The Neglectful Writer

A year ago, the BF and I bought our first house. It’s a cute little two bedroom, one bath, with a large yard. Since we moved in, we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time pulling morning glory (aka bindweed, aka chokeweed) and blackberries (invasive little shits). See, the house had been empty for several years before we bought it, with no one around to maintain the property. The neighbors say the previous owner used to have a greenhouse in the backyard, and it was quite pretty.

From the beginning of July through August, I think I overextended myself when it came to writing. I have no problem working on two projects at once, sometimes even three, but I wasn’t working on three projects. I was working on five (I actually had to count): a novella for a holiday submissions call with my publisher, a different novella, revisions for Not About Love, drafting Blood and Shadows, re-writing Touch, and, once I finished the NAL revisions, I started on the revisions for Game of Shadows. All the while I was handling conference planning shit, work shit, and house shit.

It was too much shit to deal with.

The title of this post isn’t misspelled – I’ve been neglecting the rest of my life. Oh, sure, I put in the effort to maintain appearances. I hit the gym four days a week. I clean the house every couple of weeks. Do the laundry. Cook dinner. Read. I still managed to read quite a bit. I hung out with my family, the BF and I celebrated our 8th anniversary with a distillery tour, and spent time with friends.

But I don’t really push myself at the gym. I’ve been meaning to pull out all the books on the shelves in the office and clean them off. Ditto for going through my clothes and getting rid of things I don’t wear anymore. I recorded the last two episodes of Deadliest Catch weeks ago and still haven’t watched them. And I’ve been working on the other part of the bookcase for months and still haven’t finished it. Same with the baby blanket I’m crocheting for my (now 3 year old) nephew, the cross-stitched birth announcement for my (now almost 3 year old) other nephew, and the modge-podge project I had for our coffee table.

Honestly? This is pathetic. I’m so caught up in maintaining my productivity amidst the things I have to get done (conference stuff, the re-write of Touch) that I’m putting off everything else. And I’ve been doing it for a while now.

I tried to cut back. I used to come home from the gym, shower, and then power on the laptop. When that resulted in too many dinners of scrambled eggs at 7pm, I switched to making dinner first, then writing. I set myself a time limit of an hour. My word goal per day is a thousand. Sometimes 1,500, depending on how close to the end of a chapter I am. I can, and have, knocked those words out in less than an hour. But a lot of the time, it takes almost two. Some evenings I don’t shut down until I need to get ready for bed, and I’ve wasted an entire evening where I could have, oh, I dunno, folded the laundry. Or watched an episode of MI-5.

Last week was pretty brutal. On top of having several shitty work days in a row, I had to drop $430 on a new laptop (when my old one was barely two years old). I found out I’d double booked myself on a couple of book review things, and there were several fires that had to be put out. I wanted to curl into a ball and cry for mommy.

One night, I had my laptop on and I was staring at the screen. I’d been at it for almost an hour, and I’d managed 600 words. 400 short of my daily goal. And I just couldn’t do it anymore. I shut it off and read for the rest of the evening.

You know what? The sky did not fall, the earth did not tremble, and I did not keel over dead.

I’ve tried to take a break from writing before. It never works. It’s an addiction, of sorts, needing to get a few words down, even if they’re less than stellar words, and even if I struggle for every single one of them. So I’m not going to try. I can’t really anyhow, because I’ve still got projects that need to be finished because others are expecting them.

But I’m going to work on the guilt. If the words don’t want to come one night, I won’t force them beyond the hour. I will actually finish some of these things I’ve promised other people, dammit, and I will finally get to the episode where Danny dies on MI-5. If it means my productivity suffers as a result, I’ll adjust. I have to. I deserve a full life, and I can’t claim that if I’m chaining myself to my laptop.

The morning glory is actually in our yard. It’s trying to choke out the grass, spreading its insidious little vines out oh-so-slowly. That’s how badly neglected the yard was before we moved in. We have blackberry shoots coming up in the middle of the front yard. There’s poison hemlock everywhere.

Yet the house…the house is pretty much fine. Doesn’t require a lot work, just a bit of a shine every couple of weeks.

My yard’s a damn good analogy for a writer’s neglected life. If I’m not careful, there’ll be blackberries and morning glory all over the place, poking into spaces it has no business being in. Don’t let your life end up like my yard. You’ll have to expend a fuckton of effort to get it back into shape if you do.

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