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.