“Poetry and consumption are the most flattering of diseases.”
- William Shenstone
Last week, one of my fellow writer-bloggers, Rebecca, wrote a post about her new, fabulous schedule to keep on top of her writing and life*. Then her cat got sick and all of her plans flew out the window. She was down on herself, so I wrote a pep comment.
I could identify with her plight. After all, on the days I was without a sub call, while I didn’t spend it watching soaps and eating (what’s the cliché?) Bonbons, I knew that if I created a schedule, I would be more productive.
If I had to describe my writing productivity, I’d have to admit that I do it in spurts. When a new book idea comes to me, I spend every waking (and sometimes, sleeping) moment writing or planning. It’s like I’m possessed. Rough drafts often take about a month from start to finish. Then comes the editing process. After that, it’s time to show it to others and edit again based on their feedback. Next, the dreaded querying. If I get comments from the rejections, I must devote more time to editing. The process seems never-ending.
With some manuscripts, I have an idea for a series. I write a rough draft of the second (and once, third), and they just sit. Waiting. For. The. First. Manuscript. To. Find. A. Home. So far, no homes for my manuscripts have been found, so these second and third parts of series feel like a waste of time. I know they’re not because any writing makes me a better writer. But it also means that when I receive rejections, it’s for multiple manuscripts waiting in the wings. I know I should wait until the first one lands me an agent so I don’t take it too hard, but when those characters and stories gnaw at me, I want to get it all down while the ideas are fresh.
Right now, there are two new projects on the burner that have been simmering for weeks. Maybe months. At this point, I think it’s beyond simmering and on to boiling over. But as another writer-blogger, Old Kitty said, “Make that writing sparkle! Polish it up again and again and again until you can see not only your reflection but the colour of your eyes in it!”** Now I’ve decided only a certain amount of time can be spent writing my posts, commenting on other posts, and critiquing other manuscripts. Those are all important, but it’s easy to keep me from using others’ recent critiques to fix my manuscripts and from writing anything new.
The other day, I announced to my husband that on my days off, working on my own pieces was going to be my priority. I knew it was vital to be perfecting my craft in order to get out of this slump.
It hasn’t helped that I’ve had back-to-back colds since February 13th. My cough sounds like a Victorian woman dying from consumption. I’ve been dragging, which isn’t amenable to creativity, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me. I vowed to at least go through my critique group and manuscript exchange partner’s comments.
Yesterday, I woke up ready to go (albeit slowly) after it was clear that I wasn’t getting a sub job. The laundry and ironing were caught up, and I didn’t have to cook dinner, so I had no excuses. Then my daughter had symptoms seemed like a urinary tract infection (UTI). She had a sleep over that night and I didn’t want to leave this over the weekend. She and I have never had one, but I’ve heard that they’re painful.
So, I called the doctor’s office and made an appointment. Then I drove my son to school and my daughter to the doctor. After a short wait, she was examined and I was given a cup for her to pee in. She could not pee. It was my fault because I had her use the bathroom before we left the house. (I know; I’m an idiot.) And it didn’t occur to me to have her drink something before we left. (More evidence of my idiocy.)
Getting something to go into that plastic cup became a quest. I turned on the sink faucet for her to hear the sound. I sang silly songs about peeing. I made her drink six or seven cups of water. I got impatient with her. There's nothing like pressuring a seven-year-old to pee to make a mother proud. To make matters worse, I dropped the cup into the toilet.
I had to tell the nurse I'd contaminated the cup and ask for a new one. My daughter and I sat in the little room for a while, waiting for that water to make its way through her body. When some time elapsed, we returned to the bathroom. Nothing. I was calmer this time. It had to happen some time, right? I dropped the cup into the toilet AGAIN. Scooping it up and rinsing it out, I decided it would have to be fine because I was NOT telling them I’d dropped a second cup.
Then I told my daughter to take a break and wait for me while I grabbed her drinking cup, hoping some more water would do the trick. When I returned, she gleefully exclaimed, “Mommy, I have to pee!” “Are you sure?” I asked. She was sure. And she did. It wasn’t much, considering how much I’d forced her to drink.
The whole ordeal took an hour to find out that she didn't have a UTI. Driving her to school, I wondered how many times she’d have to use the bathroom during the rest of the morning.
By the time I returned home, I was beat; this new cold forced me to nap. When I woke up, I got some commenting done, checked e-mail, ate lunch, and edited a partner’s manuscript. Truth be told, I didn’t have what it took to work on my manuscripts. It takes more of everything to work on my own pieces. The rest of the day was filling with errands.
I’m not going to beat myself up, just like I told Rebecca not to beat herself up. Instead, I’ll dwell on what I need to do next time. I’m a mother, a wife, and I have a part-time, erratic job. The condo’s roof needs to be replaced. My husband and I are starting the process of looking at houses and setting up a pre-approval. All of this takes time and energy. Instead of dwelling on how hard it is to be a published writer (1 in 6,000)*** and what I haven’t accomplished, I’ll just have to vow on the days that a child doesn’t have to be rushed to the doctor and I don’t have consumptive cough, I need to make time for what matters to me****.
And writing really matters to me.
** From comments section of this post:
*** The Antagonist’s sobering information from a conference:
**** Karen G’s fifteen reasons why an author needs confidence: