Saturday, December 31

A Year in Retrospect: Wrung Dry But Hopeful

FireworksIt’s an obvious post to write, an end of year retrospective. I’ve done a lot, seen a lot, and experienced a lot this year. Then again, hasn’t everyone? I spent the first three months of the year pregnant, uncomfortable, and sick. The flu knocked me off of my feet for weeks and then love hit me like a ton of bricks. The birth of my daughter went as smoothly as these things go. I found myself falling in love with this cupcake and am continually amazed how these little creatures change our lives.

The next few months after her birth found me struggling and often failing at balancing the care of my newborn, my two older boys, writing, and home management. I always seem to drop one of my responsibilities while focusing on another. Of course, my children(and not the laundry, my WIPs, or blogging) have been at the highest on my priority list. Still I’ve followed through with my auction win and a partial submission for critique.

My oldest son started first grade…an actual numbered grade (!!!!) and my youngest boy started pre-k. It was a difficult step to make. My son has severe food allergies and it’s never an easy move for me to let him out of my sight or reach. Speaking of him…we’ve survived his first endoscopy (unfortunately, not his last), a 24-hour ph impedance study, and the diagnosis of a gastrointestinal disorder (eosiphinilic esophagitis).

Illnesses haven’t kept away. We’ve had sinus infections, tummy bugs, asthma flare ups, and recently one nasty case of Fifth’s in one very tired, itchy, achy Mommy. 

This is to say…It’s been a year. But I’m ever hopeful. A new year awaits. I’m ready to get organized, ready to get these WIPs written, edited, submitted. I have a new plan, ready to be tested, and every reason to believe that this year will be the year of balance. Goals will be reached and chaos will not reign.

It starts here.

In the next month, I’ll be getting my stuff together and blogging about the steps I’m taking to get my writing, my mothering, and my life under control.

Wish me luck. 2012 here I come.

Fireworks courtesy of malfet_

Tuesday, November 8

How Long Left

I opened my spreadsheet for tracking progress on the rewrite of this WIP and it reminded me of another Excel worksheet. In the Foreign Service, you're always planning your next move. Your next destination is always on the horizon. A worksheet to monitor your timeline has been passed around. Almost all of my friends use it and I have no idea where it originated. It tracks exactly how many minutes, hours, days, years (How Long Left) you have to go at your current position. Depending on how wonderful or not-so-wonderful your current home is usually what determines when you start counting down.

It's my opinion's an awful way to live. Always working towards the next place, never enjoying today to the fullest because you always know you'll be moving on. It's hard to invest yourself in a place when it's role in your life is fleeting.

And yes, this is a writer's blog so, of course, it all comes back to writing. I'm counting down on my WIP. My excel worksheet shows me that I have completed 85% of this rewrite, 15% or 10,286 words left to go. According to my current speed, I'll be done in a matter of days. That's only one way of looking at it though. My Hero has to convince the girl he's going to marry that he's the one for her. He still has to convince his mother that he's making the right decision. What about my heroine? She's worried that marrying her first love might hurt him in the long run, especially if his mother continues to disapprove. There's also the baby she's about to have, a custody agreement to be settled on, and a sober mom to help keep, well, sober. Numbers. Pie charts. They are most assuredly not why I got into writing.

So yes, there's a role all of this number-tracking has in our writing. But on this eighth day of NaNo, it's my wish to you to remember the real goal. Get the story down. Keep moving. Don't stop. Keep your eyes on the prize but don't forget that beyond the 50,000 words, your goal is to have told a story, a complete story by the end of November. (Unless you're only doing this to wrack up the words. In that case, rock on with your bad self!)

P.S. In case you were wondering, I haven't opened up the How Long Left spreadsheet since we left Mexico the first time. As all of our friends wait on their assignments, I'm happy with the knowledge that we are guaranteed (or as guaranteed things can be in this life) another year before bidding. Until I must, I'll only be counting the days to our Disney vacation and Christmas. 

Saturday, September 17

Making a New Schedule

My daughter turns six months today. Seven, nine months or even a year ago, I would have told you that I thought writing with a little one would be do-able, if not easy. It wasn’t that long ago that my sons were in their babyhood and I remember long periods of boredom, nights of bouncing and swaying, days of cooing and singing. Surely between all of those moments of quiet and sitting, I would be able to get in my word count. Heck, I was planning on having the most productive days in the months of upcoming babyhood.

I forgot about the bone-eating fatigue, the two little boys that still want their mommy, and our new home that doesn’t yet clean itself. I forgot about the surprise illnesses that would steal away nights of sleep and keep us from our daily chores. There were visits from relatives and friends, birthday parties, and one trip to visit family.

This is to say that I was wrong. Very wrong.

I’ve tried to take the advice of writerly friends. I kept notebooks by my side. Brought my iPad along with me on any long drive or doctor’s appointment. Yes, I’ve written. Yes, I’ve actually accomplished a good portion of this rewrite. But I haven’t finished. The synopsis and query letter mocks me. I stumble as my desk bears the weight of school papers, doctor’s files, coupons, bills, art work, and notes.

Wondering what I was doing wrong wasn’t getting me anywhere. Pushing myself to do more hasn’t worked. Instead I’m throwing up my hands again. At the end of the day, I am a professional mother. My job is to mother these three children. I write, too, but spreading myself between the two at all times isn’t working. When I write, I feel guilty that my children need me, that my house isn’t clean, that the laundry is piling up, that I should be doing something, anything, that doesn’t involve sitting at a desk. When I’m folding laundry, I’m worried that I’m never going to finish this wip, never get the partial in, never sell, never publish, never, never, never…

It’s an endless cycle. So…here’s my new plan. Write when I write, clean when I clean, play when I play. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be running lines or doing plot work when I’m doing dishes. It means I’m throwing off the guilt, getting things done, and focusing.

Thursday, July 14

Tricking My Muse

I did it. Back in April, I gave my Muse the slip. I gave up on a project that I had been writing since January of 2010. I told myself that it was time to pack it up and start on something else. I did just that with my first wip, editing and rewriting on it for weeks.

Until it happened.

The story came back to me. It happened while I was in the shower, unexpected but very much wanted.It started like most stories do for me…a bit of conversation here, a reel of film that plays out in my head, and my fingers begin itching to write. I saw and heard my characters for the first time in months. There was the real conflict behind the ones that I had originally heard. Pieces of their pasts came to me and I knew that this book is ready to be finished. I am ready to finally get it done.

It happened not a day too early. This is the WIP I have planned for the partial submission I bid for back in June. I’m less than a quarter through the edits rewrites. Progress is slow as I balance the ‘mommy-me’ with the ‘writer-me.’ I have goals now, a way to THE END, and a concrete end date.

And it all started with giving up.

Wednesday, June 1

How much are your dreams worth?

I asked myself this recently and I admit, I was completely surprised by my answer. Apparently, my dream to become a published author is worth a substantial amount of money. Money that my family could spend on home  improvements or a family vacation or even on my hobby of photography. Instead I placed a serious bid during Brenda Novak’s auction. That bid will give me the eyes of the SENIOR EDITOR for the line I’m targeting. She will critique my partial and give me a call. It’s scary and nerve-wracking and totally worth it to me…several months before I’ll be experiencing the wait.

For me, there’s a little more to it than just the opportunity to get my partial MS past the slush pile. That money means accountability. I can no longer put off my writing time. I can no longer afford to question my talent. I need to get the best mixture of words down on paper.

Instead of browsing the internet looking for ways to improve my skills, I need to write.

Instead of searching out the best in productivity tools to help me maximize my time, I need to write.

Instead of making excuses on all of the reasons why I can’t write, I need to write. And it’s starting now.

Tuesday, April 26

When is it time to give up?

Today I’m making a decision. Something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Something that could make a big impact on my writing life.

I’m giving up. That’s right…I’m letting go. It’s way past time. I’ve read countless books on writing. I’ve read the blogs and spoken with other writers. And I’ve heard it all. “Don’t give in,” they say. “It’s resistance or procrastination. It’s that dark demon inside trying to make you fail.”

Let me back up and give you some background. At the beginning of 2010, I fast drafted more than half of my WIP “She’s Going Home.” I did well and surpassed my goal for the month in less than 2 weeks. I kept going and thought I had a decent first draft. Then I looked for critiques. I didn’t realize I wasn’t ready yet for it. Lesson 1 – Write first. Finish first. Then search out critiques. 

So here I am…writing along and I get the most awesome of mentors. A writer that writes like I want to write. She’s funny and smart and she gets my life. She has children and understands the challenges that come along, like moving and hospital visits (April 2010). A voluntary evacuation from our home had not been in my plans. My sons and I left our home of the past three years to visit family for six weeks. It sounded doable. My husband would stay behind in an unstable security situation, pack up our house, take care of our dog while I ENJOYED a break with family.

That’s when the hospital visits hit for my 3-year-old and my 90-year-old grandfather. There was also the challenge of being strong and keeping my patience with my little boys that couldn’t understand why we were leaving home without daddy. But I’ll tell you this. I kept writing.  My WIP was a source of pride. I wrote and then I rewrote and then I wrote some more.  I kept the story alive in my mind and in my fingertips.

But then I stopped.

I stopped because we were evacuated again from our new assignment. I stopped because my children needed me every second of every waking moment and when they were sleeping, I was too exhausted to think…never mind write. I stopped because I was pregnant and sick and then sick again. There would be time to write later, I told myself.

My baby girl was born almost six weeks ago. Each day, I’ve opened up my WIP and attempted to read and edit it. I’ve come to a few more conclusions. Lesson 2 – Life will get in the way. Yes, you can tell yourself to write everyday. You can set yourself up with time but you have to be forgiving of yourself too. Some obstacles will derail you.

So I’m shutting ‘er down. I haven’t decided if I’m going to start something new or return to a WIP that I had only just begun. Lesson 3- It’s a writer’s prerogative. Either way, I’m on the hunt for writing magic. Something to get me excited again. A story that will make my fingers fly over the keyboard and my mind locked down to distractions.

Ready, Set, WRITE!

Wednesday, January 5

Goals: Everyone Else is Doing It

So it's a new year and everyone seems to be in the same mindset. This year is the year we get organized, write that novel, get a new job, stay in touch with friends or family, lose weight, and get healthy. This is our year. Last year is over and "Thank goodness, no one wants to relive it." I like goals. I like setting them and I like measuring my progress along the way. Whether it's the start of a new year or merely a new day, I find the idea that the future is ahead exhilarating.

Last year, I was knocked down a few times. Plans were made to be broken....over and over and over. A year ago, I thought this year would find us still living in Mexico. My sons would be in school full time, or at least mostly. I had no idea I would be pregnant with our third child, even if I had hoped to be. I certainly had no idea that 2010 would hand me my butt more than a few times. There were abrupt moves from one country to another, twice. There was an emergency room visit. More than two months of separation from my husband and then the weeks spent living out of luggage. I found myself exhausted, too tired to stick to writing goals, with two little boys that needed their mommy more than I needed to write. On the positive side, we landed exactly where we've always wanted to be...back in New England, on the coast, only a minute's walk from the ocean, in our very own home. I have a beautiful office, set up perfectly for my writing habits, with loads of inspiration and comfort to feed my writer-ly soul.

Now 2010 is behind us but looking back on my goals for the year, I'll be honest and say that I didn't reach more than half of them. It wasn't from the lack of trying and it certainly wasn't because I had lost sight of my priorities. Instead it was from realizing my priorities and giving myself the grace and forgiveness to move on. So this year is a new year, full of promise and excitement. Goals will be made (like blogging more) but still there is time to reflect on the year that has past, with all of it's lessons and accomplishments, disappointments and surprises. I've been working out my goals for the year but still I know, being flexible and open to new lessons may be the biggest goals of all.