writing

Sunday Morning Writing Forever

The Sunday before the start of school, Tamara gave me the gift of a morning by myself to write. She took the boys to the Gunpowder River for a hike and a swim, and I sat down of my bed with my laptop to reflect on my summer and the general status of my 2020 life.

Whew.

It’s crazy to look back at things I wrote in December 2019 and January 2020 – at the intentions I set for this year. Who could have possibly known what was to come in 2020? The challenges we’d all be facing? The ways this year would be unlike any other?

When I reflect on my current status, I’m happy with how things are going in every area of my life – except my writing. I didn’t meet any of my goals related to writing this summer, and I’ve been thinking a lot about that. There was a lot happening this summer, and either my writing plans weren’t realistic or I just wasn’t diligent about sticking to them. I’d planned to write every morning and every naptime, and it just didn’t happen. I spent a lot of naptimes either reading books, talking to friends, tidying (more on this at some point), or completing tasks related to community work or private practice. (More on PP at some point, too!) I’ve had moments where I questioned myself – am I procrastinating? Am I lacking faith in my ability, and thus developing reasons to not write? Every time I asked these questions, I was able to reassure myself and say: Writing is STILL a goal. There are just other things on my plate right now, and they’re really important, too.

The school year has started. Usually, for me, this is a transition to the time of year when I write less. I’m busier, and it’s harder to find the time to get it done. I’m hoping to pull a rabbit out of a hat this year, and actually shift into writing more. The only way that can really happen is if I a) get back to waking up at 4 a.m. and b) schedule a couple of Sunday Morning Writing times every month with Tamara. I can do both of those things. I’ve been able to do the 4 a.m. wake-up a few times over the past two weeks, and I have a plan for Sunday Morning Writing later in September.

But, I also recognize that it’s possible life will settle into place, and I’ll realize that I can’t do as much writing as I’d like to. And that’ll be okay, too. My three top priorities, as always, are family, service, and writing. If the first two overpower the third sometimes – then it is what it is.

That said – I made the most of my Sunday Morning Writing time the weekend before school started. I wrote a batch of blog posts and scheduled them for throughout September. I feel really good about switching to just posting once a week; though I never think of the blog as something I “have to” do, it felt discouraging this summer not to meet my personal goal of posting twice a week. Writing the batch of blog posts felt really good. This blog is, as always, the place I come to when I’m processing my life and making sense of the world around me. I always feel better when I’m blogging regularly.

Cheers to Sunday Morning Writing, and to slowing it all down this September. Happy almost fall, everyone!

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goals · writing

Getting Back On Track

I knew my summertime writing schedule would get off track, and it has.

A few things caused me to fall out of my routine. We had out-of-town visitors; Tamara and I have both been busy with meetings and tasks for a social justice group we’ve been working with (more on that at some point); I’ve been in a rough cycle of too much caffeine -> staying up late -> sleeping through my morning writing time; and, fill-in-the-blank miscellany. (Like, a good friend and I are reading Stamped From The Beginning together, and occasionally we meet for book club during the kids’ nap time, which is my main fiction writing time.)

And, my whole routine is just sort of off. I’m in a bit of a reading rut, which in this case means that I am reading seven books simultaneously. SEVEN BOOKS! They are (ahem): Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi; The Mothers, a novel by Brit Bennett; The New Jim Crow; Me and White Supremacy; How To Be An Antiracist; Raising Good Humans; and The Lines Between Us. 

In the big picture, life is good. My summer with the boys has been lovely so far. I’m thrilled to be done with working-from-home multitasking, and to be able to give the boys my full attention. We’re spending lots of time outside. The library is open for curbside pickup so we’ve been reading a bunch of new books.

But I can feel my writing routine slipping. And you know what? It’s okay. I’m trying to carefully balance “This is a priority for me” with “Other things are important priorities too”. The reading I’ve been doing is really important. The social justice work I’m learning about and taking part in is important. Being a peaceful and playful and patient parent and teacher to my kids in the midst of a pandemic is important.

I worry that I’m just procrastinating – abandoning my summer writing goals. But when I take time to reflect, I know I’m not. As of today, I’ll be back on my 500 words a day (minimum) writing schedule. One thing that is tricky is that I have a few different writing projects taking my attention lately, so it’s difficult to make a hard and fast goal like “This summer, I’ll finish the first draft of my novel.” There’s definitely a part of me that is committed to finishing my main project (working title Lucky Baby) but I also have other projects inspiring me and I don’t want to limit myself when it’s hard to get focused and working at all.

When I get frustrated, I remind myself that I’m a mom with two kids under 5 (Edgar just turned 4!) and trying to accomplished a major creative task for which I have zero training. Just writing those words out helps me to be a little gentler with myself.

Today is a fresh start and I’m excited to get back to work. Stay tuned.

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writing

Sunday Writing: The Sequel

When I’m writing for the blog, I try to stay a little ahead of myself. It’s the 17th of May as I write this, and my posts for May 19th and May 23rd are already written and ready to publish. Ideally, I’d be way more ahead of schedule than this! I love it when the next six posts are ready to publish. But it is what it is for the moment.

It’s always interesting to be writing posts ahead of time, because by the time they’re published, often things have changed. Sometimes I write a post about feeling overwhelmed or in a funk, and then by the time it’s published, I’m like, “Huh. That was a hard time, but right now things are easy-peezy-lemon-squeezy.”

This is on my mind today because it’s a Sunday, and yesterday my post about Sunday Morning Writing was published. It was published yesterday, but I wrote that post exactly two weeks ago, which was the LAST time that Tamara took the boys for a Sunday morning hike so that I could have some time to write.

She did that again today. She’s pretty awesome, and I’m very grateful.

Man – this writing thing has been hard lately. When schools first closed, it was like an extended spring break for two weeks. I wasn’t working from home yet, and Tamara hadn’t started her new jobs yet working for two local organic farmers. It was blissful. So much family time, so much time to write, and so little stress.

Currently I am struggling to meet the demands of my job while caring for the boys every day, and I haven’t been very disciplined about my writing. I’m not trying to beat myself up, and I’m not even that upset with myself. This is a difficult time, and “I can’t motivate to write my novel during my free time” is about the first worldiest and most privileged of all the first world/privileged problems I can think of. It’s no big deal. There are more important things in life, and there have been other things on my mind and filling my free time, which I’m sure I’ll write about at some point.

This morning, after Tamara left with the boys, I re-read my Sunday Morning Writing post from two weeks ago. The plan I wrote for myself that day involved early morning writing (4 a.m. every day) on whatever I felt like writing, and then weekend nap times for the novel, including a word count. That hasn’t happened. The early mornings are really tough for me right now, because (imagine this) it’s been really difficult to drag myself out of bed when my alarms starts beeping at 4 a.m. For the weekend naptimes, sometimes a really good novel or a need to tidy the house for my own serenity interferes. In fact, novels have been to blame for my struggle to wake early, too; I’ve had several great reads in a row (Eight Perfect Murders, The Holdout, Darling Rose Gold, A Good Marriage, Magpie Murders, The Glass Hotel) and sometimes a mix of too much caffeine and my need to know what’s going to happen next in the book means I stay up way too late and then 4 a.m. arrives much too quickly after bedtime.

There’s no need to change my plan. It’s a good plan – just a difficult time of life. I’ll keep trying to wake up early, to focus on fiction writing during weekend naptime, to keep my writing practice and goals at the forefront. I’ll plan for summertime writing, which is only a few weeks away. And I’ll maintain a balance for myself – self-care, self-discipline, and acceptance of this crazy time of life.

That’s the plan. We’ll see what happens. Onward!

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writing

Sunday Morning Writing

One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, Tamara took the boys for a hike by the river so that I could get some writing done.

I’ve been writing in bits and pieces, and it’s frustrating and difficult. It’s so hard to move forward with a project. In my fantasies, I live in a cabin in the mountains, and I spend all day every day thinking about whatever novel or short story I am currently writing, with interludes of family time and service work.

But in my real life? I have a full-time job that requires my energy and focus throughout the week, and it’s hard to maintain any momentum when it comes to my fiction projects.

I told Tamara that I felt like I need a huge chunk of time – hours, not minutes – to recharge my writing battery and to reorganize my writing projects. And she made it happen for me without thinking twice. I am often amazed at how supportive Tamara is of this little side hustle of mine that is really just for me. I have hopes and dreams, for sure, of generating income and publishing work, but right now? My writing time has zero concrete outcome other than the preservation of my sanity. I truly hope that the end of my story is: She wrote without publication or income for years and then finally made her writing dream a reality. But I don’t think Tamara minds if that’s not the outcome; she’s just supportive. I’m so grateful for that kind of unconditional support.

It’s amazing how much easier it is to really sink into my writing when I have hours instead of minutes to write. It even allows me to daydream – to take a minute away from the computer to actually think about what I’m trying to do, or to think about what I’m trying to think about. I can take BREAKS. That’s the kind of writing time I love – a chunk of time so long that I actually require little breaks to grab coffee and stretch my legs.

I spent that long Sunday morning, while Tamara took the boys hiking, reorganizing my list of writing projects; looking through drafted blog posts and updating my editorial calendar; and making a writing schedule so that I could maintain focus on my writing projects.

This is what I came up with:

  • Every day, I wake up at 4 and I write until the boys wake up. This can be whatever kind of writing – fiction, blogging, journaling. It can even be time devoted to organizing my writing life, via my editorial calendar or an outline for a novel or story. If I’m willing to wake up at 4, I will write whatever I have the energy and creativity to write, with no restrictions.
  • On weekends, the boys’ nap time is my writing time. Not only that – there will be a word count goal for that writing time. I’m going to start with 500 words until I get a groove going, but I hope to up it quickly.

I wish there was more time; I hope that there will be more time! But this is my minimum, for now. So grateful for a long Sunday morning to try to wrap my head and my heart around my writing life.

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writing

The Writing Life

My only goals for March 2020 were:

  1. Resume my regular blogging schedule. ACCOMPLISHED.
  2. Set up a new (doable) creative writing routine.

I definitely accomplished the first goal – I’m back on track with several posts drafted and three scheduled, ready to be published.

For the second goal, I basically decide that:

  1. I HAVE to wake up (almost) every morning at 4 to write. This is, without a doubt, the best time of day for me to do this, and I really need to do it (almost) daily so that I can keep writing and maintain momentum.
  2. I need to pick at least three other times for writing sessions every week.

It’s not ideal – deciding when I can write on a weekly basis – but it’s the way it has to be at this time of life.

With the “New Normal” we’re currently experiencing in the United States and around the world, it’s possible I’ll be able to get a little more specific with my weekly writing times as I get more information about what my work is going to look like in the coming weeks and months.

For now, I’m just rolling with it. One day at a time.

I have been loving Jennie Nash’s Creative Live course (Write Your Book: Start Strong and Get It Done), and continuing to feel stronger and more confident in my writing. But I’m not currently committed to a specific novel to focus on, and I need to commit and get writing. I am confident I’ll be able to commit and start focusing on one project by summertime.

I finished the Jennie Nash course today and immediately started listening to another Jennie Nash course called The Inside Outline, which she generously is offering for free this month as a gesture of good will and kindness during a crazy and chaotic time in the world. I’m finding her work incredibly helpful, and I feel really connected to my writing at this moment in a wonderful way.

One day at a time. Bird by bird, a la Anne Lamott. Let’s do this.

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