Iron Underpants and Sagging Middles

SusanMermaidOn Tuesday, our little family celebrated my beloved’s birthday. And, while it was a happy celebration, for me, it was bittersweet, too. You see, his birthday is two weeks before the start of school – and, for me, the signal that summer is nearly over. I need to get ready for school: my job, my real job, is in a school.

And that means my writing life, at least the life I’ve been living for the last three months, is almost over. No more planning my day around the hours of writing, no sketching out a scene on paper before hitting Scrivener. No more gleeful Facebook word count posts. No more staying up late.

I started the summer telling myself I would pump out 60,000 words before school started again. At this writing, I’ve gotten 36,000 done. I haven’t finished my story, I’ve made it to the middle. That’s it.

Where I write.

Where I write.

It’s SO tempting to throw up my hands and say, “Well, okay. You’ve failed again, you naughty girl. You said you could do it, and you didn’t, didn’t, did not. Shame on you.” Yes, I’m very critical of myself. It’s a problem, and I’ve been working on that.

Now, I catch myself. Hold on a minute, missy, I say to my inner critic. What did I do this summer besides write? Cuz I was sure wasn’t laying back and eating ice cream all summer long. Here’s what I did, I tell that silly inner critic:

— I completed six graduate credit hours, attaining 30 post-graduate hours, and that means a raise. That required four weekends of class, plus travel time, plus homework.

— I fixed two leaky faucets in our house, and that meant hours on YouTube, so I could learn how to take them apart and put them back together. And I spent $20 for the materials. Go, me! At a time when we need to save $$, I rock.

— I researched roofers (read: hours), took estimates (more hours), and signed a contract (still more hours). Next Thursday, the leaky roof will be ripped off. On Friday, I’ll wake up in a house with a brand new, weather-tight roof (note to self: make trip to hardware store for two things you said you’d get for the roofer – more hours).

— I started de-cluttering the house. Don’t even get me started on that, you know what I’m talking about: hours.

— I put together my author page on Facebook: Susan Jeffery Books. I have an online presence!

This, and so many other little things, have made my life better and filled my summer. Many times I told myself it felt that the entire summer was enchanted. Hubby decided we should go out every week this summer, just the two of us. So, we’ve seen Shakespeare under the stars, heard readings of new plays that are in development and participated in “talk backs” with the writers of those plays. We’ve enjoyed a picnic before every single evening out. We found a new place for better ice cream! (say it with me: more hours)

It’s not that I failed to make a goal. I’m allowing myself to re-focus, re-direct, and re-imagine my writing life. Sure, it cost me hours, and words.

Words alone do not make a life complete.

Not only that, I’m happy with the story I’ve put together. It’s funny and fresh, and I’m in the middle of writing the first love scene. Which, believe me, took a week or so before I’d caught the drift of what I wanted to say.

Even better, the story isn’t falling apart. There’s no sagging middle!

So here’s the moment where I pull on my iron underpants and congratulate myself: I had a good summer. No regrets.

I can say, with truth: I got a lot done.

How do you react when life takes time away from your writing? Do you get totally distracted? Or can you say to yourself, “Here is where I am needed at this moment. I’ll be right back!”

My next post will probably be about how I weathered the start of the school year and what happened to my writing mojo after September 1.

And yes, I will be back.