The Other Things that Writers Do

It’s Saturday morning and as I lay in bed considering how I will spend the rest of the day, my focus is on writing-related tasks. Doing some actual writing is a given, but that will be in the regularly-scheduled, evening slot between about 9:30 and 11:30 p.m.

I briefly debate the backyard. The need to prepare the garden and sew the crops smudges the back of my mind like a newspaper beneath a white linen napkin. But surely that can be put off today. It is less than 5oC and raining out there. The seed potatoes, all ugly translucent shoots, eagerly seeking fertile soil to invade, will wait another day.

Perfect opportunity to throw another log on the coals glowing in the wood stove, nestle between the cats on the couch and do something useful for my writing career.

I start with some administrative tasks for one of the writing groups I belong to. I am also one of the organizers (we call ourselves the moderators, or mods, but I like to insist I really a rocker) of this online group. Like all good relationships between humans, it takes work to make it run smoothly and accommodate the needs of different, yet in this case all artistic, temperaments. We put effort into keeping it going. Despite everyone’s best intentions, people drift off, get other priorities, have changing needs in their writing and other lives. When I joined four years ago, I wasn’t sure how the online group was going to work but I have been provided with many brilliant suggestions on how to improve my writing from this group. Many of us in the group are fast friends, although we didn’t know each other before the group started and we provide support for each other in many other ways than just writing critiques. I also belong to a local critique group, which is just as valuable to me as the online one, for all the same reasons. I must email my chapter for Tuesday’s meeting to the group and read the ones I missed last week.

Writing groups can be like family. My Mom insisted the entire family had to eat dinner together. It was her way of putting some structure around our emotional ties, the ties we depend on to support us as we take risks to learn and grow.

I entertain the idea of finding a few more markets to submit the stories I have in the file I cleverly call ‘for circulation’. But I’m not feeling invincible today, so I will leave that task, with its potential for rejections, with the potato eyes.

Various other ideas cross my mind:

  • maintain my web site
  • follow more interesting people on twitter
  • are there local networking events I should sign up for?
  • can I find a workshop to hone my skills?
  • should I go to the bookstore?

The bookstore is a slippery slope. It is important to read as much as you can in the genre you write in, and outside it. I was astonished at how many books some of my writer colleagues collect with the intention of reading them. I cross the bookstore off the list. Better to read one of the three books I am in in the middle of currently.

And of course, I can write a blog post. This fits right in with one of the things writers are taught: make everything you write accomplish more than one thing that moves the story forward.

I look forward to the evening, when I know what to do. Settle into a new short story about aggression that is shaping up nicely. And then I will have to deal with the hard part of doing the ‘other things’ writers must do to make their work successful.

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