Living the Dream

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis
Share

The truth is that living as a writer is a dream come true. This is the thing I would choose to do above all others. It has its challenges, however. I went full time about six months ago, though it looks like I’ll take on part-time teaching work in a dream teaching job next year (I’ll be teaching in an MFA program specializing in genre literature, but that’s another story). Before that, I was teaching full time at a undergraduate university and writing part time (as part time as you can be while producing two books a year). I had two young kids as well. I had to be incredibly organized and focused to be able to get things done. Often I was keeping ahold of sanity by just fingernails.

We moved to Oregon from Montana in July of last year and I started in September to write full time. At first it was easy–I took the kids to school and hit the writing trail for about five or six hours, then I got the kids and either wrote a bit more, or did errands and other things. For about four months, it worked out really well. Then . . . my son got sick. He’s been home since December 8. He vomits every day (yes, every day) and we have no diagnosis as of yet, though we’ve had tons of tests and ruled out tons of problems. This blew my concentration and focus, and also hogged up a bunch of my time in terms of appointments and phone calls, and his need for me. Luckily I had finished my deadline book early (a first! because I could write full time) and so I’m not yet behind.

I am, however, struggling to the focus and the writing. It’s very easy to let the writing go and get to it later because you need to get Other Stuff done.

obligatory and updated author photo

obligatory and updated author photo

One of the things that is true for me is that I need to write every day, or pretty close to it. If I do, I stay in the groove. I think of it like this: when I’ve been writing, every time I come back, it’s like diving into a river. I slide in like a knife and I’m in the current and the words pour out. When I don’t write every day, it’s like diving into a frozen river. I bounce off painfully and have to smash my way down to the current. Every time I’m away for too long, it freezes up again. I know this, and yet it’s hard to push myself back to the writing with all this going on. Perfectly reasonable, I know, but it is a job also, and I need to hit my deadlines and do my work and of course, get paid.

What’s funny is in reality, I have fewer time commitments than when I taught, but I have a harder time making the writing adjustments. Obviously that’s because of the emotional element of not knowing what’s wrong with my son and not knowing when or how to make him better. All the same, I’ve got to figure out how to compartmentalize, because not only is writing my living now, but it is my bliss. This will relieve my emotional distress to some extent. Even when I feel I’m writing crap.

I am finding that the difficulties I’ve had in plotting are only exacerbated by the situation. I am fragmented in that regard and writing seems to be the solution–pantsing, specifically. And of course pantsing is stressful because it refuses to let a writer plan and for me, right now, that’s distressing.

All the same, this is the dream. I love it. I love that I can be available for my son and help him get through this. I did find a program called Scapple that allows me to do a flow chart sort of thing for plotting. That has helped. It also lets me brainstorm out ideas and figure out problems and designed characters and all sorts of things. Luckily the learning curve was miniscule. I have toyed with the idea of getting Scrivener to further help, but I’m a bit afraid that the learning curve will be much greater than I want or can give to it right now.

This week, on Weds., I get to head off to the Rainforest Writing Retreat. This is my first time and I’m looking forward to getting back into the writing river and getting swept away. I’m hoping this will give me a good boost in my focus so that when I come back, I can get myself organized around my daily life. Luckily my husband and kids are very supportive and are making it possible. (The dogs are woefully sad and are considering ways to climb into the luggage).

So that is my writing life these days. The thing I’ve learned is that living your dream can be damned hard work, but holy crap is it worth it.

And now . . . Please do go buy my books. Review my books on Goodreads and Amazon and B&N and wherever else you might like to. Help me keep living the dream!

The Biography of Me: I didn’t start out to be a writer. I was a storyteller from as far back as I can remember, and a daydreamer of epic stories, but it never occurred to me to write anything down. I read voraciously, but I wasn’t one of those people who said–hey! I could do this! Or even, this is so awful I could do better. I marveled at writers and thought of writing as something other people did. I did try my hand at some really horrible poetry in my senior year of high school. It was dramatic and bleak and world-tiltingly awful. When I got to college, I did poorly in my freshman comp class. I wrote in purple prose and use twenty words for what I could say in two. I loved language, but I didn’t really have much control over it. Then I took a creative writing class. It was awful. Total slaughter. I had caught the bug, though, and from there on out, I wrote. Eventually I wrote a really bad romance and finished it. I finished it! I could do that! And then I went to graduate school and another graduate school, got married, had dogs, had kids, went to work professing, and kept writing. Finally I had my first book accepted and I’ve been writing ever since.

As far as the prosaic stuff goes, I like to crochet, bake bread, spoil corgis, eat chocolate, sing to the radio, pretend to play tennis, geocache, crochet, and garden. Though I really hate weeding. I also like to make my hair purple with some frequency. You can find me on twitter as @dianapfrancis and my website at www.dianapfrancis.com or on facebook.

 

 

 

Share

11 comments to Living the Dream

  • Yowch. Hope your kidling gets diagnosed and on the road to recovery. As a guy that developed Crohn’s disease when I was a Freshman in high school, I know how that can be. Never being able to hold anything down, and even if you do it just passes right out, fevers, uncertainty, weight loss, fatigue, missed school. I will send positive thoughts your way that it’s not serious.

    This resonates with me right now because I haven’t been able to write and I’m finding that it makes me short tempered and irritable. I’m having to look for another job because we’re a bit on the behind side (like the Statue of Liberty is a little on the tall side), and having a hard time with that based on where we are and reliability of transportation. The job I held until this week hadn’t given me hours for 4 weeks, so I finalized it. I have to call a local pizza place that responded to my resume; fast food, Kroger (which I quit), and places you need a degree for seem to be the only places in my neck o’ the woods.

    But hey, I do have a novella still under contract, a novel waiting for whether my ability at agenting myself pans out, and a lot of other things in the works. I’ll still get there on the writing front, come what may. I’ve worked too hard for it. Not going to back down.

  • Di, my heart goes out to you about your son. I am sending good thoughts and prayers your way, and hope you get a diagnosis soon.

    As to writing full time, I dove into the pool. So are I can’t make myself get away form the PC and am working just as many hours just writing as I did writing and working at the lab. Once a workaholic, always a workaholic, I guess. (But I have to admit that my output has gone through the roof.) Yes. Dream job. Totally dream job.

  • Di, I am so sorry to hear that your son is still so sick. You’re all in our thoughts. And the fact that you can keep working through this is amazing and inspiring. I hope that he is soon on the road to recovery, and that you continue to live the dream.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Sending many good wishes for your family, and my fingers are super-crossed for you that its nothing worse than a food allergy or intolerance. My family seems to be surrounded with allergies and intolerances, and they are *so* vexing, but at the same time, an illness that doesn’t require medication is a small form of blessing. Much hope that you get it resolved soon, whatever it is.

    In terms of diving into the writing stream, I don’t know what analogy works for me. I keep wanting consistency to be the key, but…I kind of think that it’s not, or if it is then there are multiple keys and I’m still missing the others. …yeah, really not sure right now… Your rainforest retreat sounds splendid, though. I hope you come back refreshed!

  • Razziecat

    Diana, so sorry your son is sick! I hope they find out what’s going on soon and it has an easy fix.

    Writing full time is not an option for me, which might be just as well, as I suspect I would need to be very, very disciplined. It’s just too easy to find other things to do and suddenly, the whole day is gone ;) The retreat sounds great, though! Please let us know how it goes!

  • quillet

    I’m also sending good wishes for your family and crossing my fingers and hoping hard for good things for all of you. As David said, you are an inspiration. May your retreat be wonderful!

    Btw, Scrivener is absolutely awesomesauce — but yes, it has a learning curve. Maybe don’t force yourself to try it until/unless it sounds like a fun challenge rather than a daunting one. :)

  • Diana, so sorry to hear about your son’s illness–hopefully it all gets sorted out soon so he can start feeling better. It’s horribly frustrating when you don’t know what’s causing the problem!

    Good luck at your retreat. Sounds like it’s coming at the right time for you–dive in!

  • Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes. The news today is that there’s nothing wrong with the MRI. Good news, and yet . . . still no answers.

    Daniel: me too on the short-tempered and irritable. I know all about being behind. I hope you can find something that gets you caught up and feeds the writing. Congrats on the novella! More good will break soon.

    Faith: I was doing that, though trying to balance with family and home life for the first time ever. Now it’s all out of wack again.

    David: Don’t feel particularly amazing and inspiring. More like Sisyphus. But thanks!

    Hepseba: me too.

    Razziecat: all the shinies that are out there.

    Quillet: I wonder sometimes if just was forced to learn out of necessity, if that would be better.

    Sisi: Thanks!

  • So sorry to hear about your son’s ongoing health issues. I hope you can get answers soon, and be able to move forward. Thank you for your perspective on writing full time. I can really relate to that river/ice analogy, because that’s sure how it feels sometimes!

  • Andrea

    Hi Diana,

    I’m a bit late, but I also want to add my good wishes for you and your son.
    You’re in my thoughts.

    Andrea

  • Oh, Diana – I’m so sorry to hear of your son’s health issues. On that note, though, I also have to say, “Been there, done that,” and wouldn’t wish it on anyone! Shortly after my son’s 2nd kidney transplant, he began vomiting everything he ate, every meal (sometimes 3 or 4 times a meal because he’d come back to eat – he was that hungry)! He was 16 and went from 145 to 107 in two months, and finally hospitalized for a week, where they ran every test known to modern medicine. And just as quickly as it began, it stopped. No reason. No explanation. It was a very trying and stressful time, watching him suffer and not being able to help him. I know what you’re going through and my heart is with you. Keep your head up, my friend. One thing I learned through those trying times that may give you some ease is that I had to take ‘me’ time to ensure I was strong enough to be there for him when he needed me most. Don’t neglect those things that give you ease and comfort and sanity. He needs you to be his rock and his Mom, and that means you have to give yourself permission to care for yourself, too.
    I’m so glad your family is supporting you so that you can go to the writing retreat. Recharge, re-immerse, let go, and rebuild. And remember. And someday, put the angst, worry and fear where it belongs – in a book! <3 <3