Summer Writing

Summer writing is different from school year writing for me.

This summer, it’s been hard to find time to sit down and write. For me, once I get in my chair, I tend not to get out again. I get sucked in, absorbed, and I neglect other things like eating, moving and people.

That kind of behavior doesn’t work really well when you have kids home with you. They don’t want to be ignored for eight hours. And I have trouble focusing on long, big projects like novel revision in short sections. I need time to deep dive. So this summer it’s been a focus on pitching to magazines, short and quippy essays for parenting websites, and interview based articles for e-zines.

My schedule is all over the place, too. I haven’t used writing prompts this summer, but I wish I had. I have an app on my phone called Prompts and I used to receive emails from Sarah Selecky every day with a writing prompt. (I don’t think she offers these anymore!) While I didn’t love all of them, quite a few sparked some fun stories. I’d like to use daily writing prompts again to inspire some journaling and brainstorming, but ideas really aren’t my problem. It’s making time and finding a place.

Writing prompts don’t require a long time commitment, but they do require a place to sit down and write or type, and that’s the other thing I’ve lost this summer. A place. Our house has been under renovation and my office, where I write, has been a kitchen, a storage place, and is now a clump of furniture piled in the middle of the room. Other places in the house have been overtaken by this project and I don’t have a room of my own to get into the headspace of my characters.

I know, I know – if I want to write, make the time and the place to write. But I didn’t stop writing, I just changed my kind of writing.

I’ve also skipped my critique groups altogether this summer. While I love the act of critique and find it valuable in so many ways, it can also be filled with lots of drama. It’s good to take a break from things once in awhile.

Things are slowly changing back. And I have lots of writing on my to-do list.

  • Revise Dare Club.
  • Finish Stalkers already!!!
  • Make that dummy for Digit.
  • Write that ‘rent a kid’ story.
  • Write that ‘rumpelstilskin’ re-write.
  • Revise “The Hunter Case” and send that out.
  • Figure out if Mission:Compostable still has legs.
  • Find an agent who believes in me and my work.

Plenty to keep me busy.

Tasty Buckets for Writers

My friend and fellow writer Beth Skwarecki attended the 2014 National Association of Science Writers Conference and returned with these notes as a souvenir. I’m sharing them unedited for your investigative pleasure.

TASTY BUCKETS
Define your “tasty buckets.” Not every project has to fill all the buckets, but on balance they should all get filled.
MONEY is one tasty bucket, but there can be many more.
We stopped to write down some tasty buckets. Some people shared theirs and they included:
working with people I like
learning/investigating new ideas
writing for big name publications
feeling appreciated, getting feedback
What about yucky buckets, for things like PITA factor? Turn those into a positive – “easy to work with,” “pays on time,” etc.

Simple 3-bucket approach: Money, Satisfaction, Career advancement. Any assignment has to fill at least 2 out of 3 (or if it’s enough money, that counts for all 3)

GOALS
“Goal-free careers plateau more often.”
“What will success look like for me?”
Good goals are Specific, Attainable, have a Timeframe, and are Measurable.
Decide on goals that fill your tasty buckets. Create a timeline for each goal, with action points or milestones to break it into smaller pieces with near-term deadlines and tasks.
Small pieces need to be very small and specific.
Example: I want to get better at writing narratives -> I should take a workshop -> I will spend 30 mins on Tuesday at 11am reading about available workshops

Reading Goals for 2015

books reading

Books in Waiting

In 2015 I plan to read 100 books. While that total number of books may seem high for some people, but the goal itself seems straightforward, right?

Wrong.

Debate 1: Does it count as having read a book if you listened to an audio book?

It turns out people don’t actually agree on what counts as reading a book. No one is debating between ebooks and print books, rather the debate is between audio and print books. In the past month, I’ve been involved in at least three debates about whether listening to an audio book counts as reading a book. I say yes. Lots of people say no. I don’t often listen to audio books, but I did listen to one huge book (Dad Is Fat) on a long drive. So the audio book debate doesn’t impact my book total but it does explore the definition of ‘reading’ a book. Is it only using one’s eyes? What do you say?

Debate 2: Reading to Kids

The other debate I’ve been in about my book goal is whether I can count the books I’ve read to my children at night. Depending on which child I’m reading to, I might read a few chapters or up to five picture books. Can I count those? My husband said reading picture books to kids should not count toward my total. But I disagree because I feel that somehow implies picture books aren’t ‘real’ books. So I’ve decided to only count the books I’m reading to my children at night only if I’ve never previously read the book. Sound fair?

I’m already 10 books into my goal and feeling good that I will reach 100 before the end of the year. I’m also absolutely adoring the books I’ve read so far! The full list is on my Goodreads account, but here are a few of the books I’ve really enjoyed:

Paperboy
Brown Girl Dreaming
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Coraline
The Age of Innocence (Dover Thrift Editions)
She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer

Do you have a reading goal for 2015?