Writer of Soul-Searching Snark

New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t believe in them because years of experience have taught me that they simply set me up for failure. Who wants to start a new year as a loser? I mean, really? There are enough other situations throughout the year to confirm that I’m not the best at following through with plans. Boxes and boxes of fabric and shelves of quilting books remain untouched after years of being in the sewing queue. The ever growing stack of books by my bed shows that nowadays I read three sentences and then fall asleep. Not to mention the cobwebs in the corners of my house or the knee-deep cat-fur lining on the carpet upstairs.

So, for 2012 I made no resolutions. Instead I made a schedule with tasks that have to be completed each month. I’m a project manager for heaven’s sake. I know about planning, execution and completion of projects. I’m great at it when I’m working on a project for someone else!

By the end of 2011, I was so frustrated I was ready to go to work at the Japton feed store. To heck with creativity! I was prepared to drown my muse in the upper pond and leave his lifeless body for the snapping turtles, but even I decided that was a wee bit extreme.

Instead, I broke out the poster board and charted my life. God, I love charts. I get all tingly when I break out the multicolored markers. The only thing better is an Excel spreadsheet. Those make my knees weak. After careful consideration and navel gazing I tried to analyze the aspects of my life that I found most frustrating. When I figured it out, I was shocked. Shocked I say!

Unfortunately, I’d already killed my muse. Well, not killed exactly, but stuffed him in a duffel bag and buried him under tons of shoes and cocktail dresses in the back of my closet. (Don’t even get me started on how good he looked in those red-spiked heels and cute little black dress when I finally freed him.)

Turns out the reason I was so frustrated with my writing career was because I hadn’t written anything new in months. I’d spent hours and hours and hours editing, but had done nothing new and fun and creative.

On January 2nd, I sat in front of my computer and opened my current WIP and wrote. Oh God, the endorphins that raced through my body. Oh, the elation! Loved every second of it.

Only problem, that dadgum social networking. Seems like for me it’s either/or. I can write. I can spend hours online writing blog posts, visiting other people’s blogs, keeping up with Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.

I chose writing. The result? Nada on the social networking side of things. My family says this is a no-brainer. You write. I explain that sure, I can write, but who will buy my books if no one has a clue who I am?

How do you do it? How do you keep your house clean, your animals fed, yard mowed, write 4 hours a day and maintain a web presence? How? Tell me? How do you do it? Huh? Tell me! Now damn it! I must know!! How in God’s name do those authors who work full time do it? How?! I must know!

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Comments on: "Balance or as I call it WTF?!?" (38)

  1. I’m sure I’m not as prolific a writer as you, Claire, so my situation isn’t going to be comparing apples to apples. But, I only clean house when it’s absolutely necessary and I don’t mow grass. Yeah the place looks like hell and I’m embarrassed when people come over. But I couldn’t give up feeding the kid and animals and I still need my day job, so those were the only two things left to give. That I was willing to give.

    • Madison, anyone who has seen my house will think that I don’t clean it regularly. And truthfully it is the first thing that is neglected on my to-do list. Some days it’s writing and critter feeding. That’s all I manage.

  2. I clean house only as much as necessary to keep my sanity, unless, like Madison said, people are coming over, then I go insane cleaning house. 🙂 My biggest challenge is social media being a distraction. Though I enjoy it, it is very time consuming. Keeping an online presence is easy – it’s keeping it ALIVE that’s hard.

    And my muse? Well, I didn’t have to kill him or stuff him anywhere. He’s run away to La-La Land, I’m afraid. My plan to bring him home again is to banish myself to the Internet-free zone of my office, where I will write or edit at least two hours a day. How did I make it Internet-free you ask? I put a sign up that says so. I’m a creative writer, after all. I can use my imagination. We’ll see if it works.

    • Jan, Internet-free is easy for me out here in Booger County. Some days are dedicated to writing simply because my satellite is dead. I’m happy with that for about 2 hours and then my body starts shaking and I hear a low-drone buzz in my ear as the Internet withdrawals kick in.

  3. Sorry, Claire, I do not have an answer for your dilemma. There are many of us who share your feelings and frustration. When you find the solution please share it with us.

    • Denton, you’re right. If I can come up with the answer to this dilemma I’ll never be able to write again. I’d be a hit on the writer conference circuit.

  4. I think I’ll try what Velda does. She sets a certain day for social networking Ppromotion, a certain day for blogs and writing all the rest of the week.

    I usually look at my week and determine 2 chore days which include running errands. I have a dedicated writing time and then I sweep the house with a glance. 😉 This has worked until the Pressroom which has turned everything upside down, which is fine and necessary. However with the new year, I will get back on track. Starting with running away from home for a week!

    My muse has been pouting in the corner, arms crossed, lip out, glaring at me for months.

    • Linda, I’m so glad you’re going to let your muse out to play. I imagine since she’s been pouting for all this time she’s going to cause you all kinds of grief for a day or two, but you’ll be able to wrangle her. I understand what you mean about the errands in town. That takes up an entire day for me. 2 hours commuting makes for great story development, but I’d rather be using the drive time to write.

  5. I’m sorry Claire! I was going to devise a brilliant answer for you (because you deserve no less than a scintillating, shiny, sharp scheme) but I found I don’t have time. Alas!

  6. Who keeps their house clean or their lawn mowed?

    As usual, you speak for us all.

  7. mgmillerbooks said:

    My secret to a clean house: low lighting. But this post speaks to me. I work a soul-sucking 40 hour per week job, pounding and driving as fast as I can to get all the paper out before the next ton is dumped on me. When I get home, I’m a zombie, and the last thing I want to do is continue sitting in front of a goddamn computer. But I have been. For six months. Trying to be everyone’s friend, promote, trying to blog, trying to read and comment on others blogs. Sometimes I realize I have a fake cocktail party smile on my face as I do this and my body physically aches when I’m just about finished emptying out my inbox when ding-ding-ding-ding! Here come 27 more posts for me to read. The past two months, my load has increased with trying to get an audio book ready, and it will still be at least a couple months before it’s finished.

    Now, to answer your question about when do I find time to actually write? I don’t. And it frustrates me to no end. This grown man has actually wept for the loss of his writing time. I have one day per week to actually write, but this has now been given over to blogs. Social media has completely sapped the joy of writing out of me But I want it back. Blog be damned, also reading and commenting and sharing tons of other blogs. I want to utilize my strengths. I feel that novel writing is that strength and that my blogs suck. So I pose the question: do people want me to spend my time on frivolity to read every few days (or in my case every week), or do they want me to actually write something substantial for them to read?

    Of course I realize the downside to this in that I’ll be writing novels for maybe 20 people, because no one else will know about me. But do I want to be a great marketer who has mediocre or no work to promote, or do I want to spend my time producing the best work I can, thus giving me that personal satisfaction that has eluded me for so long?

    • Mike, Amen, Brother! Super duper, big, fat, fucking Amen! It’s too much. And don’t get me wrong, I love my online friends. They are wonderfully supportive, kind, witty and did I mention supportive? But still! Good heavens. I want to be Dorothy Parker. I’ll write in the morning and then hang out at some hotel getting drunk every afternoon. Now, that’s a writing career. Never seeing the light of day because I’m stuck in a cave (and a dirty, cluttered one at that) answering e-mails and trying to write thought-provoking blogs is sucking the life out of me. Sure, there are more opportunities than ever before for writers, but there’s a lot to be said for the publishing houses taking care of all the promotion.

      One day, my friend, we’ll be sitting together on the lanai at the Royal Hawaiian laughing about our pre-New York Times bestselling days and all those dreadful blogs we wrote.

      I’m saluting you with my noon mai tai!

  8. mgmillerbooks said:

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met some fan-friggin-tastic people in the blogosphere who I’m grateful to call my friends. But when is it too much?

  9. I feel your pain and frustration, and from these comments, so foes EVERY writer. This is profound and makes me feel better just knowing how all of YPU are struggling with the same issues. Balance. The love of writing. The fun of blogs. The cyber friends and fake cocktail party. I wish I had an answer because I’m right there with you struggling to find time to do what I love, promote that work, socialize and support other writers, and the house. Oh, yeah, the housework…

    Maybe just knowing we’re all frustrated and in the same boat will relieve some pressure. Maybe. Let’s write.

    • Write on, Beth! It is good to know I’m not alone in my struggles. Next time folks come to my house for a party, they’ll just have to step over the piles and piles of debris as they get tangled in those deadly cobwebs!

  10. I write for a while, take a break and do a little housework, do a little social media, do some work in my online class, then it’s back to writing. I don’t get everything done, but at least I can see where I’m making some progress.

    • I hear you, Donna. I’ve tried that approach too, but I find it frustrating when I get NOTHING accomplished or done well. Some days it really does work for me though–giving me the allusion of balance. 🙂 Thanks!

  11. Well, hell, there’s no time to proofread either!

  12. See, what ya need here is a wifey. Or an assistant who can be your surrogate web presence, detail-minder, protector from distractions, and strict headmistress/master who guards the exit until your pages for the day are complete!

  13. After some 28 years, what can I say but…bull hockey! Not about your comments, but about all these problems we writers have. You can…I say…you can write and edit and communicate…but only if you’re retired or fired from your latest job. The question then becomes can you make enough money to remain that way? Of course not. I’m babbling because I really don’t know the answer but didn’t want to be left out of this scintillating conversation between many of my writer friends.
    I have a clean house thanks to my daughter; a mowed yard thanks to my daughter and my one question remains…how does she find the time? Answer: she’s not a writer but a reader. However she manages to read at least a dozen books a week. Big books.
    None of this helps in the least, but I got to take part. See ya!

    • Velda, I’ve decided living in the middle of nowhere has a lot of advantages. At least I don’t have to worry about unexpected guests. I think the biggest problem I have isn’t the fact that I let housework slide in order to write. It’s the fact that other folks think my house should be clean. They see me sitting in front of the computer in the morning and when they look again I’m still sitting in the same place. What could I possibly accomplished? I’m still in my jammies for heaven’s sake. Having a print book to wave in their faces helps a lot!

  14. (In my best Bill Clinton voice) I feel your pain! You and many of our mutual friends who have already commented may have noticed I haven’t read and commented much on blogs. I’ve been “out of the loop.” This isn’t due to lack of interest, it’s due to lack of eye power. With my vision being what it is, it runs out of steam sooner than the average person. The result is I have to prioritize reading and writing time at the computer.

    Not only do I have a novel to complete, which is a distant memory. I have a memoir to do final edit and a blog, self-published book and two web sites to promote. For me, technology is a creativity killer. My muse lives on the creative right side of my brain and works when he has both sides of it to run around in. Learning how to put together a web site (even with someone patiently leading me by the hand) has taken up all the space on the left (logical) side of my brain. My muse said “I cannot work under these conditions” and stomped of to some yet-discovered cortex or another. I’ll be able to lure him back with short pieces of snarky writing, which one site will utilize. He can’t resist a smart-ass remark.

    Because my situation is different from all the writers I know, I have to go about things my way, using my unique strengths. For me, that’s speaking. I may not have been writing, but I’ve been practicing talking. In doing this, I’ve been reminded that people are interested in me and what I’m doing, as where as where I’ve been. It may be low-tech, but it’s still one of the best ways for me to promote my memoir and one of my sites.

    I think it’s a matter of tailoring your creativity and everything else in your life to your strengths and weaknesses. March to the beat of your own drummer. If everyone else is doing the same thing, how is anyone going to stand out? I’ve been forced to march to the beat of a schizophrenic drummer for 20 years now, but sometimes I accidentally march to where I wanted or at least needed to go.

    • Oh Jim, do I hear you, my friend. You’d think writing a novel would be hard enough, but creating a website. Good lord! Talk about time consuming! Of course, since we’re writers, who can afford to hire someone to take care of all this mess for us. I have to say, it’s somewhat comforting knowing that I’m not alone in my frustration.

  15. mgmillerbooks said:

    Well, I was quite the yak today, wasn’t I. You know, the beast of burden who has to unburden once a month, run up into the Himalayas and just go yak-shit for a day or two, then he takes on the yoke again? I’m a yak. My yoke is 141 applications. I cuss a lot at work 🙂

    • Yak away. That’s what blogging friends are for. I can’t even imagine the monotony of processing all those applications. How you have any creative juices at all when you get home is amazing!

  16. Wow, what a guestion.
    I too, work a soul-sucking 40 hour week and when I come home, I bring it with me. Stress, worry, etc, etc… I’m pooped! Clean house? hahahaha. My ex is a neat freak. He saw my house this weekend and about collapsed. Well, what the hell? My dishes were done, the bed was made, who cares about the dust an inch thick, the no-mopped floors, or the laundry still in the hamper instead of my dresser. It’s my house! I can do what I please even though if someone drops in,I about die!
    I’m tired of the social media crap as well. I can’t keep up and Dixie is suffering. My muse? Oh hell, she ran away and hid under the bed with the dust bunnies at my last rant. Will have to sweet-talk her out with tuna. (my muse is my cat, Pan)
    Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, I confess, I have no answer.
    But it was fun to bitch!

  17. Claire,
    I’d love to comment, but I can’t. It’s my new year’s resolution. I must write.

  18. I measure a lot of things against the old adage, “what difference will it make 100 years from now.” That should take care of the housework and the mowing. The social media stuff is fun, but a distraction that steal valuable writing time. (I’m sure there’s a great HOW TO book in here if one of you wants to tackle it.)

    One thing is for certain, your novels, beautiful quilts, and your reputation as a great cook will endure well over 100 years.

  19. How cool that you’ve gotten 36 comments on this subject! Now, that’s social media at it’s best.

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