Messy Writing

I have a new book in the works.

Exciting, right?

My life has been a little crazy lately, what with work and being married and working through lessons on MasterClass and possibly even working on design ideas for a new house. (Gasp.)

But, in the midst of it all, I have my own work to get done. My personal projects. The ones that, just now, matter to nobody but me. This blog is one of them, and another, very special one, is the new book I’ve been working on.

I’m wildly excited about it. It’s a middle-grade novel about monsters and kidnapped children and courage and fierce little girls and vegan toast and greasy lawyers. I have much too much fun writing it.

Since I work full time and try to be a fully functioning wife and human being part of the time, it doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Mostly just an hour every weekday, in that short squeak of time after work and before my husband gets home.

And occasionally on weekends.

And holidays, if I can sneak away long enough to pull my computer out for an hour or so.

This particular book has been coming together in bits and pieces, and it has been a solid lesson in humility for me. See, I’ve been a writer for about eight years now. I’ve written at least ten books. I get paid to write.

And yet, a first draft will always be a first draft, no matter how much experience you have or how much time you can put into it.

In other words, it’s a trash fire.

The story makes no sense. The characters refuse to do what I want them to do. The setting is rather gray and lumpy and not at all what I wanted it to be. And don’t even get me started about the theme, because the thought-provoking and inspirational idea I started out with has refused to show up entirely, and there’s a gaping hole where it is meant to be.

And yet, every day, I sit down to write a little more. And I remind myself that a first draft is a first draft, and its entire job just now is to exist. Not to be pretty, not to be complete, not even to make sense. It just has to be.

Because I find my books in the writing. I can plan and outline and think things through all I want, but once I sit down to actually write it, quite a different story emerges. The story that was meant to be. The one that is needed.

And the first draft is the first—rather messy—step to something I can be proud of.

What are you working on just now? Tell me about it in the comments!

Finding Room

Did I mention that I got married last year?

I got married last year.

2020 was a whirlwind, let me tell you. For about 27 million reasons.

One of those reasons happened to be moving.

As in, my husband moving in with me.

Yep, we could have gone out and rented an apartment in town or attempted to buy a house or lived in a tent beside the road, but since neither of us are city people and I happened to already be living in a gorgeous cabin in the middle of the woods away from the insanity that is Colorado Springs, we decided to take advantage of what we had.

What we had was a beautiful, wood-paneled cabin.

A 400 square-foot cabin, actually. And two households worth of stuff.

See, my husband and I are already sort of adults. We’re not twenty two anymore. He’s in his thirties and I’m not far behind him. We have stuff. Knives and pots and movies and books and stuff.

A lot of stuff.

More than you’re supposed to have for a very tiny cabin.

So the last four months, we’ve been sorting things out. Since we both work full-time and don’t want to spend our entire lives organizing our storage, it’s been done in stages. Usually when I’m strapped for story ideas and need something to do with my hands so that my brain will work again. His movie collection is gradually migrating to our home, and an enormous box of my books have been packed away until we have a little extra space.

I miss them. Not gonna lie.

But he’s got boxes of stuff still stored away, so it’s a compromise.

And we’re gradually making progress. This weekend, I got into one of my cleaning/organizing moods, and I tackled the back closet and the kitchen. It’s amazing how much storage space you can find if you’re looking for it—and if you’re willing to take a good hard look at the things you own and ask yourself, do I even want this?

Believe me. 98% of the time, the answer is a definite ‘NO’.

The other 2% is generally, “No idea. What is it?”

I did a lot of that today. It’s amazing how much unidentified clutter can collect in back closets.

This weekend has been all about making room for us, and we’re hoping that as the process continues, we can add a bit of room on and find a place where his movies and my books can coexist.

After all, fair is fair.

Any organizing tips out there? Tell me about them in the comments!

Book Lists

I recently sat down and reorganized my ‘finally read that’ book list. Mostly because 2020 was coming to an end, and I wanted a fresh start for a new year.

Also, I decided it was time to face the reading disaster that was 2020 and figure out how to move on from it.

I read 62 books in 2020.

I’ve decided to consider it an accomplishment, considering that I survived a global pandemic, learned how to successfully work from home, started dating my best friend and subsequently married him, and somehow planned an entire wedding in three months.

Reading was not a top priority. So we’re calling 62 a massive victory.

Thankfully, 2021 is here at last, and since I am not planning on arranging an entire wedding this year, I’m hoping that my time will be somewhat less limited. There’s nothing worse than a writer who doesn’t have time to read. We get cranky. Our idea box gets all stopped up. It’s bad.

While I was reorganizing my ‘finally read that’ book list, I did a few quick calculations and discovered that—including the two books I’ve already read this year—I have read 292 books since the beginning of 2017.

I’m hoping to add another 100 to that in 2021.

I’ve discovered that the best tactic for building a solid book list is to start the year off well. I’ve read two books already this year: The Inferno and The Purgatorio. Paradiso would have been next, but I buy most of my books in thrift stores, and that’s one volume that I haven’t found quite yet. Since I haven’t been frequenting thrift stores lately, I took the plunge and ordered it.

Thank goodness for Barnes and Noble.

While I wait for it to show up, I’ve been reading a collection of George Bernard Shaw’s plays. I don’t read plays often, but the ones I’m reading now have convinced me that I need to read more of them. The dialogue is quick-witted and smart-mouthed, and the characters are vivid and interesting. As a scriptwriter for a radio program, my writing lives and dies on the quality of my dialogue, and it’s been fascinating to study these plays and the technique that went into them.

Everything I read, whether history or children’s fiction or classical poetry, is part of my education as a writer. I am firmly convinced that you can learn from anything. The best books teach me what to cultivate in my own writing, the worst ones, what to avoid.

Here’s to another year of learning, and another book list!

Any books you’re planning on reading this year? Tell me about them in the comments!

A New Year

Happy New Year!

I’ve been MIA for a few weeks for the Christmas season. Life continues on even when we’re celebrating, and I’ve had to keep up momentum at work and learn to juggle the added excitement of having two families during the holiday season.

Now, I’ve finally had some time to stop and take a deep breath, and consider how I’m feeling about the new year. With so much going on, 2021 seemed to arrive impossibly fast, almost before I was ready for it.

Okay, definitely before I was ready for it.

Thankfully, New Year’s day was free, and I was able to take a step back, breathe, and spend some time in my journal, reflecting on the year that passed and the one looming ahead. 2020 was a tough year on everyone, and it’s been hard not to look forward to 2021 with dread. This year holds a lot of uncertainty, and things in my life that I very much wish were solid are still unsteady. Looking ahead, especially right now, is hard.

So instead, I took some time to look back. To remember everything that 2020 has been. The hardest bits, the places were I struggled the most, the months that felt impossible to get through. It’s confusing to look back on a year with so much bad and good intertwined in it, a year so outside of my comfort zone that even the best things felt impossibly hard because of the growth required to walk through them.

2020 challenged me in nearly every area of my life—personal, professional, and emotional. That much growth has left me feeling drained and exhausted, and when I sat down to journal, it felt like an overwhelming amount to process and release. So instead, I focused on moments.

Moments that made this year a beautiful, memorable year, even in the midst of tough circumstances. Moments like being introduced to my nephew for the first time and becoming Aunt Bea. Or going on a first date with my best friend. I drove to Missouri and to Wyoming, walked down the aisle to marry the love of my life, danced with my father at my wedding, and wrote so many stories that made my soul sing. The year has been hard, but I have a thousand snapshots within that hard year that are beautiful and that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

2021, as a year, is an intimidating prospect. It’s too much and too heavy to handle all at once.

Thankfully, a year doesn’t hit us all at once. There will be precious moments amid the difficult ones. Moments like watching my nephew learn to walk, or watching the stars with my new husband on our front porch.

2021 doesn’t have to be handled all at once. Personally, I’m planning on taking it moment by moment.

What moments from 2020 were precious to you?