About 15 years ago my critique group heard Ray Bradbury speak at a writer's conference sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University. Attendants helped this elderly, remarkable man onto the stage and into an easy chair and for the next two hours he held the packed audience spellbound as he told stories of his youth, his successes and his disappointments.
The fact he never attended college impressed me the most. With no money for college, he attended a library in Los Angeles 3 days a week for 10 years, reading, a habit started in his youth when he read his favorite authors in the Carnegie Library in Waukegan, Illinois. We shared a love of Edgar Allen Poe's writings.
His firm belief in the importance of libraries struck a similar chord in me. When he began writing his own science fiction he had his years of reading it to fall back on. He wrote Fahrenheit 451 in UCLA's Powell Library on a typewriter rented for 10 cents a half-hour.
His remarks made me realize how easy my writer's life was, and drove home how many opportunities I was allowing to pass me buy.
The youngest member of our critique group insisted on fighting the mob to get her copy of Zen and the Art of Writing signed. I was content just to sit and wait for her while mulling over everything he'd said and how it applied to me as a writer. She returned, all starry-eyed because Ray Bradbury "asked me what I wrote."
Looking back, I'm sorry I passed up the opportunity to breathe the same air perhaps the best writer of my generation breathed that night.
On a lighter note but a related topic, I'm happy to report the City found an unexpected windfall and our local libraries are opening again on Mondays. I'd be a happy camper if they'd reopen on Saturdays, now, too.
I do. In fact, I adore deadlines. Without a looming deadline I find myself taking longer walks than usual, shining the pots and pans, and spending endless time on social media sites, reading about other writer's deadline woes.
I suspect my accounting positions caused my obsession with deadlines. One of my duties was setting the calendar for the year, deciding when the company would close for the holidays, when to close the company books each month, and whether to observe Federal holidays over a long weekend, or midweek.
Even my monthly calendar was regimented. Three days into the new month balance the company bank account, post time cards every Thursday, distribute paychecks every other Friday, regardless of whether the payday and month-end close fell on the same day and required me working overtime to get everything done.
Such an uncompromising schedule served me well once I retired and began writing full time with the goal of being a published author. Eight a.m. to three p.m., found me seated at the computer, writing, revising, writing some more. Two nights a week I wrote for three more hours while my husband taught a college course.
Fourteen years and ten completed manuscripts later, all that changed. I sold my first manuscript. My husband retired. The release of my first novel opened social media doors I never knew existed, doors my publisher expected me to throw open and let readers know I existed so they would buy our books.
Self-promotion kills creativity, but I'm the one killing time.
I need to go back to that weekly and monthly schedule. Perhaps daily and weekly scheduling is more fitting for a published writer needing to complete more manuscripts.
I meet actual deadlines with no problem. The manuscript for my September release must be submitted by May first, along with the Cover Art Input Sheet. Do-ahead person that I am, both are ready to go well before that deadline.
Where I find myself having problems is with my discretionary time. Being retired, it's all discretionary time. I've been working on my latest WIP for over a year. The writing has progressed so slowly I've three times had to go back and read through everything I've written to reacquaint myself with who these characters are and where I left off, before I could pick up the writing again.
At my RWA chapter meetings I give myself deadlines like 'write another chapter,' and lately, 'finish it.' Nothing works. I did write a chapter last month, two more this month. Back when I was in my writing groove I'd write a chapter a day.
I'm debating what to try next. Would bribery work? Finish a chapter and you can tweet for an hour? At one time I loved the premise of my story. It's so hard to finish, I'm beginning to hate everything about it now. I know better than to move on to something new. I've tried that, and it didn't go well either. It's me the writer who has to change.
Maybe self-discipline is the answer. I'm beginning to think I’m sorely lacking in self-discipline. I must have had it in college, when I was working full time and taking twenty-one required units a semester to complete a business degree in information systems in record time.
I'm not addicted to social media sites the way I've heard some writer's have become, but I am easily distracted. This week, I'm going to set a timer, and will let you know how it goes.