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Are You Ready For This Journey?

Some of you out there are just starting out on your journey to be a writer and some of you have been on this road for a long, long time. I am a relative newbie. I've been writing for only two and a half years now. Total. I journaled for fun before that from time to time (like once or twice a year) but that's it. The only writerly thing I've always done since I was able, was to read. A lot. So obviously once I realized that writing was something that I wanted to do, I knew I had a lot to learn. The only problem was finding the time. I was a stay at home mom with a two and a half year old at home full time and a six and a half year old in school. Since neither of my children are what you'd call sleepers and are extremely active, I had precious little time to research writing or to simply write. In fact I think most of the moms out there can agree, to find any time to do anything for yourself is always a battle. The rest of the family always gets their needs met, but yours are almost always last on the list and the most easily discarded when things go wonky. So what's a girl to do? Here's what I did/am doing.

1. Give up some sleep--I don't mean zombify yourself, just stay up a little later or get up a little earlier than everyone else as often as you can and write.

2. Read/write in little sips-I learned to write or read whenever and wherever I could-bringing pen and pencil with me to the park, the back yard, the mall for those precious minutes spent at the playland.

3. Brainstorm story ideas/character development/plot development everywhere-I mean the shower, the car, while changing diapers (no higher thought is needed for most child care/house care related tasks, so plot away) and while the kids are watching television.

4. Let as many other things go as you can-clean the house only once a week, let laundry sit an extra day, ignore a little mess because you can't keep every ball in the air all the time. I gave up on being super mom a long time ago.

5. Make yourself join a writer's group-preferably one with deadlines for work or little assignments you have to do. This could be one you do in person or online, either way just make sure that it meets regularly and that the members tend to keep each other accountable. This will help you to keep writing and to realize that you aren't alone in your desire to be a writer.

6. Get help-my husband had to step up a bit and take over with the kids sometimes. Sometimes I asked my mother in law to keep them for a few hours just so I could write uninterrupted. And once a year my husband takes the kids on a Daddy/daughter weekend so that they can bond and I can have an entire two days to get some real work done. It's been good for all of us.

No matter how you do it, the important thing is that you DO do it. You'll know if it's for you because you will naturally fight to fit it in. I've always liked to draw, but I will never be a professional artist. I know this because naturally, I don't seek it out regularly enough. I will let months or even years go by in between times when I sit to sketch. I won't fight to make it happen. I will always enjoy it and will probably always do it from time to time, but it isn't my life's passion, not like writing. Once I discovered how much I wanted/needed to write, there was no going back. I get irritable and crazy when I can't get pen to paper. I will miss out on other things to make sure I do it and I find myself doing something writing related whenever I have a free minute. Not because I should write, but because I need to write. You know you are a writer when the rejection you face bothers you, but doesn't stop you. You know when you put your butt in the chair everyday without prompting and write, even if the kids are sick, even if the house is a mess, even if you yourself are sick. You just need to do it.


Yesterday I took my two daughters to the rollerskating rink for the first time. They had never been on skates before and there was about a fifteen year gap for me since I had. We were all pretty shaky and spent the majority of our time hugging the walls and wobbling across the floor-that is when we weren't flat on our backs! My youngest became frustrated after a few minutes because suddenly this very exciting sounding activity was starting to feel a lot like work. She sat in the middle of the floor. letting all the other skaters flow past her and cried.
 
Looking back on it now, it occurs to me that learning how to roller skate is a lot like writing a novel and trying to get published. At first, the whole thing seems exciting, a great creative adventure. You picture yourself gliding through a rough draft, polishing it with speed, each step a little challenging, but mostly thrilling and above all fun. But then you dive into the rough draft and find that it takes days just to get a few pages down. You stumble and fall more than you glide and your butt and your head hurt from all the abuse the both of them have taken. All around you more accomplished writers are speeding along, wind in their hair, smiles on their faces doing tricks you didn't even know were possible. And it all seems incredibly hard. This is the point where you want to plop down on the floor and cry, your confidence not only shaken, but obliterated. You want to give up. You want to say that maybe it just isn't for you, maybe the people who actually manage to balance on both feet and move forward have some special quality that you are sadly lacking. You are right where my daughter was yesterday, on the verge of giving up.

You have to ask yourself the same question my daughter asked: Is it worth it? Because if it is, then you're in exactly the right place. You can't learn to roll along until you've fallen on your face a few times. Gliding in writing or skating isn't natural, it's learned. Sure, some people pick up the basics quicker and stop falling faster, but does it really matter if the end result is the same? You can't control how long it takes you to make it all the way around the rink without falling, but you can control your ability to get back up after a fall, to keep going in spite of what others are doing. And let's face it, once you do find your balance it does get a little easier. You don't have to hold onto the wall as much. You start picking up your pace and trying out some tricks of your own. And when the breeze finally hits your face, it isn't a surprise, it's a cool reward for all the effort you've put forth.

My daughter got up and kept trying. By the end of the two hours we spent there she was holding the wall just a little less. She still has a long way to go, but she doesn't seem to care. She figured out that she wants to learn to glide and now she won't settle for anything less. In fact, we will be back on the rink next week. So what about you? Do you want to glide or not?
 



Next week I will be dragging my entire family down to Miami for the This Is Teen event with Libba Bray, Maggie Stiefvater, and Meg Cabot, yay! So excited that they will be within a five hour radius of my house. Which gives me a week to think of some good questions to ask them about all things booky.

I'm just hoping I can curb my usual compulsion to say something embarrassing and stupid...like I did to Dennis Lehane when he did a reading at the Writer's in Paradise conference and I told him my friend and I were the desperate housewives of our suburb--I meant desperate to write, but from the look on his face I think he thought I meant we were desperate for something else entirely:)

Changes in My Neighborhood

Okay, here's where I admit to being severely clueless when it comes to all things techie--and I mean SEVERELY. I am just now getting the hang of this livejournal thing and am trying to decide whether to switch to livejournal exclusively or keep it in tandem with my blogspot. Either way I plan to revamp this page.
 1. Because I am in the sticky middle of my novel and am procrastinating in a BIG way.
2. Because my husband has way too much time on his hands not to help me what with his paltry six day a week work schedule and two jobs...slacker.;)

So, hopefully the next time I post this page will be all bright and shiny and much more personalized than it is now. For those of you who have friended me recently, thanks a bucketful--I feel all warm and fuzzy now!

In the meantime whilst I play with livejournal, my blog is much more personalized than this page at the moment. I am at amychristineparker.blogspot.com if you want to check it out.

I am soooo stuck right now. I know what direction my story is going, but can't seem to get what's in my head on paper. And every minute that ticks by makes me crazier.

I went to Barnes and Noble last night to try and escape the three stooges-style fighting going on between my two little people. Okay, they weren't poking each other in the eyes, but the intent was there...and guess what? I ended up at a table way too close to another tiny person being quizzed by her very loud mother on what a cow says. Which I think isn't much more than moo, but it kept them occuppied for quite some time.

I couldn't concentrate and my pen didn't move much. I ended up in the YA section swaying slightly and muttering to myself. Which I'm sure did wonders for my already non-existent street cred with the eighteen and under set.

Now here I am again with my own personal deadline looming on the horizon and a growing stack of backlogged chapters...and I'm blogging instead of writing. Butt's in chair, but chair has taken a serious detour.

I'm hoping this is that weird period where my ideas need to cook crock pot-style, but still I worry, like every other time that this happens, that I've finally hit my dry spell, the last drop in my creative well. Sounds crazy, but I can't keep from having a mini break down. So what to do? One of two things: eat chocolate and wallow or eat chocolate and write anyway. How bad is it? Let's take a look at the chocolate scale and see.

Chocolate Scale:

A handful of M&M's =  mild, once I sit somewhere quiet the words will come.

1 s'more made white trash-style (style seems to be a word I'm in love with tonight) in the microwave = I'll struggle for a few days, but by the end of the week I'll be back on track.

1-2 (yes, I said 2--it doesn't happen often, so calm down, people) melted Hershey bars-with sliced banana, marshmallows and strawberries sprinkled with powdered sugar = possible derailment, definite 5 pound weight gain and complete mini-breakdown where I ask everyone I'm close to if they think I'll make it someday-sob!

Right now I think I'm headed for s'moresville, but only because I don't have any Hershey bars. My s'more will have to be comprised of chocolate chips tonight-desperate, right? I'll try writing through the pain. I'm crossing my fingers, hoping the writing might morph from bad to good sometime during this excercise...okay, I'm not crossing my fingers at this exact moment 'cause then I'd be elbow typing and that would just take forever, but definitely after this. We'll see what happens. Putting Hershey bars on the grocery list just in case, though.

Small Victories

I was on Janet Reid's website today and noticed that I actually made it into the fifteen finalists for a little contest she had on her site. For those of you who don't frequent her site (she's the agent responsible for Query Shark). Once in awhile she runs a contest where she throws out a few words you must use in a flash, flash fiction piece (100 words or fewer) for various prizes. I've only entered twice, this was the second time and was amazed to see my little 'ole name right there in her blog post today. Now you may be wondering what the big deal is since I didn't exactly win. All I can say is sometimes little victories-like actually placing on the top end of some 82 entries-are all a struggling writer like me needs to keep on truckin'. After all, writing can be lonely, frustrating, doubt-inspiring, and insecurity-laden. Any recognition of my skills-big or small give me a little boost and keep my butt in that chair that much longer. I may not be agented or published yet, but I'm on my way.

Summer

Can I just say that I love summer. I love the heat, the lazy sitting by the pool days and the wide openess of my personal schedule. The kids have no homework, we aren't rushing to make it to school on time or rushing to make project deadlines.
 
I am a summer girl....except this summer.

 I am knee-deep in my rough draft of my current novel-the one I love, am so excited about and summer is going to put a major wrench in my writing time. The kids are home full time now and that means that the only quiet time I'll have is between 9 and midnight/one o'clock. And it is freaking me out because all I want to do is write while this story is still fresh in my brain and haunting my every waking moment.  

So this summer, I'll be writing chapters in my head at the pool, at the mall, at the beach, you name it as my kids whirl around me. I am scared that I won't be able to get done all that I want to, that I'll lose my momentum and the writing will suffer. But I know that if I'm ever gonna make it as a writer, I've got to roll with the punches, adapt or give up. My schedule will only intensify if things work out, so now I'm trying to make small goals for myself and be okay with them.
 
I'm making a mental promise to enjoy my small people while we're home together since this year both will finally be in school full time. This is my last summer with a preschooler and I don't want to wish away her smallness just so one book can be finished. There will always be a book I'm working on, there will always be intrusions-good and bad. I just need to relish the good intrusions, find ways to conquer the bad ones and not stress over the things I can't control. So, I plan to crank up the tunes, build some sand castles and fit the writing in when I can.Three short months are not enough to derail my plans....at least that's what I'm gonna keep telling myself 'cause I know deep down it's true, even if I can't totally buy it right now:)


And So It Begins

I have finally conquered my fear of all things techie and have joined the rest of the journaling world, yay! Except now here I am, completely official...and totally stymied about what to write. So maybe I'll begin by talking about what made me want to start writing in the first place.

I wasn't one of those people who always knew that they wanted to be a writer-although my mother will swear up and down she knew I would be one someday. I think on some level writing was always a part of me, lurking in the background of my life waiting to be discovered, but I didn't take the time to look until two years ago. I guess that makes me a late bloomer! Even so, there were always clues...like my addiction to playing pretend by myself in my room with the door shut. I would pretend that my baby dolls were orphans left on my doorstep to be cared for by me, an extremely capable five year old. I could tell no one that they existed sicne there were any number of bad guys after them. Somehow I had to keep them alive because the fate of the world would someday rest squarely in the palms of their tiny rubber hands.

And later, when most kids were starting to give up on toys in favor of spin the bottle and other boy-girl games, I was still putting Barbies on a deserted island (coffee table) in Kleenex dresses that I would gradually rip to shreds Survivor-style while they struggled to find their way back to the Barbie townhouse.

I have always been addicted to books and spend most of my nights swallowing novels whole. Writing should have been an obvious choice, but it always seeemed like a highly scary, impractical career. So instead, I waitressed, worked in a doll factory, taught fifth grade and finally became a stay at home mom. It was the last job, the mommy one, that finally opened my eyes to writing. Somewhere around the sixth year of staying home I went a lttile crazy.

Let me just say right now that I love my daughters, but they are better at sucking the life out of someone than a vampire. I realized that my whole day was about diapers, discipline, playing pet shops and cleaning and it wasn't enough. Suddenly I had all of these things to say...and I couldn't keep it all inside, so I ran to pen and paper and have been writing ever since.

I have now finished one novel and am hard at work on the next. One day I hope to be able to make writing my full time career. I write mainly for young adults and am drawn in particular to paranormal and science fiction. So here I am, working towards that goal with the hopes that one day this post wil be read by more than just family and friends.