It Begins

I’m keeping this “It Begins” menu item (with the various sub-pages) on my site as a reminder of how and where I started my quest to become an author. Perhaps you might recognize things about yourself and your own journey as a writer in my pages, or perhaps you’ll simply get a chuckle! Either way, we both win!

Fun with author friend Janet Sheppard Kelleher (left), author of "Big C, little ta-ta" and her daughter (2nd from left) and another friend (right). Yours truly is snapping the selfie!
Fun with author friend Janet Sheppard Kelleher (left), author of “Big C, little ta-ta” and her daughter (2nd from left) and another friend (right). Yours truly is snapping the selfie!

Day 1
September 6, 2011

Writing a book about writing a book.

Everything in the universe has been aligning this year to allow me—today—to begin doing what I’ve merely mouthed in the past: I’m going to be a writer!
Knowing that my youngest son (we’ll call him Jake as that is his name) would follow his brother’s (let’s call him Nick) decision to live away at college, my two semi-adopted-almost-live-in friends would be headed to Abu Dhabi for the next two years to teach, and my two locally mentored kids of the past four years would be moving out of county, I decided that this could possibly be “my year.” Although I doubted that my husband of 28 years (that would be Mike) would be leaving me, too, I checked with him nonetheless to see if my decision to leave full-time teaching to realize my dream was doable. His answer made me realize that I’ll likely stay married to him for another 28 (at which time I may reevaluate his answers), so here I sit . . .

in a room which, just last week, was nearly impregnable to outsiders (I selected the least offensive “evidence” photo for this page’s banner). I’ll pretend that Jake was purposeful in creating the calamity he left so I’d have an easier time saying goodbye when I dropped him at CU Boulder two weeks ago. He called my bluff on the “Whatever you don’t take I’ll give away” threat, and so after I shed two tears as I left him in his new, pristine college room, I braced for the next week of making good on my threat.

Oh! The things I found. I learned far more about my son than was necessary while triaging the terrifying space, yet within a week’s time I had removed and dispersed the varied piles and brought in my own belongings to create a peaceful, positive space for my body, soul, and computer.

As another preparation for making my writing career a reality, I attended a writer’s workshop in Colorado Springs a couple of months ago. The speaker told the group that if they would spend 3-4 hours per day for 3-4 days per week, they could produce a completed book within a year. This prompted me to take a good look at my teaching schedule for the past five years:
06:30-07:30 Rise, shower, dress, breakfast, out the door
07:30-08:00 Prep classroom for day’s teaching and other admin
08:00-15:35 Teach like a pro (28 minutes somewhere for lunch)
15:35-18:00 Extracurricular activities/paper grading/possible exercise
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:00-21:00 Frequent evening activities at school and more grading
21:00-22:00 Vegetate in front of the TV
22:00’ish-06:30 Sleep, dreaming of school requirements

I figure that an average teaching day consumed at least 10 hours of my time, so if I could dedicate half that time every day, I’d be able to complete a book in less than a year. My goal today is to have two publishable books by Labor Day 2012. One will be what you are reading now (and I’ll suggest the title Writing a Book about Writing a Book), the other will be whatever comes from my uploading of Dad’s letters home—“V Mail”—the probably title. Although I’m not certain of the direction those letters will take me, I’m excited about the upcoming journey.

I’ve identified some possible obstacles to my new writing career:

Facebook: So my first fb post before beginning my new job was this (posted after watching Nick head south and bringing Jake back to school on Labor Day): “As Labor Day ends and my official back-to-work schedule as a writer and all-around creative person begins tomorrow, I can announce–joyfully–that I will never be able to create anything as perfect and wonderful as the creation of my two sons! (major props to my co-creator in “Operation Social Responsibility”*  over 20 years ago!). We love you, Nick and Jake!”
*Operation Social Responsibility was my years-long crusade toward making Mike realize that we had an obligation to the world to procreate.

With this realization voiced (and we’ve all heard about things being “real” only once posted on this amazing . . . addictive . . . amazingly addictive social media), I felt somewhat unburdened about my upcoming endeavors. My perfectly wonderful children are each wonderfully perfect, and an old teaching buddy (Erin Drake) just posted (in response to my post) that I am, in fact, a pro-creator!

So you can see already that managing the social media will be a sometimes daunting task, especially since now, according to Writer’s Digest (WD) Magazine, writers need to have a social media “platform” to more successfully lure an agent.

Visiting (non-virtual): I am an extraordinarily social creature, and I do not want to become a writing hermit. That said, I could easily “visit the day away” with friends down town (an easy walk from my 120 year old Victorian home). Must resist.

Eating: Sadly, I am a stress eater. I am a boredom eater. I am a bag-full-of-peppermint-patties-gone eater.  I will justify polishing off this bag of Lays Classic potato chips by recalling my morning run. How apt is the quote I just read from WD’s interview with Dave Cullen who said, “Be the gourmet meal. Don’t be the potato chip.” (Oct 2011, v. 91, no. 7, p.47). He wasn’t talking about snacking, but the timing was uncanny. Again, must resist.

Butt/back stiffness: I’ll certainly need to adjust frequently. Exercise ball or stand while reading, stand frequently while typing, set up the adjustable height computer stand I purchased over a month ago.

Writer’s “block”: Remember to carry a notebook or my voice recorder while not at my keyboard. I came up with the idea to write this book this morning while running!

Creating space: I am a believer in un-cluttered work space. If you have someone you can kick out of your house so you can take over their room, do it.

I think most of the obstacles to “suddenly” becoming a writer (although today’s start feels sudden, it also feels quite right) is to have a tweakable schedule.  Here’s mine, and I put it together last night:

06:30-07:30 Rise, coffee, prep for exercise, news
07:30-08:30 exercise
08:30-09:30 Shower, breakfast
09:30-12:30 Write
12:30-13:30 Lunch, walk
13:30-14:30 Learn (Spanish, reading, study something)
14:30-15:30 Music (piano, flute) or Art (draw, sculpt)
15:30-16:30 Exercise
16:30-17:30 House chores, bills, laundry, food shopping, etc.
17:30- Free time (i.e., dinner/facebook/TV/lounge!)

I already discovered this morning that I’ll have to move my “Chores” time to right after my morning coffee. The knowledge that things are in disarray around me will distract from the peacefulness I need to think clearly, but that’s just me. Also, I’ve clearly already cheated on my “resist fb” attempt.

I did run for an hour after doing some chores, and the anticipation of my upcoming writing time kept my brain fully occupied. There’s something about getting a workout in early(ish) in the morning that makes you feel you’ve already accomplished something wonderful.

For my “learn something” time I read the October issue of WD while trying to sit on an exercise ball with my feet off the floor! They’re all talking about having a “platform” (not something upon which to sit) . . . and lots of suggestions to have on-line content and a large audience of followers before the actual book comes out. Yikes. So I’m thinking about having a link to all of Dad’s letters once they’re uploaded.

It’s 4:10 now, and I haven’t done that afternoon exercise (does reading on the ball count?) or music/art. Heading downstairs now to my lonely, dusty piano. I actually feel like taking a nap . . . could be the rain . . . must resist! “There’ll be plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead,” or so they say!

Okay . . . I practiced finger drills until the dust wore off the ivory keys, and the idea came to me that I should make THIS my “platform”! Time to research writing blogs!

Yikes…it’s 11:15 p.m. and I’m still researching blog stuff. Time for bed.

Today’s tidbits?

  1. Adagio Teas are superb.
  2. If you follow a schedule (even if it gets tweaked along the way) you can accomplish much.
  3. Taking breaks to do creative things can make you more creative! (too obvious?).
  4. Don’t feel like you need to create your “platform” and complete your entire book on your first day as a writer!


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