Working v. Writing 2: Some Final Thoughts

ironingSo, earlier this summer I wrote about my shift to working full time and how that affected my writing life. (Read the full post here!) Now that I’m back on the home front while hubby takes up the mantle of Math Master of Science and Stupendousness at Hutchison High School, I wanted to visit that theme once more to close out that chapter of the year.

I should just admit right off the bat that, sadly, I didn’t learn any earth-shattering secrets of the writerverse. (noooooo!) But I did pick up a few coping strategies, if you will, about how to deal with less energy, less brain power, and less writing time at the end of each day.

In the earlier post, I mentioned that backshop work (blog work, market research, submissions, etc) had more or less ground to a halt. I had to really push myself to get that stuff back on board, and in the end, it had to come out of slated writing time in the evenings. So while I was able to pick that up again, I had to get better at balancing things. I cut back on expectations in one aspect of writing to focus on another, and for that to work, I really had to get a better handle on my priorities. Before, I had the time to do pretty much everything to the degree I wanted. I could research agents and magazines and the lethal dose of dark chocolate (it exists!) and still have time to crank out 2k a day, or edit three pages, or whatever the current project entailed. With only limited time and energy, I had to really figure out how important each of those aspects was to me. Of course, this ratio will be different for every writer, but I do think it was valuable for me to know that about myself. I probably figured it out about midway through the summer, and felt a lot less stressed about the whole affair afterward.

Another thing I mentioned in the previous post was that I was getting better at working more efficiently once I did sit down to work at the end of the day. I think that at the time of writing, I had pretty much maxed out my efficiency- which was a little lame because I was hoping to eke out a bit more than I was getting. But I was very interested to see if that heightened efficiency would disappear once I had all the day to dillydally at the keyboard again. But so far it hasn’t. *blows tiny trumpet* Don’t get me wrong; this doesn’t mean that I can now sit on the couch and burn through ten hours of writing in Go Mode. Far from it. Actually, I’m still in the habit of separating my writing work from my day job, so to speak. My kitchen has been sparkling. Those dishes are done before the leftovers get cold. The meals I make are downright magical. And I’ve plugged back into the library at my boys’ school with a vengeance. It’s only been a few weeks back at home so I’m still waiting to see if this will fade (because let’s all face it, I’m lazy and a terrible housekeeper). But so far, I’ve kept to the habit of hitting the day job hard, and then hitting writing hard the minute the kids go to bed. So the efficiency at writing has actually stuck around so far. Maybe I’ll report back later if that changes.

All in all, it was a good summer. It was good for me to change my system up, and I think it’s still serving me well now that I’m at home again. We’ll see how things evolve in the meantime. I’m still working myself back up to fighting form for this November, but I think I’ll get there. One thing that I learned better than ever this summer is that, whether I’m working in the home or out of it, writing is important to me. I didn’t really get seriously into writing on a regular basis until my first son was born and I started staying home to raise him and manage the household. I’ve always had this kind of niggling suspicion in the back of my mind that maybe I’ll never really make it as a writer because I’m only a hobbyist; that I only took up writing because I was sitting around at home and what else was I going to do with myself.

Working full time this summer fixed that line of thinking. Storytelling isn’t something that I think I’ll ever give up, no matter how hard it gets or how short time becomes. And that’s been gratifying to learn about myself.

Advertisements

Greetings from Camp!

Hello! I gotta say, I’m a little proud of myself lately! In addition to Camp NaNoWriMo, I’m staring down four other writing deadlines this month and- shock of all shocks- I might actually hit them all. This is unprecedented! (And might have something to do with [okay, everything to do with] having damaged my leg and being trapped on a couch with KT tape, compression socks, the works. Nothing slows down an overachiever like crutches. Guess I’ll have to overachieve somewhere else- hello, laptop!)

We’re over halfway through the month now and I’m pretty sure I’d have to lose an arm in a car accident in the next 24 hours to not be able to squeak across the finish line. So I might actually have the time to draw a decent comic for next week! But until then, enjoy another reblog, this time from National Novel Writing Month itself! (By the way, their blog archives are worth trawling if you’re ever low on motivation or ideas.)

This little number caught my eye because it’s doing the opposite of what I normally do on my blog: it’s taking lessons learned from writing and applying them to life in general! Please enjoy and I’ll see you again next week. Happy writing!

5 NaNo Lessons I’ve Applied to the Rest of My Life

image

Every November since 2011, as soon as I post the “NaNoWriMo Participant” banner on my social media outlets, I hear two things from friends and family. One is, “You’re mad to tackle 50k words in a month.” The other is, “I wish I had the drive to do that sort of thing!”

I never said I’m not mad (I am a writer, after all). As for the drive… take the word of this former owner of the Pan-American record for Writing Procrastination: that can be taught. So much so that I applied what I learned in six seasons of November madness into other areas of my life that have nothing to do with fiction writing.

After all, most big deadlines can seem like the elusive 50k in November: an Everest of a situation. Whether you want to do it (e.g. get to dance at the Lindy Hop ball, finish a race for the first or tenth time) or you have to do it (e.g. a school essay, a job presentation), the first and irrational reaction, of course, is to panic and freeze, and then say “Nope, won’t do it. There are better people doing it already.”

That’s where the NaNo mind-frame comes in handy.

Want to read the rest? Head on over to NaNoWriMo’s blog via this lovely link!

Reblog: The Bulletproof Writer

mermaid Hello! It’s another NaNo months! Wahoo! *flings confetti* And with that comes stick figures and reblogs, huzzah!

I know we’re only three days in, but I’m feeling good about this month so far. I spent the first day working on a thriller project that I quickly sacked (probably in large part because I am apparently majorly uncomfortable writing about affairs), and then switched over to a Little Mermaid retelling. I’m really enjoying the switch, and it’s great to be drafting again after so long editing. This being a NaNo month, though, let the blogging laziness begin.

Our first reblog of the month is about dealing with rejection, something that I’ve been working hard to get better at. (As you may recall, I have a rejections goal for the year, which sounds a little insane, but is actually kind of working for me.)  If you haven’t come across Joanna Penn’s blog, The Creative Penn, before, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Here’s a piece from her archive by Michael Alvear, called:

The Bulletproof Writer: How To Deal With Rejection

Rejection is part of the writer’s life, whether that’s from an agent or publisher, a one-star review, or lack of sales. But that doesn’t mean that rejection has to destroy you.

bulletproofHere are some tips from Michael Alvear on how to handle it in a more positive way. 

What danger is to a cop, rejection is to a writer–always hanging in the air dripping with possibility. And drip it does, onto the talented and untalented in almost equal measure.

Actually it doesn’t just drip; it pours.

Rejection has a 360-degree aim — from literary agents who don’t want you as a client, editors who don’t want your manuscript, publishers who give you an insulting advance, bad reviews from literary critics, hate speeches on Amazon, and of course the ultimate rejection—poor sales. Somebody, somewhere at just about every stage of your writing life gives you the finger, a hand and sometimes the whole arm.

Success makes it worse because now you have more to lose. Who do you think suffers more—the newbie who can’t get her first manuscript accepted or the best seller who can’t get his last published because his prior two books tanked? Success, as any best-selling author knows, doesn’t protect you from rejection.

Want to read more? Go check out the full post here! And until next week, happy writing!

Working v. Writing: Early Assessment

Working WomanLast summer was crazy-go-nuts. I mean, it was great fun, but it was the kind of great fun that I won’t be doing again for a while. So when we were deciding how we wanted our summer to go down this year, Husband and I agreed that it would be done here in Alaska.

Robert was a little mentally exhausted from this last school year, and so rather than take a summer job, he wanted to stay home as primary caregiver. And since we both know that I’m an incorrigible busybody, it was clear that I’d have to be out of the house for a pretty solid chunk of the time. So I procured me some summer work.

We’re about three weeks into it, and it’s been good so far. My hermitous little soul is pretty frazzled by the end of each day, but other than having to talk to strangers every single day (every. single. day. *inner screams*), I like the job and I like my coworkers and I like the customers. And Robert’s been an excellent stay-at-home daddy; even the kids are having a blast (probably in large part because Papa isn’t nearly the white-sugar-and-refined-grains-will-kill-us-all fanatic that mommy is).

My writing schedule has had to change as well, and I’m still sussing out whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Even when I was at home for most of each day, it was hard for me to write for significant chunks of time, because I can’t concentrate on creative work while the kids are being noisy or, paradoxically, being too quiet. Most of my writing took place at night, so that hasn’t really changed; it’s still the best time for me creatively and logistically. What has changed is the sort of work that I could do before that I now can’t.

I don’t spend the day mulling over writing questions like I did before. I can’t zone out and pick things apart in the back of my mind. Mine is the kind of mind that can have several little brainless things going at once, but only one true focus at a time; and while I’m on company time, that focus has to be on company matters. So when I do sit down to write at night, more of my time has to be spent hashing through the sorts of things that I would typically have already done by the time I sat down to write.

On the other hand, I feel like I can focus a lot quicker and harder on writing stuff now than I did before. There were certainly time constraints on when I could do writing before, but there weren’t constraints on when I could think about writing. And I feel like not even thinking about writing for a solid eight hours of every day rests my brain so that when it’s time to write, I can hit it hard without any mental exhaustion, boredom, whatever you want to call it. This is probably a good thing for me, because I’m mostly cured (in remission?) of my wandering mind during writing time and can really get crackin’ when the time comes.

All in all, I’m probably getting the same amount of actual writing done. I’ve just shifted and compressed the time I do it in. There is, however, one glaring difference I’ve noticed.

My submission rates have tanked. I have done absolutely zero market research. And you all saw what happened with last week’s blog post when I hit a snag. (Hint: nothing.) I haven’t even opened my most recent issue of Writer’s Digest. These are all the things that take the least concentration from me, but, word-for-word, the most time (except maybe reading magazines, haha). It’s clear that I’m prioritizing the creative aspects of writing above the more business-y aspects. And while that’s okay for the short run, it definitely won’t be good for my writing career in the long run.

This is still a relatively new lifestyle shift for me, so I’m hoping that as I continue to adjust, I’ll find my stride again and pick those things back up. But for now, do any of you writer folks who also have a regular day job have any tips for finding the balance? Pretty please let me know in the comments below!

Thank you and happy writing!

Bumps and Bruises: My Twin Careers in Rugby and Writing

Nick Kennedy, Gonzalo GarciaThe day my new husband and I moved into our first apartment, he viciously provoked a water fight over the meager boxes of our possessions.  In the interest of saving the defenseless computer, I fled out the door and across the field at the back of the building, snarling about an annulment.  The school’s women’s rugby team happened to be practicing in that same field and, impressed by my rage and my sprints, invited me to join them.  Robert went back to the apartment.  I hared off to play rugby.

Thus began my love affair with the greatest sport on earth.

Rugby hasn’t always been kind to me.  I’ve broken fingers and ruptured a bursa.  I’ve torn my quad and sprained just about every joint in my body.  I’ve dislocated my shoulder repeatedly and been so bruised and battered that coworkers started gently offering me safe havens.  I love, love, love ruby, but I can’t even say I’m all that good at it.  I’m not particularly fast and I have a hard time memorizing plays and my kicks always seem to go awry.  I’m skinny and fragile and can’t seem to reliably throw and run at the same time, which is kind of an important skill in a game that involves a lot of running and throwing.

But still I love it.  I play whenever I can and I watch hours of tourneys online and I delight in teaching my boys how to take me out at the ankles while I run in slow motion.  Rugby pleases me in a way that is both deeply satisfying and wildly thrilling in the same instant.

I feel much the same way about writing.  Writing intoxicates me.  I write whenever I can and I read and research a lot about writing and the specifics of my stories and I always squee for joy when my children tell wonderful stories about rock climbing adventures and zombie attacks and magical foxes at wishing wells.

There is, however, one large difference between the way I think about rugby and the way I think about writing.  With rugby, I’ll never be anything close to pro, and I am totally okay with that.  I want to play my best game and I have a great time doing it.  I get some bumps and bruises and I go home happy.  Knowing I’ll never be pro does nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the game.  With writing, however, I have a hard time letting myself be so carefree.

Maybe it’s a matter of focus.  When playing rugby, I have a laser focus on the ball.  I know where it is and I itch to get my hands on it and nothing outside the boundary lines matters.  When drafting, I can often find that nothing-matters-but-this focus, but the minute I start editing, something changes.  The story becomes not just what pleases me, but something that could potentially please others as well.  And just as surely as it could please others, it could displease them too.  What if nobody likes it?

What if nobody likes me?

I was thinking about this after practice last week, during which I let some sneaky Samoan guy blitz right past me to score the winning try of the scrimmage.  It didn’t occur to me at the time to wonder if my teammates were mad at me, whether they liked me or not.  I’m sure some of them were disappointed, maybe even annoyed, but I’m just as sure that they knew I was doing my best with some serious disadvantages.

Maybe I should give myself the same accolades while writing.  Nobody can deny that I’m giving it my best.  Things go awry and I mess stuff up, but any time you put your heart into something, there will be injuries along the way.  If I don’t get a few bruises, I’m probably not trying hard enough.

In this vein, though, I’m doing a lot better with the rejections goal than I thought I would be at this point- I’m only slightly behind.  But more importantly, I’m learning to take them better.  I think choosing to look at rejections as the goals themselves has made them a lot easier to swallow.  (Because you all know how I am with check boxes.)  Maybe this is a good first step in growing that thick skin professional writers are always talking about!

I’m getting better at this game.  (Not at rugby.  At that one, I’m just getting older, haha.)  I can usually spot my weak points.  Self-editing, although not exactly what I’d call fun, is less excruciating than it used to be.  I’m getting better and better at using feedback.  These are all signs of improvement.

I want to be the best writer I can be, but I always want to enjoy the process.  After all, the thrill of telling a good story is what got me into this addiction hobby in the first place.  Even if I never go pro (although I hope I do some day!), I will always love to tell stories.

And I will always love rugby, too, even when it beats me up.

Happy writing!

PS- Watch some rugby! Go, Eagles!

Reblog: On Author Responsibility

This month of madness slogs on, now with a new achievement unlocked: Plague! (Oh, wait, haha, this is ME and I unlocked plague a loooong time ago. *weeps*)  But in the light of this month’s craziness, I’ve scheduled a reblog- and lucky you! It’s from Madison Dusome, who is in every way fantastic!  Enjoy!

On Author Responsibility

Months ago now, a reasonably successful fantasy author was accused of (and apologised for) some instances of abuse/manipulation/other bad behaviour.  As a result, he lost readers/followers, sales and other opportunities (some publishers dropped him, some retailers stopped selling his works, etc).

This is something that seems to be happening more and more frequently, possibly because people are more aware of/active against abuse, and/or because authors are increasingly more in the public eye.  Simply put: authors’ behaviour affects the reception of their work, and to become an author is now akin to becoming a celebrity or a politician: people care about what you say, what you do and especially about your scandals.

Why and how much?  Is it right or fair?  Is it possible to avoid?  Let’s discuss!

Want to read more?  Go to Madison’s beautiful blog with this elegantly crafted link!