Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Slow & Steady Writer--A Day in the Life

by Julie Coulter Bellon

The garbage truck rumbled by my window at 7:30 a.m. and I listened to it as it made loud beeping noises made even louder by the silence of my street at that hour. Unfortunately, I think my garbage man hates me, so he doesn’t actually put my garbage can down, he drops it about four feet off the ground so it makes another large noise as it tumbles a little bit down the street. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep anymore because I’m one of those people that once they’re awake, they have a hard time going back to sleep, so I prayed that the garbage truck hadn’t woken up the baby and got out of bed.

I went downstairs and got on the computer. A part of me thought that this would be a great time to work on my book, but unfortunately, my brain doesn’t really cooperate with its creative side that early in the morning. (And for those of you who are shaking your head right now, I’ve really tried! In the morning, my attempts at writing look like this: “Tyler was tired. He wished he was home in bed, not chasing terrorists in France.” “Isabella could hardly keep her eyes open. She was very, very tired.”) So, instead, to wake myself up a little, I took a few minutes to look at the newspaper headlines. After I’d read the morning news, two of my little boys were up and around, so I helped them get their breakfast and got some for myself. By this time, my brain was working and I thought it would be fun to print out my manuscript and go through it on paper. I love doing that because I catch so many more typos and plot holes that way, and I can see where I need to add details. There’s just something about seeing it on printed paper that makes it so much easier for me to edit and revise. So I started printing and then it happened.

The baby woke up.

I left the printer printing and went to get the baby out of her crib. I took her downstairs and sat at the desk, cuddling her for a moment, while I made sure the printer was still printing. I nicely stacked my manuscript for later in the day, and got the baby ready for breakfast.

The manuscript sat on my kitchen counter until after lunch as my phone and doorbell started ringing. I touched it as I went by, having some scenes and bits of dialogue come to me as I helped children with chores, did some chores myself, played with the baby, and fielded different appointments and situations that came up. I did accidentally call one of my children the name of my main character (which was totally embarrassing. Sorry, son!) and I knew I needed to write that little bit of scene and dialogue for the character down since it was coming out of my subconscious and making itself known in a way that even my conscious self wanted it out. I grabbed a pen and jotted my thoughts on a sticky note, then went to see what the commotion in the kitchen was about. The boys wanted to do a lemonade stand and needed me for a taste tester. (Can you have too much sugar?)

I thought the lemonade stand was a great idea, because the baby was looking sleepy and I wanted a good half hour or more (I take whatever I get these days) to work on my manuscript. The boys went outside and I took the printed pages into the living room and sat down, determined to get even a few moments to work on it. My baby got her scratch paper and a pen and came to sit down beside me. We worked together in silence for a few moments, with her trying to copy my little scribbles on her paper. (Her scratch paper is my old manuscripts, so hers had words on it, too. She seems to like that.) After I’d written down everything that had been coming to me all day, I got two pages into my editing and was feeling good. The baby had even added a few scribbles of her own to my pages, but it was still readable, so I didn’t mind.

Of course, the lemonade stand boys needed some help in the kitchen with ice and some money to make change, so I left the manuscript in the living room for a moment to help them. When I came back, the baby had fallen asleep, her head on my manuscript like a pillow, her pen still in her hand. I wish now I would have taken a picture and captioned it with Future Author. It was just so adorable. But it gave me a dilemma. Do I try to get the manuscript out from under her head and possibly wake her up? That could be bad because once she’s awake, she’s awake, and she doesn’t nap again for the rest of the day. (And she’s usually grumpy with no nap.) Or I could leave it there and just be glad I got two pages done.

The dogged author in me tried to get a few pages out from under her head, but her eyelids fluttered open and so the mommy in me who wanted a happy baby not a grumpy one gave up. Instead, I curled next to her on the couch, (as much as I could with my pregnant belly) and closed my eyes. Her chubby little body snuggled next to me, her little sweet breaths were regular on my cheek, and I knew the manuscript could wait a little longer. And hey, I reminded myself that I got two pages done and several ideas written down. I count that as progress.

I think as writers, we can put so much pressure on ourselves to be full time writers, or think that somehow we need to write for hours a day or we’re not doing enough no matter what stage of life we're at. I guess, for me, I’m learning in my writing journey, that I can’t do that right now. I have to count my small successes, and think like the tortoise—slow and steady wins the race. For me, as long as I’m doing even one or two pages a day, I’m doing okay. And I hope those of you who are like me, trying to squeeze your writing into an otherwise full life, that you will do the same. Just pat yourself on the back, even if you only write a page a day, and tell yourself you’re doing okay. You’ll get there. And when you do, I’d love to hear about it. What works for you? What doesn't? I think the more we connect, the easier it is to be in this writer/parent/spouse/church calling/and everything else boat.

(And just FYI, if you are interested, there is an interview with me and a book giveaway going on from July 5-12. The prize is your choice of either All’s Fair or Dangerous Connections. Just visit here and leave a comment.)


At 7/08/2010 8:15 PM, Blogger Jolene said...

Thanks for this.
I've read what feels like a million posts lately about people's favorite places and I'm like, what you can sit for longer than 30 minutes without being bothered? Who cares where you are!
It's a hard balance between everything. I'm sure I shift out of balance one way or another but the hope is that it evens out the way it should in the end.

Also - I think you just made me ready to print again.
I use a three ring notebook, it's TOTALLY worth the extra work.

At 7/08/2010 9:25 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

As long as you're writing, legions of us are happy! My son Matt's girlfriend is visiting. I gave her a copy of All's Fair this morning and pretty much haven't spoken with her since. Oh, wait! She did look up once long enough to say, "This is a REALLY good book!"
She has maybe 50 pages left to go, so I'm sure we can bond tomorrow! We already know we share a common favorite writer!

At 7/08/2010 10:05 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Kerry, you're going to make me blush! Be sure to tell her about the alternate ending on my website (but only if she likes the mushy stuff!)

Jolene, I totally agree about sitting for 30 minutes! Haha. I also use a binder, just to keep myself organized with ideas and research. It definitely helps.

Thanks for your comments ladies! :)

At 7/13/2010 5:40 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

I loved your comments about squeezing some writing into an already circus filled day. I too am trying to find balance in my life between all my commitments big and small. I have yet to be in the season that allows me to finish the novel I've never completed on paper but that just won't get out of my mind. Just like you can smell the crispness of fall on the first chilled day in September, I can feel the seasons shifting and I know that I will have my moments even yet. Thanks!


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