Monthly Archives: April 2011

The long-weekend writing hangover

Lindsay Lohan in sunglassesOn any given day, I’ve got a bazillion tasks and responsibilities that keep me from my WIP. I work full-time, freelance in my spare hours, maintain a household (with a little help from my husband, AKA the Chef), cater to three cats, respond to calls from my mother, deal with the guilt of not responding to calls from my mother, succumb to my current Mad Men addiction, and try to have some kind of social life.

This usually means my vacations and holidays are reserved for quality time with my home-office computer. Sure, I’ll have been jotting down crisp lines of dialogue over my lunch breaks or emailing myself with notes from my BlackBerry during the week, but I still need those long spaces of several hours at a time to get it all down and organized so I can move on to the next line, scene, or chapter.

With only a few breaks during these last four days—dinner with a friend, a massage, Easter festivities, and two naps—I managed to write an insane amount. I don’t track word counts (how do I handle edits and re-writes?), but I do track BIC (“bum in chair”) hours. This weekend’s tally? An astonishing 20 hours.

So, on this Tuesday after the extra-long Easter weekend, I am suffering from a writing hangover. That means stiff fingers, a sore back, paper cuts, photosensitivity, coffee jitters, and an intense aversion to clothing that does not double as sleep-wear. And possibly a real hangover, thanks to the Viognier that got me through the last three hours on Monday evening.

You know what? To me, it’s all worth it.

These weekend blitzes are what work for me and my writing goals. You may have different strategies for balancing the creative side of your life with everything else. As long as it works for you—and as long as it’s worth it for you—that’s all that matters.

I wish you all the best in your writing this week.

Maria

PS: Seriously, does anyone have an Advil? Now I know how Lindsay Lohan feels.

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Filed under Inspiration, Trials and Tribulations

The Restless Writers Regroup

We Restless Writers gave ourselves a long-overdue collective bitch slap at our last meeting. We had become negligent in our pages and, more often than not, we were holding meetings at a pub rather than our houses. This was very conducive to discussing the state of our butts, jobs and marriages, but our writing? Not so much.

In addition to laying down some serious ground rules (heads up, Wordbitches: we’re timing ourselves now!), we discussed what exactly each of us is hoping to accomplish at our monthly meetings. This is what we came up with:

Maria:
Our short story maven and resident smarty pants. Maria is an excellent editor and enjoys brainstorming elements of other people’s work to make them better. She’s hoping to turn one of her many amazing short stories into a novel, but is happy to act as sounding board/coach/motivator until she finds her writing groove.

Beckie:
BJas continues to kick some serious query ass on her completed YA novel and has also started a new project. This is particularly exciting for me (Lori) because when I met Beckie, she was already revising her YA novel. Being involved in her process during these early stages has been very fun and inspiring.

Lori:
I, too, am in a querying hell phase, so it’s great to have fellow writers with whom I can commiserate/celebrate. I’ve embarked on a new project for children and having Beckie’s experience in the genre is proving invaluable. Between her savviness and Maria’s editing prowess, I may just get something on the shelves.

We also decided that a writing retreat is in order this summer – the objectives of which can be summed up thusly: B&B; laptops; and wine.

LD

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Filed under Group meetings, Inspiration, Writing resources

Tax Tips for Writers

“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors…and miss.” Robert Heinlein

Help with taxes please!It’s tax season, and for me that always means the necessary frustration of figuring out what I owe the government on my freelance earnings. (I make enough to have to pay them something, but not enough that I can pay them quarterly throughout the year. Go figure.)

Doing my taxes is made even more interesting because my mother is my accountant. I thank her for her help when I can’t figure out what a capital cost allowance is, and bite my tongue when she chides me for spending so much on reference books.

As a freelancer with a day job and some surprisingly complicated tax scenarios, I’d like to share some key lessons I have learned when it comes to doing my taxes. (Keep in mind, these are my experiences only! Get advice from your accountant or tax preparer, or visit the Canada Revenue Agency website. I am certainly no expert.)

  • DO claim your office chair. DO NOT claim your cat’s basket just because it happens to be in your home office and your cat is your muse.
  • DO keep track of your costs from that writing conference out west. DO NOT think that you can claim the in-room massage you splurged on the first night.
  • DO consider how much of your home is dedicated to your professional activities and for what portion of the day. DO NOT say your whole house is your office just because you write in the kitchen, laundry room or TV room, depending on your mood or where the fridge is.
  • DO calculate how much of the costs of your new hardwood floor can be allocated to your home office. DO NOT assume that your accountant will agree with claiming the cost of your mammoth new walk-in closet because your “work clothes” live there.
  • DO realize that doing your taxes takes a bit of brain power and elbow grease. DO NOT giggle and say “Oh, I’m no good with math,” so your nebbishly cute tax preparer will give you a break.
  • DO file on time and as accurately as possible. DO NOT assume that because you’re not bringing in a big freelance income the feds won’t audit you. The Canada Revenue Agency likes to take a closer look at the self-employed.

I’d love to hear some more tax-related “lessons learned” from our fellow restless writers.

Maria

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Filed under Life and stuff, Trials and Tribulations

Link Envy

It’s that time of week again and if these links were margaritas, we’d all be in rehab by now.

Restless Lori:
Everyday Fiction
This online magazine specializes in bringing you fine fiction in bite-size doses. Every day, they publish a new short story of 1000 words or fewer that can be read during your lunch hour, on transit, or even over breakfast. This is a great way to get some publishing credits. And to keep things interesting, readers vote for stories (although nobody is voted off the site).

The Good Greatsby
Here I thought I’d discovered the greatest humour writer and I see that Ironic Mom already has dibs on him. Dammit! Go and read about the things he carries in his pocket for the sole purpose of confusing the police in the event of his untimely death.

Restless Maria:
Online Etymology Dictionary
This website draws on classic sources such as the “Oxford English Dictionary” (OED) and “The Dictionary of American Slang.”

A Writer’s Guide
Check out the word origins posts, like a recent one for the origins of the word April.

The Grammarphobia Blog
The authors respond to questions about the origins of words and phrases, like “the cat’s pajamas.”

Restless Bjas:
EcoPressed
Kinda loving this new portal highlighting the best environmental blogging across the WordPress community.

TreeHugger
On the green theme this week. Check out TreeHugger’s up-to-the-minute blog dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream. Check out BookHugger while you’re there!

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Filed under Friday Links, Link Envy

Taking a Vacation from Myself

I spent last week in a drunken stupor with my family and some friends in a rented condo on Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. It was away from the touristy all-inclusives and my kids were thrilled to spend every day in the pool (fun fact: I totally could’ve taken them to the Hilton in my hometown for a week and saved a few bucks). My point being, I had some free time on my hands.

I expected to make progress on outlining my current WIP, but had zero interest in pursuing it. I’d scheduled some prewritten blog posts and even managed to scribble some off-the-cuff blog entries, but those were done in under ten minutes while my kids showered. It wasn’t writing as much as a public e-postcard.

For the first few days I was like an antsy college student the week after school ends, when your brain won’t turn off and you feel guilty for not studying or finishing a paper. Although I had my journal with me at all times should the muse strike, a funny thing happened: it didn’t. At all.

Instead I read a ten-year-old John Grisham novel I found in the nightstand.

It’s not like I was too relaxed to write – too drunk maybe, but only after five o’clock (p.m.) – I think my brain just needed a break. From me.

I’m back now and it’s not like I’m suddenly invigorated with dozens of new ideas. I’m not even that relaxed (anyone who has kids or watches Modern Family knows how stressful vacations can be…for the moms, anyway). But it was nice to get out of my head, put the iPhone away and stop tweeting for a few days. Focusing on other things (i.e. does a Mojito taste the same with Splenda?) may be just what I needed to re-focus on my writing.

What about you? Does getting away help you connect with the muse? Tell us all about it…

LD

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Filed under Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation

Link Envy

Here’s this week’s catalogue of blogs, websites, resources and other things that make our socks roll up and down.

Restless Lori:

Lori is on hiatus this week, and will be back next week, after she has eaten her weight in guacamole.

Restless Maria:

If you write short stories or essays, you get that literary journals are important as a place to break through as a writer. There are so many journals in North America that writers can submit to and enjoy. Here are three Canadian journals that are on my reading pile right now. To learn more, consult the current Writer’s Market, or read the featured profile in Writer’s Digest.

The Antigonish Review
Founded in 1970 and supported by St. Francis Xavier University, this “eclectic review” features poetry, fiction and book reviews. Also watch for their annual poetry and fiction contests.

Descant
Descant is a highly acclaimed quarterly journal, founded in 1970 and published out of Toronto. Watch for book news, launches, contests, and even intern opportunities.

On Spec
I’ve been a subscriber to this “Canadian magazine of the fantastic” for years. On Spec is the perfect mix of stories, artwork and interviews.

Restless Bjas:

New Scientist
This mag is an obsession of mine. If you write any kind of sci-fi, check this out. It will inspire the heck out of you!

Literary Rambles
If you’re writing Middle Grade (MG) or Young Adult (YA) fiction, you may already know about this site. If not, you totally should! Casey McCormick is an aspiring author, agent intern, blogger, wife, and mom. She’s an awesome part of the kidlit community and a founding member of WriteOnCon. Best part about her site is the popular Agent Spotlight series.

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Filed under Friday Links, Link Envy