Tuesday, January 24

It’s a Time Management Thing @NanReinhardt

...Or is it? I’m working on a project for a client right now that is a RUSH job. Those don’t happen often, but every once in a while one comes along, and when they do, pretty much everything else in my life gets put on the back burner, including my own writing.

I try hard not to suffer too much guilt over that fact because, frankly, I have to earn a living and right now, writing isn’t doing that for me, but editing is. I know I committed to getting up early every morning and writing for an hour before I do anything else. I’ve been pretty true to that, but that’s not happening while I do this project. I’ve been lucky to fit in church on Sunday, a quick walk in the unusual warm weather with Husband, and gym time. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m just a crummy time manager—I’ve actually wondered that pretty frequently in the past ten years or so, and if you saw my house, you’d wonder the same thing. I know I can be a great time manager because once upon a time, I was. When we first built this house, I had every day carefully planned. Seriously. I did. Stop giggling, Liz! 

I cleaned the entire house on Monday, starting with the bathrooms, then going on to the kitchen (because my mom, who as it happened, was a terrible housekeeper, told me to always start with the worst jobs first), then vacuuming all the carpet, dusting every surface, scrubbing every floor, and changing the beds.
Tuesday was laundry day—and ironing day. I was hell at ironing back then. I really like to iron too, but I don’t do it very often anymore, mostly because denim and flannel and yoga pants and sweatshirts and swimwear really don’t need ironing.

Wednesday was the day I spent weeding and tending to my portion of the yard work and Thursday, I went to the grocery store because the grocery store was rarely crowded on Thursdays. Fridays were for meal-planning for the next week, Saturday was time spent with Husband and Son, and Sunday was for church. In between, I did part-time work for a friend who owned a business communications company, wrote articles for a local magazine, was a room mother and a Cub Scout den leader, helped Son with homework, went to church meetings, had the occasional lunch with friends, and read voraciously. I even had time to watch afternoon soap operas and overeat—a lot. Yeah, I know, I’m sure Freud would have something to say about that. Shut up, Sigmund.

I’m not exactly sure when that system broke down . . . I think around the time I got serious about publishing my stories, started my own website, and picked up more clients for my editing business. Or maybe it was after I went to Paris—I dunno. Whenever it was, I gradually discovered that lightning does not strike if I don’t dust every single week or if Husband and I eat peanut butter and apples for supper instead of a carefully planned meal. And it seems that the guy loves me, even if I don’t iron his shirts to perfection or weed the gardens every week.

I sorta forgot where I was going with this, except to say that living on a schedule no longer works at my house. I don’t worry so much about when stuff gets done because eventually it does and even if it doesn’t, well, who really gives a damn? Even without a schedule, Husband and I work pretty well together—he’s learned that if I’m in the midst of big project for a client or trying to finish a particularly tough scene in my own book, we’ll probably end up with soup or apples for supper. I still cook—and when I do, sometimes there’s wine and candlelight and a couple of hours of conversation to go along with the meal . . . or I sometimes, I just get it on the board, chew fast, and head back up to my little garret to get back to work. Life is good.

How about you? Are you a great time manager? Does your home run like a well-oiled machine?Or like me, have you gotten to the point where whatever happens happens and we're all just fine with that?

Monday, January 23

A little help from my friends @Liz Flaherty

I've started a new story. In truth, I don't know yet if it's going to fly or not, but I hope it does. I like
apple orchards and there is one here. This one's 60 acres and it needs a name. I've been calling it Allie's Orchard, but I don't know who Allie was. It will be kind of like McClure's Orchard, near where I live.

I already knew the story's heroine, but voila, give a woman her own book and she changes up on you. I'm anxious to see what she has to tell me about herself. So far, she's still in the car on her way to the apple orchard. She's worried. Scared. She's not sure about what's to come.

The hero showed up wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. He's on the rugged side, but unconsciously so. I've had a time with his name--see picture--but I think he's Luke. Like the heroine, he's not letting himself be known very well.

I think they're lonely people. Not only lonely inside, but literally lonely, too. He's always worked and stayed to himself--by choice, not because life has mistreated him. Her life has been a mess and she's both moved around a lot AND been busy, not to mention screwed up by her own poor choices, and she would like to have friends. But she doesn't know how to do it.

They have siblings. He has a brother who stays with him because he doesn't want to change schools. She has a half-sister who's...well, mad.

The H & H share ownership of the orchard. He wants her to buy him out because it makes business sense for both of them. She wants something to call her own and half an orchard seems like a viable thing.

She's divorced and men are way down on her list of Priorities in Life. He's just busy. He works all the time. He likes women, but he's not going to make time for a real relationship.

The person who owns the local winery wants to work together with the orchard. You see a lot of that these days. Either my H or my H doesn't like the idea. The other one does.

I need breakfast...tea...but what do you think of these paragraphs?

Seth came down the ladder. “I know it’s asking a lot, letting me stay with you the whole school year. I cramp your style and all. But, geez, Luke, I don’t want to change schools now. I want to spend my senior year as a Miniagua Lakers running back, not a bench-warmer at some school around Detroit where I don’t know anybody.” He grinned hopefully. “Don’t forget, me being here keeps you off the ladders.”

There was that. Luke wasn’t precisely afraid of heights, but he wasn’t crazy about them, either. Zoey had nearly laughed her head off when she’d found that out. “Son,” she said, “you do realize you just bought half of sixty acres of fruit trees, right?”
There you have it. When you need a brainstorming session, you just need one, right? This is what Nan and I do when we are together. After we've solved the world's problems, worried about our kids, made a few (dozen) bitchy remarks about...whatever, and ordered our lunch.

It's been a while since we've been out, so I brought it to the Wranglers instead. We can skip the first parts--although I actually can be bitchy on demand; just ask Duane. I need someone to lead me into this story. What do you think?

Have a great week--but help me out here first!


Saturday, January 21

The Reading has Begun!

I got this lovely journal for Christmas.
A week ago, my fellow Word Wranglers blogged about reading. Some have formally committed to reading at least 50 books in 2017. I haven’t signed up to read a set number of books this year, but I’ve been inspired by them to monitor my reading for the next twelve months.

There are couple of things I’ve noticed about my reading in the last few years. First, I don’t read near enough for pleasure anymore. At least I don’t think I read as much as I used to; I’ve never kept track. This makes me sad. Reading has always been a source of joy for me – why would I deny myself that pleasure?

The second thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve been having a hard time finishing books. This didn’t used to be a problem. I used to finish books even when I didn’t particularly enjoy them. But I currently have at least two books on my tablet and a couple of paper books I haven’t finished, not because they’re not good books, but because, well, I don’t really know why. This lack of finishing power kind of matches an issue I’ve struggled with lately in my writing. I’ve got way too many partly finished manuscripts I haven’t finished; I talked about this problem in a post couple of weeks ago. I seem to have developed a bad case of monkey-mind. Look! A shiny object over there!

My first entry in my shiny new journal!
A writer needs to write, but she also needs to read. So, I’ve decided to do a couple of things. I’m going to keep track of what I read in 2017 in the beautiful new journal I received for Christmas from my boss – thanks Andrea! And I just wrote the name of the first book I completed in my journal. So exciting! Next on my list is finishing the book I bought for myself for Christmas “GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict” by Debra Dixon. I’ve been meaning to read this book since forever.

The next book on my list
I’m also going to combat monkey-mind, both in my writing and in my reading. In my reading, I’m making a commitment to myself that unless I’m really not enjoying a book, I’m going to finish what I start in 2017 (and some left over from 2016). I’ve decided to include on my list both fiction and non-fiction. I read a fair number of research books, and books on the craft of writing. And it won’t matter how I access the book. I enjoy reading ebooks on my ereader and tablet, I love print, and I adore audiobooks. All three are legitimate ways of reading, and each has a place in my life.

So, that’s my commitment for the year. As a way to keep on track, I’ll be checking in periodically here on Word Wranglers throughout the year to see how I’m doing. Wish me luck!

What are your reading plans for the year? Do you prefer to read print books, ebooks or audiobooks?

Friday, January 20

Where there's a Will...

At the turn of the New Year, I was hit with news of deaths… a dear friend, a distant relative, and the impending decline of a loved one from cancer. The trifecta of bad news was a harsh blow, and my angst-ridden blog that week reflected it.
“They” say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But those gut punches can certainly send you to your knees for a time. I daresay we’ve all experienced it.
But we somehow manage to pull ourselves back up to our feet, often with a lot of creaking and groaning, an assist from those we depend on for emotional support, and—in my case for sure—a lot of choice four-letter words. But rise, we do. A little worse for the wear but also a little stronger. Or maybe just a little numb to the pain? Either way, we carry on.
Which brings me to the point of today’s blog. It’s a public service announcement more than anything else, since I’ve recently and poignantly experienced what-not-to-do lessons where our own deaths are concerned: have a will.
Wow, those three little words don’t seem very impactful. It’s a bit of a Duh statement, isn’t it? But I’ll say it again: HAVE A WILL! Not just a legal document about what to do with the major things, but also include the little things. DO NOT assume those left living will abide by your not-legally-binding, spoken, conveyed in passing to a friend, or even jotted on a drink napkin wishes. They might. But unless you’ve legally bound the distribution of your stuff, they might not.
Even for those of us who think we have nothing of value to distribute… surely you have something, even if it is “only” of sentimental value to you. Writers, we have our business and our future royalties to take into consideration. Great Aunt Martha’s cheap costume jewelry. Pictures. Clothing. Dishes.
Do not leave it up the people you leave behind to decide how to disperse your estate, however small you think it might be. Firstly, those people are grieving for you. Do them a favor and don’t add to the emotional turmoil. Secondly, people can get ugly when there is money (or even “things”) involved… Haven’t we all seen, heard about, or experienced such a harsh twist of human nature? Thirdly, if you believe at all in some manner of the afterlife, how angry would you be if your (insert cherished item) ended up in the hands of that person?
Please please please. Have a will. Hire a lawyer to craft one. Go online and download a template. Get that bar napkin witnessed and notarized. Whatever it takes and in whatever format your state will accept. No one wants to contemplate their own demise or deal with the morose reality that life is fragile. We all want to believe we’ll live to see a grand old age and that accidents happen to other people. Personally, I don’t like to tempt Fate because I believe she can be an underhanded little tart when you throw down gauntlets.
Any thoughts or lessons-learned-the-hard-way on the matter?

Thursday, January 19

Life By The Pants

Sorry for the late post, but planning is not my forte as you will soon learn.

Like Liz, I am a total pantser. Although I must admit to a little bit of self-satisfaction glee when I learned she goes into the book with no idea of plot. I generally--save for Bix--come up with a general plot or idea before characters.

What if someone collected suitcases but never went anywhere?

What if outcast teenagers formed a club based on Dickenson's poem, "I'm a Nobody" ?

"What happens under the mistletoe, stays under the mistletoe." What if it didn't?

After these initial thoughts, I basically wing it. For better or worse.

And that's generally how I live my life--except, you know, working. That is planned, scheduled. But, only because it has to be.

January has not been kind to this life pantser. 

Birthdays galore. It starts on the first with my brother-in-law and continues until mine on the 31st.

Then there was the whole washing machine is leaking or more appropriately, water is pouring out of the wall debacle. It's fixable, but our handy man/father-in-law came down with the flu.

And then it snowed. Big time. Shut-the-town-down big time. And then the snow iced over. 

I don't know how much you know about the Portland Metro area, but we are not built for snow. They cancel school for an inch. And I'm not exaggerating. At this point, my nephews will be in school until the end of June.

And all of these things take careful planning (plotting). My car doesn't do snow or ice. So, I had to work around KB's schedule as to when I got to work and left work. Usually earlier or later than my schedule.

Today I had to take the first of a week's laundry to the laundry mat. Tomorrow I'll finish it up before I go to work. 

And writing? Well, I did manage to get this blog out today. I think as soon as I'm done, I'll type what I wrote two weeks ago before life got crazy.

The good news is all that snow you see in the pictures is now gone. The plus about living in the PNW is rain and how quickly it melts snow. 

Now, let the spontaneity begin!