The Schedule

As a writer, I have always struggled with finding time to write. I was hoping that starting a blog would make me be better about it. Except that, well last year, I still had numerous last-minute writing sessions and frantic posting moments. I tried to plot out a schedule, but I could never stick to it.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to make one of my goals be to “create a sustainable writing schedule that includes at-home writing time.”  Up to that point all my writing was happening either before work or during my lunch hour.

I figured to find a schedule I was going to have to do a lot of experimentation.  I would need to discover what worked and what didn’t work.  So, on January 11th, I decided to start with taking it back to basics.

I made the following schedule:

Monday: Edit

Tuesday: Write

Wednesday: Write

Thursday: Edit

Friday: Write

Saturday/Sunday: Write one day; off one day

That’s it.  That is the schedule. I thought that a basic, less confining schedule would help me focus, but still give me freedom.  So, I got busy writing and editing on my assigned days.  After two weeks, I was surprised I was not only sticking to the schedule, but I had a number of posts lined up.

The ideas seemed to flow. Even on days when I was supposed to edit, sometimes a new writing idea would strike me. But instead of deviating from my schedule I would jot it down on a sticky note and put it in my journal on the next blank page. Then the next day when I opened my journal to write, I had an idea and prompt already waiting for me.  I’ve also been able to write on weekends, which is something new and exciting.

I’ve been at this schedule for about two months, and honestly, I’m shocked that it’s going so well.  I’ll admit I still get distracted and some days I don’t edit or write as much as I would like to.  But it’s a good base for right now.  It gives me a focus without being too complex or overly burdensome.

My weekend writing has not been as fruitful as I would like, but since this basic outline seems to be working I can now focus more on how to make my weekend writing more productive.  It’s still a win that I am picking up a pen at home in the first place.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that this continues, because it feels really good to have hit upon a regular schedule. It has gotten me writing at home and put ahead on my blog posts. I hope in the future to tweak it so all the various writing project I want to work on get the attention they deserve, but that will be a slower process. And right now, I’m okay with that!

Happy writing!


The Commute

It’s 6:58 in the morning.  The sky is a violet gray as the morning light begins to dawn. Bright orange streaks hover at the horizon.  There is stark white snow on the still, bare branches of the trees in the park.  It is a peaceful scene.

I stand admiring the view at my usual stop.  I hear the squeal of breaks as the bus clamors to a halt.

I board with the other morning commuters and make my way to the back of the bus.  I choose a seat, facing the rising sun.  It’s nice to see something so beautiful on an ordinary day.

I pull out my book and turn to my red paper-clip.  As a bookmark, paper-clips may not be pretty, but they are functional.

I’m on the Vegas strip.  I’m looking out a hotel window at the brilliant lights.  I’m anxiously waiting for the phone to ring.  I’ve changed from my red evening gown into my normal uniform: a starched white button-down shirt and black pants.

This will be over soon.  As which point there will most likely be an ethics committee hearing but sometimes you have to work on the edge in order to win.  That’s what Vegas is all about.

The phone rings. It’s not the sharp trill one would expect. It sounds like the ring of a phone in a quiet receptionist suite. It is unnervingly calm.

I feel a jolt and look up.  The bus has stopped outside my office building.  I move my red paper clip and quickly close my book as I scramble to exit the bus.

It’s been a half-hour since I got on.  Traffic must have been moving well.  I hadn’t noticed.  And in that time, I travelled to two places simultaneously.

I look down the street.  The sun is up. It is looming above the lake, and I realize that it is going to be an extraordinary day.


A Writer’s Random Ramblings

Naturally, I feel a little lost on what to write from time to time. I started this new-fangled writing schedule. It’s going well thus far, but it’s been less than two weeks, so I will keep you posted.  Nevertheless, I find myself writing more (yay!) But what the hell am I to write about? (Boo!) I want to write stuff for my blog, perhaps strike upon an idea for an article, but I think that too much pressure scares off the ideas. Nevertheless, I have found that writing is a bit like running you just have to put in the miles, or words, in order to get what you really want.  It can be frustrating as hell, but it’s just how it works.

I feel very excited to write, but I just don’t know what the heck to put down on paper. But I’m thankful to be excited, that’s a step in the write direction (ahh…I can hear those sweet, sweet groans.)

I realize there is a weird paradox about a blank page.  It can be anything, and it has no expectations; however, we as writers want it to be perfect, whatever it is.  But that is something we impose on ourselves. I’m not sure where the concept of, “we must write the perfect first draft!” comes from.  I guess we all really hate editing, or we don’t want to “waste” our time writing something unworthy. But editing can be interesting, surprising, and even fun. And no writing is a waste or unworthy.

Again, like running, they say that the only bad run is the one you don’t do and the same goes for writing.  The only truly wasted draft is the one you don’t write. Not everything written needs to be published or should be.  Some writing can just be for yourself.  In the grand scheme of things, writers are kind of an uptight bunch who need to take a chill pill and putter a bit.

Puttering is a great thing because it can lead to all kinds of interesting places.  One needs to allow for exploration and see what happens.  I don’t do this enough, but I’m working on it.  But I also need to learn to not feel bad when my putterings actually turn into fruitful pieces.

I know this sounds barmy, but I sometimes sit down to write, and I think to myself: “Today I’m writing a stream of consciousness just for myself. This won’t be publishable and that’s cool.” Then I get started and something strikes me, and I start writing a publishable idea. I freak out that I’m not doing what I am “supposed to be.” Yes, I know I have issues, but putting the pressure off is probably why something came into my brain that’s usable.  That’s awesome and not something to feel bad about. I have to remind myself that there will certainly be times when writing sessions won’t produce much of anything, but when they do I need to embrace it and forget about the intentions.

Writing is a strange and bizarre process, but perhaps that’s why so many are drawn towards it. It’s an elusive medium, and one that we are all in the pursuit of tackling. What makes it even more interesting is that we tackle it one day, but then the next we can’t grab on to it to save our souls.

Yes, it’s a skill and needs practice and experimentation.  It has rules and general practices, but it is a fluid thing which presents so many options as well as so many pitfalls.  This is what makes writing so awesome, so beautiful, and so enticing because it’s full of surprises and never gets old.


The Machine- Going Old School

On a ridiculously rainy day in Chicago, my mother, my aunt, a family friend, and I ventured to the American Writers museum.  It is a small establishment but very interesting. One of the more interactive exhibits were the typewriters.  They had four or five sitting out that people could plunk away on. Now up until this point, I had only seen typewriters.  My mother has a collection, but I had never actually typed on one before.

I grabbed a sheet of paper and looked helplessly at the group of ladies I was with.  I knew generally to insert the sheet in the back and then crank it through.  My mother then said, “lift the bale.”  To which I responded, “English, please.”  They all laughed and came to my rescue.

I then started typing.  It was awesome.  I could have sat there for hours.  It’s such a different feeling than a computer keyboard.  And the satisfying ding at the end of the line is marvelous. I knew instantly that I wanted one.

So, I put one on my Christmas list and Santa (aka mom) pulled through.  Mine is a portable typewriter, so she’s less beefy than the traditional desktop version.  She has a few quirks such as she doesn’t have a number one key.  It’s not missing.  It was never there, but she is a beauty.

Obviously, such a fine machine needs a name. It needed to be epic and old school, like Masil, but with more spunk. Louise could work, but that didn’t strike me as studious enough.  Vivan was nice and sassy, but lacks the needed industrious tone.  But Agatha, now there was a name. It’s old school, studious, industrious, and the nickname Aggie had just the right amount of spunk. It was perfect.

(As a side note: when I told my husband I named the typewriter Agatha he responded, “Oh like the mystery writer you like.” My jaw dropped it had never occurred to me that the random name I chose also was the name of one of the greatest writers ever!  What a happy accident!)

Anyway, over the past few weeks, Aggie and I have gotten know each other. I’ve discovered she requires a lot more force to get a clear letter to appear on the page than one of my generation would expect.  The hunt-and-peck method is really the best.  This way you use consistent force for all the keys.  If I use proper typing method, all the “a”s, which use the pinkie on my non-dominate hand, don’t show up, and it looks like I’ve created some weird cipher for WWII communication.

I’ve also learned to anticipate the ding.  If you’re typing along and see that you’re getting close to the end and you need to bust out a big word like “hornswoggled” you will need to start a new line because in the fight between a big word and the ding.  The ding will almost always win.

Anyway, I’ve been able to manage.  I even typed out a thank you to my parents via Agatha.  It had some mistakes, but I figured that added to the charm and nostalgia. She is epic in every way possible. She does her job loud and proud. I’m kind of intimated by her. I try to use her in a timid manner as to not break her, but Aggie will have none of it. She’s a sturdy girl, and we will be the absolute best of friends! Ding!



A Book, A Dream, and A T.V. Show

This past spring my husband and I took a road trip to Bar Harbor, Maine.  How we ended up deciding on a trip to the great state of Maine is actually a rather interesting story involving a book, a dream, and years later a TV show.  It began when I was in third grade.

You see in third grade, my class read Sarah Plain and Tall.  It was a great book. I loved it, and its sequel Skylark. I thought Sarah was the bee’s knees.  And Sarah was from Maine. After reading both of these books and watching their respective films, I decided that when I grew up and became a writer I was going to live in Maine. I had wanted to be a writer since I was in Kindergarten. I couldn’t spell to save my soul, but boy did I have some tales to tell.

Anyway, I grew up and kind of forgot about Sarah…and Maine…and gave up on becoming a writer…at least for a while.  Instead, I moved to Chicago, got a job that’s quite entertaining at times, fell in love, and was puttering blissfully through life when…

One evening Scott was out with some friends.  I was at home scrolling through Netflix looking for something new to watch when I came across Murder, She Wrote. I like murder mysteries, so I put on the first episode.  I was surprised by how much I liked it.  The next evening Scott was home, but dinking around on his computer, so I asked if it would bother him if I put on another episode.  He said he didn’t mind, and the next thing I knew he was snuggled up on the couch watching right along with me.  We loved it.

The main character, Jessica Fletcher, is a novelist who lives in Maine.  She was who I had wanted to be as a kid. The scenes of Maine were beautiful, and I remembered all about Sarah Plain and Tall. I told Scott about my dream as a kid, and we thought it might be fun to visit to see if what I had envisioned was really true.

Thus a few months later we packed our bags and meandered our way over to Bar Harbor, Maine.  Honestly, it was more magical than I had thought it would be.  I don’t know if I’ve been to a place that’s quite that pretty.  I mean look at that pic! It’s just one of many we had the pleasure of taking!

When we got back my husband and I joked that we would like to move there.  And all kidding aside, maybe someday if jobs become more virtual, I actually get something published, and we decide to get a bit more daring.  I just might end up with that third-grade dream after all.  And won’t that be a helluva tale?



Last Friday I finally finished The Brothers Karamazov.  (I know I’m still on about this.  I promise this is the last post.) Anyway, it was…dense…heavy…long.  It is not a book I would really recommend.  There are many other classics I would recommend instead.  But on Friday night when I was standing in my kitchen updating my Goodreads account, I realized with a thunder bolt like flash that I had to give this monstrous tome four stars.

How is it that you give a book four stars, but not recommend it?  And use less than flattering adjectives to describe it?


There are books.  And then there is literature.  This is literature.  And literature at probably its finest. It is extraordinarily well written. It has a remarkable number of moving pieces that come to relevance in the end.  It presents profound philosophical views of religion and morality.  It employs psychology and examines intent versus public lip service.

It is one of those strange reads that I won’t be re-visiting.  I can even quite decide if I liked it or not, but I understand the respect that it gets and deserves.  It is something that I’m glad I read, and yet I’m also very glad it’s done.

It is a bizarre quandary.  A book I didn’t exactly like, but I admire for what it is.  I guess it’s like the Mona Lisa.  I don’t particular care for the painting, but I admire and respect it for what it is and what is stands for in the artistic world.  Perhaps that’s the best description that I can give that others may understand. This truly is a masterpiece, but not necessarily one I would want to hang on my living room wall.

Does this make any sense?


Why Use Seven When Two Will Do

I’m at my desk. I take a sip of my coffee and wait for the company database to load. I see an e-mail notification pop up. It announces that my 62-year old boss who begrudgingly uses technology, has just sent me a rare e-mail.

I immediately click to see what could have prompted him to take on this laborious hunt and peck task. The e-mail loads and reads:


Do you know how to do an electronic signature?  I am old and helpless.


My lips curl in on themselves. This might be the most hilarious and yet precious e-mails I’d ever received. There is subtle yet remarkable implicit trust in this query.

I reply simply, and wish that all e-mails would be this raw and honest. And realize that, “Why use seven words when two will do?” is a poignant question. This masterful work stated its purpose and made me smile. What more could I ask for?