One Writer’s Journey

July 3, 2020

4th of July: Recharging and Regrouping

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:30 am
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Normally the 4th is a time to be spent with family.  But social distancing has put a kink in that.  The good news is that the verteran’s home where Dad lives is reopening to visits (outdoors/social distancing) on Monday.  Maybe that’s why I’m feeling ready to tackle my writing.

And that’s a good thing because two of my goals for the year have been languishing.  I want to finish the first draft of my mystery but when I tried to work on it a few weeks ago, I realized that I just didn’t remember enough.  I needed to reread all 180 pages that I’d written so far.

I just finished that yesterday and I am definitely ready to write.

I also set a goal to query agents.  A few weeks ago, I noticed a pattern.  I am very, very skilled at putting off querying.  Either I need to find one more agent so that I can query 3/4/5 at once, or somehow this agent is less than perfect and so I just don’t query.

Recognizing this pattern was half the battle.  I found an agent that interested me, so I queried.

It feels odd to be goal setting and ramping up to write in July.  Isn’t this a January activity?

But now feels right.

The boy is training for a new job.  When he gets off work, we’re going to do a nice dinner.  In reality, we are doing this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  We may not get to spend the whole day together, but we will enjoy the evenings that are available to us.

I don’t know what your holiday weekend holds but I hope you find in it what you need!


May 18, 2020

Give Yourself a Break

The other day a friend commented that she was having to force herself to read her current book.  But it wasn’t for a class or bookclub.  It wasn’t for research/  It was something she was reading for fun.

Really?  It didn’t sound like fun.

My advice?  Back away from the book and give yourself a break.  That is something we need to remember both in our reading and in our writing.

Sometimes I will push myself through when I am reading a book that I feel like I have to read.  Sometimes it is for bookclub.  Other times it is a book that is good for me – a tough topic but something that I believe I should know more about.

Last week, I was reading one of those books – a good for me book.  Ugh.  I was learning a lot but it was such a tough slog.  It felt like every chapter was weighing me down and this book is a monster at 600 pages.  I just couldn’t do it.  Some books require more energy than others to read and it is okay to put a book aside for another time.  Give yourself a break.  So I picked up The Golden Thread. The only problem now is that I have a deadline and I would much rather be reading.

Lately a group of writing friends and I have also been finalizing coronavirus essays to submit.  I had three.  I picked out two markets and realized that I can only send a single piece to each.  I was going to have to leave one of them sitting here on my desk.

I started with my favorite piece.  I tweaked and nudged and smoothed it out . . . and realized that it just doesn’t hang together.  So I went over it again.  And again.

Then I realized that I have two other pieces left.  I can let this piece sit.  Some pieces just take longer to come together.  And it is okay to give yourself a break and put something aside until you’ve had time to process it.

We are living in interesting times.  If for no other reason, we sometimes need to remember to give ourselves a break.  Back away from that book, whether you are writing it or reading it.  Try something else for a while.  It is okay.  Really.




March 29, 2019

Creativity: Flexing Your Muscle

I am currently drafting my second 15,000 word manuscript in two months.  I know, I know.  To a novelist, that number is pretty ho-hum.  But I’ve been doing other work as well and I’ve noticed my energy ebbing.

Then the beads that I had ordered arrived. I was making a necklace for my sister’s birthday.  I happily started my current audio book and got to work.  Even when I realized that I had messed up the pattern and need to disassemble almost everything I was fine.  No biggie.  These things happen!

I finished the necklace and immediately got back into my manuscript.  Tippy-tippy-type!   I was super charged.

I can’t explain why it is that I sometimes forget how doing something else creative fuels my writing.  Fortunately, I had bought beads to make myself a necklace as well.  As soon as my energy level started to ebb again, I was back in the dining room with beads and beading wire.  Then it was back to my manuscript and I wrote a chapter in a day.

I’ve made a bracelet and am planning to make earrings.  Then I’ll have to find another way to recharge.  I’ve been eying things around the house that could use a coat of paint.  Knitting is also an option.  Maybe I’ll make more cacti.  They are pin cushions although I don’t trust the cat enough to keep pins in mine.

As much as I enjoy it, writing especially when I’m on deadline, takes a lot of energy.  To keep up the pace, I have to take care of myself.  That means exercise breaks, time with my family, reading/listening to good books, and recharging my creative batteries.  I sure hope I have some green yarn in my stash because purple cacti would just be peculiar.


November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:59 am
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For those of you who celebrate, I’d like to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  Take the time to recharge your creative battery.

I don’t know if this is just a MidWest thing but our Thanksgiving day tends to stretch into Thanksgiving Weekend.  Thursday, we have dessert with my Dad and dinner with my sister and her family.

Friday we’re doing dinner here before my son has to work.

Saturday is lunch with a college friend.

Sunday after church we will have dinner with my husband’s turkey-despising family.

And I have two rewrites for two different books, both under contract. How much work will I get done on either of these project.  Probably not an awful lot because, like I said, Thanksgiving lasts the entire four day weekend.

But that’s okay.  Writing is a career that I love but you definitely need to take a break every now and again so that you have the energy to create.  See you on Monday!


June 29, 2018

5 Tips on Regrouping and Recharging: When to Stop Writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:43 am
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I’m prolific. At one level, it seems like bragging to say that.  But the reality is that I am.

So far this year I’ve written 2 nonfiction books for teens, 2 for older elementary students and rewritten three of these with comments from my editors.  I’ve reworked two nonfiction picture books for the retreat and am reworking them again.  And we’ve cleaned out my dad’s house.  As if the emotional journey there wasn’t hard enough, the air conditioner went out during what may have been one of the hottest weeks of the year.  And we’re talking Midwest hot.  Not Seattle hot.  Sorry Seattle.

Llama photo from pattern. Fingers crossed that mine is this cute.

Oddly enough even with rewrites to do, my last few weeks haven’t been particularly productive.  Simply put, I need a break.  So I took a vacation.  We spent almost a week in Tennessee with my in-laws.  By the time you read this, I’ll be on my way back most likely somewhere in Illinois.

Creativity takes a lot of energy.  It’s easy to forget that because we aren’t physically lifting heavy loads.  Instead we do it intellectually and emotionally.  It is important to take time to regroup.  I did a great job of this early in the year but later when the deadlines started coming I fell into old, bad habits.

Don’t be me.  Be smarter.  Here are 5 tips to help you out.

  1.  Take breaks throughout the day.  When you freelance, it is easy to be on the job all day long.  Don’t do that. Get up from your desk for five minutes every half hour.  Weed the garden.  Stretch.  Get the laundry from your basement laundry room.
  2. Schedule your day.  When you start your work day, start with what has to get done.  Your blog post for tomorrow.  The new chapter intro your editor wants this afternoon.  Then plan when to end your work day.  Once that time arrives, do something other than work.
  3. Screen free time.  If you work on-screen, you need to spend time off-screen.  That includes your phone.  Sundays are my screen free day.
  4. Have another creative outlet.  I’m not sure why doing something other than writing that is creative recharges me, but it does. I’m currently crocheting a llama.  My husband doesn’t get it either.  Maybe your creative thing is cooking.  Or decorating.  Or gardening.
  5. Schedule fun.  This might be a weekend trip to the Art Museum.  Or a week with family.  Or a hike.  Put these things on the calendar so you don’t ignore them.

Writing is difficult enough.  Give yourself what you need to have the energy to write.




December 26, 2017

Women of NASA

What do you get for Christmas when you’re a good children’s writer?  Fortunately, I live among people who know me well.

My husband gave me the Women of NASA Lego set.  I’ve wanted this one ever since it was first announced.  I wrote about all but one of these women.

My niece gave me bookends that look like antique typewriters. These are going to go in my office as soon as I clean off three more shelves and can hang my new bookshelves.

My friend gave me a pair of leggings that look like a star-filled night sky.  I’ll be wearing them to yoga so that my back is healthy and allows me to spend time at the computer writing.

And my brother-in-law gave me an idea for a new story.  He recently went to a talk on bees and the urban environment and just how unique our own area is where these little flying honey-making wonders are concerned.  I’ve got to look for a book that was recently published but this is pretty timely and hopeful so it is definitely something that I want to look into.

I hope that you’ve all taken a few days to rest, recharge and prepare to write well into 2018.  And, with that in mind, I have a Lego set to assemble.


September 4, 2017

Labor Day: Taking time to recharge

I hope everyone is enjoying Labor Day weekend.  No parades for us.

The boys have the weekend off so we spent a few days in the country.  Spending time away from the city is a good thing.  It reminds me that not everyone has access to wi-fi 24/7 and some people living place with patching to non-existent cell service.  Yes, indeed.  There are places in Missouri without reliable cell service.  We call them mountains and while they don’t rival the Rockies they do block a cell signal especially when all of the trees are leafed out.

When you living in the city, you tend to think of highways as 4 to 8 lines, divided, and, of course, paved.  We drove highway DD Sunday.  Two lanes in the wide places and no center stripe because a large portion is unpaved.

But I saw an amazing cow.  I think it might be a longhorn and she had the cutest calf.  The photo isn’t great but all we had handy were our phones.  The white blob is the cow.  The little brown and white spot behind that?  The calf.

Take some time off every now and again and explore somewhere you’ve never been.  It doesn’t have to be far from home.  It just has to be a new experience.  You never know how these things might find their way into your writing.  And even if they don’t, you’ve taken a day or three off to refuel.



February 2, 2017

The Fuzzy Barrier Between Pre-writing and Recharging

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:30 am
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yogaWhen I set goals for myself, I have a tendency to over do it.  Let’s just say that my t0-do list has a tendency to look like a six year-olds Christmas list.  Most weeks it is two plus columns long.

More often than not, I’m working on multiple projects at a time. This week I’m reworking the outline on my young adult SF so that next week I can get some writing done.  I finished the research on and drafted a picture book. I pitched a manuscript to an agent and came up with a query for a magazine.  And I still have a devotional to write.

When I have this much going on, I have a tendency to spend too much time at my desk.  Yes, yes.  It is rather obvious. If I’m going to get that stuff done, I need to put my butt in the my chair and write.

But to get ready to work on something new, whether it’s a picture book draft or a query, I need to spend some time away from my desk.  I call it pre-writing because it is something that HAS to happen before I write.  It is part movement and activity and part-time to let my mind wander.  Because of this, it helps if it is something not particularly brainy.

Walking is good.  Rowing is good.  But the best of all may very well be yoga class. Why yoga class and not just yoga?  Because in class, Leslie puts us through our paces for 1 hour.  I can’t hurry through relaxation or skip a pose that I don’t much like.  There’s accountability.

That said, me being me, although we are supposed to be present and not let our minds wonder, that’s pretty much what happens.  I’ll be stretching up with one hand in triangle and then my brain says, “Hey, I’ve got the perfect transition into the next picture book spread.”  Just as I’m exhaling into a bend, the best possible way to describe my character is suddenly THERE.  Lucky for me, Leslie knows all about wandering minds.  “When you mind strays, and it will happened, just gently draw it back.”

And once I’m done with whatever physical activity I was able to work in, I am much more capable of sitting down to write.  After twenty minutes or half an hour, my mind may start to wonder but I simply draw it back to the task at hand.  After all, I’ve worked off enough energy to focus and I have a solution or three ready to apply.




January 11, 2016

Screenless Weekends

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:31 am
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cookingOne of the best writing habits I’ve ever developed doesn’t actually involve writing.  It involves going off-line and screen free.  Unfortunately, I broke this particular habit during one of my book rewrites.  I need to redevelop it.

At least one day each weekend, I don’t even turn on my computer.  I don’t check my e-mail.  I don’t go on Pinterest.  If I read, I don’t do it on my husband’s Kindle Fire (very handy for my crochet pattern PDFs).  It also means that I don’t get much writing done on this particular day but that’s okay.

What do I do instead?  I go out with my family.  This might involve visiting my Dad, playing a game with my son or hiking with my husband.  We might go to a movie or a family birthday party.

I read books.  There is very little more decadent than sprawling out on the sofa on a Missouri winter day, shawl draped over my lap, cup of coffee in one hand and actual print book in the other.

I knit.  I crochet.  I might thread new elastic through a skirt casing or put a button back on a shirt.

One day I brought up my mother-in-law’s wedding china and arranged it in my curio.

Sometimes I listen to blue grass or classic rock and clean up in my office or do the ironing.

I bake bread or other less healthy, but fantastic, things from scratch.

It may not be death-defying or super-exciting but it is valuable to me as a writer.  It turns my attention from the reality of glowing pixels to the much larger really of the world.  It gives me time to decompress.  I recharge and I stretch.  By the time I get home from yoga Monday morning, I am ready to write.  Are you?  If not, maybe you need to join me in spending some time off-screen.



December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:07 am
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Grandma Bradford's Christmas Angels.

Merry Christmas!   To those of you who celebrate, I hope you are having a peaceful and love filled day.

My son has been off school all week and has next week off as well.  Although I’m blogging and reading contest entries, I doubt that I’ll get much else done but that’s okay.  We all need down times so that we have experiences about which to write and the energy to do it.

I know the house will be full of boys at least once but we’ll have others here and there throughout the week. They’ll inspire me in many ways, which is fortunate, but I’ll also have to feed them!  As grandma would say, they eat like a mess of field hands.

I hope you all get to spend some time with the field hands, boys and loved ones in your life.  Read, play games, cook, do whatever recharges you and readies you to write.

That way you’ll be ready to get to it in 2016.


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