So... it's been a minute. Or 93,600. Who's counting?
I haven't written here in about 2 months, and for good reasons, actually. At one point, I was writing for this blog almost every day, and even when COVID restrictions relaxed and life got a little more normal, I set a goal to write two posts a week. But the weeks turn into months so fast, and it really is true about life passing you by faster as you get older, especially when you share your life with others.
Life for me usually picks up during the winter and summer. Late autumn/early winter contains pretty much every event worth celebrating in my family: My wedding anniversary (November 8), Thanksgiving (November 26th-ish), Christmas (December 25th-ish), my oldest child's birthday (January 17th), my birthday (January 25th), and my youngest child's birthday (February 10th). I'm basically poverty-stricken during the holiday season. Summertime is just as intense, with vacations and my husband's birthday on June 29, and it's also just as busy. As we know, summer is now nearing its end (thank God, because this heat is not my friend) and this summer has been full of more than just money-spending and driving children everywhere that's kept me from creating content for this blog.
My husband has had lower back problems since his late teens, and in the past five years or so he's had various issues that sometimes leave him laid out for weeks. Four days into June, he twisted wrong and ended up living on our living room floor for eleven days. Literally. We were stepping over him to get from the kitchen to the stairs. My kids played with him... kind of, and only because he was in the middle of the floor. It was awful, more for him than anyone.
Because his injury and subsequent medical visits took him out of work and household commission for a while, I took charge of everything he used to help me with on top of my normal duties: dinnertime, bath time, taking the kids to birthday parties, bedtime, entertaining the kids on weekends, getting the kids to school... everything. My days were spent budgeting and planning and worrying and being mentally overstimulated and by the time of day I realized I needed to write, I couldn't muster the brainpower to do it. My perfectionism kicked in, and when that happens, I become paralyzed, telling myself that if what I'm going to put out isn't good, it's not worth putting out at all. It's a problematic tendency that I've discussed in many a post, like this one and this one. Many writers -- especially new writers -- face this issue, and it often keeps us from completing things. In general, I've conquered it, thankfully, but when my mind is already spiraling from life stuff, the need to keep everything order in my finances, home, and family bleeds into my artistic process.
I'm going to shout it loud for the people in the back: PERFECTIONISM DOES NOT BELONG IN THE ARTISTIC PROCESS.
Of course, when editing your work, you want to bang out any and all errors and try to make it as clean and "perfect" as possible, but the process getting there? It should be a freakin' free-for-all, in my opinion. Chaos. Mayhem. Slap paint on the canvas. Play that instrument with reckless abandon. Word vomit onto the page. Get it out, tweak it later. I was trying not to do that, and then sometime earlier this month I snapped out of it (for a pretty exciting reason I'll discuss in an upcoming post [!!!]) and I realized that in order to get myself back in a writing rhythm, I was going to need to... I cannot believe I'm writing these words... make an outline.
The Panster Becomes the Plotter...ish
I've discussed the differences between pantsers and plotters before, and in that post I claimed that the "B" in "Type B" stands for Bianca. I will not change, nor do I want to. I love my pantser style of creating, and don't feel much anxiety from figuring it out as I go. I do, however, make exceptions every so often, one instance being when I need to get my butt into gear.
I had a goal of finishing my story set in Ireland -- an excerpt of which I still owe you, and am working on as we speak, pinky promise -- by the end of this year, but as of early August I'd barely completed two chapters. A novel contains a lot more than two chapters, but the year has a lot fewer weeks left than any of us realizes. We love math issues.
I sat down and planned how much writing per week I would have to do in order to still complete my goal, and, to my relief, I realized it actually wasn't going to be that much of a mad rush to the finish. At this rate, I can write one chapter a week and still have a manuscript by the end of December.
Then, because putting pressure on myself is one of my favorite hobbies, I decided to bang out skeleton chapters for another novel I have planned, a novel I wasn't even going to start working on until next year. I made this decision for two reasons, one of which I'll discuss in my post about my exciting news. The other reason is this: I'm SUPER excited about this novel. I'm still thrilled about my Ireland story -- it's the reason for years of travel plans, and it's the result of years of waiting and passion and dreaming. But for several reasons I've decided that it's not quite Ireland's time to shine. The story includes detailed descriptions of the publishing process and, seeing as I don't have an agent yet, I'm not familiar with everything that route entails. Same as before, when I tried to write about the country and decided I couldn't without first visiting, I don't feel I can pursue this one without being in the same area of the publishing world that my protagonist lives in.
I'm still writing the story, will still finish it; I like having a completed manuscript in my back pocket while I'm working on another one. But my Ireland story -- which still only has a working title at this time -- is going to serve as motivation. The motive to describe the country in its true and accurate glory pushed me to book a trip there, and the motive to finally get this story out there will push me to get representation. In the future, I'll call this my catalyst book. My lucky book, even. The one I didn't put out until everything that happens within its pages happened to me, too.
Except meeting and falling for an Irishman -- my husband is pretty fantastic, so I'm taken care of in that department.
This other novel, just to be brief, is very much within the realm of my knowledge and experience, and I know I can knock out a barebones first draft in no time. Literally. I've given myself the month of September to complete it. Thirty days. While I'm still working on my outline for my story set in Ireland.
I'm totally not a masochist and I absolutely love myself.
The excitement of bringing this new story to life is outweighing my needs to preserve my nerves and get enough sleep each night. That, to me, is a good sign. It means I'm getting back into the levels of passion that help me complete novels. By the end of this year, I'll have two manuscripts. It's exactly what I should be doing.
In order to pull this off, however, on top of being a mother and homeowner, working full time, and sending queries for Way Down Low (which... admittedly... I haven't been doing much of since the beginning of June, but I'm getting back on that train, too), I had to make a plan. There was no way I was going to keep it all together without one.
And so this time in my life has transformed, if for the moment, the pantser into the plotter.
So, see, even though I haven't been writing for this blog, I'm still getting work done in other areas, and I'm following a plan to get it all done. But don't you worry... I'll still never be a plotter. I recently wrote an incredibly vague chapter description for a later chapter in my writing timeline for the Ireland story, after which I shrugged my shoulders and said, out loud, to myself, "That doesn't give me much to go on but, meh, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it." I'm plotting pants-ily, as it were. It's the closest I'll get to being a planner; that's all I got in me. Sorry.
Ironically, I can get pretty stuck in my ways, even though it seems like a Type A, plotter way to be. If this last year and a half has taught me anything, it's that adaptability saves lives. I can't keep stubbornly sticking to my ways if I'm going to catch up and accomplish my goals after months of inaction. So I'm being flexible... by making a plan. It's paradoxical, but not much else has made sense over the past eighteen months, has it?!
Creative flow requires just that: flow. So, I'm flowing. And planning. And writing like crazy. And querying (more, soon). I've got plenty of material to share in the next few weeks, and will be bringing this blog back, once again. I treat this thing like I treat my peace lilies at home. I forget to pay them attention and accidentally let them wilt a bit, then I panic and give them tons of water. Then they perk right back up. Time to give this blog its gulp of water.
p.s. If you're seeing a Facebook comments box smack dab in the middle of your reading pleasure... I've tried to move and /or get rid of it and can't seem to figure it out??? Anyway, I'm working on it. In the meantime, the text under the box says: The motive to describe the country in its true and accurate glory pushed me to book a trip there, and the motive to finally get this story out there will push me to get representation. In the future, I'll call this my catalyst book. My lucky book, even. The one I didn't put out until everything that happens within its pages happened to me, too.