Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fricassee

Okay, fellow writers. I'm fessin' up.

My family is going to be here for Thanksgiving and I. Don't. Want. To. Stop. Writing.

You already know I'm not one of "those" writers. As in, the writing-is-my-oxygen type. Passionate, yes. Committed, yes. But not...well, one of "those" writers.

I mean, it's okay to BE one of "those" writers. I'm just not.

And here I am, blessed to have my family coming here for the second Thanksgiving in a row. Last year, it was my idea. This year, they invited themselves.

My family isn't like that, really. They're not the invite-yourselves type. (How annoying would that be?) So last year must've been a big hit.


So I'm glad they're coming. Really, I am.

It's just that I'm looking at the calendar and thinking, "Tuesday. Company arriving. No time to write. Wednesday. Baking pies and making broccoli-cheddar soup from scratch. No time to write. Thursday. Thanksgiving. Um..."

You get the idea.

Now, my parents like to have quiet time in the afternoons to read newspapers. Newspapers make me grouchy; they lie all over the house when my parents are here, making my little fingers black when I move them around. But I'm thinking newspapers will be my best friend next week. I may buy one of every paper I can get my hands on.

Because they can read and I can, yanno, write.

My sister's a different story, though. I WANT to have sister chattiness and go-out-for-coffeeness. I really do. But it's killing me to set aside my work.

Killing me.

I never dreamed there was a Type A personality tucked inside me.

So help me balance, will you? My goal is to finish Draft 3 (aka The Huge Rewrite) of my Dystopian project by December 31. And this Thanksgiving thing is a whole chunk of days to give up. Remind me that I can get back on track once the house has emptied. Remind me that I am a human being first, a writer second.

And if you're one of "those" writers, keep your belief that "writer" comes before "human being" to yourself. Please.

Because I never expected this from myself and I've only got a few days to get my head on straight.

Eagerly awaiting your words of wisdom...


  1. I think a lot of people will be experiencing this next week, so it's good to know you (and they) aren't alone.

    The good news is that a couple of days off from the rewrite will be a nice way to charge the creative batteries. Sure, you can still write a little bit before they all waken and at night before you pin out, but your mad dash writing will get some time off.

    I just completed a forced 2 day mad dash holiday. I was cranky about it, but it did help me out of a sticky scene when I went back to it last night.

    So, embrace the break, but if you feel a cranky attack coming on, hide in the bathroom or something for 20 minutes and get something written.

  2. I'm going to come across as a right miserable old bat here. I resent every single hour that I'm taken away from writing. It makes me crabby. I don't mind being at work, that's not a problem but, when something intrudes on my writing time....grrrrrrrrr.

    I probably need to see a therapist, don't I?

  3. It will be okay. If the thought of not writing stresses you, maybe you can find 15 minutes at the beginning or end of the day. I know that can be hard to do, and it isn't much time, but time limits like that can make a writer very productive. A speaker at a conference compared it to telling kids they only have a few minutes left to play. That's when the game gets really interesting.

    Best of luck with finding the balance, and enjoy the holiday.

  4. Get up one hour earlier, and write. Then you can enjoy your time with family without frantically wanting to write. (But, hey, take it easy on yourself - buy a few things ready made or ask family to bring some dishes.)

  5. Hide in the bathroom and write!!! I love it! :D

    I hear you sister! I'm working on queries and a synopsis for a YA at the moment and it's killing me every time that I have to stop for something else. That said, I'm waaay more stressed than is healthy over it (partially because I DON'T yet have an agent and so for me it's the next big step, and this ms is the strongest novel I've written thus far, my strongest chance to make an impression etc) and so being forced to stop obsessing is a good thing.

    I'm not really one of "those" writers either. But for me, the more novels I write, the older I get (I know, I'm young yet) the weirder the market gets, well it all adds up. I get so determined to 'get things done' efficiently and with a business air because I want to be taken seriously and get a toe in the door. I never thought I'd be as driven as I am now, and I think that once I do have an agent I'll even out. It's not the stress, it's the not knowing if all this will ever become what I want it to be...

    Just look at Thanksgiving as a break, one you might need even if you don't know it. And enjoy the holidays!

  6. Set aside a certain amount of time. Maybe an hour while the kids nap, or 45 minutes while a pie bakes, or 2 hours after everyone goes to bed and tell everyone that's your work time.

    Lock yourself in the study or bedroom with the laptop and write. Don't check e-mail. Don't get on twitter. Don't do anything but work on your revisions.

    Straight writing with guests is easier. I can take 30 minutes while my sister showers and the grandparents play with the baby and type 1000 words for a new scene. Editing is a little bit harder.

    But it can be done.

    Maybe you won't get as much time as you do when family isn't around, but you can make some time. Set your goals a little bit lower for the week and once you've hit the small goal go enjoy time with your family. If more time opens up during the day and you can write more, great! If not, you've hit your goal and life is still good.

  7. Add some extra tryptophan to the turkey, and when everyone is getting their snooze on, write. Or, go to the coffee shop an hour before your sister, write, and then chat her up.

    Or, know that when you come back to the writing, you will be refreshed and have a good perspective. And people watch your family while their visiting. It can be "research".

  8. First thing- don't beat yourself up about feeling this way. When the muse is in gear, its like an itch that must be scratched or insanity sets in. Writers understand this, non writers don't.

    All I can say is I sympathize. I have no real answer. I can't tell you how many times I did all I needed to do for my family done, so I could set a whole day aside to write and then one of my kids wakes up with strep and I spend most of the day at the doctor, pharmacy, making easy to eat food, etc. Or even worse, my husband decides to take off so we can spend the day together. And I'm suposed to be thrilled.

    I say in my grumpiest moments that I would be published now if I was single or had said no to those friends who signed up for stuff and then needed help getting it done, etc. etc. But those friends were there for me helping take care of my kids when my mom got sick. And I was holding her hand when she died. It made me a better person and maybe even a better writer. All that stuff is my inspiration.

    Will the world ever read my work? I don't know, but at the end of my life I'll know I had good friends, a good marriage, happy kids. Though I may still be scribbling on my death bed.

  9. Authoress,

    I'm often lurking here, seldom commenting. But I'll share what I'm planning in the coming week: I'm mid-umpeenth rewrite, too, and today I'm deciding which thorny scenes to mull over as I bake, roast, steam. That way, if I get spare moments for writing, I'll know exactly what to dive into. Good luck and thanks for all you do!

  10. You're not one of those writers!

    I always look at Thanksgiving as my self-imposed break from writing. I mean, there's the whole go the grocery store 12 times because I keep forgetting things. Then, there's the whole put up the Christmas tree that weekend thingy . . . so I always plan on not writing as obsessively as I'd like to for at least a week every year when Thanksgiving rolls around.


  11. I just had a conversation with my fiance about this like, ten minutes ago!
    I told him I loved him so much I wanted to hug him and never let go. He asked me how I would write then. Before I could respond, he said "You'd give up writing for me?"
    I replied, "In a heart beat. Just like you'd give up playing World of Warcraft for me."

    I realize I made a fatal mistake. I shouldn't have compared my writing, MY WRITING, the ultimate goal in my life besides being a wife, the very thing I do everyday that brings me joy, to his little annoying hobby game. (Oh wait. I play WoW too.)

    Anyways, I agree. We are human beings first and writers second. Go have some fun this thanksgiving! Your project will ALWAYS be there when you get back to normal. Your family won't always be there and you are blessed to have such a loving group.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. I am not one of *those* writers, either. But I do sometimes get on a roll, and then I'm afraid to stop, because I think the momentum won't be there when I get back to it. Or I just want to hit a goal.

    Here's what I have to remind myself - that my real family is so much more important than my imaginary family - my writing.

    Because really, as much as my writing may feel elusive, it's firmly within my control. And who knows if my family will all be here alive and happy and healthy next year. People are a gift, and much more fragile than a novel. And I know you know that and have good priorities - I'm only telling you what I tell myself when I get into the same head space.

    My book will still be there whenever I choose to pick it up again, but time to chat and drink coffee and share in people's lives may not be. Even if the people are still around, those moments of true sharing and laughing and loving can be fleeting and we should fully embrace them when they are. I mean, that's what we'd make our characters do, right? ;)

  13. If you are seriously addicted, here's a plan for a pre-dawn writing session:

    (1) Scope out a restaurant that will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Try hotels and the 24-hour grocery store coffee shop. The grocery store might be your best bet. Don't guess -- call them to find out.

    (2) Get up QUIETLY at least two hours early.

    (3) Pull on the jeans, sweater, coat and boots that you left by the bed the night before.

    (4) Do not stop to make coffee.

    (5) Go to the car.

    (6) Your laptop will be in the car where you put it the night before (unless you park on the street, in which case, scrap this step).

    (7) Drive in the darkness to the coffee shop and write for 2 hours.

    (8) Return home to be the hostess to your wonderful family.

    (9) IMPORTANT: after you find the grocery store coffee shop that will be open at 4-5AM, tell your husband you plan to step out for a pre-dawn writing session. He will probably flip, but if you do it now, he'll get used to the idea. Remind him that plenty of people are working at that hour (delivering milk and newspapers, arresting people...)

  14. At times like these, I take a good look at what I've been doing on a daily basis. I make it a goal to get half of my regular work load done. That way, I'm only 2 days behind instead of 4, I'm still getting work done and I'm not worrying about it, but I get a break and get to spend time with family at the same time.

    I have a toddler, so on holidays I write in the evenings for an hour instead of writing during her two hour nap.

    Just a thought :)

  15. I think it's wonderful that even though you're not one of "those" writers, you obviously love what you do. So many people hate what they do. It's a good problem to have!

  16. I hear ya on this one, big-time.

    When I have company, I usually turn in for bed, but then stay up a couple more hours to write.

    Also, I get up a bit early as well. And most of the time, my family takes naps, so I'll write while they sleep off the turkey-induced-tiredness. :-)

    I usually have to pound down some serious Pepsi to stay awake, but it is doable.

    Hang in there. :-)

  17. You remind me of me. I have my family coming up too--only I am already almost a month over the end of October deadline I set for myself to finish my revision. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to write. Instead I am going to make a list of around 3-5 problems I haven't been able to figure out how to fix. Like, for example, what does that old woman's cane really look like and why? Then, like Emily above, I'm going to mull over it while I'm chasing my 3-year-old nephew, while I'm picking up all the newspapers and Sport's Illustrateds my dad's left all over my house, and while I'm stuffing the turkey. I'm purposefully not going to let myself write--I am just going to mull. Don't know if I'll get anywhere but it helps me get over the anxiety of not being able to work on my novel.

  18. I'm sorry but I'm a mom of 3, grandmother of 2 and also have a part-time job and a husband who is laid off during the winter and I still find time to write.

    I apologize Authoress that I don't have time to think of a sweet, nurturing, politically correct way to say what needs to be said:

    STOP the WHINING!!!!

  19. I feel your pain, Authoress, although my time thief is two young children, and they never go away:) But when I start to feel like life is sabotaging my writing, I sit back and remind myself that life is what I draw my inspiration from, and that without those tiny experiences, hundreds of them every day, I wouldn't have much to write about, at least not very convincingly.

    So enjoy your time with family, sneak a few minutes here and there to write, and watch for those small moments that will give your writing, when you get back to it, life.

  20. Set your clock for 4:30 AM, have a cup of coffee, and write in the dining room!

  21. Definitely do the family holiday thing because it is work (where would writers get their ideas and inspiration from if not from human interactions). Plus, while you are socializing, writing will still be taking place in your subconscious mind so when you get back to work, you will be roaring with ideas and energy from having taken a break.

    I used to teach creating balance workships so I know this from experience!


  22. Oh, I hate this situation! My muse is always like this, but I seriously don't like to consider myself one of "those" writers. Because for me writing doesn't come before everything.

    Is there any possibility of sneaking a few minutes in here and there. Maybe waking up a bit earlier -- if you're not a morning person, then this might not be the best option. When I have no time I tend to start handwriting instead of using my laptop. I'm more productive that way, because if I get on the laptop...

    Well, I'm meant to be writing now. And look what I'm doing instead...

  23. I SO know what you mean. Who decided NaNoWriMo should be in November, anyway?? How am I supposed to crank out another xx thousand words before Nov 30?



    It is truly important to enjoy the family while you have the chance. I'm officially suspending submissions to my critique group next week, just so people won't be tempted to critique instead of visit with family. Because family truly is important!

    Maybe I'll write when they're all asleep . . .


  24. I know the feeling you're talking about. I think us writers can get a little OCD about it.

    But it's your family. Take the time to be with them.

    The writing will be waiting for you when you get back-I know about the little voice that says "what if it's not?"

    And sometimes it does take time to get back into the swing of things after a break. That's true, but you have to look at the weight of things. Is what little you can accomplish in three days worth hurting your family?

    And lets not forget the isolated feeling that arises after you've miss one too many holidays, and lunches, and (insert a variety of functions here). So much so that people stop sending you invitations.

    Even if you were published and under deadlines, I'd still take the time.

    I'm speaking from experience here.

  25. I agree with Zuccini - take the time to be with them. Your priorities are in line and that's always good. Look at it like when it's summer and the kids are home all day and you can't accomplish anything because... the kids are home all day. But the first day back at school you get five times as much done than any summer day. But the summer days are gone and you can't get them back and you find that sweeping the floor every day wasn't so important after all - family is. I am betting after the company leaves, you'll get more done in one day than you did before they came. At least the first day or so. Just keep a pad in your pocket in case something springs to mind during one of those family gatherings! Enjoy and may God ease the frustration of laying aside something good for may be something better for a short time.

  26. I have the same issue in reverse. My kids and I are flying out Thursday morning - Sunday afternoon. I'm not even taking my laptop because even if there's down time, I think it would be rude to hold-up and write when I see my parents once or twice a year. I am going to buy a new, smallish notebook and take a favorite pen along so I can work on my query letter and make notes for my synopsis whenever I do have a minute to myself, or in the airport and on the plane. I figure it's like when my brain is tired and I'm not writing but I'm researching agents and adding them and their specifications to my list. It's still part of the big picture.

    And as of Wednesday I'll be considering today is Saturday, I'm trying to do as much writing as I can in the next four days so I can grab the gusto when I come back.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  27. Others have suggested ways to get time to write and I think you should take those up. But if you don't get as much done as you would like, try and take a long-term view. Would you rather finish your rewrite by December 31 but not have spent much time with your family, or have it finished on January 5 but have great memories of Thanksgiving with your relatives? If your draft is finished a few days late it won't matter in the long run but family memories can't be replaced.

  28. Dear Authoress,
    Being one of "those" writers, I welcome you to the clan, even if only for November. My family knows and loves me in spite of my addiction so they're not the problem. I have a day job that drains the very sap from my creative limbs. I was depressed when the job started to demand too much from me, but I reminded myself how much more depressed I would be standing under the overpass with my sign, "Will write for food." I try to compartmentalize and put on my worker-bee costume at 9 am. I assume this character and try to play her to the best of my ability until I can shed her and become "me".
    My suggestion is that you become the super hostess who did such a fabulous job last year you got an encore. It's okay to tell the family that you have to leave them for a couple of hours because this is your writing time. You are a writer. They will understand. Its what you do.

  29. Love those visitors. Enjoy them. Revel in their presence. And put them all to bed at 8:00 sharp. ;)

  30. You can do this! Think of it as "curing" time for all the stuff you've already done on your novel. Enjoy them when they come.

    One thing I do: give up sleep. Just for an hour. Stay up after they've all gone to bed and write. It's bliss after a busy day.

    Oh, and did you see Kristin Nelson's newsletter that said YA dystopian is "What's Hot" right now? You go girl!