Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cinderella Understood Writers

Well, I'd say she at least understood married, female, mommy writers. Because writing does not yet pay the bills for me, it too often remains at the bottom of my to-do list each day. I've heard all the suggestions about carving time out for writing, about making it such a priority that you hang a sign on your home office door that says, "Don't bother me unless you're bleeding. I'm writing!"

As things tend to go currently, there are a few things wrong with these suggestions at my house. First, my home office has no door. The house used to be apartments, and my office used to be the upstairs kitchen. There was a bifold door on it when my son used it as a bedroom (the only bedroom with a sink and cabinets), but that's now buried somewhere up in the attic. Trust me: No one wants to venture up there to look for a bifold door just so I can hang a paper sign on it.

Another dilemma is that I was blessed at birth with an innate sense of panic, anxiety, and guilt. If someone in the house is upset, it is automatically my fault and I must make things right. If someone feels bored, I must entertain the masses. If someone needs a load of laundry done, I must drop what I am doing and take the laundry basket down to the basement. Despite being a mediocre cook, and despite having a semi-empty nest, I am responsible for dinner, and in some cases lunch. I pack lunches for family members who work outside the house. I also do grocery shopping, clutter-control, and the modest amount of cleaning I can bring myself to endure.

And, of course, I do freelance copy editing, proofreading, and sometimes typesetting as projects come in. I rarely turn down projects -- part of that "Just Say Yes" syndrome that guilt-ridden folks are born with. We don't wish to hurt anyone's feelings, even clients we've met only through e-mails, and so we say yes to everything and then hope a calendar day magically becomes 40 hours long.

In my guilt-ridden mind, all of these things must come before writing. I pick up on the unspoken opinion that the writing should come in dead last, after I take out your trash or paint your living room or run to the bank or take you to the movies or a trip to the store for some Very Important Personal Shopping at the last minute.

I don't know why I buy into these opinions. I don't know why I cannot hang that sign on the rhetorical door and force family members to fend for themselves for a few short hours every day. One thing I don't buy into, though, is the theory that I probably don't take my writing seriously. I do. I've wanted to be a writer since grade school. I've accomplished some things with my writing, more now than ever. However, I think I take my family seriously too. What I need to do is find a way to help them understand the difference between needing me to do things for them and simply wanting me to do those things.

And, I suppose, a little shot of writing-self-esteem and a suppression of that conflict-guilt would go a long way toward finding daily time to write. After all, even Cinderella found time to make that dress and go to the ball. Granted, she had a bunch of singing mice to help, but as I look around my office at the guinea pig enclosure behind me (housing Murray and Ajax, who keep me company up here), I somehow don't see either one of them singing and cooking up a nice ham dinner for me so I can spend my time writing instead.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to put the laundry into the dryer and run to the store. We're out of milk. Again.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Resurrecting the Past

It's time to resurrect the ol' Blogspot blog, and get it back on track as a place for writing- and publishing-related posts. The "other blog" (which shall remain nameless) will stick to more family-oriented and personal posts. Right now, it seems my entire life is related to publishing in one way or another:

• I've restarted my Journeyman course with the Christian Writers Guild. (In fact, I'm sitting here with the current lesson open and half-finished.)

• I've started a new semester as a writing coach for WriteAtHome, an online writing course for homeschoolers. I'm grading papers for 8th grade composition again, which I enjoyed last term. I'm personally maxed out at a dozen students, but I have a friend who's got about three times that many. Apparently she dislikes the word "hobbies."

• Although I've put freelance projects on hold during September, I'm theoretically doing freelance copy editing*, proofreading, and typesetting. I may have to scale some of this back. The spouse is slightly concerned about something called a "tax bracket." I secretly wonder if it's like a parenthesis or brace, but I also secretly have a feeling I am way off.

• I am scrambling to finish the first novel in a cozy mystery series in time for a contest deadline in early October. (This explains putting the freelance projects on hold this month.) It has been slow going during this first half of the month. Which can probably be explained partly by this:

• I am putting in eight days in-house at my previous job with my denominational publishing office, a job I have now started with them four times in two decades. This time I am merely filling in a few days this month while they find someone willing to come in on a more semi-permanent basis. As for me, I have too many self-induced projects to consider going back to the job. Plus, once I factor in the huge commute, nonprofit pay scale, and price of gasoline for aforementioned huge commute, I clear less than five dollars per hour. I mean, I love these people, but not THAT much.

• Due to a furniture gift from my mother of a comfy wing chair recliner, a Levenger lap desk I bought on sale, a book light I got for free, and several trips to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I am finding time each day to read. I've recently finished Cold Mountain, The Dante Club, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and am currently reading Rebel Angels and Lord John & the Brotherhood of the Blade. And, waiting in the wings are The Glass Castle, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Water for Elephants, Madame Bovary, and too many other books to mention. So many books, so little time. It's been enriching and fulfilling to set aside time each evening to put my feet up and read how others have accomplished the publishing tasks I am yet trying to master.

All of these endeavors take up the brunt of my brain space each day. And, they are certainly more than the sum of their parts, for they've made my current lifestyle and routine the kind of thing I've been striving for my whole adult life. I get out of bed each morning eager to start my day (well, except for those eight days this month I have to get up and commute to the office -- that's still a buzz-killer). Who even knew such a thing was possible?

*I really wish they'd officially make this one word, like "proofreading" and "typesetting." I find it perversely ironic that copy editors haven't stormed the lexicographical castle over this yet. If somebody brings the torches, I'll bring the pitchforks.

Labels: , , , , , ,