Process and Routine

Thinking about process right now. And what is becoming clear to me as I try to get myself into some routines is that trying to be that writer who sits down and writes for X hours per day and churns out X000 words per day isn’t going to work for me. Discipline isn’t really the issue. I can do that. I did NaNoWriMo for many years—I lost count—and always hit my target. So it’s possible for me to do that, but it’s not sustainable for me. And even though I’m putting words on the page, they might be pure, directionless crap. So I feel like I need to find a different process that is more in line with my personality, lifestyle, and other responsibilities.

I did some research recently about the habits of some of the greatest writers, and I certainly found some solid advice that resonates with me. The idea of ending before you’re done so that you know exactly where you’re starting when you get to the next session is brilliant. And I also saw a lot about getting exercise and having a dedicated space. I can check those boxes.

But what I realize is that trying to do anything for extended periods makes me restless and my mind wanders and then I procrastinate or engage in some other distraction. I’m fairly sure that if I were growing up now, I’d be classified as ADHD. But in my day, I was just really smart and eccentric. I can focus on things in short bursts, like 20-25 minutes before I need to move, unless I am super engaged and the words are flowing. Then I can sit for hours. But that’s not an everyday thing.

Maybe it would be a more efficient use of my time to make a list of what I want to accomplish for the day and then just tick off boxes in whatever way they get done. I already have my routine of doing yoga every morning, except when I had Covid—I had to take a couple of days off because I literally couldn’t move. And then I make my tea or hot lemon water and I do my tarot readings for the day. I can make my list after my readings. That way whatever else comes up can be fit in around what I know I have to get done. And on those days when the words just flow, I can stay in my little cave as long as I want. How beautiful is that?

One of the reasons I started freelance writing years ago was because aside from loving to write, I wanted flexibility—in what I wrote, who I wrote for, and how I did it. So why should writing fiction work any differently? There needs to be structure, but it needs to be my structure. I’ve never fit into anyone else’s mold, and I don’t think I can start now.

Doing Away with Roles and Limitations

I was thinking about roles earlier—how we identify ourselves according to the roles that we perform. We live in a culture that has a tendency to be obsessed with categorizing and putting things into little boxes, which is annoying. But we all tend to have these roles that we fit into, like I might have the role of mother, or I might identify with the role of writer. We identify multiple roles simultaneously, all the time, so people are constantly wearing different hats. You don’t necessarily take off one hat when you operate in the space of another hat. For instance, I might be acting in the role of Mom when I drive my daughter to work, but I’m also wearing a driver hat, and I’m also wearing black woman hat. All these things overlap and intersect constantly.

One thing that I’m trying to be mindful of these days is that because one can have multiple roles, they don’t have to define one’s self-view. All those functions can be true simultaneously. Even being many things at once doesn’t equal the sum total of anyone’s identity. Leaning too much into or identifying too much with designations is very limiting because they don’t account for so many other things that one could do or be that maybe hasn’t been revealed yet. So it’s not necessary to be so tied into or wedded to the roles that are put on us, sometimes without our consent. Gender is usually (not always) assigned to someone based on their genitals. But we now know that gender identity can differ from gender assignments.

I’m thinking about this topic in part because I have this online space, this website, that’s usually just sitting here. I haven’t used the blog or put anything much in there because I felt like this is a writing space and my author page, and so I should only put stuff there that pertains to my writing, or writing in general. I limited the content of this page. And further I limited it to specific kinds of writing like—primarily fantasy and horror. But that’s not the only kind of writing I want to do. Sometimes I want to just write about my thoughts. So this space stagnated because of the role that I assigned to the site. The beauty is that I can choose to expand it.

What I want to do now is use this blog space to write whatever I’m thinking about at any given time, unlimited. And further, I don’t want to limit my writing anymore. Maybe sometime I will write a romance or maybe I’ll write a children’s book (unlikely but you never know). Perhaps a memoir or a self-help book, who knows. I want to start using this space more than I have. In terms of looking at the roles that identify me, I personally am trying to lean away from any specific designations because even in a particular job, you don’t do just one thing, right?

I used to work in accounting. I had multiple tasks and responsibilities—sometimes I had to do payroll. Sometimes I had to do travel reimbursement. Sometimes I had to do escrow accounting. Within a role, there can be multiple branches and there needs to be fluidity in moving between them. So being wedded into one way of identifying oneself or what an identity looks like at one point doesn’t necessarily allow for growth and expansion. If one’s goal is to keep growing and expanding, they have to release the idea of being this thing because it might go through many iterations and manifestations. So I think this space is going to evolve, and I am going to evolve with it.

Brief Reflections on 2013

214px-Adult_deer_tick

I try to avoid all the usual end-of-year trends toward lists and replays, but when the alarm went off this morning, I started thinking of all the things I wanted to accomplish today. This led to the realization that 2013 has been a year of some high highs and some devastating lows. I’m typically a middle-of-the-roader, so for me, these extremes are noteworthy.

Personally, on the most positive end of the spectrum, I had three stories published and actually got to see my name in physical print book form twice. When I saw the print version of Stalkers, I won’t lie, I nearly (very nearly) cried. These were huge accomplishments for me, and they gave me the confidence and drive to think of “novelist” as an actual job title and a real possibility. So there was that.

At almost the same time (I think it was literally a week after my first acceptance), my whole little house-of-cards life was collapsed by a stupid, six-legged beast the size of a pinhead. Ugh. I have developed an undying hatred of all tick-kind. While I won’t get into all the details of all the ways Lyme disease ruined the past six months, I will say that I have sworn off card-house building and anything domino related. And I’m recovering, so there’s that.

A small consolation from the Lyme debacle was that it inspired a mini story. When I started the first course of antibiotics, a friend showed me a contest prompt: write a 40-word story that begins and ends with the same word. I had nothing else to do but lay in bed in pain, so I transferred all my negative feelings of the moment into a story. I never submitted it because, at the time, I was mentally incapable of figuring out the hows.

But here is the mini-short that Lyme made:

Tick needed a human to pass the lyme to. He waited on a blade of grass, hitched a ride on Deer, and hopped on Cat’s scruff. A human appeared.

Chicken chomped the insect. “You’re not giving my human lyme, Tick.”

 

Clearly, I was not in my right mind, but it made me smile for a bit. I wrote two versions. This seemed the stronger of the two.

 

Ironically, I had written a novel several years ago in which one of the villains used a tick-like weapon. I wonder if I was having some kind of premonition.

 

Anyway, overall, 2013 taught me a lot and assigned me lots of work to do for 2014. Hopefully, I’m up to the tasks. I don’t do resolutions, but I have some goals in mind.

  1. To sell or indie-publish a novel this year
  2. To transition from “freelance writer” to “author” as a job title
  3. To get on solid financial footing

 

Do you have any major accomplishments or lessons to share from the past year? What are your goals for 2014?

Derailed but Not in a Bad Way

For the past week and a half, my Unicorn submission preparations—all my writing, really—has been derailed by illnesses. First, my daughter came down with Strep and was home from school for several days. Now I am trying to shake some unspecified viral sinus infecting thingee. (My brain stopped processing once the doctor said I wasn’t getting antibiotics to get rid of it.) This has not been a complete waste of time though. I think I see a silver lining in the pain, suffering, and inordinate amount of fluid from the past days.

One of my favorite aspects of being a writer is the research. I love learning new things, and I can sit at this screen for days researching random topics. We don’t need to get into how often I actually do that. While I’m not what you’d call a science geek, I won’t lie; I find the occasional experiment fascinating. Which brings us back to my sinus issues.

Once I quit mentally cussing out the doctor, I read the info sheet she handed me explaining why antibiotics are generally prescribed for sinus infections only if they don’t clear up after a week on their own. What I originally heard was, “Blah blah blah suck it up for a week.” The handout gave several drug-free suggestions for helping clear said sinuses. One method is nasal irrigation using, among other devices, a neti pot.

I was familiar with the concept of the neti pot and nasal irrigation from my days teaching yoga, but I never got up the nerve to try it. Here was a perfect opportunity. I could experience it and record all sorts of gross details for later use in my writing. I certainly did not expect to come away with such a wealth of information as I did.

Some observations:

  • When I first start pouring the saline solution into one nostril, there’s a weird glugging inside my head as the liquid goes through the nasal cavity. This happens more when my sinuses are really clogged or swollen.
  • I have not yet felt like I am drowning, but since the pot is see-through, I can watch the water level decreasing, which takes for-ever. At least it feels like forever. Which makes steeling myself for the second nostril more fun.
  • If I mix the saline incorrectly, it burns a little, like when you get pool water up your nose after a cannonball. There is a good reason I don’t do cannonballs into pools. I don’t enjoy burning inside my head.
  • My favorite part of this process is when one side is so clogged that the solution doesn’t run through from one nostril to the other but instead backs up into my mouth. It tastes salty, let’s assume because of the saline.
  • I’ll spare you the after-effects once the pot is emptied through the nostrils.

Aside from this thing actually helping my illness, these details may prove to be invaluable one day. As a middle-grade and YA writer, the chances of me calling on them one day are relatively good. If, for example, I ever find myself needing to write about milk coming out someone’s nose, I am in a much better position to describe it than I was a few days ago. Overall, I would have much preferred to have my health than this information, but at least I’ve been able to put the time to good use.

Pardon me, time to irrigate again.

Welcome!

Welcome to my author page!

I had a whole post written about my preparations for the Unicorn Writers’ Conference in March and how all the revisions for my two manuscript review sessions are falling into place. But a funny thing happened during the 6 hours that I’ve spent trying to build this site. I had to reinstall it, and I did remember to back up the .php files with the content. Or so I thought. Guess which file didn’t get backed up? Right–my blog post.

When will I learn? Write posts in Word and copy them. Never write directly into the blog (yes, I am doing that right now, but I will copy this into Word before hitting ‘publish’) I actually got nervous and switched to Word before finishing. So there. Another recent lesson I hadn’t written about but will now–keep each version of your manuscript.

I had a scare last night when I realized that the only copy I had of the full manuscript of my fey novel was in PDF format. I had other files that were named to indicate that they were supposed to be the full manuscripts, but at some point, I must have accidentally overwritten one and backed up the overwritten copies. Cue frantic search for a PDF to Word converter.

Fortunately, one friend let me know he had a converter for me at the same time another friend reminded me that I had sent her the manuscript in Word over the summer. Whew! This time when I saved it, I made it a read-only file. When I’m ready to make the next round of edits, I will copy and paste into a new file with a new name. So that was my most recent writing adventure.

I don’t remember what all else I wrote earlier. I listed a couple of books that have been invaluable during my revision process:

Second Sight by Cheryl Klein
The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson

The rest of my previous post is being fogged over by the haze of an impending migraine. So thanks for visiting and I look forward to sharing my process with you.