Sunday, November 28, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Basically, after a decade in business journalism, I'd learned a whole lot about what I didn't want to do and a little bit about what I did want to do.
Instead of continuing to float along a career path that was steering me rather than vice-versa, I decided to sit down and give some major thought to how I wanted to spend my time. Here's what I came up with:
- I didn't want to hang out all day/every day in a cube farm. (I could've written that in all caps with five exclamation points, but I restrained myself.)
- I didn't want to write articles about mergers & acquisitions, quarterly earnings or economic forecasts.
- I didn't want to edit other people's articles about mergers & acquisitions, quarterly earnings or economic forecasts.
- I did want to do something creative.
- I did want some flexibility/control over my schedule.
- I did want to be in some way involved in the arts.
So about five years ago, I chucked my full-time job (which, don't get me wrong, I did enjoy - but it didn't light my fire) and went back to school for interior design. I knew when I did it that I was working toward two potential future goals: practicing design or writing about design.Within a year of leaving my job, I had an infant. Within two years of leaving, I had a master's degree in home furnishings merchandising, a pretty good start as a freelance design writer and a job at a residential interior design firm.
It had all gone swimmingly.And it's continued to do so, with one big surprise. In the middle of all that, I became a writer. A real writer. A writer who writes because I love writing, not because I'm punching a clock and picking up a check. Luckily I have been able to make a little money as a writer (more than I'm making as a designer, I might add). But that isn't what drives me to do it. It's that good old-fashioned fire in my belly and heart-soaring feeling everybody talks about so much. I write because I can't not write.
So even though a full-time career in writing isn't what I expected when I went back to school for design, it's where I'm heading, and more imporantly, it's where I want to go. The design degree wasn't a mistake. The design degree is what led me to realize I actually do love to write. I love to write about design. About houses. About art.And I love to write fiction - and one of these days I'll write a killer novel set in a Southern interior design firm. Because that's been an education indeed.
I really do believe all things happen for a reason.
Monday, November 15, 2010
It's great. I love to be busy - and it's the only way for a freelancer to make any money. But I haven't had time to work on the book in a week - or to blog - and that bites.
I'll be back soon though!
Monday, November 8, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
I've read some great blog posts by others about them. I've paid close attention to them in every book I've read recently. And every once in a while, I revisit my own first chapter. I stare at and reconfigure the words. I cut something. I add something. I scratch my head and try to figure out how to make it convey exactly the right tone, the right level of intrigue, the right ... everything.
Revisions are hard (I think I say that in every blog post) and first chapter revisions are hardest. I'm working on the third draft of my novel right now, which means my first chapter has already had two major overhauls.
And there'll be a third.
I know this largely because of the feedback I got from an agent last month. She liked my idea, she liked my writing style, but she didn't dig the pacing my first chapter set for the book. And I definitely see her point. I'm well past the first chapter right now in revisions, but I'm such a chronological writer and editor that I doubt I'll go back and tackle chapter 1 again until I've finished this round of revisions.
Seriously. I write and edit from start to finish. It's kind of a problem.
But even though I'm not working on my first chapter right now, I keep pondering it. I know I've got to lose some of my MC's copious internal monologue and get to the action quicker. How to do it, now there's the dilemma. I read a post yesterday on Writer Unboxed about structural editing, and I really relate to the way the author of that post works. I edit as I go. I reread and edit a chapter or a few pages ahead of my actual starting point almost every time I sit down to write. It helps draw me into the story.
And it leads to a clean draft. But that doesn't make editing any easier. Honestly, it makes it harder, because tight transitions and clean writing are difficult to cut. I know that from years of editing and being edited as a journalist.
The first chapter is hardest of all, in part because it has such a big job to do - hook the reader, set the tone, establish the characters - but mainly because the way it's structured affects the structure of the rest of the book.
So basically, it's always on my mind. Even when I'm working in chapter 14. Even when I'm working in chapter 30. When I'm eating. When I'm sleeping. When I'm driving.
I might even dream about it.
I think I need a vacation.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Is it because we do most of our work on computers, and those computers are invariably connected to the Great Time Suck (aka Internet)? Is it because our work requires self-motivation, and unless we're under tight deadlines (and sometimes even if we are), nobody's pushing us to achieve except ourselves? Is it because it's just plain hard to think until we've finished every other thing on our to-do lists and made our blog-surfing, status-updating, headline-skimming rounds?
Is it all of the above?
Definitely. At least that's my take on it.
I'm reading a good book right now called Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, and the main character at one point lists "the secrets of anticrastination." It's funny. It's sarcastic. It's part of author Richard Hine's satirical, hysterical take on the uselessness of corporate culture. But it also makes great sense. And I, for one, could stand to follow these points on a regular basis. Here they are, quoted verbatim from the book (exclamation points and all):
- List your Works in Progress (WIPs). Now prioritize them!!
- Complete your WIPs. Set yourself a deadline and don't start new projects till your current WIPs are finished!!
- Reward yourself. Do something fun to celebrate the completion of each project before moving on to the next!!
For example, for me, right now, my highest-priority WIP would be to Revise my novel!! Instead, I'm blogging. A waste of time? No. A means of procrastination? Yes.
I think the anticrastination list can actually help me. It's too late for tonight, but over the next few days, I'm going to try setting page and chapter "deadlines" to help me through revisions. I'll see how it works to start my writing-editing time with actual writing and editing, then reward myself afterward with surfing-tweeting-blogging-reading time. I don't know if I'm strong enough to make it work, but I'll let you know how it goes.
So thanks, Richard Hine-a-la-Russell Wiley. I needed that.
Photo courtesy Grahambones