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How Important is Your Time?

I’ve come across a few articles in the last few weeks about managing your time better. Most talk about how we waste time on unimportant tasks and not enough on what we care about. For example, I watched Avengers Endgame again last night instead of, say, writing more of my novel. I had a busy day doing all the adulting things we need to do and when I got home, I just couldn’t muster the energy to focus and write. It happens. I let it go and this morning I was back at it searching for markets to submit to and writing more.

But it also go me thinking about how much time I waste submitting to literary journals. Most doing respond quickly and a story can sit for months, if not years, with no response. Yes I’ve done the simultaneous submission route, but still I feel like my time is being wasted.

To be honest – I’m tired of the treadmill.

Round and round my stories go. Sometimes they find a great place, but most have been sitting waiting for (more than likely) a rejection. I don’t blame the journals. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions to comb through and little time and man power to do it. That’s is the nature of the business. There is a lot of competition. I know this and accepted it.

Maybe this is a repercussion from my layoff, but I’ve been taking a hard look at my career (both of them) and asking myself, “What do I want?” Is this part of the dream to keep submitting, or do I want to move forward in a different way? Like limiting the number of submissions and then, self-publishing them myself. Or should I let go of stories and lean harder into my novel? I love short story writing, but sometimes I think I use it as an excuse not to take on an ambitious work. I shy away from something longer, because I have other stories that I can finish and submit right away.

Something has to change. I’m unhappy with my progress as a writer and I want to shake things up. Focusing on my novel, would consume more of my time, but I would have something BIG at the end. Over a decade ago, I wrote a novel and it never went anywhere. I’m glad it didn’t get published, because I’m a better writer today. Through the practice of craft and classes I’ve taken, I’ve grown into a better writer than my twenty-something self could ever imagine. I think it is time to go all in.

As for my short stories, I like the idea of a limited submissions. Maybe 5-10. If nothing happens, I’m going to self-publishing them and call it a day. All I really want is for people to read and enjoy my stuff. Having journals and magazines publish me is always a treat, but I am not going to chase this need to be a worthy writer. That’s for others, who want it more than me.

I’m going to spend my time in better ways.

My Moment with Toni Morrison

Yesterday came the news the legendary author, Toni Morrison, passed away. With so many tributes pouring in, from people who knew her far better than me, I won’t rehash what she did for literature, or America. If you want to know her impact, pay attention to those who speak and write memorials about her.

I didn’t know her at all, but I did meet her once a few years ago. It was at the National Book Festival in DC. I remember standing in line for a couple of hours to get her to sign one of my books. A couple of teenagers stood behind me. They couldn’t have been more than sixteen. Their teacher assigned Beloved as a reading book and both of them decided to spend their Saturday at the books festival.

Morrison did speak, but it was right before the signing, so if you wanted to have a chance of signed book, you had to skip the talk. (I think it was put up on-line later.) It was a hot, sunny day and my feet ached after the first hour. The line grew and grew. I was right in the middle. Maybe I would make it, maybe not.

Finally the line started to move foreword. She was signing one book, that was all. (Not unusual. it keeps the line moving quickly and ensures that most people get something signed.) As I got closer, my feet stopped hurting and my excitement started to build.

Sure enough, when I stepped up for my turn, her assistant said, “Okay, this is the last one.”

I said softly, “Lucky me.” She looked up at me and winked. (Side note: The two kids behind me did get their books signed. She couldn’t turn down teenagers who were holding her book.)

So that was my brief moment. Forgettable to her, but memorable to me. As a young writer, having that brief moment with your heroes is fun. A story you tell when people ask how you got your book signed. She was a legend and I’m glad a got a brief moment with her.

RIP Ms. Morrison.

 

Chapter 5 and Beyond

I’ve moved on to chapter 5 of the novel. I wish I could say that this book is flowing easily, but I think I’m a bit rusty when it comes to longer pieces. It has been so long since I’ve passed the 10K mark with a story that it feels like foreign soil to me. The last time I wrote this much on one story, I was in my twenties.

But I like the story I’m writing. I’m still interested. My main character is a complex guy and I’m enjoying spending time with him. So more words get written on the page and I am not ready to stop.

Sometimes I think getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to my writing career.

Yes I’m still applying for jobs and going to interviews, but I also have the fill the other hours of the day. Writing my fiction has been a good way to occupy my time and thoughts. I can always keep busy with a writing project. Also, it’s supposed to be around 100 degrees this weekend! It’s like the universe is forcing me to stay home, in the AC, and write. It’s too hot to go anywhere.

Seriously though, all writers know how hard it is to get time to write. In between jobs, families, and sleep, long chunks of writing time can be a luxury. So this is an opportunity that I’m not going to waste. Soon enough, I’ll be back in the grind. For now, I’m going to write my brains out and enjoy it.

Don’t Make Decisions Out of Fear

We’re halfway through the year.

And what a year it has been for me! I started off getting major surgery and recovering from it. Now, I’m figuring out what the next step in my careers is going to look like. I say “careers” because I have two.

I have my records management career that I’ve stuck with for almost twenty years. Ever since I graduated from undergrad school, I’ve been involved one way or another in this field. I enjoy it and it feeds a particular part of my personality that enjoys planning and organizing.

My other career is the fiction writing. I’ve been lucky enough to be published a few times, but I really want to do more. I’ve been using my time in between jobs to really focus on writing and submitting more. I’m currently on chapter four of the novel and I have nine submissions out.

Through this whole year, I’ve been trying to focus on how I made big decisions in my life. So many times I’ve been pushed into a corner and had to make a decision because, if I didn’t, I thought things would get worse. One big moment for me was back in 2014. I had planned to take some of my savings and pay for my last class outright, instead of borrowing the money. As soon as I pulled the money out of my savings, I got furloughed. Worried I might lose my job, I stuffed the money back into savings and went even further into debt. If I had just taken a few weeks and let the fear go, I would’ve saved myself hundreds of dollars in interest.

Sometimes it is hard to know. For me, I’ve tried to set myself up so that I don’t have to make decisions out of fear in the first place. When I lost my job, I had enough savings that I could take a breath and figure out what was next. With my health, I plan on never going back into surgery like that again, so I will be much more vigilant and take better care of myself. Sometimes emergencies can’t be helped, but health issues of my own making should be stopped. I knew about a year before surgery that something wasn’t right, but I ignored it and told myself it was not that serious.

With my fiction writing, I think I’ve done better. I try not to self reject. If I see a open call and I think my work is a good fit, I send it to them. I try not to let the fear of putting myself out there hold me back. It’s easy at times to talk yourself out of submitting. You tell yourself, “It’s not that good.” or “I need to rewrite it again for the hundredth time.” or “I’m not important and this place only publishes famous writers.” That is fear telling you this.

The best advice I ever heard was from a video. The speaker said that no one can see the future (at least as far as he knew). When you talk yourself out of things, or make decisions out of fear, you are predicting the future. You already know that the outcome is going to be bad, so why try? Truth is, YOU DON’T KNOW THE FUTURE. You can’t predict what is going to happen. All you can do it make the best choices for yourself to your benefit. Fear is a lie telling you the future. So ignore it and try anyway. You never know what is going to happen.

As I put down more and more words for this novel, the fear comes on strong. This is a long work and part of me hates to work on it, only for it to fail. So I have to keep telling myself that I don’t know whether it will fail or not. No matter what has happened in the past, I don’t know the future. I have to trust in my ability as a storyteller that this manuscript will be successful.

I have to trust myself.

 

On Why My Fiction Writing is Necessary

To date, I haven’t earned more than $20 from my writing. To be a full time fiction writer is a dream come true, but the reality is that even if you have multiple books published, you still might have to do something else to support yourself (and your family). More practical people would see my work in the past years as a failure.

“Whaaa? You still haven’t published a novel?” they say.

It’s hard for me to explain to someone, who isn’t a writer, why I continue to write. There’s no money coming in from it, so why bother? It’s a hobby — a pastime, that I tinker with but don’t ever seem to get any traction on. At best, I’m an undiscovered genius. At worst, I’m a hack that is deluding herself.

Neither one of these is true for me.

I think I’m a good writer. I’m good enough to be on the shelf with my peers, but I’m not Margaret Atwood, or Octavia Butler. My ego tells me I’ve got something special and my common sense reels me back and says I need to work on that specialness. That sounds pretty healthy to me. You have to have some sort of ego to be any artist. You have to believe people will care about what you create. Otherwise why bother putting it out into the world? Just write your stuff in journals and stuff them under the bed.

As I look for new employment, I ask myself what made me stay at my previous job so long? I was there for almost eleven years. Not only that, but the job I had before, I was there for six and a half years. Clearly, I wasn’t there only for money. What were the traits of that job that made me stay so long and how can I find to same qualities in my next job? That’s the questions I ask myself as I comb through job announcements and email my resumes.

The first time I decided I wanted to write, I was twelve years old. That was thirty years ago! This is a hobby/hopefully second career that I’ve stuck with for more than half my life. So why have I done it?

First off, I’m an introvert. I’m not good at parties and I don’t want to be around people all the time. Even as I type this, I’m alone in my place with no plans to meet up with anyone today. That sounds great to me. Yep, I’m in the yoga pants, t-shirt, and house shoes.

Yet, I don’t want to cut myself off from the world all the time. Writing helps me connect because I can do it in the comfort of my house, but then share with all of you. I can be vulnerable and still feel protected at the same time.

Second, I do love stories. Not even kidding when I say that I can watch the same movies and TV shows multiple times, even if I enjoyed the story the first time around. (And let’s not forget I have a pretty good memory, so even if I remember the story-line, I’ll still watch it.) I just recently found the reruns of Monk on Hallmark’s Mysteries channel. They are still funny, wonderful stories. Also, I will reread some of my all time favorite short stories again and again. Recently, perused through Ted Chaing’s “Story of Your Life” again. (The movie came on Syfy.)

So I write stories that I really enjoy and want to read over and over. It’s a challenge and exhilarating. I love to push myself to go outside of the box and really write a story that is unique, but familiar. Odd, but comforting. I love the challenge and when I feel like I’ve written something good, oh my it is a happy day in my house.

Lastly, I do write stories for you the reader. I love to brighten someone’s day. Make them laugh and forget the crap they are dealing with. Make them say “Wow, what fun!” Making someone else feel better, have empathy, see through fresh eyes, or simple helping them escape for a few minutes is the best job in the world.

I’ve been fiction writing for thirty years, and I plan to do it for at least thirty more.

Continuing On…

It’s a new month and a new reality for me. The dust is starting to settle around my unemployment. I still feel like I should be working everyday and often I find notes written to myself about a work thing I needed to get done or a goal I wanted to hit. I forgot to stop the alerts on my calendar, so stuff pops up every now and then.

But I’ve also waded through the paper work for unemployment benefits, healthcare,  updating my resume, and job searching. I have to say – It’s nuts the way almost every employer wants you to create an account on their site just to submit a resume. I have so many passwords now… LOL.

Hey you gotta laugh, otherwise you’ll cry.

One thing I do want to address is my fiction writing career. For the first time in a long time, I have the time to really write, everyday, without feeling guilty. I apply to jobs in the morning and then in the afternoon, I pull out the stories. I don’t have to worry about taking time away from anything else, because I’m not doing anything else. It’s freeing.

Even when I was working full-time and I would take vacation days, I still didn’t write with total freedom. Days off meant doing things I would have the chance to do like travel and do house projects. Now I really have the time. I have to keep myself busy and active. The last thing I want is to start waking up at 10am and not get dressed until the afternoon.

Nope. Not a good idea.

So, I’m up at my usual time of 6am. I do my usual morning routine: lemon water, vitamins, scripting, and exercise. Then it’s make tea, get dressed, plan my day, and see what’s going on the world (usually an hour or so of morning talk shows). Then at 8am or so my (new) workday starts. So far so good.

As a reminder, I had 4 writing goals this year:

-Finish my novel

-Write 6 new short stories (1 down, 5 more to go.)

-Write 100K words

-Gain more followers on the blog (Got a nice little bump in April.)

That should be plenty to keep me busy. Let’s do this!