Writing Ain’t For Sissies
I used to say “Gardening ain’t for sissies.” I’d watch joggers go by in their cute outfits, ponytail swinging in the breeze. They’d offer a friendly wave if they spotted me up to my elbows in compost. I’d return the salute with my spade and clench my teeth as I growled under my breath, “Whimp!” Who gets out in the dirt at seven in the morning, without makeup and clean underwear? Me. Then my flowers would bloom, filling my seventeen beds (okay! I know that was a little obsessive) with colors, shapes and textures. I felt like Mother Nature.
Then I became a writer!
Turns out that isn’t for sissies either. You work alone. You can’t sleep because your imaginary hero keeps whispering in your ear you need to pull him from the fire so he can rescue your alter ego. You drink too much coffee. Hershey Kisses has become a god and Twinkies start to resemble a healthy salad you eat over the sink. Your family starts to believe the stove has finally given up the ghost because everything you serve for dinner comes out of a Crock Pot. Dust bunnies start to resemble the Michelin man or that marshmallow guy from Ghostbusters. These are some of the questions you begin to ask yourself.
1. When was the last time I had my hair colored?
2. Did my clothes shrink?
3. Who turned up the heat?
4. Who turned down the heat?
5. Are we out of coffee?
6. Who the heck bought decaf?
7. Where’s the dog?
8. Can you please start calling me Empress of the Universe? I’m trying to get into character.
9. Is it okay if I wear two different earrings as a pretend fashion statement? I can’t find the match!
10. Will my husband let me try this out on him? (If you’re a romance writer the answer will be yes. If you write thrillers the answer will be no.)
11. How many times can I go to Office Max to look at journals and office supplies before my family starts to think I have a problem?
12. Is it wrong to go to sporting events and imagine your characters are playing the game?
But the words must flow and you do anything to make them grow inside you until they spill onto the paper like waves of the beautiful flowers you once planted and nurtured. Writing is hard. Really hard. Just like gardening there are things you need to do in preparation of writing to make it bloom. These are some of the things that help me.
1. Set aside a place where writing works for me. Check out Cara Bristol’s blog Authors in Space to see where some authors create. http://carabristol.com/ I never get enough of this series. You’ll see everyone has a different idea of where is the best place to write. One of these days I’ll show you my space. Right now, it’s a recliner.
2. Time to write! I’m lucky because this is all I do. If you have a job outside the home, find a few minutes each day you can reach your goal. My goal is 1200 words a day. Some days it is three times that and other days much less. I keep track of my daily word count then at the end of the week I add up the totals. You’ll be surprised at how much you accomplished. Sometimes this is all I need to write just one more page.
3. Plan ahead. If you need to know what people eat in Botswana, how to gut a Cape buffalo (Sorry! I’m going a little overboard now. Can you guess my book takes place in Africa?) or how to make a scrapbook (see I can be nice) do your research ahead of time. Have it in a document or printed out so it will be at your fingertips when you need it. You won’t have to stop and do near as much research.
4. Plan your meals ahead of time. Yes, I do a lot of Crock Pot meals when I’m in the zone. I also make enough for leftovers to stick in the freezer when I just don’t want to cook. Besides, my hubby loves leftovers. Me not so much. I’ll grab a Twinkie. And coffee. I do eat a lot of veggies and fruit. Don’t worry.
5. I treat each day like I’m going to work. I get up and shower, put on makeup, a clean outfit with jewelry and head to the kitchen for the first of four cups of coffee. The dog, if she’s lucky, gets fed before me.
6. I make sure I eat breakfast. And although I don’t eat much meat I do keep protein drinks on hand for energy.
7. Make some time to walk, throw in a load of laundry or check on a friend. Let your work breathe sometimes. It’s okay to leave your office during the day.
8. I also surround myself with inspiration; books, music, pictures, my dog, whatever makes me happy. (Mark Wahlberg makes me happy but so far, he’s refused to be a part of my office.)
9. Time limits are good. That is probably one thing I don’t do very well. I tend to work all day and still have the computer in my lap during NCIS. I’ve learned to type while I’m watching Agent Gibbs get the bad guy. My husband just shakes his head and asks, “How do you do that?” Doesn’t everyone?
10. Write every day!! I mean it. It’s like practicing the piano. If you stop your fingers get all knotted up. I know! All those pieces of classical music I used to play sounds like a two-year old banging on the keys because I don’t practice. Don’t let your writing skills get knotted up.
I am now writing on my work in progress (WIP) as part of Sleuths’ Ink writing project. Each January we do JANO. It’s like the NANO in November except in January. I’ve been kind of a slacker this year. I’ve only written a little over 19,000 words since January first. Family had some sickness going on and I needed to create a presentation for a public speaking event. But I still have a few more days to create. Will I reach my goal of 30,000 words? I intend to try!