Posted by: jeannineatkins | August 31, 2009

Keeping Myself Honest… and at the Laptop

My walking buddy Mary is away on vacation, but I’m still getting out with a dog or two. The big dog likes going to the woods with me, but he doesn’t stick to the paths as I do. Parker zips and jogs to check out swamps and squirrels. At almost nine years old, he’s happy with a loop, or maybe two; while enthusiastic and fit, he doesn’t have the impulse and propulsion of Mary’s two year old dog. And unlike Mary, I don’t keep a pedometer in my pocket, (along with dog biscuits),. I’m content with one loop, but because I know when Mary comes home she’ll be listening to how heavy I breathe on the hill, and because she’ll ask, and because it’s already embarrassing enough that this is my exercise while Mary considers it just a prelude to the gym, I make myself walk two loops. But seldom the three we do together. When she’s along, I can get around the bend because I don’t want to be the laggard – or interrupt the conversation. I can get around on the force of hearing the latest re Mary’s job, health, marriage, garden, thoughts on Teddy Kennedy and health care reform, etc.

At my summer writing place on the porch, it’s a different story. Nobody’s watching or counting, nobody cares too much. I’ve got to make those corners on my own. Today I’m telling myself to write until my pen, swiped from Crowne Plaza at the last NESCBWI conference, runs out. (you’d think they’d make hotel pent to last a short time, but somehow they don’t). I give myself mini-deadlines – finish revising these three pages – and when I’m done that, say, yay me, or something like that, check email, LJ, and now Facebook as reward (so thanks to all you writers!) and begin again. I keep the book I started reading at my elbow for promised company later.

Of course it’s not all about my challenging myself re how much ink a purloined pen holds and getting the breath of someone else’s words. I’ll find some small rewards in writing. Often I plod, and then, words topple into place. Or a new scene starts to come up out from under my fingers. I like things to be tight, but sometimes time must pass, and I get a little thrill whenever I find a new way to skip ahead in a few words, even if they’re as simple as changing paragraphs and saying, “Next week…” This always makes me feel like I’m getting away with something. I savor the look of a slight pile of pages as if I’ve never before seen such a sight. Or a glimpse on the horizon of Chapter 11. As if I’d never seen it before, loved it, got trapped, and let it send me back to Chapter One. No, no, it’s all new now.

Soon I get to go over everything one last-ish (ha!) time for my writing group, make an attachment, and hit: send! That little button-hitting moment is a thrill every time.

Anyone with good tricks about keeping yourself stuck to your chair? Or just pass me something caffiennated: thanks!



  1. I had great hopes to finish my revision this summer. Since I didn’t, I’m putting pressure on myself to write this fall, especially since I want good news by the next NESCBWI conference. Nothing like a little self-imposed pressure.
    BTW, I have a little pad of paper from the hotel.

  2. Good news by spring is a great goal. Good luck with your two hours. If you really concentrate as you plan — and I know you will, we’re here keeping all of us honest! — you’ll get a lot done.
    Those little pads of paper don’t have the same magic for me. I realize I’m not really consistent with the pen — maybe that’s why it’s lasting forever. But I like to feel it’s pushing me on.
    Good luck with the writing and the boots (I can’t believe I forgot the word “label.” Yeah, fifth grade seems early… but really fifth grade is the new teen I suppose.

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