The Grind

Right now it feels as if I’m just grinding along. In an attempt to prolong what’s left of my savings, thus giving me time to sell my book, I am working more hours. I’m getting up to an alarm 5 days of the week now. Gone is the midweek “weekend.” No more time for daydreaming on the sun porch while ideas float about my brain. There is little time left for my other job – writing. Survival is pretty much the focus now.

For the first few years, when I could balance work, writing, and social time, I didn’t feel the need to take time off and go on a vacation. Now that the work leg of my stool is getting longer and longer, I feel the need to balance things out, except I can’t really afford a vacation. I was very generously given a raise after almost 3 years on the job, but immediately watched my rent go up significantly, and thanks to ACA sabotage, my health insurance quadrupled. I have a dental appointment this week and probably need a crown. I owe what feels like a hefty amount in taxes. One step forward, five steps back. I’ll just have to tighten things up even more, and keep dreaming of a week of relaxation with sand between my toes and bathtub warm water so clear I can see those grains of sand. Hopefully someday before I die.

More work, more stress, less fun, less daydreaming… none of it makes for productive writing time. I was told I needed to focus on two things this year: patience and discipline. So far that is proving true. I need the patience to see the agent/publisher search to its conclusion. I need discipline to keep writing… to grind it out. Not how I work best, but what else can I do? The safety net is being dismantled, leaving me with few options if this all blows up in my face. I must grind.

The grind of querying is also back on. I had one rejection within 24 hours. However, I’ve received none since, and while I may be grasping at straws, I actually see a glimmer of hope with one. I’m using a website called querytracker.net. I originally thought a spreadsheet would work just fine for tracking my queries and didn’t see the benefit of online tracking. I was wrong. My spreadsheet only contained my query information. Query Tracker contains the query information of every author who uses the site, which seems to be a whole lot of them. I can see the queries an agent has received — genre, word count, and date submitted. When the author receives a response, that is also displayed. One particular agent I queried, who seems ideally suited for my story, has rejected submissions made before I submitted, as well as some after I submitted. Mine and a couple of others have not received a response. While this could mean any number of things, such as: my manuscript is making the rounds of the agency so they can make fun of how bad it is; or like my original birth certificate, my submission fell behind a filing cabinet never to be found again; or the rejection got lost in cyberspace. It could mean any one of those things, but I’m choosing to believe that it means I made it past the junior agent and my submission is now sitting in a pile, waiting to be read. Even a nibble fills me with hope.

Now limited to a 2-day weekend, I spent one precious day yesterday cleaning, catching up on my finances, and doing my taxes. That leaves today for really focusing on writing. I finally found the scene/direction I’ve been missing in order to move forward with book two, and despite feeling the grind, I’m looking forward to spending a day lost in adventure. And in the breaks, I’ll daydream about having more days like today during the week, and warm, sandy beaches, and hopefully that will get me through the grind. Hopefully someday it will all be worth it.

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Creator of History

Another week where I’m posting late. To be honest, I wouldn’t be posting at all if I weren’t procrastinating.

Last weekend I put the finishing touches on my first two chapters and fired them off to the writer’s group. Of course, once I’d done that I found several glaring errors I wish I had caught. It was the same way with my college papers. So, in a week and a half I will sit quietly and with the appearance of calm, while inside I am a quivering pile of fear at the feedback¬†my fellow writers will give me. Yet, I am also excited to hear what works. Perhaps it will be well received? Who knows!

The current chapter has been a real struggle for me. Nothing has flowed. I’ve struggled to make progress. I spend as much time as I can, playing the chapter in my head like a movie, but there’s one downside to my new life here. I fall asleep quickly. Insomnia used to play an important role in story development. That means I now need to allocate more time for daydreaming. For this reason I spent $30 of my precious budgeted money on some resin adirondack chairs for my sun porch. Now I can sit out there and let my mind wander, and yesterday I discovered this is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two.

My struggles with the chapter had me doubting the entire book. It is a YA novel, which like so many others, has a boy wizard protagonist. Ho hum. Who cares? There are a gazillion of those out there, most of them poorly written. I know the other stories that have inspired some of my story. Is mine just derivative of theirs? Is there any point? Then again, there are really only 7 stories in the world. We’re all just retelling the same thing with different details.

In reworking the first few chapters, and strengthening the theme in those chapters I was reminded that my story has depth. The characters are good. The underlying themes are unique for the genre. The setting is an entirely new setting of my creation. I am a Creator of Worlds! So yes, there is a point. Yes, some people will surely care.

Last night the rest of the struggle with this chapter was finally revealed. The fact that this is an entirely new¬†world, means I am woefully short of background material. Yes, fantasy is incredibly freeing because there’s nothing to really research. You, the writer, make it all up. But that’s just really a trap. The writer has to make it ALL up. Every last detail. I hint at events that have occurred during their history, but I don’t even know what I’m hinting at. I haven’t created some of the in-depth history that needs to be created. Foolish! Of course it’s difficult to write a scene set in a museum when I don’t even know what history that museum is displaying.

So today I have my work set before me. I need to write a few things that I landed on yesterday, and then I need to spend a few more hours in my adirondack chair, dreaming up history.

And now, I guess I have run the course of my procrastination attempt. Though it is lunch time, so there’s that.

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Life on a Budget

Small confession. I’m not terribly inspired to write a post today. I’ve had several topics rolling around in my head, but none are fully formed. I’ll do my best to put a few words together.

I’m adjusting to life on a budget. When I was poor, I simply didn’t spend more than I had in my account. Because I have simple wants, once I was making more money, I didn’t have to worry about what I spent. There was always enough.

Now I am making less than I spend and relying on my savings account to fill in the gap. While there is a good chunk of money left from my house sale, it won’t last forever. It won’t even last that many years unless I am careful. Thus, I must learn to live on a budget. I’ve just completed my first month in my house and am learning what my monthly bills will be.

So far my biggest struggle is groceries. If I’m going to eat meat, I want to eat grass-fed, or free-range, hormone-free meat. That adds a huge chunk to my grocery bill. I love avocados and in the past have found the organic avocados are a better quality. However, in the Midwest, it’s harder to find good avocados and they are more expensive. I’ve had to downgrade to the standard version.

There are lots of other little things I used to buy without thinking. I want to put up some solar-powered yard lights. Maybe get a hammock. And a daybed for my guest room. But now those things must be saved for. Whatever I don’t spend from my montly allowance will be tallied and used to buy those things when I’ve saved enough.

It’s a new way of living and one that’s not really terrible Things are just things. I love this new life so much, and am willing to do what is necessary to keep it going, even if that involves living without things I want. I work a few more hours a week than I used to work, but now only make in a month what I used to make in a week. Still, at the end of each work day I go home far more satisfied. I’m doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. I’m no longer being paid a ridiculous wage for something I could do in my sleep, and benefited no one but those above me to become even more wealthy. I’m more than fine with the pay cut.

However, in an attempt to supplement my part-time job, I intend to look for freelance writing work. One site that I signed up for 2 years ago, when I had no time to take any freelance work, was E-lance. It was touted by other writers as a great place to earn some money. I know the market has changed in recent years, and I’m guessing that’s what I’m seeing now that I’m back on the E-lance site. Most jobs pay next to nothing for a great deal of words. Writing, never a good paying gig, has gotten even worse. One job offer was to write 2, 10,000 word e-books a week for $50. Uh… yeah… why? If I wanted to do that, I’d just write them for myself and take the money earned from their online sales. Many other jobs are simply writing articles to help companies sell products. I’m done letting corporate America take advantage of my skills.

I subscribe to Writer’s Digets and Poets & Writers. I will start searching them a bit more diligently to find paying contests and freelance work. Again, I will do what it takes to make this life last as long as possible, if not forever.

Tonight I will go to my first writer’s group meeting. We’re discussing two manuscripts written by members. I went in with some skepticism, based on my previous two years at an online university. So many marginal writers would introduce themselves in class by talking of their dreams of becoming novelists. However, these writers seem to be truly talented. One book is something I would never pick up in a store, and I was starting on chapter 12. Despite this, by the end of that portion, I was fully invested. Would the protagonist rescue the love of his life? I was frustrated when I ran out of story. Now I will have to wait until the author gets more written.

Nothing has gotten me writing more than the idea that I’m going to be submitting pages to these talented people for feedback. It’s intimidating. I want to give them a good read, too.

So that is all for today. No insights or wisdom, just me figuring out this new life – learning to live in a budget, finding paying writing work, and getting inspired by other writers. That’s really a pretty good week.

 

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