writing

An Update On My Writing Life

For the fall of 2019, I made a conscious choice to take a break from writing fiction.

It’s January 2020 now, and I want that break to be over. For the first time in several months, I’ve been feeling like I have the energy, the creativity, and the bandwidth to dive back into the endeavor of fiction writing. I am excited. I am PUMPED.

I’m also not exactly sure where to start.

My daily morning routine is great but needs a little tweaking. I wake up at around 4, and I have to leave for work by 6:30 a.m. Usually the last 30 minutes of that time (or more) is devoted to hanging with my kids; they wake up at around 6 a.m. if I’m lucky, or at 5/5:30 a.m. if I’m not. In the best case scenario, I use around 30 to 45 minutes of that time for writing, but oftentimes it’s more like 15 or 20 minutes. That’s not really enough time to dive into a fiction project, so that writing time is usually centered on blogging.

For the past week or so, I’ve been scheduling pockets of time to devote to writing fiction – or rather, time to think and plan related to fiction writing. This time has mostly been centered around a writing course by Jennie Nash that I purchased over winter break. It’s called Write Your Book: Start Strong and Get It Done, and I purchased it via the website Creative LiveThe course, so far, seems to be closely aligned with the Story Genius method, and I’m liking it a lot. Exploring the exercises Jennie Nash “assigns” is helping me to reacquaint myself with the novel I started writing last summer. I had forgotten so much of it, and because of that, I’d convinced myself that the novel was boring and should possibly be abandoned. But once I started to re-read some of the prep work I did last July, I realized that I am excited about it, and that this is definitely a project I can jump back into.

So, the tricky thing about fiction writing is that I need to schedule it intentionally; it’s not going to just happen in the little random half-hours of time I discover in the middle of a busy day. When I sit down to write fiction, I need to be READY. I need to have at least some idea of where I’m at with a project and what I want to tackle next. That’s not how it works for me with blogging; with blogging, I can just sit down and GO and produce something, even if it’s not perfect.

I am learning to find the time. I’m scheduling time to write during my post-bedtime routine or during weekend nap time. I plan to listen to Jennie Nash videos while I’m doing household tasks, like tidying or unpacking.

And I am PUMPED. Pumped to get some fiction writing done and to be ready to REALLY dig into it during my summer.

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blogging · writing

Checking In

It’s been really challenging finding time to write recently, and that’s in part because my children keep waking up at five o’clock in the morning.

The funny thing is – it’s not like I’m losing sleep when they wake up at five. My alarm goes off at 4 A.M. every single weekday. But, at 5 A.M., I am usually just about to sit down to do some writing – and then, minutes later, a small child is cuddled in my lap.

On the one hand, I love this. I’m a working parent, and morning snuggles are precious. If the boys start sleeping until 6:30 or 7 A.M., then I might not even see them in the morning.

On the other hand – I wake up at 4 so that I can go for a run, get ready for work, and squeeze in an hour of writing before having coffee and breakfast with my family and leaving for work at 6:30 A.M. So, when the boys wake early, something gets abandoned and it’s pretty much always the writing due to the order of events.

It’s 5:11 A.M. as I type this, and I can hear Jonas stirring; I’ve already laid him back down to sleep twice since my alarm went off. So, I’m using this time to troubleshoot. How do I make sure I get time to write, which is important for my self-care, my mental health, and my overall state of mind?

The most obvious answer is to try to start writing at night. The boys go to bed by 7/7:30 P.M., and I usually turn off the lights at around 9. I could do that. It’s usually less interrupted time, and it would probably work.

However – I am such a morning person. My best creative energy comes early in the day. By 7:30 P.M., I am DONE. I feel productive if I’m able to use that last hour of the day to read in bed in my pajamas. To actually produce content, at the time of day? I don’t know if it would work.

I missed a post this week – there was no post on playful + peaceful yesterday. I always do a little check-in with myself when I miss a scheduled posting day. Not because I feel any obligation to a reading audience. I do feel that, a little, but it’s more about my obligation to myself and recognizing how this blog helps me to process my life and the world. If I miss a posting day, it’s usually a sign that things are feeling a little hectic and I’m not finding as much time to take care of myself.

Now, that said – I think that missing my Tuesday post is more about the holidays than anything else. I love the holiday season, and there has been a lot of shopping and wrapping and decorating going on in our home and our life. Not to mention all the unpacking, cleaning, and organizing that’s involved with settling into a new home. These are all GOOD things – good reasons to be slacking on the blog. Way better than when I miss a post because work is too crazy or I’m too tired to do anything creative.

But – is there a solution, to my lack of writing time? It’s 5:46 A.M. and Edgar just climbed into my lap, so here’s my hastily developed plan:

  1. SLEEP TRAIN THESE BOYS. Keep them in their rooms until at least 5:30, and then inch their wake-up times closer and closer to 6 A.M. (We got an OK To Wake clock for Edgar than I’m hoping will help!)
  2. Try out some evening writing. Set expectations low.
  3. Use your commute to do some brainstorming. (I obviously can’t write while I’m driving, but I’ve been using voice memo and speak to text to “jot down” some ideas, and it’s really helping me to keep my thoughts organized and ideas flowing.)
  4. DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT TOO MUCH. It’s the holidays, I have two kids under 4, we just moved, and it’s okay if my writing routine slips a little this month.
  5. BUT WORRY ABOUT IT A LITTLE. I don’t want to keep putting writing on the backburner. I haven’t done any fiction writing since August. I want to strike a balance; I want to prioritize writing while being reasonable with my expectations of myself. If anyone has advice on how to do that, please share!
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self-care · writing

Knowing When To Take A Break

When I sit down to draft my Monthly Goals post, I rarely know what I’m going to write. Drafting the blog post helps me to consider what I want to focus on and make decisions about what priorities to set. One of the greatest gifts I’ve gotten from the blogging life is this space where I can explore my goals and priorities in the way that’s most helpful to me: writing it out on a blank page.

It was mid-August when I sat down to write out my goals for September, and the first thing I considered was my writing. That, all by itself, is an achievement. For the past year, I have truly made writing a priority. I no longer need to remind myself that I want to post on the blog twice weekly; the habit is firmly ingrained. (Pay no attention to my accidental beach vacation hiatus! That was a fluke.)

What I realized when I sat down to write my September goals is: I need to take a break from writing the novel.

I haven’t written nearly as much as I’d hoped to this summer, and that is okay. I am making plans to incorporate novel writing time into my regular routine once the school year starts. But right now, as I transition from staying at home with the boys to working full-time once again – the thing I am most concerned about is maintaining everyday self-care, establishing good routines, and developing a healthy rhythm for the new year. I want to meditate. I want to plan ahead regarding snacks and meals so that I don’t end up eating Commute Candy whenever I’m stressed out. I want to manage my to-do list so that I don’t have low-level anxiety that’s with me subconsciously all day every day.

None of that has anything to do with writing.

It’s about exercise, diet, meditation, and living in a way that is unhurried and intentional. And I don’t feel I can do that while also feeling the pressure to cram in writing time every morning, evening, and nap time.

I feel really good about this decision. It can be so hard to know when we need to step back from a project or activity. When we take a break, it can feel like we’re quitting or being lazy. BUT WE’RE NOT. Especially when we do it with intention. I get to choose what my number one priority is, every minute of every day.

So I’ll take a break, and I’ll revisit the novel in October or even November. (I hear November is a great month to write a novel!) Stay tuned.

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writing

Butt In Chair

I did it!

This week, for the first time since summer started, I used my two kid-free days to work on my novel! WOO HOO KERRIANN!

Whew. It feels good to celebrate! Especially since it was surprisingly hard to actually sit down and get some writing done. It should not have been surprising; I’ve listened to many writers talk about how hard it is to get the work done, even when you have a great passion for writing. There are so many distractions, especially when you’re writing from the living room of your untidy house.

I’d been growing increasingly nervous that I wasn’t going to get any writing at all done this summer. With vacations and day trips and sick kids, it just wasn’t happening. I had already drafted a blog post with the title It’s Okay If My Novel Doesn’t Get Done This Summer. 

But then this week, I got my butt in the chair (a la the #AmWriting podcast with Jess and KJ) and I wrote 8,000 words in two days. Now, this could have been even better, for sure. I am hoping that my ability to write more and longer and better will grow as I stick to my writing routine.

BUT – I did it!

One of my goals is to work on the novel every single day, even if it’s just for five minutes. If I don’t work on it every day, then every time I sit down to write, I have to pull myself back into the story. If I work on it every day, it’s easier for me to dive back in when I actually have a good chunk of time to work on it.

I don’t think the entire novel will get drafted this summer, but I am eight thousand words closer to my goal and I’m relieved.

Onward!

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balance · writing

What Gets In The Way

We can’t solve the problem until we figure out what gets in the way, right?

So, the problem is: I’m not getting as much fiction writing done as I’d like to this summer.

Here’s a list of what’s getting in the way:

  1. Ugh, amazing vacations to the beach! Quality time with family and beautiful sunny days swimming and splashing. SO INCONVENIENT.
  2. The Women’s World Cup. How dare these incredible women play such a fantastic tournament when I’m trying to write? Why didn’t they just get eliminated in the Round of 16 so I wouldn’t lose valuable writing hours cheering them on? RIDICULOUS.
  3. Lots of reading about parenting. I’ve been reading Peaceful Parent Happy Kids to try to be more patient, playful, and peaceful with Edgar, and I’ve been reading The Sleep Easy Solution to try to help with Jonas’s sleep. How am I supposed to grow as a parent AND grow as a writer simultaneously? It’s clearly never been done before. IMPOSSIBLE.
  4. Adorable children with summer birthdays, requiring a moderate amount of housecleaning, party prep, balloon buying, and gift wrapping. Those three-year-olds and their SMILES and JOY.
  5. Wonderful friends who want to hang out and do fun things together. Yes, these are great times and good memories, but is there an increase in my daily word count when I hang out with friends? NO THERE IS NOT.

The bottom line is that I am having a fantastic summer with the boys, Tamara, extended family, and friends. My writing is sometimes on the shelf, but I’ll take it off as soon as I can. I’m typing this from my local Starbucks, where I’ve been for several hours already, so that the dirty dishes in my sink aren’t staring at me as I try to get some writing accomplished. In a few hours, I’ll take a break from writing to read The Sleep Easy Solution, because it’s okay for me to make space in my day for my writing, reading about parenting, and all the other things.

WE GOT THIS.

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goals · presence · writing

July 2019: Monthly Goals

The summer is off to an incredible start. It’s been joyful, fun, and refreshing.

I am definitely stressed about achieving my writing goals. We spent the last week of June at the beach, and I only wrote one day while we were away. I did a lot of other great things – I read the new Elizabeth Gilbert book, I spent time with family, I exercised a lot. But I did not write, and I want to make sure that I am making my writing a priority.

I was strategic about my first week of July. I’m spending two days at the beach with my sister’s family, but I’ll be back in time for my boys to have two days at day care so that I can get a significant amount of writing accomplished. I hope! I am extremely nervous. I’m hopeful that I can muster up the self-discipline and the creative juices to get things done.

My goals for July 2019 are about two things: getting my writing done and being present with my kids. Here’s what I’ve got:

  1. Write a little or think about the novel a little EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes!
  2. BE PRESENT. Play with your boys and give them your focus. To do that, you need to make sure that you’re being intentional with your time. That means giving yourself a little time to get grounded in the morning, enjoying your “evening adulting hour,” and being intentional about the times when they do NOT get your full attention. (“Mommy has to do the dishes now. Would you like to play in your room while I do that?”)

I’m nervous, for sure. But, as I said, this summer has been off to a great start, so I have reason to feel optimistic. Let’s do this!

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writing

Nerves

On my first official day of summer break, I found myself sitting on the floor of my living room, with a folder full of notes on my potential novel, my laptop, a pen, and a fistful of looseleaf paper.

It was TIME. The boys were at day care. After a busy school year and several months of no fiction writing at all, I now had time to sit down and focus on drafting my first novel.

And then – the nerves hit.

I was excited, and energized, and optimistic. But also so, so nervous! When you have actually carved out the time and the space in your life so that there is room for pursuing your goal – THAT IS TERRIFYING.

Because what if I try to write my novel, and I can’t do it? Or what if I write it, and it totally sucks?

OH BOY.

I actually have told a fair amount of people that I’m going to be using my solo hours this summer to write. Which I’m glad about – it’s given me some accountability. If any of these people happen to ask me how the writing is going, I want to be able to report something other than “I’m too distracted by laundry, dishes, and texting to focus on my writing.”

I feel motivated, too, to write the adoption-themed novel I’ve been daydreaming about. Especially since I read a novel recently that was so adoption-negative that it made me want to cry!

I know that I can’t let nerves get in the way of doing my best work. I just have to keep my head in the game and my butt in the chair, as they say on the #AmWriting podcast. Only in my case, my butt will be on the floor, apparently. On the floor, surrounded by notes and scribbled pages, my flip-flops kicked off and my laptop front and center, a cup of coffee close by.

LET’S DO THIS!

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