Monday, January 31, 2011

Blizzard of Chaos

Hello, blog - I've missed you so much!

Last week passed by in a blur, a whiz ... an endless, blinding fog. Ever have one of those? When one day runs into the next, the to-do list is neverending and you wake up every morning still exhausted from the day before? Unfortunately, when I have a busy week, social media is the first thing that suffers - which is as it should be, I guess. I can't neglect my family, my work. I shouldn't neglect myself or my sleep, though I often do. I can neglect my house, and that was the other thing that suffered from last week's blizzard of STUFF TO DO.

I read so many blog tips on how to manage time, how to schedule, how to cram 720 minutes worth of work into a 480-minute workday. I need to figure out my own system. That's actually on my to-do list: Organize my schedule. There's something inherently disorganized about that....

I'm looking around the room - that "bonus" space above the garage that in our house functions as my office by day and my family's playroom/media room by night - and the disorganization is so astonishing it's actually kind of impressive. It doesn't matter which direction I look - my desk is ... wow. The floor around me ... wow. Myself ... oh, man, wow.

I'm being all woe-is-me, I know. And a little too hard on myself, which is a particular specialty of mine. But I'm smack in the middle of another career transition, and I really do have to find some time to figure out how to manage my time. Here's the thing: Thursday, I finally made a leap I've been talking about making for a while. It was my last day at the day job I've had for the past two and a half years as a designer at a residential firm. Because of the economy, I never made a full transition into the design field, meaning I never stopped supplementing my design income with freelance writing income. (My background is in journalism and I put myself through grad school by freelancing on the side.) After two years at the design job, I went from salary and partial commission to full-commission, and I simply couldn't make a living at it. I took on more and more writing work to cover the lapse in income, and eventually, the writing work eclipsed the design work. So I flipped the ratio - my full-time work is writing now, and design is a freelance business on the side.

Which is fine. I went to design school knowing I might decide to become a design writer, and that's what I am. I love it. But I didn't really plan for it, so now that I'm smack dab in the middle of it - with a full slate of work (I'm not complaining about that, I promise) - I have to go back and do the planning now. Not the best way to roll.

Adding one more challenge to the game is the fact that I'm still not actually a full-time, work-from-home freelancer. By the time I left the design firm, I'd already reduced my hours to one to two days a week. My last day, like I said, was Thursday. Tomorrow, I start my first day keeping office hours for a freelance writing client who needs office coverage while a full-time person is out on maternity leave. Again, not complaining. Just struggling to keep up.

Despite all that, my week this week is lighter than last. I want to take advantage of the wiggle room to create a schedule that leaves at least a little time for each thing on my plate: newspaper/magazine writing, blogging, design work, magazine queries (something I haven't been doing but want to) and, of course, my WIP. (I've still been trucking away at my manuscript even through the chaos. Honestly, disappearing into that world is probably the best thing for me at times. It's a great escape.)

Who else reading this is a full-time writer, whether it's copywriting, journalism or fiction? Did you struggle with scheduling issues like this at first? Did you transition from another career? If so, how did you make the break? How did you weather the blizzard???

Photo credit Rob!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Does It Suck?

If I had a quarter for every time I've asked myself that about my manuscript, I'd probably have the equivalent of a publishing advance by now. Every day my opinion changes. One day, the words are flowing. I'm brilliant. Next day, I can't write my way out of a box. I suck.

Ever feel that way?

I know you do. I've read enough from and about other writers at this point to know my constant ebb and flow of self-consciousness is a widely shared neurosis. But somehow that doesn't make it easier to handle. Misery loves company, sure, and the online writing community is nothing if not a giant group therapy session. But when it comes down to it, writing's a solitary mission. I can hear others say they're struggling with these "does it suck?" moments too, but they're not looking at my manuscript.

It really might suck.
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I guess one explanation for this obsessive self-doubt is the lack of perspective you face when you stare at the same set of pages for months on end. As I work my way slowly ... so, so slowly ... through this massive pile of words, adding a clause here, cutting an adverb there, it's easy to lose the forest for the trees.
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I suppose that means I need to step back, get a grip, take a break. And sometimes I do. But it doesn't really change the fact that when I get back to editing, I still ride the see-saw of changing opinion. I'm working on getting this manuscript to a place where I feel comfortable handing it off to other writers. Writers who I know don't suck. If that's not standing naked in the middle of the high school gym during a pep rally, I don't know what is.
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Maybe the answer really is to find a support group. A friend of mine who's active in a local writing group invited me to a meeting, and I'm going this weekend. I think it might help me to talk to other writers face to face, to read other writers' work and, gulp, let them read mine.
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Any other advice? Is anybody else struggling with the "does it sucks" right now? If so, please share. Misery loves company, you know.
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Photo credit Xurble

Great Expectations

So I went on an editing retreat last weekend.
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OK, fine - you got me. It was an all-girl getaway weekend disguised as an editing retreat. But the point, for me, truly was to make tons of progress on book revisions. Did I accomplish that goal?
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I guess that depends on how you define progress.
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I did manage to ramble on and on enough about the manuscript to bore my beta readers and talk through some important plot points. That's sort of progress..
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I did get through a really tough chapter (so tough it was embarrassing to read) and came out with a version I'm pretty happy with. That's definite progress.
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I did continue down the path of connecting with my MC and turning her from first-draft flat to third-draft complicated. That's jump-up-and-down-and-kiss-the-computer-screen progress.
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So, yeah, I guess I did get some work done..
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But I'd probably glorified the quiet-cabin-in-the-woods thing a little too much. Pretty much every day, there's a point when I wish I could find the pause button and put everything on hold just for a little while. Just long enough to focus, to concentrate, to make tons of progress. And I know that's completely unrealistic. Because even when I do get away, when I do put everything on hold and really focus, I'm only human. I can't edit a 100,000-word novel in one long weekend. Especially a long weekend that involves three good friends (and fabulous beta readers), a pitcher of cosmos and When Harry Met Sally.
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I did my best. I'll keep doing my best. And I'll keep doing it in the little slivers of spare time life gives me. Because I've made plenty of jump-up-and-down progress in my own house while life happens around me ... while I'm part of it, while it's moving in fast-forward and the pause button's nowhere to be found.
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So pass the cosmos, honey. It's time to edit. .
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Photo credit quinet

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Burning the Candle...

... at both ends, and even in the middle. I'm so busy right now I can barely see straight, let alone keep straight all the things I have going on. That's why I haven't been blogging much in the past few weeks.

Which is frustrating, because I have tons to blog about. I've been revising like crazy, and I've made some good headway in the manuscript. I've connected, finally, with my reserved, elusive main character and the story is coming together.

I haven't had much time to focus on that in the past week or so, either.

BUT, that's changing. First of all, tomorrow I'm officially cutting the last little strings holding me to my day job, so two weeks from now, I'll be a full-time, work-from-home writer. Second, I'm heading out the day after tomorrow for a three-day weekend in the woods with writer friends, and (aside from chick flicks, vodka and girl talk) it'll be all revising, all the time.

And now, alas, at 1 a.m., I have to sign off here and finish a news story I'm turning in tomorrow morning. Deadlines beckon....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day

Try as I might, it's so hard to work today. A blanket of snow is draped over my house, my yard, my world ... and my brain.

I can hear my husband and son out playing in the front yard in the snow, making a "pathetic snowman," as my husband called it. But I'm sure to my son, it's the most amazing snowman he's yet seen in his four little years.

I have writing I want to do. I have editing I need to do. I have freelance work I have to do. But seriously, there's a winter wonderland out there - so rare in our little corner of the world - and I think I have to enjoy that more than do any of this.

Nobody's in the office for me to talk to anyway. This is the South. People down here don't drive on cold, slushy roads. Nor should they - it's a field of bumper cars in this city. And that's on a warm, dry day.

Why am I still sitting here? Time to bundle up and head out....

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Obsession

I'm in the mode right now where I don't want to do anything - literally, anything - but edit. Sleep is an inconvenience, work is an inconvenience. I've even skipped meals. Which for me is really saying something....

I'm still hoping to meet my goal of a final draft completed and ready for critique by March 1. It helps that I've got a couple of all-weekend editing getaways planned in the next couple of months. It also helps that my husband gave me such an awesome Christmas gift (see previous post). But mainly, it helps that me and my MC are totally jiving now. I get her. She gets me. We're cool.

It's been a struggle.

One I'll elaborate on soon, really. But for now, I HAVE to go edit.

By the way, Happy New Year!!!