My rigorous new writing schedule

September 3, 2012

I always do my best and most productive writing at times when I have a set routine, which is one of the reason I do so poorly with my writing when I’m going through big transitions. Now that my life has evened out sufficiently after the wedding, move, and new/shifting jobs, I’ve formalized my schedule even more — it helps me not to feel like there’s no way I’ll ever get it “all done,” and so far, it’s increased my writing productivity. It looks like this:

Mondays – I blog here. (This has been a staple of my “schedule” for a while, since I noticed that if I didn’t have a set time to do it, I wasn’t very good about posting regularly to my blog.)

Tuesdays – Every other Tuesday, I write for Young Adult Catholics. I used to cross post links to everything I wrote there, but I haven’t been as good about that lately. My most recent posts have been about praying at work and Natural Family Planning (The NFP post is currently the “top post” for the blog).

Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday – I work on my fiction. For now, that’s my Rumplestiltskin retelling.

Friday – I buckle down and work on studying my craft, preferably for two to four hours. This includes reading my back issues of Writers Digest and The Writer, reading books helpful to my writing, and working through the training modules on Scribendi (available to editors only). Currently, I’m reading Self-Promotion for Introverts by Nancy Ancowitz, in hopes that it will help me feel more comfortable with book promotion.

Thursdays I usually don’t write at all because I spend four hours traveling and eight hours working.

So far, I’m finding that the schedule makes me more productive. I think it’s partly because I thrive under routine, but also that it lends a sense of urgency to my writing, especially when it comes to my fiction. I’m worst about procrastinating when it comes to fiction writing because there’s no immediate audience and because it demands the most creative energy from me. But I want to finish my Rumplestiltskin revisions, and knowing now that I only have three days a week to do that (four when I’m on an  “off” week for the YAC blog) is a great motivator. It reminds me of how people often, paradoxically, get the most done when they’re most busy. The most busy I’ve probably ever been was the summer before I went to college, when I was working three jobs to save up money for a trip to Disney World. A lot of things suffered during that time (probably most of all my mental health), but my writing didn’t — because I knew that one hour in the morning before I left for work was the ONLY time I’d get for writing all day — and I took it.

And I like that this gives all my different writing “muscles” regular exercise. Since it’s a Monday, I’m blogging here — but since it’s also a holiday, I plan to do a little bit of fiction writing and development, too. My husband is devoting the day to working on his website, so I have a long, uninterrupted alone stretch spreading out ahead of me. I wish I could spend the whole day writing, but I should probably pay some bills and get caught up on email, too. Still, writing first!


Back to Writing … at Last!

May 10, 2012

After the long wedding-induced haitus, I am SO GLAD to be back to writing at last. A lot has happened in my “writing life” even though very little of it was actually writing. But hey, the writing world didn’t stop spinning because I neglected my desk. Imagine that!

  1. My favorite piece of news is that Katya Gordon’s sailing memoir, Big Waves, Small Boat, Two Kids just came out. I had the pleasure of working as an editor on this book, and it’s one of my favorite pieces that I’ve ever worked on. It’s one of those stories that I find myself thinking about, and drawing inspiration from, often. For example: when I was stressed about not having enough room in the 600-sq-foot house I now share with my husband, I thought about how Katya spent a year living in a much smaller boat with her husband and two kids, no less. And when I was in Florida for my honeymoon, I found myself wondering about the lives of the cruisers we saw docked out there. If you like memoir, or nature adventures, or stories about individuals and families figuring out just where they belong in this world, definitely consider checking out this book.
  2. The cover for Hungering and Thirsting for Justice came in. How magical it is to have stuff “just happen” on your book without you after a couple years of squeezing work on said book in at every opportunity? I like this “it’s with the publisher” business.
  3. I got an email from the editor of the anthology Unruly Catholic Women Writers, in which I have a piece, telling us that she has “good news” about the book … but, I haven’t heard what that is yet. Looking forward to it!

My attempt at doing NaPoWriMo was a bit of a failure. I kept it up diligently and doggedly, writing mostly very bad poems, until about three days before the wedding. Then after the wedding, rather than pick up where I left off … I totally forgot that I was supposed to be writing poetry at all. Well, there’s always next year!

My husband devotes his Fridays to working on his own business, and I’m thinking that I would like to try something similar — to dedicate that same time to my writing. Not tomorrow, though, because I have a big pile of freelance work to catch up on. I’ll be working from a desk (downgraded from an office) in the living room because the basement office isn’t finished yet. Ivan still works on his computer down there, but I cannot abide the cold concrete and dimness. One must have some standards!

It’s good to be back!


Overwhelmed, or Just Lucky?

February 13, 2012
I thought about blogging today about how the upheaval in my personal life has once again been detrimental to my creative life. I’ve mentioned it here before, how hard it is for me to write in transition. For me, transition is the enemy of The Writing Life, whereas routine seems to be its best companion. As I write that now, I realize how ironic that is, because it is in the transitions that life truly happens; if it weren’t for transitions, what would we have to write about? Everyone knows that the hallmark of good fiction is character development, and a character that ultimately changes by story’s end. Memoir, too. So I’m going to keep living, and changing, and writing about it all in my journal — and maybe when the dust settles, I’ll be able to utilize it in fiction, too.
 
These days, my life feels like an endless to-do list, and I’m at the point where something has to go. Because it’s so hard for me to write in transition, I’ve decided to go easy on myself in this regard. But as I was feeling overwhelmed at the grocery store today, wondering how I would ever get it all done, I remembered a podcast I listened to by Gregg Braden last week. I’d never heard of him before, and I still don’t know much about him, including how credible he is or isn’t. But his work has to do with research to link whether our thoughts or, more specifically, our belief systems and deep-soul feelings, have the power to affect our reality. He claims that our thoughts are weak, but that when we deeply believe something, it has the power to impact our circumstances. And so, with this in mind, I try not to let myself get stuck in a feeling that I “can’t do it all” or that there’s “just too much.” I’m trying to consciously change my script to this:
 
I have enough time, money, and energy to meet my needs.
 
And when I remembered that this is what I want to learn to feel deeply, I immediately saw my dilemma from a whole new angle. Right now, I’m swamped with freelance work and wondering whether I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’m trying to decide whether I’ll need to let someone down or whether I just need to pull through this stretch, not drop any balls because I may need this work in the future. And that’s when I realized how incredibly lucky I am to have this problem. When I first started freelancing three years ago, I was petrified with the fear that I’d be without work and without a means to support myself. Money is incredibly tight right now … so what better time to be inundated with work? I can do this, one deep breath and changed script at a time. 

Where I’m Writing . . . and Where I’m not

September 14, 2010

Dialog and posts have unfortunately declined on the Young Adults Catholic blog in the past year or so. The blog is completely run by volunteer editors and writers, and it’s no surprise that all of us have pretty busy lives. I’ve been doing pretty well at keeping my posting commitments, and I uploaded a new post today about forgiveness (fitting, as Yom Kippur is right around the corner). Unfortunately, the last post uploaded was also by me, which makes it feel a bit like a “Lacey Blog” and also means it hasn’t seen any new material for two weeks.

Luckily, we do have a few new blog writers in the wings. BUT if you know anyone who is Catholic and progressive, or even vaguely Catholic (raised Catholic, considering conversion, Catholic-curious, etc.), send them over to nextgen-blog@cta-usa.org. Although CTA 20/30 is a progressive organization for Catholics in their 20s and 30s, it’s open to a pretty wide range of Catholic-esque perspectives, as long as said perspectives are respectful and open to dialog.

I’ve also recently finished writing a bit of a closeted blog I’d kept about my transition moving from Duluth to rural Minnesota. Because I wanted the opportunity to explore potentially personal topics, I never made the link very public, and I’m not doing so now, either. But it seemed appropriate to mark that blog’s passing here, too, as this is another topic-specific blog that I devoted myself to for a year and then eased up on. Although I’m keeping this blog’s doors open indefinitely, I’m going to try to take a break from opening any new “themed blogs” and keep my writing focus on my novels and existing journals — including my trusty, dusty Livejournal that I’ve kept since 2002.


Back to the Classroom

June 10, 2010

I’m writing again, and I finally have a plan.

It’s been two months since I finished the second draft of my YA novel, and as usual, I was taking a “break” between projects. It was a productive break, as I managed to write a handful of poems, a short story, and lots of journal and blog entries. But two months tends to be sort of my “breaking point” between projects, when I start feeling a little batty for lack of writing structure. So when I woke up earlier than usual yesterday and had a whole blissful hour for writing, I decided what my next project is going to be: writing exercises.

I admit, it feels a little like a demotion to go from writing novels to doing writing exercises. In the past, I tended to scorn writing exercises (although I had no trouble doling them out to students!) because they took time away from my “real” writing. Well, I’m not ready to start a new novel, and Story-a-Day May revealed to me how productive exploring can be. Also, I ended up telling my mom about one of the stories I’d jotted down in my picto-journal, and as I told her about it, I realized it could actually be developed into a good short story.  So I’m going to take some time to work through reading and doing the exercises in Wild Ink, perhaps in conjunction with revising my novel. After I’m through with Wild Ink, I may be ready for a novel again (it may be November by then, after all!), or I may want to spend some time continuing to explore within the short story genre. Either way, I plan to have a full notebook of ideas to draw from. And I can’t wait!


The Writing Itch

August 3, 2009

Some writers thrive on chaos. I am not one of them. My writing thrives on routine, so summer, with its irresistable activities and travels, is always hard on my manuscripts. Add to that the fact that I’m preparing for a move — and I’ve already admitted that I don’t write so well in transition — and my current manuscript has been shamefully neglected. Whenever this happens, I start to panic a little. What if I never pick that manuscript up again? What if this is the end? What if I’m not really a writer?

But I’ve learned time and again that my time away from writing is limited, no matter how much I panic. My current hold-up was that I knew I needed to get some clear plot and organizational direction before I went forward on my novel, and I was waiting for that “perfect opportunity” to sit down and do some serious outlining and untangling. The need to do so started pressing on me last week, until the breaking point on Thursday night. I had just finished my critiques for my writers group, and I could not go another minute without working on my own novel. I stayed up late at my “back-up” writing desk (the one not pictured in my writing space photos because of its messiness) and had a solid plan for moving forward before I went to bed. By Saturday, I’d begun writing scenes again (seated at the laptop at my — clean — primary desk).

These moments are always reassuring to me. When I finish a manuscript, I often breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the “break” from working on it. But I’ve found that if the break lasts longer than a couple months, I start to “break” a little myself. And I know then that, whatever kind of success or lack of it I get from my writing, I will always be a writer. That is, at least if I want to stay sane — or relatively so.


My Life’s Change of Setting

July 14, 2009

It looks like the move I hinted at in my earlier entry is a go. The decision to go forward with it has everything to do with my desire to be a writer.

I’ve always considered myself a “serious” writer because I’ve always found a way to integrate writing into my life. But in the last couple years, I’ve begun making decisions specifically with the goal of writing in mind. I decided to transition to doing freelance work full-time so that I’d have more control over my schedule, and thus, more flexibility to write. The transition has been successful for the most part, but I’m still not writing as much as I’d like to. Money gets in the way.

Although I’m making approximately the same amount as a freelancer as I made as a full-time employee, my rent keeps going up. Higher rent means more time spent doing paid labor. More time spent in paid labor means less time for writing.

It’s no secret that being a writer isn’t exactly a lucrative career, and if I was ever in it for the money, I’d have gotten out long ago. I wish I was above needing money, but I’ve gotten used to having things like food and shelter in my life. For almost a year, I’ve been striving to find a way to make “more money in less time.” Since that hasn’t come through, I’m moving on to Plan B: cut the expenses.

My move will cut the expenses in a big way. What I’ll spend in rent for my last two months in my current location will be enough to pay my rent for half a year in my next one. I’m lucky to be a person who knows what I want: I want to write. Knowing that, I owe it to myself to make decisions accordingly. When I told my best friend I was considering this move, she said, “Is a change of scenery really such a big deal, if it lets you be more true to your calling?”

I like to write with Lake Superior out my window. But as far as scenery changes go, a garden, trees, and cornfields aren’t bad, either. When I was twelve, I had a dream of someday writing on the shores of Lake Superior. I’ve got that dream covered. Now it’s time to explore my (somewhat more ridiculous, but present nonetheless) dream of writing in the middle of nowhere. After all, one can get a lot of writing done when there’s absolutely nothing else to do.