Tag Archives: Writing Life

Where a Writer Goes

Some compare a writer’s life to a monk’s: starved, withdrawn from the speaking/smiling world and — like author Annie Dillard — incarcerated in a closet-like room decorated only with a picture she drew of a cow pasture.

I’ve experienced hermit weeks, although starvation doesn’t enter into the equation. Because I can’t draw cows or anything else, I allow myself a window.

I’ve also holed up in libraries, more exciting than most imagine. Take the Notre Dame library, where I did research for a biography of St. Augustine. Entering the skyscraper bearing its gigantic “Christ the Teacher” mural (known to football fans as “Touchdown Jesus”), I dared not speak to anyone, as even janitors appeared to be Fulbright Scholars.

I fought with a computer catalogue, then hunted for an elevator, which I finally rode to the philosophy and religion department on the 14th floor. Encountering a locked door, I rapped on it.

Silence.

I banged until my fists hurt.

Ditto. I’d spent forty-five minutes for nothing?

A brave aide on the elevator ride down asked if he could help.

“The philosophy and religion department is locked,” I griped.

“Which floor?”

“Fourteenth.”

“The philosophy and religion department is on the 13th floor. Father Hesburgh lives on the 14th.”

Taking a break from libraries, I traveled to story settings. Non-writers assume a publisher arranges free, first-class flights to exotic spots with four-star hotels. Instead, halfway to Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, I stayed at my daughter’s. Having been hugged, mugged and slimed by three sweet grandkids, a dog and a cat, I slept on a sofa. Eat your heart out, Karen Kingsbury.

Afterward, I drove to the enormous cave on the Ohio River where, during the early 1800s, enterprising pirates ran a tavern. They lured flatboat pioneers with “Last chance for a hot meal and mug o’ grog before the Mississip, matey!”

“Guests,” however, ended up at the bottom of the Ohio.

Climbing alone around the cave’s mottled walls, I listened to dead voices while the I-don’t-know-nothin’ river flowed past.

Maybe the Notre Dame library wasn’t scary, after all.

Rachael Phillips, Eileen Key, Cynthia Ruchti, and Becky Melby sampled the popular Door County sundaes.

Many of my stories, though, take place in pleasant places:

  • I’ve watched children in Peru, Indiana, defy gravity, homework and other laws of the universe by participating in their annual Youth Circus.
  • I’ve visited all 31 covered bridges in Parke County, Indiana.
  • I’ve ridden in an Amish buggy whose GPS consisted of the horse’s memory.
  • I’ve traveled through Door County, Wisconsin, researching that Martha’s-Vineyard-of-the-Midwest setting, including exactly how many yummy cherries are used in their famous Door County sundaes.

Currently, I’m staying close to home. But not for long, because we writers are a brave, daring breed.

Maybe I should set my next story in Hawaii.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: If you were (are) a writer, where would you place your story?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Not a Clue

O my God, thank You for Mrs. Holtz and Mrs. Daugherty, my second- and third-grade teachers, who taught me cursive writing and much more. Who would have known then that one day, I’d use that cursive to sign books I’d written? OMG, only You.

My local library has devoted a whole rack to my books!

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: No More Party?

O my God, thank You for an amazing weekend — teaching eager students at the Taylor Professional Writing Conference, celebrating with writing buds, fueling our inspiration with Mexican food and sundaes!

               

But now, Lord, it’s Monday morning. OMG, maybe I should … write?

How to Tame the Post-Deadline Writing Bear

bearangryTwo days ago, I emerged from my writer’s cave after finishing a novel.

Friends and family urged me to celebrate the accomplishment. Those who know me best, however, stayed out of my way because I resembled a bear awakened from a long hibernation —  groggy, growly, and ready to snap at anything that moves.

Now, having recovered as much as one can in two days, I join my husband in offering survival tips for those near and dear — including critique partners, writing friends, as well as normal people — in how to tame a post-deadline writing bear.

Let the bear sleep.

In fact, encourage the bear to snooze extra minutes in the morning, to retire early at night, to take naps. Nothing will increase the life expectancy of those in a writing bear’s path like a few additional zzz’s.

Conversely, nothing will guarantee the loss of at least one limb like the question, “Why are you so tired? You don’t work.”

Give the bear some honey. 

In the face of bared fangs, this presents a challenge tougher than letting a writing bear sleep. But trust us, it works. When insecurity looms 3.5 seconds after the author hits “send,” pour on reassurance thick as honey: “You’re a good writer. You worked hard on this book.”

Even better: “We prayed about this book. God will use it.”

Accompanied by bear hugs, chocolate and other sweet things, this approach can’t go wrong.

Kick the bear in the butt.

 Only use this tactic when the other two have been applied assiduously.

If, after generous amounts of sleep and support, the bear remains un-bear-able and spends valuable writing time playing infinite games of Candy Crush or watching Saved by the Bell reruns or the potholder channel, do what you’ve been aching to do for months. Give the writing bear a good boot in the bootie: “God has gifted you. Is this the way you propose to use His gifts?”

Then offer honey from the Rock in the form of questions such as “What did you learn from writing this book? What would you really like to write? And what has God been saying to you that should shape your next book?”

teddybearThese tips have helped tame this post-deadline bear with less glaring, swearing and wear-and-tearing. So far, both tamer and bear not only have survived, but thrived in the same zoo.

Any hints on how to handle the writing animal at your house?

 

 

 

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

sundaeOh, my God, I love writing books. Thank You for helping me these last crazy weeks. Please give me courage to hit the “send” button today, my deadline. OMG, thank You for Your Spirit to revive me. (And for the sleep, hair appointment and Moose Tracks sundae that might help a little, too).

Are You a Piler or a Filer?

I have discovered that God designs writers with His usual love for diversity. However, when it comes to the organizational aspects of our profession, we fall into two basic groups. With a scratch-my-head bow to our Father (I never will understand why He created people the way He did), and an apology to Jeff Foxworthy, I suggest the following:

You might be a piler if:

  •  You have an office at home but never work there because you can’t find your computer.
  • You haven’t seen your office carpet since the Bush administration. Is the color still neon mauve?
  • You can’t recall whether you have a window, either.
  • You just moved into the house next door because your to-be-read stack of books has taken over your first home.
  • You still haven’t unpacked from the 2006 American Christian Fiction Writers conference … or 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. … (Not admitting anything, here.)
  • The number of your undeleted e-mail messages exceeds that of the national debt.
  • You still have every story you’ve written since kindergarten. And every story your children have written. And every story your grandchildren have written. Plus all the rough drafts.
  • Your smartphone, having given up on organizing you, has run away from home.MessyOffice

Yes, you are a piler.

On the other hand, you might be a filer if:

  • You can see the top of your desk. No respectable piler would permit such a thing.
  • You have scheduled morning, noon and night tweets and Facebook posts through the year 2021.
  • You can eat on your kitchen table. If your family can, too, give yourself bonus filer points.
  • You actually know where your goal list is.
  • Every Facebook friend of yours has been categorized according to relationship, location, hairdo, and Popsicle flavor preference.
  • Your idea of a good time is to alphabetize your recycling.
  • Your latest mystery’s murderer is the only character in your novel who hates to file.
  • Your smartphone and you go to Starbucks for regular coffee dates. It buys.

 

Yes, God knows where your membership belongs. And mine. So do our spouses or significant others. And our friends.

Your turn. Fill in the blank: you might be a filer/piler if                 .