The women in my family have always rearranged their furniture when something happens or they begin something new. My mother told me this a long time ago when I told her that I had rearranged my living room again –she asked “What’s changed?” I was starting a new job.
This makes sense to me. Now, when I am unable to move forward, I try to remember to clean or clean out something. January is an obvious ‘get your tax documents ready’ and Monday is usually a kitchen full of dirty dishes from the weekend. I rearranged all my furniture last week or at the very least one pice per room. I am antsy about sorting through piles of paper, cupboards and drawers, so what’s changed? What’s new?
Well, what about my life? I mean my Writer’s Life? What do I need to clean up and clean out? Cherry Adair has very strong opinions on how long a writer should work on a project. Nine months, it’s a pregnancy of sorts. Of course, this goes against all the stuff we learned in school and the realities of being a woman. We don’t give up on our kids, if we give up on family it’s because their dysfunctional level is toxic to us. Women are survivors and we don’t like giving up. But, Cherry Adair was giving this advice in a Writer’s Business Plan seminar, not a Writer’s Great Literary Tome Seminar.
One of the best things I did this year, to paraphrase Cherry, was to bury my baby, it died but I didn’t know it. I had been writing a book for five years. I wrote the first draft in a year and then proceeded, with the help of several editing how-to books, to kill it. It was probably dead the second year but I kept the editing CPR going for many more years. Editing CPR, just like on the medical dramas, “Doctor, stop… there is nothing you can do! The patient is gone…”
Rather than get past the grieving, I embraced the experience. I learned a lot. As a poet, I can savor the word, agonized over the word, remove the word, find a better word. Poets can live in a word, a phrase, a metaphor and survive for years (if they have a day job). A poet can smile at the wall of rejection slips pasted in their office and hang the framed acceptance letter on top. A poet can scribble a metaphor on a napkin and find old receipts with brilliant lines penciled on the edge. This is a poet’s life, they do it for love and know in their heart of hearts that outside of Hallmark they stand a snowball’s chance in hell of making a living as a poet.
But, that is not what I wanted from life. I love writing, it’s like having an affair, falling in love and giving birth each and every day. So, to be successful, I realized that I needed to be prolific. I set a figure in my head of how many words I need to write a day. If writing the first book was like learning to play the piano, learning my craft –then, this was like training for a marathon, complete with missteps and injuries. But, with lots of disipline, I found my sweet spot and I found my limits. I can sweetly write about 2,500 words a day, I can push out 7,000 but I won’t like me or how my brain feels later.
2013 was also the year I went from pantser to plotter, I have another way of saying this but I know on the Internet or in a blog, your opinion is often taken as fact or condemnation. If this works for me, just take it as ‘Oh, that works for her’ and not ‘how can you say that?’ So, let’s just say for me pantsing was leaving too much to chance and did not suit my goals.
So, New Year, new tools and a new way of approaching my goals. Out with the old and in with the new. I am feeling very upbeat about 2014!