Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A look back at the year I swore I'd use to put writing first.

This past January, I declared to myself (and quite possibly to my Facebook network) that this was the year - 2014 - that I would put my writing first! I would join every writing group/club/association I could find. I would draft during normal-people hours and not just at 3am. I would commit to the craft: learn, read, study. I would act like a REAL writer.

So in January, I joined several writing groups. I left my full-time job as a social media specialist. I used the time my daughter was at pre-school to crank out word counts. I took a research trip to Cumberland Island with a few friends to experience the setting of book #3, and we camped back country (i.e. gather and boil water). I was serious about this writer thing. SERIOUS.

Before too long, my drafting sessions became more of a stare-down with my blank computer screen and the taunting, blinking cursor. I started avoiding my office. Then the second floor of my house all together. I tried writing by hand in the woods in the dead of winter, sitting on fallen trees to resurrect the magic and compulsion of that feeling of i-have-to-write-right-now-or-i-will-throw-a-fit. Instead my butt went numb. And my hands.

I started skimming over emails from those groups I dutifully joined. Then I started screening them by their titles and the few words visible on gmail's preview. And once Gmail started separating emails by categories, i stopped checking them all together.

In February, I revamped my swag and headed to IndieGirl Con in Charleston, SC. I met some amazing people - inspiring, kick-you-in-the-pants people, which made the drive and the predictably unpredictable southern coastal weather worth the trip. I had my first video interview, and I also suffered a royal case of food poisoning. Or at least I *thought* it was food poisoning.

In March I found out I was pregnant... two months pregnant. Turns out baby #2 had gone back country camping with me, and had definitely been on board during the now suspect food poisoning. Suddenly, finishing book #3 in the Moonlit trilogy had an expedited deadline. And all those groups and trips and conferences... needless to say, that part of writerdom took a back seat to just sitting down and writing, which became harder week to week as my energy tanked and i found myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen. Plus, pregnancy brain is no joke. I once went to Target and then called my husband to ask him what I'd gone to get. I still have no clue what I intended to buy.

In May, I bought a horse. (I what...? I WHAT???) I know, I know. Even though I work in the horse world, I haven't owned a horse in ten years. This January, when I finished tuning up a client's horse, my three year old daughter asked me: "Mommy, will we ever have a horse we don't have to give back?" See, now you want to go buy a horse too, right? I found an ex-race horse that needed lots of food and time off, so we were the perfect pair. And he made me feel like me again. Suddenly I wasn't avoiding my laptop anymore. I'd mentally chew on a major plot point as I curried the daily clumps of mud from his coppery coat. Then it hit me: my brain works the same way whether I'm trying to find a certain object in my house or write a story; if I'm trying too hard, i don't stand a chance.

By mid-summer, I was asleep around 8pm most nights, which was eating up my best writing times. So I had to learn to draft smarter. I learned to write in 15-30 min snatches of free time while tuning out Dora the Explorer instead of needing to make a mug of tea and settle in for a several hour stretch. I used my beta-readers earlier on, cringing as I sent them the third draft instead of the thirtieth. And I finally, finally learned to outline (which with five POVs, two worlds, a hundred threads to tie in, and pregnancy brain was a MUST.) I also attended UTopYA Con in Nashville, TN, where I reconnected with several of those fantastic people I'd met in Charleston, shook my pregnant booty all over the dance floor, and heard this amazing piece of advice from the keynote speaker: Feeling selfish is better than feeling unfulfilled. It's rock solid advice.

In October, I turned book #3, which my publisher has coined "Wildwood," Eight days later, baby #2, Annabelle Rose, was born. I'm up to my eyeballs in diapers and still waiting to see if this draft will be green-lighted to head into the official editing process. While I wait, I'm sketching out a few new ideas to see which one demands to be written next, and I'm toying with the idea of a kids' book series.

And now here, looking back on the last twelve months, I might just feel like a writer after all. We write because we live, and we write TO live. But there's a balance - a tiny, new human that depends on me, a big, beautiful sun to enjoy, a horse that has a love for having his ears scratched, a Britney Spears dance party with a three year old in a tutu - and there are days or nights when the words come and need to be given attention.

The words, the worlds in my head, they're what make me a writer. I set out this year to commit to my craft, put my writing first, and learn how to be a "real" writer. It didn't happen quite like I thought it would or should, but I think maybe it happened anyway.

4 comments:

  1. ((Hugs))! You've had a heck of a year and absolutely NOTHING to be down on yourself about. You ARE a real writer, taking the world around you seriously and living. How else will your stories birth inside your head?

    Enjoy this Christmas with your beautiful family!

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    1. <3 Thank you! There were certainly days (weeks) where I felt defeated but I am looking back on the process as a learning experience as a whole, and very grateful for it. Sometimes I get hooked on the idea of forcing my life into a "formula" in hopes of more success/productivity/etc., but I don't think it would be a genuine or lasting outcome. It's funny how I have two books published and one on submission and I still feel like I'm playing pretend sometimes. ;)

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  2. Despite the difficulty I have reading white on black font I read EVERY word of this post! WOW so beautifully said, It's all about creating, and sometimes the creating takes other forms than actually putting words on paper.

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    1. Thank you, Karen!! You must not like my website much... I wonder if other people have a hard time with white on black? Thank you for your sweet words. It's been an amazing year, even though it didn't shake out quite like I'd expected! It turned out way, way better.

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Ramble on, y'all.