Why I Can’t Write About What I’m Writing About

When a writer comes up with a story idea, they want to share it just as they would good news about love, work, or family. However there are very good reasons not to tell others. To prevent anyone feeling rebuffed, here a few reason I feel I shouldn’t write about what I’m writing about:

  1. You may have questions I don’t know the answers to yet. I want you to be excited, not inquisitive, and avoiding the subject until every detail is set can prevent unwanted queries.
  2. You might influence the writing. You may give feedback that leads me down a path that would not have been as good as the one I would have carved for myself. Feedback can feel refreshing during creating but can also plant doubt that I’m not good enough to think the idea through on my own.
  3. When you read it, I want you to experience it afresh. If I’ve given you information about it beforehand you will have notions going into it and not be able to give feedback as if you were a reader picking it up off a shelf.
  4. Not telling you will make me want to finish the story. Planning, writing, editing, post-editing, and preparing to publish are all intense processeds. Knowing I will not get to share the story idea I’ve found so important I put the effort into it unless I do my best and complete it all will give me motivation.

These are my thoughts, and the reason I held back on plans after an engagement and a child’s name before she was born.

What are your thoughts on telling a story before it is complete?



What Do You Know About Gift Economy?

You come home to a package on your door. You haven’t ordered anything, and see your name hand-written.

It’s a gift.

You bring it inside. No matter what is in it, you know you’ll be pleased. It could be something you need, something you want, something you haven’t thought of, or a mixture.

You open it up to see your surprises and a note from a friend. It warms your heart that she’s been thinking of you and knows you well enough to gather these items.

Naturally, you think of what you can send to her. What can she use that you may have or need? What have you found out about that may delight her too?

She hasn’t expected a return- but you now have the desire. You may not have much spare money to purchase something for her. You may have to give up something for yourself to pay back her favor. Or you could craft something creatively.

You think of other people who could use an unexpected package. You stay up late to make things, work an extra shift to help with shipping costs. You give an extra product to someone random because you can. You’re known as the inspired friend.

You come home to a package on your door. You’ve ordered something online and it has come in. You waited to order it when the arbitrary price the seller agreed to went down. You waited to order it when you worked enough hours at a set wage to get paid and put that money in a bank account you can draw from.

You chose exactly what you wanted. You worked for it, and it feels good to buy yourself what you craved. At the end of this day, you owe no one anything.

The term gift economy was a new one to me. After a lifetime of trading work for value and cashing that value in for goods and services, the concept is foreign.

In a gift economy, there is no currency. It is different from a barter system because valuables are given without expectation of reward.

People who wax poetic about gift economy will tell you there are many plusses. People are all equals since the hierarchy of net worth is missing. Everyone must work as a community, and jobs are given in a democratic way. The government does not need to spend so much time taxing and punishing people but instead focuses on assessing and meeting their needs. The community does not have to overproduce. With time freed by not needing to overproduce or spend time counting beans, people can “selfishly” pursue their own interests. The results can lead to breakthroughs that benefit everyone instead of being hoarded by a few. Resources are held in commons.

The act of gift giving creates bonds instead of receipts. It triggers reciprocity instead of debt. People might return the favor even bigger because people seek a sense of contribution. The only way to be “rich” is to work hard to amass things to give so you can have gift-giving prestige. Psychologists might tell you the connections made from gift economy lead to happiness and our traditional economy isolates us into depression.

There are examples of this around us already. Freecycle, Buy Nothing, Impossible, Open Source. To gain notice, artists and business people might offer free things.

Gift economy can be used in conjunction with barter, but that might not solve all the potential problems. It seems to depend on people being selfless as a whole. It requires faith that common needs like roads and special welfare for the unable will be taken care of.

Decommodification takes the things we’re used to paying for, and turns them into entitlements for all. If you’re interesting in switching our economy, how would you do so?

  1. nationalizing- the government buys up stock in private organizations
  2. revolution-perhaps after a feud between two political parties a liberal leader can draw people over to a separate economy
  3. unions- can be strengthened enough to rise from the oppression

We know that machines can do so much for us, and sometimes better than humans. Some of us fear this. We could be replaced and we require an income so what job would we have to take instead? In a gift economy machines free us from work so we can focus on the interests of our choice.

If you hear about gift economy, or live through it at something like Burning Man, you may be convinced. Or you may think it’s unfeasible. Would people with money want to give up their status and power over others? If they think gift economy will fail, they might focus on defending themselves from potential thieves from the gift economy who aren’t getting as much as they want. (How large of a wall would they need?) Would the media be honest about the successes of gift economy or focus on confirming the “chaos”?

Even if you aren’t affluent, you still might not find gift economy appealing. Collectively we might be able to survive as a species. Giving up creature comforts might be too big of a sacrifice. If you like working hard to collect unique resources, you might not like being held back by the community.

Capitalism might not always being an option. Automation risks jobs. The economy is unpredictable and difficult to study because it may be based on equilibrium theory and assume people will act rationally and in their best interest to maximize return. We don’t.

Some would be happy to see capitalism in the rear view. Gone would be the days where we are convinced we need to be controlled with money. Instead we could be civil just because we’re human. We could be driven for others instead of just ourselves. Gone would be the social stratification, seeing money as a means to an end, competing against each other for the opportunity to work. Gone would be the scarcity mindset and focusing on what you lack. Those hoarding wealth and depression could be set free.


This is how I’ve come to understand it, at least. What do you know about gift economy? What ideas does it inspire?

Nanowrimo 2019

“Why do I need a warning about NaNoWriMo?” my husband asks.

NaNoWriMo 2019 will be my second month of writing 1,667 words a day. My username is still Crookham, if you’re also signed up for the challenge.

I suppose my husband, after a baby in 2017 and 2018, is ready for this temporary month of voluntary sleeplessness. He’s ready for my mind to be elsewhere, for my chores to slip, and to order takeaway because I forgot food existed.

At least I’ll have something more interesting to chat about than baby poop.

What I’ve learned since last NaNoWriMo is that a novel should really be at least 60,000 words for a traditional publisher. So I’m prepared to also spend some of December reaching that minimum.

This book is exciting to me because it has something in common with Gender Chasm- a divided nation. It will also showcase what I’ve learned about pregnancy and newborns while these things are still young in my mind.

Would you ever attempt NaNoWriMo?


Wish me luck,





Update: I have decided to postpone writing my novel in a month until January. Another writing opportunity came up, a fellow writer needed feedback, my workload increased… Mostly I felt unprepared to write and although I was willing to try “pantsing” and see what ideas popped into my writing, the idea of editing a book not based on an outline I could reference was too intimidating.

When I think about my decision, I don’t feel relieved of the creating because I know the stress of daily writing will happen in two months instead (although January does have a built in “cheat day” since there are 31). Instead, I feel relieved that I am going to work on a project with my level of quality structure from the beginning, rather than forcing in plot after the first draft. This is how I know it’s the right thing for me to do.

Brewing Books

Author Ashley Crookham at Books and Brews

A post by another author caught my eye. She declared she wanted to come to Indiana just to visit our local restaurant chain. I decided it was time to make my own, postponed, trip happen.

Books & Brews” has a literary inspired menu of dishes and drinks. I met another writer there to eat (Slaughterhouse Five naan pizza, of course), admire the shelves of tomes, and ogle open cabinets of board games. It is the perfect place to bring the family, catch up with old friends, or even sneak off to plot.

Of course I mused what they would offer as “the” Gender Chasm. Perhaps a pie split into a pink strawberry side and a blueberry side with a crust divider between them?

Have you been to Books & Brews? Would you drive here to go? Have you been to other book themed restaurants?




Book Club

In college, my sorority sisters and I referred to an unsanctioned after party as a “book club”.


Now, it means something different to me. I have two dear friends who meet with me online once we all complete our latest reading. We talk for an hour (after a brief update about our lives) then choose what book we’d like to do next based off what we heard was good or one of us enjoyed recently. We usually start with “What did you think overall?” and end with “What did the author want us to get out of this?”

Author Ashley Crookham book club inspiration


I’ve heard others have larger groups, meet in person, require set times, or follow rules in order to choose the book. In comparison, our book club is relaxed and I feel good about what we have. Yes, sometimes our schedules don’t align quickly and I read many other things during the interim. I sit to chat and it’s a bit like being at the movie theater. So many previews have shown I have forgotten what movie I came to see.


Yet it’s worth it because the three of us each bring something to the table. We draw on experiences of volunteering, adoption, teaching in public schools, pregnancy, achieving a PhD, international research, divorce, moving around the country, marriage, family rifts, jail, vacations, home buying, and deaths in the family. We look at the books from a learning perspective, academic discernment, and with technical critique. We all love to read and have enough books in common to make comparisons.


We’ve been discussing books since 2011. We’ve read serious books, and seriously popular titles. Classics and new Goodreads suggested. Some include:

All Our Wrong Todays

Born a Crime

Flight Behavior

The Girl on the Train

Men We Reaped

No Impact Man


Turtles All the Way Down

World on Edge


I look forward to our chats, and hearing what the others say. This reminds me how many ways there are to interpret a book, and how a book is a different experience to us at different times in our lives. I am no longer a harsh book critic. Instead I look for what the book could be to someone as well as what is was to me when I chanced to read it.


What have your experiences been with a book club?

Submitting to Submission

Gender Chasm is completed, thanks to Nanowrimo. I have edited it for content and sent it to beta readers for feedback on any plot confusion. When it comes back I will run it through AutoCrit again to smooth out any repetition and make better choices.

So now I sit back and relax.


It is time for me to research potential publishers. This is my first foray into the Writer’s Market and I am fascinated. In 80 pages, I have gathered 27 initial potential publishers which I am sure will diminish upon further scrutiny.

Have you ever selected a book because you trusted the publisher? I think I might from now on. If you have a genre you enjoy, there is a certainly a book maker who specializes in it.

Here are some comments from what book publishers are seeking:

“Canadian authors only”

“Midwestern authors in a Midwestern setting”

“Hispanic literary creativity”

“LGBTQ-focused works only”

“targeting modern women”

“avoid cutesy”

“ask probing questions about the world around us”

“dark, edgy books”

“responds in 6-18 months if interested”

“include publishing history in query letter”

“a true literary marauder”

“does not consider erotica”

“as long as the romance element is strong”

“online submissions only”

“Do not fax or e-mail queries or mss”


I must confess, reading their desires left me wishing I had something in their niche (add a vampire, take out the sex, change my citizenship). However, I am proud of my work and will instead find a place comfortable with producing and marketing my type of novel.

Coffee Break

Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company

My first outing in Indy was to a coffee shop called Calvin Fletcher’s. I had breakfast, nursed my first daughter, and bought a bag of whole beans as a gift for in-laws. I imagined what our lives could be here, and hoped it would include writing.

As I finish editing Gender Chasm, I have been thinking about that trip. Many times I’ve desired to come back. Today I put my two children in daycare, left the house a mess, and brought my editing notebook with me to a table in the corner. I ordered my coffee “for here” so I wouldn’t be tempted to go home and check on the beef stew I have cooking for our house guests tonight.

I love the coffee shop atmosphere- mismatched plates, man buns, and music I wouldn’t normally listen to. If I hadn’t come I could have worked a little harder on scrubbing the kitchen. I could have made my own cup of black brew and not taken the risk of driving to the city.

Instead I took a coffee break.


Do you ever give yourself the breaks you deserve?


The Palm of My Hand

When you mention the word “author”, the first person I think of is a celebrity who seems to have it all together. She is prolific, travels broadly, and posts about her day to day life without mention of the struggles of creating something she’s ready to publish.

When you mention the word “writer”, the first person I think of is someone like me. Someone who is not ready to share their novel with the world. I think of other writers who drink, eat too much, give up, complain.

I am proud of my words in the newspaper. I am more proud of the short stories I’ve published. And to help ensure I’m one day proud of my novel, I’ve developed a healthy reward system for myself for completing my daily writing goals.

The reward is not a full glass of red wine (which I can’t indulge in while breastfeeding) or a handful of candy (which I can’t indulge in while setting a good example for my one year old). Instead I wear a piece of jewelry related to writing. I don’t wear it on the day I complete my goal. I wear it the next day. This means I have the jewelry on to inspire me to keep going. I like seeing it and thinking about the work I did. If I don’t complete my goal, I want to wear it and it further motivates me to meet my goal on that day.

This system has kept me happy, sober, and not in a sugar coma.


What do you do to stay motivated? What do you think of when you hear the words “author” and “writer”?

One Minute Per Day of the Year

January 1st (Day 1/365). One Minute.

January 2nd (Day 2/365). Two Minutes.

December 31st (Day 365/365). 6.083 Hours.


For this year, my plan was to do one minute of editing per day of the year for all 365 days. Here are the benefits to my plan so far:

  1. Easy to begin. Having two babies in a row has made it easy for me to say I don’t have time for my writing. But only expecting 1 minute from myself was difficult to deny. As the minutes build, it feels very natural and not overwhelming.
  2. Encourages me to finish editing early. As the year progresses and the minutes increase, I expect I would have to not sleep in order to complete my goal. Instead, I cheat by doing more than my allotted minutes in the hopes of readying my manuscript before the end of the year.
  3. Reminds me to think about editing as a daily task. It’s not about whether I’m going to edit, it’s about how long I will edit for. It’s not optional. Sure, some days I don’t put in the time equal to the day of the year. However any time is better than getting off track and ignoring my novel.

I have shared my goal with my writing buddy, and his encouragement has also helped me stay on track. I love being able to honestly tell him I am keeping my commitment on this.

How tenable would something like this be to you? Would you prefer it a different way?