Home Sweet Home (In Theory)

I’m back in my hometown. Been here since last Thursday. My sister’s bridal shower and bachelorette parties are behind me (and went off without a hitch), and in theory, I have two weeks until the wedding hoopla builds up again for the actual ceremony and reception. Two weeks to work on the revisions I brought with me. Two weeks to develop new blog posts (since I’ve been a bit remiss lately) and to come up with new writing ideas.

Cue the eye roll.

I know what happened last time I was home, and it wasn’t writing. Granted, I’m at a coffee shop right now working on this post while my dad’s out golfing. But the next couple of days I’ll need to be working on my writing, and he’ll inevitably be around – without his golf game to distract him from me and my WIP.

He’s not stupid. He knows what I’m doing. But we’ve reached an unspoken agreement not to talk about it. In theory, this means I can write whenever I feel the need to, but I’ve never made my process so visible to him before.

At the same time, if I just do the normal thing (think vegging out in front of the tv – ah, cable…) I won’t get anything done. And there goes all my personal goals and deadlines. Down the drain.

I know what you are thinking: Get over it. Writer’s write. Own the process. Do your work justice. Everyone else can be damned. And while in theory this is true, it’s a lot harder to be self-righteous in the privacy of your own home than it is when you are reliant on the hospitably of others. And yes, I’m painfully cognizant of the fact that my childhood home is no longer my home. I no longer feel comfortable enough here to be myself.

Ugg.

Thankfully, all this angst lends itself nicely to blog ramblings. I will have some actual content in my post next time around. In theory…

Until then.

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Dog Days of Summer

I’m writing this at my local coffee shop on Tuesday afternoon – after the contractor canceled on me and pushed back our appointment to Wednesday. Last week I would have killed for the opportunity to get out of the house. But today I almost talked myself out of going. I was feeling meh, my writing was blah, and all I really wanted to do was take a nap.

I was channeling my inner procrastinator.

Once I realized what I was doing, I got in the car and drove to the coffee shop despite the inner voices wailing that I had no idea what to write and had nothing to edit since I ran out of printer ink. (Another convenient excuse not to write).

But I’m here, with java in my veins. And I’m writing. Or at least trying to.

As this month winds down, I’m finding it difficult to concentrate and write the way I want to. A very big part of it is my new home, which despite my efforts still manages to distract me from my various WIPs. I’ve gotten a bit better at balancing home improvement with writing. Just yesterday I had a bunch of new windows installed and was still able to revise two chapters while the crew was tearing out the old windows and caulking in the new. But it can still be overwhelming.

I’m also panicking a bit because I’m spending the vast majoring of September in my hometown for my sister’s wedding. While family fun and festivities are a given (yay!), my ability to write will be virtually non-existent (boo!). Which places added pressure on my time now. On top of this, the founder of my critique group suddenly dropped off the face of the earth to deal with some personal issues and may not be returning. So now the remaining members and I have to figure out how we want to proceed. Sigh.

I’ve accomplished so much the first half of this year that it’s hard to be content when the going gets tough and I’m not producing. I’m also playing the waiting game with some of my submitted pieces, which is also contributing to my malaise. I should be writing something new or finishing past stories. And I am, but only in fits and starts – I’ve yet to find my rhythm and I’m worried I won’t be able to get my groove on until October when I return from my sister’s wedding.

My writing is a casualty of real life right now. I don’t like it, but I’ll deal. In the meantime, here are some resources to help you stay productive when the world conspires against you:

And for writing in particular:

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Equilibrium

What is it about being human that makes us unsatisfied, regardless of what we have accomplished, what we have, who loves us and so on? We are always striving, always looking for something else, perpetually dissatisfied with our lot.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I have a good life. Supportive husband, new home, sunshine on most days, and a dog who loves me even when I’m ignoring her in favor of my laptop, notebook, or the latest novel I’m reading. But a vague sense of unease always seems to encroach upon my otherwise wonderful life, like a cloud on an otherwise sunny day.

I want to be doing more. With my life, with my writing. But right now, I feel off-balance. The scales are slipping, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

With the new home, my attention is diverted by home improvement projects. I’ve had to get used to the painfully irregular habits of contractors and try to fit my writing around their schedules. It’s been murder on my productivity. And I have to wonder how much of that is my fault.

As I write this Thursday afternoon, I am sitting at a table at my local coffee shop after nearly two weeks on lockdown at the new house to ensure the contractors could get access to the parts they needed to get to and so I could answer any questions they had as they did their work. But finally (finally!) I was able to get out of the house and ride my bike to the coffee shop. Sure, my route is at least twice as long now. And twice as hilly – my thighs are quaking with fear of the ride home even as I write this.

But it doesn’t matter, not if it means I get to write uninterrupted for a couple of hours. Away from the contractors, away from the dog, away from the books upon books I haven’t read, away from the home improvement projects each room needs. Now that I finally have the new home we’ve been saving up for years to own, I realize it is just one more enormous distraction in an already cluttered life.

I’ve been trying to come up with other means of reestablishing equilibrium in my life. Trying out different rooms of the new house to write in. Different times during the day (depending on contractors). Different WIPs. Slowly, slowly, I’m starting to find my rhythm in this new place, in my new set of circumstances.

But I’m still dissatisfied.

I guess I can only channel that energy into my writing to help me get words down on the page. I have to believe I will adapt. I will achieve. I will balance out.

I will find my bearings once more. Bear with me, and while you are at it, offer up your own tips for finding balance in an off-kilter world.
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Weeding Out the Crap

I spent the weekend weeding in my new yard. Because it rained recently, the softer ground made it easier to yank out all varieties of flora. The overcast skies were also ideal for working outside each morning. It didn’t get too hot, and the only thing I had to worry about was making sure I didn’t push my lower back too hard.

The previous owners had done a good job with the landscaping, but in the time it took for us to close and move in, Mother Nature was slowly but surely trying to reclaim the property for herself. Pruning the overgrown branches was easy enough, same with cleaning out the opportunistic weeds that popped up between the bushes.

But in a handful of planter beds, it was unclear which plants were weeds and which ones were actually supposed to be there. So I started by tackling the ones I thought were weeds. The path of least resistance, so to speak. This also happens when I’m revising my work. I’ll start with the easy stuff: breaking up compound sentences into two or smooshing two short sentences into one, adding in commas for readability or taking them out, simplifying prepositional phrases, refining adjectives, and eliminating adverbs.

These techniques are supposed to result in leaner, meaner prose. And it usually works. Once I clear away all the distracting verbiage, I am better able to see how the story works together as a whole. Then I can get my hands dirty dealing with more fundamental issues.

But sometimes, even after tackling all the easy stuff, I take a look at what I’m left with and it’s not good. Like when I was weeding. By the time I excavated the larger plants and looked them over, I decided many of them just weren’t worth saving. (It didn’t help that I couldn’t identify many of them either.) So I ended up chucking them, thinking it would just be easier to start over come spring.

And sometimes that is what we have to do with our WIPs. After we’ve made all the cuts we can, sometimes we will still be left with misshapen plots and stillborn characters. Nothing we can do but start all over again.

Except we don’t always have to start from scratch. I found a cluster of rosemary that had been nearly strangled by all the weeds in one of the planter beds. I was thrilled because I wanted to plant rosemary, and here it was, already with a tenuous foothold in my new yard. Now that rosemary will set the tone for my gardening plans for the rest of the property.

And to think I had almost missed it in my zeal of pulling every last bit of green out of the planters. I was so engrossed in what to eliminate, I forgot to examine the possibilities each plant could offer. I’ll be more careful when I tackle another section of the yard next weekend. But this also brings up a good point when you’re revising too. You want to tighten things up and cut the fat, but you don’t want to be so heavy-handed with your edits you destroy something useful.

Ready to revise your WIP? Check out Kim Blank’s Wordiness, Wordiness, Wordiness List  and ensure your work is as lean as possible. Then see if your prose passes the Waistline Test, which I originally found through India Drummond’s site. But be careful not to strip out everything… you still want to keep your work yours.

Happy weeding!

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The Joys of Home Ownership

(or Writing Life, Interrupted)

My husband and I closed on our first home last Wednesday. Then, before we had a chance to let that thought sink in, my sister and her fiancé came to town for Fourth of July – a four-day weekend of wine, fine dining, and sightseeing.

When I returned to my apartment yesterday after dropping them off at the airport, I wanted to collapse in my chair and take a nap. Or pull out that short story I needed to edit. Or keep hammering away at my SciFi novel. All the writing activities I couldn’t do while my sister was in town. But as I looked around my apartment, it was clear that the only thing I should do was pack.

So I assembled boxes, filled them, and humped them over to the new house. That barely scratched the surface, and I’ll need to repeat the process every day this week. Friday I’m borrowing a truck from a friend to speed things along, and Saturday we have reservations for a moving van to transport all the furniture and appliances. Sunday the apartment needs to be cleaned and vacated. It’s only Wednesday and I’m already tired.

Today, as I write this, I’m camped out at the new house (I’m literally sitting on a camp chair in the middle of an empty room), waiting on a roof contractor to inspect the rear porch the previous owner was supposed to have repaired before closing but didn’t. Then there’s the windows guy I need to meet with to review which windows are being replaced. Then the plumber, the painters…

I knew buying a house (a fixer no less) and then all the moving and unpacking and organizing would be time-consuming. Or at least I thought I did. Now that I’m in the thick of things, I realize just how much I underestimated how all consuming this process is. There’s no time for writing, let along blogging.

So if I go MIA for the next few days, you’ll know why. As happy as I am to finally own my own home (and to be able to make it ours), I can’t wait for the dust to settle. I want to be writing. I just have some things to take care of first. A lot of things…
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