i hope you’re scared

24 Apr

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Remember my post about doing things scared? You know – the one that talked about how when you’re doing something and you’re scared you need to just , well, do it scared?

I’ve been thinking about that post a lot lately.

Because writing can be scarey. And I can’t seem to stop myself from writing.

I’ve been back at it since Adelveiss arrived, sending out queries for CSSW and jumping into the next project because it helps to settle my nerves. The truth is, I love querying. I missed it while I worked on CSSW, and I’m happy to be back at it, even if it does freak me out. Sometimes it feels good to be freaked out! It feels… hopeful. Like anything could happen.

And my next project is ridiculously fun, though altogether different from CSSW.

Anyway, I wanted to assure you guys that I am scared.

And I wanted to tell you -

I hope you’re a little scared too. In the very best of ways.

*******

 

 

oh, baby – it’s time to slow down

31 Mar

I had a baby 12 days ago, and today is my husband’s first day back at work. This means several things:

  • I’m wildly in love with a new, little person.
  • My kids are doing significantly less math.
  • My home is a mess.

I’m completely fine with these three things. Look at this face and try and tell me that a sink full of dishes is a big deal…

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This is Adelveiss Leigh Burns. Her first name is inspired by the edelweiss flower and is the result of me watching The Sound of Music during early pregnancy. This, of course, is her song:

Her middle name is also my mother’s middle name. A beautiful name now shared by two beautiful ladies :)

I want my babies to slow me down, slow me way down, and Adel has been doing just that. The determined writer who spent the winter waking up at 5:30 and milked each hour of the day for more writing time is now in hibernation, replaced by a mama bear more interested in the quality of her milk supply than the number of her word count. I’m catching up on reading and going over flawed story aspects as well as potential fixes, but they circle in the far back of my mind, and I only let my attention drift there when all else has gone quiet.

Wake up time has been moved to 9 AM, the to-do list has been abandoned, and my expectations have been… significantly adjusted.

Here is all I want out of today:

  • Make some food
  • Make homemade play dough with the “big” kids
  • Love my family and myself well
  • Bless God

Dishes and toilets and word counts don’t make the list; they will soon enough because babies grow too quickly, but not yet.

*******

 

 

productivity & perspective

7 Mar

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If someone had stopped by my house two days ago at around three o’clock in the afternoon, it would have been easy for them to make a few unsavory judgments about me.

I was still in my pajamas, the sink behind me was full of dirty dishes, and I had a towel slung over my arm because I was just heading into the bathroom to take my shower.

Again, this was at three in the afternoon.

Here are some of the things that could have gone through their mind:

“She’s lazy.”

“Lucky stay-at-home moms.”

“Gee, I wonder when she finally rolled out of bed…”

“I wish I didn’t have a job and responsibilities to show up for every day.”

“Doesn’t she want to do anything with her life?”

They would have had quite a bit of evidence at their disposal for making those kinds of judgments too, but they’d still be lacking one important thing: Perspective.

Two days ago, come three in the afternoon, I was overjoyed with all I had accomplished. I’d been on  a consistent diet of 5:30 wake-ups for awhile, but that particular morning saw me up at 5:00. I had a hefty list of edits to make on my middle grade novel and a plan to get the story polished for literary agents. Long before the sun came up in the sky, I was at my kitchen table giving all I had in the form of a Word document. I worked until the kids woke up at 8:00 and paused long enough to get them ready for the day and fed. When they went off to play, I hit my edits even harder until it was time for the kids and I to get busy with their homeschool work. I cleared my computer and my mountains of notes off of the table, and we pulled out their papers and books. Letters, math, reading, and endless questions – we made a time of it, and soon we were clearing the table off again. I whipped together some grub for lunch, we ate, I cleared the table again, and, when the kids were settled in front of a movie, I got back to my novel. I worked until three o’clock, seven hours at my keyboard spent fixing, figuring, writing, and rewriting.

The kid’s movie was over and they were hungry for snack. Half in a daze, I got them food and told them how proud I was that they had been so good for me and let me get so much accomplished. Then I told them that I required a shower if I was going to be able to get my mind straight and have fun with them for the rest of the day. I took a shower, beaming and blushing with how close I was to my goal of querying agents, and got dressed.

Then it hit me: it was 3:30 before I’d gotten dressed.

Wouldn’t it be so easy for someone to assume I’d done little to nothing with my day had they only seen pieces of evidence with none of the perspective?

I’m a writer and a mom. Work for people like me looks a bit… odd. Productivity is difficult, when even possible, to measure.

As a writer, I can announce that I wrote 5,000 words in a single day, but only my fellow writers are going to see that number for what it’s worth. And there are many more days when I go backwards in word count, editing the heck out of my manuscript, yet those days are often just as productive and necessary.

As a mom, there are days when just keeping the kids fed and attended to is all I can manage. You moms with your teething babies know what I’m talking about. And if I take a much needed day to clean, organize, and revamp the basement, it might look amazing down there come 5:30, but the rest of the house is going to be in shambles and dinner is going to be a frozen pizza. And the neighbor will likely stop by and think I did nothing but scroll Facebook.

A farmer can bale X acres of hay, a teacher can go through so many lessons with so many kids, an IT guy can get his eight hours, and a mason can lay block for a whole basement.

But not all forms of work lend themselves to being measured this easily. And not all forms of work require pants.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, pajamas can be perfectly acceptable work attire.

Oh, and judging productivity accurately requires perspective. 

*******

on writing & enjoying the process

19 Feb
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Morning edits with my writing partner who is, in fact, sitting on my edits.

Writing desperation. There was once a time when it looked like this for me: putting the kids to bed, kissing the husband good night, and making a pot of coffee. Come four in the morning the coffee pot would be empty and I’d be just crashing on the couch with many, many words under my belt.

I’m still desperate, but these days it looks like me setting an alarm and waking up at the buttcrack of dawn instead. As it turns out, sleep + coffee makes for more productivity than just coffee. Go figure.

Writers are desperate people. Desperate for time, for inspirations, for massive stokes of luck that shoot from the sky like lightning. And we’re desperate to make sense of things, namely, the stories that come to us. They’re always so enticing. And they’re always so dang flawed.

I will be done with my edits soon, and I will move onto querying. Soon, but not yet.

And, as I am at my least favorite stage of the writing process (the perfecting stage), I find myself growing increasingly antsy. Increasingly desperate. I want to query, query, query, and I want to open up that other story of mine and write, write, write, because querying and writing are such hopeful and fun endeavors while editing feels a bit like beating dead horses.

Desperate. I can get so desperate to be in a different place than I am.

When it gets me out of bed at 5:30, it’s a good thing; when it keeps me from enjoying the process, it becomes troublesome.

Being a writer is a joy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do and the only thing I want to do. If this is going to be my “thing” than I want to savor it, even when it sucks, just like I want to savor being a mother to my kids. Talk about two difficult jobs. And two jobs that you don’t want to squander and miss the joy of.

I’m at a trying stage in the writing process and getting desperate, but I want to enjoy it, even so. Writing is a joy. It’s miserably difficult and it’s a joy.

It’d be a shame to miss either, don’t you think?

“For those who can do it and who keep their nerve, writing for a living still beats most real, grown-up jobs hands down.”

- Terence Blacker

*******

the thing about gratitude

15 Feb

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This is our family’s gratitude garland. We started it at the end of last December with just a couple of tags and a Sharpie. I was the one who insisted on it. I could feel my gratefulness slipping through my fingers, and it wasn’t a feeling I enjoyed.

The thing is, gratitude isn’t just a mindset I can switch into; it’s not sitting there for me to grab anytime I want it.

Gratitude – the kind that sticks to me whether my circumstances are rosy or not – that kind of gratitude takes practice.

I used to keep a gratitude journal. Everyday I’d scribble in it the things I didn’t want to take for granted. Mostly they were little things: The sound of Piper’s giggle, the smell of coffee, the way the kids had woken up happy and not grumpy. A haiku my dad had sent to me and my mom. The haiku reply my mom sent back.

Little things. The light on the kitchen table kinds of things.

Over time I grew more joyful and content. I was blessed. I’d recorded the blessings and they looked back at me, proving it.

IMGP0240 (2)Then I slowed down in my record keeping. Life got hectic. Occasionally I’d type out a quick list on Twitter using the hashtag #gratitudes. I fell out of the practice of a grateful heart.

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I don’t enjoy my life near as much when I find myself ungrateful for it. So the garland went up and is still going up, piece by piece. And my art journal/planner now doubles as a place where I keep the list going (an email from Clayton, cilantro in the pasta, kind words from one of the kids) so that my mind is constantly brought back to how blessed I am.

I’m not trying to sugar-coat anything; Life is often times downright awful.

But I find I can latch onto small gratitudes, even in those miserable times, so long as I’m well practiced in it.

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So, that’s it. That’s all I wanted to say.

Oh, and I gave the ol’ blog a little makeover. Do you like it? There are still some things that need adding and tweaking (Twitter feed, anyone?), but I’ve only had small bits of time to work on it. Hopefully I’ll be done with the revamp in another week or so.

Winter’s getting a bit long, and the edits on my book are getting more and more difficult. Maybe I’ll get on here a bit more often ;)

*******

grand plans & a grand way of keeping them

3 Feb

A writer friend was talking on Facebook the other day about we writers and the processes we go through writing and editing and editing again and again. Then submitting to agents, waiting, editing again, submitting again, editing again – and she laughed and noted that it must seem strange to the non-writers who listen to us with all our many updates.

She’s editing again? I though she did that already. She’s brushing up her query? But she “brushed up” her query LAST month.

Yeah, she brushed it up last month. And she’s brushing it up again now. And she probably brushed it up three times in between but didn’t want to admit to each of those times.

Give her a break.

Now, all of that said, I’m on my last round of edits.

Take that to mean whatever you will.

I’ve got a great method I wanted to share. It’s a slow method but the results have been worth it.

I start by going through all of the edits I put onto my hard copy for one chapter and change them in the Word doc. Once they’re all in I turn on my computer’s voice recorder and read that chapter aloud. I can pause the recorder and make quick fixes as I see them or highlight sentences I want to come back to. Then I listen. I find so many things I can improve this way. I make all of the changes I see to make until the chapter strikes me as perfect. Then I reread it for the recorder one last time. Voila.

I’ve heard countless authors talk about the importance of reading their work aloud once they get close to the final draft. They need to hear it in order to feel it. Recording it and playing it back for myself brings me to yet another level in listening, one in which I’m not even distracting by the reading. I can focus fully on the feel and the flow.

Now, I’m alright with this slow and steady pace, but I want to be sure that I’m querying before my baby #4 comes at the beginning of April. This gives me two months. If I can edit a chapter a day then I’ll have plenty of time to make sure my query is golden and to get all of my *dream agents* in a line as well. Most of this work has already been done, but I want things PERFECT, you guys.

That was a very wobbly lead-in to the next item on this blog post: my art journal/planner.

For those of you who like making art more than you like planning, you’re going to love this. For those of you who like planning more than you like making art, you might want to look away. The sight of a to-do list splattered with paint could prove to be too much for you.

An art journal/planner is pretty much the freakish offspring of -well- an art journal and a planner. Art journals are getting ridiculously popular on the internet and in the artsy circles. Just take a peek on Pinterest. There is no end to it. Now add in a planner, and that’s what I’m doing.

Here is a fun Facebook group if your interesting in getting started. I lurk over there. And here is a blog post better than my own.

Here is my title page:

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And here is week one for me:

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I had fun piecing it together here and there as the week went on, getting out some creative juices without needing to put in much commitment, time, or effort.

I used a mix of media: embroidery floss, mod podge, sharpie markers, pens, pencils, magazine clippings, paint chips, scotch tape, masking tape – even an old grocery list and coffee splatterings.

Here is what week two looks like today, Monday:

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I purposefully taped down just one side of my weekly planner page. This way I have room to make art under my schedule as well.

I’m most excited about documenting and preserving life with this. Writing notes when the kids say or do funny things, when Clayton and I share busy/sweet life with each other, when something worth celebrating happens (like the delivery of a new hoop).

What we’re drinking, listening to, dancing to, laughing at. Memorable things, mundane things. This is a place for it to be recorded.

This will also help me stick to my plans and goals, and give me space in the week to be creative.

Nice, yeah?

Okay, now back to editing…

*******

i’m holding my moon horses

21 Jan

My plan was to query CSSW at the end of January, but plans have a way of changing. These plans were no exception. Because when I finished my last round of edits, The Voice of Reason showed up UNINVITED and started talking to me. He said, “Hold your moon horses, young lady.”

(For those who don’t know, there are moon horses in my novel; they are horses made by the light of – never mind.)

Then he proceeded to point out – oh, I don’t know – A MILLION different aspects to my story that I should look at and work with some more. I’m good at laughing in The Voice of Reason’s face and going about my merry little way, but this time I didn’t laugh. I crossed my arms, puckered my lips out to the side, and scowled.

My husband gets this face a lot. Probably because he and The Voice of Reason get along so dang well.

Long story short, my list of agents to query is absolutely dreamy, and I only want to send them the very best. So I’m waiting, and working, and scowling.

Send chocolate.

*******

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