Cedar’s post the other day about choosing attainable goals started me thinking about things I’ve been trying to sweep under the rug for a while. By now the rug is all lumpy and it keeps bubbling as the Rug Monsters fight for freedom. So I guess it’s time to let them have their say…
I doubt that I’m the only one around here who cherishes a beautiful vision of sitting in my perfectly appointed study while the words flow from my fingertips by the thousands, resulting in multiple books a year, all (of course) impeccably proofread, polished to a high gloss, with attractive covers, superb formatting, and tempting blurbs.
And I’m darned sure I’m not the only one here who has tripped over some manifestation or other of Real Life as I strode confidently towards this vision, head held so high that I didn’t notice the Rug Monsters underfoot. (If anybody reading this is really living the dream, just don’t tell me about it, okay?)
Toddlers are extremely efficient Rug Monsters. So are school-age children, particularly during the current craziness. Teenagers add their own Satanic touches – at least my teens did; I kept expecting to see their pretty little heads rotate 360 degrees while they vomited green bile. In mercy to those of you still think it gets easier after they’re 18, I shall refrain from detailing the ways in which grown kids can generate even more challenging manifestations of Real Life.
And then there are the interruptions generated by spouse, day job, day job during Covid-19, aging parents, family crises, surprise expenses, cross-country moves, disintegrating houses… need I continue?
Having outlived most of these problems, I feel like a total wimp for letting my own Rug Monsters derail me. But age, multiple surgeries, and the peculiar exhaustion generated by chronic pain are also quite effective Rug Monsters. And so I’m making some adjustments that I don’t much like.
All my life I’ve been driven by so much overflowing creativity and energy that it wasn’t enough just to keep writing books; in my “off hours,” even while coping with family issues, I had to design quilts and cover things with beads, paint furniture and concoct complex Chinese dishes. And I needed to be outside in nature so much that I wore my own ruts in the hiding trails around Austin, even in the dog days of Austin.
No longer. When I take my fingers off the keyboard, they don’t twitch to pick up an embroidery or beadwork project. The quilt pieces I cut out before the round of surgeries started are neatly folded in a drawer, because I haven’t the energy to clean out a sewing room that has become a dumping place for junk and unused furniture. Hiking trails are a thing of the past now that I need a cane to hobble from the back door to the patio at the back of the yard.
I’ve spent the last year and a half restarting a book, losing weeks to some stupid minor illness that knocks me for a loop, restarting again… Apart from the pain issues I’m basically healthy again now, and I want to get back to a regular writing schedule. Just clenching my fists and screaming, “I want to be the way I used to be!” hasn’t worked out, so it’s time to make some changes.
- Actually writing the books is the main thing; many of the surrounding tasks can be outsourced, and I’m going to do that. I’m swapping proofreading services with other writers, because I no longer trust my unaided eyes to catch the small stuff. Formatting? It is irrelevant that up to a few years ago, formatting books for Kindle and print would have been a trivial task that I could do in a matter of hours. I’m not as quick as I used to be and trying to fiddle with all the details is draining. Pay somebody to do it. I’m even experimenting with paying someone to write a blurb for Tangled Magic; I don’t need to spend days yanking my hair out over that task, either. A couple of weeks will tell if I can actually outsource blurb writing to a professional who pinkie pinkie promises to read the book first.
- I usually spend as much time on research/plotting as on actual writing; if I’ve done the first part well, words flow easily during the second phase. Unfortunately, research/plotting doesn’t make me happy the way writing does, plus it’s harder to quantify, so I’m continually tempted to start writing before I’m ready. Since we’re going back to the beach for another week – I’ll be there when you read this – I plan to spend the indoor part of the vacation working out some quantifiable goals for that phase, whether in terms of books read, pages of notes taken, time spent, or chapters adequately plotted. It’s worth a little thinking time.
- Writing goals are not going to be what they were when I had the energy to dive into a book and not resurface for hours. Taking a leaf from Cedar’s book, I’m going to start by setting word-count goals I am sure I can meet, then – with luck – raising them until I find the sweet spot where I both meet the goal and feel satisfied with progress.
Come September, I’ll be back with a report on how the inchoate New Plan is shaping.