The Next 40 Years

So I’ve been away a while. I haven’t really been away from much, to be truthful, but I haven’t been blogging. Part of that was that some things needed to get worked out. Both internally and externally.

I turned 40 this week. In recent years I set a goal to have a book published before I was 40. I kind of hit that goal. I published a collection of short stories myself. And I secured a contract with a publisher for a YA romance novella before that milestone as well. I also have a contract still in negotiation for a series of NA contemporary romance with a publisher…  So close to my goal. And depending on how you want to look at it, I succeeded.

I’ve spent my first 40 years in a succession of professions. I’m impulsive, no doubt. As a result I’ve had a wide variety of careers, though I can justify each of them because they all made perfect sense at the time. I’ve been a copywriter, a marketing director for 2 technology companies, a PR writer, a wine salesperson, a pharmaceutical rep, a personal trainer, a travel writer, a freelance writer and editor, and a tech writer for a government contractor. I also have a teaching credential. There might be one or two jobs that I’m forgetting. I was a terrible waitress, so that didn’t last long… and I’ve always wanted to tend bar, but have never managed to do it. And so when I told my husband, when I was 38, that I was going to write a novel, I’m sure he didn’t take me too seriously. He did, however, support me, pointing out that writing was the one thing that all my past efforts have seemed to have in common. He was kind enough not to point out that this might be the worst possible time for me to embark on such an endeavor, as I work 20 hours a week at the aforementioned government contracting job, take freelance editing and writing gigs on the side, and also manage the lives of two small and quite untidy boys who insist that I’m their mother (though I have blocked out most of whatever led up to this claim). I ignored this and persevered. Since that time, I’ve written two full-length novels, two novellas, and have a middle grade MS that is halfway done, three others in the NA novella series blocked out, and a literary novel one-third done (and forever haunting my dreams). Oh, and I did publish a collection of short stories. So there’s been some significant progress.

And my point here is not to say, “hey, look what I’ve done.” It’s more to say, “Hey, look what’s possible when you finally get your act together!” I figure I’ve got 40 more years to work on this, assuming that no buses come my way with my name on them. My dad is 83 and still plays tennis most days and walks 4 miles on the other days. My genes are pretty solid. It might not be pretty, but I probably have some years ahead. (knocking on wood). And I intend to spend those years DOING this.

I’ve been hung up trying to agree with my publisher on the direction of my NA series. And I think we’ve agreed on the big stuff. Which will mean a big rewrite for me. But now that we’re there, I feel like I can finally move ahead again, pick up the pen (okay, keyboard — I can’t even read my own writing) and get going.

Have you ever been stuck for a period of weeks or months? I’m not really talking about writers’ block here… more a soul-sucking kind of dilemma that makes you feel like you just can’t do it for one reason or another? I felt like I could write nothing more until some big questions got answered on some things that were really important to me… I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been in a similar spot!

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Is it Writer’s Block? Or Are You Lazy?

Okay, lazy might not be the right word. But I got you riled up, huh?

When you just can’t seem to get words on the page, what is really going on? I’ve seen a lot of consideration given lately to “writer’s block.” I assert that there is no such thing. There are a few concrete reasons — at least for me — when writing is not happening.

1. Simple time constraints. Life is getting in the way. This takes prioritization. For me, that is a re-commitment to getting up before the sun (and more importantly, anyone else in my family) and getting some work done. However, if I haven’t planned out what to write the night before — decided what scene to work on, which events to write, 4:30 a.m. is not the time that’s gonna happen. Which brings me to

2. Planning your work. Sure, as writers, we like to think that we’re fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pantaloons creative types, that we go where our bliss leads us or whatever. And perhaps that works for some people. But for me – and for most of the writers I’ve been lucky enough to talk with who have had any success in this world – writing must be approached like a business, or at least like a job. It takes planning and dedication. You lay out a strategy, whether it’s an outline or a brainmap, or whatever your choice of tool might be. If you know what you’re sitting down to accomplish, you’ll spend a lot less time staring at the screen.

3. Committing yourself. Even once you’ve made time and planned what you want to accomplish, if you don’t bring your best intentions to the desk, it probably won’t get done. If I sit down to write, but find that I can’t stop thinking about the talk I had with my son’s teacher at school about a potential learning disability, or about whether or not to grow my hair out, then I’m not really there to write. I’m not committed and it’s worth getting up and doing something else until I’ve got all three elements aligned.

Is your writer’s block real, or are you just giving a name to the manifestation of a few other things that are getting in your way? Worth a look…