Reading, Writing, and Garden Thoughts!

I’ve been taking an extended break from social media lately, prompted by reading Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. I adored this book. It reminded me of Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee, but taking it farther into a whole-life philosophy. While I got it initially from the time-management angle, it’s really more a treatise for slowing down and appreciating what you have and who you are, not what you do, or how successful you are, or how well you optimize yourself or your time. It makes a powerful argument to take life as it is, joyously, and I found it a wonderful breath of fresh air amidst the smog of our self-improvement/hustle culture/productivity-obsessed culture. It also made me take a good, hard look at my social media lifestyle to determine whether or not it was doing what I’d set out for it to do, or if it was just another “should” distraction (as in, “I should be on Instagram/Twitter/etc. to support my writing”). The ultimate answer, at least for now, was: Nope. It was taking away precious time from what I actually do, and I find I don’t miss it or even think about it much now that I’ve disconnected. Call it a “Dry January” from social media. Except, I’ve lasted longer not checking or posting on Instagram than I did avoiding half a pilsner on actual Dry January. 

If you’ve been struggling with feelings of inadequacy, or feeling like you’re not as successful as you’d like to be, or feeling overwhelmed by all of life’s demands and challenges and problems, I cannot highly recommend Four Thousand Weeks enough. When I put it down, I felt so much lighter, and my inner critic now has a strong counter-argument, which is a huge relief. I don’t know how else to describe it besides freeing. 

Writing-wise, I’ve been chipping away at two projects. The first is a short story rewrite request, which has gone through two iterations so far, and may be going through a third. I’m struggling with it at this point, though, and I’m not sure if I’ve taken it too far from the original idea the editor liked or not. I need to fill out a few gaps and then do probably a whole retype for clarity, and it’s getting harder to keep my focus on it. 

The other project is my weird lit novel, working titled Dirty Bone, about a man having an affair with a skeleton who lives in a dirt apartment attached to his basement. It’s such an odd, odd story about life and death and the unfair expectations and demands we put on others, but I’m relieved as I reread the first draft that there are still a LOT of parts I love about it. It needs fleshing out, it needs further development, and it’ll be plenty of work to get it to draft two, but I’m actually just really excited about it! My goal is to get this beta-read, edited, polished, and submitted to agents by the end of the year. The only issue I’m hitting right now is the short story is taking up a lot of my sparse writing time, and I really, really, really just want to focus on the book. BUT. I’m going to give it one more really good shot on the rewrite. If the editor likes it but has a few tweaks, I can definitely manage that. If it’s needing another huge reworking, I’ll have to give it some serious thought as to whether it’s worth it to delay working on the book longer. 

But there’s a light at the end of summer! Thing #2 is officially signed up for preschool, which means at least three days a week, come Fall, I’ll get dedicated writing time! I’m SO EXCITED. I can’t believe he’s gotten so big already, and of course, there’s some Mom hand-wringing about how my baby’s already going to school, but it’ll be such a huge step forward towards getting more time to focus on writing again. Naturally, after touring the facilities, he’s gotten a cold, so HAHAHAHA, oh yeah, preschool is a petri dish, how did I not remember that? Ah well, we’ll manage. 

Otherwise, it’s been a quiet month. The pup’s started his next training class, which is good, and we’re working on his slight territorial behavior in the hopes of curbing that early. He does seem to be doing better, so I’ve got some hopes that part of it was just a fear regression when he turned 6 months old. We’ll see, though, and we’re not hedging on that alone. Still, he’s such a smart boy, I’ll bet I can teach him to pick up laundry for me and put it in the bin… Hmmm… #traininggoals

As I get deeper into the edit process, I’ll probably post a bit more often, just to help me keep tabs on the process for future reference. I’ve got a pile of writing skill books that I’m tucking into (just finished Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes, which was very interesting on the romantic storyline front (and helps distinguish beats my own plot will need that mirror and differ from a standard romance plot. I think it’d be interesting for anybody who likes a bit of romance in their work, regardless of whether the romance is the central feature or just a little flush on the side.) Now I’m digging into The Emotional Craft of Writing by Donald Maas, which has already provided some very intriguing thoughts to chew on. On my pile is also: Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland, and The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings by Paula Munier, and Mastering Supsense, Structure, & Plot by Jane K. Cleland. 

And then it’s Garden-Obsessing Season! So there’s that as a distraction, too! Flowering shrubs! Pampas grass! Boxwoods! Tree trimming! Forest paths and ferns and shade gardens and decorative rocks, OH MY!

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