Exposing the Shadow

shadow4Last 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.)

The Hardest Part of Writing

writers-writeEvery 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.



The Rhythm Method

DSCN0042My friend Janet sent this to me with a “you go girl” card last week. (She’s such a thoughtful friend. Thanks, Janet.) Can you read it? The guy at the computer is typing “January 11: Still struggling with the novel. Chopped more firewood.” There are piles and piles of wood–and likely no fireplace.

I cracked up. Totally relate to this. In fact at this very moment, I’m “supposed” to be doing my five pages for today and instead “preparing to do my five pages” (read chopping firewood) by writing this blog. You see–I reason–if my schedule is clear, I can write straight on through with a wide open day. It actually says that on my Google Calendar: Wide Open Day.

But it’s really a game I play with myself because more wood will inevitably “need” to be chopped. It’s why they have Na-No-rimo (or the lesser known Jan-no-rimo which I did with my friend Lois who was writing a thousand words a day and I thought I’d copy her) or computer programs that force writers into a daily word count or writers groups with arbitrary deadlines and so forth. We’re all looking for a system, a rhythm method, to help us get our stories told.

And every once in awhile I find it: that writer’s sweet spot. Suddenly, words are just pouring out. I’m knocking out above quota each day, loving the pacing on my story if it’s a first draft, killing my darlings on a rewrite, loving the creative dance. I’m a writer. I’m writing. I’d like to bottle it. I could sell it at writer’s conferences and make a mint.

And then BAM. Time to chop firewood. You can just never have enough. (Doesn’t it feel cold in here? Don’t worry. I got this.)