The angst of laundry and endless edits

Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile“My working title is The Vinyl Hound,” Mike said. “It’s a character study about a dog made of vinyl, who wants to be an astronaut.”

“I swear to God, you need to promise you’re not going to say that, or I won’t sit by you.”

Kind of a lame threat, but all I had.

This was on our way to a kick off for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (which always makes me think of Mork and “nanoo, nanoo,” but whatever). It’s the latest thing for which we’ve signed up but don’t actually have time, and it’s also the only way I’d be caught in a Fuddruckers on a Saturday night.

Or on pretty much any night, for that matter.

Mike’s signed up because of a story that’s been burning a hole in his brain for much of his adult life having to do with growing up in Central Idaho. Actually, given the propensity of very small towns for more crazy per capita than anywhere else, he probably has several such stories.

And I’ve got my own thing, after meeting with an agent last spring at a conference. She liked the novel I pitched, which was exhilarating and terrifying, since I may have let her believe it was a little further along than it actually is. I told her my manuscript needed a little workshopping (and, ahem, actual words that exist outside of my brain), and she said “that’s okay. Take your time, send me something in six months, even. I’ll remember.”

Yes, so here we are. Five of those six months have passed. I’m still plugging along with the thing, wrestling with my undiagnosed adult-onset ADD and need for constant feedback, and with new ideas popping up, unbidden, every day for blog posts for which I simply MUST stop everything to share with you all.

Really, my writing is getting in the way of my being a writer.

Chew on that for a minute.

I’m certainly not giving up the blog. It’s my baby. I check her stats like I would compare a developing child’s height and weight against a growth chart. I flinch at the tiniest criticism and do a little internal victory jig every time someone mentions having come across it.

NaNoWriMo garners its share of criticism because of its focus on word count, what some say is quantity over quality. Participants commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days, and I’m sure publishers dread the piles of unedited garbage that hit them as a result every December.

The point is actually to come to the table ready to write, with the guts of the story worked out, and then let the words spill without endlessly going back over every single line, ad nauseam, before moving on.

That’s been my normal M.O. Crank out a chapter in an hour or two, then spend weeks going back over it again and again.

And did I mention the ADD thing? With all due respect to people who really have the disorder – I probably don’t – I am easily distracted. Add the fact that this endless editing loop is killing my enthusiasm for the story I sold to that agent last spring. I need some sort of permission for letting go of that part just for a little while.

NaNoWriMo is also about a community of supportive peers.

When I started running again after a twenty-plus year hiatus, it was with the support of other runners. Mike had been coaching runners for years and was happy to give me pointers without coming off as bossy. I learned the lingo (and made up some of my own), bought the gear, and signed up for an event or two. Then there were more events, and more gear and now it’s my thing. I’m the one doling out advice. On running. Our little community trains together, enters events together, and compares notes on things like shoes and accessible bathrooms on our favorite routes.

Clearly no one’s noticed I run at a pace that’s like snowshoeing through syrup. Speed’s not part of the requirements for membership in the running community.

This NaMoWriMo thing is the same kind of community: supportive and enthusiastic, no matter the genre (although I’m still changing seats if Mike breaks out the Vinyl Hound thing). I’m learning that others who write struggle with the same things I do. The momentum-sapping editing loop isn’t new, as it turns out, nor is the propensity for losing one’s train of thought every time a mote of dust drifts by, much less the distractions offered by a houseful of boys and dogs, by the angst inherent in piles of dirty dishes and laundry.

I kid. Dishes and laundry rarely distract me. Ask Mike.

The point is, I’m committing to words on paper (or a screen) in a specific time frame, and I’m going to give up something to do this. At the very least, putting off the last season of Dexter until December. I’ll certainly not give up the running or the blogging. But we’re staring down the barrel of the holidays and the time suck they represent, so I’ll probably have to find something else to cut from my schedule too.

It’s a good thing the kids know how to heat up a pizza.


Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Have you done so before? I’d love to hear how it went.


Still craving your votes here. As often as once a day (even if it’s not a new post) bumps me up in the ranks. Thank you.



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  1. I\’m not doing NaNoWriMo. Mostly because I\’m a complete hack who only pretends to be a writer.

    And because, like you, I will edit anything I write within an inch of it\’s life.

    Seriously, I\’m known to read old blog posts and edit them again.

    But you rock this. You, are actually a good writer.

    1. I\’m going to carry that comment with me all day, Anne. Thank you.

      And, seriously a hack who only pretends to be a writer? Nope. I\’m riveted by your stuff, not just with the fact that you can keep your chit together with all your minions, but that you can make it all interesting to read, too.

  2. I am not participating in NaNo… but I am toying with beginning a new writing project soon (and putting the last nail in the coffin for one I am about to abandon). It\’s crazy how blogging really does distract from the behind-the-scenes writing pursuits. But it\’s too damn fun.

    1. It certainly is fun. And since my computer is littered with the little corpses of unfinished writing projects, it\’s at least something I can point to that\’s \”finished,\” per se.

  3. Not participating.

    I just started a new job where I am now THE BOSS of the place. I have a staff, and they all believe that I\’m in charge. They don\’t know I just want to burst out laughing when I start talking and notice that everyone stops to listen to what I am saying! I can\’t adequately describe how weird it feels. So anyway, I am setting a good example of coming in early and working late, and I can\’t participate in ANYTHING.

    But I sure would love to read something from what you are writing, though! Will you post any of it?

    1. That is awesome! Congratulations! I know you\’ll be fabulous.

      I don\’t know if I\’ll post any of it. It could turn out to be crap. It\’s a YA fantasy that I\’ve been mulling over for years, with plenty of humor, but still very different from the stuff I post on this blog. I\’ll give some thought about posting it, but if I do, it\’ll probably be for promotional purposes, so that\’s way out there…

      1. I got hooked on YA by reading books my daughter was interested in, to make sure they were okay for her to read. I discovered so many great books! I was surprised to find I love the YA genre.

        I\’m sure you\’ll have lots of loyal fans who can\’t wait to read your book, including me and my daughter!

        1. That\’s encouraging, Deborah. Thank you!

          I used to read YA science fiction and fantasy at my son\’s age and had forgotten how much I love it. This has been a real treat for me.

  4. Love it! I\’m so glad you\’re participating in NaNo. Nothing gets done at my house in November, but I\’ve prepped my husband for it all year. Good luck with your goal!

    1. Thanks, Christy. Both Mike and I are doing NaNo, so we\’re having tacos pretty much every night. It\’s kind of a grind, but productive so far! Thanks for being our area coordinator … whatchacallit…