250 Words a Day

I remember reading an essay, several years back, written by a writing professor at a university, somewhere. I wish I could remember her name.

The essay was all about how to be a successful writer, and the author claimed to have the “magic key.”

Two steps:

1. Write 500 words a day.

2. Write a nice, hand-written thank-you note to someone in the industry, once a week.

I’m obviously not currently doing either of these. But for some reason, that “500 words a day” idea has stuck with me. Anytime I hit that 500-word milestone in a day, I feel like I’m really achieving my goals. I’ve mentioned it before.

Now, call me an under-achiever, but I don’t have a huge amount of confidence in my ability to hit 500 words a day, six days a week. I have three little boys, endless housework, church responsibilities, and a husband I’m crazy about — all of which take priority over writing. Not to mention needing enough sleep in order to keep up with it all.

On the other hand, I also find myself wasting bits and pieces of time throughout the day, most notably during naptime, when I should be able to be crazy-productive. Something about having all three boys quiet and/or sleeping at the same time triggers the lazy switch in my brain.

Gotta fix that if I want to get anywhere on my goals.

Which brings me to my point — I’ve decided to commit myself to writing 250 words a day. Baby steps.

250 words a day, at least for now. I can increase it later. This can include fiction, but I’m also counting blog posts, because that works out the same part of my brain.

This post is now over 275 words. See? I can do this.

I will do this.

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LTUE 2012

Today is Monday. LTUE is over.

I’m only 48 hours past it, and already the whole weekend is starting to blur together in my brain.

I can’t think of much that really differentiated Thursday from Friday from Saturday. Those three days are kind of a mish-mash of making trips to and from UVU, managing patchwork babysitting, carrying Jack around, attending the occasional panel, and sitting with Darren at the inkPageant table.

Each day was a little bit of all of that.

Which is why, as I’m sitting here trying to write a nice post about LTUE, I’m having a hard time thinking of much that stood out in my mind.

This year I was disappointed to not be able to attend as many panels as last year. There were two reasons for this:

First, we had an inkPageant table to manage. Darren and David took care of much of that. At first I had the mindset that if I only had a babysitter for two hours, I wanted to spend those two hours in panels, not stuck behind a table in the vendors’ room. However, when it came right down to it, I often preferred to be stuck behind a table with Darren than free to attend panels by myself. But it made me a little bit sad, because the things that I love most about LTUE aren’t generally found in the vendors’ room.

Second, Jack isn’t old enough to be away from me for more than a few hours at a time, so I had to either drive home periodically to feed him, then drive back, or just have him with me at LTUE. Either way, I wasn’t able to give LTUE as much of my time as I did last year. But given the circumstances, I think I struck a good balance.

This post is turning out a lot different than I thought it would. Maybe later I’ll go into some different aspects. Overall, I’m happy I went. And having our inkPageant table in the vendors’ room provided great opportunities to learn some interesting things and get to know some interesting people.

Recalled To LIfe

Lest you thought this writing blog was turning into a pregnancy blog, I am here to assure you that that chapter (haha) is over.

Baby came! He’s sweet and cuddly and smiley and we’re all in love with him. So here we are, nearly three months after the fact, and I’m just getting my writing legs back.

Holidays are over, sicknesses are all better, vacation has come and gone, and our little Jack is consistently sleeping through the night.

*rubbing hands together*

Time to get to work!

I agreed to email a friend a new chapter each month. But I want to write at a faster pace than that. If I can finish two chapters per month, I’ll be sitting pretty to finish my goal of a first draft of a novel well before the end of the year. I may even have time for some revisions.

Realistically, there are other things going on in my life than writing, and those things may prove to be worthy roadblocks to my goal.

So far, I have one chapter done. One chapter in one month — but that was a month interrupted by sicknesses on top of sicknesses, and an unexpected trip to California in the middle. That, and our laptop (dear, departed laptop!) met an untimely death halfway through the month, which made it much harder to get my writing in.

I’m fairly confident that I could have finished two chapters in January if we’d had a normal month. On the other hand, crazy-and-unexpected is normal. Maybe I can’t count on finishing two chapters every month.

But that won’t stop me from trying.

Limbo-Land

As of right now I am officially more pregnant than I’ve ever been before.

In the words of my sister:

It’s frustrating when you’re used to going early. You feel overdue before you’re even full-term.

Just so we’re on the same page, full-term is 38 weeks. I’m five days past that. I know I should quit my whining and buck up. Most women in my position have at least another week or two ahead of them.

I’ve spent the past week treating every single day as if it could be D-Day. In order to be ultra-prepared and avoid leaving behind (and coming home to) a messy house, I’ve kept on top of dishes, laundry, and all the other housework (*pantpant*) and prepared nearly everything I possibly can in advance. The hospital bag is packed. The baby clothes are washed and folded. The freezer is stocked. The floor is mopped (but not for long).

The hardest part about the past week hasn’t necessarily been the fact that I’m big and pregnant and uncomfortable – although it does contribute. The hardest part has been living in limbo-land. Every morning I wake up with the thought that at any point during the day, I could be dropping everything at a moment’s notice to head to the hospital. That kind of mindset not only keeps me focused on the timing of an event which I have no control over, but also prevents me from enjoying all the “todays” that I’ve experienced in the past week. All because of an unknown “tomorrow.”

I usually plan my week out in advance, so I know what I want to get done and when I’m going to do it. But since we’re facing a huge, unpredictable variable looming in the near future, I purposely left this past week wide open. I haven’t planned anything beyond the necessities. I haven’t committed to anything or anyone, including myself. I haven’t accomplished a whole lot this week, aside from the daily housework up-keep and child care.

It feels like walking up a down escalator. A lot of energy, no progress.

In other, unrelated news, we recently acquired a gorgeous used Mac laptop for a bargain price. If you recall my previous post about our old dinosaur laptop (which has since seen the garbage can), you’ll know that this means that my motivation to write just skyrocketed. That is, skyrocketed as much as it can when I’m in limbo-land and wary of any new projects or goals. But good heavens, I need something to keep me sane. And that may have to come in the form of a pastime that jeopardizes my daily baby vigilance.

Not So Every Day

News flash: Late third trimester has a wacky personality. One day, I’m knocked out by fatigue, pregnancy aches, and irritability. Twenty-four hours later, I’m all energy and smiles and productivity.

You always hear writing advice from people who say things like, “You have to make writing a priority. Every single day.” And you know what? That’s fantastic advice.

But these days, crashing on the couch during naptime occasionally has to take priority over writing. To say nothing of the daily kid care, dishes, laundry, and meal prep that requires nearly all of my already-waning energy (and doesn’t happen if I don’t do it). Let’s not even talk about all the projects on the To-Do-Before-Baby-Comes list.

These days, I have to accept the fact that writing isn’t as high a priority as many other things. In the very back of my mind, I feel a little guilty, because I feel like I’m just making excuses. Writing is my dream! And I need to work hard and sacrifice to achieve my dreams!

But then I look at the demands on my time, energy, and psyche. I can’t do it all. And if I decide to use this finite amount of energy to provide good meals and clean clothes for my family in these final weeks of pregnancy, then that’s not something to feel guilty about.

The writing isn’t going anywhere. It can wait while I get through this stage. But I can’t put my family on hold.

500 Words

Last night my husband took care of the kids and put them to bed so I could have a “free night.” He does this a few times a month. It assures him a nice cushy spot in heaven.

I grabbed my laptop and headed to the library.

Now, understand, this laptop has been around since the Jurassic Era. It takes nearly 10 minutes just to boot up, log in, and open a word document.

There’s no internet on this laptop. I think there used to be, but it’s so old and decrepit that nothing really works except word processing. Naturally, this makes it ideal for writing, because I can’t get distracted on it. If I’m not writing, the only other options are staring at the screen, or shutting it off.

I had about an hour until closing time, so I felt an urgency to get going. I sat there and willed my aged laptop to get me to the Chapter 2 file as quickly as possible. I bled through my forehead for about 10 minutes, then sailed through 500 words.

500 words.

I remember reading an article by some totally famous author lady whose name I can’t remember. She said that if you wanted to be a successful writer, the first thing you should do is write at least 500 words every day. She said the rest would follow.

I’m definitely not reaching 500 words a day. And to a lot of writers out there, 500 words is not a big deal.

But for just one night, I felt like a successful writer. Big win.

Time to Write

Every day I think to myself, Today I want to WRITE! And 90% of the time, it just doesn’t happen.

The problem is, there are so many things going on right now that writing is usually the first thing to get pushed to the back burner.

But let’s be honest.

The real problem is that I’m failing to plan ahead and make time to write.

Time is never found. It’s always made.

Case in point – this afternoon I “found” some free time. There were things I knew needed to get done soon, but nothing to be tackled today. I put the kids down for their naps, came downstairs to the computer, and looked at the clock. Ahhh, two hours of writing time! Luxury!

Then I thought of a few quick things that I should take care of on the computer before settling in to write. An email to send, an image to change, a moderation queue to check. . . I looked up at the clock. An hour and a half was gone. Burned away.

Turns out, finding time to write didn’t automatically translate into me writing. Surprise!

Turns out, making time to write has to happen whether you find the time or not. Because if you don’t make it, you can have all the free time in the world and it still won’t happen.

What Are the Odds?

Yesterday I fixed my hair (and put on makeup), handed the kids over to a babysitter, and attended UVU’s Book Academy with my husband.

The whole day seemed to vibrate with serendipity.

Among other things, I won a prize.

I’m not usually excited by door-prize drawings at the end of events. And this one was particularly long. I sat in my unpadded chair, trying not to zone out (did I mention I was running my pregnant body on four hours of sleep?) as name after name floated by. I perked up when they whipped out a few sets of Hale Theater tickets to give away. But they didn’t draw my name for any of those, so my brain went back into slump mode.

Then they pulled out the grand prize, which was a coupon for a FREE full manuscript review by a certain skilled editor from a contract editorial company – an awesome prize that anyone else would have traded a limb for. And my fuzzy brain thought, Finally, the last one! Never thought I’d see the end.

Then I heard my name over the microphone.

Um, what? I don’t even have a manuscript.

I didn’t deserve it. Unlike every other person in the room, I haven’t spent the last several years dreaming up stories and characters, putting words on the page, submitting queries, or attending weekly critique groups.

I felt like a complete fraud. A cheater. A thief. I felt a strong temptation to seek out one of those Hale Theater ticket-winners – surely one of them would have traded with me.

But my fingers held onto that prize, because to me it said, “Go and do.”

True, I haven’t worked as hard or as long as most of the people there. I’m new at writing fiction. But at this point, the thing that I need more than anything else is motivation to continue getting words on the page. And trust me, having a prize this valuable is a pretty good incentive to complete a manuscript and polish it up.

And perhaps I need that motivation as much or more than the others. Who knows? If that glossy sheet of cardstock keeps me going on this goal of mine, and helps me to reach a dream and improve a skill, then maybe I’m just as deserving as anyone else in that room.

Starting Up

This is my “writing blog.”

The idea of adding yet another blog to my list seems a little crazy, since I already run a family blog, a baking blog, and a personal blog, none of which get much attention from me, and two of which I’m tempted to scrap anyway.

Yet here we are.

I consider myself a writer – mostly. I drive a baking blog. Most of that writing is about food, past experiences, thoughts on random subjects, and life updates. Nonfiction seems to come naturally to me. It’s comfortable and easy. I’ve developed my own unique writing voice. That makes me a successful nonfiction writer, I think.

But fiction? This is the part where my palms sweat and my brain fuzzes, and I become paralyzed at the idea of crafting a compelling story with good pacing and character development. Sure, I can form complete sentences with correct grammar and punctuation. But will it be good storytelling?

I have very little experience writing fiction, but good heavens, I’ve done a lot of reading. And the more I read, the more I can see what authors are doing. I’m becoming more and more convinced that I could be good at it, if I could just get over the paralysis and get a draft (or two, or ten) down on the page.

I’m a natural-born editor. I can analyze and revise the heck out of anything, and I’m educated enough intellectually in the craft of writing fiction to know what to look for and change. But education isn’t going to get a first draft completed. And if I don’t get that first draft done, I won’t have anything to revise. Call it strange, but that’s what I say to keep myself motivated:

If I don’t get a first draft done, I won’t have anything to revise.

So. I need practice. I need to turn off the internal editor. I need to shovel words onto the page and promise myself that I’ll be allowed to play with them later.

This cognitive loop has helped me get a first draft of a Chapter 1 completed. That may seem pretty small to an experienced fiction writer, but I see this as a pretty major victory, because I’ve never completed more than two pages of any long-form fiction. But I’m winning. I’m doing it.

And I’m thrilled and terrified.

And now I need to finish Chapter 2.