Monday, September 16, 2019

How Not to Spend your Summer (If You're a Writer)

Q: What did you do this summer? Did you take a break from writing? Continue to write while you were on vacation? Change your writing habits at all?

- from Susan

This question embarrasses me. I didn’t write as much as I promised myself I would. So many excuses but I think there are two that might be relevant to serious writers. First, I have no contract, so no externally imposed deadlines, the first time since I got an agent in 2008 that someone isn’t waiting for my manuscript. Doom, doom….

Second, I have two books in progress. I’m not handling switching from one to the other, but I’m not sure which to concentrate on. Dither, dither….

What I do have is a garden that is in constant need of attention, an overabundance of tomatoes (and figs and apples) that need to be frozen or canned, a darling foster cat who has upset my two resident cats so that I’m playing feline psychologist and hissing contest referee every day, volunteer board work (including the national Sisters in Crime board that I’ve been privileged to be part of for the past five years), friends and family to share life with, a few heat waves that tire me beyond telling, etc. And the etcetera is a lot. 

When I was writing to a deadline that included getting advances from my publishers, I could ignore most of that – well, except for the cats. Takeaway: I need to finish something so my agent can sell it!

The only positive accomplishment I can claim this summer in regard to writing is being on the faculty of the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference for the second consecutive year. It’s a heady experience, especially for a former student of the conference, a chance to pay it forward to writers who are where I was 12 years ago, to share panel discussions and seminars with major authors I admire, and to remind myself that the craft can always be improved and that we all deal with uncertainty, setbacks, multiple revisions, and occasional triumphs. 

So, that’s my summer, and while it isn't a model to recommend to an aspiring writer, it was a lot of fun.


Paul D. Marks said...

The thing is, Susan, even if we're gardening or referring cat fights, we're always writing. There's always something going on in our minds, whether consciously or not, that we're working on. And besides, that it sounds like you had a pretty good summer to me :-) .

Dietrich Kalteis said...

My time goes like that lately, where I feel I'm juggling as much as writing.

Susan C Shea said...

Paul, That's true even though my mind tends to be 'monkey mind' rather than organized thought a lot of the time. And the more fun I'm having, the more guilt I feel for not getting on with my writing!

Susan C Shea said...

Dietrich, juggling is it!

James W. Ziskin said...

Sounds productive enough, though. I’m about to launch into a new book projects. Like you, I’ve been putting it off in favor of daily distractions. And cats.

Susan C Shea said...

Jim, if you weren't about as far away as you could be from me, we could get together to spur each other on, through inspiration or shame!