Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fitting It In Where I Can

I'm sitting at my desk at the interior design firm where I work a very part-time schedule, and I want to be writing. I need to be writing. I will be writing soon, very soon. I've been plowing through my design work to-do list, and the next thing on it isn't design, but journalism - it's the story I have due first thing in the morning, which I've yet to start.

So I'll be sitting here for a few more hours at my desk at the design firm, finishing up my client work for the week and waiting for my co-workers to trickle out the door. Then I'll stick around and write.

Got to do it whenever and wherever I can. That's the toughest part, for me, of the writing life. Life comes first, paid writing work comes second and unpaid writing work gets stuck into whatever cracks life happens to leave open. Usually that's time that would otherwise be used for sleep.

Hopefully I can knock this story out quickly and have a little sliver of time to be alone with my manuscript. Because those slivers have been too few and too far between lately, and I miss my characters. I miss the exhilarated feeling of getting somewhere with my manuscript. I miss writing, even though I do it all the time. Funny how I love writing so much that I even miss it while I'm sitting here doing it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's ... Too ... Much ...

This has been one of those days where it feels like my tower of work is going to collapse and crumble all around me. Seriously - too much work, not enough time. Which is a not such a bad problem to have, considering I've been dealing with just the opposite in my day job as a designer.

But tough to handle all the same.

Part of the problem is that every week lately, there's been some sort of "special" circumstance, like traveling or having to work extra at the office or lack of a babysitter, that's caused me to miss out on some precious freelance writing work time. Each week, I've busted my tail to make all my deadlines, but haven't had time to prepare for the following week's deadlines. So the next week starts and I'm in the same spot all over again.

I think it's that I'm still adjusting to my new schedule and to this life as a sort-of full-time writer. Growing pains, I guess you could say. I'll choose to look at it that way - I'm growing into this new profession, growing and learning and adapting and hopefully figuring out the best ways to make this career of mine work.

And until I do - and maybe even once I do - I'll continue to fit work in wherever I can, including these late-night, after-the-little-guy's-in-bed hours. It really is worth it to own my time. Because even though the trip I've planned for later this week is eating into my work time, at least I can take it without having to worry about how many vacation days it's eating up.

Seriously, why am I complaining? The reason I'm doing this in the first place is because at the end of the day, it's all about the trade-offs. No, my work's not easy - especially on days like this. But it's mine, and I can pick and choose how much work I take on and when, and even when it threatens to topple down on me (like today), I still love it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why Is Editing So Hard???

Writing my first draft of my first-ever work of fiction was easy.

OK, maybe not easy, considering I'd never done it before and I had a full-time job, a part-time freelance writing gig and all the trappings of a married, home-owning, mother-of-a-3-year-old life. Add all that together and it equals a lot of nights with very little sleep.

But some of my best stuff came out after 1 a.m.

That's not, however, translating into revisions. I still love my manuscript, and I'm itching to start querying it out, but I can't do that until it's ready, and it won't be ready until I actually buckle down and finish editing it. Problem is, my schedule is still roughly the same - it's just that writing has become my full-time-ish job and my old full-time job is now my part-time job. (I apologize to anyone who's actually reading this for the total incoherency....) Point is, I still have to do my unpaid writing work very, very late at night.

While writing, I had to force myself to put the computer away and go to sleep. But while editing, I keep falling asleep in the middle of trying to work. Aargh! That system isn't lending itself to producing a polished final draft.

So, suggestions, anyone? I've thought about creating a time slot during my daytime working hours for editing. Not ideal, considering I have as much paid writing work to do during those hours as I can handle. But at least I'd be able to keep my eyes open. I've also thought about getting away for some intense editing time - holing up somewhere for a weekend, on my own, with no distractions. Maybe that'd work; I'd probably get a lot done.

But I'd be wracked with Mommy guilt.

Again, aargh! So, OK, it's 12:45 a.m. and I've vented here enough to wake my brain up a bit. Back to the manuscript it is....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Creative Recharge

I've spent the past 14 months half in the real world, half in a fictional world. The fictional world has taken over my real life at times (occasionally beyond reason), and I've spent loads of my free time either writing (eight and a half months to finish my first draft) or editing (five months of revisions so far).
And I did a little editing this weekend.

But I also felt a huge need to recharge - to do something creative that in no way involved sitting in front of a computer screen. So last night, I painted. For the first time in, well, probably 14 months. I got a random urge to finally do something with these two tiny canvases I bought in an art shop on vacation a couple of months ago, so I dragged out my supplies and went to work.

I'm no Monet, but my little project was fun. And then afterward, I lost myself in novel-land and actually knocked out the rest of the section I've been working on. Apparently, I really needed that creative kick in the pants.

Then today, I got another creative recharge - this one completely different, and completely different from anything I've ever done. I went with my best friend to a five-hour class at the Viking Cooking School. We pan-seared and blanched and butterflied and marinated. We learned some mean dicing techniques. We whipped up damn-near perfect chocolate souffles. And then we ate like food was going out of style.

I needed this weekend for perspective. I needed it to remind myself that the real world is great, too, and that I have to make room for my other hobbies. And now I'm ready to head back to the land of make-believe.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Career Direction

I really didn't expect to be doing this.

What I mean is, I've slipped off the trail, lost the other hikers and gone off exploring on my own in the past year, career-wise. And it's surprised even me. It's not that I'm not adventurous, because I am (though not in the off-trail-hiking kind of way so much as the I'm-stir-crazy-let's-book-a-flight kind of way). It's just that I'm the kind of girl who's always pushed myself to achieve. Grades! Degrees! Jobs! And now I don't really have a job.

I mean, I have about four jobs, but none of them requires me to punch a time clock, and none of them gives me a steady paycheck, either.

And that's, like, whoa.

And some days I'm thinking, "Am I nuts?" Because a few years ago I was on a career path. I'd worked my way up the ranks of the 9-5 world. I had a title and a staff and a salary ... and a long commute and sleepless nights and loads of stress and days spent chained to my desk, bleary-eyed from staring at a computer for hours on end.

OK, maybe not so nuts. Anyway, so I'm doing this writing thing pretty much full-time now, and it's still new, and it's going well so far. I'm still chained to my desk some days, but I don't have to drive to get to it, and I can sit here in my PJs instead of heels. I can take days off to hang out with my son without eating into my precious, measly two weeks' vacation time. And I like my work. Really, really like it. Like it so much that I'm sitting here using my free time to write about it, read about it and do more of it. And when I finish this, I'm going to work on my manuscript into the wee hours of the night. The crazy thing is, I can't wait.

And that rocks.

What about you? Is writing your day job, or do you squeeze it into your free time? Have you ever quit a job to do something more fulfilling?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Word Binge

For years, I've written news stories. Tons and tons of features, but also lots of hard news, business news - basically a whole big bunch of cut-and-dried, just-the-facts-ma'am types of pieces. No editorializing. No florid description. Just clear, concise inverted pyramids.

So fiction's opened up a whole new can of words.

And man, did I go nuts with all those new words in the beginning. If there was an adjective, I had to have it. Or better yet, an adverb. Believe me when I say I went happily, dizzily, excitedly, maniacally tripping down the flowery path of my expanded vocabulary. The first draft of my manuscript weighs in, right now, at about 108,000 words. I figure if I put my adverb usage on a major diet during revisions, I can shrink it down to a much more respectable size.

But what about my other fiction writing idiosyncrasies? Because everybody has them; I know it's not just me. I read a great post on literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog about writing good dialogue. It's a pet peeve of his when writers use expository dialogue - meaning they try to cram things into characters' conversations they wouldn't actually say in real life, just to make sure readers have all the background info they need to follow the story. I don't think I've done much of that in my manuscript. Kind of the opposite, really. I didn't have enough dialogue in my earliest versions.

Too much telling, not enough showing.

Who knew fiction writing had as many rules as journalistic writing? Not me. But here's the thing: I'm a play-by-the-rules girl, but when it came to writing that first draft, I let my hair down and let 108,000 words come spilling out of me however they saw fit. Happily, dizzily, excitedly and maniacally. And it was fun.

And I can always go on a diet tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Need Friends

That title may be a little melodramatic.

Or maybe not.

Because writing is lonely. No matter what type of writing you're doing, the actual process of getting words on the page or screen is a solitary business. A few weeks ago, I took the plunge into (almost) full-on entrepreneurship. And now that I've decided to devote more of my time to writing, I spend hours every day staring at this 17-inch screen, lost in my own head.

Which is cool. But the problem is that I'm a social girl. I love talking. Hanging out. Happy hour-ing. Living in the real world. And I do that quite a bit with the friends I already have. But if I don't stop babbling on and on about writing, those friends might not want to hang around me so much.


So, my point is that I really want to find some writer friends. I've read a lot of blog entries about the importance of connecting with other writers - writing groups, workshops, critique groups. I just have no idea where they are and how to find them. I guess I should point out about this time that I'm writing fiction. And that feels like a major confession (I feel a future blog post coming on). Most people who know me know I'm a journalist - my byline's been floating around town for years, and at least a fifth of the people I know have been coerced at some point to serve as a source for some article I've written. But only a select few know that I recently finished my first novel.

And fiction is a whole new world to me. Literally - I have whole new worlds floating around in my head at all times, waiting to be poured out on screen. But I have so much to learn about how to do it. I've been reading some great books on craft and poring over the many awesome writing blogs out there. (Who would've guessed writers would make such great bloggers??) Now I just need someone to talk to - face to face, over coffee or tea or wine or whatever - about what it's like to have characters having conversations in your head and how to get those conversations on the page and how hard it is to then get it all published. Because I'm completely terrified about that part. (Yet another future blog post.)

So, anybody know how I can get plugged in to the Memphis-area writing community? Or have suggestions for conferences/workshops/seminars where a new, inexperienced fiction writer won't be laughed out of the room???

Monday, September 6, 2010

Late-Night Life of a Writer

I've been wanting to start this blog for a while now, and let me just tell you, it's sooooo me that I've picked this moment to do it.

I'm on deadline.

And blogging is a fantastic means of procrastination, because it's more productive than, say, twittering away time on certain social media sites we all know and love. Anyway, I'm doing some prize-winning procrastination this weekend, considering it's Labor Day and I've had a whole extra day to meet a weekend deadline, and here it is after 10 p.m. on Monday night and I've yet to creep much past the lead of my story that's due.

But it's also a great time to start writing this blog, because this very issue - the need to self-motivate - is so incredibly indicative of what I'm going through as a writer. I'm sure this will be the first of many posts on this topic, and I can't wait to start interacting (hopefully) with other writers who are going through similar things. This post, though, will be short and sweet. It's really just a note to say hi, I'm here, and please stop back again sometime. I have lots to talk about when it comes to this crazy life-of-a-writer I've chosen.

And I'm sure I'll find plenty of time to talk about it while I'm on deadline.