This year I’ve decided not to attempt NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo, the writing challenges that I’ve enjoyed in the past. This year is just far too hectic for me to even think about doing a challenge like either of those. A novel this month? Nope. A blog post each day? Uh uh.
I consider it a good day if I make it to work on time with my lunch in hand and matching shoes on my feet. I’m taking a class, attempting to participate in my writing group, and traveling out of town twice this month. I’ve also agreed to be an advance reader for a friend and prepare a review of the novel for its launch date. In November. Of course. It’s enough.
I do miss the daily routine of blogging before heading off to work, or making sure I get it done before the clock strikes midnight. I miss the links to other fascinating blogs and “meeting” bloggers with huge hearts and imaginations. I even miss the increased blog traffic it generates (I’m not gonna lie people, I like it when the numbers go up). I don’t miss the stress, though. There’s definitely a little pressure there, albeit self-inflicted. At the end, though, I’m always glad I’ve done it. I’ll miss that feeling of satisfaction this year.
Overall, I’m glad I didn’t commit to one more thing. I’ll be out of town, doing classwork, preparing Thanksgiving dinner with my sweetheart, and working. I’m thankful I chose not to stress myself out even more. Sometimes you just have to say enough is enough.
I am now the proud new owner of several novels that I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to read. It’s all one click’s fault. Well, no, maybe it isn’t. It’s all Twitter’s fault. Nope. Not it either. Oh my gosh, it’s all my own fault.
You see, I was happily working on my latest novel for NaNoWriMo when I felt the need to look at my phone. I know. I shouldn’t have done it, however, I did.
There, by the little Twitter bird was a red circle, meaning that I just HAD to click on it to see what was new in the Twit-o-sphere. Well, reading Twitter is like eating potato chips. You can’t read just one tweet, you have to scroll down and read 47 of them, at least. And in that 47, if you’re actually following people who are of interest to you, there are several clicks that take you other places. Places like novelists’ websites, where they gush about other novelists’ new books, and tell you things like, “hey, read this book, it’s on sale for just $1.99 and it’s fabulous!”
Well, how can I NOT read this fabulous book endorsed by this fabulous author when it’s only $1.99? I do read a lot on Overdrive, which makes MOST of my reading free, but I also can’t resist a deal, and authors still get something when I buy a $1.99 book, so there’s that.
Well, one click leads to another click which then leads to another click, and before you know it I have several new books downloaded. Swell.
Now I’m not unhappy about this. I didn’t spend a ton of money, and as I said, I’m not opposed to authors earning a little something from their writing, not at all. I’m just saying that those evil geniuses over at Amazon know what they’re doing. Sigh. I just hope that someday they’ll be doing the same thing for me and my books.
I like to think of myself as many things. Some of them are irrefutable. I am a mother. I am a teacher. These are simple facts. I have a son, therefore I am a mother. I go to work each day and spend the day teaching fourth grade students, therefore I am a teacher.
What else am I, though? And how do we verify these different identities?
Lately I’ve been a writer. How does one become a writer? By writing, some would say, but many others would say that one becomes a writer only when one’s writing has been published. Even that definition isn’t sufficient for many people. I’ve heard the argument that in order to be considered a writer one must be published and paid for one’s writing.
Well, I do write. And I have been published. I publish here, in my own little corner of the internet, regularly. Nobody pays me for it, though. I’ve also been published on other websites, like Scary Mommy and Education Week. Again, no money in that, but to me it’s still pretty cool.
I have actually been paid to write. Not much, but I’ve submitted tips to a teaching publication that have been published and I’ve been compensated for them. I also designed a fish quilt that not only made it to the cover of Quiltmaker, a well-known quilting publication (it’s an inset photo, but hey, it’s still on the cover), and the design was turned into a kit complete with gorgeous watery indigo fabrics and magentas and purples for the fish. I was paid for that too, not much, but still they cut me a check. That one, however, wasn’t really a writing win, even though I was published.
I’ve been writing for NaNoWriMo, too. I finished a manuscript during NaNoWriMo in 2013, and I’ve been revising it with help from my critique group (another thing real writers do, I’m told). Now I’m into a new one story, about a young English teacher who needs to solve a mystery that threatens the security she’s found amongst the quilters she meets in a small town. See what I did there? Teaching, quilting, things I know and like.
I also teach writing. I teach it to my fourth graders, sure, but I’ve been teaching it in the summer too, for the past three years. Kids from seven to seventeen have come to these camps, and working with them as they explore the creative side of writing has been such a privilege for me. We’re not focused on grammar, structure, or spelling in these camps. We’re focused on imagination, empowerment, and risk-taking. We’re helping kids to develop their voices through their writing, whether in a poem about a leaf or an ode to their dog or a comic about super heroes and villains or an introspective look at their own strengths.
This type of writing is so powerful for kids that I’ve begun an after-school creative writing club at my school that is well attended. Both boys and girls come in to write and share their writing, blasting the stereotype we sometimes hear that “writing is for girls.” I’m sure Stephen King, James Patterson, Dav Pilkey, Neil Gaiman, Alberto Ríos, and many others would disagree.
So yes, I’m a writer, even though you won’t see anything I’ve done on the shelves at Barnes & Noble and if you search me on Amazon you’ll come up empty. I’ll keep at it, though, and maybe someday you will see my work there. Maybe someday soon.