my writing desk

I was working on another YA fantasy novel, my third. I like it a lot. I like the characters, I like the setting, I like the plot. It’s fun. But I got an itch to try something else, something different, because I was having a tough time actually getting words out.

Then I saw the #1000wordsofsummer hashtag on Twitter and was like, hey, why not? So I have dumped out a thousand terrible words every day this week, bringing my new project to 6000 words so far.

It’s literary fiction. I’m writing in first person present tense. It has A Structure and A Theme. This is so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t see my comfort zone with a telescope. I like to write plot-driven third person past tense teenager books. I have no idea if this one will be better or worse or worth pursuing or what, but it’s neat that it’s going somewhere.

It’s also interesting that when I have a goal that is even a little bit external, I am far, far better at achieving it. 1000 words a day is my usual style, but now that there’s an official challenge, I am pulling a Nike and Just Doing It. Butt in chair, water bottle/teacup full, study music on, words out. I am writing in uncharted waters so I don’t care if it flows, if it’s good, if it’s readable, if it makes sense. I’m just dumping words. My plan is to double my intended word count for the first chapter so that hopefully I can pull out a few paragraphs to actually get this novel underway, that’s how bad I think it is right now. But I’m writing. And that’s the point.

1000 words of summer, you’re the best.

a knitting project in progress. white trees on a green background.

A thing I’ve known about myself for a long time is that I am a limited resource.

I love to do lists, categorizing things, and thinking about process, so I’ve got a solid working theory on how to do stuff. A lot of people look at my life – real or social media – and are baffled by how much I do. Because it is a lot! I write entire novels and query them. (STILL no responses – am I fucking invisible?) I knit sweaters. I bake sourdough. I go to the gym and run. I sew, draw, garden, and cook. I read over a book a week. Plus I have three kids, a partner, a cat, and a house.

I’m an enneagram devotée: I’m a 7. Sevens are, depending on who you talk to, gourmands, hedonists, thrill-seekers, party animals, or shallow, flighty, pain avoiders. I really hate those descriptors. Sevens do struggle to feel their feelings, not because we’re selfish, but because the well is so deep we’re not sure we can come up. Sevens often have attachment trauma and seek new stimuli in order to survive, because if we tune into the pain we’ll know that we’ve been abandoned and nobody loves us. But if you are a seven’s best friend, you know you’re loved. I like to think of a well-integrated seven as what Madeleine L’Engle called a Namer; someone who brings people out and helps them know who they are.

Being a seven means that I have to do all this stuff. It is not optional for me. If I am not doing a ton of different things, I will drown.

But, as I said at the start, I’m still a limited resource. If I do too many things I collapse. So I have categories, and I make sure I always have something going on in each category to keep busy, but I oscillate between options to keep from burning out. Some things are more all-encompassing than others, like writing a book. If I’m writing, I can’t sew. I don’t keep the house very clean. But now, since I’ve put writing on the back burner for a while, all this space has opened up and I’m reading voraciously. I finished five books in a week. I’m doing a bit of sewing. But I know that even if I want to, I shouldn’t start baking, or take up calligraphy, or work on drawing, unless I want to give up the things that have moved into prominence. It’s a balancing act.

I’ve also noticed that Twitter ruins my creative brain. Just demolishes it. I’ve learned a lot on there, and I’ve curated my feed to be interesting and challenging, but it also means that it’s intense and stressful whenever stuff happens, and stuff is always happening. I want to know what’s going on and what new awful thing is going to kill us, but I am a more grounded person without it. I can’t figure out how to get that information without being derailed by anxiety. For now, I’m taking a breather, and spending some time recuperating through creativity.

Oh, and cleaning up barf, because parenting is a joy at all times. No matter how much I tweak my other columns, the mom category always asserts itself in invigorating ways.