It’s not about the desk (ok, it’s a little about the desk)

Posted: April 20, 2018 by Rachel

I ordered a desk yesterday. A small, white thing with clean lines and a drawer that the reviews say is deceiving because it doesn’t open all the way. But what do I care about that, really? I didn’t talk to Dom about it first. I didn’t tell him I’d been debating the purchase for a couple months now, mostly because I knew what he’d say. “Why do you need another desk?”

I have a nice, big desk in a separate office that is cold in the winter and hot in the summer and I can never quite figure out how to dress properly so that I’m comfortable either way. But the problem is that I work from home, at that desk, in that space. For eight hours a day, I sign contracts there, finalize book interiors there, write marketing plans there, among the other eight hundred tasks I do as part of my publishing job.

That’s the problem.

When I’m in that office, sitting at that desk, I’m in day job mode. And no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I can’t break out of that work mode after work hours.

What I’m trying to say is that at that nice desk, in that lovely office, I cannot write.

So I started thinking about buying another desk. Just a small one that I could fit in the bedroom, or even the guest room if need be. It doesn’t really matter where it is at this point as long as it’s not in the office.

The desk is set to arrive by end of day Tuesday and I can only hope that once I figure out a home for it, the rest of it—the writing bit, the finishing-of-the-novel bit—will all sort itself out.

Why do I need another desk?

Let me show you why.

The Writing Folder

Posted: March 20, 2018 by Rachel

It’s been a bit of a strange morning. The sky is solid grey, not a cloud in sight. There’s almost no sun. The house feels cooler than normal, and my new wool socks just don’t seem to be cutting it. Probably I should just slip into a warm bath, light a candle, make a fresh cup of coffee that hasn’t gone cold. But, oh, that’s right—I have to work.

**

I’ve been working on something new this year. It’s definitely not a romance novel. It seems silly that it took me so long to realize this “new thing” is probably what I was meant to be doing all along. But there’s comfort in knowing it happened now, rather than a year from now. I’ve always carried around this regret over having not started writing seriously sooner. But, I digress. That’s not really what I was thinking about when I sat down to write today.

There’s this folder in my documents that has moved from computer to computer over the years. It’s aptly named, Writing. I clicked through it a little this morning; all the years of Nanowrimo attempts (and a few wins), the word documents titled “untitled” or “new story” that contain little more than a few short paragraphs. I’m great at beginning; but not so great at finishing.

As I clicked through the folders within folders within a folder, I got the idea that maybe there’s something in there worth continuing. A diamond in the rough. And so I started reading over a few things. While most of it is absolute garbage, there were some pieces that took me right back to the past, as though it were the present:

**

Dean is doing that thing again where he paces the room, arms crossed tightly over his chest. He’s making me crazy, and I want to tell him so. Instead, I watch him. Back and forth, back and forth. And then I drop my head and begin to cry.

“How?” he asks, for the third time.

I’ve got my head in my hands but I lift my gaze to meet his. A small chuckle breaks through my whimpers. “I think we both know how this happened.”

Dean stops pacing. “You’re really laughing right now? This isn’t funny, Brigette.”

I clear my throat. “No, I suppose you’re right.”

He resumes his pacing. I focus on the rhythmic click clack of his shoes along the tile floor. I align my breathing with his steps, willing my heart to slow.

“A baby, Brig?” his voice is incredulous. “We don’t want kids, remember? We both agreed on that from the very beginning.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

I know what he wants me to do. But he’s going to have to be the one to say it.

**

Something started, but not finished.

I worry

Posted: February 25, 2018 by Rachel

Last week, I heard something in an interview with Cheryl Strayed that stopped me cold. I hit pause—Cheryl’s face frozen mid-sentence—and tried to regain my breath. I sat there for a few more beats before I decided it was best if I got up and moved around (I have a bad habit of sitting for periods far too long), so I went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of coffee—my third of the day, probably.

And then I finished watching the interview.

I’ve since watched plenty of Big Little Lies and read Hourglass (and half of Still Writing), not to mention worked plenty of hours, but I can’t get what Cheryl said out of my head. I fear I never will.

She’d said that she worked as a waitress, specifically, because it was something she could turn off at the end of the day. She didn’t have to take her work home with her. When she wasn’t waitressing, she was writing. There were no blurred lines.

My life is one big blur. I work in publishing, from my home office. My days are made up entirely of reading books, thinking about books, marketing books, helping authors, acquiring new authors, etc. And when the day is over (pretending that I can turn it off at 4pm), I try to then think about my own writing.

I love my job, I sincerely do, but there is no turning it off at the end of the day or over the weekend. And because I work from home there is no way I can’t take my work home with me.

So I worry. I worry that it’s not possible to focus on my own words with so many others’ in my head as well. I worry that, working from home, I’ll never achieve that separation that Cheryl spoke of. I worry that the struggle will always feel like it does right now: impossible.

I worry that I won’t figure out how to make it work.

Could it really be as simple as finding the perfect chair? The perfect routine? An ideal room in which to write? The ideal notebook? (These are all things I’ve read lately—because we writers are superstitious creatures, did you know?). Maybe I’m only the perfect pen and favorite coffee mug away from figuring it all out.

Wouldn’t that be great!

My (Very New) Writing Habit

Posted: February 18, 2018 by Rachel

My (Very New) Writing Habit

For almost two weeks now, I’ve been doing this thing where I sit down in the same place and same time every single day, to write. I give myself an hour, because, really, that’s all I can afford most days. I’ve read enough from successful writers to know that the real work is sitting your butt down in the chair every day and, well, I wanted to figure out a way to make that work for me.

I take it quite seriously; that hour every day. Sometimes it means rushing my kid out the door (if it’s my day for drop-off) so that I can be back at my desk by 8 am. Other days it means telling my family I’ll see them in an hour and then close myself in the office. One morning, it even meant sitting in the hotel lobby while Dom slept in upstairs (and here, it should be noted that I sat and wrote in front of a lovely, warm fire).

I don’t always write for the full hour, but you can be sure my ass is in my chair that whole time. I’ve never been great at creating habits from scratch, but this one? It will be well worth it in the end.

—–

I haven’t really talked to many people about what I’m working on now. There are a select few who know how I’ve been spending my mornings; what thoughts are now filling my journals and notebooks, but mostly, I’ve kept it to myself. I think that, right now, while I have some inkling of what it could all be, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. It needs to be something more, something bigger, before I share it with everyone.  I have a habit of jumping the gun, and I don’t want to do that this time. Not with this project. Not with these words.

These words are rebuilding me, letter by letter.

The day I still didn’t write

Posted: February 18, 2017 by Rachel

Today I opened up my WIP for the first time in ten days.

I’m meeting a girlfriend for a movie and decided to stop for coffee first. At the last minute I slipped my laptop into my purse in hopes that I might feel inclined to get back to work. I ordered a small lunch and a coffee and ate in silence. Then I pulled out my laptop and opened Scrivener.

And nothing.

Forty minutes until I leave to meet my friend.

(I found this website, which lead me to read this post, which I kind of needed to, really).

Twenty-five.

(If I’m stuck—which I am—should I be moving on to something else for now?)

 

And now, ten minutes until I have to meet her, and all I’ve managed is to write this little stream of conscious post about nothing much at all.

Fuck. What a complete waste of time.

Earl Grey Tea, 40k and Envy, Among Other Things

Posted: June 13, 2016 by Rachel

I haven’t blogged in a long time, but I’m sitting here in this surprisingly empty coffee shop with a steaming cup of earl grey tea and earphones in to block out the bad choice of music, and it seems like the perfect time to catch you up on what’s going on.

I spent a lot of time home alone with my troublesome three-year-old this weekend while my husband was out showing houses, so this break of mine — these couple hours that I can call my own — feel like a breath of fresh air.

I know I have this annoying habit of being negative more often than not (which I’m working on every day, believe me). but here’s the truth for ya.

Life is kind of insanely difficult right now.

Between my full-time job and writing I am busier than ever. Dom is even busier than I am. And my kid… well, lets just say that if I had known what three would be like, I wouldn’t have been complaining about two.  Most days I’m fighting just to keep my head above water.

And to not drink all the wine.

I’ve been struggling with writing How To Be Someone Else lately. I’ve hit that oh-so-difficult part where you’ve written the thick of it, and you know the ending, but there’s that section in the middle that just doesn’t want to be written. Despite my best attempts I keep writing and re-writing. Typing and deleting, though I know I shouldn’t be. I keep trying to remind myself that this first draft just needs to be written, and I can worry about the rest later. But goodness… it’s not coming easily these days.

I hit the first goal I set for myself — which was to hit 40k by June 10 (I hit it on the 6th) — and I’ve set myself a new goal of 50k by the end of the month. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but with how much I’ve been struggling lately, I’m not sure it will happen. But, I keep trudging along.

I had a late lunch with a new friend on Friday and she asked me how my writing was going. It definitely hurt to tell her that it wasn’t going well. Admitting it to myself is one thing, but having to say it out loud is a whole new ball game.

Fortunately it wasn’t anything that a purchase at Lululemon couldn’t solve. #kiddingbutnotreallythough

This past week we had one of our biggest authors in town. I spent a lot of time with him, his wife and my boss, talking about everything from writing to the Vietnam war, to the sad state of people these days. For the most part,  I’m a quiet, reserved person, but when we get on the topic of people doing shitty things and being shitty people, I get really worked up. I felt like my Italian husband, waving my arms in wide circles while I rattled on (seriously, Italians know how to use their hands in conversation).

I guess the timing of this is pretty shitty, considering what just happened in Orlando, but I’ve always been so disappointed/horrified/embarrassed/ashamed of all the horrific events that happen in this country. Honestly, anytime stuff like this goes down I miss Canada more and more. I could talk about it for hours on end, but suffice it to say, there are some really awful people out there in the world.

I attended a high school graduation party last night and ended up speaking with three recent graduates about what they want to do with their lives (god, how much do I hate that term!) and I was absolutely blown away by their thoughtful responses. If I think back to when I was 18 and fresh out of high school, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I’d only known — like I’ve always known — that I wanted to do something creative. Totally vague, right?

Anyway, these girls blew me away. I sat across from them, my legs crossed, enraptured in their stories. And I was envious, did I mention that? What I wouldn’t give to go back to 18 and do things differently. And I wasn’t just envious… I was full on jealous. That is until they told me they thought I was 27 or 28… then I just loved them. Screw envy, jealously… it ruins everything.

So I guess that about catches you up with what’s been going on with me lately. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to get back to my earl grey tea and see if I can’t make a dent in the last 9k of #HTBSE.

THE LIFE OF AN AUTHOR WITH A FULL-TIME JOB + A THREE-YEAR-OLD

Posted: April 17, 2016 by Rachel

Writing a book is hard work. Writing a book while working and parenting full-time is even harder.

Here’s a little glimpse at how most of my (work) days go.

5AM — Open my eyes (usually on my own… no alarm necessary) and try to wake up. Get out of bed, pour myself some warm water with lemon, and settle down in the dark family room to write.

5:45-6:15AM — Some time during this time, my three year old wakes up. Since my husband has already left for work, I’m on my own with getting him breakfast, changed and off to daycare.

8:15AM — Back from daycare drop-off and my work day begins. I work from home and usually eat lunch at my desk. Sometimes, if I need a break, I will take my laptop into the backyard and write for a few minutes.

4:15PM — My husband picks up our son from daycare and they immediately head out into the backyard to play while I try to write.

5:30PM — I start on dinner and we all eat together. After dinner we spend time playing.

7:00PM — Our son goes into the bath. Usually my husband does this while I tidy up downstairs. Maybe once a week, I head off to a coffee shop to get some writing done, though this hasn’t been happening as of late…

7:45PM — I watch an episode of Handy Manny on the iPad with my son in his bed and then it’s lights out.

8:00PM — If the hubby is up for it, we watch an episode of whatever TV show we’re binge watching at the time. If he’s out, or not interested, I will start writing.

9:00PM — If I’m not too tired, I try to write.

9:30 – 10:00PM — I am not a night owl, so usually by now I’m asleep, hoping for more time tomorrow to write.

And there you have it: the life of an author with a full-time job and a three-year-old.

TELL ME: WHAT DOES YOUR DAY LOOK LIKE?

I’M NOT GOING TO CALL IT WRITER’S BLOCK

Posted: April 5, 2016 by Rachel

I’ve gone through periods before where I’m stuck and can’t seem to get anything written down. But this… this feels awfully different. Too different. Fresh off the heels of writing and publishing Losing Lily, I dove right into writing BEING LEAH, and to say that it has been an epic struggle would be an understatement.

Obviously, I know how this book is going to go:

Boy and Girl met in previous book; went through some stuff, but found a way to be together. Here is where their real story begins. Only it’s not that simple. The past doesn’t want to stay in the past. But in the end, love wins, because, hello… everyone wants a HEA (happily ever after). I could choose not to write it that way, but really… I just can’t bring myself to. I love these characters. Even I am rooting for them.

This book has been coming along so slowly that I — the pantser — actually sat down for an afternoon and laid everything out, plotting my way around this and that. And now I have a plan.

I thought for sure that this would be the answer to my problems. But no.

Still nothing.

I’m not going to call it writer’s block, because that feels like I’m letting it win. What I’m going to do is sit down tonight and dig in to it. I mean really dig in to it. And over the course of this week I’m going to see if I can give it the attention it deserves… if I can give it wings to fly… if it has legs…

You get the picture.

Please send all the coffee.

11 Readers + Writers You Should be Following on Social Media

Posted: March 9, 2016 by Rachel


It should come as no surprise that I’m a little too addicted to staring at beautiful bookstagram accounts or getting glimpses into the lives of other writers that I admire. So, I’ve put together a list of instagram and twitter accounts that I’m really loving lately in the hopes that you might find something special in their posts as well.

BOOKSTAGRAMMERS

@bookbaristas – If you don’t already know about this lady and her account then shame on you.

@crimebythebook – I blame Abby for getting me hooked on thriller/suspense novels. Plus, her photos are so dark and moody. I can’t get enough.

@sweptawaybybooks – Alyssa’s feed is like Abby’s but the lighter, brighter version. I’m always curious to see what she’s reading.

WRITERS ON INSTAGRAM

@authorrsgrey – Rachel (name sisters!) shares the perfect mixture of life and work photos. Seriously. I find myself getting lost in her feed a lot.

@emilybelden – Honestly, I follow Emily because I’m curious about her life… and I mean that in the least creepy way possible. But seriously, she’s awesome. We had a DM conversation about my wedding bands the other day. She’s a cool gal.

@colleenhoover – Colleen just makes me laugh; it’s as simple as that.

@suzykrause – I adore this lady, and not just because I can email her complaining about how damn hard writing is and she will understand. I love the glimpses I get of her life, and even when she’s writing about the seemingly mundane sides of life, I’m always in awe.

WRITERS ON TWITTER

@blotsandplots – I have a soft spot for miss Jenny, if you can’t tell by now.  She has been someone I’ve gone to for advice and for beta reading and she has never let me down. If you’re a writer (or aspiring writer) you need to be following Jenny. Enough said. And join her facebook group!

@shesnovel – Like Jenny, this is an account you need to be following if you’re a writer as well. Kristen posts some seriously amazing stuff.

@emilyhenrywrite – Emilys’ twitter feed makes me laugh, and I love how she pretty much responds to every tweet sent her way. I just read her book, The Love That Split The World and…. wow.

@kseniaanske – This woman amazes me, and her words and encouragement push me to be a better writer and reader. Follow her asap.

Because It Was All I Could Think About

Posted: November 27, 2015 by Rachel

I take my seat on the worn, red chair with the sliver of sunlight shining on it, and pull my MacBook from my purse. I’ve positioned myself in the fiction section between shelves sixteen and seventeen, somewhere amongst Davis-Downs and Doyle-Evaristo. I can see the covers of Evanovich and Griffin, Grisham and Eugenides; the latter being one of my favorite recent reads. My love of writing is succeeded only by my love of reading, so it’s no real surprise that I like to settle in here at the library to write down the words swimming in my head. The only thing that would make this better is if I had a coffee in hand, but I drove right past three Starbucks on the way here without it crossing my mind.

I’ll have to do without. 

Yesterday my husband told me that he is in awe of the writing that I have done this year. He “doesn’t know how I do it.” Sometimes I’m tempted to agree with him, and find myself wonder how I do it day after day, but then I remember that I simply can’t not.

I’m a bit of a fritter-er. I jump from one thing to the next without much thought, without finishing one project. I used to think that it meant something was wrong with me, but something I read lately – of course, I read it – reminded me that it only means my interests are vast. I want to dip my toes in everything to see if it’s something I could like. A lot of the time it isn’t, and that’s okay; it’s oddly comforting to know that I at least tried. 

But sometimes that little dip of my toes isn’t enough, and I want to jump in. For years – most of my childhood and adult life, really – I was simply dipping my toes in when it came to writing. Until this year. 

Two thousand and fifteen. I jumped right in, feet first, became fully submerged. And I don’t think I can ever look back. 

Writers are always asked why they want to write. Do they want to be famous? Are they in it for the money? Maybe they want to write that book that they wish existed. Maybe they’re inspired by all the reading they do. 

I’m not sure where I fit in just yet. Right now, I’m just doing it for the love of the game. Maybe one day, years from now, I’ll settle in here at the library again; maybe I’ll look for the same spot, between shelves sixteen and seventeen, running my fingers along the cool, black shelving until finding what I came for: Del, Rachel. 

Wouldn’t that be a lovely sight? 

Wouldn’t that be a lovely feeling? 

Wouldn’t that just make all the hard work worth it? The late nights, the cramped hands, the long ago out of control coffee consumption, the missed outings with friends; wouldn’t it all be justified? 

I like to think so. 

And that’s why I keep writing, coffee or no coffee.