This month has been all about the book.
I had this goal to finish my first draft of Book 2 by Thanksgiving, and so while other things happened during November, there was a giant book-shaped shadow over the entire month. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I deleted. Then I wrote some more.
I was bound and determined to hit that deadline (even though it wasn’t my publisher’s but my own self-imposed, arbitrary date). And it might have actually happened, if we hadn’t caught what I can only assume was the Bubonic Plague.
The kids and I went in for our flu shots, and we all ended up with some bastardized version of the flu mixed together with some nasty cough that we picked up at the pediatrician. Dane missed a day of school, and I had to cancel the three playdates I’d lined up for Liam the week before Thanksgiving (the ones at other people’s houses so that I could drop him off and go write).
Instead, the two of us spent the week laying on the living room floor, hacking and feeling generally miserable.
I did try to power through, even with the Plague, and get the manuscript done, but I didn’t quite get there. And by the time I sent the first 53k words off to a friend to read, I hated everything about it. Plus everything else I’d ever written. Plus the entire word.
You’d think that, having already written and published a book, I would have my “writing process” figured out. Turns out, I don’t. What I learned this month is that I do not do well with trying to “power through” and get things done. I thought it would be so nice to spend a month just zoned in on the manuscript, and then I could sit back, breathe, and leave it entirely alone during the Christmas season.
As it is, it’s much more complicated than that. Writing, like anything, requires you to live in the tension between two realities. At least it does for me. I can’t shut myself away for weeks at a time, so I have to find try to find that elusive place of balance where I am present both to my work and to the life happening around me. It requires that sometimes I put my work away and do the dishes or play Ninja Turtles or have coffee with a friend. It requires that sometimes I find someone else to take the kids, drive away, and work.
It requires sacrifice and patience. It asks that I be willing to let go of timelines and expectations while holding on to faithfulness. It’s beautiful and terrible. I wouldn’t trade it…or wish it on my worst enemy.
In short, it’s been a complicated month.
It’s been a shameful month in the reading department. (See Overzealous Focus on Writing Deadline above.) But I did pick up a great little anthology at Half Price called The Writer on Her Work — the voices of several different women writers on their craft. In her introduction, the editor Janet Sternburg writes:
“When an individual writer tells of her day-to-day struggles, what we’re seeing in operation is a person choosing to continue, to grow, to not be silent. She is claiming her original impulse and carrying it forward — knowing that as she does so, she commits herself to change.”
I love that, and I’m grateful to these women’s beautiful voices for bolstering me up as I work through this last terrifying part of the writing process.
I found Radical Face this month, who I really like. They’re probably old news, but I tend to be behind the times when it comes to music. I blame a decade of my life lost to DC Talk and Amy Grant and Newsboys. It takes a girl a while to bounce back from something like that.
Noisetrade has so much good FREE Christmas music over there right now. The Orphan Care Network has a particularly good compilation out, and I discovered The Calendar Years, who I really like.
Still watching: Parenthood, Scandal, Grey’s, How to Get Away with Murder, Nashville, and Vampire Diaries, though did lose interest in Marry Me. It was little too goofy for my taste. Andrew and I finished Season 1 of Blacklist but not in time to catch up on Season 2…so we’ll have to wait until that comes to Netflix.
In addition to the usuals, there has been a light speckling of terrible (wonderful) Christmas movies. Oh, who am I kidding, there have been a ton. I’m not even going to try to count them because it would only make you respect me less.
I have all of these writerly beliefs in compelling stories with complex characters that mirror some unspeakable reality in our joint human experience… And then the Christmas season starts, and I shamelessly abandon it all in exchange for the fluffiest of holiday love stories known to man…most of which, inexplicably, star either Candace Cameron Bure or Haylie Duff. WHAT IS THIS ABOUT? Please tell me that I’m not alone and that someone else out there has this Issue too.
On my last What I’m Into post, an astute reader, Ryan, made this comment:
I don’t mean this at all to sound critical, really, but: holy cow, I can’t believe how much TV you watch! It’s a miracle you get as much other stuff done as you do!
Of course,he’s right. I watch an abominable amount of TV, and I realize that.
My secret is this: I rarely simply sit in front of the television and do nothing but watch. (The only time I do that is when I’m watching a show with Andrew, because it bugs him when I multi-task.) But mostly, I watch my shows on the Internet, days after they air. I watch while I’m folding laundry or loading the dishwasher or prepping a week of school lunches or making a lasagna.
It’s my little way of rewarding myself for all the Mom Tasks that I have to do. A little mind-game I play with myself. Not “chores.” ALONE TIME. TV TIME! WOO HOO! True, I could spend this time better. There are TED Talks to watch and podcasts that are full of useful information or even books on tape. But what can I say? TV is my special addiction. I can’t quit it, and I don’t even want to.
Other Things I’m Into
- A trip home to Chicago to see my family. And one last walk through the woods with my kids and my Mom before winter.
- Hallmark Christmas movies
My parents have cable, which is why holiday movie viewing started so early and has been so embarrassingly…comprehensive. We do not have cable, so I tried to cram in as much sappy viewing as possible while I was home.
But then — CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!! The CentruyLink guy stopped by last night, and my husband switched us from Comcast on the spot, and I will have free cable starting next week.
Ryan — you thought I watched a lot of TV before. Just you wait until I can watch Christmas movies all day and all night without pause. Lord help us.
- Best friends having babies.
If you’ve read my book, then you’re familiar with my two best friends from high school, Kim and Alissa. You should probably then know that they are both preggers, and freakily, due the exact same day. February 18th. Kim is having a girl, and Alissa’s having a boy, and I can’t even deal with it at all. I keep accidentally buying things for the new babies. It’s a problem.
How beautiful are they??!?!
– The first snowfall. I’m not THAT into this, but I’m trying to make my peace with winter. More about that soon.
- Living room forts.
(We way or may not be watching Rudolph. Before even Thanksgiving. I have SUCH A PROBLEM.)
- Christmas decorations copied from Pinterest
With the new bookshelves I bought this fall comes all sorts of space for new decor. So I took on a variety of Pinterest projects that I’d had my eye on for a while.
Andrew helped me create this sign out of reclaimed lumber. (Tutorial here.)
He took apart and reassembled a pallet and drilled the holes for the Christmas light stars, and I stenciled on the words and the wise men.
I’m in love with how it turned out. It might be my favorite decoration currently in the house.
I also did these — a quote from The Polar Express, a chalkboard Christmas tree, JOY nail-and-string art, a glittery reindeer bust and a piece of snowflake art. I don’t know if you can really see it all here, but it looks pretty awesome if I do say so myself.
I put all of our Santa pictures up on the old shutter by our front door, made a garland of cinnamon stars to hang on my kitchen window, and found a bargain on this pretty frame for our Christmas cards at Home Goods.
And ADVENT…so bags with our Jesse tree ornaments and some chocolate. (I ordered Ann Voskamp’s new Jesse Tree book a little late…and I’m looking forward to trying it out with the kids!)
And book presents…one storybook every night until Christmas. (I bought them all from garage sales and thrift shops years ago, and I just keep re-wrapping them every year. For the first year, Dane is starting to catch on. “Hey! We opened this one before!!)
I know. There should be support groups for this.
- And of course getting a Christmas tree. As much as I wish we were a “go to the woods and cut down your own” kind of family, we’re a “spend 5 minutes at Lowe’s picking out a half-dead, green spray-painted tree” kind of family. Whatever. It’s fine.
Book and Blog:
I’ve already told you about the book, so let’s not talk about that anymore. Or the fact that I’ve barely blogged all month.
Let’s talk about the fact that it’s Advent Season. There are a lot of wonderful bloggers doing Advent series. (If you read nothing else, check out John’s wonderful words at The Beautiful Due. He’s amazing.)
I’m not doing that, though last year I did do a little series on Christmas mindfulness, which included the following posts:
This year, I’ll probably just share what’s going on in our little corner of the world, as we try to wade into the Advent season in mindful, imperfect ways. I hope you’ll keep following me, even though my posts have been erratic at best.
I did write one post that is especially meaningful to me about my friend, Stephen, who had a surgery go wrong and now lives with chronic pain. He introduced a concept to me called “redemptive hygge” which has stayed with me in a very powerful way and that I will continue to bring up again and again on this blog. If you haven’t had a chance to read that post, please go read it now. And if you can, support Stephen and his family.
Thanks for sticking around even though I’m totally unpredictable lately.
I’m linking up as usual with my lovely friend Leigh Kramer for What I’m Into.
What about you? What’s your November been like? Less angst-y (and Hallmark-obsessed) than mine hopefully?