Ah, the glorious life of a writer. Sitting by the pool drinking cute fruity drinks with little umbrellas in them while watching the pool boy, Illya, check the pH, I hear the hum of the mower. That means Sergio will be coming into view, and I hope he’s not wearing a shirt. Jon comes to me, adjusts the umbrella over my head, and refreshes my drink. He leaves behind a little plate of dark chocolate-dipped strawberries. I type a few lines on my laptop and then decide a dip in the pool might clear my fuzzy writer’s mind. But as I unwrap my Hawaiian-floral cover I’m wearing, revealing the latest mono-bikini, Jon appears with a phone. I roll my eyes and take the call. I’m not the least bit interested in appearing on that popular late-night television show. I don’t care that Huge Jackman will be there. I hang up the phone and stick my toes into the refreshing water. A writer’s life is so difficult!
Sorry, there is no pool, no pool boy, I beg my neighbor to cut my lawn (seeing him shirtless is not exactly high on my list of wants), and those fruity little drinks would probably pack thirty-five pounds on me and send my blood sugar through the roof! I hide in my house. I sit in front of a very old computer and I type on a keyboard that no longer shows half of the letters . When I must, I stand, walk to the back door, put the leash on the largest dog and take both dogs into the tiny patch of backyard, slap at mosquitoes, beg them to make good poo-poos, and then promise them a treat as I hastily retreat into the air-conditioned house, and hope I haven’t bought 16 mosquitoes in the house with me.
I routinely spend about ten to twelve hours a day at the computer working on a story, either writing or editing, skimming emails, enjoying a little social media for a half hour, or researching something for a story. It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had. There are days that I never utter a word to a person. Nine times out of ten, my children text message me or email me. But I’m also very lucky to have some wonderful friends who understand my need to crawl into my writer’s cave to work on a story, especially when I’m writing new story. I do have a few friends in other states who call me on a regular basis, and a local writer who drags me away (not hard to do) from the computer almost daily for a trip to Starbucks. (I’m the grande, decaf-espresso-bean pour-over, and they usually have it made before I walk through the door. I’m a gold card customer! That means I drink way too much coffee there.) So I’m really not alone.
I actually like my life. It’s not perfect – it’s far from it. My house is a mess. My life-style looks like a train wreck waiting to happen. I have a treadmill and I don’t use it. I have two dogs and a cat that keep me company and provide constant love and adoration. (They also take up most the bed and leave me a tiny leftover bit of mattress real estate.)
Writing is my life. It’s how I make my living. It’s more important to me than any job, because there is no guarantee in this business. If you show up at a job for 40 hours, you will get paid at least minimum wage. I can put in 100 hours in a week and that doesn’t mean I’m going to make a $100. So why do I do it? I have no clue.
Writing doesn’t make me special. In fact, I think it relegates me to the world of other insane folks who call themselves authors because they have wild imaginations and they put it to paper. But when I look around the coffeehouse here on Main Street, I see some of the most wonderful authors you could ever meet. We each have different writing styles, and we write more than just contemporary romances. Most have husbands to support them. One of our younger authors is a single parent trying to raise a child, working full time, and writing. (I don’t know how she does it, but I admire her for it.) And several are supplementing the family income.
The truth is – writing is hard work. It takes time and effort to hone the craft. From the moment that a story begins to emerge in our brains, we kick into gear. The need to write takes over and we write, in spite of everything else that goes on in our lives. So why do I write? Because I must…it’s an obsession. Ask any close friend of mine, and they will tell you that I get totally absorbed into my writing. The story takes over my life. The characters become real. Getting the story down is a frenzy of words and fingers that can’t keep up.
Once it’s written, the real work kicks in. Those first few times of re-reading and tweaking the story are crucial to the story itself. After that, it’s a matter of hard edits. Each paragraph needs to be looked at. Is it pertinent? Is each sentence strong and worded correctly? Is the action in the proper order? Am I breaking up the various sentence structures within the paragraphs? Is there enough emotion? Is each scene anchored? I could go on but it would bore those who do not write. Those that do are nodding. There’s a whole lot more to writing a book than just writing a story.
So what did I do this summer? I rearranged my goals because I was asked to be part of a Christmas anthology with USA Today Best Seller, Debra Holland. (Christmas in Sweetwater Springs: A Montana Sky Short Story Collection to be released approximately October 1) I tossed aside a story that I wanted to write and wrote for the anthology. I’ve never written a complete story in less than 12,000 words. That was hard work! But out of it came another story that belonged to the heroine’s sister, and I was compelled to write it. (Yes, the voices talk to me.) So I embarked on a second story that I hope I will be able to release the same time as Deb’s anthology. Plus, I have the Clare Coleman diary that I’m working on. (The diary is mentioned in A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming.) Since people are asking for the diary, I’m hoping to release that in November.
I don’t write in first person, but a diary is first person! Furthermore, I’ve taken this crash course in western history. I’m writing about a tribe of Native Americans (Crow aka Apsáalooke) that had no written history, and they were very unique from other tribes in the area. They still are. I’ve fallen in love with them and their culture. I’ve had to take liberties with history. Not enough to rewrite it, but to make it plausible while allowing the true history to shine through.
So even though I live an hour’s drive in traffic from the beach, I haven’t placed my feet on the sand this summer. And honestly, my ghostly-white legs haven’t seen daylight in years. You couldn’t pay me to wear a mono-bikini. (Well, maybe for enough money, I’d do it, but I’d look pretty silly in one.) Instead, I’ve hidden in my writer’s cave that was once the formal dining room in this old house and I’ve written. It’s not exactly glamorous or exciting.
It’s my life. It’s the one I’ve chosen. The air conditioner works. The car passed inspection without my spending another penny. My bills are paid. I’ve got some wonderful friends, and three furry creatures that love me. I have readers whom I’ve never met, who leave wonderful five-star reviews and ask for the next book. My jeans are actually loose on me. My backyard is a riot of pink, purple, and blue Morning Glories. I have two lovely daughters and two beautiful teenage granddaughters who make me very proud. And a few times a week, I can afford go to Starbucks for coffee with a friend. And maybe that’s all that matters in life. But I do long for a real vacation.