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.
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”?
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:
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.
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.
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?
Maternity leave is time you use to adjust to adding another person to your family. It’s also a great time to commit to daily writing or editing, and I’ll be blogging about that next month. However, there are things I miss about working:
Goals. Housework is an ever populated list directed by yourself. Work work is an directed by another’s expectations and to me that is refreshing. My company decides my work budget, minimum requirements, and gives approval to me when it is complete. I get to do activities, which I love, and creatively employ my solutions.
Ideas. More than one novel idea I have involves the geriatric population and dementia. My work gives me access to people and situations that provoke ideas. Also, when trying to describe things I see, I come away with great lines like “stomped vegetable nose”.
Income. It will take money to make money as an author, and working provides that resource. Also having a paycheck means I can afford traveling and other experiences that will enrich my stories.
Since I really do enjoy being an activity director, it’s difficult for me to imagine not being around seniors. Perhaps if I do need to give up traditional work in the future I can still volunteer to get my old people fix. My blog A Smile Among Wrinkles can tell you a little more about that part of my life.
Since I’ve experienced going past the 40 week mark with both babies, I feel able to talk about the preferences of overdue friends. In both circumstances I had people waiting on me to give birth before leave expired or a visit ended. Here is one way I described it:
My body is a single bedroom apartment staged for a solitary tenant- one bed, set of dishes, arm chair, etc. Yet I’m sharing it with someone. This is a person I love, but I can’t wait until they move out.
My suggestions for what not to do when your friend is overdue:
1. Ask if you’ve had the baby yet. It’s better to make the assumption your friend has not had the baby yet. Chances are they will tell you when they do. If they have given birth, they can make the happy correction.
2. Judge the way they spend their overdue time. The best an overdue person can do is spend that time the way they want to keep themselves comfortable and not go crazy. If they want to sleep the whole time, don’t tell them to talk a walk or a ride on a rocky road. If they want to nest, don’t tell them to put down the laundry basket and vacuum cleaner and just wait for their child to get here in a dirty house.
If your friend is overdue some things they might like:
1. Tell them simply you are thinking about them and that if they can think of anything you can do for them, including listening to their feelings, you are there.
2. Send snacks. Something non-perishable probably won’t go amiss right now and can be stored for post-baby hunger.
3. Tell them what is going on in your life. Give them something else to focus on.
4. Tell them how perfect sized their belly is. No one wants to hear how big they’ve gotten or worry about their belly being too small.
5. Ask what is the worst thing about their situation right now. Deciding between their discomforts and worries can help them feel validated and perhaps lead them to think about a solution for one big thing instead of feeling helpless among a bunch of things they can’t control.
The great thing about being overdue is that you can’t sleep and are antsy. Perfect time for writing and lots of negative emotions to use as creative fuel.
What are your thoughts on what to due and what not to due?
Your one year old is picky and wants to be held constantly. You want to write, but your hands are always full.
You are pregnant and not sleeping well. The time you could be writing is suddenly the time you might be able to rest.
You must maximize the time you and your spouse are both off and awake at the same time. The idea of facing a computer when you could be facing him is not acceptable.
You want to get caught up so you can focus when you get down to writing. Laundry, dishes, organizing, decorating, cooking, cleaning. Will you ever really be caught up?
You’re at work and would rather try to leave on time than bring your laptop and spend a half hour on your writing while the distractions of your home life are held at bay.
I can write all day about why I can’t write all day. What I’ve learned by creating this list is that I am not accountable to a routine and therefore can always make the choice not to write. Instead, I want to commit to 300 words a day.
Indiana is never a place I expected to live as an adult.
When I was a child, I found out my mother had attended Indiana University. I reached for my encyclopedia and looked up the state. There were pictures of Native Americans and a few paragraphs of demographics. I still wanted to follow in her footsteps and felt settled that I wouldn’t have to choose a college for myself until I learned that she attended higher learning at Indiana University in Pennsylvania. After that, I didn’t give the mid-west another thought.
Living here has been pretty comfortable. The similarities in commercial offerings are such that I forget I am actually 13 hours from my parents and no longer an hour from meeting friends halfway.
After my first year here, I can say I feel settled. I have a favorite coffee shop, diner, restaurant, park, and library location. In Summer we saw waterfalls and in Fall we went to a pumpkin patch. I’ve been to the zoo, children’s museum, and the Kurt Vonnegut library. We’ve made our way into the city a few times, including the observation deck above the Mayor’s office.
We own a house here, now. We are friends with our next store neighbors. The grocery store clerks all know I want paper bags.
Perhaps the highlight of the year has been attending Vonnegutfest and hearing John Green speak.
The night began with High School students who attended Vonnegut’s High School (Shortridge) reading their winning essays and giving me hope for the future. A bonus was Calvin Fletcher’s offering their new cold brew flavor for free at the bar.
John Green was introduced, then spoke for a half hour about writing in Indy, things he agreed with Vonnegut about, and how he’d like to see the world change. Never more have I wanted to settle down and make a stable community instead of searching for the next place.
When you write, you notice other writers. You enjoy friendships with other readers. You may be in a writers group. When you write, these relationships are important because you’re going to seek out people to read your works in progress.
Generally you can ask for certain things before people read to critique. Some people ask for very detailed suggestions such as comma placements and misspelled words. Some don’t have any idea what they hope to get by sharing. Here is what I have learned about what I want from critiquers:
Give me a variety of readers. Don’t just seek out other writers like you. If the readers like it despite not liking the genre, you can feel good.
Tell me how you feel about the protagonist. If readers hate the person leading the story, they may not care about reading to the end.
Give me a guess on what happens next. When a critiquer reads just a piece of your work, it is a great opportunity for you to see if you are misleading your audience enough or if the plot is too obvious.
Tell me what strikes you the most. I’m curious what impressions critiquers are left with. I want to know what the work leaves people with, or what they feel is missing.
Taking time to let people read your work is a welcome break from creating and editing it on your own. Getting critiqued can point out flaws you might be too close up to see. Hearing others’ perspectives on the story can help you to work on clarifying things for your audience. There is no critique you must take, so why not listen with an open mind?
When a writer gets to pick out a new desk, we may want things that are different from other normal desk wielding people.
My old desk felt confined and too shabby to inspire me. When I really sat down to write, I liked to take my computer to an open table instead. This led me to believe my next desk should be open and with more space to spread out.
To begin my search I looked for used desks. Used have the benefit of coming pre-assembled, pre-historied, and pre-depreciated.
Yet, writers can be practical too. An open desk with elbow room would be difficult to get up the stairs. Good options were not close to home, and logistics of getting help with the loading the desk into a truck narrowed down the choices. I didn’t want to sacrifice desk top space or drawer space to help keep clutter out of the way of my writing supplies just to find something easy to move. I also didn’t want to have to wait too long to write.
So, I began to look for new options that would ship in a box and not require me to use a truck.
Never before have I bought my own furniture and it was difficult for me to decide without the limitations of seeing what is available used and local.
I knew having the printer handy would be important to have paper copies to critique. The finish was up to me entirely, and I even researched matching bookshelves to make sure I could accommodate all my reference materials nearby while still looking nice in the room. I wanted open shelves with easy access and closed shelves for things I didn’t need as often and didn’t want to have as eye sores. In the end, I also picked a desk with a hanging file drawer large enough for each story idea in its own file.
The final product is something I’m so happy with. Everything has been convenient to reach, I can keep binders and books open as I write, and there is enough storage for me to limit things in view to things that aid me in my focus.