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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

06 October 2010

A full-time fiction writer: my first update

When I became a full-time fiction writer (except for one small ongoing editing job) this summer, I promised you updates on my progress. Here's what I've learned so far on my journey through territories unknown:

Volunteering is good, but a writer should give favorite organizations money, not time. I drastically underestimated how many hours it would take to do a couple of volunteer stints, and I spent more time on them this summer than on writing.

I was really burnt out on my job. I didn't realize how tired I was of medical writing until I stopped and found I needed time to decompress and rest. That, too, cut into my writing.

Ideas come fast and furious when my brain isn't preoccupied with work projects. Now I need to learn to control the ideas. I started several short stories, but abandoned each as a new idea caught my fancy.

Having lupus really is, as the rules of thumb have it, like having an extra kid or a part-time job. I already knew I spent a lot of time filling prescriptions, going to the lab, taking meds, and going to doctors' offices, but I didn't know how much time until now. All that stuff is no longer a break from work, but an interruption of writing I want to do, and it's very annoying. There's little I can do about it, though.

I spent too much time trying to figure out a good exercise schedule. I discovered exercising in the morning cuts into my writing time too much.  I'm now trying to schedule exercise only at times I wouldn't be writing anyway.

To sum up, I didn't tear out of the starting gate like a greyhound, as I expected. More like a slump and then a collapse to rest. But I've picked myself up and am getting things done.

Total writing career accomplishments:

✥ One short story written, critiqued, revised, critiqued, revised, critiqued, revised, and almost ready to send out

✥ Started three short stories

✥ Jotted down ideas for several more short stories

✥ Answered interviews for two blogs

✥ Had long discussion with Hadley Rille Books' new publicist about marketing ideas for Like Mayflies in a Stream

✥ Fleshed out a historical novel; printed out Web research and bought several scholarly books on the time period and people involved

✥ Researched several short story markets

✥ Volunteered myself for panels at three conferences

✥ Created goals

I hope and expect that the coming three months will be much more productive than the past three. I've got most of the volunteer duties behind me, and I've rested and gotten beyond the burnout. I can take comfort in that I accomplished at least a few things.

My goals for the next three months are:

✥ Revise all my completed and critiqued stories and send them out to possible homes.

✥ Finish one or two new stories.

✥ Do a lot of background reading and brainstorming for my next novel.

✥ Start my next novel.

Your advice is welcome. Kicks in the butt as well. I am determined to be successful at this, but I am floundering more than I expected.


Coming soon: interview with author Zohreh Ghahremani


Sidney said...

That's great! I'm glad to hear ideas percolate so well sans day gig.

Charles Gramlich said...

I too find that I get ideas fast and furious when I'm away from regular work, and often unfortunately right before work is about to hit me again. I also have a hard time settling on an exercise regime. I do a lot of walking though, which helps me exericse and lets me think and plot and plan for stories.

Nicole Taylor said...

I really like hearing about this process (partially because I think it's a hella brave thing you're doing. Hella? I am Gwen Stefani, apparently) but mainly because I have this fantasy in the back of my head that if only I could sweep aside what I understand to be the detritus of my life (work, school, ect) I would be this super-prolific machine. But the reality is, it's work, it's always work. Other obligations are really just reasons to not do the work, not always actual impediments.

Travis Erwin said...

Hope you find your groove and win it down the stretch.

Terri-Lynne said...

Heh-heh...getting exercise is something I always have to FORCE myself to do. I spend way too many hours at the keyboard. So I bought a Wii. Now I swordfight for half an hour a day. In two weeks, I've lost 9 pounds! Ha! But my shoulder aches a bit, so...

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks for your enthusiasm, SIDNEY. I need to look more at what I've accomplished and stop being disappointed at what I didn't.

CHARLES, for years my husband and I walked almost every day. Now our schedules don't coordinate well, and I rarely can get myself out to walk by myself. It's a shame, because like you, I find it good for thinking.

NICOLE, you've put your finger on a good point. When you're busy, it's hard to know which activities are real impediments and which are just excuses. It's much easier for me to separate the two now.

TRAVIS, thanks. If I could be one-quarter the writing machine you are, I'd be happy. I would be the vegetable-eating, beardless mini-Travis.

TERRI-LYNNE, wow! That's even better than bellydance! I would love to learn to swordfight, but my joints aren't up to it. The way I've gotten myself to exercise more is with classes. That gets expensive, but they're one of my few social outlets where I actually talk to people face to face instead of over the Internet.

Farrah Rochon said...

Shauna, making the switch to full-time writer is not as easy as people may think. Having to table some of those ideas that come fast and furiously is huge!

My biggest issue tends to be fighting feelings of failure when my writing days are not as productive as planned. Even though I know every day will not yield 5,000 - 7,000 words (my usual goal), I am so very hard on myself when I fall short.

You've accomplished lots. I look forward to your next report.

Rick said...

You are so, so organized. I wish I could be just half as organized!

Scott said...


I guess thing don't always play out like we picture them...still, it's great that you're writing full time. Congrats!

Shauna Roberts said...

FARRAH, thanks for your words of experience.

RICK, I could use to be a lot more organized than I am! Have you decided whether you're going to World Fantasy Con in Columbus at the end of the month?

SCOTT, thanks for your encouragement. I think this will be a process of experimentation, testing out different ways of organizing my days and seeing what works.

Lana Gramlich said...

The adjustment is a process, of course. Sounds like you're getting the hang of things, though. Best of luck, of course!

Shauna Roberts said...

LANA, I do think I'm getting the hang of things at last. Thanks for stopping by.