So what does it mean to sit at home and write, anyway?

A newish sort of friend <insert long, complicated story here> wanted to know what I do with my time at home writing. I felt like snarkily showing her one of those writing memes like this:

Clock with the phrase "Writer's Clock on it" with "Write" at 12, "Coffee" at 1, "Review" at 2, "Edit" at 3, "Start over" at 4, "Drink Heavily" at 5, "Cry" at 6, "Consider a new career" at 7, "More coffee" at 8, "Write" at 9, "Submit" at 10, and "Wait" at 11.
Text that reads:
Writing-is-a-bitch wrote: "writing is the worst. u wanna write a single, passing line of dialogue so u fact check it to make sure it's historically accurate, then suddenly you've lost track of time, space,, urself. for intstance: I wanted to know how frequently fighter planes were used in WWI and now I'm several pages deep into the history of witchcraft in Ireland."

brieflywritingwolf replied: "this is it. this is what writing is like." 

source: writing-is-a-bitch

Instead I’ll just say it here. Some days “writing” is character sketching on an iPad version of a worksheet I like with an Apple pencil, some days “writing” is world building like literally making maps on a really cool website someone from writers group suggested, some days “writing” the world building looks more like answering a questionnaire about your imaginary country, some days “writing” is actually literally just writing on the novel, some days “writing” is doing a tarot spread for a character or Meyers-Briggs tests for recalcitrant characters that refuse to do anything useful, some days “writing” is writing poetry to use as hymns to be sung in the background of a scene that you wrote last year and put <insert words from hymn here>, sometimes “writing” is gathering up all my notes from my desk & purse notebook & van notebook & husband’s car & the table by my favorite green chair & the back of the kids band calendar & a bulletin from church and typing it all in or doing voice transcriptions because my hands hurt that day, some times “writing” is reading up on things I know I don’t do well enough or things that I see other people doing awesomely that I want to emulate or just re-reading my own stuff because I don’t remember where I was going with that bit of something in Chapter 3, sometimes “writing” is making the perfect playlist on Spotify for upcoming scenes that you know you won’t be able to write without intense music, sometimes “writing” is searching for stock photos of interesting people so you’ll know what a character looks like later on, some times writing is going to writer’s group or writing class and doing silly prompts and listening to other writers talk about their novels and writing and sharing tips and resources and lending each other books, and sometimes it’s just starting out the window for an hour daydreaming about leaves falling from trees because my mind refuses to tell me what the next thing I need to write looks like.

There ya go… that’s why I’m spending so much time “writing” and that’s why I need a planner for just “writing stuff.” 🙂

Onwards

After I wrote all that yesterday about not being able to write, I ended up adding a couple thousand words to my count. This morning I got up and did some more character building for a character that is going on a quest with my main character, as well as the main antagonist. I was hoping to get more done, but it is time to move on with the day. We’re having a birthday party for my 16-year-old this afternoon and there’s still cleaning and decorating to do.

My 16-year-old and his giant pile of 800+ paged birthday books standing in a sunbeam at Barnes and Noble.
My 16-year-old and his giant pile of birthday books.

Nano Struggles

I’m really struggling with Nanowrimo this year. I have zero energy, very little in the way of time for writing, and since I spent time working on writing classwork instead of planning this years nano novel, every time I sit down to write, I instead end up spending 3/4 of the time working on background info and character sketches. So for every 2 hour block of writing time, I get maybe 30 minutes of good writing in, which gets me about 500 words a day. But I haven’t had time every day because of days like Tuesday, where I spent all morning working on PTA stuff, went to the meeting, had to stay late to work on yet more stuff, and that used up all my free time and energy for the day. Or days like Wednesday, where I spent time writing for class, went to class, and only got real words on the book done during the Write-in that I could only stay an hour for (because they scheduled them during school pick-up time.).

By Friday this week I really just gave up. There was no way to get ahead with the way things were going. I sat down to write and spent an hour doing background planning again and while I got a lot of good information out of that session (and got to use my son’s new Apple Pencil, which is how I convinced myself to do it in the first place), I just couldn’t see how I was going to finish.

But then this morning, my sweet spouse asked how it was going and if I was 1/3 of the way through my novel like I should be. I told him about my struggles and he encouraged me to spend more time writing, to put it all into the calendar and enforce those times, and that he’d get me up every morning at 4am if that’s what needed to happen so I’d get my time in.

So here I am, blogging instead of writing. I can’t get into novel-mode with as short a time period as I have until breakfast, plus two of my sons have wandered through since I started typing (and in the time it took to start and end that part of the sentence, one of them wandered back in a second time, but it’s his birthday, so I’m indulging his wandering-ins because he’s showing me photos from his friends celebrating him at midnight last night.).

Here’s my writing schedule for the next three weeks (barring disaster):

  • Sundays: 7-9am at home, 2-4pm at the library write-in
  • Mondays: 9-11am and 1-3pm at home
  • Tuesdays: 9-11am and 1-3pm at home
  • Wednesdays: 2-3:15pm at the library write-in (will also write for classwork 9-11am, but it doesn’t count towards nanowrimo)
  • Thursdays: 9-11am at home
  • Fridays: 9-11am and 1-3pm at home
  • Saturdays: 3-5pm at the Barnes & Noble write-in

Mathematically, if I get 30 good minutes writing for every two hours spent times 500 words per session times three weeks like that, I should be at 50,000 words by Christmas. *sigh* Maybe I’ll have to start writing in the early mornings and late nights, too.

Welcome new visitors, plus site updates for regulars

Howdy my peeps! It’s NANOWRIMO, so I know this time of year I usually get an upswing in visitors from new writing friends, so welcome to all of y’all! This blog is a combination of my online diary/way to kept in contact with far away family/ place to blather on about writing/ health journal. I’ve been doing this for 20 years now, so there’s quite a lot of backlog that’s kept under lock and key as my kids have gotten older and wanted to have less of their baby pictures and stories online. I’ve tried to make the writing and health posts more available because I have a lot of readers for those things. 🙂

Sometime late this summer I started posting and saving things as drafts, meaning to go back and add photos or links and then totally forgot about all of that as school got busy, PTA got busy, and I got sick once again. So this morning I went back and updated all 20 or 30 or those entries with photos or links and set them free from the WordPress jail (aka: published them). SO if you’re a regular here and have not been reading along feeling like you’ve been missing something: the posts in between are there now. Go, read, catch up on my weirdness.

As always, love to all of you. Hope everyone is doing well! 🙂

Words, words, words

Yesterday I had no words left after a good week of writing. I decided to give myself the day off from writing and to let myself doing some story intake instead. So I watched bits and pieces of a few different things.

 

Today when writing time came, the writing came out like a deluge. I wrote about 1500 words in about 45 minutes. It was fantastic!

 

Then I spent some time perusing other writing projects I’d set aside and adding details into them and bringing their files up to date. During the digging through old files, I found a little chart I used to keep of how many words I wrote each day about 14 or so years ago. I never managed to get above 250 words at once.  I am doing so much better now! 🙂 I can usually do about 1000 words an hour these days.

 

Sometimes it is good to look back at old things. There were a few story ideas that I feel more than willing to tackle now that I didn’t feel like I knew enough about writing to do in the past.  I’m so excited that I’m back to writing and feel good about it again.

Now Writing!

During our writing retreat last weekend, Steph told me her writing group was doing Novel-in-90 starting March 1st, so I joined that community. Yesterday we started. I didn’t get as much done as I wanted because I was busy, busy, and more than busy, but I hope to make up for it today.

I am working this year mainly on the Magical PTA novel, which I started during a different Novel-in-90 with the same group of people a couple years ago. I’m about 25,000ish words into it already, as I obviously didn’t finish last time. Hoping to do much better this time around. 🙂

Life goes on…

You know what? I thought I’d post more once I got out of my hectic-working-two-part-time-jobs-and-pta-president lifestyle. It turns out that I just don’t. I want to, and I mean to, but then things just go on and it doesn’t get done because it’s not on my calendar of things to do.

So what have I been doing? Here, let me show you:

lisasdailies

First I made a weekly schedule of all our extracurricular activities, then added in the housework and stuff I need to do at home, then I put it into Excel and made a handy-dandy worksheet for the fridge and my family binder.

mealsandsnacks

Then I made a template for our meals and snacks. Nick and I still work on the dinner menu together in a two week format for the fridge, but having this here one week at a time gives me a better way to figure out what snacks and lunches go best with the dinner plan we’ve already come up with.

weekly

Finally, after looking at a bajillion planners online, I realized that I wasn’t going to 100% love any of them and I’d better just make my own. So here we have it. I loved the idea of a TOP 3 for my week and I loved breaking down what I needed to do not by day, but by for what/who. My text/call/email/snail mail list is awesome, too, because I can do those things whenever I have time for them.

If you zoomed in on those pictures, you saw that I have time to clean, time to work out, time to eat… some of the schedule still needs tweaking. I forgot to put important things like laundry and Bible study time in there. But I also have time set aside for “Special Projects” which is super fun. So far “special projects” has really meant “in-depth house cleaning and reorganization.”

2014-08-21 18.10.56

If you follow me on facebook, you’ve seen this one. I cleared off my grandmother’s desk and rearranged my art (adding some new pieces and repainting frames) and added back my desk tray. I even found my label maker and labels! 🙂

2014-08-24 12.28.24

Ben & Greg’s room got the next treatment. We took down the bunk beds that were causing musical bed nights (the kids take turns sleeping with the puppy and she couldn’t be on the top bunk). Ben has a light he can reach now and he can look out the window at the pink crepe myrtle trees outside while he’s reading.

2014-08-24 12.28.30

We’re reusing the ladder as a magazine rack (though it’s moved into a different place since this was taken) for Boy Magazines (Lego, Cobblestone, Kind News, Boy Scouts, etc), and Greg has room for his side table and music stand & guitars in there as well.

2014-08-27 14.44.52

During the desk cleanout, there was also a cleanout of the Giant Filing Bag of DOOM (a queen sized-comforter bag filled with old papers and file folders). I spent a solid day and a half sorting through papers, shredding, recycling, labeling folders, and filing. I have four of these bins now living in my closet on shelves.

2014-09-06 11.50.40

Change of seasons: I do this every year, even when the house wasn’t clean. I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem like school is back until I’ve put up my fall decorations. There’s more than this, of course, as we’ve got a few things in nearly every room of the house. This is just my favorite view. 🙂

2014-09-07 17.15.58

I hesitated to post this. I’ve been feeling private lately, which may be why it took me so long to blog at all. Anyway, this is my bedroom. You would not even believe how awful it had gotten in there. My room used to be the dumping ground for everything any time anyone came over. NO MORE.

2014-09-07 17.16.07

Yes, I actually TOOK OUT a bookshelf from our bedroom. I didn’t get rid of the books. I just sorted them out into two categories: 1) appropriate for boys in the near future and 2) things the boys will probably never want to read or if they do, they have to wait til the far off future. Anyways, this made the hugest difference in my room. I really cannot explain how big a difference; it has to be seen in person. Anyway, the room looks twice as big now.

2014-09-11 08.51.27

Organized liquor cabinet. Yes, this is all some sort of scotch or whisk(e)y. It is nearly all earmarked for some special occasion or other (each of the boys turning 21, anniversaries, special whisk(ey) tastings). I made Nick move it all out of the kitchen so I could put kitchen items in the cabinet there. *gasp* I KNOW, right? Anyway, it looks much better here.

2014-09-11 08.51.44

Bins for Morning Snacks (we got notes this year from all three kids teachers that lunch is much later than usual and to PLEASE send healthy morning snacks) and Outdoor Toys that Live Indoors. A weird combination, I know. This is a temporary location at best. What I’d really like is a part of the kitchen cabinet set up as Lunch Making Central and a cabinet outside in the back for Things That Are Outdoor Related, but Shouldn’t Get Wet. But I have neither of those things at the moment, so we have bins sitting here. At least all the boxes of snack food in front of this shelving unit have a home now (scroll down for the next picture).

2014-09-11 08.51.52

This used to be the liquor cabinet. Now it stores the aforementioned Sam’s Club sized-boxes of extra snack items (yes, Ramen is an after-school snack for starving middle school boys), a few Need to Be Used Soon alcoholic beverages (that I don’t actually recognize, so maybe they’re just THAT old), oddly sized boxes of baking gear, and of course, the special-from-London chocolate I don’t want the kids to get their hands on (it really does taste better than the ones you buy here.)

What’s next on my list?

  • Moving the shelves from Ben’s closet to the front hallway closet and the bins from that closet to his closet.
  • Sorting through the last two boxes left in my closet.
  • Tidying the hallway bathroom closet.
  • Rearranging storage boxes in David’s room’s closet so stuff he needs is below and stuff he doesn’t is above.
  • Getting a second dresser for the younger kids clothing.
  • Tidying up the last bits of the garage (things get dumped there now that they’re not being dumped in our room).

Those are all small projects compared to the ones I’ve already tackled, so I’m going to do those on evenings and weekends as the year moves on.

So what’s really up next? Finishing the novel I started last year. I’m nearly there, I just have about a dozen scenes to finish and some segues to throw in between things I’ve been rearranging this week. When I need beta readers, I will tell you and if you’re interested, I’ll send it your way. 🙂

And now I’m off to do laundry. Because it’s Thursday, and regardless of the wrongness of the above (now corrected) chart, that means it’s Laundry Day.

What I’m doing this year

People are asking, so here we go:

  1. I didn’t “quit” the PTA, despite how gleeful I might be about stepping down from President-status. I’m still going to Student Health Advisory Committee meetings and am acting as a Council Delegate for at least the middle school PTA (and I’ve offered to do the same for the elementary school, since I’m already going to be there and be writing up reports, may as well kill two birds with one stone, right?). I’m still on the Staff/Teacher Appreciation committees and bringing food up for those days and also doing the Flex Day and 93 and Up Party at the middle school, and heck, I’ll probably even chaperon some field trips and dances while I’m at it. But I’m not on any Executive Board this year and really, that is a lot of work/time/mental stress I’m “skipping out” on.
  2. What am I doing? To sum it up quickly: writing and exercising and organizing.
  3. Oh, you want details? Okay, here goes:
    1. Writing: I have a few novels that are nearing the end of Draft One that I’d like to see actually finish Draft One and move on into Draft Two and Ready for Human Consumption/Editing sometime this year. Also a dozen or so poems that are probably finished, but need Eyes and Sending Off.
    2. Exercising: I’m trying to lose about 90 pounds (a number which I find horrifying). I’m a stress eater/drinker. Boy, have the last few years been full of stress. (Joy, too, but still a lot of stress.) Plus I have been taking multiple medicines that have been shown to cause weight gain as a side effect.  So I’m starting with restorative yoga one day a week, strength training a couple days, aerobics a couple days, and a couple days off because I can’t keep it up if I don’t take time off for rest.
    3. Organizing: I’m a pseudo-hoarder. I occasionally watch those shows on TV and think “Oh, thank God I’m not THAT bad!” while I have boxes and boxes of things carefully labelled and awaiting sorting/filing/recycling. I love labeling things, but throwing things out or recycling them? AIE. I’d rather die. What if I need something out of that pile?!?!? No, really, I’d rather scrapbook them and move on, but barring time and energy to complete those tasks, I’ve labelled and boxed things up and now my house is impressively full. So my plan is to start going through the boxes and start tossing/recycling things that no longer have meaning to my family. Once that part is done, I’d like to get back into scrapbooking things again. I like scrapbooking; it’s just time consuming and I have been far too busy with working for money and working for the good of our schools and our church to get that kind of thing done. So part of my time this year will be catching up on that.
    4. Extras: singing in the church choir & ladies ensemble, helping out on the kitchen crew one weekend a month, playing with the church ensemble and playing piano/clarinet solos/duets for Special Music or Offertory, helping out with kids crafts/social time at church, maybe starting up a book club again, helping out with Cub scouts and Boy scouts, helping people figure out their computers and smart phones, writing blog posts, and updating Facebook. You know, the usual. 🙂

NAPOMO # whatever

I’m not even bothering to catch up. 🙂 I am having an unanticipated quiet day at home, due to lost keys. I’m listening to the DVD of yesterdays musical adventures and cleaning up from all the fancy dinners.

Here’s an untitled poem from another quiet day this year:

I can hear:

tick   tick   tick

chime     chime   

HUMMMMM

No cymbals,

No shouts,

No tinny music

Just this:

tick   tick   tick

chime     chime   

HUMMMMM

No machines, 

No requests,

No frantic running.

Only quiet sounds:

tick   tick   tick

chime     chime   

HUMMMMM

Lisa Holcomb 2014

The problem with poetry

Here’s my problem with posting my own poetry: I never feel like it’s DONE. Not the posting, but the poetry itself. I start to post it and then I realize, ooh, I could tweak this line or that line and it will be better. It’s never-ending.  So yesterday’s post is still under construction. (And then there’s the post that is stuck. I have no idea why it won’t post. I’ve hit “publish” a half dozen times and it still sits there saying “draft.”)

 

So…anyways…

 

The next few days are super busy in Lisa Land, so if I don’t post or if my posts are weirdly short…that’s why. Today’s chock full of BSF, Flex day at the middle school (PTA does a party for kids with good grades, basically), and finishing the raking at my mom’s house (the kids job, but I have to facilitate). Tomorrow is a PTA meeting for the elementary school (I’m the president, can’t miss it) followed by chaperoning the middle school band to their UIL contest.  Friday is therapy (whee) and getting ready for the weekend. Sunday is Passover (we arranged for babysitting for the church – hope they show up), Monday night we’ve got guests for dinner. Tuesday is church all day.  Since there’s so much church going on, I’ve also got to practice my vocal music for ladies ensemble, my clarinet for instrumental ensemble, my piano for the duet I’m doing with my mother-in-law…. aie, I think I just worked myself into a tizzy.