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.


About Susan Jeffery

I am loving the challenge (sometimes) of re-entering the contemporary romance market after a lifetime of raising two fantastic children (it never ends, btw). Just when I thought I was done with kids, I accepted a position as librarian to 900 boys in a Bronx private school. I'm a vintage published author, Harlequin American #206 Fair Game (1987). Winner of the Golden Heart, 1986. Currently exploring the possibility of indie publishing under my new pseudonym (see fresh name, above).

9 thoughts on “Iron Underpants and Sagging Middles

  1. Susan,
    You rocked this summer! Seriously. That’s an amazing amount of work you’ve accomplished. You managed to balance your personal and writing life perfectly. Think of all those enjoyable evenings with your husband: fodder for your books. 🙂
    I think the problem we have as writers as that we set our goals way too high. You would be on cloud nine about writing had you set a more reasonable goal for yourself. You should have set your goal at 30,000 words, and then you’d be raising a fist in the air, saying, “I beat my goal by 6,000 words! I rocked this summer!”
    See? It’s all in the perspective.
    I spent the summer reading and hanging out with the family. I wrote one blog post and let some book ideas simmer until I’m ready to sit back down and write. Normally I would criticize myself for being lazy because I haven’t met my writing goal either, but why? Why can’t we just be happy with ourselves for what we ARE getting accomplished? That’s something we all need to work on. Not being so hard on ourselves.
    Great job this summer. You managed to accomplish a hell of a lot! I managed to gain ten pounds. haha

    1. Kim, I forgot to put in that another little devil in my brain also whispered “you’re setting the goal way too high, but hey, girl – go for it!” Thanks for helping me re-imagine how I’ll be approaching the next few months!

  2. Susan, you got a LOT down this summer! I’m very proud of you! My summer disappeared in the blink of an eye, and I must say, I’m looking forward to school beginning. The newness and excitement my kids feel are infectious, so that I feel like I’m having a fresh start as well. Best of luck returning to school, and best of luck establishing a writing routine under these new circumstances. 🙂

    1. Pintip, you know how a new baby affects the passage of time: it zips by! Enjoy the start of school, and treasure these fleeting weeks with the little one while he’s still little.

  3. Susan-Mermaid, you should be VERY proud of everything you did this summer. 36K words is amazeballs!!!!!! Congrats on that alone! Hope you can make your way down here this fall! 😉

  4. Friends, I’ve been re-reading this and the comments, and thinking about the impossible demands women place on themselves sometimes. And I wasn’t try to kvetch about how I “failed.” I was thinking about the fun of having a summer filled with wonderful experiences and accomplishments and getting a significant portion of this story done.

    Honest, it’s only when I got to the love scene that I started to quail and dither and delay. But that’s mostly about the conflict in my head between the “call of erotica” and my own “curtain blowing softly at the window” leanings.

    Another time, another season, another summer, I want to make it NOT a word goal, but a TIME goal. If I promise to sit down for xx amount of time, what will I accomplish? I like that idea as a contrast to insatiable demands for words words words. Great comments, everyone! Thank you!

  5. First, please don’t say summer is over yet! I still have a few more days (deadlines looming:)…I’ve had a good summer. I cannot say anything less than kind of perfect:)…but there are other things that go with the attention and fabulous honor I’ve had. Those things will be there for me to handle in the fall! So, hurrah for summer. I’m going to enjoy the last few days of it, and then, get ready for Fall. Thanks for the post, Susan!

    1. IT’S NOT OVER!!! Okay, that’s my declaration. My brain, though, works by the calendar of the school bell. Which is probably why I’m doing a version of “nesting” around the house – getting things done, sorted, put, given, away, out, up, finished.

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