I would love to know about your writing routine, because if someone asks me that I look at them funny and say, “What’s that?” My four-year-old seems to think that whenever I sit down at the computer it’s time for him to need food/attention/a playmate/you name it.
I have to admit I almost didn’t include “writing routine” on my list of ideas to get you readers thinking, probably because my routine is never the same. My husband had a seminary professor that used to describe balance as “momentary synchronicity” — a great way to also sum up my writing schedule. What works for me now didn’t work for me while I was teaching and certainly didn’t work when I was home with toddlers.
During my teaching years, my creative energy was spent by the end of the day. The school year was for revision; the summer for new drafts. As a stay-at-home mom, I aimed for three writing sessions a week. Some lasted ten minutes, others, when I had a sitter, were two-hour stretches. It took me a long time to move forward, but in those phases of my life, that’s the way things worked.
Word counts stress me out, especially because I spend so much of my time working on verse or picture books. It can take me weeks, sometimes, to move past a handful of words. What I’ve found to work for me is general monthly goals. In the last few months, I’ve focused on working with my editor on revisions, line edits, and copy edits on one novel; returning revisions to my agent on another; and beginning (then beginning again) research on a third novel.
Have I met every goal? The ones with deadlines, yes. The others? No. My hope was to have finished the research by now. But when I look back over the last few months, I have done a huge amount of work. Writing, I’ve learned, isn’t something I can quantify. Maybe this will change in the years to come, but for now, general monthly goals keep me motivated and free to let the words come.
What’s it like to live in the desert?
The desert is my first love, so I’ve returned to New Mexico utterly biased. When I first moved here in 1980, I’d spent three years in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. This place was lush in comparison. When my husband moved to Albuquerque as a boy, he moved from Michigan, and this place took quite a bit of getting used to. I suppose what you love in part stems from what you’ve been exposed to. I’ve happily lived in and loved a variety of places across the country and around the world, but nothing compares to the New Mexico desert. With the low humidity and high elevation, everything is sharp and clear beneath a turquoise sky that reaches from the Sandia and Manzano Mountains in Albuquerque all the way to Mt. Taylor (150 miles to the west and visible from the city). The scrubby juniper bushes smell like my childhood. The chamisa and tumbleweeds add a natural beauty. The dirt smells glorious after the rain. It’s heavenly and familiar and lovely. I’ve been happy everywhere I’ve lived, but I’m thrilled to be home.
Thanks, all, who participated in this question and answer session.