7 Things I Learned from Writing This Stinking Book

I’m baaaaaack…. Many thanks to all of my wonderful guest posters who filled in for so much longer than I anticipated.

Anyway, I was busy.  Busy writing, busy learning.  Whether your thang is writing, auto repair, particle physics, or building castles out of pipe cleaners chenille stems, each new project has something unique to teach you.  The sequel to Don’t You Forget About Me is already teaching me a lot, and I still have a ways to go, even with the first draft done.  Here’s hoping some of these lessons might speak to you in whatever your thang might be.

Whether your thang is writing, auto repair, or particle physics, each new project has something unique to teach us.

-1-

What works for you may not work for me. “Just sit down at the keys and write! No excuses! That’s how I wrote my novel!” Well, once upon a time, that’s how wrote  my novel.  It wasn’t working this time.  I have a very large file full of rewrites just to get to the end of the first draft, because for the better part of a year, every time I forced myself to write, nonsense came out.  I was writing myself in circles, wasting time I don’t have.  It took a lot of courage to admit the “butt in seat, fingers on keys” approach was doing nothing but breaking my heart and getting me nowhere.

-2-

What worked last time might not work this time. See above: I had to find another approach for this project.  I’m a creature who thrives on routine, so the idea of changing tactics was frightening.  Lesson learned: flexibility is valuable.  Another lesson learned: to value that my creative energies are a gift from God, not an award I get for hard work, and that they are not an unlimited resource.  If my family needs my creative  problem solving energies, they get dibs. The writing will have to wait, and that’s okay.  

-3-

Thinking time is writing time. Second Shift is a particularly talkative child who literally can’t stop talking for love or money.

Me: If you can stay quiet until we get home, you can have an M&M

2nd Shift: Okay.

Me: [Counting in my head one, two, three, four, five, six, seven–]

2nd Shift: Mommy?

Me: Yes?

2nd Sift: I don’t want an M&M.

She really just. Can’t. Stop.  Sharing.  And needing to know she’s been heard.  Future blogger, I guess.

As indicated above, the “don’t think, just write” method was failing me.  When I wrote DYFAM, it was in a three-month haze of enthusiasm while First Shift was in school and Second Shift was napping.  Times have changed: I homeschool all three now.  Second Shift’s naps are looooong gone, and her loquacity takes up a very large amount of my creative energy.   Like, by 9:15am on a good day.  (Speaking of which, if you have any kinesthetic phonics activities to share, you know where to find me.)  The times when I could sit and “write in my head” while Second Shift napped in the car have gone the way of her naps.  If my writing time is 5:30am-6:30am, and I don’t know what to write, I have every right to lay lie in bed, stare at the ceiling, and think about what happens next, and that’s okay too.

-4-

Ask for help.  You just might get it. I spent some time developing a Clean Routine that shares more of the housework with the kids, and having a reduced-clutter living space helps with EVERYTHING, including the writing. I also have become better about asking my husband if I can get away from the house somewhere and write.

I’m the person who is happy to help others, but when I need the help, I feel like my cries fall into nothingness.  Thus, I rarely ask for it.  But this time, I worked up the chutzpah to ask a number of writing and reading friends, all found through the Catholic Writers Guild, to beta the first draft for me.  All but three of them said yes, like within hours.  I asked them because I know I can trust them to be firm but kind.  Ask help of people with whom you already have a rapport of trust.  

-5-

There’s a YouTube playlist for that.  Probably.

-6-

Sometimes, you’ll start out with C work.  That doesn’t mean you’ll end that way. Never before in my life as a legal adult have I knowingly handed in anything but the best possible thing I could turn out.  In sophomore year of college, I basically withraw-failed two honors classes (English and Theatre–ha!) rather than hand in something that wasn’t my best.  For the NLMDA draft, however, I handed it off to Team Beta knowing it is chock full of problems: unanswered questions, fuzzy motivations, plot holes, impossibilities, even a fire alarm that I’m not sure I ever turned off… or on for that matter.

And that’s okay.  It’s not the end of the story.  Chances are pretty good that I’ll survive letting people see that I’m okay with showing up knowing that I already need to improve.

-7-

I learned how to make espresso on the stovetop.  It’s changed my life.

So, question for you, Dear Reader: Did ANY of these resonate with you? Or is it just me and Second Shift out here sharing (First Shift dwells only in Surly Preteen Land)? What are some creative habits you’ve formed and then re-formed?  What are some ways you recharge your creative energies?  What is your favorite way to make coffee?

I’m doing this for #MondayBlogs, but since they’re Quick Takes and there are Seven of ’em, I’ll link this on up at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Seven Quick Takes Linkup

 

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9 comments

  1. I was honored to be able to see you “without full makeup” as it were, and the fact remains that you’re a great writer, you have a great story, it just needs fine tuning. And you showed me that it’s okay to let some people see you not all pulled together (literally and figuratively.) We’re all in a different place now than we were when we first started writing. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes not, but we keep writing through it. I homeschooled my kids during the first draft of “End of the Road”–that was my homework, they had theirs. I learned to make use of whatever time I could get and luxuriate in the time I allowed myself to go somewhere and “be a writer” to do my editing and take what I created in my head and get in down on paper (or the screen).

    And make coffee? A fresh pot of New Mexico pinon coffee after the guys head off for work on my day off from the “real world” job in the coffee maker, knowing it’s all for me!

    1. “Without makeup” YES! That’s exactly how it feels. And now sharing with Team Beta seems less like a failed school project and more like a makeover slumber party with the girls. And if I haven’t said it lately, the morning I finished reading End of the Road, I made everyone eat blueberry muffins, because I could SMELL the batch Rick brought to the hospitality table! Thanks for coming to the slumber party!

  2. I’ve found that even when I have the desire (or the time – haha!) to write, that letting-it-sit/daydreaming time is critical. I’d been coming up with nothing on my Nano project until I allowed myself to step away and dream a little. And then a whole lot of another project came together out of nowhere shortly after. It’s learning when to push and when to step back and let it come to you. There’s also something to be said for the creativity spurred by fresh eyes, and I hope that’s what the beta readers can do for you.

    1. Thanks, and I sure hope so, too! Each season–as writers or as parents–offers something new, and you’re so right that when we honor what we need to keep going, so much other stuff (new projects, for instance) falls into place. Thanks for spurring me on!

  3. You know, there’s a reason Luke was captivated by Second Shift in that one hour in which the two met. They are SO alike in personality. I hear you on the part where by 9:15 you are just tapped out.
    It says a lot about you that you recognize that family has to come first. At least at this stage in your family life.
    As to your book that you think is so miserable: it’s not! It’s a great story, and I know you will be able to patch the holes, turn the alarm on and off and de-fuzz those motivations. Hang in there!

    1. Oh, honey, it takes time and practice, and practice includes a lot of missed shots in both directions (not asking for enough help, presuming too much help, etc.), and I’m not going to act like I’ve found the perfect balance. It takes a balance from our loved ones, too, understanding on their part as well as asking for what they need. We all have to balance each other, it seems. Keep on balancing!

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