I don't put on extra pounds at the holidays; I do it in August, July and June. In the hot summer months, I never say no to a hotdog at the baseball game, a donut for breakfast at the beach, or smores after dinner. (I don't always look great in my bathing suit, but I can do a mean cannonball.) And with my two boys out of school, I indulged myself another way this summer, too. Given the choice between sending them to camp, leaving them with a sitter, or running "mommy camp" on my own, I decided, for the last few weeks, that mommy camp it would be. Yes, I ended up yelling a lot when we got on each other's nerves. Attempting to entertain, or at least supervise, a five-year-old and an eight-year-old all day every day is not bliss. But I don't regret having said goodbye to my writing so completely these past weeks when it meant saying hello to fishing for hermit crabs in a tide pool, playing baseball for two hours at the park, or even enjoying the simple, guilty pleasure of watching a movie at one o'clock in the afternoon.
I don't regret it. But that doesn't mean I didn't feel guilty--on and off--the whole damn time.
I'm lucky to be in a position to take two weeks off with my kids. But when you are a writer, are you ever really off? When I don't write, I feel guilty. I've felt like that as long as I can remember. Writing is not a job like other jobs: it is hard to take a vacation from something that nobody is asking you to do in the first place. There is no one to whom to announce, "I'm taking a few weeks off!" And somehow that makes it even harder, at times, to do it without fear. Because writing is like going to the gym. Miss a workout or two, fine. Get out of the habit of going to the gym, and you may never go to the gym again.
It's time for me to get back into the gym. But I know that I will need a little help. I am feeling flabby, unfocused, and out-of-touch with my book. So I decided to do what I instruct my boys to do when I see them faced with a particularly difficult task, on the verge of exploding with frustration. I asked for help.
Lucky for me, I got to ask Brooke Warner. (You can too, if you're ready to work with SWP!) Formerly Executive Editor at Seal Press, now publisher of She Writes Press (the publisher I will use for my novel), Brooke has agreed to be my editor, coach, and workout-buddy-in-chief from now until I finish the thing. As such she will help me create deadlines, accountability and structure in a process she has perfected, and that I will blog about here.
Step one? Doing something that really scares me -- my version of a literary cannonball.
I'm going to send Brooke all the pages I have so far. Pages I haven't shared with anyone, the product of months of labor; pages that might be ok, pages that might suck. Rather than continuing to insulate my novel-baby from the winds of criticism with the stubborn stalwartness of a daddy penguin, I am going to let it go a little bit, and let an outside reader give me feedback on what I've got so far. I'm not sure how I feel about it, or how that will play out, but I promise to let you know how it goes.
Anyone else have a plan for jump-starting her writing this fall? (Or am I the only one who got so out of shape?) Please share it here. I'm ready to put on my rally-cap.