self discipline: how to not work

For more than two years now, I have spent every waking hour worried about not writing. No matter what I was doing, I felt like I should be writing. And now that time is past. I have no deadlines hanging over me. I am free.

So I made some resolutions. I have a list of projects I’m working on, prioritized in a couple different ways, and a Chinese-menu-type setup. As long as I work for x amount of minutes on one project from each of the three columns on a given day, I’m good. If I hit a certain mark, I can stop early for the day (this has only happened once so far).  And here’s something important: no working on the weekends.

You’d think that the hard part would be staying on track with the projects, right? But what I’ve found is that it’s almost impossible not to work on the weekends. There are a few things that force me into at least temporary  Saturday/Sunday retirement — going to a movie, for example. Sewing is another one. These are things I do in the evening on regular work days, and now, at least according to my own rules, I could do over the weekend. Right now I could be playing with fabric. But I’m not. So I put away the computer and read. I pick up a novel I’m liking, a novel I’m half way through, and I start reading. Suddenly I’ve got Victorian Babylon in my lap, both books open.  What is this?

Does that seem unreasonable? That I should (whispering) take the weekend off from work? In theory I know it should not, but in fact it feels awful. I’m getting quite cross with myself about this. Yesterday I was writing an email to a friend and suddenly, there I was looking up information about small towns in Virginia. This was because of a percolating novel set in Virginia about somebody named Jackson, who is an EMT. Bad. I slapped my hand and went back to non-work.

I decide I’m going to get more sleep. A long bath and then into bed. This seems to be working, and then I wake up at 3 a.m. thinking about wicked sisters. Who are these people, and why are they talking to me about a very-raw story idea? Go away! Let me sleep!

Well aren’t you just a bitch? This from the taller of the two. The other one giggles. She’s got bright fuschia fingernail polish on, and on each nail a tiny glittering stone. Diamonds? Who puts diamonds on their fingernails?

I try to go back to sleep but they are staring at me.

Fine, I say. Tell me.

It’s simple, says Diamonds. If you want Jackson, you get us too. We’re his big sisters and it is our responsibility to see he doesn’t get led astray.

Huh, say I. Why is it you look like those evil bridesmaids in My Best Friend’s Wedding?

I should hope we do, says the taller one. She’s got helmet hair and a botox forehead.

That’s when we climbed in, says her sister. We’ve been riding around back here for what, ten years? Sitting  in your subconscious, waiting for an escape route.

And this novel about your brother Jackson gives you that.

I hope she’s not always this slow, says Helmet Hair. It’ll take her forever to write this book. I cannot wait to get out of here.

So you can climb into other people’s heads? I say.

I can promise you, says the younger one, holding up one hand and waving her glittery fingers. That we will do our damnedest.

So you see, this taking the weekend off business is a lot harder than I imagined. I wonder if I’ll ever get the hang of it.

my druthers

In response to my question (a couple posts ago) about what you’d like to see me write next, someone asked what I really want to write, what I would write if marketing and mortgages and tuitions were not an issue.

First, let me try to wrap my head around that idea.

Okay. Here’s the thing. Historicals take a long time to write, and the research — which I love — is a drain. It took me about a year to write Tied to the Tracks and then another year for Pajama Girls, because they are (a) shorter; (b) less research intensive. Note also that I was working on those novels part time while I kept banging away at the historicals.  I don’t remember ever bogging down while I was writing either of the contemporaries.

So for the present, if I didn’t have to think about sales, I would write another contemporary. I have a pretty good outline for one in my head, and it already has a title: The Swing of Things. I do hope to write it, some day, but probably I’ll have to write it without a contract up front.

I’m not done with historicals. I am very enamored of my plot outline for the Rhode Island novel (good thing, too, or why would I write it?). But I’ve been working on these big fat historicals for 10+ years, and I could use a change of pace.