Category Archives: hazards of writing

Leaving Town

What did we forget to pack?

Confession: I need a shot of adrenaline in order to leave town.  Other people routinely lower thermostats, lock doors, and depart on schedule, but in the fraternity house we call home, I can’t find the thermostat behind last night’s pizza boxes and we’re lucky if our doors are closed.  Nobody organizes so much as a toothbrush without a packing list and the packing list can’t get created until the increasing pressure of a departure date triggers an adrenaline boost.

Warning: dependence on brain chemicals can have unintended consequences.  For example, one’s desk must be cleared before leaving town and clearing one’s desk becomes so fun and easy on adrenaline-spiked blood that hours are squandered resolving dust-covered medical claims and writing past due thank you notes while the mail and the newspaper cry out to be stopped.

But: This summer, my energy boost took a detour.  Instead of toughing it out in my household office: where work-in-progress goes to hibernate and creative writing takes a backseat to hauling vitamin water, my husband established a window corner of his office just for me: a table, an internet cable, and a chair with a lovely view of the world below.  Cool blue walls and busy co-workers encouraged progress.  No one there fusses about summer reading, whines for snacks, or obsesses over 4-player screen mayhem.

Behold: in the serene setting of my “corner office” the needs of my novel became clear.  Ideas and words packed themselves into efficient paragraphs and problems cleared the revision list.  The closer departure date loomed, the more I accomplished.  I allowed the adrenaline boost go straight to my writing.    How could I worry about thermostats when the motivation of my male antagonist was stark staring clear to me?  The only packing list I could generate was the one my protagonist needed to get out of that lake house before it was too late.

Alas: at the very last possible moment I came to my senses and we left town like a moving target.  It comes as no surprise that some teenagers packed only flip-flops, t-shirts, and cell phones.

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Filed under Cindy Jones, hazards of writing, Motherhood, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers

Earth to Cindy

Calling Cindy...

My family was hopeful that after the launch of my debut novel, things would return to normal.  And ideally, I would have dropped everything and gone back to matching socks, if only my novel-in-progress had not been weighing on me like a term paper for a class I’d stopped attending.  Since I was already short-listed for Space Cadet of The Year, and considering how little time remained before summer, it hardly seemed worthwhile to switch gears.  If I could just take the momentum from my book launch and apply it to finishing next novel, I could be present for an earthling summer and sort socks in time for camp.  Unfortunately, over the previous year I’d only demonstrated ability to focus on next novel while in solitary confinement, at least 450 miles from home.  Sacrifices would be required to replicate the intensity.  Earth would have to go.  

I printed the existing draft and read it aloud, plunging deep into the world of my characters, maintaining an iron grip on the narrative line while my grasp of reality flirted with black holes.  I solved literary problems while driving the car, but my passengers rolled their eyes as I passed destinations, again and again.  I rallied for the dinner hour, but was no good for conversation, and relied on the puppy for homework patrol.  At the very moment it seemed our household chaos could not possibly get worse, oldest son arrived home for the summer and unloaded a year’s worth of dorm life just inside the back door.  He left a narrow path to the kitchen but that hardly mattered for obvious reasons.

For the record, I entered a grocery store during all this, but the minute I tossed the first item into my cart, a distressed text message originating from afterschool sports screamed:  WHERE R U??  I had to ditch.      

Yes, I managed to finish the novel, but for the first time in my life, I truly understand my late grandfather.  I laughed at the absent-minded professor stories, but now I know why he backed out of the garage before opening the garage door and why he sometimes wore his pyjama bottoms to work.  And I’m with him on driving to the university and taking the bus home.  At the most distracted point of this episode, I hauled three teenagers out of bed for a very early morning obligation at church and then had to explain to them, and the assembly of church people whose morning I disrupted, that I was operating in a different week of the month.  If they had flipped their calendars ahead one week they would have understood exactly where I was coming from, or where I was at that moment.  Someday it will seem funny.    

And then I reached the end.  I pressed send, launching new novel through cyberspace and into my agent’s orbit.  After a brief personal celebration, I reorganized The Sock Department of our Laundry Room, patronized three grocery stores, and relieved the puppy of command.  At one point a teenager grumbled, “don’t you have a book to write?”  It’s nice to be back.   

THE END

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Filed under Agent, Cindy Jones, hazards of writing, launching things, teenagers

Space Cadet in the Kitchen

   

Starving Teenagers Out To Lunch

I was a fairly successful cook once upon a time.  Now, my occupation as a fiction writer takes me so far out to lunch that it is hard to get all the way home for dinner.  Visual aides are helpful.  Like yesterday, I was physically present in my kitchen, but mentally lost in space, when a cloud of smoke roiled past the window.  I thought, whoa.  There’s smoke in our backyard.  Hmm, must be a fire.  Someone must be having a fire in our backyard.  Oh!  THE CHICKEN.   

My specialty is blackened recipes that you don’t find in restaurants: blackened muffins and blackened Rice-a-Roni are two that I serve frequently.  Achieving the carbon effect is not easy because my recipe calls for the cook to forget that they just combined all ingredients over an open flame.  Most people have trouble with the forgetting part when an open flame is involved and turn the stove off before obliterating dinner.  The recipe for blackened muffins calls for the cook to forget they placed a pan of muffins in a 400 degree oven.  Tricky because the smell of baking carbs pervades the house and one’s family must also be out to lunch for this recipe to blacken.  If only cooking didn’t involve so many little waiting periods.             

I also have this problem with the shower.  It’s not my fault that my bathroom is on the same floor as my computer.  And it’s not my fault that the amount of time needed for the hot water to get going is exactly the same amount of time needed to type one teensy weensy idea.  By the time I remember the running water, it’s as foggy as Scotland Yard in a scary movie.  Oops.  Gotta go. 

Five pounds of red potatoes were harmed in the writing of this post.

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Filed under Cindy Jones, hazards of writing, Living in a novel, teenagers