Last Thursday I was scheduled for jury duty. I called after 5:00 and found out I didn’t have to go, free for another year from the summons’ police. This gave me all day Friday to work on my WIP novel. Sweet.
I woke up Thursday to my daily morning chef ritual, peanut butter pancakes and fresh squeezed orange juice for my boys. After I messed up the kitchen, then cleaned it again, I rounded up the three teen boys that I cart to school each morning and off we went. As we were driving, I started planning my writing time.
I should really do my exercise first. It’s important and it’ll get the juices flowing.
When I got back, I went out to our combo shop/music/exercise room and hopped on the elliptical for 45 minuntes. As I wrapped up my time there (and respective special on Jane Goodall I was watching) I planned my writing time.
It’s raining and I love sitting in the hot tub in the rain. Talk about creative flow. This will do it. A logical next step.
While sitting in the hot tub under the rain, I composed a Facebook status that was entirely too long. Here it is in case you missed it…
I’m not a huge fan of “read more” posts–subscribe more to the Twitter style of posting. But I feel it coming on so maybe just this once. Can I just tell you that one of my most absolute pleasures on this earth, one that makes my cheeks hurt because I smile so much when I’m doing it, is to sit out in the hot tub in the rain. Right now, the clouds are shapeshifting, white and gray faces and animals dancing together across the sky. The windchimes tingle one moment then ring out in a full orchestra in the next, moving with the wind. Towering pines sway amongst oaks as birds dive in and out of branches, chirping back-up to the chimes. The rain changes in intensity with the shifting of the clouds and when the drops get fast and fat, they look like the Bellagio fountains on the surface of the hot tub water. No, better. Because this is Nature and it is just pretty perfect as far as I see it. #Bliss
By the time I finished my hot tub time–and novella of a post–it was time to make lunch. And shower. And blow dry my hair…and my toes.Oh, and I needed to get the laundry started, unload the dishwasher, and check my email.
I looked at the clock: 2:00. In 30 minutes, it was time to go get the boys. Kind of hard to start now. Interrupt the flow and all.
I know. I’ll wait until they get settled, eat, and then I’ll knock out ten pages.
So back to school. On the way back to school, I remember my de-clutter program. I am organizing one thing per day in the house (a drawer, a cupboard, a closet) because items in the drawers have become unrecognizable.
I’ll do my pages AFTER I de-clutter the spice drawer. All that de-cluttering will be good Feng Shui and show up in my writing.
I pick up the boys, get home, fix food, de-clutter the drawer and then take my computer up to my desk for some peace and quiet. My husband’s on the other side of the Japanese screen that divides our desks asking me something. My son’s downstairs making noise about how we don’t have any food and need to go to Walmart.
How am I supposed to write with all this noise going on?
Off to Walmart we go to buy lots of things we don’t really need. And to Goodwill to drop off some of those de-clutter bags. And to Sonic because it’s Happy Hour and strawberry shakes are on sale.
Back home at 8:00 pm, I sit down at my laptop. I rework my first sentence three times. Add a word, take it out, add it, take it out, read both versions to my husband.
I’m exhausted. And, I reason, to start this flow now would really be activating.
Really, I should have some TV time with my hubby. He did, after all, help me on my sentence.
And that, my friends, is the dark side of writing for me. The only caveat is that the next day I wrote ten pages because I was so disgusted with myself. (Good pages, too.)
I don’t think of myself as a vintage procrastinator. But when it comes to writing, I can fill up 45 minutes in a flash by niggling around and doing nothing-stuff. (Nothing-stuff: stuff that does not need to be done before I can write.) I’ve mastered it.
I’m not sure I completely understand why. I love to write and lose myself in the movies I flash through my mind. I have fun hanging out with my characters and seeing what whacky things they’re going to do next. I open up my document and in the next two seconds my mind is saying, “Not before you check your email. Not before you pet the dog. Not before you call a shaman and retrieve that soul you’ve been meaning to retrieve.”
You name it. I’ll come up with it.
So today I decided, “That’s it. I’m going to get right to it. I’m not going to shower or anything. Nothing is going to get in my way.”
I set my intention last night, right before my boys announced, “We have a minimum day tomorrow. WooHoo.”
This means I’m REALLY going to have to get started on my manuscript immediately right after I drop them off. No routine, filled with shower, exercise, contemplation. Nope. I’m not even changing into my clothes. I open my manuscript.
Sure as rain falls from the sky, next thing I know I’m checking my bank balances, reading my email, checking my Facebook notifications, rechecking my Facebook notifications until I got so annoyed with myself I finally knocked out 8 pretty solid pages I like.
My boys just came home from school and here I sit, still in my pajamas. They just kind of look at me with cocked heads and half smiles and don’t say anything. Maybe they think I’m having a breakdown or something, like one of those moms in a Lifetime movie. I’m happy with my pj strategy–they go straight to their rooms and do homework like good teenagers while I sit typing this and feeling pretty proud I finally got to my writing.
I swear I’ll break the cycle tomorrow. Get right to it. Unless, of course, I don’t finish this blog. Or need to eat something. Or need to make tea. Or need to cut my toenails…
“The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things.”
~ Mike Dooley
I just never get tired of this subject. (Not!)
Here’s how it goes:
Nice lady at the Avon Walk: What do you do?
Me: Oh, I’m a writer. And a health coach.
NLATAW: (Ignoring the health coach part.) You’re a writer? What books have you written that I can find on the shelves of Barnes and Noble?
Me: (Wondering how long Barnes and Noble will hang on…) Well, I have one, but it’s an anthology. (Like I somehow have to justify having at least one thing on the shelves of B&N and the library before I dare call myself a writer.)
You writers understand. I know you do. Because we’re all at different points of the journey, but we’ve all started at the same place.
My snarky side secretly hopes Avon lady says something like “I’m a runner” so I can say, “Oh? When was your last marathon?” which of course would only play out in my fantasy mind.
This idea that to call yourself a writer you have to have writer badges in the form of books hanging all over your Girl Scout writer sash is just plain silly. But it’s running rampant, I tell you. I think I get this response 75% of the time I call myself a writer. It didn’t happen when I was a teacher. It didn’t happen when I was a law firm marketing director. (That one was just a head cock because nobody understood what the heck that meant.) Nope. this response is particular to calling yourself a writer.
What is a writer anyway? A person (usually male according to Google Images) who smokes cigarettes and drinks hot drinks while running his fingers through his touseled waves while staring with puzzled red eyes at the blank white? Add location–usually a dark room with lots of crumpled paper surrounding the small desk–and there you have it. Right?
I’m sitting out in the teen center which my son’s friend Bailey (currently going by Russell which he likes better) wants to turn into the “Fortress of Solitude.” I’m on the couch with the printer a whole building away (no crumpled paper). Indeed, this writing won’t ever involve any printing at all unless at some point my mother requests a copy because one of her friends reads it and tells her about it and she asks. I’m drinking Smart Water with Strawberry Lemonade fat burner hoping to knock off that late night peanut butter from last night. I’m sweaty, having just finished my cross training stint while simultaneously watching an interview by Dr. Lissa Rankin on what really happened in the documentary film, “Sacred Science” from her perspective…and I’m not even thinking about smoking. I’m not staring at a blank screen or demanding perfection (if you are a regular reader, you know I have a game called ‘Find Jamie’s at-least-one-mistake in each entry’.) Instead, I’m typing as fast as I can (think Joycian stream of consciousness with punctuation) so I can shower, go get my car from the mechanic, pick up my kids from swim practice, make dinner, and schedule this to go out tomorrow.)
Does this mean I’m not a writer? Must I write about character, or voice, or setting, or other writers, or other books, or metaphor, or ____________ (fill in a writerly word) to call myself a writer? And, when I do, must I have a book on the shelf in B&N to prove it?
Nah. I’m calling bullshit on that.
Every year, the Oscars are something I look forward to–an event, really. It’s not a dress-up, get fancy thing for me, but rather a jammy/mud mask extravaganza I started over 23 years ago when my oldest son was 2. We’d sit right in front of the TV and clap. We’d fill out ballots. We’d stay up late because back then they hadn’t moved it to 5 p.m. PT. (This year, sadly, we were separated by miles–but did manage to close it out with rapid texting!)
Normally, the group eulogy was when I’d restore snacks. This year, I listened, because of what the various artists were saying in their clips. Nora Ephron’s words stuck with me most: “The hardest part of being a writer is writing.” (She’s the “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Julie & Julia” screenwriter who has wrote in nearly every medium possible. I love that.)
So simple, yet so poignant, her words. Ask any writer and they’ll tell you as soon as they say, “I’m a writer” the other person–doesn’t matter who–says, “I’ve been thinking about/have written/once wrote/am going to write a book.” Lots of people like the idea of having authored a book. Many even like it so much they hire a ghost writer to write it and put their name on it. Fewer still find an easy slip into the writing process, and can muster the regular discipline it takes to finish a novel, or learn how to write a screenplay, or try their hand at essays instead of poetry just for the love of playing with words. Just for the joy of creatively expressing the story that one sees in his head. Just for the fun of painting with letters.
It makes sense. It’s hard to find the time. When I first started writing seriously, I remember my cousin Sharon Weil (screenwriter, novelist and all around awesome person) saying, “Everything needs to serve the writing.”
And, yet, what happens is we sneak the writing in. We tuck it in around soccer practices, basketball practices, Yoga classes, dinner-making, dinner buying for the making, trips, dog walking, showers. (As I type this right now, it’s 5:00 p.m. and I have yet to take a shower before taking my son out to a 7:30 – 9 p.m. practice where I plan to smuggle my laptop into a hopefully quiet corner of the bleachers and work on my current thriller.) I remember reading a whole book on this topic of working about five years ago called Writer Mama. (Idea after idea on sneaking it in–or at least that’s my takeaway.)
I appreciate this when I hear this from other writers because it makes me feel more part of a tribe than I do when I’m struggling to find the time. I know it’s just part of the writing landscape that is one more mountain to cross in the life of a writer.
Now–the thriller or Costco? That’s the decision I’ll have to face.