Tag Archives: writing

A Writing Life That Energizes You

I’m hopeful today. Some days, when I picture myself as a writer, I get really down in the dumps. I mean, doesn’t everyone think they are a writer? (I know, I know, everyone everyone doesn’t think this, but I have a feeling that like 80% of people dream of writing a book). And what makes me (or you) better than everyone else?

Ok, but see, today I am feeling hopeful. It’s because I read this: http://moneysavingmom.com/2013/09/how-to-balance-motherhood-blogging.html

Go on, I will wait for you to read it and get back to me.

Oh, you didn’t read it because you just want me to summarize it for you? Yeah. I get that way, too.

Crystal talks about how she went from stressed out while running a crazy popular blog, being a full time mom with toddlers, homeschooling, etc. to doing all those same things without the stress. Whaaa? But how? (In her defense, maybe her toddlers weren’t running into the street all the time or taking off their clothes the minute her back was turned. Like some people I know.)

  • She embraced her calling as a writer. She realized she likes doing, feels called to do it. That makes it legitimate, even if no one ever pays her for it and Terry Gross never wonders about her writing process. Heyyyyyy, maybe I can do that, too.
  • She decided a “healthy balance” in her life went in both directions. That means you make time for yourself the way you make time for other people. My favorite line in her article is this: “There are going to be days when the blog gets shelved for playing in the snow or caring for a sick child or reaching out to a needy friend. In the same way, it’s also okay if your kids occasionally have a PJ & Movie Saturday or you have your husband pick up carryout for dinner because you were holed up finishing a writing project.” Really. I love that. Pardon the analogy, but it means you can have dessert because you ate vegetables. Well, no, you must eat dessert because you ate vegetables. Skipping dessert would mean UNBALANCED LIFE. And who wants that. Just replace the word “blog” in her sentence with “novel” or whatever it is you want to work on. My brain went ding.
  • Say no. We have all heard that before. I am a big fan of “saying no,” but I think we all know how hard it is to implement. I would like to say no to the baby breaking dishes during breakfast this morning or to the toddler throwing up because he tried to eat too much bagel in one bite – sometimes you can’t say no. I guess this means we should all say no every time we have the opportunity, just to make up for all the times when we can’t, but I suppose that is not realistic, either. But I do like the way she says she is in charge of when she gets to say yes or no to a new obligation. That sounds like something I can get behind: I am in charge.

Why am I writing about this? Am I just giving myself my own pep talk in writing? Well, sure, BUT:

  • It’s almost October, which means
  • It’s almost November, which means
  • It’s almost time for National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo, when we all sit down and punch out a book before we fall into a post-Thanksgiving coma.

I skipped it last year because I was wearing a screaming infant while I potty trained a toddler. But this year feels pretty good. So, get your story ready. It’s only 1500 words a day.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

When Writing Is So, So Hard

When I was in graduate school for my MFA, we had to submit a certain number of stories at the beginning of each term. I always had the good intentions of starting early, working on several projects, and then carefully choosing the best ones.

I was always one story short.

No matter how early I started or what good ideas I had in the weeks before the deadline, I was always scrambling to get just one more story onto some paper. It happened so many times that now I feel like this is just my personality: I forget one ingredient to put into the pasta for dinner; I remember the snacks for our trip to the park, but not the extra diaper; I remember a lot of the overdue books when we go to the library, but not quite all.

In school, I would patch together something quick, something quirky. Maybe a novelty piece that didn’t deserve serious attention. Writing those pieces was often easy, probably because I had already decided I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I was just writing to fill the gap, just to get through one more term, and I swore every time that it would never happen again. And you know what? Those quick little essays were almost always the best received out of everything I submitted. I guess that might be another part of my personality — I overwork things, I try too hard, I should really stop caring.

These last few weeks have been very hard on my writing. I am not sure why, but I have a feeling some of it is due to my cat. I called the vet today and cancelled the appointment to put her to sleep. I have been in severe denial about it all week and this morning, I realized I just couldn’t say goodbye to her yet. I am not sure what it will look like when it is time for her to go, but I decided that I will reassess next month. More time to ignore the problem, I guess, but she doesn’t seem any more miserable than at any other point in her life.

It is also hot out, which is sapping my energy. And the baby keeps walking into corners and falling on top of stuff and getting hurt. And the older one is just one big tantrum contained in some dirty clothes. All of this means that I sit down at the computer late at night and just … can’t … make … anything come out. Can’t make the words do whatever they are supposed to do. I wrote a book review which was the title, author, and the statement “Finn liked it.” I wish I thought that would pass muster, but it won’t.

Here’s hoping I can impose a deadline on myself, and whip up something frothy and fun to read in the next few days. I have a list of all kinds of stuff that I am excited to share. Really!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Would You Read It?

Today, my pitch for a children’s book is being featured at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.  Click on over there to read my pitch and decide if you think it sounds like a good book. And then leave a comment about what you think.

My goal for 2013 is to write 12 new stories.  How am I doing? Read up on my last check-in.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing at Night

I am not about to wake up early and write. The circus troupe that is my family gets going around 6am so as far as I’m concerned, my day begins early enough. I have gotten up early to write here and there, mostly when I was pregnant and had insomnia. I felt each second tick by … counting down to the moment when everyone would wake up. It was like writing under a deadline–stressful. In the words of my son, “I no like that!”

But I’ve tried writing at night, too, and that comes with its own problems.  I’m tired and cranky. Everyone else is tired and cranky. Small people keep poking me and calling for me and needing things, no matter who else is around to help out.

So last week I attempted to leave the house to do my writing, and it worked out pretty well.  Maybe the key is finding the right spot. I always feel a little funny going into a coffee shop in the evening. I don’t want to eat the muffin that has been sitting there all day and no one appreciates my one lonely order of decaf drip coffee, either. Inevitably they offer to make me a “pour over” cup, which is lovely to drink, except that then they move on to doing other things and forget all about it and then I have to go up and remind them that my coffee is on the part of the counter no one has been using for the last fifteen minutes.  Again, I no like that.

On Tuesday, I found a place that seems to fit the bill.  It has coffee and dessert. And wifi. And beer. So I should be covered no matter what mood I am in when I arrive. I set up some very, very reasonable goals: 30 minutes of working directly on a draft, 30 minutes playing on pinterest. In two nights, I officially accomplished more than I had in the last two months.

[In January, I set a goal to write twelve new stories this year.  Right now, I have drafts going for six stories and ideas for plenty more in the works. I also set a goal to follow at least one story all the way through to the end, wherever that might be.  I am hung up on some legal copyright questions, but I kind of have a plan for getting them answered.  I mean, I have a great plan! Except it requires me to make some phone calls during business hours and I just haven’t gotten that part figured out yet.]

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Back to Class

On Saturday, I went to a class about writing and publishing.  It has been a really long time since I did anything like that and I learned a few things:

1. I was able to out of the house for 6 hours without leaking milk all over the place. Or missing my children too terribly. I did miss them a little, but … I will probably try to leave the house without them every weekend from now on.

2. The man sitting next to me paid $850 for his first novel to be edited by a professional.  And when he got it back, it was still full of copy-editing mistakes. Um, wow. Copy-editing should not be so expensive.

3. Several people were talking about self-publishing picture books.  I have been thinking the same things myself lately, but it always makes me pause because my favorite children’s books are like little jewel boxes, perfect objets d’art.  And I don’t know how that level of artistry gets translated by an online publisher.

4. Milkshake and fries: still the best lunch ever.


Filed under Uncategorized

Writing When You Also Have Other Stuff To Do

I’ve always had “other stuff” to do in addition to writing.  Or, instead of writing.  Isn’t that how it always happens?  You do ok writing every day for a while and then … you get sick or you decide to look for a new job or the car breaks down or your relatives come to visit.  When the crisis ends, you don’t always go right back to writing every day, even if you know you should.  I used to run into this problem a lot.  I would write regularly, and then the holidays would hit and I would decide to get serious about getting in shape.  So, my writing went downhill while I went to the gym or spent time cooking new foods.  Or I would hold onto a writing routine for a few months, just to have it fall apart when my stresses at work increased or when the weather was particularly nice.

Flash forward to life with kids.  There is hardly time to eat, much less write anything worthwhile.  There are four of us now, so the chances that someone is sick at any given time is like 80%, and for whatever reason, I am the only person who can fix it.  I fix it by tending to the sick person all night, then crab together a nap here and there during the day while the TV blares and the chaos of all our stuff begins to fall in on us. Or maybe we are trucking along just fine, until someone learns how to crawl/walk/unlock the front door/undo his seatbelt/climb the furniture to find the ipad/use youtube.  Many hours of rearranging life afterward and … hm, what was I doing? Trying to feed us all? Keeping clean clothes in the dresser?  Oh, I was working on a novel? I had fifty thousand words that needed to be edited into a more solid structure? How was I going to do that?

My life has become a combination of to do lists and caffeine.  If I don’t write down the things I need to do, I will never remember them and then I will waste precious time this afternoon when everyone is asleep, trying to remember … wasn’t there something nagging at me before? Was I going to fix the dishwasher or was I going to try out that Martha Stewart recipe for tub scrub since I thought I had all the ingredients.  Today, at the top of my to do list (meaning, the item I have ignored until all the other chores around it have been accomplished) was yoga, hilariously enough.  Oh, right, yoga.  I used to do that during morning naps, but then I thought I should make writing a priority again.  So now “write something” is on my to do list, where is it probably going to get ignored in favor of “childproof the linen closet door handle” and “sweep up dog food.”


Filed under Uncategorized


On Saturday, I waited until the baby had woken up from his nap and nursed, and then I escaped the house.  I said I was going to Target (and I did, we needed … washcloths and a photo album … it was a really important trip), but then I took myself out for coffee to work on writing for a while.  I said I would be home in three hours and ended up going back early, because I was afraid it was getting too late.

That was a really stupid move.

I should know by now that an S.O.S. text is the only thing that can make me go back.  I should wait for it, every time. Like the last time I tried to go out for a drink with some adult humans: I went home after getting the “are you on your way yet?” text and when I got there, everyone was awake, waiting for me to put them back to bed.  That was it, I had stayed out too late.  At the time, I felt bad, but now when I think back on it, nope.  Gone are the days when I could drop one kid off at school and then bundle the other one into a sling while I walked down the street to the cafe. Today, the baby didn’t even take two naps. Which might not sound like a big deal, but it meant that instead of getting to do two things for myself today, I got to do one.  I had to chose between drinking a glass of water and putting a barrette in my hair.

All told, I got to spend about an hour working on my project at the coffee shop on Saturday.  In that time, my coffee had time to cool enough so I could drink it.  And I drank enough of it to make room for enough cream.  And then I spent twenty minutes watching a guy play with his dog on the patio.  Maybe I went home because there was nothing else to do.  Maybe my mind has shrunk to the size of my world.  I wrote out thirty lines of text and maybe that was all I had inside me.

Ok, wow, that is depressing to write out like that.  But twenty minutes of writing, even while staring at the dog and his frisbee, was worth more than twenty hours of trying to work on anything at home.  Where someone is always stabbing me in the thigh with his fingers going, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Look at me, Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing Goals

Writing is hard.

Writing with a kid is maybe ten times harder.

Writing with two kids/babies is, I don’t know, so exponentially hard it is near impossible. I don’t do all that much housework and I employ the TV and still … I could easily be completely worn out, exhausted, mentally dead while also getting absolutely zero writing done.  Sometimes I claim victory if all I did all day was get some food into my stomach.

But I’m tired of this being the way of things. I am tired of thinking of characters and plots and settings only in the 45 seconds when I am in the bathroom (with the door open and light off in a usually unsuccessful attempt to hide my whereabouts). At the beginning of the year, I set the goal to write 12 new stories this year.  I am trying really hard not to call this a new year’s resolution, because we all know that those things never work out.  So, it is just a goal.

The particulars:

1. 12 new stories. But anything counts.  Some of them might be awfully short.

2. Participate in nanowrimo again, even if I think finishing will be impossible. I have done this for the last five years, except for 2012. The gassy baby and the unruly toddler and the general “holy cr*p!”-ness of my life just made me depressed when I started thinking about word counts.  But this year, I am just going to try it out and see what happens with hardly any expectations. I know some people think writing a novel in a month will lead to writing an actual novel and getting it actually published.  Instead, I try to think of it as just a way to get some thoughts out that will be good bones to build on later.  I could probably write a lot more on this.  Let’s just say for now it feels like a good exercise.

3. Follow one story all the way to the end. I am not entirely sure what I mean by this, other than I really want to finish something. “Finish” meaning … a story that I consider to be done, no longer a draft; a story that other people have read; a story that I have edited and fixed up; a story I am sending out for publication.  Publication is where I really fall apart. Sending out query letters is equivalent to sending resumes into a black hole; I hate it.  But I am going to do it.

I currently have drafts for five new stories. Technically, I am on track. Hey, that is a pretty good feeling.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mood Boards

I have been looking at this today:

33 Most Beautiful Abandoned Places in the World

and feeling sad that it is just pictures.  Each one is a story begging to be told.

There are a few extra pictures on this site:

22 Magical Mysterious Abandoned Places in the World

I used to make “mood boards” when I was in high school, when I wanted inspiration for stories or characters or places.  It was usually a folder filled with magazine clippings like Clinique ads. I guess I liked the earrings or the hairstyles or the dresses and thought I would use them for Princess So-and-So, or when Girl Pirate Blah-Blah sneaks into a coronation. I don’t recall actually using them.  Thinking back, the only thing I really remember is my mom asking me what was I collecting all this stuff for.  In a way that seemed like she thought maybe I was a hoarder.

For this and many other more important reasons (laziness!), I haven’t bothered with mood boards for a long time.  Stuff has lived in my head just fine, thank you. I feel like if I ever need some good inspiration, I will borrow from my friend Kate on Pinterest, because she keeps saving all these cool pictures.  She has good taste.  But a few of these pictures above made me wonder if I shouldn’t start up again. I mean, a few of them look like they would be great in a story about Girl Pirate.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Letters to Your Kids

I am expecting another baby in a few months.  Generally, I am in complete denial about what this is going to mean to my life and the life of my family, but I did sign up for weekly emails from babycenter.com this time around.  They send cute little reminders of how pregnant I am and how many weeks I have to go before my due date, what size fruit the baby is today, etc.  And then, this week, I got a “helpful tip” that now is the perfect time to write my unborn baby a letter.


I don’t mind writing stuff, obviously, so why does this idea hang over my head?  I remember thinking about it before my son was born.  I remember not wanting to write a letter to him because I just couldn’t imagine what he was like.  I didn’t know very many (any?) babies, and all I knew about him was the feeling of his little hands and feet against the inside of my stomach.  I expected I’d love him and bond with him, but I don’t know, what else did I imagine the future to be?  I was clueless.  So what was I going to write about?  My life at the moment?  It was a lot of watching cable TV with my husband, a fan pointed on me because it was hot outside.  It was not real exciting.

Looking back on it, I appreciate how clueless I was.  I didn’t understand how hard it was going to be to establish breastfeeding or what kinds of toys and books a baby needs, I didn’t have any expectations about living without sleep, or how we would deal with sleeping arrangements.  I had some general ideas about options, but I had to approach the subject of “my baby” with a plain, old open mind and pretty low expectations.  It worked out really well for me.  I feel like a lot of that allowed me to develop a relationship with my son, and with my new lifestyle, based on what was happening in front of me, instead of constantly comparing our stuff with someone else’s.  I liked it.

I don’t really want to write the “new baby” a letter.  Again, what am I going to write?  Again, all I know is the feeling of little hands and feel against the inside of my tummy.  Again, my expectations of life with two kids is nonexistent.  I try to think about it sometimes, but my mind goes blank.  I am just trusting, kind of like I did last time, that I will figure out what needs to be figured out; and, if last time is any indication, I will do an ok job taking a little more time and with a little less grace than is probably advised.

What I really want to write, if I have to write a letter, is a note to the son I already have.  I want to write down what life is like right now, when he is the only child here.  I can’t predict all the things that will be different a year from now, but at least I can write about what life is like today.  And maybe that is ok.  It’s a little more interesting than just watching TV; especially since we don’t have time to really do that anymore.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized