Housecleaning and the Writing Life

March 8, 2012

One of the best books I have read recently, about writing, is A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning & Life by Nancy Peacock. This is a fabulous, entertaining, funny and well-written book about the writing life. Not a “how to” book as much as a memoir, Peacock writes about the houses she has cleaned, and how she has crafted her work and life as a writer, juggling both jobs. Her writing is lively and humorous, and she has keen insight into what makes us as writers “tick.”   An example of the former, while trying to find work she liked: “All I wanted was a job where I could show up, work, and go home with a paycheck. Oddly, this made me practically unemployable.”  An example of the latter, which I believe may be the most moving passage in the entire book: “Another big lesson is to finally understand that once I am a published writer I will always be a published writer, but that I will also always be an unpublished writer. I will get rejection slips, no matter what the New York Times said about my first novel. And hopefully I will always have material in need of some work,  because if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love.”  That last line gets me. And I hope I remember it when I reach those difficult times in my writing where I doubt myself and my work.

Read this inspiring book!

 

Advertisements

Writing numbers for 2010

January 2, 2011

A couple of years ago, I discovered the benefits of keeping a writing log. I’m working on writing a book, and so often, I would get discouraged about my progress. I decided to keep a writing log and it truly revolutionized the way I work and it inspires me to keep going.

You see, with a writing log, I merely keep track of my activities of the day. If I spend 4 hours and only write 1 page, then that’s OK. I write it down.  Although I do keep track of my time, more for just general basic recordkeeping purposes (taxes, etc.), the real heart and purpose of the writing log is keeping track of what I actually do, my “production.”

So, for example, it might look something like this:

12/13/2010   Edited 4 pages.

12/14/2010   Edited 7 pages, wrote 1 page.

12/27/2010  Wrote 1 page.

And so on.

The miraculous thing to me is that when I tally these up at the end of every month, I am absolutely astonished at what I have been able to accomplish.  In the daily grind, I often feel like I am hardly doing anything. It is easy for me to get discouraged.  But then at the end of the month, I find out just how much all of those – 1-page-days add up. It’s remarkable.

Then, when I do my year-end numbers, it is truly phenominal. Keep in mind, I am only a “part -time” writer – it is not by any means my full time occupation. I do this as I have time, but I also deliberately make time for it and remain committed to it. I have even sacrificed time with family and friends to do so. So I am quite serious about it.  But check these numbers out!

GRAND TOTALS FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR OF 2010:

Edited: 452 pages

Hand-edited: 494 pages

Wrote: 57 pages

Read: 445 pages

Whoa!!  Now keep in mind that those 400+ numbers mostly represent multiple times-through something. Meaning I may edit the same page or chapter 2 or 3 times, not just one go-round.

Still, it totally astonishes me that I managed to accomplish this much in the past year.  It tells me that “I can do it” (see it through to completion); it tells me that even though I had hoped to finish my book by the end of 2010, and I’m disappointed that I did not, I can still point to these numbers and say that I really did work on it hard in the past year, and if I didn’t finish it up, it wasn’t for lack of trying.  It just wasn’t finished, is all.

I highly recommend the practice of keeping a writer’s log, especially if you are working on a longer work and sometimes feel overwhelmed or discouraged. This practice has helped me a lot.

© 2011, writingreading


Word of the Year (2011) – Real

January 1, 2011

I still feel a little uncertain about this, but this year (2011), I’m choosing “real” as my word of the year.

I want my dream of writing a book to become real this year. Well – correction — I’m already writing it.  So it is becoming real. But I want to get done with it. Submit it to the publisher. Make it move from manuscript to finished “reality” – a published book.

I also realize I need to do a little “getting real” with myself, too. Real-ly- what do I want out of life, myself, my career, my  geographic location, the place I call home? Where is “home”, real-ly, for me? What do I want to become real in my life in the coming year?

What is the real issue(s) between myself and my family member(s) that makes in-person communication so painful? What is really behind all of my anger, which seems increasingly manifesting itself in my life, even when I try to put reins on it and bring it under my control, like a startled and panicky horse. I thought I’d gotten past the point of being an angry temperamental child decades ago. Apparently not.

The promising starts I made on some new efforts this past fall – will they become real, too? It’s hard to know, very ethereal by nature – but I suppose I will “know them when I see them.”

And now, let me look briefly back. My words last  year were:

Persistence and Patience

Both of them I chose mostly as they related to my book. Well, the book is still in progress, though I’m much much further along now than when I posted on New Year’s of 2010. My persistence has definitely paid off, because I really am very close to nearly finishing up my manuscript.

Patience….well, I always need help with patience. It is just not in my nature to be patient. I noticed this with family over the holidays. Not pretty.  But I am trying to be patient with myself as I continue working on my book.  And having faith that I will be able to see it through to completion. I want to make it REAL. I believe it will be, very soon, in 2011.

© 2011, writingreading


Inspired from the Past

July 24, 2010

Both my work and my avocation frequently bring me into contact with historical materials.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some items from a woman writer who lived in the early part of the twentieth century. It has been fascinating to me to read her letters and her actual writings, to see her working process – scribbles, scratches, and all – and to recognize a fellow female writer across time.

I don’t know much about her. [name witheld for both personal and professional reasons]  She’s no major novelist or playwright or poet that I can tell. But that makes her the more admirable, to me.

I’ve read her rejection letters. “Not for us at this time.”  “Does not meet our needs.” “Our readers would have been interested last year, but now it is passe.”  And then the rejection letter with a dash of encouragement tossed in: “Oh, but do send us something again. Perhaps something with a little more plot?”  That made me laugh out loud – but I can only imagine how sad and frustrating it must have been for the author.

She clearly continued to write. That spunk to continue to write, despite the rejections, I find inspiring. It is obvious it was her passion. I think I would have liked to have known her. She seems like she may have been a suffragist. She was a career woman – in a time when most women did not have careers. It seems like she must have traveled, too.

It has been fun looking at her writings and correspondence, because even though she is long gone and probably unremembered (she had no family), I feel it is a privilege to learn more about her, and be inspired by her work and her persistance and tenacity – even if she never did make it big.

That tells me writing is ALWAYS worth it!

© writingreading, 2010


When Old News is New News

July 22, 2010

I’m sure there must be a name for it, though I don’t know what it is.

I’m talking about the phenomena of finding out something, long after the fact, and feeling a shock as if the event just occurred.

For instance, just tonight, I learned that one of my favorite university presses almost got shut down last year. Last year, mind you. But the shock, worry, and sadness that I feel at this news (even though it is old news) is fresh and real.

A few years ago, I learned more details – maybe too many details, about a friend’s death more than 10 years earlier. I knew she had died, and knew in a general sense what had happened. But when I read a lengthy news article about what had happened – the shock and grief and sadness were all very real, in the present. I was shook up for at least a week, maybe longer. And my grief was made more complex because no one else was grieving this loss – to them, it was all long ago. To me, it was as if her death had just occurred.

I ponder these things because I find it interesting in a philosophical sense how “old news” can have such an emotional impact in the present.  I also have to believe this phenomenon has a name or term to describe it.

I also think something along these lines might make an interesting story line for a short story or maybe even a novel, about a main character who has her world turned upside down by finding out “old news” and its impact on her present life. I’ll have to think on that one, some more.

© writingreading, 2010


Creative Every Day – Stories

March 10, 2010

Theme this month at Creative Every Day is “Stories”. I haven’t kept up with every post, and I’m not an active participant – but I love her posts, her themes, and how she is all about bringing more creativity to our lives!

The starting post for March, guest-written by Elizabeth Halt, I found to be thought-provoking and inspiring – about the stories we tell ourselves, and how we can create change.

© 2010 writingreading


In the Doldrums

March 9, 2010

I have been having a long bout of ….not exactly writer’s block, but what I can best term, the Doldrums.

Like the real life nautical companion, my doldrums simply are a time when I am adrift. No wind in my sails. Unable to get anywhere. A complete lack of momentum and forward movement.

I’m not stuck on a sandbar, nor completely immobilized, but I can’t seem to get up the gumption to get anything done, or even started, for that matter.

Though it pains me to say so – and I do believe it is fundamentally not-true – I feel like I am losing my passion for working on my book. These days, unfortunately, I am just simply not interested.

This is all most unfortunate, of course. Not only because I would like to just get it DONE already, but also because I am actually somewhat close (relatively speaking) to getting it finished.

It’s like Columbus getting stuck at Cuba – he can see Florida, he wants to get to Florida – but the winds are calm and his sails are furled – and he just can’t get there.

So, when all else fails, I turn to reading writing books. Nothing makes you feel more like a writer, without having to do anything, than reading about writing – but of course, doing no writing, yourself.

I dipped into a nice little work yesterday called: The Writer’s Portable Therapist: 25 Sessions to a Creativity Cure by Rachel Ballon. I don’t really feel like I need a “creativity cure” as much as just a literal “jump-start.” My batteries are just worn down. (sorry to mix metaphors)

I like this quote that appears there (p. 78): “The creative act – the defeat of habit by originality – overcomes everything” by George Lois.  That is exactly what I need.  My habit lately is to simply not-write. To in fact ignore it. SO – my mission is to “overcome habit by originality” – to go to the computer and open my manuscript and begin. To not fall back on the same habit of watching TV or pretending to clean house as a procrastination, writing-avoidance technique.

Just like the weeks old sailing vessels would spend at sea, nearly immobilized by the doldrums, I too know that my luck will eventually change. “Smooth sailing” will return – I just must simply be patient until it does.

© writingreading 2010