Archive for January, 2010

Job = life?

January 24, 2010

File this under realizations that don’t come to you when you have a job.

Quite simply — a job, especially one you like, creates your life for you; without one, you are faced with the opportunity and challenge of creating your own life.

Some people learn this sooner than others; I’m new to the party. Fortunately, I’m old enough and have enough passions, interests and ambitions to start crafting a structured life, but even so, I sometimes feel I’m working with a blank slate. I come from a workplace littered with distractions, deadlines, drama and delight. Now I’m facing the essentially solitary task of writing a book. There is no built-in start time each morning, no “first interview” of the day, no weekly deadlines — just one long project to write and a boatload of life chores that threatens to capsize my sanity some days. (I’m only 8 weeks post retirement and wondering where I previously found the time for all the busy work that sucks up my attention day after day.)

I’ve also discovered that once you say no to full-time work, you can actually say yes to just about everything else. For example, I now have the capability of traveling to China to teach English as a second language, training to be a vet tech, moving to Australia to become a jillaroo or doing manual labor at a garden shop. I could work at a gym, move back to Texas, hire onto a boat bound for anywhere, become a carpenter’s apprentice, beg my former employers to take me back or bum off various family members. See what I mean? When one door closes, every window in the place is suddenly open wide. I now have to choose exactly what I want to do because the job is no longer eliminating every other possibility.

Which is why I find myself creating a brand-new life — right here, right now — and it’s as exciting, daunting and fascinating as you’d expect. And despite all the tempting roads I travel in my mind’s eye, leading to various scenarios and lives I could lead, for now, the path I’ll travel is the one I chose before I even left my career. One that hopefully leads to me being a published author.

So — for the foreseeable future — find me (still) at my desk!

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An agent weighs in

January 19, 2010

People much more experienced in the book world than myself assure me that one needs a good literary agent in order to get a good book deal.

Since my fondest wish is to get a good book deal, I have taken heed of the wise counsel of the published writers I know and have been seeking out names of literary agents to approach with my book proposal. I say ‘my’ proposal, but my partner in the book, a local gynecologist and sex therapist, is hardly silent. Her clients are providing the surveys that will provide the research base for our book. But I’m doing the actual writing, which is why I keep saying ‘my this’ and ‘my that.’ So forgive me; I’m not trying to diss my worthy partner. I just feel solitary in the writing process a lot and thus gravitate to the singular pronoun.

Anyway, I’ve already sent my proposal to three established agents willing to read it, and one of them quickly sent back wonderful, smart comments on how to sharpen it up. She told me exactly what’s missing that a publisher will surely want included.

Is this great, or what? Every time I turn around, I’m receiving amazing help from generous folks.

A well-known writer friend at the newspaper read my initial stab at a book proposal as early as the middle of last year and helped me get it ready to even submit to agents. For instance, he clued me in to the fact that I’d need a sample chapter. I had no idea; that’s how little I knew.

Now with this agent’s help, I have more excellent suggestions to incorporate, which will take some time, but won’t be a problem because my doctor friend has now collected 950 surveys! Our goal was to have 1,200, so we’re gaining ground. I’ve been working with just 450 of the surveys, but now, with all the additional data, should be able to draw some conclusions for the book proposal that will whet publishers’ appetites.

Lots to do, so thankfully, my workspace is finally ready! The painting project from last weekend was a huge success, and though the yellow was a bit brighter than I’d imagined, its cheerfulness is undeniable. I met the cable guy on Friday and have wireless capability throughout the condo—not that the place is large, mind you. Check the picture above if you don’t believe me!

Coming soon! War stories of organizing the reams of surveys we’ve collected!

A space . . . created

January 9, 2010

So it’s been a while between postings, but there was the whole Texas, Christmas, snow, family, New Year’s, friends, airport thing to tend to.

I had many adventures during my 16 days away, some of which I may blog about later, but for right now, I have actual progress to report. Yes, I realize it’s about time. But it’s big news!  I have located and rented a place to write. This has become necessary because our house is for sale and will not tolerate the persistent mess I am required to make as I dig through the surveys we’ve gathered for the book, spread research books around me and just generally take up a whole room with creative artist’s sprawl.

Sure, I’ve read dozens of stories of fabulous people writing fabulous books with no sprawl space and no computer and little food and whatever other hardships can be conjured. I’m fully aware that good prose doesn’t require a big desk or a bit of solitude.

But a wonderful couple I know recently moved from a third-floor condo into their first home, and the condo has been empty for several months. We struck a deal for me to hang out there days, making a fine mess, finding a bit of solitude and getting comfortable with my writerly self. It’s close to the water, so it’ll be great for walks, and even has a porch area out back where I could carry my laptop. Naturally, it’s unfurnished, and while I have a book shelf and an excellent, recently-purchased office chair, the one thing I really needed was a desk of some kind. I knew the place was right for me when my friends, just before leading me into the condo, reluctantly told me that the one piece of furniture left behind (because they just couldn’t find a place for it at the new house) was a big desk. Was that a problem?

Well no it isn’t! Where do I sign?

I’m up late tonight because I have a bit of excess energy I won’t be able to burn off till tomorrow. See, in a few hours Paint Day begins, and I’m pathetically eager to show up with rollers and masking tape and grubby clothes. We’re going to turn the walls pale yellow—I got to choose!—and I’ll finally be doing something to bring the book closer. Having a physical task that will help create the space I’m longing for has me chomping at the bit.

By tomorrow night I’ll undoubtedly be exhausted and sore, but believe me, it’s gonna be that happy-tired feeling, the one that makes you sleep deep and peaceful.