Slow Writer

I’m used to being a speedy writer, easily getting 1000 words, and usually closer to 2000 or 3000, on any given writing day—and that would just be on the fiction side, not reflecting my non-fiction work, blog entries, column ideas, or miscellaneous writing projects and experiments . . . And then I took a regularly-scheduled day job. I’m slowly getting into (and loving!) my new routine, but I was a bit worried a few days ago when I considered what it might be doing to my writing.

While I’ve been writing almost daily in June (to my huge relief, phew—in May I was worried about when I’d be able to return to that!), my word counts per session are way down. 380, 431, 494, 650, 733, 198 (gah!) . . . I only broke 1000 once this month. (Again though, not counting any non-fiction writing.) Yikes, my whole aim in getting a day job was to alleviate financial stress that was slowly quashing my creative joy—now was I in danger of potentially crushing my progress? Was I stuck in some lose/lose scenario? Absolutely not.

I did the math (funny how more and more as I get older I see the beauty and inspiration in numbers!); all those low numbers actually averaged 500 words per day. Even if I only write 20 days a month and even if I only get 500 words per session, that’s 10K in a month or, even more excitingly, 120K a year—a full novel, plus. And I suspect that most months I’ll write more than 20 days—and more than 500 words.

My worry changed to renewed excitement and fresh vigor. I love how my writing, no longer burdened with the need to generate money to live, is free to be my whimsy and passion again. And I especially love that I’ll be able to keep on track (easily!) with my novel a year goal, even if I keep being “slow.” I’m still striving to be a career novelist, hoping to write novels for enough money that I can work at them full time, writing even more of ‘em . . . but it’s nice to know that until that day comes, I don’t have to be a starving artist or sacrifice my writing goals.

It was a lovely realization and I’m thrilled to consider what my new routine will do for my writing.

How about you? Do you enjoy the luxury of writing full-time and still making ends meet? (Or perhaps struggle to make ends meet, but feel the pay off of doing what you love most makes it worth it?) Or do you balance your Art and a job/career? What are the benefits, pay-offs, or downsides of the type of writing life you lead?

Where my head is at these days

Do you ever feel like a character in one of your own stories?

Ilene never regretted marrying young, choosing family over further formal education, and writing over a “real” job—until 2012 when colossal world ending shifts in the earth’s tectonic plates forces her to consider the path she chose. If she could do it all over again, would she change a thing?

Okay . . . my life is not exactly like Ilene’s or at all (hopefully!) like the theme of a certain year-titled film, but I have been doing some thinking on the choices I’ve made and will make in the future about my writing.

It’s not a case for panic—I go through these reassessment times fairly frequently, finding them invigorating and affirming (and sometimes a necessary correction: “Hey, you took a wrong turn back there, get back on the road.”) In fact, this current bout of reflection has me bouncing off walls and just feeling plain old excited about what’s ahead, because so far I’ve made almost all of my self-imposed goals.

I’ve been writing “seriously” for just over ten years. My non-fiction tends to sell when I submit it (if I keep it out there enough, anyway ;-). I’ve started to sell short stories. I have one standalone novel or (maybe) two ready for publication and a Book 1 ready to go, plus half of Book 2 of what I see being a three-book series.

By many writers’ measure, the above paragraph of accomplishments might seem scant, but to me it’s wonderful success: I have kept on keeping on. I have continued writing even when everyone around me (and a loud voice in my own head) says, “Why? Isn’t there something more worthwhile, more practical, more something you could do?”—And now my writing really is entrenched, accepted, and nary receives a condescending smile!

I don’t know what exactly is ahead in my writing life, but it feels like there is “something,” and I’m excited about it—or then again, maybe I do have a small notion, but I’m holding it back for a bit.

Thankfully the end-of-the-world shtick was just a plot device, but Ilene can’t be too angry. She’s relieved to embrace the life she’s leading and accepts that while she can’t know what the future holds, looking forward to good things rather than worrying about possible bad things is way more beneficial to every part of her life (and is way more fun!). She would not change a thing.

So that’s me, looking back at the past years of my writing life and looking ahead to possibility . . . What’s your writing head like these days?

Writing time never magically appears

My children are back in school, my husband has settled back into his regular routine at work, and I run my own Writing Services business from home. I should have hours and hours to write uninterrupted, right? Uh huh.

Some days it’s a struggle just to fit in all my clients’ work and take care of the phone calls and e-mails that are involved in the kind of work I do. Balancing work, my family’s wants and needs (and mine–I don’t want to sacrifice the most important things in my life!), the volunteer things I do, the alone time I need, and my personal reading and writing feels like a tight rope walking adventure. But I like the dizzying rush. I’m not scared to look down. I’d be more worried if I never climbed up and started to inch foot over foot . . .

People often tell me they’d like to write someday. That they’re going to write one day. That they’d write now, but they don’t have time. I have a standard reply: It really is never too late to start, but time doesn’t carve itself. We won’t wake up one day and find that our work calendar has magically cleared, our bank accounts have filled themselves, and our family and friends no longer have emergencies or just want to visit (or I hope the latter doesn’t happen!). We have to make time now. We might even have to forgo something that brings pleasure.

My aunt is up visiting right now and it’s wonderful. We’re good friends and close. I would love nothing better than to just hang out and gab all day, so it was hard to tell her that despite how glad I am to have her, I have to work. But tell her I did, and she’s been great about it. “Oh, Ev, you’re so good. So disciplined.” Uh . . . not really. Not at all, in fact. I just know what I want to do, and I know that next week, next month, next year won’t be any freer time-wise, so I write now.

You can’t try to do things; you simply must do them. ~ Ray Bradbury

The Waiting Game

Is there anything more onerous to a writer than the waiting game? Most people tackle a project and then, well, they’re done. Not fiction writers, oh no. They “finish” their work (which could take months, a year, or even years) and send it away, only to have the really time consuming part of the job start: the waiting.

Lurking dangers surround all that waiting. Self-doubt has lots of time to imagine unkind things being said to your story’s face (and to do its own unkind muttering in your head). The desire for regular coffee money might trick you into some cave of a job where you’re paid by the hour. Writer’s block (if you subscribe to that kind of notion) is more prone to leap upon you and starting chewing on your throat—especially if what you want to write next might depend (foolishly!) on whether the circulating work sells (my advice: write like it sells, or don’t and start something entirely new—just write!).

It’s not all bad though. If you let it, waiting to hear back can be kind of like counting down to a vacation. Each passing day is one closer to at least some sort of a response, the wait gets sweeter, the anticipation builds. I’ve learned to use the hope that just won’t die (I’m bandaging my throat here as you read!) as motivation to write the next thing. While your words sit on someone’s desk, there is the endless opportunity that said words might find a home—someone might like that story, poem, article, or what-have-you. Nothing is more inspiring than the idea that someone might relate to your offerings and even (gleep!) want more of them. Exciting stuff.

I try to take full advantage of this wait/hope phenomenon by keeping 6 – 8 things “out there” all the time. That way, rejection doesn’t hurt as much (hope sprints over to another project to rest on) and my inner-creep can’t do as much of a job on my self-esteem.

Hmmmm . . . Is there a point to this post? Yes (lectures self), get your stuff out there and keep it out there until it finds a home. And in the meantime, the waiting time, get busy on the next idea.

Happy writing,
☺ Ev

Get the words out.

The hardest thing about writing, for me, is actually getting down to it and doing it. My favourite ways to procrastinate are devious, because they often look so industrious, so productive, so thoroughly worthwhile, that it barely occurs to me to crack the whip. My variety of stalling—working on assignments, paying bills, doing lesson prep, “improving” my craft via Internet forums, etc—is the very worst type, because I feel so justified and righteous while not doing what I know I should (and worse, what I really want) to be doing.

Well, now—at least for while I’m in the first blush of New Year’s resolutions—I may have found a way to foil my do-anything-but ways. Each week, I’m creating a weekly work calendar (time-slotted, guys. Yikes!). And more importantly, I’m adhering to it. I’ve even assigned specific e-mail, blog, and forum time. Wah. So yes, right now, I’m not actually playing hooky…. I’m using scheduled time. (Yes, I am fully aware of how pathetic that is.)

The irony of my renewed commitment? My own writing-avoidance methods are partially to thank for it. As I was putting off getting down to something, I was reading from Eliza Clark’s Writer’s Gym (a book of exercises and training tips for writers) and came upon an interview with Val McDermid. At one point she was asked, “If the writing life is a pie, how would you slice it up and what size would the pieces be?”

She answered, “35% talent, 40% hard work, 25% luck.”

I assumed she was speaking to the having books published aspect of the writing life, and found her words inspiring. She acknowledges luck and talent, but feels work has the most weight. And really, talent-shmalent…. I think you get born with some, yes, but it’s amazing how working hard at something will make it seem like you just have a “gift” for it. And luck? Again I have a sneaking suspicion that those who get lucky in the story-telling business sat their butts down at their desks and wrote a lot of words before luck magically befell them.

And on that note, I have to go. My allotted blogging time is up. 😉

Happy writing!

~Ev

Goals for a new year….

Happy New Year! (Okay, so my wish is a bit late—sorry about that!)

It seems that making New Year’s resolutions has gone out of vogue for some people (maybe for lots of people?), but even if I don’t always accomplish my goals, I feel there’s a real benefit in thinking through the year past and contemplating the year ahead.

2009 is already looking exciting, full of “big” events and changes. My daughter, who’s currently working toward her pilot’s license, will turn sixteen and will definitely be driving a car. My son will enter his teens, and my husband and I will be separated for longer than we ever have been before (almost two months), as he works out of town this summer.

Some things won’t change though. I will still be writing, still striving to better my craft, still trying to express the worlds that live in my head.

I’m hoping to land an agent and/or publishing contract for a novel or two this year, but it’s a hard thing to set as a goal—so many factors in making it happen are out of my control. That said however, some of the most important steps along the path to publication are fully within my control—are fully in the control of any writer.

We are in charge of whether we write regularly. We determine our word counts. We focus (hopefully) on ever improving our craft and storytelling. We decide on how many agents or markets we submit work to. We are responsible for not giving up.

I’ve made goals that I will meet in 2009, knowing that little by little they will help me reach my goal of having a novel “out there” are:

~ Edit current WIP and submit it to 100 agents (unless I get one before that point—hope, hope!).

~ Start a new novel, and strive to have at least the first draft complete by the end of October.

~ Write (or edit/polish) six short stories and submit them about.

~ Attend SiWC 2009

I hope you’ve set goals this year too—if you haven’t, do so now. It’ll get you fired up.

Cheers to us in 2009: Great word counts, much growth!

~ Ev