For the second time in a year, I’m packing up files from my study. I worked as a manager for a small company for many years in a variety of configurations from a downtown office, to part-time, to a home office, dependent on my parenting stage and business economics. In March, I handed off all those files to another delightfully competent human being.
Today, I’ve been clearing out my school PTO files and supplies, having decided to resign as president of the organization to focus on life at home. When it comes to organization, I’ve got mad skills. Things are labelled and filed, sorted and categorized. I can generally find things when I need them. I can take boxes of paperwork and like some sort of home makeover show, an hour later, they are part of a system. What I lack in people skills, I overcompensate for in filing.
A person is never as bad or as good as they believe they are. Despite a pattern of being in leadership roles, I am very impatient with myopic thinking. At some point, exchanges get unpleasant when the veneer of civility wears thin under stress. I’m not proud of this and I have often wished I were better at dealing with people. What if I don’t need to berate myself about that anymore?
I’ve been pondering those social skills, as I let go of yet another vestige of social interaction. My role had me interacting daily with parents, teachers and administration. Now I will be a SAHMWLANFOIHOFHEOH. Sorry, I think stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) is reductive, like most labels, even if I feel happy that this is a choice for me. But I’ve hit the point of no excuses for not getting my first novel revised, a second novel drafted and writing to my heart’s content.
I daydream that my husband and I will start off the day, lying in bed and talking quietly. I don’t have to leap up and “get things done” at the crack of dawn. I think about sitting down with my mother-in-law sipping coffee at leisure. I don’t look at my phone. I’m not in a hurry. I listen attentively to stories I’ve heard a thousand times. I imagine smiling as my daughter re-enacts whatever 5th grade drama happened that day or talks excitedly about the cool mod she just added to Minecraft. My mind is not drifting. I’m not fidgeting. I’ve been writing all day, so I am present, in the moment with her.
Who will I be without the busy-ness? Will I learn to slow down or will I, as my friends and husband insist will happen, find something else to fill the space up with? I never knew I was that kind of person. I love solitude, but often my solitude is still doing, not being. Can I be okay not constantly being in service to a cause or a task? Will I find the sense of uselessness overwhelming? Will I get over the feeling that without work or volunteerism, I’m a self-indulgent prat?
The answer to many of those questions is that I will likely be the same person with the same need to be the same way. What do I do with that?
Turn the kaleidoscope just a notch.
A lifetime of organization and juggling – how can I redirect those skills? I’ve begun forcing myself to read about the routes to publishing, having lived comfortably in denial that I’m even close to that stage. But I have a long learning curve, so I’m trying to educate myself along the way. There’s a lot of pieces to it, from marketing and promotion and public appearances. Contracts to figure out. Covers to pick. E-books to mangle.
Organization. Check. Research and asking questions. Check. Dogged determination. Check. Going outside my comfort zone. Always. Detail-oriented. Indeed. Public speaking. Been there, done that. Direct, no nonsense communication. Perfect for business.
Oh yeah, and that whole writing thing? I’m on it. Hours when the only jackass I have to deal with is me.
And there it is. Just a tilt of the head. Shift perspective. Nothing lost and everything to be gained.Some resources online for the path to being a working writer:
I haven’t read John Scalzi’s books (yet), but started reading his blog several months ago. He’s a busy writer at home and on the road. He’s also opinionated with an edge that I admire. He is the kind of working writer I’d like to be – straightforward, hands on and in charge of his career. And I love his no-nonsense blog comment policy.
Francis Guenette has published two books and blogs about the ups and downs of writing and self-publishing. I enjoyed reading about her experiences navigating everything from blog tours to life near the lake…with bears.
David Gaughran writes about the world of self-publishing. It is an eye-opening blog about navigating the rough waters of self-publishing, from the perils of vanity presses to the jaw-dropping tactics of traditional publishers. He is a great resource for the writer entrepreneur.
I’ve been reading her blog for the last year and at some point will read her Self-Printed: A Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. What I enjoy most about her blog is that she seems to be having fun in a process that is often painted as complete drudgery.
17 thoughts on “Turning the Kaleidoscope”
First off, many thanks for mentioning my blog as a resource for getting on with the writing life! I love the way you outline your expectations as you embark on a new chapter and the self-awareness that makes you realize you won’t reinvent yourself as much as turn the kaleidoscope a notch in a new direction. Beautiful imagery because the view is totally different but of course you are the same kaleidoscope as before. I wish you all the best as you embark on getting that first novel out. Exciting times. I thought your checklist looked pretty thorough – I see success in your future. Looking forward to checking out your book soon 🙂
You’re welcome – I do have to admit a fondness for bear pictures, in addition to reading about your writing journey! Reading about other writers’ experiences really helps ground one in the realities facing writers today. Even with realistic expectations, it’s a pretty exciting time to be a writer – so many more options than in the past. I do know that I have A LOT to learn. Still, thanks for the encouragement – it’s much appreciated!
Good luck on your new path. I admire your organization skills as I have none. My method is to pile things up and file only when the piles start falling over. 😀
My organization skills are not part of my natural make up. I think moving a lot as a kid and being in the Army really forced me to get my act together. Every once in a while, when things get busy, my desk devolves into a reflection of my natural modus operandi (much like you describe). I am oddly comfortable working in a mess at times.
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I’ve heard that a clean desk is the sign of a disordered mind so the opposite must also be true, right? 😀
Part of the shift is to consider your writing your JOB, not self-indulgence or less worthy than all that other stuff you’ve been doing. You’ve just cleared the path for a new career–even if you never get a word published. Just one word in front of the other for several hours a day. That’s what’s next.
Oh no, I can procrastinate one step further. Today I’m setting up files for my new life as a writer-entrepreneur. I am just trying to embrace the idea that my neuroticism will pay off in the end. I am putting together my NaNo outline, though. That’s something.
Ha! I SO resemble that remark!
Reblogged this on Paul Karam Kassab.
Great resources! Thanks!
It will be interesting to hear how your lifestyle change affects you. I anticipated all kinds of changes after retiring in September.. but it is amazing how much has not changed. Perhaps we are driven more by habits than by schedule
I may have missed it but what does the acronym SAHMWLANFOIHOFHEOH stand for? Stay-at-Home-Mom-Wasting-Life-And-Never-Finds-Office-and-Interior-OF-Home-Easily-Over-Hauled?
I left it open to interpretation. And naturally someone would interpret it.
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It was bloody difficult to come up with something. Try a little oversimplication next time. “HBND” Human–Being-Not-Doing. (Ignore that it looks like an acronym for Husband. That’s purely coincidental.)
Once again, reading about the changes you’re making in your life – and the challenges, anxieties, hope, all that goes with it – has given me a fresh sense of my own journey. I suspect you and I are about as different as it’s possible for two women with similar interests to be, and yet so much of what you say resonates with me. Keep sharing!
It is a journey for sure and one that is not linear. These last couple weeks have been all about the struggle, so I’m looking forward to a couple of days of rest, before heading back into battle.
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This is exciting to read, this change you are making. I love that you are embracing the idea your neuroticism to pay off – that means it probably will. Good luck with NANO!
Thanks, Ellen. You have a lot going on now, writing-wise, which is wonderful! I’m looking forward to NaNo as a good kick-in-the-pants to get things rolling.