Mixing Writing with Your Life

I once read that Rita Mae Brown, renowned equestrienne and novelist (among other things), said she couldn’t both ride and write at the same time. She didn’t mean she couldn’t balance a book on her pommel, she meant if she was fully engaged in creating characters and plotting storylines, she couldn’t also foxhunt or get very involved with her horses. I assume she still hacked most days but maybe not even that. (Huh! Just caught the pun…hack writer, hack rider?)

Anyhoo, I used to think about that comment when I would see myself totally immersed in some nonwriting project, like putting together my dad’s recipes into a family cookbook, or piecing together the personal history I’m doing for my mother. It’s funny how “real” writing projects would get tabled or worse, put on a shelf indefinitely.   I do see piecing together family cookbooks or creating legacy books or making amusing little videos as major detours to sitting down and finishing my word count. They have their place in my life—just as Ms. Brown’s horses had a place in hers. But she also had a publisher waiting for her next book. Makes temporarily hanging up your spurs a little more bearable.

Before I started indie-publishing, I handled it this way: I stopped writing. Since there was definitely more payoff in creating the perfect chicken potpie than in opening up a vein over my keyboard only to have the manuscript remain a manuscript until it officially qualified as “trunk” material, I allowed myself to just give up. And when I did, I felt such relief at not writing. On the one hand, I was driven to do it, but I’d learned to resist the impulse, kind of like what I imagine crack addicts must go through: you know you desperately want to but, deep down, you also know it probably isn’t going to end well. Spending hours mixing sugar and milk and eggs and vanilla together may not match the thrill of holding your published book in your hands but you can always count on getting at least some cupcakes out of the process and with a book, not so much.

And then came Indie.

Indie publishing helped free me from the question mark that always hung over the effort of writing. I hate to think I have the same validation issues that so many writers have. After all, writing something beautiful should be just as satisfying to read back to myself as it is shared with other people. But you know, it’s just not.  Writers need readers. The fact is, thanks to indie publishing there is now a way to get the hard work, the carefully chosen words, the well-crafted plot and scintillating dialogue in a form that can be shared. And it’s not a crap shoot or a popularity contest or who-you-know or blind luck. It’s simply the logical next step in the creative process.

So now, when I’m baking,  I’m also sorting out character motivation and plot logistics in my head. I’m rerunning the action happening up to now and envisioning different characters doing different things as I sift and zest and measure. If you don’t count a few absent-minded burns here and there, I find that allowing my writing ruminations to infiltrate the rest of my life has been a very good thing—for me as a person and for my writing, which, whether I’m sitting at a computer or greasing baking sheets, I’m now pretty much doing 24/7.

And you know? The rightness of that is so exquisite, I can almost taste it.

If You Want To Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life

…find the thing you were meant to do in this world…and do it.

I love it when what many would consider the most bureaucratic department of our government has a mandatory workshop for those workers ushered out of a job in the last year and the focus of the workshop is, basically, finding your passion. I mean, really! I knew they were pals and all, but has the government “gone Oprah”?

Once my initial shock wore off, I have to admit it made sense. And frankly, if I’d taken the stupid workshop five years ago, I never would’ve taken my last job.

But since the time travel workshop isn’t until next spring, for now, I focused on the nice government lady telling me the things we all need reminding of from time to time. The points covered in the workshop were taken from the book What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson. The author studied a group of 900 successful people from every walk of life and demographic and then revealed how it was that they found their true calling. Here’s what he found:

  1. Don’t let your fears let you jump to the wrong conclusion. A lot of us are afraid that pursuing our passion will lead right to the poorhouse—with absolutely no real facts to go on to substantiate it.
  2. Don’t wait for a sign from God. Look into your heart. You probably already know what you should be doing with your life.
  3. If you’re not happy, don’t stay. This is hard but so true! It is not selfish to be who you really are! Life will evolve naturally if you pursue your passion.
  4. Wisdom is found in experience. Sometimes, you can overthink a thing until it never happens. Embrace your past experiences to show you a starting point. (The leader in the workshop told a story about her brother who was a pharmacist and who gave it all up—the big house, the money, the prestige—to open up a kennel to train bird dogs. This passion had always existed on the peripheral of his other life. When he finally paid attention to what he really wanted in his life—he made the switch.)
  5. 5.    Don’t give up. As a writer, this last one is the one I tend to zero-in on the most. Good thing, too, because if I’ve learned anything in my years on this Earth, I’ve learned that if you don’t relentlessly pursue the thing that makes you happy in this life, it will not always just fall into your lap.

Any thoughts, comments? I would love to hear a story of how you found your passion and how life is different for you now!

Taking a Chance on Love

I would like to share a great blog posting I recently uncovered that’s as pertinent and vital today as when it was originally posted two years ago. The posting, called An Indie Call to Action, was posted by April L. Hamilton, the “author and indie publishing agitator.” What April suggests, essentially, in her post is that we, as writers, put our money where our Indie mouths are. More specifically, she suggests we find an Indie book to love. We find it, read it, love it and then spread the love. Become your own little one-person word-of-mouth love machine and tell everyone you know—in all the social mediums you run around in—about this great new indie find. Just imagine if we all did this! In fact, it smacks very much of the thing that Kristen Lamb is always encouraging us to do—giving service to others. (There’s always good karma involved in doing good unto others!) It is often a little tricky to find awesome Indie novels, so let’s make it easy on each other…and help a fellow Indie author at the same time.

These two books, The Boltons of the Little Boltons by Robert Phillip Bolton and The Loyal Heart by Merry Farmer, I’ve recently read and loved, loved, loved. I highly recommend that you discover them for yourselves. Meanwhile, if anyone out there has a great Indie book they’d like to shout about, please let me know. (Just, really? Not your own. Right?) I would love to hear from you!