The Writing Routine

Many times I’ve heard other writers complain that they don’t have time to write. Writing becomes a low priority when life gets in the way. And by life I mean work, family, chores, appointments, and social events. The excuses begin with “I’ll get to it later” or “I’ll start next week.” This is hard when you really like to write.

I found myself in the same trap as those other writers. I put writing on a low priority. I wrote less and less. I became crabby and lost my sense of who I was. I needed to get back on a routine so my writing became a part of my life and not dusty papers in a closet. I set myself two tasks: preparation and time.

For the preparation:

I placed a pen and paper within reach. I keep both pen and paper in my car, my purse, my computer bag, my backpack, and my suitcase to use when I travel. I also keep both handy around the house. I have both in the bedroom (on the nightstand), kitchen, bathroom, and living room.

I created a space. I have an office for all my writing books, papers, notes, and supplies. I have my desk set up with my computer and a couple walls with notes tacked here and there. Before I had my office, I shared one with my husband. We each had a table and a file cabinet. Before that, I used a box to store my papers in, and I would carry that out to the dining room table to write there.

I set priorities. I used to be a clean freak. On Saturday mornings I would clean the entire house. A tidy house was big for me. I didn’t feel good unless the house looked good. Well, I got over it. I’ll clean what needs to be cleaned when it looks dirty. I still have to balance my priorities, I can’t forget about my family, but I keep writing at the top of the list as well. Even if it’s for fifteen minutes, I’ll try to write or think about what I need to write.

I found the support I needed. My biggest support comes from my husband. He knows how important writing is to me. He understands that I need to take time to write. He rarely complains when I bury myself in the office to write. I also have my two writer’s groups – WisRWA, a chapter of Romance Writers of America and Pen and THink, a local chapter of Wisconsin’s Writer’s Association. We discuss writing and books, we comment on each other’s work, and we give each other support.

For the time:

When I first started my writing routine, I got up an hour before I had to get ready for the day. I’d hit the computer half asleep and write like a madman. I heard that this is the best time to write. Your creative voice comes through without having the clutter of the day fill your brain. You also gain a sense of accomplishment, and know that it’s done for the day. You start your morning on a positive note. I liked this method when I first started out. I think writing every morning helped me get into the routine I needed. Now, I find that writing after dinner and on weekend mornings works best for me.

Note: This blog is on my writing routine but this can apply to other hobbies or passions as well. Get yourself into a routine. Play that instrument, work on your garden, build furniture from scratch, or paint that watercolor. Do something for yourself.

Lesson learned: Be patient.

Mike and I are the new proud owners of a Class B RV. We wanted a convenient little home for us to travel in that wouldn’t limit us to where we could stay or park. With our new baby in possession, we decided our first trip would be up to the lake property. A place where we could practice, play, and make sure that all appliances and functions worked on the mini-home.

Saturday morning, we woke early to clouds and rain. We weren’t going to let a little rain spoil our weekend. We loaded up the RV and tried not to get soaked as we quickly ran back and forth. Neither of us expected the sudden crack of lightning or the thunder that came next. The thunder sounded like the sky had slammed into the earth in one powerful motion. I know I jumped, and I’m pretty sure the house jumped too. I think that’s the closest I’ve been to where lightning hit the ground.  We weren’t sure if we should leave, but we decided, once again, that we weren’t going to let a little storm change our minds.

Getting out of Hudson, the rain let up; however, that was just a tease. It rained through the construction zone. I swore the cement dividers set up on both sides of the lane were narrower than normal, or they seemed that way in the RV. Mike’s knuckles were white and embedded into the steering wheel. My right hand dug into the door handle. My body kept leaning either to the right or to the left as if it were to help the RV stay centered on the road. I had to peel my hand away from the door once the road construction ended.

And then it down poured. Torrential rain swooped down and flooded the roads. My husband’s driving ability was thoroughly tested as we kept on. So was his patience. Peering between the wiper blades and cursing himself for not Rain-Xing the windows, he was ready to turn back for home. He gave it another half hour. His patience paid off and the rain did stop. He was happy that I didn’t have to give him a shot of heroin to calm him down. (Disclaimer: all in laughs – never tried or will try heroin). I had to give him kudos. His patience was tried; he lost it a few times, but he did gain control.

Once up at the lake, our next adventure was trying to position the RV in the right spot. I never realized how uneven the ground can be. We moved the van in different spots and tried using the air compressors inside. We watched the levels attached to the front and back like hawks. Patience it took to get the damn bubble in between the lines on the level.

We did this as the day became super-hot and the sun roasted us like a pair of marshmallows. We high-fived it when we found a somewhat level place to park. We hooked up the electricity and then we tried reaching the hose from the RV to the well. Four feet short. We thought of different, creative ways of filling the fresh water tank, like using a funnel on the RV side and aim the hose so the water would shoot like a fountain into the funnel and down the tank. At that point, we were ready to say “screw it” and get by without water. We had the well and buckets to haul water if needed.

And then we remembered why we went up there. We knew up front that it would take us time getting used to the RV. We knew that we’d have troubles figuring out how to work the different gizmos. The lake property was the perfect place to be. We took a break to step away from the frustration, and then we started over. Being patient and calmer, we backed up the RV, put water in the holding tank, found a new place to level the RV (where one bubble hit the mark and the other off by a bit), and then hooked up the electricity.

Now that we’ve had the weekend to test all the appliances, the electricity, the generator, and the propane in the RV, we feel better knowing that our initial run was done on familiar turf. Now we can take our first trip to the campground. We’ll head off early, park the RV into the site, and one of us will say, “Okay, now what is it that we’re supposed to do first?”

Remember to be patient.

Have Fun!

Previously I wrote about life getting too busy and how at times you can forget to breathe. This is the same with having a good time. My husband and I have been constantly on the go for the last….okay, way too many weeks to count. Spring disappeared. June came and went. Soon the 4th of July waved to us like a breeze passing by. When you’re constantly on the go, you forget to stop and have some good fun, just like taking the time to unwind.

For Mike and me, our fun came last Friday. We went to our friend’s annual birthday “party barge” event. Each year we get together for Colleen’s birthday, hang out on Tommy’s pontoon boat, and have plenty of snacks, drinks, and music. It’s like heaven: listening to Van Morrison or Johnny Cash, watching the water roll from the boat, the shoreline drift by, and the bridge graze above us as we cross under the highway. Normally we boat across three connecting lakes, maybe stop to swim, and do pick-ups for those who can’t take the afternoon off from work. This year, we had a smaller crew. Instead of the normal ten, we started with five. We also kept our adventure to the first lake, closest to Tommy’s dock. He was having issues with his boat, leaving him stranded a few times already that year while on the lake. We had no problem anchoring the boat and just chilling that hot afternoon. Remember, sometimes little faults can steer you in a better direction. Maybe this year we needed that smaller group to reconnect with ourselves.

Splish-splash in the water we go. Two on floaties and the rest with life jackets, we gathered in the water to relax and float. We were like little kids. What fun to kick up your legs, run your arms through the water, and let the sun shine on your face. We didn’t care when Tommy left the four of us in the middle of the lake to go pick up the late-comer. We joked and talked about everything from the book “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James to the clouds hanging in the sky (also turning gray).

We had no worries or cares for the day. It didn’t matter that our ages ranged from 49 to 55 or that we looked like drowned rats. We sure felt good as age disappeared into youth. Our smiles grew, we laughed a lot, and had much needed fun.

Happy 50th Birthday, Colleen!

Lesson Learned: The Hand Tap

I had a proud mama moment last night. My daughter is so much like me. In one way, I’m blessed that over the years, she has listened and learned from me. Yes, I know, this isn’t always the case. We have had our moments as well. There are times when every comment I make becomes an argument or a reversal for her. But last night she came over with a huge grin on her face and told us that she used the hand tap. And…. what is the hand tap?

My husband likes to tell the story how I gave him the hand tap about a year after we began dating. I sat down with him, gave him the hand tap, and asked if “this” was going anywhere (meaning our relationship). The hand tap was a little added boost to say that it was decision time. I was at the point where I wanted to take our relationship to the next level. If not, I may need to reconsider as I wanted to map out my future.

The hand tap worked. My husband ‘got it’ as we have been happily married for 13-plus years. However, he has learned and commented throughout the years how three women (me, my daughter, and his daughter) pretty much dominate his life. He likes to say that we ‘gang’ up on him at times.

So you can imagine what it was like when he met my daughter’s new boyfriend. My husband was like a kid, knowing that he finally had someone to take sides with him. I think my daughter’s boyfriend liked this idea as well. They even high-fived, hands in the air, after scoring a point for the men after a comeback he made against the women.
My daughter explained how last week her boyfriend casually mentioned that he could help my husband in the battle of the sexes, be a partner against the three strong women. My daughter stopped him. She looked her boyfriend in his eyes, tapped his hand, and said, “No, you won’t.” Her boyfriend, big and burly, turned meek and said, “Okay.”

I couldn’t help but grin.

Publishing – Now versus Later

The internet created the NOW effect. The concept of multiple screens, wireless, and streaming still amazes me. What was once a dream is NOW a permanent fixture in our lives. Within seconds we’re able to communicate with family, friends, and strangers. We can research topics, watch videos, and take classes. For me, I love what it has done for the writing world.

After completing my first manuscript, back a few years, the only option available for an aspiring author was to submit query after query to agents and editors. Mainly agents. Most publishing houses were ‘agent only’ submissions. There were vanity presses hovering for your business, but those were frowned upon. Today, self-publishing is not the ‘bad’ word it used to be. And E-publishing tops the ‘in’ chart.

With my current manuscript completed, I’m ready to publish. I went to the RT Convention to learn about self-publishing (see my blogs under Conferences/Retreats). I teetered on going the traditional route versus self-publishing. I had two agents and a publisher request my manuscript. I submitted the fulls and the partial with ‘Requested Submission’ in the subject line. I haven’t heard back. I know I should have sent a follow-up email, but I wasn’t sure if that was the route I wanted to take. When I submitted, I thought I’d play the wait and see game. But then I thought…why should I wait until LATER? Get feet wet. Go for e-publishing.

The deciding factor for me was the WisRWA conference that I attended in June. I discovered that more and more authors are turning to e-publishing. Some want their books published sooner than LATER. Some have written manuscripts that do not fit the genre they write in. Some want to publish their out-of-print books, making them available to their readers. Whatever the reason, they understand that life includes the internet and that is a powerful tool.

One book can take a year to publish through the traditional route (agent/publishing house). For some, it can take longer based on need and schedules. E-published books can take a few days to a few months (based on size and quality). Now, mind you, I’m not ripping on the publishers. I think they are a great way to go…if you have the patience to wait. Actually, I’m thinking more and more that publishing houses are like fishermen. They wait and see which e-books are successful and then hook the sale for traditional print. LATER I may have the opportunity to publish traditionally, but NOW the internet offers a great opportunity that can’t be ignored.

And guess what…NOW I’m excited.