Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What's your Writing Routine? Here's Mine ... and Weekly Update

For all of us, I suspect that our writing routines change as our lives change. I am finally, fully in a place where I can spend as much (or as little) time on my writing as the mood strikes me, and that is a very good place to be! We're still having winter here, as evidenced by the picture below. That's how farmers shovel the snow off their driveway, LOL.

Those eleven years when I worked 25 miles from home, I disliked days like these. It meant hubby needed to plow me out of the driveway, and then, frequently, plow the county road we live on, the half-mile distance to the highway. Frequently, the highway would be a mess as well. Sometimes, conditions were so bad, I had to call in and say I couldn't get to work--which meant I had to use a day, or days, of my oh-so-precious and very limited annual leave. Bummers. (Get out the hankies and violins.) Again, LOL.

Now, I get up in the morning, have a leisurely breakfast, spend up to an hour reading blogs while tending to personal hygiene and getting dressed. Then I head to the basement to write. The basement is usually chilly, as we don't heat it unless we're spending time in it. So I fire up the pellet stove and pull out a packet of Little Hotties Hand Warmers, shake them and tuck them into the pockets of my flannel. Even when the basement's warm, cold air still seeps through the leaky double doors near my treadmill, so it feels good to tuck my hands in my pockets from time-to-time and warm my fingers while pondering my story. In all, it's still much, much warmer than my office when I worked in a Carnegie Library built of cinder blocks in 1906.  
I set my treadmill to 1.0-1.5, and away I go. That's very slow--slow enough to write at my computer. If I were jogging and not writing, I would set it from 3.5-4.5, spending most of my time at 3.8-4.2, and jog for up to an hour. 

My treadmill desk is the best thing that's happened to my winter writing routine. Last winter, my first winter as someone who was pursuing writing as a job, I never once went down to the cold, cold basement. Instead, I sat for long hours, sitting while writing, and getting no other exercise, and paid a price. 

I didn't know then that I was/am a diabetic, and I need to exercise almost daily to help keep my body from becoming more and more insulin resistant. For the uninformed, insulin resistance is bad news. 

I work for a minimum of 90 minutes, and sometimes up to three hours at the treadmill desk before moving on to something else. By that time, my brain is exhausted from the intense concentration required to write. It's time to be kind to my brain and give it a rest.   

When it's time to move on, I generally move around the corner and into my scrapbooking room, where I spend 30 minutes to an hour before going upstairs to fix lunch. It's an excellent mental break, and much-needed creative one. ('Funny, but writing feels far too mental for me for it to "feel" creative, although of course it is.)

I never feel more alive, as the saying goes, than when I am scrapbooking. In other words, I am never more present than when I am pondering a layout, its colors and patterns, its journaling and so on. Maybe the creative difference between writing and scrapbooking is that with scrapbooking, I can literally put my fingers on, and visually see (rather than mentally seeing) the story that is being created on the page.

As to why I am more present while scrapbooking, as opposed to writing--can't answer that question now. I need to think about it.

If the day's business allows it (frequently there are errands to run, other tasks to tend to), I try to spend another hour or two at my writing in the afternoon. That writing is done in my office on the third floor, sitting at my desk.

In the spring, my routine will probably change. I'm so looking forward to being able to jog outdoors again, which might eliminate the writing/walking at the treadmill. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

In other news, I discovered I didn't do quite so badly, after all, in the contest that I thought I had bungled. As a finalist, I had been given a one-week opportunity to revise and resubmit before it was sent on to an agent and an editor.

I made changes suggested by judges and then resubmitted it. Unfortunately, in my haste to make the changes, I discovered when I re-read it later that it was riddled with typos and other problems. I have no doubt that it counted against me greatly, however I still managed to tie for third place, I discovered a few days ago.

There is so much to be learned about your entry, and your personal writing behaviors, by entering contests. I highly recommend it. 

The editor who read it was David Long, from Bethany House. The agent was Laura Bradford, of Bradford Literary. The scores they gave me weren't as bad as I had expected, but neither asked to see more. Laura Bradford gave me a very good tip, which I am working on now. She liked the story, the set-up, the characters, and wanted to know where the story would go next, but said I need to work on my voice to make it more distinctive.

On looking over what I wrote, I couldn't agree more, and am working on that now. My details tend to be vague; I'm making them more specific. As they say, God is in the details.

So that's my writing routine, and some news about my writing journey.


What I've been reading: 

Journey of Hope by Debbie Kaufman is a historical romance and somewhat of an African Queen story, but with an inspirational twist. It's wonderful!

Wheat Belly by William Davis came out in 2011, but I'm only now getting around to reading it. Downloaded it to my Kindle yesterday after seeing when I was in Costco that it's in its 38th printing! Holy moly. I've read several other books that deal with the popular topic, the most prominent one being Grain Brain, which came out a couple years after Wheat Belly. I don't know if wheat is terrible for everyone, as the authors of books on this topic contend, but it is definitely bad for people with gluten intolerance and diabetes--I know that for a fact, as hubby and I are gluten intolerant (him) and diabetic (me). When he eats wheat, he gets leg pains and headaches. For diabetics, all carbohydrates result in an increase in blood sugar, but wheat apparently raises it even more than simple table sugar. Ugly.

Awareness by Anthony deMello is a book on mysticism by deceased Jesuit Anthony deMello. Someone on a blog post that I was reading recommended deMello, so decided to download a couple of his books to my IPad. I've always had an interest in mysticism, however almost everything I've read so far of deMello's book, and I am 75% finished, breaks no new ground for me. The book was published a couple of decades ago. I think a lot of its ideas have become relatively mainstream--or at least, mainstream for people who are interested in the subject. Other good authors on the subject are Eckhart Tolle and Alan Watts, both of whom I enjoyed, and learned more from, than deMello.

My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren is a contemporary inspirational romance with dual love stories. The characters are all deeply physically or emotionally scarred. Life isn't easy for them, and I am definitely rooting for love, and trust in God, to help heal their wounds.

What does your writing routine look like? How was your week, reading, writing or otherwise? What books are you reading? Anything noteworthy?


  1. Wow! congratulations for placing third. That is really a wonderful thing (next to getting a request for more). I think that's quite an accomplishment and should be an encouragement. Enjoyed reading about your leisurely schedule, too. We are somewhat retired here, but for some reason every day brings something else and I have yet to establish a writing schedule. Hit and miss mostly. But still trying to get in new words as I go, so I'm not throwing in the towel yet. Stay warm! We were -2 this morning here...

    1. Oh, you're much colder there than we are here. I hope you'll be able to create a writing routine soon. It builds momentum and, with your story fresh in your mind each day, reduces anxiety over starting up again. At least, that's true for me.

  2. I'm still wrapping my mind around those Hotties hand warmers you have to wear in the morning. LOL. Although it does sound warmer than the library....and what a terrific routine you have. Isn't it great to be retired? But onto the contest....WOW. How encouraging. Congratulations, Cathy. I know you have worked at this for a long time. All that hard work paid off.

    1. Someone once said to me that she'd never heard of an unhappy retired person. A contest placement is just one step along the journey, but for me, a cool new one. Thanks!

  3. A treadmill desk, now that is fabulous! We have a lot in common, I am a retired librarian and a writer (2 co-authored books published by a Christian publisher). Nice to meet you here.

    1. Terra, thank you for stopping by. I'll be following you. I bought the treadmill desk on Amazon.

  4. Way to go on getting third place, Cathy! That's AWESOME!!!

    I love how the hand warmers are called Little Hotties. :)

    1. HI Kim! I love the name of the Little Hotties too, and also that they are so useful for warming the hands. My story is constantly evolving. It's better now from what it was when I revised and resubmitted for the contest. But it's still such a long process!

  5. Oh.. CONGRATULATIONS!! Third place is wonderful - and it sounds as though you received some terrific advice to use in further revisions.

    I am so cold natured that I do think I would be disciplined to voluntarily work in an unheated basement .... but I love the treadmill desk idea and wonder if I should investigate that concept for me. I find that with this focus on writing, I remain seated for hours at a time.... not good!

    Your writing routine is inspiring. I need to add a scrapbooking component to my day as well. All work and no play... well, I am quite boring theses days.


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