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.
For the first time in a while, I don’t have to hide the fact that I have an exotic pet. I thought I’d celebrate that fact with a post to talk about my experiences keeping a sugar glider.
In October 2011, my mother decided to get a sugar glider. She called to tell me about them and enthused that I would enjoy owning one too. Off to the store I went, never suspecting that I would be the only one of us who would go through with it. I called to tell her the good news. We were in the same boat. We could pet sit for each other. Our sugar babies could grow up together.
“What did you name yours?” I asked.
“Oh, I changed my mind.”
I paused. “That’s a strange name.”
To start you need one or two animals, a cage, heat rock, sugar glider pellet food, and a bonding pouch you wear around your neck. The pouch zips up to ensure your new fury baby doesn’t escape during the first few months while you love it and it struggles to get away from you.
When I tell people my pet’s name, they usually think I mean “Alice”. I correct them, then they ask how I came up with “Elske”.
“It came from a book.”
“What’s the book called?”
(If you haven’t heard of Cynthia Voigt, now you know one series of hers I recommend.)
The first weeks were rough. Sugar gliders don’t have many defenses but a loud chiggering noise is one of them. Beata beata beata. It still makes me jump. Grabbing her from her warm nest of fleece and shoving her into the pouch while she holds on with opposable thumbs feels a bit rude.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal, marsupials, and, in my opinion, cuter as adults than they are as joeys. They have long tails and skin between their limbs that helps them glide from a high place to a lower place. They eat insects in the wild and enjoy sweet foods when they can find them. In captivity, they can live 12-15 years.
Eventually she grew comfortable with me. She stays in her cage when she’s not in a pouch, but I do let her play. I can stuff a blanket under the crack below the door and she explores the room while I write. She climbs around me, especially near my neck and ear. She even comes when I call her name, although if she’s having too much fun she might run away when I try to scoop her up. You must keep sugar gliders away from water. They cannot swim. The toilet lid is always down when she’s out.
She travels well. While she’s in the pouch she gets an apple slice to munch on for food and liquid. She sleeps during the day so she’s very docile when I take her places. When I’m in a good spot, I let her on the ground to pee or poop (she lets me know she has needs when she gets squirmy). Afterwards, she jumps back on me and crawls right into her bag. I’ve taken her to work with me and she does great all day.
Over the seven years we’ve been together, I’ve added to her things. Barrels of monkeys, a quiet running wheel, pouches I have sewn or hand tied, fuzzy bags. I have a hamster cage I use when we’re moving and when I’m cleaning her cage.
Elske has been to multiple jobs, parties, volunteering at a LTC facility, and even writers group meetings. People who don’t like mice tend to react negatively. People who like soft tiny animals say they will get one.
One day a member of my writers group shared a sad story about a beloved pet. The symptoms she experienced, shared by many humans and for unknown reasons, seemed like an intriguing story idea to me.
My fellow writer and I began to flesh it out. “What ifs” sprung up, setting molded around it, and we each envisioned a character from which to view our fictional world. We decided to co-write a story. This is what I have learned about the process so far:
You must agree on how quickly you want the story to come together. In our case, we are not rushing each other in any way. We both have other projects going on and this story is one we can come back to only when we choose to.
You must agree on how much of the story each writer contributes. In our case, we are taking turns with chapters.
You must be flexible. One new idea can mean a lot of work to edit what has already been written. When we agree to go a different way with the story, we must both go back to keep the information consistent.
I’ve enjoyed seeing our story come together from two writers with very different styles and ideas. This might be a long-term work but we will both be proud when it is complete.
What have your experiences been with co-authoring?
I could not be so close to a museum for Kurt Vonnegut and not take a visit. In a college ethics class, I did my final project on his secular humanist beliefs. He is someone I would have been lucky to know. I read Slaughterhouse Five before the short trip into Indianapolis which I believe adds much to the understanding of the displays in his Memorial Library. To see his struggles as an author, successes in his dreams, personal challenges, and sparks of creativity in person were comforting and inspiring.
Have you visited any good museums dedicated to authors or writing?