Month: March 2015

The Continuing Adventures of a Writer (and mom)

I thought my initial goals were realistic. 1,000 words a day. No big. Totally doable. My work as a high school teacher is only part-time, so finding a way to write 1,000 words a day should be easy, right? I only have one child (currently), and she can’t even walk yet, so 1,000 words should be no problem, am I right? I’ve written 1,000 words in an hour before, so finding the time to do it over the course of eight hours should be easy-peasy, shouldn’t it?

In one word: No.

No, apparently I can’t have nice things. Apparently, there are days when I simply cannot get the time to sit down and crank out 1,000 words. Either the essays I have to grade are piling up, the yearbook pages have to be approved and submitted to the publisher (before our ever-approaching deadline), there’s school paperwork I need to file and complete, there’s food I need to make for the baby, there’s laundry to do, or cleaning to do, or I need to shop for the baby’s Easter dress, or we’re running out of food and I need to go to the grocery store, or… I do have an hour of peace when the Noodle finally takes a nap, but by the time I pee, make a cup of coffee, read what I wrote yesterday, start to get ideas for what to write today, and then start writing a few halting, awkward words, the baby is up again. On a GOOD day, I can manage maybe 400 or 500 words. On a middling day, I can hit 300. But on most days, I manage zero.

There’s too much life piling up around me to find that elusive creature known as Regular Writing Time. I struggle to write well when I’m writing in fits and starts throughout the day, sneaking in a word or two while the sweet little Noodle is occupied for five minutes by her Winnie the Pooh toy. But trying to set aside a nice, two-hour chunk of time is pretty much impossible.

I’ve read about moms who have three or more kids running around (all under 5 years old), and they somehow manage to feed their kids organic gourmet meals, play educational games with them all day (and never plop them in front of the television), and yet somehow still manage to make a living as working writers. I think these women are liars. There’s no way. I only have one child and I can barely manage it. I can’t imagine it gets any easier with more (and I do plan to have more).

What about this blog post? you ask. Didn’t I somehow magically find the time to write this blog post? Yes, yes I did. But I don’t really care about this blog post. It’s just a tossed-off rant that requires very little brain power to compose; it doesn’t have a complex structure or dialogue or characters or imagery or any of the other more difficult skills that need to be utilized when writing fiction. I can do a blog post like this in fifteen minutes, tops. And I can do it without thinking. So if the Noodle is clawing at my knee while I’m doing it, it’s no big deal.

But if I’m trying to write the next chapter of my novel and I need to actually THINK about what I’m doing, then the Noodle’s claws and boops and bips and bops are much more distracting. And I can’t write 1,000 words in 15 minutes.

What this all means is that stay-at-home moms who write have to scale back their expectations. At least this stay-at-home mom does. (Also, I technically work part-time, and it’s a job — teaching — that requires a lot of extra work at home, i.e.: grading.)

So there are moments in my life when “Write every day” is just not happening. It’s not because I’m not disciplined. It’s not because I don’t love to write. It’s not because I have writer’s block. It’s simply because there are a lot more needs that need to be addressed before my writing.

I have to admit, it’s disappointing. I wish I could just wake up and write for two hours before work and then the rest of my days can be spent goofing around and going to the library or the zoo with my baby (and occasionally cleaning the house). But since I already have to get up at 6 a.m. for work, getting up at 4 a.m. is an impossibility. Seriously. It is never going to happen.

So my expectations are being lowered. Instead of writing and publishing two books this year and writing the rough draft of a third, along with a pilot script for a T.V. show, maybe I’ll just write one book (and maybe the rough draft of another). And maybe I’ll just outline that pilot script (and write the actual script next year). Maybe I’ll just have to be slow and (slightly) steady.

It’s not how I planned but maybe there’s something cool in flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve decided to be more of a plotter when it comes to planning and writing my novel, but maybe when it comes to my writing life, I can be more of a pantser. I’ll write when I can, flying by the seat of my pants and hoping that, eventually, I’ll land.

Bucket List Authors

My husband and I were discussing the concept of “bucket lists” the other day, and I have to confess, I don’t really have a bucket list of grand things I’d like to do before I die. I’m lucky enough to have traveled to Europe twice, and I’ve been to a bunch of U.S. states, and other than going to the British Isles, there’s nowhere I’d regret not seeing. I have no desire to sky dive, or run a marathon, or get a tattoo. I’ve eaten pasta in Italy, ridden in a gondola in Venice, been to Times Square, and I already play the guitar. So the popular bucket list items don’t cast any spell over me.

But in reading this interview with Neil Gaiman over at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog, I realized that I do have a “bucket list” of sorts. It’s not a list of things I’d like to do before I die; it’s a list of authors I want to read before I die. These are authors that I’ve always been intrigued by — that I’ve always planned to read — but for one reason or another, I’ve never gotten around to them.

Such as Diana Wynne Jones (who was mentioned in the Gaiman interview). She’s just the sort of novelist that I would want to read and it still amazes me that I never have. The titles alone are alluring: Witch Week, Howl’s Moving Castle, Dark Lord of Derkholm, The Ogre Downstairs, A Tale of Time City. Why haven’t I read any of her stuff??? She’s on the bucket list.

Next is Agatha Christie. I was a huge fan of mysteries as a kid — so much so that my parents got me a subscription to the Alfred Hitchcock Magazine when I was ten-years-old — but the grand dame of mystery fiction somehow never ended up in the reading pile. She’s definitely on the bucket list (and I just downloaded one of her books to my kindle).

Graham Greene is another bucket lister due to several reasons:

1. He was Catholic and wrote about Catholic themes (though in an awesome way, not in some lame, preachy, bad-art kind of way). I am also Catholic, so I’m keen to read him.

2. He wrote screenplays for The Fallen Idol and The Third Man, two of my favorite British films from the 1940s.

3. He also wrote film reviews, so I feel an affinity for him as a cinephile.

4. I need to read more non-fantasy/sci-fi fiction and his books all sound interesting.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books are also on my list. Mostly because my husband loved them as a teenager, and they meant a lot to him and I want to share that with him. But also because I once had an old copy of McCaffrey’s Dragonsinger that my aunt gave to me but that I never read. I started to read it once, but then I put it down (for whatever reason). And then I lost the book. And yet the cover art has always haunted me and seeing it takes me back to cold November days at my grandmother’s house (which is where my family lived for awhile) when I was only nine or ten, and I lived and breathed fantasy adventures, role-playing games, King Arthur, and Tolkien, and my aunt and uncle would come over and we’d order Chinese food and play the Dark Tower board game.

I wish I still had that copy of Dragonsinger. And I plan to one day read Anne McCaffrey. She’s on the bucket list.

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Finally, I feel like I really need to read some Tolstoy. Anna Karenina sounds more appealing, but I’m down with reading War and Peace too. I’ve often heard he’s one of the greatest novelists, so I’d like to see for myself. Plus, I like Russian stuff.

I’m sure I’ll think of more bucket list authors, but for now, if I died tomorrow, these are the ones I would regret not reading.

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