I remember believing, when I first thought in any real way about being a full time writer, that I would sit in a room, completely bare except for a computer. Big windows would face (more than likely) the ocean, and I would always be dressed in light cotton dresses. My feet would be bare — but my toenails would be painted. Ditto my fingernails. Done professionally, of course. My hair — perfect. Jazz music would be floating in from somewhere (maybe even a real jazz quartet, just outside my window) and whenever I wanted it, herbal tea or a glass of really good red wine would materialize by my hand.
The room would never get messy, the dog would never eat the hand-edited manuscript (before I had a chance to put the corrections onto the master in the computer, that is) and I would NEVER have to drop everything to “run something” out to my husband. (Did I tell you he ALWAYS works in teeny towns and hamlets that are all monumentally hard to find, even with a map? Well, he does.) I would take a holiday, probably to the south of France, after every book is done. Oh, and every word I write is gold, so I hardly have to rewrite.
That was my dream. Kinda nice, isn’t it?
Reality is a bit messier than that, but it’s my own fault. I thought putting out a 10 book series in a year and a half sounded like fun. I didn’t think about how many deadlines that actually is. (10. It’s 10.)
My office doesn’t have windows (the outside is distracting), and it has a lot more than just a computer in it. Right now it is a blizzard of paper (some of it chewed, and not all of it by the dog) from the final edits of the last book, plus half-read books I keep meaning to get back to when I have the time. I usually don’t remember to take my coffee cup back to the kitchen, so there are three used cups crowding my desk, and I just push them up, a little closer to the edge, so the new one will fit. When things slow down, I’ll clean my office. At least, that’s what I keep saying…
I haven’t been to have my nails professionally done in three years. I just hack them off, and tell myself “next time.” I pull my hair back in a ponytail, and my work clothes are pajamas. I wear big fluffy socks because I keep the place cold — meat locker cold — while I’m writing. I find it’s better for my brain.
I try to remember to eat. Heck, I try to remember to brush my teeth, because the writing has become all consuming. If I get sick, I lie in bed, counting the minutes until I can haul myself back to my computer. I don’t have time for sickness. You see, I have to write. I’ve got this deadline…
When I finish a first draft, it doesn’t sit in a drawer for a month. It dashes off across the country to be savaged by a guy who takes great delight in telling me why my story isn’t working. (With any luck, while he’s ripping and tearing, I have enough time to get a couple of loads of laundry done. Not usually, though. Usually, I’m ripping and tearing at his — or someone else’s — story.) Then I rewrite, and with any luck, turn it into something readable. Then I go over it again, for nits and logic and continuity. And then the grammar and spelling. And oh, did I realize every character in my story has a name that starts with A? It’s confusing. Change them. So I do.
And then, when it’s finally done, do I get my holiday in the south of France? Nope. That’s when we start the really hard work of putting everything together so we can get the book out. This goes on while we are discussing what will happen three books from now, and what, in detail, the next book will look like. Oh, and I start my next story in here somewhere, hammering out an outline and a scene by scene so I can think about it while I’m driving out to Somewhere Distant Alberta to deliver a Something or Other to Husband dear. (At least I have the opportunity to get dressed!)
This is the reality of full time writing at my house. And I signed up for it!
So, I’ll keep cutting my own nails, and pushing the coffee cups to the side, and trying to remember when I say I’ll do something that has nothing to do with writing. But if I forget, please forgive me.
I have this deadline, you see…