21 September 2011

So How's That Book Coming Along?

Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Sometimes it seems like there is nothing more complicated, drawn-out, fulfilling, frustrating, and bewildering as the (attempted) path to publication. One of the most satisfying thing for a writer is to share the journey with other writers. Perhaps no-one else can understand just what it's like.

That doesn't, however, stop other people in your life from asking about it. With my first completed MS, I was extremely open about it. I told people I was writing a book.

"So how's that book coming along?" they'd ask me, whenever I saw anyone.

"Good, I'm writing lots," I could respond, or, "Nearly done!"

Then I went through edits (or what I thought were edits) and sent it to some people to read. And sadly, some of those people went quiet! (the irony is sort of amusing)

So when people would ask, "what's happening the book?" I could say, "I'm polishing it."

Then I submitted directly to publishers (you can do that here in NZ), and told people about it. I collected rejections.

Next I researched the international market, and discovered agents, querying, publishing blogs (I became a Miss Snark devotee). I poured myself into the process. When people asked me about the book, I'd try to explain how it works, and they'd assume I could just sign up with an agency (a bit like how you can sign up for a talent agency). Then I'd have to let them know that, actually, my work had to be good enough and, as of yet, it hadn't passed muster.

These enquiries, while well-meaning, tend to become tedious and sometimes downright depressing. With my current WIP, I've only told close family members, and those who happen to google me ;-) I don't really want to talk about it in person (unless I have super-dooper good news, of course!). It's like rubbing salt into a wound when I'm trying hard to convince myself there is no wound. If someone asks me what I did on the weekend, I'm no longer going to say, "I was working on my book". And yet I like being open online, as other writers know what this road is like. So there is the potential of "real life people" keeping up with my tumultuous process. At the moment this compromise seems to be working, but at times it feels like a double-life.

How public are you with your writing goals and progress? Do you like to talk about where you're at?

14 September 2011

Sunshine Snapshots

Hello everyone! It's been a while since my last post so I wanted to pop in with some evidence of our lovely holiday in the Sunshine Coast last week. I was sick again for the first 3 days or so, but it was still amazing being in balmy climes and enjoying a beachfront apartment. All too soon we were back to reality.

Kings Beach, Caloundra

Rays from Heaven

Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin at Australia Zoo

01 September 2011

Keeping the Balance in our Lives

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I push myself hard. I always have a to-do list (both in my head and written down). I have a demanding full-time job, and I have a long list of things I want to accomplish in the other hours. There's being social: email, phone calls, Skype, Twitter, blogs. There's writing stuff: drafting, editing, querying, critiquing, learning. There's life stuff: paying bills, planning travel, researching purchases.And of course there's the every day tasks that need to be done - cooking, cleaning, exercise, etc, which could nearly consume all free time if I was conscientious enough (don't look closely at my kitchen appliances, okay?). Even if the TV's on I'll always be doing something else. Down-time has become a stranger, and the stress of everything means I don't ever sleep through the night.

This will be a familiar story to many people. I've come to realise recently that I can't keep this up. First my brain started to give way - I got headaches, dizzy spells and I couldn't think straight. Then my body gave up - I've been sick for the last two weeks, with a cold that turned into a chest infection. I put back my back out as well. No energy. Nights of being up for hours on end coughing and blowing my nose sapped all my strength. I had reached the end of myself. I needed to recharge (and I also needed drugs and lots of them!)

On the weekend my husband sent me outside to sit in the sun. I was still - delightfully still - as I admired the bright spring bulbs and let the strengthening sun penetrate my skin. And I thought for a moment, "I could just let go and be." I mean I could stop striving to achieve goals, stop working to make things better, stop opening myself up to other people and opportunities. Maybe it would be nice to just rest in where I am in life, and stop giving myself a huge list of things to do.

Just as suddenly a contradiction overtook me. No, there are things in my life (in our lives) that aren't right. There are struggles that could be smoothed out; passions that need fulfilment. The "work hard, play hard" philosophy ensures I experience the world (e.g. by earning enough to travel, and then spending a huge amount of time scouring for the best deals) and open myself up to the possibility of making my dreams come true (by pushing myself to taking writing seriously). The thing is, I can't be "on" all the time. I need to recharge. Being present in the here and now also needs to make it on to my lists. Taking time to breathe, I will ensure I have enough breath to accomplish all I need to.

I'm also taking a real holiday - we're off to the Sunshine Coast (Queensland, Australia) on Saturday, with my sister-in-law's wedding the following week. We've never been there so I'm looking forward to Australia Zoo, Fraser Island, whale watching and beach-strolling.

I don't think this post is very coherent, but hopefully you can see what I'm getting at. Have you ever reached the end of yourself? How do you ensure you don't burn out?