Did that word business in the title make you look twice? Maybe, maybe not. As a writer, I think in terms of art and business, and I wanted to write a bit about how that works for me and how I make decisions about what to write and when (assuming the muse doesn’t bonk me on the head with an idea I cannot resist). My mojo for putting new words on the page is waning these last couple days anyway, so goofing off here seems like a good idea.
I’ve posted recently about my plan to write 75K words by June 20th (and complete the projects I need to that add up to that 75K. I didn’t just pick that number from the sky. Tee hee). Well, I decided yesterday to change my plan a bit to 65.5K words by June 20th. The main reason is that two of the short pieces I’d planned to write are not ones I want to push myself to get done by the end of June. There is really no reason to, so I’ve cut those out of the total. Why stress myself out if I don’t need to? If I do have extra time on my hands, I might get to those projects. Or I might work on something totally different.
How did I come to this decision? I considered a few things:
1) When these publications I was going to write by the end of June will come out. I don’t have control over these particular works–in terms of when they are published. Based upon others yet to come out and many past delays, I don’t see any way they would be released by the end of 2013, even if I did have them done in June or even July. So, why worry about rushing what I can’t rush anyway? I still have completed works that are yet to come under contract. I feel like I’m way ahead on these serials and am just…waiting on other folks to turn wheels that I cannot. Anyway, writing these serials in a rush amounts to worrying about money I will not see this year (gasp. Yes, I wrote something about money and writing!). My time is better spent on other projects if I do complete everything on my list.
2) What I feel like writing right now. I am really enjoying working on the Sorrowmoor serial set, so I’m going to roll with those and with some pen name work I’m doing–at least through June. When those serials are done, they need to be formatted into a single volume for sale as well. Then, I have some other ideas I’d like to spend time on.
3) My motivation to push myself on these particular serials has really flagged. One reason I dig self publishing is the control I have over how books are published and when they come out. My motivation is high to get my stuff out…when I want it out. I like to have a new release every month–if I can get it. Since I write short, that is a reasonable goal. Right now, that is happening since I have a Kickstarter serial set. I don’t like my work to be sat on for long periods of time, especially when these stories are short serials. That makes no sense to me. So, I make decisions accordingly.
4) I don’t like to feel whiny and needy. So, I avoid that by moving ahead myself on what I can do. I have folks who do work for me on the self publishing end, and my deadline is theirs. Nothing stops me from pushing harder there when other things are stalled. The days of having to wait for publishers to move are over–unless we choose to work with publishers. I do work with publishers, and I self publish. Such flexibility and choice is both freeing and terrifying to many people. I find it quite liberating in a business that can be frustrating.
How about you? How do you make big decisions in your writing business or other business?
For the past couple of years, I’ve been pretty fearless when it comes to my writing and also the path I’ve chosen for publication and how I get my books out into the world. This stupidity or stroke of genius (depending upon how you look at writing and publishing) has enabled me to write what I wanted to and ship it or put it out there. I have a lot of content in online stores (and in a brick and mortar or two as well), and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished so far–even when I really didn’t know what I was doing. I tweak my plans a lot and have no problem doing so. I feel fine with change and go full speed ahead, generally.
So, this emotion I’m feeling lately is new to me. It has crept up big time in the last week. Namely, it’s a big old, ugly monster with yellow teeth that sits perched on my shoulder and pipes up every ten minutes or so while I write. “Hey. Are you sure this serial is any good? You should probably stop now or erase that and rewrite that page.” I try to brush the voice off, and most of the time, I’m successful. As you might imagine, though, the voice of the Fear Monster wears on me. I confided in a friend that I wasn’t sure if what I’d written in the last couple of weeks or so sucked or not. She compared my pregnant and brain fogged state to being on different drugs and not knowing if what you are doing is crazy or not.
Yeah. I guess I can see that comparison.
So, what do I do? What do you do when the monster in the closet that usually slobbers under cover of darkness at night in your worst dreams comes out and taps you on the shoulder?
What I am doing is writing through the fear. So what if what I’ve completed isn’t good? Editing will work. I am relying on my editors to tell me if anything crazy happens that I don’t see. They have done so in the past, and I’m sure they will now and in the future. I have a feeling, though, that this fear is the result of some crazy hormonal thing. Then again, a good dose of fear isn’t a bad thing. It’s keeping me sharp. I’m re-reading a passage, rather than breezing through a first draft.
Perhaps an excerpt from “In a Dark Time,” a poem by Theodore Roethke, describes the on-going battle with fear:
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is–
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
Fear is part of life. Today, I chose to walk through it and to bat the monster away. I came out on the other side. Words on paper and an uneasy sense of accomplishment were the product of my being afraid that what I was writing was not good enough. And I’m okay with that. How about you? How do you handle fear in your life, art, or work?
I planned for this day and set up a daily word count and accountability post on Facebook in hopes of beating the clock. From my first pregnancy, I remembered having brain mush. This is the state where you sit around and go Duuuuhhhh even though you want to be writing. Or you do stuff around the house, but your brain is just not working right; you walk into a room and forget why you are there. Today, I searched for my shoes for almost ten minutes. Yeah, not fun.
Here was my plan to make progress before mush brain (I was hoping that was an if!) struck. My writing schedule looked like this from the beginning of the year: 75000 words by June 20th– 12 short serials done by then (11 are done now), 5 serials in a set done (on #4 now) and four more serials in the Montmoors set done (1.75 are done). Almost 49000 words written. Not bad for having started this plan Dec. 10, 2012. Now I’m glad I did.
I thought I was just unmotivated to write yesterday. We’ve all had those days where we were just meh on the whole prospect of putting words on the page. I managed to eek out 200+ words before bed anyway. Not my goal, but better than nothing, certainly.
Then I sat down this afternoon and felt the same way about writing. I just couldn’t seem to focus. I am one of those just do it, power through it people. I couldn’t seem to make progress. So, I did some business end stuff while fuming about not getting new words in on my serial. Then it hit me. Uh oh. Mush brain is here. The alien has invaded. My brain is toast. Or at least toast-y.
So, what will I do? Write as much as I can. Go easy on myself and figure my brain very well might have the consistency of pea soup for a year or better. Yeah. That long while massive growth happens for baby and my brain changes again as a mommy (pretty cool stuff actually if you read about it!). I will still be able to write some. I might even have some spectacular days between now and the end of June. I sure hope so, but I’m fine with things, however they happen.
Another writer I respect quite a lot, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, has written about the category of life events/writing events that pregnancy brain (what’s the word? Seriously, I’m thinking hard through the fog) occupies. She calls these events in life that upset our writing schedules life rolls. They could be death, illness, trouble at home, new baby, divorce, an unexpected job loss, or any manner of things that really knock us off balance or make us roll around for a while, trying to get our bearings–happy or sad events. Her advice? Roll with it. Do the best you can, and don’t beat yourself up. Get back to writing when you can. Sounds good to me. From today on, I’m still going to go for my word count goal. Will I make it most days? I don’t know. My day job also needs to get done and will come first, obviously. So, I can’t say, but at least I’ll have tried. And when my brain shouts, “enough!,” I’ll retire to watch House of Cards or to hang with the fam or do some baby related thing. After all, though we might like to think biology no longer applies to us in this post post modern or whatever age it is, it still does. And it can be a real force to be reckoned with.
I’d love to know about your life rolls. Have you had them? How did they impact your writing or other pursuits? How did you handle them with grace (or kicking and screaming as the case may be)?
Note: I had a bunch of thoughts written out on this topic, and then the post got eaten mostly by WordPress. Gah! Anyway, I’ve decided to post what I could. Hopefully, you might see something that makes you think a bit more…or that just has you nodding in understanding.
We’ve been thinking about aging a lot at my house lately. I just had a birthday in January–one where a woman hits the point where she’s past being able to call herself young. It didn’t bother me much, I don’t think. But my husband is at that age where you get horrible birthday parties thrown for you, complete with black balloons and lots of people teasing you that you’ll need a walker soon. He narrowly escaped a party like that last year. There are no bets that he will be so lucky this year. Muwuahahha.
And there’s another big life change coming for us that makes us think about age, time, and its passage. A new baby is on the way in June, and we are older this time around (almost a decade will have passed after baby one once baby two shows up!), our situation is rather…interesting. Both of us feel like different people from the first time around as parents.
All this thinking about aging has made me develop a newish life philosophy. I have dozens of these (and they change every couple years), but this one has been at the fore lately. It is this: Live life with gusto; do as much as you can. Be as much as you can because if you live this way, you will make the world a better place.
The short version: Live big.
I don’t know if this motto deserves bold letters, but hey, it feels like a big revelation for me.
This philosophy is the secret of my not fearing age–at least this year. No promises on later.
When I feel antsy because I’m “old,” I simply get quiet and remind myself of what I’ve accomplished lately on the home front, writing front, spiritual front, and more. Every year is better than the last, and pain teaches me how to enjoy the good times even more. I made a conscious decision a few years ago to pursue my core competencies and passions without apologies. So far, so good. I plan to suck the marrow out of life, and I know others will be affected positively from my doing so. No one benefits from any of us living small, playing it safe, keeping to the corner until it’s our turn–and it never seems to be, does it? Living big is where it’s at. Go for everything you are dreaming of…with an eye to how what you do will make the world a better place.
I must say that living big has nothing to do with making tons of money and having lots of stuff (I’m not saying making a lot of money won’t happen. It could). I am not a materialist, and that’s part of this whole way of looking at life for me. I believe living big means seeing stuff for what it is–things. Trinkets don’t satisfy in the long run. Accomplishments, being able to say “I did that”, connecting with people, taking good risks, spending time with those you love–those are ways we live big and take up space. The world doesn’t promote living big. Instead, advertisers and even well meaning friends and family often tell us just to buy stuff and be happy with that shiny bobble or with that huge show house we can hardly afford or the nice, shiny cars we need to keep up with other people who are living small.
When I meet people who live big (or just have the pleasure of feeling I know them in the books and essays they write), I am always inspired. I can think of multiple people doing this: Seth Godin comes to mind (I just read The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?…what a book!) along with many women whom I admire for their gutsy moves to have it all (if not all at the same time). For me, many artists and writers embody living big. They reject consumerism quite often and strive for a real, authentic and full life. Many of the things society tells us we must be or do to measure up to some standard someone else has set that we later learn is bogus (only a mother, only a career woman, only a ______ whatever) are simply not true if we scratch the surface and get creative (also part of enlarging ourselves).
So, what’s your philosophy on life and aging? How are you living big, and where would you like to expand your life and soar? I’d love to hear in the comments!
We’ve all see the depressing numbers–only 8% of people who makes resolutions keep them. Sounds bleak, huh? But what about those folks who don’t make any resolutions at all? What is their success rate? The studies seem to show that resolutions do work better than nothing at all. Perhaps it all comes down to personality type. I love goals, and they work well for me. So, generally, I set New Year’s resolutions or intentions as I sometimes call them; my dad laughed at that term, but said he liked it.
This year will bring a lot of change and flux in my life. I plan to re-evaluate my goals often and tweak because it’s hard to say how my life will look in the last half of the year (other than sleep deprived and chaotic). Last year, I met all of my writing goals (write for an hour per day…most days I did and publish X number of stories. I did). This year, these are my resolutions in different categories. They are simple but specific. Some of them are laughable–maybe to many of my readers. For me, they represent me where I am now.
Write for 1 hour per day on work days and 2 hours per day at least one weekend day per week OR hit my goal of 432+ words per day (re-evaluate at the end of June when Baby Greer arrives! I have a feeling this amount might drop to 200 words per day or half an hour per day or nothing for a few weeks at least).
Finish 20 Sorrowmoor serials and get into e-book and print after initial Kickstarter is underway and complete and submit Montmoors serials 10-12. Complete pen name serial set of 3.5 more serials. Finish Light the Black Candle (gothic romance novella/novel). This is a minimum goal for next year in terms of output and amounts to about 125K words or more which seems pretty do-able at my current writing rate.
Read at least three books on writing/craft this year. I have several on my shelf and on my Kindle.
Complete twenty minutes per day of prayer/meditation/centered prayer.
Participate fully in communal worship opportunities, but honor my own relationship to God.
Stay engaged in the present moment. Live in the now. Check in daily with myself.
Activism and Philanthropy (also linked to Spirituality):
Continue my volunteering once per week in local schools.
Look for new opportunities to connect with those making a difference in the community and world and take advantage of at least two of these opportunities this year.
Cross boundaries and do the unexpected in order to serve others and grow. This last year, it was Christmas caroling with new friends.
Add one night per week that is DD and I night.
Have at least one date night per month with just me and DH. We do this currently, and I want to make sure we continue to do so after baby comes along.
Be thankful for what I do have and accept people for who they are in terms of extended family.
Move at least 10 minutes per day. Many days it’s much more than this, but some days I’m shamefully sedentary.
Read a little every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.
Do activities that give me pleasure–at least one or two per day, short or long in length (this is an idea from the 168 Hours book and it works well for making life feel like a lot more fun in spite of work and duties one doesn’t always enjoy).
Make at least one new friend this year (a good goal for an introvert in a small town, I think!).
Nurture existing friendships by staying in touch at least monthly.
Choose friends carefully and be a friend. Don’t slip into or prolong toxic relationships just to have “friends.”
So, what are your resolutions? Do you even bother, and if so, do they work for you?