Tag Archives: stress

A Writer’s Need


NaNoWriMo is well underway. It has been for twelve days, and the participants should be somewhere around 20,000 words written, if they’re on track. Many aren’t and that’s okay.

I wasn’t going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year because I’ve simply had too much on my plate and I need a break. I switched The Boy from home school back to mainstream high school, then discovered I still have to babysit him, plus he has his learners permit and I have to take him driving. Getting The Girl to choose a college, then change her mind twice was fun. She finally started school and got hit by a car. She’ll recover, but her injuries make attending even some of her classes hard so Hubby and I are helping her out. He drives her and carries her backpack to the classes she absolutely can’t miss, and I’m now playing teacher for The Girl instead of (mostly) The Boy for the classes she’s missing. It’s like a horror novel.

On a related note, I’ve taken up reading horror in my spare time (AKA long bubble baths). I didn’t like it before, but now… If I can survive a teenage boy, what’s a little death and carnage? Bah.

Oh, and we’re moving Hubby’s parents from the large house they’ve lived in for 40 years to a small apartment in a retirement village. Everything we pack has a memory and a story that must be relived at that precise moment before I can put it in a box. This will take forever.

And then NaNo came around again. I seriously have no time. Except, courtesy of stress and time constraints, for the past year I haven’t been writing much. I used to be able to sit down and knock out 1000 words in an hour or so and 5000+/day wasn’t anything worth celebrating. But I haven’t been writing 5000 words/day; most days I don’t write anything. I should have finished my work in progress by the beginning of the year. It’s November and I’m maybe 2/3 of the way through.

I don’t have time for NaNoWriMo. (Sound familiar?) I need to pack my inlaws, help my son with a math assignment, then study for a chemistry test. I need to make him actually read The Crucible because he’s trying to fake his way through the assignments. I also need to help my daughter study for two upcoming tests, clear out the garden and compost the tomato plants that refuse to die, winterize the yard, cover the air-conditioning unit, and get a new battery for the second car. Also take The Boy driving for Driver’s Ed. See? No time. Too many other things I need to do.

No, I’m a writer. What I need to do is write, and I haven’t been. Not blogs either. To a novelist that’s just not the same, and besides, I haven’t even been good about staying up to date there. Too many things are being pushed aside. I’m going slightly mad and I need to pull myself together. How? Write. I’m a writer, the need is pervasive and as essential as breathing to my overall well-being.

Back to NaNoWriMo then. It’s day 12. I have written exactly 0 words in my manuscript so far this month. I counted. (Actually I looked at the last day the file was updated and it said October 28.) I don’t need to add 50,000 words to this book. It’ll take far less than 50,000 words to finish, but I need to finish it. I’m going to stick with the 50,000 word goal of the challenge anyway because it’s tradition. Once I finish she novel, I can start something else. But to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month means 2635 words/day. So? I used to do that regularly when I competed in NaNo. My personal goal was 2500 words/day and I usually exceeded it, so no sweat, right?

No. There will be a lot of sweating. Probably swearing too. I’m out of practice with less free time than usual and more stress. In short, I’m in about the same mindset as someone doing this for the first time. I was better than this my own first time which makes my position particularly embarrassing and uneasy for me.

The upshot? I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo again this year because I need to get my butt in gear and head back in the game, and this is part of what the challenge is about. For new writers or those who haven’t established regular and successful writing habits yet, NaNo is about making you stop daydreaming, procrastinating, or overthinking your project and just do it. I thought I was done needing NaNo years ago. When I participated it was for fun not the actual challenge of it. I lost my way over the past year and a half and now I need NaNo again to whip me back into shape.

The challenge is ready and waiting, now it’s up to me to rise to the occasion.




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When Writing and Life Collide

ImageLet’s talk about writing and life. I write and life happens. As a general rule, I’m a prolific writer. Writer’s block doesn’t usually get a big grip on me because I have a great way of dealing with it: I just write something else. Either something else in the same book (so everything’s written all out of order and I have to assemble it later like a jigsaw puzzle) or I switch books. Sometimes I’m writing several books at the same time just to escape the full effects of writer’s block.

That’s not always the most practical approach, just so you know. If you don’t have to finish a particular book by a particular time, it works. But if you have deadlines, either self-imposed or by an agent or editor, that’s not going to work. I don’t have deadlines though, so I can do what I want.

This is where life happens. There have been a few things going on in my life that have me extraordinarily stressed out. One thing is going to resolve itself either in my favor or not (most likely not) in the next few weeks, and waiting for it has me gritting my teeth during the day now instead of just at night. My dentist (appointment next week – also stressing me out) is going to have something to say about this. Another thing that’s related and stressing me out is going to resolve itself very likely in my favor but that’s going to take about three more months, and there’s a deadline I have to meet in about three weeks first. I’m not ready. Oh, and my son’s science fair project is due in two days, he’s not ready. Another time on that.

So, I’m writing (A Thousand Words Novel #3, if you’re curious), and writer’s block strikes. Fine. I move on and start Be Careful What You Wish For #2. (Which I should have been working on already, yes, I know that.) I get a few thousand words into it, lose focus. Not good. Move on and pick up a Young Adult mermaid novel I started a couple years ago and then lost on a writer’s block binge. Nope. Hmmm. A really unique contemporary werewolf romance? No. Huh.

Okay. I’ve been here before. It’s one of those rare times when I have to make a decision. I can force the issue and bleed for every paragraph and write a couple of thousand words a day, but this isn’t National Novel Writing Month, and no one’s looking over my shoulder counting those words. And I know that they’ll be good, but it isn’t worth it. There’s no deadline, there’s no reason for the frustration.

Option two: I can revise something that’s waiting. By revise I mean take something I wrote and do my own first self-edit before sending it to alpha & beta readers and my editor and all that nonsense. Usually books get more than one round of revision, and time has to elapse between rounds so I can kind of forget it a little. Thankfully, I’m forgetful.

Option three: I can take a few days off and just read, read, read and not even open Scrivener (I write & do early revisions in Scrivener, not Word, if anyone’s wondering. When I write on my phone/tablet, it’s in Evernote, and occasionally in NotEverything by SoftXperience). Normally I read a little every day, or a little more every other day. It balances out. You have to read a lot to be a writer. In this case, I’m talking marathon reading. Like stop and read five books back to back sort of thing. Okay, maybe I’ll take a break for Minecraft (that’s new – The Girl’s fault) or Plants vs Zombies (that’s really new and The Boy’s fault) but otherwise, just read. The kids are trying to ‘balance’ my life. How adding video games balances me, I’m not sure.

The point of this? Life happens. Writer’s block occasionally wins. Occasionally. It shouldn’t be allowed to be the crutch that many writers use it as. Cowboy up, kiddies. I don’t have to let it win, I can push through it, it’s just sometimes not worth the frustration. I’m not working on a deadline. If I had a publishing house contract, I’d be writing something very different right now, but I don’t.

So, I’m going to go grow some giant mushrooms in Minecraft, then I’m going to tap my fingers and wonder when Transitions is going to come back from editing (new cover for that is in ‘coming soon’ on my website www.toribrooks.com), then I’m going to do some revisions on the sequel for Chrysanthemum because it is still longer than I’m comfortable with. And I have some new books to read. That will get me through the weekend.


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