The Care and Feeding of A Writer

yogaI should subtitle this entry “Yoga with Cats,” because the furgirls in my household keep coming in to check on me when they see me on the mat. The furboys apparently don’t care that I’m laying on the floor like a corpse.

On my page titled Three Necessary Things for Writers I detail some essentials that, on first glance, have nothing to do with writing, but in reality have everything to do with writing. Number two on that list is “Get Some Exercise.”

Truth be told, I haven’t always followed my own advice. But this week I discovered Yoga with Adriene on Youtube, and her style is so charming and infectious that I have found myself on the mat every day this week before beginning my writing sessions. As a result, I’m coming to my writing with a clear head and already feeling that I have accomplished something that day. I’m still building strength with the Foundations and Beginner videos, but it’s a great feeling to come back to yoga after years away.

But this post isn’t about yoga, although it was inspired by it. It’s about doing good things for yourself. Taking care and showing respect for yourself in everything you do. Giving yourself permission to make mistakes, and recognizing that your mistakes are a part of Participating in Life (#3 of the Three Necessary Things) just as much as your triumphs are. Caring enough about yourself to make a conscious effort to improve your health and wellbeing.

For me, this means several things: cooking from scratch more often (so I control what I’m putting into my body), building my strength and stamina and taking care of my lower back (yoga is great for this), flossing my teeth (a run-down the the benefits of flossing can be found here), reading for fun and knowledge, and BICHOK (butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard, a.k.a. writing), with chai tea on hand.

For writers, we need to be in a good headspace to do our work. Doing what we can and taking time out of our days to take care of ourselves is essential to getting into that headspace. If we eat the quinoa instead of the fries, if we walk around the block instead of scanning Facebook, that nagging ghost of ‘I should’ or ‘I need to’ that haunts us when we’re sitting BICHOK goes away, leaving us free to concentrate on our craft.

And then the only thing we have to distract us is the cat in our lap.


What are some things that you do for yourself that make you feel awesome or accomplished? Tell me in the comments!


ROW80 Update – Day 17

ROW80 LogoYoga with cats in the house is a whole new practice in patience and focus.

Here are my goals and where I am:

Writing: I made it through the second week of A Round of Words in 80 Days on target with my daily word count (I’m at 8000 words and starting Chapter 3). Ian, my demon narrator, continues to surprise me with his sensitivity and snarkiness. I also found out he’s a name dropper.

Exercise: Not so much with the daily exercise. I asked my spouse to keep her ears open for anyone wanting to get rid of a treadmill or elliptical equipment. There’s room to put either or both of these right near my desk, so I can do five minutes or whatever when I get up for a break. We used to  have a recumbent bike, which I loved and used regularly because I could read while peddling. However, we gave it to a friend when we moved. But now, because I sit all day, I want something that will get me off my ass. I can walk and read at the same time, if I don’t have to see where I’m going, so a treadmill seems ideal. In the meantime, I’m going back to yoga to help with my back issues. I found Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, and I really like her style.

Life: On the interacting with other humans front, my spouse and I went to our local movie theater and finally got to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Minor spoilers follow, but no names mentioned). This on Friday after a sad and unsettling week of celebrity deaths (Lemmy, Bowie, Dan Haggerty). I saw it coming in the scene, but I was not prepared for the emotional fallout that happened over the next two days. After losing so many people I admired and grew up watching, the death of my favorite Star Wars character left me feeling hollow. And then on Monday morning, I hear Glenn Frey has died, too. Now I’m afraid to turn on my computer to see who else I admire is gone.

On a more positive note, my spouse and I spent some time cooking together on Sunday. Nothing is more life-affirming and social than making good food with good people. For this week, at least, we are foregoing the frozen pizza in favor of knowing what’s in our food. We have let that slide recently in favor of convenience, but we are determined to get back to cooking regularly again (we make a few things on the weekend that will last us most of the week).  The bean and leek cassoulet with biscuits from the Veganomicon is one of our favorites, but all the veggie chopping, broth dissolving, and biscuit rolling is time consuming. It requires a tag-team effort to not take forever to make. Then I made spinach balls and she made an apple pie. Num!

But enough about me. How are you doing, ROWers? Keeping it 100?

ROW80 Update – Day 10

ROW80 LogoYeah, my feet are still cold, and one of the cats has started shredding my yoga mat (seriously, Eddie, WTF?) but I’m getting my words down and that’s what counts.

It’s Day 10 of Round 1 in the 2016 edition of A Round of Words in 80 Days. I’m 5500 words in (no, I didn’t write them all in the last week. I started with about 3500 already done from last year) and shooting for 6,000 today. If I stay on target, I should have 31,000 words by the end of Round 1. In other words, 1/3 of the novel.

Only 1/3. Doesn’t sound like much, when you consider some other writers can hash out a rough draft in a couple weeks. I’m not going to make excuses, though, because I’m not them. Right now 500 words takes me at least three hours. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I’m a fiddler. I fiddle with every sentence before moving on to the next. When I start the day’s writing, I go back first and fiddle with what I wrote the day before.

I haven’t learned how to incapacitate my inner editor yet. But that’s okay, too, because the software I’m using, Jer’s Novel Writer, has a feature that will track how many words I write per session. I don’t have to do any math in my head when trying to figure out if the two words I added to the scene I wrote three days ago count toward my goal, because they automatically do. Apparently, Scrivener can do this, too, but I’ve never used the tracker in that program. Maybe I’ll switch to Scrivener for the 2nd draft.

But now I’m spending too much time dilly-dallying with the internet and it’s already 11:30, so I need to get to work. I have to get Ian past the concierge desk of his apartment building, and then he’s going to have to explain to Zack about the dead body.

Okay, ROWers, how are your writings going?

Cold Feet

cold feet

My feet are freezing.

I spent last week tearing out the final bit of the carpet in our house, which happens to be in the room I do most of my writing. Now, sitting here at the keyboard, the concrete slab below my feet is chilling. Through my socks, through my slippers, that cold seeps in.

Sometimes it seems I spend more time rearranging and organizing my work space than I do in actually writing what I should be writing. Like if I can get everything absolutely perfect the words will magically appear on the screen without me having to open a vein to get them out. It’s a procrastination tool I use often to avoid writing. Because if I don’t write, I can’t fail at writing.

But what is failing at writing? In truth, the only way to guarantee failing at writing is to not write. More specifically, I think I’m afraid of spending all that time and effort to produce a book that nobody wants to buy. Of course, nobody will buy a book that is never written. I recognize this paradox, yet I’m still guilty of ignoring the story in my head and shuffling off to go build a new ice castle in Minecraft.

Self publishing technology has made it increasingly easy for authors to get their work out to those who want to read it. Anybody can write anything and put it up for sale. As a result, there are some real stinkers out there from writers who’ve never heard the words ‘professional editor.’ But you know what? They’re out there, which is more than I can say for me right now.

So I’ve made a new commitment to see this story through to the end, and beyond. I may not win the Nobel Prize for literature. Hell, I may not even sell 100 copies. But I will finish it, I will make it the best it can be, and I will publish it.

Cold feet be damned.

Row80 Update – Day 3

The first update post for A Round of Words in 80 Days comes way too soon after the first day post. After only two days, I’m still trying to find my rhythm.

Here are my goals:

  1. Write at least 500 new words on my supernatural thriller novel, In the Flesh, each weekday. Weekends are for family (which also means I may not update on Sundays).
  2. Get some exercise every day.
  3. Participate in life with other humans.
  4. Finish this round and accomplish my goals.

Here are my accomplishments:

  1. Writing: I’m using Jer’s Novel Writer for In the Flesh, and to that end I have refreshed my memory of using the program by going through the ReadMe document again and have set up my file for work. On Tuesday I edited and added some things, but today was a bust for working because my spouse took the day off so we could drive down to Las Cruces to shoot. Still getting orientated to my daily goal after Monday.
  2. Exercise: Finished ripping out the carpet and furring strips in my writing room, which had me on my knees and sweating. Thursday and Friday I’ll take out the hallway carpet, the last in the house, and bundle it up to go to the dump on Saturday. Home improvement stuff is definitely exercise.
  3. Life: My spouse took the day off today and I got out of the house for a while, as I said. We went to Las Cruces to shoot at the range (the first Wednesday of the month is Ladies’ Free Range Day), and afterward we went to the Chinese Buffet, of which we have none in our town.
  4. Goals: Working on it. 🙂

Tomorrow, spouse goes back to work and I can get back to work on the next scene of In the Flesh. I’m trying to decide if I want to replace the just-passing-through character in this upcoming scene with another character who will have much more to do with the story and my main character. I probably will, because they have to meet somehow, and it might as well be now.

Click here to see what other ROWers are doing.

ROW80 – Round 1 Goals

ROW80 LogoA new year, and a new round for A Round of Words in 80 Days, “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.”

Last year’s Round 4 was my first time with ROW80. At first I accomplished good things, then I switched up my goals several weeks in, and I still accomplished good things. Then I… didn’t. I stopped for no good reason. This year I’ll do better.

A lot has happened since then. I had to put a beloved cat to sleep the day after Christmas after he suffered a stroke on Christmas Eve.  My spouse and I rented and used a jackhammer for the first time and broke up an annoyingly angled walkway in preparation for building a catio. And I finally started ripping out the carpet in the large bedroom.

My long-term goal for writing this year is to complete, with edits, a novel and submit for publication. To that end, my Round 1 goals for A Round of Words in 80 Days are simple:

  1. Write at least 500 new words on my supernatural thriller novel, In the Flesh, each weekday. Weekends are for family (which also means I may not update on Sundays).
  2. Get some exercise every day.
  3. Participate in life with other humans.
  4. Finish this round and accomplish my goals.

As we move on in Round 1 I will update my progress each Wednesday, and sometimes Sundays when I remember and have time. Other blog posts will have to do with things going on around me in real life and epiphanies in my novel, which I’m ‘pantsing.’ That is, writing by the seat of my pants, without an outlined plot.

Wish me luck. Ready? Set? Go!

Click here to see what other ROWers are doing!

ROW80 Update – Day 49

ROW80 Logo
Sunday check-in for Round 4 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life.

My goals are simple:

  1. Increase my total word count by 500 on my WIP each day, Monday-Friday. Finished my first chapter, approx. 3500 words. Edited, edited, and edited some more (I really like the words “seems”and “just”) until I’m pretty happy with it. Submitted it to Flogging the Quill for external critique by random readers. Tomorrow I start Chapter 2, and try to figure out how to make more trouble for my demon protagonist. If anyone’s interested in reading Chapter 1 and giving me some honest feedback, email me (athancarter at gmail) and I’ll send you the .doc file. Oh, and I have a title now: In the Flesh.
  2. Get some exercise every day. Been slacking off most of this week. No excuses other than laziness.
  3. Participate in life with other humans. Most of my face-to-face human interaction this week has been with my spouse, which is okay, because she’s the most important person in my life. I did chat briefly with our across-the-street neighbor when she stopped by to drop off the pet-sitting payment she owed. She saw that I had stripped a pile of flaking paint from the wallboard on our porch and wondered what I was preparing to do. Gonna take those half-walls down and put in post supports, eventually. Then she told me about facing that I could put up around the support wood that’s there to make it look like posts. I hadn’t thought of that. “Talk to Dave,” (her husband) she said. Will do!

How’s life and work going for you?