I am in a lack-of-sleep, PMSy funk. Callie’s been sick the last two days (I spent 2 hours and over $200 at the vet yesterday to find out she’s got tapeworm–joy–and of course we have to treat both dogs for this–I am, however, grateful that she doesn’ t have some hideously expensive intestinal knot that requires surgery we can’t afford), so DH and I haven’t gotten much sleep. But the funk started last week. Or maybe the week or two before that. I already wrote about how the brain dolls marched in and took over. I’ve been making an effort to take control of my book again. I did that full read-through over the weekend, figured out what threads I’d dropped, and I’ve been working ever since to fill in various gaps. I know the kind of scenes I need to write and where I need to write them. A couple of them I know a few more details about. But I feel blocked. I simply haven’t been able to get them written or finish plotting out specific details to fill in those holes. And I need to figure this out so I don’t get mired in the What Comes Next Trap that I so often fall into when I reach the Dreaded Middle.
In the midst of my funk last night, I picked up Chapter After Chapter, by Heather Sellers, which I won during last week’s LB&LI Blog Conference from Cheryl over at Learn To Write Fiction. (Thanks again, Cheryl!). The book itself is set up almost devotional style, with 33 short chapters around 5-8 pages apiece, each dealing with a specific topic and ending with a writing exercise. I read one last night and another this morning. Sellers has a very appealing style. I’ve decided that the length of each chapter is perfect such that I can read one every morning as I drink my tea. Beginning my day with a little thought on craft is certainly more appealing than some of the alternatives.
In any event, this morning I read about setting limits and cutting out the unessentials in my life in order to write. A lot of what was in there didn’t apply to me, as I’ve already done a great deal of limiting myself and setting measurable, daily goals in terms of my writing. With rare exceptions, I write every day. It may suck. It may not be much. But I try. Sellers talks about a class she taught about writing to a bunch of (I think) wannabe authors. She had the group write down their list of things they Can’t Live Without, then had them elminiate 3 things off that list. The participants then began to read out the things that they couldn’t live without, which seemed to baffle Sellers as she heard things like “Bunco” and “Book club”. Yeah, I’d be pretty baffled by that too. But it got me to thinking about what would be on my own list, what else I could eliminate. And frankly, I can’t think of anything. I cannot get rid of either of my two paying jobs. They are necessities for paying off debts. I have already cut out almost all of my social life but for an occasional weekly lunch with a couple of my coworkers or a once in a while weekend dinner with some of our couple friends. My generally anti-social husband looks like a social butterfly compared to me, and he’s concerned I’m becoming a hermit. Frankly, I like being a hermit. I’d be more of one if I could. I don’t have any “extra-curriculars” that can go. I rarely watch much TV. I can’t remember the last time I turned the TV on when DH wasn’t home. If there’s a free moment, I write or plot or do some other thing related to my work.
I guess there’s only one last thing left that I could give up or limit. My time online. I could shut down my Google Talk, not keep my crit partner with me most of the day, not blog or read others’ blogs. I’m sure I spend an alarming amount of time dealing with other online distractions. But I suppose I’m not ready to give that up yet. I already skim over the blog posts that don’t interest me. My feed reader helps me to only see what’s updated instead of clicking on everybody on my author blog list in my sidebar. And talking to Pot is part of my writing process, as she usually keeps me from going wildly off track.
Anyway, I’m interested. What are the things that you as a published or will-be-published writer can’t live without?
As I was reading I was thinking, yeah, you’re pretty pared down already. There were only two things that popped into my head. One was the online time that you mentioned. We do end up talking about a lot of things that aren’t writing-related and it is a time-suck for both of us. We could try going on a chat-diet, restricting communication to email, and you could just send me your serious “I’ve already gone over this myself and now it’s ready for your feedback” words for the day. If those go back and forth a bit, that’s fine–that’s on topic. And if there’s something about the writing that warrants a back and forth discussion, there’s nothing saying we can’t open up a chat and do that. Just no more open the chat for good morning and close it for goodnight for a bit?
The only other thing I could think of was the time you spend writing in front of the TV. You rarely write well when you’ve got anything halfway interesting on, you’re writing just to get words, get off track, and are spinning your wheels. But I know that if you don’t put in the TV time with your spouse that it causes more problems, so it probably can’t be helped. Maybe if we don’t talk so much, you’ll do a better job focusing on your job(s), can finish work faster, get more writing in, and be finished by TV time when you can read a book or something instead of trying to create.
There’s my 2cents.
Very thoughtful post! It always baffles me the number of people who want to write, or say they want to write, who can’t give up 7 hours of television a day to write for even 30 minutes. That’s not wanting to write, that’s wanting to have your name on a book, and they’re two separate things. Nothing wrong with the latter, but I think, if only those who truly WANTED TO WRITE would do it, there would be a lot less noise in the “trying to get published” world.
And there would be far fewer people self-publishing with a vanity press and making everyone else who puts things out independently look like vain rejects. heh.
My TV stays off, but I admit I try to take an hour a day and watch an episode of Charmed online, because I need to decompress and get out of the writing space some. Besides working out (when I do it), and cooking and cleaning, my day is mostly somehow related to my writing.
I don’t know how people with full time jobs do it, but I very much admire people like you and your ability to write with so much else on your plate. That can’t be easy.
I think you bring up a good point Z. The story that Sellers told in the other chapter I read was about this guy she met at a conference–he wasn’t actually there for the writer’s conference but for something else, but they struck up a conversation and he said that he had ideas for five books and what software did she recommend. He honestly thought there was SOFTWARE that would take his ideas and build a book! Isn’t that ludicrous? I once read somewhere that everybody has ideas for books or a story that they think might be interesting, which is, I suppose, true. I have always maintained my belief that not anyone can write–that though practice can improve one’s ability to wield the language, there’s still a kernel of talent that has to be in there for it to actually work (and yes, I freely admit that this stems from my desire to be special because I don’t like the idea that anyone can do what I do). But beyond that, I think the more important aspect (which you have in spades, my dear) is DRIVE and the determination to not only let those other things fall by the wayside, but to push them there so that absolutely nothing interferes (well, short of important things like hospitalization of spouse and children).
hehe I’m Z. now, whee! hehe, thanks on the drive thing. 🙂
And that IS ludicrous about the book software. What the freak?