickens scratched up the bed and ate all your radish seeds and your black currant fails to blossom and what the heck happened to the rhubarb bushes—keep at it. Everything is still so crazy right now, but keep at it. Prioritize the things that feed you, whatever they may be.

Until next week, happy writing!

So Sophisticated

For the record, this is absolutely 100% something that happens in my home.

(Ginger-beet-lemonade is one of the best beverages on the planet and I will never stop making it. Fight me.)

Like last month, sorry again for the quality of this image. I reeeeally should do something about my scanner. Now accepting donations to purchase a new one. 😀

From Tree to Table

I like growing and processing my own food on site. I can’t do it as much as I’d like to, and I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be, but there’s still something really satisfying about a salad that grew in your own weedy yard, or an omelet from your own sassy birds. I’m limited on what I can do here, both by the climate and by neighborhood covenants and by my own black thumb, but I do what I can and I love it.

One of the recent additions to my wanna-be homesteading repertoire (along with the beekeeping I talked about a couple weeks ago) is syrup making. Our climate is too cold for maple trees to survive, but if you’re stubborn and not afraid to steam the paint off your walls, you can boil down birch sap and make syrup.

The process of making birch syrup is the same as that for making maple syrup, but a bit… tricksier, let’s say. Birch sap has a lower sugar concentration, so it takes twice as much sap to make the same amount of syrup. Birch sap is also very perishable and must be processed or frozen quickly. Unfortunately, the sugars in the sap also scorch more easily than maple sugars do.

But the trees make up for their lame sap by giving you tons of it. Birch syrup making therefore takes a lot of boiling. We had only three trees tapped and we couldn’t even fit all the sap in our gigantic canner. We were getting sap faster than we could boil it down, the stove was on constantly, and our poor ceiling started dripping like it was raining in the kitchen. We gathered hundreds of liters of sap, and all of it boiled down to a just couple pints of sap. (Yes, I used liters and pints in the same sentence. I’m bilingual!)

Truth be told, syrup making and story writing are both total pains. They take up a ton of time and energy with little to show for it at the end. And honestly, I might not think it was worth it if I was only concerned with the results. A tiny bottle of syrup might not be enough to entice me through the whole process. But fortunately, the process itself is part of the fun. Let’s take a look!

Sap Flow I can’t really lay a lot of claim to this part of the process. Sap flow happens, whether I collect it or not. Likewise, story inspiration is out there, whether I’m paying attention to it or not. But if I know it’s happening, I can take steps to collect and process the flow. When I set the taps in the tree, that’s like starting to pay attention to all these amazing story ideas all around me.

Sap Collecting A single birch tree during peak flow can give as much as three gallons of sap from a single tap. For this part, simply drill a hole, set a tap, and let it dribble into a bucket. Then all you have to do is fetch a bucket of birch water once a day, easy peasy. For me, nothing about the writing process is easier than the giddy headlong rush through a first draft. When I’m in Go Mode, I can crank out up to 80k words in a month. Granted, I’m not usually moving that fast, but when the story’s fun, it just flows.

Hard Boiling Birch sap is about 99% water, so you can really boil the heck out of it when you first start processing it. It is insane how much boiling sap takes and it is insane how much editing an all-over-the-place garbage fest of a first draft needs. Especially when it’s my first draft. This is the longest part of the process and can sometimes take days for sap—or years for books.

Final Boiling Nine times out of ten, when you’re making syrup, this is the point at which things go irreversibly and horribly wrong. If you’re not watching that pot like a hawk to pull it at the right time, you can end up with syrup that is watery and not concentrated enough (and will inevitably spoil), or too concentrated and the consistency of wood-flavored taffy, or scorched, or any of a dozen other problems. Fortunately, your final draft is only mildly like this stage in syrup-making. If you take out too much, you can simply put it back in. If you don’t cut enough, you can go back and pull more. And the nasty burnt bits can be swapped out for something sweeter. All is not lost. (At least, so long as the end does eventually roll around. Endless editing is its own kind of story death.)

Bottling The final step is to bottle your beautiful dark syrup in a hot water bath and pop it in the pantry. It almost feels anticlimactic. Likewise, it can feel a little strange to finally be done with a story after working on it for so long. But syrup, like stories, is sweetest when shared with others. Opening up your work for the scrutiny of others can be a bit scary, but it is very rewarding to have something you poured so much work into bring a smile to someone else’s face.

I’ve mentioned my Star Daughter series here a few times. It’s a good example of this process. That story has gone through over twelve drafts (at which point I stopped counting) and over a million words, every single one haphazardly added, cut, rewritten, revised, rearranged, culled, and fleshed out. It took me yeeeeears to boil all those ideas down to the heart of the story I wanted to tell. Of course, this process doesn’t have to take years. (It probably shouldn’t, really.) But it’s a process that needs to happen for every story we write.

So what part of this process am I in right now? Ugh, good question. I’ve been hopping around between projects a bit, which is a thing I personally should never ever do. But I decided this morning that I want to pop out a couple shorts before the end of the month, new ideas from start to finish. So I’ll be getting going on that in the morning. I’ve been feeling a bit blah on writing lately (and about a lot of things), so I’m hoping that this gets the story sap flowing a bit more.

I’ll let you know how it’s going next week. Until then, happy writing!

Things I Have Missed About School This Quarter

The kids are very proud of their school mascot collage. Go, Pearl Creek Puffins!

So, if any of you follow me on Twitter, you probably already have some sense of how this post is going to go. And I’ll warn you right up front, today’s post has nothing to do with writing and it is longer than I usually try to make these things. But I just need to talk a little about this last quarter of the school year as it ends. (So click away now if you’re not that bored, haha.)

Here we are at last in the final week of school! We’re turning in the laptops the school let us borrow, the last of the library books, the violin. We’re picking up the last few items our children left in their classrooms. The assignments are dwindling fast to just a few fun activities for the students to share with each other on their final zoom calls. Things are winding down. And I could not possibly be more relieved.

Distance Learning was not an experience I enjoyed. It was a nightmare cocktail of someone else making all the plans that I then had to figure out and deliver, four different kids with four different teachers all on a hundred different web programs, kids who had no grade consequences to doing any of the schoolwork in the first place, and all of it to be done with *shudders* technology. In-person schooling is worlds better. Straight homeschooling is worlds better. Heck, I’m ready to give boarding school a go at this point. This was like someone took all possible education styles and mashed them together, with everything good about them strained out and thrown out onto the altar of COVID-19.

I, my children, my schoolteacher husband- all of us despise Distance Learning.

The kids’ teachers were amazing through all of this. They helped me through the endless litany of technofails, reminded me a hundred thousand times what the room number for the zoom call was, and gently talked me down from my maybe-not-so-funny self-harm “jokes”. It has been rough, but the teachers—who themselves had no time or warning to prepare for this disaster—are just bending over backward to get us all through this alive.

I miss them terribly. I know all my kids’ teachers. Heck, I know all the teachers, even the ones who ever taught my kids. I’ve been working and volunteering in that school since my firstborn was a newborn. Even when I am at my mental worst and cannot bear to go anywhere to do anything, I can still go down to the school. It’s just an extension of my home, and the people there an extension of my family.

There’s a lot to miss about public school as we’ve known it. Here are just a few of the things I’ve ached for this quarter in quarantine:

The Teachers There is something invaluable about having educators on hand to explain what the heck this assignment is asking us to do, or why the assignment won’t submit, or whatever else I’m doing wrong. Teachers, like parents, wear many hats. They’re fantastic about balancing the learning, fun, social engagement, and physical movement that factors into every second of every day at school. They know what each of the kids needs and how to assess whether or not they’re getting it. If I had been the one making the assignments or doing the assessments, I could have done this myself as part of my kids’ education. But with Distance Learning, I was not. I was just as lost and confused as the kids half the time, and the poor teacher was left fielding my inane questions every two minutes about how to log in to class dojo again instead of fielding questions from the kids about how the sun burns and why does division work like it does.

The Students I miss the students. I can’t work in the library with the library shut down, so I haven’t seen the students in months. I miss helping them find the perfect book to blow their weekend with and researching Thomas Jefferson for a class project and helping them cut paper for the display for their hand-sewn dolls from Two Old Women. I miss teaching them how to bake pastries after school and how to do lay outs for graphic novels. I miss being surrounded by hundreds of little kids who have known and trusted me since they were kindergarteners. Likewise, my kids miss their classmates. They miss working together in groups, and learning how to play together, and negotiating lunch box swaps when stupid mom put mayonnaise in the tuna sandwich again. (Just kidding—I only had to make that mistake once, haha. Yikes.)

The Resources I do not have buckets of clear plastic place value blocks at my disposal. I don’t have a twenty-egg incubator so my kids can watch chicks develop and hatch. Heck, the only reason I have enough computers is because the school lend us over half the arsenal. Yeah, each teacher has to educate thirty kids at a time, but they also have thirty times the resources to do so. There are so many perfect little do-dads that I wish I had right now, that are in a storage closet in a locked and empty building across the street. And that isn’t even considering the human resources of having a counselor, and a visiting artist, and a speech therapist, and a nurse, and all the other specialists that bring their amazing skills to the school.

The Learning Styles Everything is on the computer now. Yeah, some of the assignments are like, go outside and count birds or something, but the kids are still getting their assignments off the computer, turning in their assignments on the computer, and getting their teachers’ feedback on a computer. I am ~ d y i n g ~ over the amount of screen time these kids are suddenly having to absorb. And my kids definitely learn better if they’re up and moving and doing. Stuff that they read on a screen just doesn’t stick. But that’s the only way the teachers have to communicate with them. Plus—you know me—I’m also dying because I have to help them slog through all this technotorture.

I could go on. Oh, I could go on. But I’ll spare you. So as we celebrate (?) the conclusion of the school year, please forgive my ranting. Normally, the school year ends in a rush—suddenly the snow is gone and it’s a mad scramble to Field Day and we’re done! Not so much this year. Rather than the sudden finish, this year has ended more like a prolonged battle with illness that quietly ends on a drizzly Tuesday at two in the morning and you wake up in the gray dawn and realize it’s gone and you missed it.

Even if we erase all the other pains COVID-19 has brought us—the loss of jobs, the crippling of the economy, the staggering loss of human life, and so much more—my kids are suffering their smallish pains. I do what I can to shield them from the scary stuff, but they miss their teachers, their friends, their grandparents. They miss being able to leave their neighborhood. They miss the world they knew. I miss it with them. My children are endlessly flexible, but the stretching still hurts.

Later this week, after the laptops and the books and the violin are all returned and the school is cleaned out, I’m going to decorate our car are garishly as I possibly can. I’m going to load all the boys up inside and drive them down to the bottom of the hill, then turn around and drive them right back up it, ever so slowly. We’ll roll the windows down and honk the horn and wave goodbye to all the teachers lined up on the side of the road. We’ll wave because we can’t hug them. We’ll shout because we can’t talk. And then we’ll drive home again and I’ll scoop them up and tell them how proud of them I am. And I’ll hope that they’ll be happy with the end of the longest quarter of their short lives.

Hope is a necessity these days, as much as food and water, and I’ll move mountains before I let my kids run out of it.

The Apiary School of Writing

In the ongoing mission to turn my property into a small farm, I have somehow taken up beekeeping. (“I don’t know how this keeps happening,” she says, standing with a pitchfork and hugging a chicken.) To be fair, I didn’t jump into this completely blind. I did tons of research and I’ve spent the last couple summers harassing my neighbor-up-the-road who keeps bees. I bought books. I took a class. And yet it still feels a little surreal. How did this happen?

It felt extra surreal when I found myself standing on the garden terrace behind my house, ankle deep in the snow that won’t let go, hugging a humming plastic cage of about fifteen thousand honeybees against my side. (If you want to watch a ten minute video of that—including the moment I realize there’s a bee in my pants because I’m an idiot—follow this link!)

It’s gotten a little more real as I’ve done a couple hive checks since then. I’ve already made an embarrassment of mistakes, but overall, it’s beginning to feel less strange to open up a knee-high box behind my house teeming with tens of thousands of buzzing arthropods and not immediately call someone to get rid of it. I’m even beginning to grow fond of the creepy crawly little things. (We’ll see if that feeling holds after my first sting. I know it’s coming. I know it’s coming.)

Actually, beekeeping reminds me of writing a lot of the time. It’s a thing I’m enjoying that is also a lot of stressful work. I have to work to carve out the time for it in the midst of a hundred other demands. I obsess about it more the longer I go without it. But there are also lessons that I’ve been able to pull about the writing life in just these few weeks of beekeeping.

Don’t Drown the Bees In the early spring, before any of the plants up here in central Alaska have started making nectar or pollen for the bees to eat, I have to feed my bees. I do this with a big slab of calories and protein called a pollen patty and with a pitcherful of sugar water every couple days. On my first visit to the hive after installing them, I went out to fill my in-hive feeder, only to find it full of bees. ‘That’s okay,’ I thought. ‘They’ll float. That’s what the stick in there is for.’ I then proceeded to pour an entire pitcher of sugar water all over the poor bees inside just trying to get a drink, as well as accidentally dumping a bunch of syrup all over half of the frames as well. The bees were not happy. Sometimes in writing, we get a great idea. And it’s really a great idea! But in our eagerness to realize the great idea, maybe we pour it on a little too fast, or too thick, or in the wrong place, or whatever the problem is. Maybe instead of working the great idea in, it comes as a big fat Info Dump right at the start of a chapter. Or maybe we try to work it in, but we put too much of it in too fast, telling instead of showing. Whatever our issue is, we drown our reader in information all at once. Don’t drown the bees. Give them a trickle at a time so they have a chance to climb up with the rising waters.

Let Nature Take Its Course When the hive was first starting out, it was everything I could do to not slip on the bee gloves and hustle up there for a peek. I wanted to know how they were doing! What if they needed meeeeee? Yeah, they didn’t. Beekeepers are there to avert disasters in the hive. But beekeepers can be their own kind of disaster if they show up too frequently. Hive checks stress the bees out and disrupt their work, and some of the bees may try to sting you to defend their home, which, in the case of a honey bee, spells death for those individuals. Hive checks are also a prime time to accidentally crush bees with all the moving around, lose precious warmth especially in those first few chilly weeks of the hive’s existence, and maybe even lose your queen if she falls out of the hive during a frame examination. Sometimes—ofttimes—the best thing for a hive is to simply leave it alone. A hive check once every ten days is, under all but the most extreme circumstances, perfectly sufficient to keep the hive healthy and thriving. Overdoing it does more harm than good. Likewise, there is something very comforting to writing with a rigid outline of every single scene. You’ve got a plan! What could go wrong! But stories, at least mine, have this shifty way of diverting course the harder I try to force it in a certain direction. Characters start acting like plot puppets. Even the scenery bends to my will as freak storms and random monster encounters pop in at just the right moment to stiffly push the story along the worn wheel ruts. But all I end up with is a rigid A-to-B recitation of events, when I should have been letting the story unfold more naturally. Outlines are great, but if the outline overtakes the story itself, whatever form that story must take, then you’ve lost the wonder that is a story unfurling.

Don’t Lose the Queen The queen is the future of the hive. She makes the babies. She helps the hive members to feel content and purposeful. She’s also hundreds of dollars to replace. I was super excited when the workers had finally managed to chew her free from the cage she came in and release her into the hive, only to realize I now had to search once a week across several frames for one particular insect amid thousands. And that was going to take a lot of care and diligence. Similarly, the plot is the future of the story. Without a plot, the reader is wandering, lost, through pages and pages of perhaps interesting, but ultimately futile yammering. You might not fully know what your plot is in the first draft (see the warning above about rigidly following outlines), but you should have it figured out by the last. Every scene, every sentence in your story should advance the plot. Don’t lose track of it or you may find yourself needing to replace it or, worse, ending up with a dead story entirely.

I still have a lot to learn about beekeeping, and about writing as well. In writing, I seem to persist in the same mistakes over and over again, but I’m getting better over time, even when that progress is so slow that it’s hard for me to notice. That’s why it’s important to keep working at it! Things are still super crazy in my household (and the rest of the world), but taking the time to write every day helps me to keep working on my craft and progressing my projects. And it makes me less of a crazy person too, haha. All good things.

Until next week, happy writing!

Botanical Birch Sketch

Hello! Here’s an unfinished botanical sketch for Betula Neoalaskana, the paper birch, which I am currently working on the cookbook for. I don’t think I’ll quite finish the entire cookbook (or this sketch, for that matter) this month, but I’ll be awfully close. And, fun stuff, I currently have three birch trees tapped and am boiling sap down every day. All good research for the cookbook! There are only three days left in the month. Wish me luck!

The Three A’s of Isolation Motivation

Last week, I managed to sneak out a little time between one child explosion and the next to meet up over video call with the local chapter of my writing guild. There were only four of us on the call, but it was so nice to see other humans, let alone other writing humans.

We talked about how we were doing and what we’d been up to and how much or how little our lives had changed since the last meeting. And, of course, we talked about our writing projects.

I… haven’t been doing much. I’ve been slowly chipping away at the cookbook, but at this point, that involves more playing around in the kitchen than any actual writing. Another project of mine is in review right now and so I haven’t really been doing much on my end while I wait to hear back from the folks checking it over to make sure it’s right for the organization. And the rest of my freelance gigs have dried up as people realize maybe now is not the time to expand their now-closed-for-who-knows-how-long business. So for writing—real, true, and actual butt-in-chair writing—there really hasn’t been much. Normally, that wouldn’t slow me down, because fiction is way more fun than gig work anyway, but as it turns out, having constant human presence of the small and needy type saps most of my energy in general, let alone creative energy.

But nobody wants to admit that to the guild members! It looks so- so- so unprofessional. *writhes in pain* (We’re not even going to talk about how unprofessional it looked when, halfway through the meeting, there was a sudden crash and a yell and I went bounding out of the room, only to sprint back twenty seconds later with a rushed No-one’s-dead-but-I-gotta-go-bye. Aaaand then I missed the Leave Meeting button twice, with accompanying false start lunges for the door, before I managed to actually hit it and go. Yep. Totally pro.)

So I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how to get a little more writing in. (And no, for purposes of definition, blog writing in this case does not count. Boo.) I feel like I have to tread this ground again every time there’s a big shift in my life, whether that’s seasonal changes, major life events, employment status, mental or physical health belly flops, or, in this case, apocalyptic pandemics.

I should probably be grateful that this keeps coming up. It’s really hard to ever get in a rut if my entire life gets upended every three months. But on the other hand, it always seems like writing is the first thing to get pitched out the window whenever there’s a transition, and it’s sometimes weeks before I right myself again and get back on course.

We learned a little while ago that writing prompts are pretty hit-or-miss with getting me going again. So what can I count on to help me get back into writing? For me, at least this time around, it’s been important to make sure I have the Three A’s:

Attainable Goals This has been an important one for me lately. This Camp NaNo month’s attainable goal is eight thousand words. Jill-on-a-good-day finds this wildly, embarrassingly inadequate. But Jill-on-the-other-twenty-nine-days-of-the-month finds this just baaaarely doable. I am not at a point right now where I can crank out 2k a day, but that doesn’t mean I should throw my hands up and despair. Having attainable goals helps me to keep moving forward, even if those steps are small. All progress is good progress.

Actionable Plans Having a goal is fantastic but having an idea of how to achieve it is even better. 8k words for the month comes out to 267 words per day. If I can squeeze out my 267 a day, whether that’s when the kids are falling asleep or while they’re out at recess or, yes, while I’m sitting in the bathroom pretending to use the toilet (dignity has long since left the premises), then I can make my 8k. If I miss a day, then I call in reinforcements and beg my ever-patient husband to take the kids on a walk or something so I can play catch-up. Have a plan. Stick to it.

Accountability Buddies Speaking of ever-patient partners, have someone who knows your goals and your plans who will gently poke you with a cattle prod every now and then. Have more than one person. Heck, tell the entire internet. But if I have a goal that only exists in my head, it’s pretty easy to decide I’m too tired to work on it today, or I should probably do the dish mound instead, etc. Accountability buddies keep you going when you’d stop on your own. Get some.

Need some more A’s in your life? Here’s a bonus A: Art is not just writing. I like to beat myself up when I’m not hitting my writing goals, or when my goals are tiny and pathetic, but the truth is that any enjoyable creative endeavor helps me feel less like I want to whack my hand off with a meat cleaver and lie down in the shower to die. It might be cooking an elaborate meal. It might be dancing with my boys. It might be drawing complex geometric sharpie doodles on my arm. If it stimulates my brain as I create something beautiful, it is an art and it is good for me. Maybe I can’t write while the kids are tearing around the house screaming about their latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering achievement. But I can practice ukulele through that. And I sometimes have to accept that that is enough.

Sooo… I guess that makes Acceptance our fifth and final A, haha.

I hope you guys are hanging in there. Do what you can and have mercy for the rest. And if you can manage to squeeze it in, happy writing!