Allotment of Hours

I’m beginning to discover that I like a full plate.

Sure, I’ll talk about wishing for more free time, but when it comes right down to it, I feel the most alive and energetic when I’m busy pursuing a dream – the key word being “busy.”

The largest chunks of my time are devoted to kids and housework. That’s my day job, and one that I can’t quit, no matter what other goals I reach for and achieve. That line never gets crossed.

The little bits in between kids and housework are what’s up for grabs. Sometimes I fill it with writing, sometimes with baking and cake decorating. Now and then I’ll take a brief stint into music, sewing, gardening, or decorating.

But either way I slice it, I can’t fill those bits of time with nothing.

This is a good thing, because it means I’m able to accomplish things that a lot of other young moms in my stage in life generally don’t. But it also means that sometimes it comes around to bite me.

Right now, I’m teetering on the edge of deciding to audition for a local production of Fiddler on the Roof. This is one of my very favorite musicals, and one I’ve always wanted to be in. Darren has said he’s willing to support me in this. I’ve been whipping my singing voice back into shape, and I feel that if I do this right, I’ve got a good shot at a main role.

Problem: I have also set a goal to finish a first draft of my novel by the end of the year.

I’m not convinced that novel-writing and musical-acting are mutually exclusive, but with a limited number of hours per week that are mine in which to pursue dreams, I might not be able to make both fit. Or, I might be able to do one mostly well and the other only mediocre.

I’m not interested in ‘mediocre.’ Or even ‘mostly well,’ for that matter. If I’m going to do anything at all, it’s going to be my best work.

So I continue to play a mental see-saw game, doing the math over and over again, and debating with myself over opportunity cost vs. sanity.

Troubleshooting

I’m currently 2100 words into Chapter 2 of my current project (why is it so hard for me to come up with a working title?) and I’m learning all over again why reading and studying the craft of writing can never replace good, old-fashioned practice.

Chapter 2 has a lot of character development. I mean a lot. So here’s how my inner dialogue went today:

Me 1:   This chapter is boooring.

Me 2:   Hey, it’s character development. That’s interesting.

Me 1:   *Snore*

Me 2:   It’s not like you have to have something exploding on every page.

Me 1:   Right. But I’m bored writing it. Who on earth would want to read it?

Me 2:   People who are mature enough to handle scenes of character development. Is it really that bad?

Me 1:   Yes.

Me 2:   But character development isn’t boring!

Me 1:   It is if that’s ALL THAT’S HAPPENING.

That was my light bulb moment.

I’ve done enough reading and studying in the past several years to know that every scene in a given story has to do more than one thing: Develop character, advance the plot, and show the setting.

Develop character, advance the plot, show the setting. I could say it in my sleep. With both hands tied behind my back.

Of course my chapter was boring – I wasn’t advancing the plot or showing the setting. Yes, I was doing a great job developing character, but even the most fascinating character will lose your reader if plot and setting are ignored.

For some reason, it took me a long time to realize that that was the solution to my boring chapter.

Writing blinds me to my own weakness. Writing more shows me it’s there. Writing even more reveals the answer.

Practice, practice, practice.

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.