“I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card… and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.”
- Joyce Carol Oates
Feeling the sweet leisure of summer was slipping through my fingers, I decided to make Monday a productive one. How had a month passed by so quickly? The last two weeks, I’ve endured restless sleep and a twisting stomach. What will I have to do if I’m a daily substitute teacher again? September is chasing after me.
I awoke to the sounds of grinding construction equipment redoing the sidewalk and curb next to my home. Peering at the clock, I saw it was just after 7:00 am, which was a good a time as any to get something, anything accomplished.
After checking my e-mail, I surfed a couple of website for jobs. I found two Building Substitute positions listed in Cambridge. I redid my cover letters for each position and applied. In addition, I e-mailed the principals to tell them how often I’d subbed in their buildings, how well I’d worked with specific staff and students, and how I’d love to work in those schools. And I made sure to attach my cover letter and resume.
When that stressful task was completed, I read a few blogs and checked Facebook. Laundry also needed to be done, so I threw in the first load. My daughter was up by then, so we snuggled. My son doesn’t snuggle as much as he used to, but he gave me a nice hug and we had a nice conversation as I prepared breakfast.
While the kids ate, I did some sit-ups and pushups. Can’t let my body fall apart while I’m in this dismal mental state, can I?
I looked over one of my critique group member’s manuscript, and made suggestions. I still hadn’t done anything related to MY writing.
Besides needing to write, edit, submit more queries, keep a house going, spend time with my children, and look for jobs, I also gave myself a goal of 100 books to read this year*. I know, stupid. But I’ve been crafting some good ways to get close even if I can’t reach 100:
Books, books EVERYWHERE.
1. I have a light reading book in my bathroom. When my daughter was younger and took baths, I read to keep an eye on her without being bored while she played. Then I decided, why not read while brushing my teeth? I read anywhere from 4-6 pages per day. Right now, I’m reading Secret Lives of Great Authors but before that I read Page After Page because it’s an excellent way to get through books on writing.
2. Stephen King recommends always having a book with you. For women, this is easy. I keep a paperback in my handbag to be retrieved when I’m waiting for my children at school, am on line at the post office, or on a break at work. I just tucked Voices of Ire by Aubrie Dionne in my tote.
3. I’ve discovered audio books make long drives go by seamlessly. To and from Maine, my son, daughter, and I listened to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Not only is the man a gifted writer, but also his soothing British accent is perfect for his audio book. (And what a way for a writer to make more money! Too bad nobody would want to listen to my voice for 7 ½ hours.) Normally, I call my father when I get off at I 295, to give let him know how much longer I’ll be. When I reached that spot, I couldn’t tear my ears away from Neil Gaiman. I told myself I’d call my dad when I got to Wiscasset in case I got stuck in traffic. Then I told myself I’d call him when I had to change discs. The next thing I knew, I pulled into his driveway. (Sorry, Dad.)
4. Lastly, I have my main book, which is often a hardcover. Right now, I’m reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling. I know - it’s long. But it’s not as long as book 5 (This one is only 652 pages). I can’t just stop partway through the series, can I? Then there’s just one more to go.
If only I could figure out my writing life the way I’ve figured out my reading life.
Around noon, I walked with my kids to the library. When we got home, we ate lunch. My critique group planned to meet at 2 pm.
The problem was that after my morning applying and obligations, I didn’t have anything left in me to write. The next two mornings weren’t looking too hot for productivity either. And mornings are normally my most productive time. How do these days keep filling up?
I resolved to force productivity later in the day.
But then I went to my critique group, which zapped so much life out me I was going to have to crawl to the kitchen to cook dinner.
Until I read this unorthodox pep talk:
Besides making me miss New York City, it made me laugh. In Page After Page, Heather Sellers likens discipline to write everyday to training for a marathon. This post reminded me of that chapter. We writers are runners (Well, not me, because I hate to run). Just because we may not win a race (I won’t), doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep running (or walking or biking or inline skating).
Just do it.
And I got a second wind after I cooked dinner, writing up a storm well into the night.
My reading post: