Reading and writing in 2014

I am two weeks late for any sort of New Year’s post, but that’s just how I roll, it seems.

I made three official New Year’s resolutions (going on the theory that if I make several, I have a better chance of keeping/achieving at least one), and the one that I think will receive most of my energy is trying to finish writing a book-length story that I started at least 5-7 years ago. Like my knitting and sewing projects, I seem to pick it up and put it down, but I’m hoping to pick it up for good this year. That’s part of why I started this blog in the first place–to get back into a habit of writing–so now I’m just going to shift some of the time I would spend on blog posts over to working on the story. There will probably be less posting here because of that, but hey, since I’m not the most faithful blogger in the first place, you may not even notice!

An unofficial resolution that I make just about every year is to try to read the books that are sitting on my nightstand. It never happens. This is largely due to me getting distracted by other things to read, but sometimes I’ll put something on the nightstand that I know I should read but am not really in the mood for so it sits forever. Similarly, any book that I receive as a gift goes there, some of them eagerly and others not so much. I also had some ARCs that are way past the “advanced reading” stage, and so on. This year, to help somewhat with the nightstand phenomenon, I actually took everything off and only put back books that I really do want to read. A few (the ARCs!) have been marked for giving away (don’t worry, copyright people, I gave the ARC’s to my local library to use as teen event prizes or some such thing, NOT for sale in a thrift shop or library book sale), others just put on our regular shelf, and the ones that stay on the nightstand arranged in what I hope is a tempting manner:

The nightstand in all its glory.

The nightstand in all its glory.

First, we have the whole thing, which may look deceivingly empty and easy to get through. Note the Kindle on top, which creates its own problems. I have found that to actually read something on the Kindle, I kind of have to impulse buy (buy it when I want to read it right now only), because otherwise the book sits there without even a physical dust catcher to remind me that I need to sit down and read it.

shelf1Next, the first shelf, which includes space to stick whatever I’m currently reading on top of my diary and a few books-in-progress on the side. (Finding Calm in the Chaos is a devotional book, so it will probably stay there for most of the year as I try to use it every day).shelf2

The lower shelves are not arranged in any reading order, but by how the books best fit. I do try to put books I want to read sooner in the front with others in the back. People of the Book has been there (and I’ve been truly wanting to read it…just not tonight) for about 2 years. You can also see my French book-in-progress and some kids’ books my mom lent me that will go quickly when I finally pick them up. Relic is a Christmas gift YA book that I’m looking forward to.shelf3

The lowest shelf includes some of my cheating: I’m already about halfway through rereading Little Women, and the orange book on the side is the English translation of the French book (which I’ve still only been referring to after I read a given section in French first). Also, you may notice that there is both a print and audio copy of the same book on the right, so I will listen to that one for my next audiobook.

Judging by the first two weeks, my 2014 is already off to a busy start, and I know I’ll never finish everything I want to this year. But here’s to an optimistic late start, anyway!

Guest Blogging!

I had my first ever public blog post published today at YALSA’s The Hub:

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2013/10/08/old-favorite-new-genre-exploring-fantasy-sub-genres-through-robin-mckinleys-work/

I’m hoping to get to blog their occasionally in the coming year…it will give me a good reason to continue trying to keep up with the YA lit world.

Incidentally, I finished Shadows this weekend and hope to get a review up in the next week.

Happy Tuesday!

Habits and To-Do Lists

I started this post about a month ago, and it was going to be about cutting blogging down to 2 entries a week (from a whopping 3) and trying to write more on other things. I have long since cut the blog post quantity back, and so far I have yet to do any more on the other writing front.

Some of this is due to life–we started our oldest in kindergarten, and adjusting to that schedule and homework (?!) has taken awhile. Also, my husband is in the middle of taking his doctoral qualifying exams (last big thing before writing a dissertation in his program), so he has been super busy at school, and I have been on my own with the kids a little more than usual.

The other thing that happened is that I realized my running to-do list (which I seem to have had some iteration of for about as long as I can remember) was completely stressing me out, so I threw it away. This may not seem completely related to writing more, but it actually is. My modus operandi thus far in life has been to make a list of things I need to do and then try to cross items off the list. I have most recently has 2 or 3 to-do lists going:

  • One “big life goals” or “big year goals” that I keep tucked away and only look at every so often.
  • One “monthly” list that has more concrete things that I would like to do in the next month or two.
  • Either a weekly, “next couple days”, or “this afternoon” list that usually pops up on a Post-It when I really need to prioritize what’s going on.

I can’t imagine why this would stress me out, would you? Oh, I also always have more things on the list than I can possibly get done in the timeframe. And, things like “writing” or “knitting” never seemed to be as important in a to-do list setting. So, as I continue to adjust to our most recent changes, I’m trying not to be so to-do list dependent. Instead, I want to work on cultivating habits. Some habits I have pretty well down:

  • Getting everyone out of the house on time. (This is a new accomplishment, but school is a great motivator!)
  • Making dinner every day.
  • Keeping up with laundry enough to ensure clean clothes all around.

None of these are surprising, I’m sure, as most adults have some form of these daily life habits well worked out. There are some other habits, however, that I haven’t really ingrained yet, and I want to focus more on them going forward:

  • Write something every day.
  • Pray and read the Bible every day.
  • Choose my activities intentionally:  There are still things that need to get done, after all, so I still need to choose some housework that needs doing each day and focus on the work at hand. This also means paying attention to how much time I spend on the computer (and doing what!), which is my real time waster these days, and deciding when I’m going to fit in things like writing and Bible study.
  • Rest better. (By which I mean, go to bed earlier when I need to, don’t make every minute frantic with “to-do” worry, and choose to spend some time in activities I enjoy.)

I’m hoping that moving from a “to do” list mindset to a “habit forming” mindset, I will be a little less stressed by the daily hustle and bustle that we all live with. I’m not completely giving up on lists–sometimes a short one is still the best way for me to organize my plan of action–but I’m trying not to let them rule me quite so much. And, who knows? Maybe I’ll get that extra writing time in eventually.

 

Shameless self-promotion

I am a (sort of) published fiction author!

My college alumni magazine had a short story contest, which I actually entered (deadlines and short word counts being good things, apparently), and I found out that my story was chosen to be published.

Yay!

I’ve already gotten to see my name in print, but here’s the online version, should you choose to read it:

http://www.mcdaniel.edu/information/the-hill-magazine/short-story-contest-winners

It’s just an alumni magazine, but it was exciting for me.

End of shameless self-promotion.

Brief Thoughts on Writing and Vocation

I write. Some.  I write in a diary, I write this blog, I occasionally work on fiction writing. I have had 2 library science articles published. I have the idea of some day writing a (preferably good) kid’s book that gets published.

One author I admire, Shannon Hale, recently wrote an interesting piece on her blog about being a writer and a stay-at-home mom. Here it is.

It definitely gave me a lot to think about. I fully believe that this is how it works for Ms. Hale (and it obviously works, because she’s written some awesome books. And there are some things I can definitely learn from it: wasting time on the computer (and off) doing non-essential, non-writing tasks would be the first. The idea of taking plenty of time to write before worrying much about publishing is another. And I think I can accept that I’m not “hardcore” enough about writing to call it a passion or to see it as my life’s work.

In some ways, the conversation should stop there. But I have a few reasons of my own why I’m not going to give up just yet.

  1. I’ve heard/read other writers emphasize that everyone has a different writing process. So what works for Ms. Hale might not work for everyone, even other successful authors.
  2. I can’t find citations for any of this right now. But I do know that some people don’t successfully publish a book until middle age or later–that the age bell curve for “becoming an author” skews much later than other life accomplishments. There’s not necessarily a need to rush–all my children are at home and require attention at all waking hours right now. That won’t always be the case.
  3. While I would like to write a book worthy of publication, there are many other things that I’m ok with putting ahead of this–again, at least for right now. I see my primary professional work being as a librarian–and if I become a good librarian and am never a published fiction author, that will be ok. I am also not willing to give up such things as hanging out with friends (which happens infrequently enough anyhow), pursuing those things that may only be “hobbies,” and sometimes just doing nothing.

So I will keep on writing when I can fit it in, try to make better use of those times, and see what comes of it. Maybe nothing. But better to write in bits and pieces than not at all.