Monday, September 14, 2015

Good company on my desert island

This past weekend, Wallaby, his grandma (J-ma) and I went to the Connecticut Romance Writers' fabulous conference. Before, my conference itinerary used to sound a whole lot like: Hang out in the coffee shop and write; go to workshops; give talks; meet with agent; meet with editor; hang out in the bar and socialize. Sleep a few hours when and where convenient; maybe hit the gym or go for a walk outside. 

Now, they're more like: 
Whee! It's five a.m. and we're someplace new! Let's investigate!
Whee! Let's zoom up and down the really long, nicely carpeted hallway and back!
Whee! Breakfast! Let's wear some eggs! Then hug mommy in her conference clothes!
And after that, there are high-level negotiations regarding when and where Wallaby and the Boobs will rendezvous in and amongst me giving talks, going to workshops, etc., and he and J-ma go off for their day's adventures. 
Then I take a breath, and shuffle my identity back to WriterJess for a few hours, before we rinse and repeat the above. 

Which, really, is lovely. But life then doesn't look much like life now, and vice versa. And neither does my writing. Where before, I could tune out the universe and write for eight or ten hours, or longer, these days I get two precious hours in the morning before Arizona starts working, and another couple after Wallaby goes to bed (if I can stay awake that long). Which has led to some self-kicking in recent months--you know, that inner monolog that goes something like:

I used to write fast.
I should have this book done by now.
I can't believe I'm not even halfway done.
This is crap.
No, really, it's crap. Why am I even bothering?
I need to throw out a chapter. That took me two f*cking weeks to write.
I suck.

To say that I wasn't really feeling the love of being at a writers' convention this past weekend would be a gross understatement of my angst. But I was scheduled to give a couple of workshops and see one of my best writer-pals (shout out, Virginia Kantra!!) along with one of my best gal-pals (shout out Gail Chianese!!) and many other awesome friends, so I couldn't very well bail. 

So I went. And to say I felt out-of-step with the crowd would be putting it mildly, at least when it came to talking about writing stuff. I don't have my next book scheduled. I'm not really ready to talk about the Trainwreck-In-Progress. I'm writing … sort of … but …


Then came breakfast on Saturday. I usually sneak out on keynotes, but the speaker was (fabulous mystery writer and Emmy-winning reporter) Hank Phillipi Ryan, who I've known since she first started writing, so I stuck around. I know she gives good talk.

I hadn't expected her to give me an AHA. Followed by a DUH. (Not that she said something stupid, but that what she said made me give myself a big old dope slap.)

Because she talked about Not Giving Up. About how she gets to a point in her writing where she just wants to chuck the whole project in the electronic garbage. About how Stephen King's wife had to rescue Carrie from the trash. About how the book is rarely (never?) as bad as we think it is in that moment, and we should just keep pushing through.

And you know what? Ninety percent of the audience members were nodding. Which was right about when I reminded myself (as I had been doing all week, but this time it stuck) that I always hate my book when it's about halfway done, and it's never as bad as I think it is. Or if it is, I always figure out how to fix it. (And, as they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it.)

Damned if I didn't come out of that breakfast, not just wearing some of my scrambled eggs (thanks, kiddo), but feeling like I was back in the tribe, no longer alone on a tiny little island in the middle of the Sea of What The Hell Happens Next? And knowing that no matter what, I'm not going to give up.


  1. I also hate my books in the middle. Currently doing just that, as one does. : )

  2. Good for you! And I guess we should get some sort of club going...(writers who hate their work in the middle). I love your writing and your books, so obviously, what you're writing does not suck! BTW...will there be more books in the Mustang Ridge series? I remember you saying, in a previous post, that you are not under contract. Is your agent shopping the series to other publishers? Please say yes!!!!

  3. I love your blogs, Jess. Always so much humor mixed in with a huge dose of reality. Life certainly changes which means we should allow ourselves permission to change our writing routine as well. (Day-um we're all so hard on ourselves.) But the key, as you pointed out, is never giving up. *sticking this mantra on my bathroom mirror now*

  4. Nina said something I'd heard this weekend, "we're all so hard on ourselves", or our heroines. Why are women so hard on themselves? Why do we expect perfection? Maybe what we need to do is list out everything we do in a day or a week and think about how many jobs that really is. Think about it: Cook, housekeeper, chauffeur, teacher, counselor, personal shopper, entertainment director (for those with kids and husbands), and the list could go on. So if it takes a little longer to get something done, maybe we should start cutting ourselves a little slack. And yeah, every book sucks when you're at the half-way mark. However, I have faith in you that you'll turn it around and what will be produced is a really fantastic story that will keep me up late into the wee hours reading. Oh, I know what you mean about feeling alone on your own island. Since I turned in the last book in the series and don't have a firm deadline, I'm feeling a little adrift. This weekend definitely helped and bonus, I got to play with Wallaby, who has the most infectious smile. Oh, and hang with you, of course. ;-)

  5. Great post! So many of us have the same feelings. We just have to remember to keep at it. And sometimes it's really, really hard. It's great to have someone remind us of that.

  6. I'm rewriting a large chunk of my WIP right now. Grumbling. But, little people are a HUGE demand on the time. It does get easier, eventually. Hang in there. Anything you manage to write is progress.

  7. I don't think I've ever met a writer who doesn't hate her WIP in the middle. And I've met a LOT of writers! Glad to hear you got your writing mojo humming again, Jess. We readers who love Mustang Ridge are happy as pigs in slop. (channeling my childhood farm girl today)

  8. I hate every word when I'm writing. I keep wondering when my editor will discover I'm faking it. Then it all works out, and I read the book back, and think, "this isn't half bad." I'm sorry I missed the weekend but I'm in Maine with the hubby for our first vacation in two years.

  9. Oh...and I'm writing while I'm here.

  10. If I can ever get to the middle of this damn book, I'm sure I'll late it LOL. And it was great seeing you this weekend.

  11. Regina, that is hilarious! And what a treat to see you all this weekend! Jess, the Wallaby is the CUTEST and I didn't notice the eggs.

    Thank you thank for the kind words. Aw. (And f they help us get closer to another Jess books, then I have served my purpose in life.) And yes, you know-we write alone, but we're not alone. And this weekend--and all of you here on this terrific blog--prove it!

    Now--go back to work. xoxoo

  12. I find it so funny that nearly every middle schooler and high schooler looks out at the school population and thinks they're the only one that doesn't have it together. Meanwhile, the others are looking back and thinking the same thing. Here we are, big grown-up women, going through the exact same thing. Trust me, Jesse. I was not the only one watching you and thinking, "Wow. She's really got it together! Look at her, able to attend a conference with a baby on her hip." If that had been me, I would've been a hot mess. And my child would need gobs of therapy.

    PS Ms Ryan- you rock!