The Real World and why it won’t go away.

There’s a line in Sex and the City that has stuck out to me almost more than any other part of the show. Its from a scene where Miranda has just had her baby, and she’s struggling to maintain the balance of work, baby, and friendships. She’s flustered, and trying to pay attention to what Carrie is saying, but is clearly distracted by everything going on around her. Carrie’s getting ready to leave after Miranda can’t keep up with the conversation, but Miranda says something along the lines of, “My friendships are important to me.”

This is how I’ve felt this month. I went hardcore and tried to live by the philosophy of don’t do things out of obligation. And then I felt like some of my relationships were suffering from being focused solely on my own personal aspirations. But at the end of the day I have to accept that life happens. People need you, and you need you. There has to be time to eat, to exercise and take care of your body. There has to be time to give yourself a mental break.

I remember reading a writer’s advice to someone who was asking how to find time to write, when they also had to work a full time job. The author replied that working a forty-hour week is nothing, that you still have so many hours to commit to writing that it shouldn’t be an excuse.

And I completely and respectfully disagree with that statement. It’s never just forty hours that are occupied, and everything else is blank. Where is the time to do basic things like clean, cook, shower, sleep? Pay bills, take care of a family if you have them? Walk your dog or remember to water that wilting bamboo plant you forgot about for a week? Never mind connecting with the world, maintaining relationships with family and friends, that basic human interaction that keeps a person sane.

There’s always going to be things that are detracting from writing, but that’s the real world. I think the important thing, at least for me, is to not get resentful of all the real world things that get in the way of pursuing your passion. When I’m bitter that my job takes up so much time, I remind myself that I’m lucky to have a paycheck, and insurance, and to work with people who bring in bagels for everyone just because it’s Wednesday. When my mom needs me to do some time-consuming task, I remind myself she’s my number one go-to person for when I need something. If a friend is running late to meet me at the gym, I need to acknowledge that I probably wouldn’t have taken my tired self there in the first place if we hadn’t made the commitment. You need people, or at least I do. So I’m trying to appreciate that I’m lucky enough to have such a full plate, and to remember to not waste the free moments that I am given for myself.

Oh hey there world!

I recently finished my seventh round of revisions for my manuscript that I started back in January. It’s been exhausting, wonderful, and overwhelming all at the same time. I’d been cramming every spare moment with writing, with very little left over for anything else. When I completed this last round of edits, I took a breath and gave myself a little time to catch up on everything I’d been neglecting.

I finished the book I was reading, The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff, which I thought was beautifully written. I spent some time at the gym and more time trying out some new recipes, which was delightfully selfish because the ingredients were things like sweet potatoes and goat cheese which my husband hates. I went to bed before midnight, and I redid a painting that had been bothering me. I spent some much needed time with family and friends. I finally finished the last season of The Office (the American one, I just adore the dynamic between Jim and Dwight). And I started marathoning Dawson’s Creek, because sometimes I really miss the nineties and that show is just everything nineties. I basically took time for me.

But now it’s been a couple weeks and I think that the break is over. The next phase is to reread the whole manuscript in a short span of time to check for any last minute problems. And then I’m going to go over my query letters and lists one more time, and then I’m SENDING IT OUT INTO THE WORLD.

This is terrifying and so exciting. Even when the inevitable rejection letters come, it’s out there. And anything can happen at that point. So this brief hiatus in my writing schedule is coming to a close, but I just needed to spend a few days in the world again before I go back into introverted writer mode. But first I’m going to watch at least one more episode of Dawson’s Creek.

I adore the Superbowl even though I don’t get football.

I don’t even know what teams are playing today, but I’m so very excited for the Superbowl. I haven’t even really watched any football this year; I don’t even understand it really. I’ve had people try to explain the rules, and I think I get the gist, but all the small technical calls, and the frequent, long pauses in between plays, just really kind of kills it for me. Baseball is slow, but it’s a continuous kind of slow, a more relaxed vibe; football is angry, and you’re supposed to get amped up and crazy at the tailgate, before the game has even started. The whole tradition never really resonated with me, of drinking hours before and then enduring a four-hour game that feels like it takes an eternity to finish.

So why am I so excited for the biggest game in a sport I don’t really follow? Because today is the day that everyone else will be watching the Superbowl, and I can do whatever the hell I want. That means at least four hours of uninterrupted time where I can write, paint, cook, nap, or even watch the Superbowl if I feel like it. My husband and I were going to go to a friend’s for the game, but he decided last minute not to have a big thing. Another friend is having a game night while the game is on, but we had already said no because we thought we were going to the first gathering. We are essentially commitment free on a day when most people have set plans.

We decided to grab an obscene amount of food (because if there’s one thing I love about the Superbowl, it’s the emphasis on multiple dips), and we’re going to just work on whatever project we want while it’s on. So thank you Superbowl, for giving me this huge chunk of time. In a couple hours I will be sitting in a panda onesie, eating guacamole and cauliflower sriracha wings, while working on a dreamcatcher. And that is just super.

Harnessing your muse when she’s drunk on Spring Break

I’ve read a lot of articles by writers about working when your muse decides seems to take a vacation; forcing yourself to write when you aren’t even feeling inspired. The general take from what I’ve read is: work even when you don’t feel motivated, and eventually the inspiration will come. For the most part, I’ve found this to be true. When I start writing or editing when I’m not in the mood, I can quickly get absorbed in the material, and catch myself getting excited about how to make it better, or what direction to take the story next.

However, my muse is not on vacation right now. My muse has taken six shots of espresso and has made fourteen Pinterest boards about DIY dreamcatchers, nail art, and organization ideas. My muse is brainstorming four different story ideas, planning out a sequel to the manuscript I’m currently working on, and the ending to a different story I have half written. My muse is visualizing six different paintings I want to work on all at once, as well as how I can revamp a canvas I’ve been bored with for a while. My muse is trying to figure out how to make a regular binder look like a fairy tale book to hold cooking recipes, and what crafts I should start on for Halloween.

My muse is basically on spring break, and there’s no parents in sight. I made a deadline that I mostly stuck to (okay, I’m closing in on it), but my muse does not give a shit. My muse is that drunk girl at the bar who has had like six too many coconut flavored drinks and is just making plans with everyone she sees, not realizing she won’t be able to follow through. So while my muse and I were on the same page at the beginning of the month, about focusing and completing this round of revisions, now I’m dreading consequences of the inspiration hangover.

So I’m basically the sober friend that is trying to appease the tantrum throwing drunk girl my muse has become. I got through a chapter today, but my muse is demanding that I start painting something after she already insisted I file my nails into a stiletto shape. I’m hoping to get through more tomorrow, but that depends on how many creativity laced martinis my muse has tonight.

Being a writer = shitty human?

I feel like ever since the new year, I’ve been on a major writing kick, because I feel that this year, is my year. It’s the year I’m getting it together, and I’ve been seizing every opportunity to write (like lunch hours), and I’ve said no to things that would take away from my writing time.

However, I feel like the more time I dedicate to writing, the more I’ve been really shit at fulfilling the various roles that I hold outside of aspiring to write professionally. Yeah I stuck to my writing deadline two weeks ago, but my husband had to do most of the dishes, I forgot to do the kitty litter the majority of the week, and had to cancel plans with my dad and two friends. At the end of that week, I felt like I had accomplished a lot personally, but I had just a general ick factor about how I had been treating my relationships.

So this past week, I was determined to make it up, to try and make time for people and just basically try to balance a 40 hour work week, working out, cooking meals ahead of time, and making sure to hang out with the people that matter. And you know what happened? I barely got any writing done. 

Granted, this past week was a doozy. I lost two lunch hours because we had trainings. I’ve been having a series of terrible nosebleeds and had to call out sick one day, and go get my nose cauterized another. I had a maintenance issue with my landlord over our heater, that required me to assemble a 30 page packet of documentation until 1:30 am on Friday night. I got a haircut. My dad canceled the dinner plans we had made and we rescheduled for a movie today. My boss asked me to work on a special project Thursday that I ended up taking home with me, and worked on that evening. So basically life happened, and it kind of happened all at once, and so my deadline this week got completely blown.

Writing is such a solitary art; I get way more done when I can be left to my own devices than when I have to keep stopping to engage with someone, whether it’s in person or through technology. But I am not an entirely introverted person. I like to be left alone when I’m creating something like a story or a painting; I even kind of like to be left alone when I’m cooking, but that’s because I hate when people talk over the show I’m trying to catch up on while I do it. But I’m not a solitary person; I thrive on friendships and breaking the routine, and genuine human interaction. So part of the struggle for me is finding a balance between finding time every day to write, and finding time to be a good human and be there for the people in my life.

So this week, I’m going to try to go for the balance again; writing a little every day, and allowing myself to make a few plans throughout the week. If I go get sushi with my friend and hairdresser, then I don’t go to a beer tasting that pairs drinks with girl scout cookies – I work on a chapter instead. I also think that it’s important to strive to meet deadlines, but it doesn’t mean I’ve failed if I haven’t kept them, as long as I keep trying. So I’m not going to beat myself up, because I’m only human. I just don’t want to be a shitty one, so I’m going to continue seeking that balance between chasing dreams, and still appreciating the people and things in the present.

 

 

I’ll never make it to happy hour.

Since I’ve started working in an office environment roughly three-and-a-half years ago, I’ve noticed that there’s this huge push for happy hours. My old job would do the occasional one, and I wouldn’t go because the thought of spending a couple more hours with the people I had just spent eight hours barely tolerating, seemed like a circle of hell I couldn’t inflict upon myself. Disclaimer: I did work with some lovely people in addition to the awful ones, but after forty hours a week I don’t care who you are, I need a break.

I have had jobs where I couldn’t stand my boss, and so when I was invited to a work happy hour I would find any excuse not to go. A workout class. Dinner. Babysitting an imaginary child. There was no force on this big blue planet that was going to convince me to go spend additional time out of my life (especially unpaid) at a happy hour with people who weren’t even that nice to me. The deal was I give you Monday-Friday, 8-5, and you don’t get to infringe on my personal life in the after-hours.

I might be coming off as a total social troll, so just to clarify, I don’t walk into a job and snap my fingers and announce “I’m not here to make friends!” Some of my best friends have been coworkers.

I now have bosses I really like, and they also organize these work happy hours – but no matter how much I get along with them, I still do not want to go to happy hour. I cringe when I see an email asking me to RSVP to one. I don’t know how to say nicely, “I spend all day here. All the things I want to do, but can’t because I’m here all day, I need to go do those things now.” And I like these people, but I have a limit to how much time I can give something.

I usually do workout right after work. I’m trying to eat better and do less processed foods, which means more time in the kitchen. I don’t want to spend as much money, which means not going out so much. I have two cats who love spend the day turning my house into a disaster (one literally runs up the chimney and then leaves black paw prints on every white surface we have), and so I need to make sure I don’t neglect cleaning for too long. I little routines with friends, like watching an episode of American Horror Story, or grabbing a glass of wine after dinner.

And I also have a novel that I’m revising that I’d like to send out before I’m eighty. I think above everything else, I’m getting more and more protective of my time because whenever I give it up, it means I’m giving up another chance to write.

Basically my issue is that when someone invites me to a happy hour (and this includes friends), it eliminates a lot of my options for that evening. I can’t workout after I’ve grabbed a drink, and I probably won’t have a clear enough head to write. I will have probably eaten food that’s not exactly healthy, and spent money I could have saved. I hate that something that’s supposed to be a fun, casual thing gives me so much anxiety, and I really dislike that it’s becoming more and more of a trend for work gatherings.

I’m not opposed to going out, and I do think that everyone needs a break every now and then. But I don’t like doing it first thing after work. Let me hit the gym, eat and write for an hour and then I’ll come meet you for some Wine Wednesday action.

There is no such thing as the perfect time to write.

I used to work at a Borders Bookstore. It was my first job after graduating college with an English degree, and I thought it was the perfect job to pay the bills while I finished writing what I thought was going to be my bestselling, breakout novel. (The novel that I’m still editing.) And not surprisingly, there were several people who worked there who were also aspiring authors.

One day when I was still pretty new, I was talking to another one of the new hires, and she told me that she would love to write a novel. The only issue she had was that she never seemed to find enough time to sit down and actually do it. She explained that she couldn’t just sit down for thirty minutes to an hour, it needed to be several hours in order to get anything done. And having several free hours in a day wasn’t realistic, so therefore she never really got started on the story she wanted to tell.

And I completely knew what she meant – I felt like in order to accomplish anything, it was an ordeal that couldn’t be completed in a mere forty-five minutes. I had to gather my writing materials, review any previous notes that I had made, have at least two cups of coffee, and be in a space that “inspired” me, like a coffeehouse or by a window on a sunny day. We were in total agreement that even though we only worked thirty-five hours a week or so, and were pretty young and responsibility free, we just didn’t have the time required for a proper writing session.

It was total bullshit. Looking back now, I want to just shake myself because I wasted so much time. I went through such gaps between writing that every time I attempted to get back to work, I had to stop and reread everything that I had already written, and try to recall what direction I was even trying to take the story in. It was daunting, spending a four hour session getting reacquainted with a story, and then trying to find another gap of time to continue writing it. That’s not a realistic approach to writing, at least not for me.

I’ve since come to realize that there is no perfect time to write. Every week I have this vision of getting up early Saturday morning, eating breakfast, and sitting at the keyboard for the next few hours in a blissfully productive writing session. And every Saturday something comes up – last Saturday it was driving around to the MVD to try and retake my license photo, and then visiting my great-aunt. There’s always going to be something else, something getting in the way of that unblocked time. And that’s not even the daily stuff, like just finding time to cook, clean, workout, or even just spend quality time with your loved ones.

So I’ve had to readjust my expectations for what having time to write looks like. I’ve come to realize that life only gets more busy, and your time shrinks with the more you tend to take on. And I don’t want to fall into the category of people who have had to give up on their dream because they didn’t have time. That’s just too disappointing to me, to not make it because you didn’t even have the time to try.

So I’m seizing those smaller chunks of time, because spending thirty to forty-five minutes a day is going to get me a hell of a lot farther than waiting for uninterrupted time.The other night I got an hour between dinner and when I went to hang out with a friend, and I was able to finish editing a chapter that was giving me some issues. On Friday, I edited another chapter on my lunch break while I quickly stuffed fried rice in my face. I’m keeping the story and ideas fresh in my head, and ultimately I’m making progress – which is the whole point. If I just take any opportunity to write, I’ll get to where I want to be instead of waiting for sunlight and a caffeine fix.