Friday, December 30, 2011

Living a Writing Life

“I'm either going to be a writer or a bum.” ~ Carl Sandburg

(Image: me trying to decide to write or not to write)

I recall reading an anecdote about a mill worker who dies and his family discovers a hidden book of poetry under his mattress. They wonder: Was he a millworker who wrote poetry? Or was he a poet who worked at a mill?

I feel like that sometimes. No. Not like a millworker or poet, but like a person who is leading a double or triple or maybe quadruple life.

I’m an IT manager, a father/brother/son/husband/friend and writer. Many times the thing I’d like to be emphasizing and focusing on is being THE WRITER, but often he has to take a backseat to all the other stuff going on that makes up plain old life.

In thinking back on this year I couldn’t help but wonder—have I been doing a good job of keeping up on the writing side of my life?

In 2011 some of the ways I expressed my writer-side:

§ Wrote, edited and revised a lot. Results: 3 completed short stories, two novel draft revisions (Blackheart) and more scenes and material for use with my current projects and other projects down the road.

§ Entered two writing contests (one of which was a bust, the other I won’t know until February if I did well or not)

§ Took a “Book in a Month” class (April) at the Loft where I made more progress on my 2nd novel, Sunlight. (And no, I didn’t complete a book in a month… but I wrote many more pages than I might have otherwise.)

§ Went to two writing conferences, one at UW Madison in April and another at the Loft in November (I enjoyed the Madison workshops more, but the networking was better at the Loft). One highlight at the Loft conference was past instructors making a point to seek me out and ask: “How’s Blackheart?”

§ Did an in-person “pitch” of my book Blackheart to two different agents. One asked to see more (which I sent out but have never heard a word back on) and the other gave me a reference to an agent friend who I will be looking up next year.

§ Went to two book events/readings where I got to listen to some authors I enjoy read their work and talk a little about how they live their writing lives (Neil Gaiman and Chuck Palahniuk). I even got to sing with Neil Gaiman at the Fitz (well, it was an audience sing along.)

§ Attended my first Sci Fi convention in St. Paul (Diversicon in July) and sat in as part of a panel with the rest of the Scribbleratti. To say the least we were strange bedfellows—but there were more people in our “audience” than in our panel—so I was happy.

§ Did some research for my next novel, including

o A police ride along including my very own encounter with a “vampire”

o A trip to Duluth, MN on a very sunny fall weekend (both the location and the time of year where one of the scenes in my book Sunlight takes place)

§ Took part monthly in critiquing and being critiqued as a member of the “Scribblerati” writing group and blogged monthly (hey, you’re reading our blog now)

§ Wrote 202 times out of 365 days in 2011. I’d always like this number to be higher. Some days that writing might have been a quality paragraph that made it to the page. Other days it was anywhere from 2 to 11 hours at the writing desk with lots of completed and revised chapters. Most Monday days and Saturday mornings were dedicated to my writing craft.

So what about your writing in 2011? Anything that made you feel like more of a writer than the alternatives? I’d like to hear about it.

Goals for the year ahead

2012 is my favorite year, the Year of the Dragon, and I hope to keep on writing like a mad man. My writing group is currently giving me feedback on the latest version of Blackheart. Once all the feedback is in I’ll let it sit for a month or so and then clean my manuscript up and then start looking for an agent. I plan to finish the last half of Sunlight in the spring. I know I’ve got another short story or two in me. My work schedule is changing a bit, so my best writing times will be Monday, Friday and Saturday mornings. Mostly I’m going to keep on writing in the spare moments, as I am able.

Wishing you lots of great writing in the year ahead.


1 comment:

Jon said...

Happy New Year!

Great post, Mark. It sounds like you're going full speed ahead.

I was going to put up a blog tracking my own writing stuff over at my blog today, so I'll save all that for over there.

Can't wait to read Sunlight!

Is the year of the Dragon your birth year? Mine is Tiger. Rowr.