Sunday, September 15

...take me back to yesterday...

         

"Everything is changing fast. We call it progress, but I just don't know." - from "Grandpa" by the Judds

          Sometimes I miss the “good old days.” (Quotes are necessary because, you know, they weren’t really all that good.) When I first started writing—well, for a long time after I started, as a matter of fact—I wrote in longhand on yellow lined paper then typed what I’d written, editing as I went. My final draft, the one I mailed to the publisher with my fingers crossed in the hope and prayer that this would be the time, was nowhere near as clean as my nearly-there drafts are now.
I spent much more money on return postage than I could afford. I subscribed to Romantic Times and very nearly haunted the mailbox waiting for the monthly issue to arrive. I went to one writers’ conference a year when I could afford it, none when I couldn’t. I bought books. Oh, Lord, did I buy books. There was a Walden book store in the mall near where I worked. I had a long lunch break—need I say more?
I communicated with other writers only at the monthly meeting of the RWA chapter writer Jenni Licata spearheaded. In time, as the chapter meetings moved to the city that was convenient for more of the membership but prohibitive for me, I counted on the RWR and Romantic Times to keep me up on what went on in the world of romantic fiction.
I was a wife who worked a fulltime job and had a houseful of teenagers, but—y’know what?—I wrote all the time. Thirty-page weekends were the norm, with a couple of 50-pagers thrown in for excitement.
But when I had an agent, she did the legwork, the business part of the business that I disliked and didn’t know how to do well. And when I got published, the publisher did most of the promotion. I worked hard at what I did well, and loved every pad of yellow-lined paper and every keystroke of it.
All these many years later, I can barely sign my name in longhand. My kids are grown, I’m retired from my day job, and I submit all my work electronically. I like that part of the way things are. I like it a lot.
Contact with other writers is easy and nearly constant. I can almost always find someone to talk to. Of course, it’s almost all on-line, but it’s contact and I treasure it. I like that, too. A lot.
But 50- and even 30-page weekends are a thing of the past. Partly because, honesty compels me to admit, age has taken its toll on my creativity. But partly because I do my own legwork and promotion. And, just as other authors help me by having me to visit their websites and saying “hey, look at this cover—give her a read” when I have a book out, I host others and leave glowing (and well-deserved) reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. It takes a lot of time. I don’t very often just write—there’s usually a screen open where I’m typing a blog post for here or my own blog or someone else’s.
I feel guilty because I can’t keep up with the sheer number of new authors who enter the field thanks to self-publishing and the small publishers who open (and close) doors nearly every day. This does not mean these authors aren’t everything that is good and professional; it means I can’t keep up and I can’t find things that hold my interest. Seldom does a book keep me up till 2:00 AM reading or have me weeping heartbroken or laughing so hard I snort and look around to see if anyone hears me. Even though I load my Kindle with as many free and 99¢-$2.99 books as anyone else does, the truth is I don’t finish all that many of those books. Those authors deserve better from their readers, but I don’t have it to give.
I don’t have any answers, I guess, only questions. I’m glad and grateful for the changes I’ve seen. For computers and social media. For electronic readers and iPads. For all the authors I know online so that the solitude of writing isn’t so solitary as it used to be.
But sometimes, when I’m doing promotion or looking for something to read that engages my whole heart or trying to justify the expense of a writers’ conference when I don’t really need to go for contact with other writers…sometimes, I miss the good old days. Without the quotes this time, because some parts of them—yeah, they really were that good.

18 comments:

  1. I remember the days before the social media craze....check my email, then shut it off for a few hours and WRITE:) Now it's check email, update FB, tweet, recheck notifications, blog, double-check everything again, and then write. Or be so tired of being in front of the computer I get up and move around. But then an hour later, start cycle again....

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  2. Hi Liz,
    I love your post. I identified with a lot of it even though I have 25+ years before I'm old enough to retire. The fact that you worked full time, took care of your family, and still found time to write at all much less 30 to 50 pages on a weekend amazes me. While I work full time, I just have my mom and my nephew to care for and I rarely get a page written on the weekend.

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  3. Great post, Liz. I've learned, recently in fact, that I have to just turn it off. The Internet, I mean. Shut down wi-fi, ignore it for a little while and then focus on my writing or a book I'm loving. Now I'm learning to deal with the guilt that 'turning off' leaves me with! lol

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  4. I smiled and nodded all the way through. Especially when it came to comparing current writing output with earlier ones. Our crit group five years ago had a weekly requirement of 22 pages (we were pushing it!) but we each got our books finished in a few months. Nice post. Barb Bettis

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  5. Me, too, Liz. (sigh) Great post.

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  6. I could identify with everything you said here, Liz. Great post. The only thing I long for is the energy I used to have.

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  7. Great post, Liz!! I can't answer any of the questions either, I can only assure you that you are NOT alone, and the best advice I can come up with is this: WRITE. If you have nothing written, you have nothing to promote and the point becomes moot. You need to keep in touch with readers (thank GOD for social media!!) and at the same time, break free, and shut down the "other boxes" so you can simply focus on writing, losing yourself, crafting those stories of the heart. Love and hugs, my sista!! :-)

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  8. Oh Liz, this brought back so many memories! I never wrote longhand, but I eagerly awaited my Romantic Times and spent tons of money copying, postage, and return postage. I really don't miss all that. However, I will admit to a wee bit of nostalgia for simpler times when writers weren't expected to do it all.

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  9. @Molly--absolutely. I'm the same way.

    @Katherine--it was wild, for sure, but I wrote a lot on bleachers (where I lived for a loooong time) and in the early dark morning when everyone else slept.

    @Kristi--I'm going to try that. I haven't yet. There's always some reason not to, but I think you have the right idea.

    @Barb, hi. Oh, gosh, the 22 pgg. requirement would have scared me to death, but I'll bet it was great for productivity!

    @Cheryl and D'Ann, thank you!

    @LoRee. Yup, I'm right there with you on that energy hunt!

    @Marianne--thanks, Gem-sister! I think I'm getting my writing chops back, but I still have these days of "oh, no, it's gone forever." :-)

    @Alison. Oh, yes, the copying costs! And I used to buy paper by the box instead of by the ream!

    Thanks to all of you for stopping and commenting today!

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  10. Hi Liz! I still do long hand every once in awhile. Unfortunately though, I can't read my own writing. Sometimes I have to ignore the Internet too.

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  11. Um...Liz, have you been reading my journal??? lol

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  12. @Shawn. Good for you, except for the reading your own writing part. We have a girl in our writing group who--I swear--turns her paper upside down trying to decipher it!

    @Delia. lol. It's so good to know I'm not alone!

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  13. Wonderful post, Liz. It made me realize that I accomplished a lot more when I had 4 kids under foot, a house to take care of, freelance writing contracts, and so much more than I do now. The difference? Blogging and tweeting and email lists -- the list of distractions is endless. I blogged recently about unplugging on weekends. I've kept to that, but I always have this nagging sense that I'm falling terribly behind. But I think I'll just have to live with that. We all are entitled to a "real life" not just an online life.

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  14. Thanks, Joan. They were busy days, weren't they? I stay plugged in on weekends, but I don't write (other than the post for this blog.) It freshens me a little for the week ahead.

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  15. Last week, Kristen Lamb had a great blog on the power of TNT--today, not tomorrow. As a world-class procrastinator, it really struck home. I know I do better when I set daily writing goals--and you know, actually work toward them :)

    I might want to try that aqain, soon ;)

    Here's the link to her blog, if anyone is interested;
    http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/get-what-you-want-part-2-the-power-of-tnt/

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  16. Liz...you 've picked my thoughts right put of my head. I try for one day with little or no internet but with an iPad on the sofa it is really hard to let go.

    Thanks for this post.

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  17. @Margie--always a good idea!

    @Bonnie. Thanks for coming by. We are truly hooked, aren't we?

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