Life in General, Writing

Settling In

What visions of grandeur I have when planning my perfect writer life.

I will wake up with my husband (so early, he rises), we will walk the dog together, and then I will make us coffee while he gets ready for work. As the door closes on his departure, my laptop will open and my productivity will arrive. And then, I will write. And then feed the dog. And then write. And then walk the dog. And then write and write and write until lunch. I will walk the dog again, and then I will read (or perhaps edit another project) until dinner. Then, I will have family time with my dog and husband for the rest of the night.

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Having just gotten married and moved from the suburbs to the city -not to mention having an actual brick-and-mortar job I have to show up to every few days- I have far too many affairs to settle to fall into this routine. I have last names to change! Thank you cards to order, write, and send! Boxes to unpack! Closets to organize! Essentials (like.. a desk) to purchase! Books to read, review, and recommend! Storytimes to lead! I mean, I should wait until I have less on my plate, right?

Except that, if I wait for the perfect time, for fewer obligations to fill the space between sunup and sundown, I will be waiting my entire life to begin. And I am far more of an Alexander Hamilton than an Aaron Burr, sir. If you are not familiar with the story of Alexander Hamilton (or the Broadway musical I am currently obsessed with), that means that I would rather “write day and night like it’s going out of style” than “wait for it.”

And write I have. Inspired with a picture book idea, I flew through a first draft that was clunky, too long, and not at all what I wanted… but it was a huge learning experience. That first draft turned into a second draft that dealt with the plot issues I saw, but was still as just as long and twice as bulky. A third draft (currently in edits) focuses on killing my darlings, paring down unnecessary words and exposition into something that might actually seem like a picture book instead of a novella for preschoolers.

Here’s the catch. I always knew that it was better to write -no matter what else I had going on in my life- than to not write. But, for the first time that was not perfectly convenience for writing, I acted on it. And now, when people ask how my writing is going (and oh, do people ask how my writing is going…), I can’t describe how great it feels to tell them about my progress instead of saying “Oh, well, you know… it’s going…”

So here’s to settling in. Not into to a lifestyle that’s comfortable to write in, but into a dedication to writing even when it’s not comfortable.

And I guess that goes for wedding thank you notes, too…

Writing

Shitty First Drafts (You Didn’t Hear It Here First)

For the first time ever, outside of school assignments and blog posts, I have a finished first draft of a project.

And as exciting as it is, it’s also kind of strange.

I’ve been writing and studying writing and reading other people’s writing for quite a while and while I never thought I knew it all, I didn’t realize the depth of what I could learn with such a seemingly simple accomplishment.

I had an idea for a picture book, you see. As a librarian and frequent reader of picture books, I know the types I like best. And after a bit of research, I knew how to structure a draft and what word count to hit.

And my draft looked nothing like that.

Before, while trying to write essays or novels or what have you, I always stopped once my project stopped looking how it was supposed to. I could never bear to go forward knowing the mess I was making; it’s just not my way. But, alternatively, I never could tweak my work to make it right… and so I left it alone, imperfect and unfinished.

Every. Single. Time.

But a picture book clocks in at 1000 words tops. How much damage could I really do? So I wrote, even when I knew it was bad and too long and not the bouncy, catchy picture book I wanted. I wrote. And I wrote. And I got down my entire little story, for better or for worse.

And once I saw the whole picture, once I saw the whole big mess of a first draft I had created, I knew exactly how to fix it.

Exactly.

I don’t anticipate a longer work- a nonfiction essay or a novel, for instance- to have such a clear cut fix, to be such a simple mop up to go from absolute crap to actually not that bad. But the fact that it was the finished draft in its entire, shitty glory that spurred the fix…

That gives me all the confidence I need going forward.

For now, anyway.

So here’s to an invaluable lesson learned, shitty first drafts, and to those who write them.

And now to mount an entirely different horse… editing.

Writing

A Very Good Place

The beginning is a very good place to start. Or so Frauline Maria and the Von Trapp children would have us believe.

And I suppose this is the beginning. Of both my little webpage and perhaps of a writing career. I’ve been priming myself to write for a long time– I’ve fancied myself a writer since I was about 8 years old, I was in my high school’s creative writing club, and heck, I even majored in Creative Writing in college.

So why did it take me so long to start?

I suppose the reasons I could give are the reasons we all find ourselves giving for not doing something sooner. I was busy. I was honing my craft. I was scared.

But the most important thing isn’t any the reason I haven’t started yet. It’s the fact that I’m starting.

I’ve been writing things, but not seriously. Not diligently. I have “works in progress,” if “in progress” means editing the same 1500 words I was able to pound out one NaNoWriMo two years ago. Which, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t.

I don’t know what’s changed recently that made me think now is the time. Maybe it’s finally getting a job in a library I am happy with. Maybe it’s getting that whole wedding thing out of the way. Maybe I’ve just found that there is no right time, there’s just right now.

And right now? I’m currently sitting on an SCBWI Write This! entry, I am about 5000 words deep in a young adult story, and a picture book idea has been outlined and is slowly making its way into a first draft.

So that’s where I am. Only time will tell where I’m going. And I hope you’ll come along for the ride.