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.
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.