As you may know one of the perks of writing is that you can do it in pajamas. Without applying makeup. Or, if we’re going to be completely honest, showering or washing your hair. (This, of course, is assuming you do it at home.)
The fact that writing is not a 9-5 job is also a perk. Except the truth is a writing day is often much longer. It can stretch into what feels like infinity. It’s always there. Waiting. No matter how many pages I’ve written that day, I always feel I should have written more. Plus my office is in the center of our house (and way and way too close to the kitchen if you consider the refrigerator visits: # of pages ratio) so it’s pretty much impossible to ignore my desk and the computer monitor that sits on it. Jewish mothers have nothing on a blinking cursor when it comes to inflicting guilt. Which may be why a lot of writers end up writing seven days a week.
For years I’ve told myself that I need to take time to “fill the well,” to go out and have fun, take a real vacation. That constant deadlines, and therefore constant writing, is not healthy. Every New Year’s for more years than I want to admit, I’ve vowed to find some balance. But I never have. Until now.
I can’t say exactly what the turning point was-the recently emptied nest? the milestone birthdays?–and I don’t want to think about it too much for fear I’ll stop. But late this summer, I cleared my calendar and took my very first vacation with a girlfriend since my twenties. I still can’t believe I spent two weeks in England and Paris. I finally toured Highclere Castle, which I’ve been dying to do since I fell in love with the series that inspired me to write While We Were Watching Downton Abbey.
I saw Buckingham Palace, Canterbury and Wells Cathedrals, drank my first Shandy at the White Horse Pub in Oxford, took High Tea at Fortnum and Mason in London, drove through the small villages of Sussex, took a car and high speed train under the English Channel and spent a magical time in Paris that included champagne in Le Bristol Hotel’s glorious garden and a private four course dinner in its luxurious lounge. I met fabulous people along the way, some of whom I already consider friends.
That girlfriends’ escape was just the first “first.” After I returned and recuperated from having so much fun, the firsts continued.
I bought and planted the magnolia tree I wanted for almost all of the eighteen years we’ve lived in Atlanta. Despite my brownish thumb, it’s still alive. I can see it from my office window and I look at it a lot. (It’s much nicer than my guilt-inducing–computer screen!)
And then there’s Yoga. For years I’ve imagined that I would enjoy Yoga and that it would be good for me, but although I’ve always exercised, I never tried it until–you guessed it!–I took and enjoyed a newly-certified friend’s class and that first visit has me heading back for more.
There are lots of other things on my new, rapidly expanding plans for filling the well. I’m reaching out to friends I haven’t seen in far too long and taking the time to make new ones. My husband and I are talking about subletting an apartment in New York, just to try it on for size. I’ve sworn not to write on Sundays (except in extreme deadline emergencies) and I’m committed to building downtime and vacations into each year.
I know how fortunate I am to write for a living, to have found readers for the stories I want to tell. And I’m proud of the body of work I’ve built over the years. But I’ve decided it’s time for a change. To do what I demand my characters do. Find balance, seize opportunities, fill the well and keep it full with work, family, friends and self.
How about you? Have you been thinking about filling your well? If so, what’s the very first thing you’d do?read more
Congrats from us all to Judy L. W., the winner of our Three Bestselling Authors, Three Great Books Giveaway. all three books are on their way, Judy—Karen’s The Sound of Glass, Susan’s The Flying Circus and my A Week at the Lake. Thanks to all who entered!read more
As you may know, I write about journeys of self-discovery and the bonds of friendship that get us through the toughest times.
I do deal with serious subjects: death, divorce, betrayal, illness. I just happen to think Mary Poppins had it right – a spoonful of humor helps the harsh realities go down!
Although my novels are laced with humor, I take friendship seriously. I have two very close writer friends, Karen White and Susan Crandall. We’ve been critique partners for a whole lot of years. We read each others’ work chapter by chapter as we’re writing, brainstorm via conference call, and meet for a writing retreat each year. I would not want to be in this business without them.
In honor of our friendship we are hosting a giveaway of our latest novels, A Week at the Lake, The Sound of Glass and The Flying Circus. One winner will receive all three books. Deadline to enter is midnight, Thursday, September 24th.
We hope you’ll take a chance to win. Good luck!read more
Just saw this guest post from Wendy McCurdy, a wonderful editor with whom I’ve worked for years. She wrote it for The Perch: The Penguin Random House Blog. She’s talking about me, my books and friendship. Sharing with you all and I hope you, too, enjoy her comments and insights. The pic is of Wendy and me in the not-too-distant past.read more