Friday, July 15, 2011

Warning: This Won't Inspire You

By Kristina Wright

It's Thursday night, a little after 10 PM. I've known about this topic for a couple of weeks, known that this week I would be writing about the day in the life of a writer. That's me, the writer. Here I am, writing my piece about the day in the life of a writer. Hi. I hope you didn't get your hopes up. I hope you're not expecting much. I'm sure to disappoint.

I'm not sure which day I'm supposed to be writing about-- today? Any day this week? Any day in my writing life? I'd intended to write about my best writing day this week, or maybe to kind of combine them into a typical writing day. I had a few days to work with, Sunday through Thursday. Of course, Sunday is usually a day with the family and I don't usually have the babysitter on Wednesday (though I did this week, for 3 hours). But still, that left me Monday, Tuesday, Thursday. Three respectable work days chockfull of writing potential.

Want to know how much I wrote this week?

I wrote thousands of words. Yes, I swear I did. I wrote dozens of emails, many of them work related. Many of them have subject lines like "Anthology idea" and "review copies" and "Romance blog." All very writerly- like subjects, and I wrote many emails like that. I also wrote a couple of "Happy Birthday" emails and a couple of "hang in there, I know you'll be okay" emails. I fielded lots of questions from editors, writer friends, people who need something from me in an official writer/editor capacity. Thousands of words right there.

I also probably wrote several hundred words worth of text messages this week. (Am I the only one who proofreads texts before I send them? Please say I'm not.) Texts to my husband at work, to the babysitter inquiring how the baby was eating/sleeping, texts to friends to make plans or break plans or ask why they butt dialed me and left me a 5-minute voice mail of background noise. I might have even written a few texts in relation to writing.

Oh, and I wrote lists. Probably a couple hundred words, easy. Lists that began with "Pay bills" and ended with "Proofread galleys." Lists that were about errands I needed to run, household projects that must be completed before my due date, about thank you notes or birthday presents I need to buy this month. I love lists. Lists keep me organized, keep my forgetful pregnancy brain on track. Which reminds me that I'd intended to make a list of potential baby names, except I forgot. Oops. Maybe next week.

What else did I write? Hmm. Oh! Facebook status updates and responses to other people's updates. That's probably another couple hundred words, too. Those words add up, you know?

So, yeah, I've written thousands of words this week. None of them creative, none of them fiction. None of them marketable. Unless there's a market for a book of lists, as written by me.

I panicked yesterday afternoon while I was having coffee with another writer. A new writer, publishing wise, but one who has probably (certainly) written more words this week than this so-called professional writer before you. I panicked thinking I needed to cram in some real writing so I could write about the day in the life of a writer. Is that meta? I'm never quite sure what it means to be meta, but that feels meta.

I was going to come here and write some bullshit story about my typical writing day. It would have been fiction. I'm good at fiction (when I write); not so good at failure. I am, however, brilliant at honesty and to write anything less than the honest truth would make me feel not only like a failure, but a dishonest failure. So I'll just be a failure for this week. Or this day, at least.

So what was the typical day in the life of this writer? Might as well use today, I guess. I didn't make a list about the previous days this week and that pregnancy brain thing-- yeah, it's a real affliction. I can't remember much before this morning.

So, today. I fell asleep last night sometime before 2 AM. Woke up at 3:30 AM with the heartburn (my favorite pregnancy side effect). Popped 2 Tums, went back to bed. Woke up at 5 AM and was awake for a couple of hours. A serious writer would have gotten up and made use of those hours, but I'm a chronic insomniac and pregnant to boot, which means any rest is better than no rest at all. So I stayed in bed, daydreamed a little, rubbed the belly as the baby wriggled and stretched, wished for sleep and thanked the heavens (and the Baby Whisperer) that the toddler is a good sleeper.

Woke up at 9 AM and knew I needed to climb out of bed and get the baby up (whom I could just begin to hear stirring) and get going with the day. At 9:45 AM, I jolted awake and realized that I'd fallen back to sleep-- another pregnancy side effect-- and that the babysitter would arrive in 15 minutes. Got the baby up and his diaper changed, threw some clothes on him, then on myself, staggered downstairs (he weighs almost 28 pounds and I'm up 26 pounds so far this pregnancy, so staggering is accurate), plopped him in his fabulous Swedish designed high chair and got him started on breakfast.

The sitter arrived a couple of minutes after 10 (we are not ruled by the clock in this house), took over the breakfast feeding while I finished getting ready, made the bed, made the kid's bed, gathered my purse, computer and manuscript galleys. The kiddo pushed the garage door opener for me (as he does every babysitting morning) and gleefully waved goodbye. (He loves his babysitter and was with me all day yesterday, hence the glee.) I spent 30 seconds appreciating the cooler weather, climbed in the husband's truck and motored on down the road-- 4 miles to the Starbucks.

By 11 AM, I was settled in my usual spot (padded bench-- this pregnant mama can't sit on those hard wood chairs for long) with a blueberry scone, an iced black and white mocha, galleys for the manuscript I needed to proof and a pink pen (couldn't find my red one, probably left it at home). In a temporary moment of insanity, also known as discipline, I left my computer in its bag, knowing that if I so much as pulled it out I would be lost in the world of Facebook, blogs, email and ephemera and hours would be lost.

From 11 AM to 2 PM I finished proofing the galleys for my October book, taking frequent breaks to ball my fists up and press them in the small of my back for some pain relief. I ate my scone, drank half of my mocha and a bottle of water and by 2 PM, the galleys were finished. Good thing, they're due next week.

From 2 to 3 PM, I was online-- answering emails (mostly work related), downloading the contract for my new anthology and sending a note of gratitude to the publisher, responding to requests for review books and an interview, working out the details for a couple of ads for forthcoming anthologies, writing a couple of personal emails (though they were to writer friends, so maybe that's work related, too). I opened a new Word file and started drafting a call for submissions for the anthology I just contracted. I drifted over to Facebook and caught up on updates there, then I checked out a new market for fiction, read a couple of my favorite blogs (including this one) and took a much needed bathroom break. Oh, and there were texts to the husband and the babysitter and best friend and other friends.

Somewhere around 3 PM, I realized I was starving. I proceeded to surf the internet for another 15 minutes anyway, before packing up my stuff and walking down the strip mall to the Italian restaurant. I ordered a baked chicken salad and diet Coke, pulled out my ever present notebook and started making a list for the second half of July while I ate my late lunch. Prominent on the list were things about writing-- writing short stories for upcoming anthology deadlines, writing this column, writing next week's column, finishing writing that new call for submissions, and about a dozen words about a project I want to write.

I got home by 4:30 (the babysitter had left at 4, relieved by my husband), hung out with the boys for a little while, sat on the couch for a few minutes and contemplated just how tired I was, wrangled the kiddo back into his high chair for dinner while the husband heated up leftovers, picked at my dinner (the salad filled me up) while I helped the kiddo navigate the difficult task of feeding himself with a fork, talked about the day with my husband, talked about the weekend plans over squeals of delight from the toddler who was flinging food from his fork. Laughed. Laughed some more.

Dinner done, husband got the baby in the bathtub while I checked a few emails on my iPod Touch then joined them for a little pre-bedtime playtime. Kiddo went off to dreamland a little before 7 PM and I got a few minutes of alone time with the husband before he went off to Final Fantasy land and I climbed into my closet to continue an ongoing much needed purging in preparation for the carpet installers taking over the house next week.

An hour in at around 8:30 PM, exhaustion and allergies getting the best of me, I climbed out of the closet and took a long, cool shower. Then I laid on the bed long enough that I got uncomfortable (yet another pregnancy side effect) and decided it was either time to get up or time to call it a night. I remembered this piece I needed to write and also realized I was starving. I went down the hall and caught up with the husband for a few minutes before going downstairs. I microwaved a baked potato, threw everything in the refrigerator on it and scarfed it down while watching two episodes of Sex and the City on E!. Then I pulled out the laptop, made note of the battery life remaining (45%), decided that was my time limit for getting this piece written and got to work. Sitting on the couch, legs sprawled out to accommodate the expanding belly, laptop on a pillow on what's left of my lap, I started to write. This is the end result.

I told you not to get your hopes up. Have your eyes glazed over yet? Have I completely tarnished my reputation as a "real writer" forever? Are you bored? Are you shaking your head and mentally criticizing my laziness, my lack of focus, my utter failure to write a single word of fiction, not only today but any day this week? If you're doing any of those things, you're not alone. I'm doing them, too.

Obviously, this has not been a good week for Kristina Wright, writer. It's been a good week for Kristina Wright, everything else-- including Kristina Wright, editor, who signed the contract for her sixth anthology today. But Kristina Wright, the writer? She wasn't around this week. Maybe next week, when it's too late to write about a day in my writing life.

Today was typical, this week was even typical. I have days and weeks where I don't write a single word of fiction. I've had months of fiction-less writing, mostly post-partum or during bouts of depression. That's my writing life. I admire the authors who write every day, or even most days. I admire the writers who aren't distracted by text message pictures of baby cuteness or funny Facebook updates or thought-provoking blog posts by other brilliant writers. I'm in awe of the kind of focus and dedication that drives other writers from their beds at 4 AM or keeps them at their computer for 8 or 10 hour stretches, even though I know I'm fully capable of being that kind of writer because I have been that kind of writer. I will be that kind of writer again, maybe even next week. Certainly before month's end. There will be days of huge chunks of writing time and thousands of words written. It will happen. No matter how many days I have like today, where all the words stay bottled inside while I deal with other aspects of my writing and editing career-- not to mention my real life-- at some point the words have to come out. Always.

And so, disappointing though it is (more to me than to you, I'm sure), this is the only truly piece of creative writing I've done today or even this week-- and it's not even fiction. It is the blunt, boring, honest truth. Sorry. I wish I could've done better for you. But this is a real day in the life of a writer. A day in my life. No, I don't expect anyone will be clamoring to write the screenplay anytime soon.

And so, at 11:27 PM, with 9% battery life remaining, I'm going to finish out the rest of this day with a bowl of ice cream (it helps with the heartburn) and a few minutes daydreaming the plot of a story I want to write-- a story about a succubus who forces a man to choose between her and his ordinary life. Oh yeah, it's going to be a great story. Maybe I'll find time to write it this weekend. Maybe not. The only thing I know for sure is that I'm a writer and I will write. It's what I do. Just not this week.

8 comments:

  1. Nope, I proof texts too. :)

    I really enjoyed this post. I laughed out loud several times while reading it, and in all seriousness I appreciate the honesty with which you offer what it says and how you feel about it. I have been known to go longer than I feel like "a writer" should go without writing fiction too (and have experienced considerable frustration around it). I found it refreshing to read this account, and I wish you all the best with writing and everything else. :)

    Thank you for sharing.

    Oh, and congratulations on your newest anthology contract!

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  2. Honestly? I'm in awe as to how you get it all done, writing or otherwise. I'd collapse of exhaustion and I don't even HAVE the pregnancy excuse!

    Oh, pffft. I just say that. Truly my days are just as crazy, but I clean house and chase my geeky husband around! Which is a different sort of exhausting. HOWEVER! I have two writing projects due in the next month, so if you'll excuse me, I shouldn't be distracted by facebook and blogs and twitter. And yes, I proof-read texts!

    Love you! thanks for coffee the other day!

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  3. Kristina - even reading it exhausted me. Get some rest, girl.

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  4. I feel the same, Kristina. I don't remember even trying to write when I was pregnant (of course, that was in the Jurassic Age before anyone I knew had a computer). You're actually accomplishing a lot.

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  5. Kristina,

    Exhausting, yes. Boring? Not in the least. And everything you're doing as an editor is also feeding your career as a writer.

    I'm personally very impressed with you, though you sound as though you're not at all.

    BTW - can you give us a hint about the new anthology?! Congratulations!

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  6. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who proofreads text messages!

    And thank you for the anthology congratulations. (CFS coming on Monday, probably.)

    Lisabet, I don't know many writers (actually, I can't think of even one...) who is impressed with their accomplishments. I always feel like I could/should be doing more. I will say, however, that I'm more productive this pregnancy than I was during the last one. I attribute my current level of creativity to being in a better place mentally.

    P.S. Anthology hint: I'm looking for a few good men.

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  7. I loved this! I often fantasize about what it would be like to have whole weekdays to myself to write...fully aware that I'd probably fritter them away the way I do most weekend days. I'm working on being better about it, but I also know we can only do our best. I often carve out writing time and then, sadly, find something else to do. Interesting read, Kristina, one I'm sure every writer can relate to on some level. Looking forward to your call!

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  8. Thanks for your kind words, Rachel!

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