Hold That Thought

Or: The Fine Art of being Interrupted Constantly whilst trying to write a coherent docum… what do you want now? The dog’s throwing up!? oh for…


I am the proud mother of four bright children, and I love them very, very much. I’m also the dog mommy of my First Reader’s poochella, and of course a wife, a lab tech, and volunteer for a cause (which I need to stick my oar back into, sorry Erin) as well as being an artist and an author and sometimes overcoming my guilt enough to actually (gasp!) take time for myself. I’m not trying to bang my drum, here. I got told by my doc yesterday that some worrying heart symptoms are due to anxiety, and I need to ‘suck it up, buttercup’ and find a way to relax more. So this is actually me lining up all my ducks and looking at them ruefully while trying to figure out how to take his advice. Aside from that, it occurred to me today that part of the problem I’m having with writing recently is that I’m having trouble holding onto the story threads. Which is probably obvious from reading the above paragraph.

It can, however, be done. I used to write short stories with one hand while cuddling a nursing baby with the other, and answering toddler questions in between sentences. Back in those days, I could only manage short stories, and assumed I’d never be a novelist because I couldn’t write anything longer than about 5000 words, and most of my stuff was nearer flash (1000 words max) than even short stories. hah! What I had was a case of the Mums. When the kidlets were all off to school, I was finally able to draft and finish a novel. For context, my eldest was 12 and my youngest 6 when that happened.

So you can write while being a full time Mom. I have, but it was all short stuff. The novels came later, and were mostly accomplished when I was in school and had an irregular schedule and less family demands on my time which allowed me to occasionally sit down and devote entire days to just writing. Ah, the heady days of several thousand words pouring from my fingertips.

Now, being back to work and on a much tighter schedule, the challenge is to simultaneously work mentally stimulating job where I’m learning and stretching my brain most days, plus keeping up with kids who want my attention and time after work, and you get the idea. I’m finding the hart part of being a pantser is keeping the story alive in my head. If I have the leisure to sit down and re-read my work, I can usually revive it and begin to write, but the problem is that then I’m out of time to actually write.

What I have started to do is to not worry so much about maintaining continuity. That is what editing is for. I do, however, worry about keeping my character’s ‘voice’ crisp. Since I’d been working on two novels simultaneously, that was a concern, even though they are very different people. But as I get further into the stories, the characters are more developed in my head. Like walking out of the fog and into high definition. Some of that has to do with my focus – I’m a pantser, I don’t know what the ending is when I start writing. Or I might know the ending, and the beginning, but not the middle. Or… you get the idea. Kate Paulk has some excellent articles about being an extreme pantser over at the Mad Genius Club.

If I know I’ll have some time to write, but I’m not there yet, I’ll start thinking about the story before I arrive at my keyboard (Dragon speaking is still not working for me, although I know some of that is simply my own hangups with dictation) so when I finally get my butt in the chair, I’m prepared to write a scene, at least. If I can’t write, but I can read, I do research, which helps the story come out later. If I can’t read, but I can listen, I research – podcasts are surprisingly helpful for this. For fantasy authors, I highly recommend Lore. The episode on werewolves was awesome, even though I don’t write werewolves. But it did get me rethinking my Red Riding Hood stories. I can do podcasts or music at work without taking away from my productivity I’m being paid for.

I have a goal to write daily. Not a wordcount, but just… words. Some words. I’ve been doing well with non-fiction, but that doesn’t pay. So I have been trying to wrap my head around fiction, and here’s the thing: it’s not as easy to step into a fictional world as it is to generate, say, an essay for the blog. There’s a lot you have to gather up and get under control to spin a tale, and some days you might not have it in you. But if you kick yourself and beat yourself up over that, you’re going to teach yourself that writing is painful. Don’t do that. Human psychology is that we’re logical human beings, but we’re also emotional ones, and we don’t do things that cause us to hurt unless the logic can override the emotional. If you make yourself hurt over writing, you’re not going to be able to write. So stop that. Just put words down every day, and don’t judge them. Just write.

Now, I’m going to take my own advice.


7 responses to “Hold That Thought”

  1. When my cardiologist asked me if I was under stress I nearly fell off my chair laughing. It was the best laugh I had had in weeks. All my cardiac events are stress related. That’s what’s partially behind my push to develop better eating and exercise habits. There always seems to be something that needs my attention. Learning to relax is hard.

    1. I need to up the exercise. He didn’t nag me about being overweight, but it did come up, and I know I have to do something about it. Unfortunately, there’s a cycle of busy/fatigue that means I don’t cook which means I eat unhealthy (and so does the family) and the idea of making time of exercise is just daunting. But I know that getting out for a walk would also help reduce the stress. Aurgh! I have to figure this out.

  2. Wow… we must be on the same lunar cycle or something. Are you a fellow Leo, maybe?!

    I’ve recently been in the midst of a similar time-management crisis. Spinning around like a top trying to multi-task this year has left me with more missed opportunities than real accomplishments, and — if I’m totally honest — what few accomplishments there were were seldom truly relished because it was always “and now, onto the next thing!”

    Being a composer/arranger instead of a writer, it’s interesting to note the parallels in our struggles to make time for our respective creative outlets. My themes and melodic outlines come to me out of nowhere, usually, and I can either frantically make my way to a piano and scribble them onto some manuscript paper or (as I did about a year ago) sing the tune in the car over-and-over as I drive the rest of the hour-long trip home. Without some action on my part, however, my musical ideas get re-absorbed back into the ether and I often can’t retrieve them, only grieve them and wonder what might’ve been. I’ve sometimes been able to “attach” the idea to a visual or a poignant memory and it helps me bring the idea back, later, but this doesn’t always work. Musical ideas seem so fluid; they change shape, evolve. Sometimes I really miss what I think I “heard” the first time!

    I’ve always prided myself in being a jack of all trades, but the past two years have seen me gradually jettisoning a lot of the hobbies or responsibilities I’d saddled myself with. Still, a menace remained lurking beneath my time-management issue. In the past two weeks I’ve finally managed to single out and begin to destroy the culprit: a self-destructive tendency for procrastination. My tendency isn’t to procrastinate about diving into my creative pursuits. Instead, my tendency is to procrastinate about keeping in motion all the hum-drum, mundane, yet NECESSARY elements of daily life.

    Things have a way of snowballing until I can’t ignore them any longer and it’s usually in those moments that irony steps in and throws me a beautiful musical idea… and yet there are now fires to be extinguished which could have been stamped out easily if only I’d taken the time earlier on. I’ve vowed to change this habit of mine. Four days into my freshly-minted time-management spreadsheet, and I’m happy to report that it seems to be working (if you ignore the fact that I’m typing an excessively-wordy reply to a blog post instead of tidying up or doing that cardio workout I’m now about 15 minutes overdue for)… habits are hard to break, after all.

    You seem to have all the pieces of your puzzle in place and you certainly don’t seem guilty of procrastination from what I’ve read — I certainly wouldn’t dare to point fingers seeing as how I have no children and I work mostly from home. Maybe what’s missing for you is exactly what the doctor ordered: scheduling that time to relax and recharge. I can think of harder pills to swallow!

    1. Sounds like you’re on track to get your time better managed. I had been overdoing earlier in the year and have pared some things back in order to have time, but then I’ve been dealing with physical crap so I feel like I’m wasting time.

      Not a Leo – I think a Libra, since my birthday is in October. As you can tell, it’s not something I pay attention to!

      And the frustration of having an idea slipping through your fingers is familiar. I’ll have a detailed story scene pop in my head, lose it, and even though I might be able to jot down something like it later, crucial details are gone, and I know they are gone, but I can’t remember what’s missing, I just know what I’ve written down isn’t right.

  3. I’ve had the same cardiac issues caused by stress. Haven’t had any problem with that since we moved away from the Farm, though (started when we still lived in Alaska).

    I’m doing Intermittent Fasting right now for weight loss, and it’s actually working quite well. I was a little dubious, because three meals a day is standard, but over the last year or so, since my back problems got bad, there have been a lot of days where we only ate once or twice, so I know I could stand that. Wasn’t so sure about your sister, but she’s dealing fairly well — we start the day with unsweetened tea, have a big meal mid-day, and end the day with more tea (unsweetened). Combining this with the AIP diet we are on for the auto-immune diseases is working just fine, too. Some people go keto and IF, but most seem to be able to eat moderate amounts of carbs and still lose weight. It’s not *just* an issue of eating less calories (though that certainly helps), but also, perhaps primarily, of getting insulin out of the rut of packing excess calories away for storage. Pippa isn’t doing this with us, but she is eating less junk food, which is a win!

    1. I can’t do fasting. My body goes haywire if I don’t feed it fuel on a regular routine. But the junk food has been more of an issue since I haven’t been having the time to cook from scratch, which is healthier. On the upside, I did discover that the high blood pressure I was taking meds for is no longer in need of being medicated to control. So there’s that!

    2. Orvan Taurus Avatar
      Orvan Taurus

      Whether it’s keto or other, IF or even “just not snacking” the key seems to be “Let the insulin crash” (as long you don’t have manually adjust things for blood sugar). I’ve not gone true keto or ‘caveman’ (yeah, yeah.. alright, not going Full Labyrinth) but lo-carb and not-snacking (that includes drinks, yes) has been effective.