Monday, July 12, 2010

Write Stages

You know, I have a lot of writing friends who would LOVE to write more... fit in that time for a book... but they are at points in their lives with greater priorities—shaping the young lives and minds of the small people they created, attending college where nobody ever quite has time to do what the coursework requires, let alone a side project, working a time consuming job... maybe more than one of these at once. And you know what... I guess I think that is a legitimate reason that NOW is not WHEN. I guess I ALSO think there is not a reason to think that just because NOT NOW, doesn't mean NOT EVER. And maybe there are some ways to keep us linked to the writing world, so when it IS time, we have our framework in line to jump in with both feet.

So I'm going to talk a little about MY life stages (and how writing fit or didn't), and see if I might come up with anything useful for anybody. First off, I should probably say that the last time I didn't work full time was when I was a full time bachelor's student... I had some money for college, and other than an expectation that I would work summers for my own clothing expenses, I had room, board and a small spending fund—I think it was $200 a month, which, considering I was fed already, covered it most of the time. Some people have to work in college—I was lucky enough not to. Some people DON'T have to work later—sadly, I was never one of these... your story may deviate.

High School/College

I wrote. I wrote a lot. But what I WROTE was what was necessary to maintain sanity in this emotionally turbulent time. I wrote poetry, I wrote letters, I wrote long journal entries... Other than a few 'outlines' of books and a short story class for which I was CLUELESS, I didn't write the kind of stuff I knew I eventually WANTED to write. I looked at it as a pipe dream... like the modeling and acting that I actually KNEW would never happen. Writing a novel seemed that far out of my realm of possibility, but I wrote other stuff.

Now the writing at that stage happened late at night... it was my unwind before bed, when homework had been abandoned. Though I also have pages and pages of poems from the back of class notebooks... times I wasn't paying attention or was waiting for the teacher... or digressing from studying.

Almost all of this stuff is angsty. I was a relatively happy person (it's my nature) but I never felt compelled to WRITE when happy... give me a little melancholy or bitterness and I was good to go.

Post College/First Job

I worked at an advertising agency and wrote nearly NOTHING. I worked hard—relatively long hours. I lived with friends. I socialized pretty much every evening. I belonged to a 'club' to work out and hit a 7pm aerobics class most nights. I met my to-be husband just 2 months into this job, but he worked for a bakery, so had to be there EARLY—it meant we mostly saw each other weekends, but STILL I managed to have no time. It just takes a lot of energy to be a 20-something gal.

Marriage didn't change anything... we still went out a lot.No writing.

Grad School

Oddly, this is when I got back to writing. I did prerequisties and then my first year, all the while working full time as an Uber-worker at a microbrewery—Uberworker because the philosophy was all people did everything... I preferred being the cook. I would joke “I'm not a people person” and I was pretty fast on the grill, so I got my way a lot (Friday cook at the Broadway McMenamins for about 2 years, which anyone whose ever been there knows means I had to kick some burger BUTT). But when I finished my first year of grad school and faced summer... I had a BRAIN ready to go, and no real WORK that needed doing. I began my first novel. I wrote 250 pages (single spaced) of a horror novel based partially in Portland's Grunge scene, partially in Northern Idaho (the 'haunted' area to one end of Lake Coeur d'Alene) There was some good... mostly I didn't know how to plot, but I loved the character stuff... and then school started again, so it got left behind... The FOLLOWING summer I had my thesis on the table, then the decision to have a baby, which left me SLEEPING 14 hours a day. (Thing 1 totally took it outa me)

New Mom

Keep in mind I was STILL working full time, PLUS thinking I needed to finish my thesis, PLUS being a mom... I should maybe mention I was also separated during this for about 18 months, so full-time working SINGLE mom... (you may spot why the book remained abandoned)

I finally finished my thesis when my daughter was 2 and went from 2 jobs (still pubbing, plus a research assistant job I'd done to fulfill the data collection piece, since my thesis used secondary data)... and the Research shop hired me full time... (did you hear me sigh in relief to only have one job?)

This part of my life was INSANE--[physically and emotionally], but I think it also built my stamina—I know I can DO two jobs and be a mom (provided I don't have to housekeep much). It makes NOW not look like much.

Middle Mom

Moving to Michigan meant kids starting school (2 kids now)--the hubby was the at-home parent and I worked, but I had homework and reading duties (and bath) with the childings... so for several more years it seemed pretty busy...

Middle-late Mom

And we've arrived at now... I have taken a bath most nights since my first pregnancy—it helps me relax... I typically read... when I discovered HPANA and got back to the writing, this is when it fit... then bathtime expanded... Where it had been 9-10, it became 8:30-10:30 as the kids quit reading with me—which it remains... I know... sounds like ages to soak, but I love it. I usually Sudoku first to turn OFF the day, then I write...(I also type and blog on my computer before that)

I guess my point is, though I've been driven to write since I was young, my need to have a job (never negotiable), my commitments to school and family... made it so I really didn't have TIME until now.

I think though, there are SOME things, that... had I BELIEVED in myself before, I might have done to stay connected... I had that bath time... had I committed to 30 minutes a day of writing... it would have helped with discipline... finding writing communities to talk to a little—especially some people who had similar obstacles... though I gotta be honest... the time suck would have been BAD for my career (not sure it's very good for my career NOW.)

Carry the notebook... write when you can... lunch, at the park watching the kids... When the identity commitment is made, I think we find a way...

ABSOLUTELY find a place to share some of your work. It is heartening to get feedback—that is why the fan fiction setting was so perfect for me. I would post and someone would respond... and it was encouraging... they LIKED it... I still think there isn't a better training ground for someone who really isn't sure where to start. It gives you as much or as little superimposed structure and character as you want, so you can work on a couple components at a time.

So I guess I am wanting both to VALIDATE people who identify as writers but have trouble making time, and PLEAD with them to examine how they might stay connected anyway...

HA! (see that—there was a point).


Old Kitty said...


Awww it's amazing how the realities of life dictate one's writing ebb and flow!!! I love that you never gave up the dream! Even when you didn't write -that passion still remained! Now it's time to let it out. Whilst in the bath! :-)

Good for you!
Take care

Cold As Heaven said...

I would like to write more ... in less time. I'm too slow, that's the problem >:)

Cold As Heaven

Hart Johnson said...

OK--thank you! Didn't give up, but didn't really grasp it either... Glad I finally have, and now the insanity has taken hold!

CaH-Are you a perfectionist? I know that slows a lot of people down. I find I need to go fast on first draft, but my FIRST first draft was slow --2.5 years. Then I finally sort of got my rhythm down.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Thanks for the post--I enjoyed hearing more about your pre-Tart life! :) And I think you're right--sometimes it's tougher than others to fit writing in, but we can do it if we recognize how important it is to us--and come prepared with a pad and pencil! After baby #1, I put off writing for years. When baby #2 was born, I decided there was no time like the present and I couldn't put it off forever. I wrote the first book while the Teletubbies played in the background. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I guess if we really want to write, we'll make the time.

Hart Johnson said...

Elizabeth--no WONDER you went with murder mysteries! Oi! Teletubbies! And now I have thatin my head... Tinky-Winky, Dipsi, Lala..... Po. (Thing 2 loved Po--red has always been his favorite color)

Alex-I think it's possible to make a LITTLE time, but there are definitely times I couldn't have committed... though I guess at my very busiest, I managed to fit my master's thesis in...

Boonsong said...

This is an interesting post - and we're given another glimpse of your bathroom too. If this continues I may have to obtain special permission from Mrs Somboon before visiting here.
I do plan to publish some candid photos taken in our bathroom area soon on my blog. I know that you'll drop by.... Bring your dark glasses.

All the best, Boonsong

Dawn said...

Last year, my husband convinced me to take a year off work to write. Sounds dreamy, except that I didn't write - not nearly as much as I should have. Guilt about not doing housework, or having dinner ready, etc crept into my thoughts and distracted my muse. I was an awesome housewife, but a crappy writer. Now that I'm back working, I write more... I guess it's that old adage: If you want something done, give it to a busy person.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I am a work better under pressure personality, but there comes a time when certain pressures work against me and I come up short or with nothing at all in regards to writing. Busy pressure = fine. Internal pressure= not so fine.
I'm not sure how to make the internal and let it go. Which I think you know about me. I'm really not a perfectionist in most area's of my life. Infact I'm quite free with abandon, but something about writing and the pressure I feel to fill a page suddenly freaks me out, and not being able to get it right the first time sends me in a spiral. My commitment to my spiral is outstanding though :P

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

I like the terms “middle mom” and “middle late mom.” What comes next? “late mom” then “old mom”---Yipes!

Deb and Barbara said...

Ha -- I asked today in our blog how you successful bloggers "do it", and you were one of the bloggers foremost in my mind when I asked. And lo, the answer (in wonderful detail) here on the same day.

Serendipity! B

Hart Johnson said...

Boonsong-a bathroom that requires dark glasses? Sounds intriguing!

Dawn-based on weekends, I suspect I wouldn't get any more done just at home either--I'd probably need to schedule time and LEAVE or else at least treat it like job hours.

Erica-I do better with a LITTLE pressure, but if the volume of what needs doing gets too high, I get totally debilitated too. You need to let go of the writing perfectionism when WRITING. Let it out for the editing... (I need to grasp some of it... I am more loosy goosy)

Holly--I think late mom and then grandmom!

Barbara-a little insanity goes a long way, eh? I actually find blogging helps me organize my thoughts...

RaShelle said...

Hey Hart -
Nice post. Knowing what's important - what'll makes us happy today as well as ten years from now is a good realization.

"I write because it helps me breathe."

Falen (Sarah) said...

i took a good 5 years off from writing (though at the time i didn't realize it). Sometimes i lament the 5 years i missed, but other times i realize that maybe it was what i needed, to get to where i'm at now

Helena said...

I wrote such morbid poetry and a novel in college! All of it should be taken out, shot, and buried in an unmarked grave. When I was happy (which was most of the time) I didn't write nothin'. Now writing can make me happy. Go figure.

And hey, Hart -- your description of your working life/Mom job/everything else is exhausting just to read! I think I'll take a nap now.

Chary Johnson said...

Hart, I really took ALOT from this post. I feel like my job just sucks the energy out of me. Don't get me wrong, I love my career but it is so demanding. Then to come home to the little ones and my husband, I feel stretched thin and not enough is left to write most days.

I like the thirty minutes a day. I am going to try that and see how it goes for about two weeks and perhaps add more time as I become better disciplined. Thanks so much!

Ellie said...

Well said, I loved reading about your life and how you made time, when you were able! Life does get in the way, but we come to a point, where what we must do what we love. It is the only way, we are ourselves...our true selves! I am so happy, you have discovered this and will soon share your gift with the world! We all have talents, it is allowing them to breath, bubble over and then kneading them to grow~ Yes, I compared this to ;-D

Helen Ginger said...

I'm going tomorrow to find a white board and permanent marker (I take showers).

What I do need to do it start using a bigger purse. Mine is so small it holds only the essentials. With a larger one, I could carry a small spiral and pen.

arlee bird said...

Sounds like a similar history to my writing life. I wish I could have been in the writing habit that I have now 30 years ago. But you know, I think writing is easier now with the computer and word programs. Typing used to be such a chore for me. Juat a thought.

Tossing It Out

Hart Johnson said...

RaShelle--It's true... I ALWAYS loved the writing, but think I would have regretted NOT spending the kid time when they were little... some things will wait, some won't.

Helena-those are teen rights of passage, I think--all that turmoil of emotions we don't know how to channel!

Chary, I really hope that works for you! You have such great stuff, and a habit really does make a TON of difference!

Helen-that is one of the things that irks my husband--I take this BAG with all these WRITING things when we go places! But I never know when there will be a half hour waiting around (like while they add up the points at a swim meet)--he is always mortified... I pull out my notebook and go and he looks around like he doesn't know me.

Lee-The transcribing DID used to kill me--I am not a fabulous typist, but I write long-hand, even now. It is just the 'fixing the typos' that has gotten a ton easier.