Baby books? Yes. We do the silly voices and the bright colors and the black and white contrasts for his little eyes to develop.
But I’ve been reading him full chapter books since I was twenty weeks pregnant, and I don’t intend to stop now. This month, we’re reading one of my oldest and dearest favorites. (I’ll let you guess the title.) He may not understand the story yet, but it’s snuggle time and connection time and, one day, hopefully, he will be just as obsessed with the books as I am.
Plus, I have an excuse to read all my old favorites all over again. What could be better than that?
Writing professionally is not for the faint of heart.
It’s true. Unfortunately, by its very nature, writing is a vulnerable business. Your stories are pieces of yourself, and putting them out to potential ridicule or even well-meaning critique is a difficult thing to do.
But there’s more to it than that, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years thinking about what makes starting out as a writer feel so hard—especially as my own career has gained a footing and is moving toward something like a real beginning.
This quote by Ed Latimore, a former heavyweight boxer and a full-time writer, sums up what I’ve discovered amazingly well.
“Embarrassment is the cost of entry. If you aren’t willing to look like a foolish beginner, you’ll never become a graceful master.”
Beginning any new skill, especially in a professional environment, is a difficult thing to do, whether you’re writing, have your first job straight out of college, or simply were asked to light the bonfire for the first time. You run the risk of failure, awkward mistakes, and breaches in etiquette that will hang around as a standby joke for meetings at the water cooler for years.
Okay, probably not for years. But that’s what it feels like.
I, unfortunately, am very easily embarrassed. I like to show my best face to people, and I always like to go above and beyond expectations wherever possible.
And, realistically, that’s not always possible.
Starting a new skill and beginning a career requires fumbles. It requires mistakes and failures and awkward, stilted first attempts and most of all . . . embarrassment. If you haven’t been failing, especially as a writer, then you haven’t been trying. Your work can’t grow and your career can’t grow, because you can’t grow. As much as I would like to think that my career is built on the things I’ve done right over the years, I know that it’s not. It’s built on the moments that I got hit in the stomach with a massive dose of embarrassment, swallowed my pride, corrected my mistake . . . and learned from it.
Because embarrassment might be a harsh teacher, but my goodness, do you learn from it.
What are some ways you’ve learned to work through embarrassment in your life? Tell me about them in the comments!
I am a full-time writer. I’ve mentioned that about a million times on this blog, along with noting that I run my own business as a freelancer. But today, I’d like to dive a little deeper into what that looks like on a daily basis.I’ll give you a hint.
I don’t actually spend my entire day writing.
Nor, strangely enough, do I spend my whole day in my pajamas, although I work from home and generally spend the majority of my time with my kitty and my newly acquired puppy. No boss checking that I’m meeting dress code here! Except for me, and I have my own policies about that. But, we’ll get into that. In short, this is what a typically day as a freelance scriptwriter looks like.
5:30 – 7 AM: My alarm goes off stupidly early. My husband sets it for me every night, usually because I’m already buried in my blankets and stick my head out to ask if he will. He’s a good sport. I like to get up before the sunrise to get a start on my day before the rest of the world is awake and jostling for my attention. It gives me some space. Now that we have a puppy in the house, I take her out on her leash to use the bathroom, then walk over to my parents’ house to jump on their rebound mini trampoline.
People always laugh at me for the jumping thing. They can’t seem to figure out why I do it, and it weirds them out. Simply put, this is my time. I stick my headphones in, and I work on my books. Stories don’t just show up, you know. You have to plan them. You have to make space for dreaming and talking with characters and imagination, and this is my space. If I don’t have this time, I don’t have books. Period. You might say this is one of the most important parts of my day as a writer.
7 – 8 AM: When I get home, I clean. Obsessively. I find it very hard to be creative if the dishes aren’t done or the floor isn’t swept, so before my day really gets started, I make sure that all the little chores are well and truly finished. This is also when I get dressed—no pajamas here. I’ve learned through a bit of trial and error that I feel 100% better if I’m dressed for work and have done my hair and makeup. It’s the little things.
8 – 9 AM: I study Spanish with Duolingo. This is one of my weirder habits—it has nothing to do with my career, probably won’t be relevant to my daily life anytime soon, and as much as I enjoy it, I probably will never become a fluent—or even competent—Spanish speaker. But it’s something new and different for my brain to do, and it keeps me sharp.
9 – 12 AM: This is my first big ‘chunk of work’ for the day. I generally have meetings during this time to discuss scripts, casting, story problems, or just provide updates for deadlines and revisions that need to happen. When I’m not in meetings, I’m writing. Depending on the day, I might be throwing together an outline for the team to approve for a script, or drafting a chapter for one of my two books in progress, or writing dialogue for a script. This is all usually accompanied by a cup of tea, trips outside with the puppy, and my kitty attempting to crawl into my lap to get the love and attention she deserves.
12 – 2 PM: Lunch, another trip outside with the puppy, and maybe if I have time, I’ll walk over to my parents house to see actual human people and jump. Another brainstorm session helps get me back in the game for an afternoon of writing.
2 – 4 PM: More writing. Afternoons are hard, y’all. This is when I start falling asleep. Music generally helps, and sprints with my writers’ group over text. When we’re all working, it always encourages me to get more words in. If I’m working on books that particular day, this is also where I will switch projects. 1000 words in the morning for one book, 1000 words in the afternoon for another. We don’t always hit that, but we try.
4 – 6 PM: I’m prepping dinner, listening to crime podcasts or an audio book, and taking the puppy out for a good romp before the husband gets home and we eat together.
6 – 9 PM: This is supposed to be free time. It really, really is. But if I’ve got a tight deadline on a script that I’m trying to meet, or if I happen to be feeling particularly inspired, I’ll curl up on my couch with my computer and get in a few hundred extra words. My cat usually sits on top of me, and my husband plays video games next to me, so it’s all very cozy. Or, if my writers’ group is up for it, we’ll toss out a few prompts through text and free write for a while—which is always good for creativity and opens up dozens of interesting doors.
There you have it! This is what a typical day as a freelance writer looks like—at least in my neck of the woods. This was an enormously long post, but if you’ve ever wondered what a writer actually does in a day, now you know!
I’m one of those people who plans out my autumn before it starts, just so I can be sure to get everything I want to done before winter blows in. This is the first year I’ve actually written down my list, but I think it’s going to be a yearly tradition.
How else am I supposed to plan for all my corn maze excursions and the hot apple cider bonfires?
But the very first list I always make is my autumn reading list.
It’s vitally important.
Some books just have a certain time of year attached to them, and what is autumn without a few ghostly stories and some thrillers packed into it? This year, I got a bit of a jump on my reading list, mostly because I barely read at all this summer. The combination of a new business, a month-long vacation, and a long illness put a huge dent in my usually lengthy finished-reading list, and this fall, I’m determined to make up for it.
I started with Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie.
What better way to start an autumn reading list than with a murder mystery? Agatha Christie is one of my all-time favorite authors, and Hercule Poirot is my favorite of her characters. It felt very right to start off with this particular book. It has a chilling element of evil to it that captures that creepy, ghostly autumn vibe perfectly.
Sherlock Holmes has been on my list too lately. His books perfectly capture that rainy day kind of feel, and the minute I started The Hound of the Baskervilles, I knew it was just the right book for my reading list this year. Gloomy, dark, suspenseful, and with just the right amount of intrigue and action to make a good mystery. I’m a big fan of all the Sherlock Holmes novels, but this one is by far my favorite.
I have a few others on my list as well. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. Frankenstein, Dracula, A Wrinkle in Time. Possibly The Witches and Anne of Green Gables too, if I can find the time. I have to remember not to let the list get too long, or I won’t have time for my Christmas reads this year either.
That’s another list I’ll be making soon. In a few months.
What are you reading this autumn? Tell me about it in the comments!
Did I tell you all that I’m officially a business owner?
I’m a business owner.
What a weird thing to say. I am, after all, all of about five years old, and definitely don’t know the first thing about business or management or what might go into a sales report.
And yet, I have my own business. Story Nook Productions. It’s even registered with the state of Colorado, which means that it’s very official and grown up, which is odd, considering that I never set out to be a business owner. When I was little, I wanted to be an archeologist.
Have I ever told any of you that?
Yep, I was going to find clay pots and use a paintbrush to unearth the most amazing discoveries and probably live in Egypt or somewhere equally far away and fantastic.
The fact that I was terrified of skeletons and mummies and anything bone related didn’t bother me in the least. I just figured that I would leave those discoveries to other people. We don’t all have to find mummies, you know. Some of us can dig up clay pots, and that’s fine too.
Since I was about ten and didn’t know what an archeologist did for a living or even how to become one, that dream fell by the wayside. So did my plans to become a missionary, own my own ranch, manage an orphanage, and own a bookstore that doubles as an ice-cream shop.
Secretly, I’m still holding onto the bookstore/ice-cream shop idea.
It would be the perfect match for me. I love books and I love ice-cream. What could go wrong?
Melted ice-cream and bankruptcy come to mind, but I’m trying not to think too deeply about that.
But, for the moment, I own a business. I sell stories.
Lately, I’ve been swamped with work. I am still selling as many scripts as I can possibly bang out to the radio show that I’ve been working with for the past two years. I’ve also, just recently, sold a short story to a magazine that asked me to submit to them. They thanked me very nicely, said the check would be in the mail asap, and asked if I might like to sell them stories regularly.
I said yes very professionally, after I finished dancing around my kitchen and telling every single person in my family just how proud they could be of me.
Selling stories is kind of an odd business. I do my taxes, keep track of my expenses, and have a schedule, but at the same time, everything I sell comes straight out of thin air. I spend hours and hours thinking very deeply about people and places that don’t exist, and weirdly enough, someone pays me to do it. And at night before I go to bed, I pray that I’ll have good ideas the next day, because without those, I really will have to look into that bookstore/ice-cream shop plan.
I still think it would be the perfect fit for me.
Do you own your own business, or have you ever thought about starting one? Tell me about it in the comments!
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!
Not that I make a habit of sleepovers. Not since I was like sixteen. Except when I get trapped in town due to crazy snowstorms and six-foot snowdrifts.
But I went on a sleepover this weekend. With my writer’s group—or most of them, anyway. (We love you and missed you, Caylene!) We ate chocolate, read each other’s work, talked about way too many stories, and stayed up until all hours of the night.
Midnight, to be specific.
Ten minutes after midnight, I knocked out.
But we got some writing done, caught up on each other’s projects, and reconnected after being away from each other for months. Kelly’s hair ended up in curlers. She looked amazing. Before and after, actually.
There was talk about pink hair dye.
That didn’t happen, but it would have been pretty exciting.
Now that I’m back home, and spending way too much time writing down all the appointments that I am making for my wedding, I’ve had to take a minute to be realistic about my energy and time right now. So . . . I’ll be on sabbatical until after my honeymoon. See you all October 1st!
Back to my office, actually. I’ve been working all along. Just from my couch instead of my standup desk. And with free access to snacks. And very little motivation to get out of my pajamas.
It’s going to take me a little while to get used to the no-snacks thing.
Especially no popcorn.
Popcorn is my favorite.
Other than that, I’m very happy to be back in my office. I can go to the gym again, talk to my coworkers, ask my manager questions, water my special tiny tree that I bought for the occasion.
The bamboo I left behind when this whole quarantine thing began . . . ahem . . . did not survive.
Three months without water will do that to you.
It was pretty withered. And brown.
So now I have a tiny tree instead. And life at the office—at least two days a week—has begun to go back to normal. Albeit with masks. And temp checks. And sign-in, sign-out sheets. But normal!
Since my life is showing a serious lack of normal nowadays, normal at the office feels pretty good. So does my gym. And the occasional restaurant visit. Even wearing masks when we go out and making sure to social distance can’t change how wonderfully good it feels to be out and about and to see people.
As an introvert, I never expected to be so excited to see people again. In shops, at work, in restaurants.
Man, that’s a good feeling.
Has life begun to return to normal for you yet? How? Tell me about it in the comments!
But it tried to eat me, I’m pretty sure. Killer catfish are dangerous too, you know.
Maybe I should start at the beginning.
I ran away from my life on Thursday. Packed up my car, grabbed my toothbrush, the whole nine yards. Because I’m a responsible person, I requested time off from my job and told people where I was going and when I would be back too, but it still counts as running away. I mean, I planned it in all of two days, and that’s definitely what you do when you’re running away.
You also get up ridiculously early and leave in the dark before it gets light, and I did that too.
Then I drove to Missouri. To see my editor.
It was glorious.
First off, there was the drive. I was gone for four days, and two of those were nothing but me and the open road, all the snacks I could eat, and as many audiobooks as I could possibly listen to in 24 hours of straight drive-time.
In case you were wondering, I plowed through four and a half books.
Three and a half of them were scary.
The last one was sad.
I am still questioning my choices.
The other two days were spent soaking in the Missouri sun, canoeing down a gorgeous river straight out of Jurassic Park, almost getting eaten by a killer catfish, horseback riding through the woods, and slapping at bugs.
The catfish didn’t actually bite me.
But it flopped like it was going to bite me.
I screamed in self-defense and it was a totally normal reaction, so you can stop laughing now.
Anyway, I’m home again and running on no sleep and adrenaline, so wish me luck for the next week. I’ll sleep when I can’t run away from my problems anymore.
What were you up to this weekend? Anything special? Tell me about it in the comments!
Isn’t it weird how that happens sometimes? Life gets busy, people need your attention, work takes up more time than you expect, and BAM! You’ve read two books for the whole month.
I actually don’t remember how many books I read in May. I’d have to check. Hopefully, it was more than two, but I have my doubts. Reading has been HARD lately. Sometimes, even the most important things in your life can get pushed back because of stress or work or people or about a hundred other things that I don’t have the energy to list right now.
Life happens, is what I’m trying to say. And when it does, you have to pick your priorities in order to keep pace with it.
And right now, sadly, reading one hundred books this year is not one of my priorities.
The nice part is, I really do have time to read occasionally. In the mornings after my workout . . . six minutes before I start work for the day. Or in the evening, fifteen minutes before I drop into bed. It’s not for long stretches, generally, but I do try to pick up my books often enough to remember that I love to read. Thankfully, I have no shortage of things to read. There’s the audiobook on my phone that I have neglected to start. And the book on my phone that I’m reading for work. And my many, many bookshelves which are full to bursting of books I would love to read or reread.
Still haven’t chosen one of those since I finished the last one. Should probably do that.
Leaving a book on my end table right next to where I sit has also proven to help remind me to read. A page here, a page there. I may not reach a hundred books this year, but I’m keeping pace. And I’m getting a few books read while I do.
How do you keep up with your reading when life gets busy? Tell me about it in the comments!