This week I have been ticking things off my to-do list, which always feels good. I’ve gotten a few huge projects out of the way, and everything feels manageable for the first time in a long time. Remind me of this in May and June when I once again will be overloaded as I prep for conferences and retreats and my first ever time (in late July) on faculty at Ashland University’s Low Residency MFA program. Whoop! I’m so excited about that, but I also know it will be a lot of work to get ready for two packed weeks of teaching and manuscript critiques. (I’m currently trying to convince Donny to drive down with the girls for a few days. I know it would be a long solo trip with them, but I can’t stand the idea of not seeing them for two full weeks…)
But in the meantime, right now, I’m just enjoying my work. I just finished a really wonderful session of Motherhood & Words online. What an amazing group of writers! I have a number of new editing/mentoring clients, and I love diving into their work and talking about their writing processes. I’m also full steam ahead on the novel. I still dedicate the first hour of my day to it, and it’s making a huge difference. This consistent work keeps it closer to the surface on a daily basis. Hattie, my main character, is with me throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll get an idea or glimmer of an idea as I take the dog for a walk or make dinner. I then jot it down on a slip of paper or type it into my phone, so I can turn to it the next day. This—thinking about writing throughout the day—makes me feel like a writer again.
It’s funny because even though I have two books out in the world, I sometimes forget to honor and trust that part of myself that writes. To trust that I know what I’m doing, that the words will emerge if I give them a chance. To trust my gut.
For a few weeks whenever I thought about the collaborative project I’m working on, I felt uneasy. I wasn’t sure that everything we said would go into the book really fit in the book. It was only a couple of weeks ago when I sat down to rewrite the proposal and began working on the chapter summary that the book really began to take shape for me. (Or take a shape that narratively made sense to me.) It was one of those aha! moments. I finally had the frame. I knew where it had to end. And it will work! Hallelujah!
That whole process got me thinking about structure and how important it is in nonfiction to have a sense of what your frame is. Where in time does you book start and end? What’s the stage? Sometimes I think we do a disservice to students when we tell them to just write! Keep writing and it will make sense! Of course you need to write, but at some point, you also need to know where that writing all goes. Deciding on a frame allows you to know what’s backstory and what unfolds in the real time of the piece. Knowing what the real story is helps you decide on a frame, of course, and you often need to write your way into that understanding. But settling on a structure that works for your story is critical in allowing you to get the damn thing done. I now know that when this book finds a home, we will be able to get it done, and that I’ll feel proud of it.
What are you working on? Do you have a frame? Is it working? I’d love to hear about it!