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Coming up for air

I got lost in editorland these past two weeks, and then in runnerland and momland, but now I’m back in writerland! I started running about a month ago. When I got pregnant in Dec. 2008, I was running 2.4 miles twice a week and I kept that up until I was five months pregnant, and then I had to stop. I started again a couple of months ago and then last month decided to sign up for both a 10k and a half-marathon. The worst part is that they’re both trail runs—really hilly trail runs (the Napa Valley Trail Marathon and the Bear Creek Half-Marathon/10k), and I am not a strong or fast runner at all. So I’m on this three-day-a-week training schedule (which isn’t much, but it’s all the time I have), and I’m worried if I miss one run I won’t get through the race (the 10k was last weekend, and it kicked my ass). So that’s taking a lot of my time and energy, and the kids are wearing me down, as much as I love ’em.

I don’t know how people with with two little kids find time to get anything else done. I am exhausted ALL the time, and sometimes I just have to give up on the house and lie down on the couch with toys all over the floor and dishes in the sink because I just can’t move another muscle. And somehow, in the midst of all this, I have to find the energy to start another revision on my book.

I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed lately that I just don’t know where to begin. I’ve been feeling like life is controlling me instead of like I’m controlling it. So tonight I made a list of what I want in my life and what I need to do to make it happen. I had to think hard about what I want to separate it from all the things I think I should do. Here are some examples:

Things I think I should do:

1. Find the perfect preschool for my son
2. Read every writing/agent/publishing blog in the Interverse every day
3. Blog every day, comment on 5000 other people’s blogs, Twitter several times a day
4. Have a perfectly clean house at all times
5. Feed my kids and myself nutritious, homemade meals 3x/day
6. Save money (don’t go on vacation, don’t buy clothes, don’t eat out, clean house myself)
7. Read for research for my next book
8. Go to other people’s readings and buy their books
9. Run a half-marathon

Things I want to do
1. Go to Hawaii! Or Mexico! Somewhere hot and sunny where the ocean is warm and I can lie on the beach all day
2. Have cleaning woman come every two weeks
3. Read novels that I love, regardless of whether they have anything to do with my writing career
4. Go only to readings, and buy only the books, that I’m really interested in
5. Run another 10k
6. Blog when I feel like it, whether it’s every day or once a week
7. Read blogs only when I feel like it, and only blogs I really enjoy reading
8. Turn off Facebook and especially turn off those e-mails I get every time someone comments AFTER one of my comments (25 “Congratulations!” e-mails from people I don’t know drives me nuts.)
9. Get off e-mail lists I’m on, like the one for the Baltimore football team that someone thinks I joined their group
10. Spend a LOT of time revising my book and a lot less time on all the other b.s. stuff I find myself doing throughout the day (mailing stuff and scheduling appointments and filling out forms)
11. Get my damn book published!

I love social media, and I see the value in it, and I could even imagine myself a professional blogger because it’s fun and addictive, and I could spend all day online, but in the end, it’s the quality of my manuscript that’s going to sell my book, not how many blog followers I have. And I know that may not be true for someone who has hundreds of thousands of blog followers, but when it’s the difference of a few hundred, I don’t think that’s going to tip the balance in my favor. Remember that all the agents who tell us in their blogs that we must have an author platform and it must be online are agents who are bloggers. Ie they spend a ton of time themselves online, so of course they’re going to tout the Internet.

I met someone the other day who has a huge platform—HUGE—and he said several mainstream book publishers turned his manuscript down because they didn’t think his book would sell. He did eventually get a book deal, but for those mainstream publishers, his platform didn’t matter. All that mattered was the content of the book. So while blogging and tweeting and FB is fun and a great way to connect with other writers, let’s not lose site of our real goal: to write well and get published. And the only way to do that is to spend a lot of time writing. A LOT. In fact, here’s a question for you, and maybe I’ll start asking this weekly to hold you all accountable:

How much time do you spend each week writing? (Not thinking about writing, or blogging about writing, but … writing.) Gimme a number of hours.

4 comments to Coming up for air

  • I totally get the real life/writer's life thing–but I've also noticed it tends to go in waves. One week is bad; the next is rosy. Just all part of the rollercoaster IMHO.

    On fiction, I write about two hours a day. I usually get up early, before I go to work, and this allows me to get done about 3/4 of my daily quota. Then I work in the rest of my quota in the evenings. Sometimes I work more quickly and am able to knock out the whole quota in the morning; sometimes I'm not so successful.

    My current weekly goal is 1,000 words a day/5,000 words a week, so this allows me a couple down days if real life intrudes and prevents my daily session. I'm thinking about upping it though–production has been high lately.

    I think your comment about blog/real writing is exactly right–blogging is an easy time suck, but I don't mind doing it if I've gotten my real work done for the day.

    And thanks for the accountability check: though things go well, I can still use all the help I can get. 😀

  • "So while blogging and tweeting and FB is fun and a great way to connect with other writers, let’s not lose site of our real goal: to write well and get published. And the only way to do that is to spend a lot of time writing."

    Precisely. It's one thing to be informed and working on an audience; it's another thing to use those as a way to AVOID actually writing.

    This week, # of hours will probably be about 5. Pathetic, but true.

    The previous week, though, # of hours was like 36. So… Yeah.

    What I'd LIKE is to average at least 20 hrs per week (so like 2-3 a day, every day). But there will be fluctuation depending on where in the book you are (pre-writing planning, or first drafting, or editing). I'm a firm believer in quotas, but also I realize that different types/times of writing require different kinds/amounts of quota.

  • Thirty-six is very impressive! You deserved a break this week! My non-blogging writing has been nil for weeks. My new goal is 12 hours per week (although that's on revising, so it won't all be new stuff) because that's all I can handle with the two munchkins. 20 is a great goal!

  • Take it easy and only do the things on your "want" list that makes sense. I totally understand the Should Do list, because I have that too but it's just not feasible.

    Because I'm exhausted every night at 7 pm now and go to bed at 8, I am not doing a lot of writing. But now I feel like I have a 9-month deadline to get ALL REVISIONS FINISHED and also query. So, as soon as I can stop feeling like I want to vomit all over everyone and everything all day long, or lie down for extended periods of time, then I'll get back on that horse. And I'll probably spend an hour or two every night.

    Sigh…..there is SO much to do in life.