I've never been good about the due diligence involved in having a life. By that I mean those boring, detail-oriented maintenance things that have to be done over and over and that you never get credit for. No one will ever walk into my house and say, “Whoa!! This place is staggeringly clean!” Or check out my desk and say, “How do you keep things so organized and tidy?”
I have the labeled file folders, I just don’t always put anything into them.
Here’s another example. I love gardening. I love picking out cool plants at the garden store and shoehorning them into my yard. I plant perennials, which are about as low-maintenance as gardening gets. But I don’t do the lift and divide thing and the thinning out and weeding thing and the clip off the spent blooms thing. So my garden is a chaotic battleground—a survival of the fittest. Usually weeds.
See? I have the theory down. I just can’t seem to fit the process into my life. Or don’t want to.
I think of myself as an idea person. I’ve mastered the use of the matrimonial “we.” Like, “Why don’t we plan a trip to Australia?” Or, “Why don’t we invest in an index fund?” Or, “Why don’t we build a sunroom?” And then I wait, hoping that my long-suffering spouse will take on the project. And he usually does.
He’s really good at it, and I know my limitations.
That said, there are many maintenance tasks that go along with writing. An investment of time can both improve your writing and make your writing life more successful. Examples include reading about craft and the business of writing, planning projects before the launch, developing and honing computer skills, and keeping good records, financial and otherwise. It’s also important to maintain your blog, update your Website in a timely manner and network with other writers, librarians, teachers, and publishing people. Not to mention reading voraciously in the genre you’re working in.
Mind, sometimes writers use those kinds of maintenance tasks to avoid writing altogether. They are so busy picking out wallpaper for the writing studio, reading books on craft and attending workshops that they never actually get down to business.
Not me, not usually. As soon as I finish one writing project I tend to charge headlong into the next, ready or not. I blame this on habits forged during a lifetime of working two full-time jobs and raising and neglecting children. Have a minute? Write a page or two.
In May I quit my day job. I’m still trying to re-allocate my time, to get over the notion that I have to write every minute.
At Christmas, I received a new Macbook. I have not written anything for an entire week. Not counting this blog. Instead, I have read the manual and attended workshops. Downloaded software. Fondled the keyboard and examined the drop-down menus. I’ve considered how this tool might expand my reach and sharpen my delivery.
I have also developed and refined a table of characters, places, and terminology for my new high fantasy trilogy. Redrew a map of the Seven Realms where the action takes place. Written a pre-history for the novels and selected photographs to illustrate setting. I have laid in bed, dreaming on my characters and what they’ll be doing in the next book.
I’ve answered scores of emails (I’m always pretty good about that) but I still have some snail-mail correspondence to catch up with.
My New Year’s Resolution: to develop a system for taking care of those other jobs in order to make my work and my writing life better. This includes making time for dreaming.