Working Writer

We are on day two of NANOWRIMO – National Novel Writing Month – and I have to admit that I totally forgot. This school year has been much better than previous ones, but I’ve been taking on more leadership roles so I have been very busy. It’s making the time pass quickly, which is nice, but I’m also exhausted at the end of the day. I manage to squeeze in a couple of chapters of a book before I fall asleep, but that’s about it.

When I sat down to write this post this morning and I realized that it was NaNoWriMo already, I started to feel really guilty. I haven’t touched my book since school started in August, so this is when writer me starts to talk to herself about how bad a writer she is. Why am I not writing every day? How hard is it really to write like 200 words so you’re at least making forward progress? You think about this story all the time and how it works, why can’t you take 30 minutes to put some of it down?

Valid questions all, and perhaps if my only job was writing I would feel like giving these more space and credence. I read the blogs of full time writers, writers who have children and families, and seeing how they manage their time, how they get up early in the morning to write or go to the library or coffee shop, how they managed to write a book little by little, and I am inspired and motivated. I reserve study rooms at the library, I plan to stop at Panera on the way home and write a bit before I enter the house, I think I might write a bit at school before I even leave for home. Even writing it all right now sounds really good and doable, and I want to run out and do these things to get back on the writing train.

I don’t have to go far before my own personal reality hits me in the face. Like so many other writers I am an introvert, so much so that teaching all day drains my energy to the point that most days I’m almost falling asleep in my recliner within ten minutes of arriving home. I’ve been going to bed between 7:30 and 8:30 at night, sleeping through the night, and then waking up the next morning feeling like the sleep I got wasn’t nearly enough. And when my depression or anxiety comes to call, the work that is required to manage those things along with all the other normal day to day activities, makes all of this even worse.

I’m not sharing these things to make excuses for myself. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that the bulk of my writing will happen over summer breaks when I have the mental space to sit and write without distraction. I am sharing these things because you’re going to feel guilty anyway. You’re going to see other writers who write a thousand, five thousand, ten thousand words a day and wonder what you’re even doing. You’ll never reach those numbers, you’ll never finish this book, you’ll never…

Don’t let what other people are doing affect what YOU are doing. Only you know how important your writing is to you. Only you know what your life can support and when you can fit in writing among all the other things. Just because other people write their way, doesn’t mean you have to write that way too. Figure out what works for you and your life, and then stick to that. When summer 2020 comes around, I have to write. Until then any writing that happens is a bonus for me, but I can’t get down on myself for not doing so because that would be unreasonable. I am not other writers. I am me.

My book is going to get written. I have a story. I have something to say. It’s just going to take some time because I have small windows in which it can come into being. Search your heart and ask yourself when your realistic windows are for writing your story. Then hold yourself to those windows and write like wolves are nipping at your heels.

Second Draft

I am surprised, although maybe I shouldn’t be, by how closely my experience with a second draft mirrors what I have read about in all the craft books I have explored. My first draft might as well be a bucket of vomit that I can throw out of the top window of the tallest tower before returning to the lectern, lit by a single candle, to write the story I actually wanted to write.

I guess that’s not fair. It’s also true that without the word vomit that was the first draft I could not have identified the themes and storylines I was looking for in order to make the story more clear and structured. People talk about plotting and pantsing, outlining and freestyling, but to me this process feels a bit like reading entrails. Out of the bloody, wet, tubular mess of my first draft I have drawn the future of my second draft, and it’s coming together so nicely.

Granted, it’s not coming together as quickly as I would like. I am finishing the ‘first act’ this week and will have about 25,000 words into the draft. I’ve been going to the library 2-3 times per week to write in the quiet of their study rooms and it is the most productive I have ever been in my young writing career. Still a long way from being finished with the draft by the end of the summer. I am hopeful though that I can continue this habit into the school year. The library is on my way home on the right side of the road, so pulling in two days a week to write for two hours should be an easy add into my routine.

What gives me hope is that my experience mirrors the experiences of so many others that have moved from a messy first draft to a second. If a first draft is pouring a bucket of legos onto the floor, the second draft is organizing them into categories so we can see what we want to work with. Right now I actually feel like I’m writing a book and that is so encouraging.

Based on my experience and the experiences of many others, if you are reading this and are trying to write your own story, I cannot recommend enough the idea of WRITE UNTIL IT’S DONE for your first draft. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, you’ll have let all the ideas out of your head so you can see them on the page, and you’ll feel like you have something to build from. Do not get bogged down by edits – just write. You’ll be surprised how much easier your next draft is when you do.

Quiet Time

The school year is winding down and in 14 days I will be free of work for 9 weeks. I’m already planning ahead, setting up time to write and revise in this golden down time that I get every year.

Libraries are truly the best community resource. When I was in my local branch the other day, I noticed a sign for a new online program that allowed patrons to sign up for study room time in the study rooms. I didn’t even know that there were study rooms, but the librarian that was checking out my holds explained that I should sign up for the D study room because it was in the quieter area of the library. (Yes, I giggled about the D study room.)

So Monday through Friday, depending on study room availability, I’ll be traveling to my local library to spend 2 hours working on my book. I want it to feel like a little part-time job. I’ll work on it at home too, but these two hours are going to be guaranteed work time. This is also how I’m going to get myself to go to the gym. After my 2 hour shift at the library, I’ll drive down the road a piece and spend an hour or so at the gym. Last summer I barely got out of the house and wrote at home every day to get my first draft finished.

This year is going to be different and I am very excited.