As I said in my new year post, it’s time for a change. I also said I’d explain, so here I am. Explaining.
I have to do something drastic to force myself out of the hole I’ve somehow fallen into. For more than a month, I’ve been almost at a standstill in terms of writing. I’m still writing regularly, but nothing worth talking about and definitely nothing I’ve actually finished. This is unlike me. I usually complete short stories in a day, although editing goes on indefinitely. Knowing that I’ve got these unfinished things floating around drives me nuts.
The problem is time.
I know, I’ve always said you can find time to write, and that’s true. If you want it enough, you will find time somewhere, and I do. Five minutes here. Twenty minutes there. Sometimes a whole hour. Here’s the thing, though; my brain doesn’t like this piecemeal approach to writing at all. I need time to get into it. I need more than five or twenty minutes. Sometimes I need more than an hour. I have to get my head in the right place first, and then I can write like nobody’s business.
What happened? Where has my time gone?
Well, work, for one. And my job isn’t mentally demanding. It’s not usually long hours or anything like that. However, whether I’ve worked a five-hour shift or a nine-hour one, I have dogs, cleaning, dinner, and whatever else wasn’t done because I was gone to take care of. By the time I’ve dealt with all of that, it’s past six or seven, and I’m tired, because I’m up very early. I also get called in to cover shifts a lot, so a day I think is my own turns into a work day more often than I’d like. I don’t adjust well when my “plan” for the day is disrupted. That’s not happening as much now, because I’ve been an asshole and I say no occasionally. When it does happen, I try to write at the end of the work day, but editing is all I’m good for in the evening. I’ve realized that now. So, fine. I edit. That’s still something. I’d get up earlier, and I do, to write before work, but some shifts start at 5am. I just don’t have it in me to get up much earlier than 4am.
The other issue is dogs. For years we had pets, two dogs and a cat, who were used to my routine and I was used to theirs. When you have senior dogs, you know what they’ll do and when (most of the time) and you can schedule around that. And then Harley and Dill passed away. I had tons of time for about a day. After all, I only had Bear, the sweetest boy ever to take care of.
Then we got the kittens, Freya and Atlas. Cats aren’t demanding, you might say. Well, kittens ARE. These ones are. We didn’t get the cats that don’t require attention. We got one anxiety-ridden, affection starved mess (that’s Atlas) and one lunatic that searches for trouble (that’s Freya) and if she can’t find it, she’ll make her own.
They look so peaceful, there, don’t they? It’s a ruse. Don’t buy it.
And soon after, we got Quinn, who is a beautiful and mostly behaved boy.
He really is a great dog. However, he’s needy. He has to know you love him on an hourly basis. It took a year, but I got us both on a schedule that mostly worked. He became predictable and the cats became less needy.
And then Teddy came along.
Many times I wonder what we were thinking. I mean, this little guy is BUSY. And he’s not as easy to train as Quinn was. (I should mention Quinn is an exceptional dog. We really got lucky. Teddy is a typical puppy. He’s not bad. He just has a hard time being good.) So, since around Christmas, I haven’t slept much and my days are spent screaming “No! Don’t eat the cat! Give me that bra! Ow! Stop eating my feet! Don’t pee there! Outside!” and so on. Sigh.
But we did that to ourselves. We wanted more animals, because we’re masochists who love a fuzzy face and a wagging tail. Teddy will settle down and all will be okay eventually.
But I still have a third issue. Demands I’ve put on myself that I just can’t meet anymore. For one, Deviant Dolls. The original intention was that DDP would be a collaborative effort. A group of authors joining together to cross promote each other and other dark fiction authors. In the end, though, the effort turned into a one or two person thing most of the time, sometime three people, and it just hasn’t been effective. I share as much blame as anyone, if we’re tossing that around, but I’d rather not. It is what it is. The bottom line is, I can’t give time I don’t have to something that’s giving me little to nothing in return.
Writing takes time. Editing and marketing and all that other stuff takes more time. Submitting to publishers takes time too. If I do one, I have no time for the others. It’s tough to decide which thing I’m doing each day, because I need to do all of it consistently. I must get my shit together.
So, what changes have I made?
First, Deviant Dolls as it is today (a collective of authors) will no longer exist. I’ve given this thing at least an hour (often more) every single day for a couple of years. Marketing each member of the group, coming up with new ideas for promotions and blog posts, remembering to tweet this or that, scrolling through social media so I don’t miss a single thing going on in each member’s publishing life, and remembering to engage readers and make shit fun. It’s exhausting, but I enjoyed it, so it wasn’t hard to devote precious time and resources to that instead of my own work. But I can’t keep doing that, even if it breaks my heart to give up. I want to reinvent my idea into something more manageable and effective, so it’s not disappearing entirely. I just have to figure out a better way to achieve what I hoped to achieve back when I started it. For now, Deviant Dolls is on pause.
Second, I cut my work hours. I’m very lucky that I have a partner who also works hard and earns enough for me to stay home. I won’t stay home, though, because I discovered having something of my own is important to me. Yes, writing is something of my own, but I also need a reason to put on pants and be around people. So I’m not quitting. Just cutting back to a few days a week. I will learn to say no. Promise.
Third, the animals. Teddy won’t be a puppy forever, but I can’t control the time he and his “brothers” need either. I just have to wait that one out. Like children, pets deserve all the love, and if they need attention, it’s on us as their ‘parents’ to give it. We brought them into our home after all. They didn’t just arrive, begging for food and shelter. Maybe, though, instead of getting puppy snuggles when they nap (and stealing a nap for myself), I’ll write instead.
Finally, I’m going back to daily short story writing. Not exclusively, but for the most part, my goal will be to finish at least one short story a week, while working on a single longer project in between. I will also devote at least part of one day every week to submissions and another to promotional stuff (like scheduling tweets, writing book reviews, and blog posts and such). That got me to where I am today, and I don’t know why I stepped away from a process that worked. I guess the ideas got too shiny to resist.
So, those are the changes I’m making. I’ll let you know how it works out or I’ll just spontaneously combust, and that’ll be the end of it.