This is how I get writing done these days. With this fellow passed out in my lap.
Teething is hard.
That is all.
Ramblings of an Obsessive Bookworm
THE WORLD IS MADE OF WORDS. THE TRICK IS TO FIND THE RIGHT ONES.
This is how I get writing done these days. With this fellow passed out in my lap.
Teething is hard.
That is all.
I met with the artist who is doing the interior artwork for my book this week.
Spoiler alert, she’s my sister.
Crazy, right? I, who can draw stick figures and the occasional smiley face, have a sister who does artwork like this:
If you’re interested in her Instagram, btw, you can find her here.
Anyway, she and I had a meeting. She’s been reading my book from the very first day I started writing it, and now I finally get to commission her and her incredible talents for the chapter headings, a full page illustration for the title pages, and a map.
I’m way excited about the map.
Every good book should have a map in it.
That first picture is a draft sketch of the chapter headings we designed together.
It’s a mess now, but I can guarantee it’s going to be gorgeous later.
I am still chipping away at revisions for the book I have coming out at the end of this year. Once I finish with it, it will be sent off to my editor, and she will send it back with a million notes to tell me all the things that are wrong with it.
When you have someone like that, y’all, appreciate them. Not everyone is willing to be so wonderfully honest with you.
While I’m working on that, I’m also checking off the other thousand tiny tasks that go into getting a book published, including this lovely new logo.
I finished it last night. It’s perfect.
My book is being published through my business, Storynook Productions. The regular logo that I have, with my personal and business brand, is too complex for the spine of a book, so I had to come up with a similar, simplified version.
I think I managed it.
I’m excited about this, y’all. Getting a book from manuscript to finished product is an overwhelming amount of details, but I have been planning for this for years, and I am so ready to have it in my hands.
Plus, this is the kind of thing I enjoy. I mean, who doesn’t love seeing a dream come together?
I had a week of meetings this month.
Hot coffee turning cold, conversations through lunch, white boards erased multiple times kind of meetings.
Creative meetings. The kind with lots of ideas, people laughing, and problems that take hours to fix and are so, so satisfying once they’re solved.
It’s always one of my favorite weeks out of the entire year.
This year, of course, was a little different. I had a baby at home, and that meant driving the hour commute every day instead of staying home so I could squeeze his tiny cheeks.
I was also sick this year, but we won’t talk about that, because I’m still working through my frustration at being sick the ONE week of the year I really needed not to be.
Anyway, my lovely husband (and my awesome sister) took time off work to watch our boy while I was away, and I called in whenever I slipped away to pump so I could coo at him and see his tiny cute face.
He was crying when I called y’all. And then he heard my voice. And started grinning. And laughing. And playing up for the camera.
What a little ham.
I love him.
Adjusting to life as a working mom is definitely a different experience, but we’re getting there! And judging by that grin, he’s not suffering terribly.
I love being a writer. I love being a full-time writer, and I’m looking forward even more to being a full-time writer who is also a stay-at-home mum.
That’s still a weird concept for me, by the way. Me, being a mum.
Probably will have to get used to that at some point.
Existential crisis aside, I love being a writer. But there are things about this life that I wish I had known before I started.
Three things, in particular.
1) Writing Is… Different
I started out in my writing career because I loved it. I loved stories and I loved words, and I wanted to make my living with them.
But writing as a career is . . . different. I still write to enjoy myself. I still enjoy what I write. But the time I spend writing for pleasure is significantly decreased, and I’m more often motivated by impending deadlines and a paycheck that I need than I am by an urgent desire to write. I still love writing, and I’m certain that I always will, but it is a job, not a hobby, and a job means writing when you don’t necessarily feel like it.
2) Stability Who?
I am the sort of person who thrives on stability. I like a paycheck that comes in promptly every other Friday at the same time with no exceptions.
Writing is . . . not that way. Freelancing is not that way. The paychecks come in when I finish a project, and if I don’t have the energy to be creative, I don’t get paid. Money comes in, but it’s not regular or very predictable, and I have to trust that God is my provider and that the checks will continue to come in, even when I can’t see it.
3) Writing Isn’t The Whole Story
Yes, I’m a writer.
I’m also a business owner, an accountant, a publicist, a social media manager, a director, a public speaker, and my own personal life coach, because apparently someone has to keep me motivated and moving forward in my career.
Basically, every part of my career is my responsibility. Taxes, publicity, social media. All the hats are mine, and I have to be far more savvy in things that I never would have dreamed of when I was still writing the first drafts of my books ten years ago, dreaming of getting to where I am now.
To be honest, I didn’t know almost anything when I first started writing. I didn’t know how long it would take to start earning money, I didn’t know how much I still had to learn, I didn’t know how much of my job would consist of me constantly being out of my comfort zone and forcing myself to do things that were difficult and felt too big for me.
If I had known, would I still have chosen to pursue it? It’s definitely different than I expected it to be . . . definitely harder, and definitely less glamorous. Would I choose it again?
I’d like to think so. Personally.
I’d hope so, anyway. I’d hope I’d have the courage. I’ve faced a lot of challenges in the last ten years, and a lot of moments that felt like more like an end than a beginning.
But I hope I’d have the courage to face them again.
Really, though. Maybe that’s the reason we can’t see everything that’s coming, and everything that will be required of us.
Have you ever had a stunningly brilliant, once-in-a-lifetime, on-fire idea that you were pretty sure was going to win you the Nobel prize or an Academy Award or something else of equal significance.
And then you just . . . never acted on it.
You meant to. You had it all planned out in your head, did hours of research, maybe even told your friends and family about it and acquired some much-needed support and enthusiasm. After all, it was a brilliant idea. Of course everyone you told loved it.
But after that . . . it just . . . petered out. Got put on a shelf somewhere. Gathered dust. Stuck waiting for that perfect moment. You know the one. When planets align and the stars begin to sing and the universe decides that it’s your turn for that one spark of success that has been passed around through humanity since the beginning.
When you’re ready, in other words. When it’s time.
I have never, in all my life, experienced that moment.
I’m going to guess that you haven’t either. Nor, realistically, are you expecting to—not really. But taking that first step on a new project or idea—especially if that first step could result in criticism—is tough. It’s easier to let the idea remain just that—an idea, with nothing concrete to dislike or criticize.
Unfortunately, ideas only go so far. The book has to be written to be worth anything. So, here are my three favorite tips for taking action when it feels impossible.
1) Let Go of the Vision
I know, this one seems counterintuitive, but bear with me. You had this great idea. It’s been building up in your head for weeks or months or even years. You know exactly what you want it to look like, down to the last detail.
Only it’s not going to match your vision once you start. First drafts—of anything—never do. They’re awkward and stilted and ugly and they very rarely, if ever, match the vision in your head of what you wanted to produce. But, they’re a step beyond an idea, and however the project shifts and changes with the execution, it will be better for it.
2) Know Your Why
Why did you latch onto this particular idea? Why does it matter to you? Where do you want it to lead you down the road? Big projects—writing or otherwise—take a lot of time and energy to bring to realization, and getting started isn’t the only place people get stuck. Some of the projects that I’ve worked on seem to get stuck every other chapter, and the effort it takes to get unstuck feels exhausting.
But, I know why it’s important. I know why I don’t give up, and haven’t in the last ten years of being a writer. That ‘why’ pulls me through the bad days, and helps me take action when it’s hard.
3) Map it Out
Sometimes, failure to take action is connected to a lack of clarity. You don’t know where to start, so you never do. After all, ‘Write a book’ is a pretty tall order, especially if you’ve never done it. Instead, give yourself some steps that don’t feel like climbing the entire mountain in one leap.
Write one chapter.
Flesh out an outline.
Read a book on story structure.
Write for ten minutes before bed every night.
Whatever your list of small steps is, take the first one. And the second. Commit to yourself, your idea, and the vision of the future that this idea spurred. No matter how hard taking action is, I can guarantee it won’t be more difficult than watching that awesome idea you had wither to ash because your ‘moment’ never came.
As many of you know, I left my full-time job in March of last year to start my own business.
It was something of a daunting transition. Lots of panicky moments. I came up with a business name, we bought an airplane hanger, I packed up my desk.
It was a whole thing.
But since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of a job vs a career. See, having a full-time, nine-to-five job is very comfortable. You have benefits, your paycheck lands in your bank account every other week, other people tell you what to do and when to do it . . . it’s comfortable. There’s security.
But—and this took me years to finally admit about myself—I am a fiercely ambitious person. I have plans. Plans that don’t involve a nine-to-five or paychecks that land in my bank account every two weeks. Plans that live outside of the nine-to-five. Plans for books and TV shows and projects that are mine instead of someone else’s. Even when I was working my nine-to-five, I was coming home and spending several more hours working on my books or this blog or whatever other projects I felt were necessary to what I was doing at the time. Sometimes that meant editing, or finishing the design on a book cover, or posting on social media.
You wear a lot of hats, when you have your own business.
Wish I’d known that back when I first started.
Someone’s gotta do the taxes and keep track of business documents. And guess what? It’s gonna be me.
Every single time.
But, in the last year as I have been settling into my new role as a business owner, I have discovered the benefits of attaching myself to a dream, not a company or a job or even a project, in fact. Over the years, I have reached the point with projects where they were no longer driving me forward, and I’ve learned to let them go and be thankful for what they’ve taught me, rather than allowing them to hold me back for any longer. The same goes for companies, jobs, and even genres.
In other words, I am allowing for growth. Rather than being discouraged that I no longer have the security of the nine-to-five, I am looking at my career as a collage of projects and seasons, jobs and commissions that will grow into something far larger—and more diverse—than a single nine-to-five is able to offer.
And that, I’m finding, is far more lasting and resilient than a nine-to-five.
Do you have plans that feel too big or too uncomfortable for you? Tell me about them in the comments!
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.”Ed Latimore
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!
My writing habits are changing.
I like to think that they always are, actually. As a writer, I like to go with what works and change things up when something begins to feel stale. If I don’t, things get stuck.
Actually, I get stuck.
Being stuck is my least favorite state of being. I stare at the computer. My will to move drains away. The words refuse to come. I consider chucking this whole author thing and becoming a goat farmer.
I could be a goat farmer, you know. I would be a really good goat farmer. I know a lot about goats.
Probably more than I should, actually.
Goat slobber is a thing, y’all. And it is way stickier than you think.
Since I’m not quite ready to go back to being a goat farmer and enduring the bruises and slobber that accompany that job, I’ve learned to change my writing habits when necessary. And now that I’m freelancing instead of working for a company and punching a clock, writing free has become a lot easier. I still like to keep to my routines when I can, so I have a certain time every morning when I sit down to write and a certain time—most days— that I finish up and close things down.
Routines are great. For normal writing days.
Some days, sitting down to write at the normal time just is not going to work for me.
My brain says no. So does my creativity. I stare at the blank page for a long, long time. I distract myself. I write terrible sentences in the hopes that some useful ones will get dragged out behind them.
It doesn’t work.
When you’re punching a clock, you gotta be in the chair. It’s kind of a rule. But when you’re writing free, like I am learning to, it’s okay to shut the computer and walk away. Go outside. Take a walk. Hang out with people and play a board game. Make homemade tortillas.
For me, all of those things wind up being miles more productive than staring at a blank screen. And when I come back, I don’t have to open the computer. I can snag a notebook and curl up on my bed to handwrite a few pages until the block has disappeared.
I may not get us much done as I would on a normal day, but I’ll get pages more than I would have if I hadn’t been up for changing my habits a bit.
How do you free yourself up when you’re stuck on a project? Tell me about it in the comments!