"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Keeping up with it all

This is what I do: I run a bed and breakfast, I write 4-5 hours a day, and I read and research a lot. Yes, I have help in the bed and breakfast so that I am free to think and write. I also have four blogs of my own and maintain a blog for the Louisville Bed and breakfast Association. I occasionally blog on She Writes and BlogHer. In addition, I write for the following online magazines: Examiner.com, EyeonLife.com, Hub Pages, Pink and Salon. I also guest post on a lot of websites.

I started a memoir about a year and a half ago and have written around 56,000 words so far. I am now on my third re-write. I have a Beta reader who is reading my chapters and giving me lots of feedback. And I belong to a critique circle of writers, who are giving me critiques chapter by chapter. Recently I hired a professional editor to help with the final editing and polishing.

You probably think the first thing I’m going to say is that the answer to keeping up with this kind of schedule is organization. And, that is partly true. But there are some other components that are just as important. I’m referring to: flexibility, work ethic, and the ability to stay and to switch focus easily. Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to have a good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the motivation to keep going day in day out. Let me add one more thing here, despite the fact that I am eighty years old, I am in great health, get a little excersize, get 7-8 hours sleep every night, and socialize occasionally...but only occasionally, and always with close, positive friends. Most of my socializing is with guests who visit my Inn. I meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world.

Do you have to give up anything for the sake of your writing? The answer to that is a rousing yes!
I have given up friends and acquaintances who drain me or who are totally negative. I have, for the most part, stopped watching TV, gabbing on the phone for extended periods, going to business meetings, and shopping in stores. Except for groceries and meds and sundries, I do everything on-line. In place of those activities, as breaks from the writing, I run a business, play word and brain games on the computer, go to the gym, and read a lot. Right now I am reading mostly memoirs and books on fictive techniques.

I have people ask me all the time how I handle writer’s block, how often do I blog, and how do I come up with ideas for posts. Amazing as it sounds, I never have writer’s block. I try to post on all of my blogs at least once a week, sometimes more. Finally, the secret to coming up with compelling copy for posts and/or articles is to be compelling and interesting yourself and to focus on interesting things. How do you do that? By reading magazines, books, newspapers, other peoples blogs, on line articles, etc. There's a wealth of information out there...the world is full of it. Also, traveling, engaging in conversations, watching TV and listening to the radio will generate ideas. Another place to look is at yourself: Do you have hobbies and talents? Are you a good mom? a good cook? and so on.

You absolutely do not have to come up with something thought provoking for every post. You can post a recipe and talk about how your baby wont eat vegetables and what to do about it. Or post a video. Or do a book review or review a TV Show or movie or a new CD just out and why you think it's awful. If you’re new to blogging or have not tried it yet, try this: Just start writing about the things that interest you...the thought provoking stuff will come later after you get used to blogging. The more you write, the easier it gets. Jot down ideas for blogs as soon as they pop into your head. Good luck! I'll be looking for your posts.

Finally, the reason I emphasize blogging is that it will definitely help your all over writing. You can experiment with various styles, find your “voice”, and start feeling comfortable about putting your writing out there for all the world to see. This is how I got up the courage to start a memoir. This is also how I found my “voice”, the one I’m using to tell my own personal story. If you don’t have a blog already, I suggest you go to Blogspot or Wordpress and start one. You’ll never regret it.

if you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a comment


  1. Nancy, I feel the same way. Everything you say resonates with my life. I don't watch TV, I seldom go shopping (only when I need to) and I devote time to reading, exercising, writing, parenting. I also stay away from negative people. They are a threat to my creativity even though I have also used their negativity to create stories. (I wrote a memoir but I am letting it rest and I'm working on short stories now). One day I will be brave enough to go back to my memoir, though. As you say, we need to be courageous to write AND publish a memoir.Good luck with your memoir! I'm glad to be following you here.

  2. Julia, Thank you so much for the wonderful comment. It always make me happy to hear that someone has found a way to deal with the work and stress of continually writing and creating. Sometimes it can take a lot out of you. And yet, at other times, it's so exhilerating. Thanks for following.

  3. Nancy you are an inspiration! I am having trouble juggling all the balls in my life but when it comes down to it, I spend most of my time doing 2 things a) what I have to do to pay the bills (i.e., go to my paid job) and b)what I really want to do (i.e., writing and art). I am in the process of winnowing out all extraneous activity while still making adequate and fair time for good friends and family (i.e., socializing). Making time for socializing is the hardest part for me. TV and talking on the phone are long gone.

  4. Hi Carol, I got a kick out of you saying "Th and talking on the phone are long gone."

    I know what you mean about juggling. I get a little miffed that I have to conduct whatever business comes my way cause it interferes with my writing...but that's what pays the bills so it has to be done.

    I'm struggling a little right now with the memoir. The critiques I'm getting all want me to have carefully worked out story arcs like a work of fiction. But a lot of what I want to say is personal narration. I'm making it as descriptive as possible, but it doesn't always move along like a story...a beginning, middle, and end with conflict and resolution.

    I'm a little frustrated right now. Got any suggestions? (I'm putting this on She Writes to see what the girls in the memoir group say.)

  5. HI Nancy,
    Well you are one busy writer! Fist I find one of your great blogs, and now another. As a writer I find this one most helpful---have just spent way too much time poking around, but I've learned a lot! And thanks so much for posting me on your Favorite Blog list. Please keep in touch.

  6. Hi Lynn, so glad you stopped by to say hello. I really enjoyed your blog. Hope to see you around the net.

  7. Hi Nancy,
    I'm thoroughly impressed by your output (and flummoxed as to how you do it. You must be a really fast writer.). I also watch virtually no tv, don't shop (except as required), read memoir and "how-to-write-memoir" books and seem to be at my computer 90% of my day. I've been working on a memoir/family story for many years (I have read and notated literally thousands of pages of letters and diaries I've gone through in my wide-ranging family collection comprising 25 bankers boxes!) I'm also translating old German letters and still helping two "emerging adults" get established. My blog focuses on family history, but I'd like to expand it. I post once a week and each post, no matter how I try, takes at least a couple hours to finalize. I hear what you're saying about simpler posts, but then I have to change the blog's theme. Before I get into TMI, just saying how much I admire all you're doing. Re you're question about the arc for your memoir, EVERYTHING I read about memoir boils down to this quote: "It's all in the art. You get no credit for living." If we can't make our memoirs resonate with others and make them want to follow along as they would a good novel (i.e., there must be a story, good description, and dialogue), then it will be only for ourselves. Several good books come to mind that address this issue. If you want their titles, let me know (you probably know of or have them).

  8. Wow, Linda what a great comment. When I read all that you're doing in the way of research and deciphering german letters, etc., I immediately thought "no wonder her memoir is taking a long time." I didn't have to do any of that. My memoir is about the last 17 years I've been an Innkeeper, so remembering isn't too difficult. I do have to spend some extra time trying to get the chronology right...but from what I've read about memoir, it can be fairly loose.

    I would love to have the names of the books you had in mind. They might prove to be helpful. If you're taking a couple of hours to write one blog post, your posts must be pretty meaty.

  9. Hi Nancy:
    Here are a few very helpful books that come immediately to mind: Contemporary Creative Nonfiction by Roorbach. Fearless Confessions by Sue William Silverman, Writing & Selling your Memoir by Paula Balzer; Tell it Slant by Brenda Miller & Suzanne Paola; Wm Zinsser's classic: Inventing the Truth
    Dinty Moore's The Truth of the Matter. Judith Barrington: Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art; and a small, priceless guide: Marion Smith's The Memoir Project. I think I got the titles right. Happy reading! Re my posts, Yes, I guess you'd say most are pretty meaty--I'm often trying to relate the family info in the post to a greater "theme" that can reach others. Even if I'm publishing my mom's diairy entries (which requires transcribing, scanning and including photos/images) I try to relate the topic of Love and falling in love as universal. BUT--gotta find a way to get some in that are informative, but not so time-comsuimg. Take a look and let me know if you have any suggestions! Oops - also notice a "your vs You're" typo in my last comment. Sigh. What happens when I try to be "fast." :-)

  10. Thanks, Linda. The only one I've read of these is Sue William Silverman's book. I ordered The Memoir Project today...looks interesting.

  11. I never have writer's block either. I think people who do might be taking themselves too seriously, over-thinking it. Especially in a blogging forum. I agree with what you said in this post, just write what is going on in your life, what interests you, etc. It sounds like you have found a nice balance with the
    the writing and the B & B.

  12. Hi Michelle, So nice of you to drop by my site. I must tell you, your book title was so intriguing I bought it with my Amex rewards points...pretty neat eh? I'm looking forward to when I have time, so I can start reading it.