Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Very, Very, Very, Very, Very Unproductive Summer By C.P. Stringham

Top: 20th Century's Norma Rae starring Sallly Field
Bottom: My choice for writing solitude. 
Notice the amount of times “very” appears in the title? It isn’t a homage to the 1963 film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Nope. Each “very” represents how many weeks my children have been home for summer vacation. I love having them home. I truly do. We usually keep busy by taking day trips, but they really haven’t happened this year. Financially, we’re grounded from doing them. I had so many ideas about how we were spending our summer and it isn’t happening. For me, personally, I planned on getting my latest work-in-progress, Overcoming Sarah, finished and published by the end of July. Only that hasn’t happened either. I don’t know how other authors with children do it. I just don’t. How do they write while their children are home for summer vacation? It escapes me. Those on Twitter post that they maintain a specific writing time, sit down at their typical work area, and write. Their family knows they are working and have strict orders not to bother them unless the house is on fire or someone is knocked out or leaking great amounts of blood. That doesn’t fly in the Stringham household. My family doesn’t understand how hard it is to enter a productive writing mindset. They think I just sit down, fingers to keys, and write. If only it was that easy. I’ve touched on this in a previous Broads of a Feather blog post, but it’s worth repeating; writing is like having an out of body experience. I have to immerse myself into the character’s head, feel their emotions, and see their environment. I can only be interrupted so many times before creativity slips elusively away from me. I know. My complaint is pretty petty in light of the way things are in the world and the real problems others have. As you read this, you’re probably thinking out loud, “Whiny baby.” And I realize that’s how it sounds. I’m a stay-at-home mom and an indie author. My e-books help supplement our income so it is important I have time to write. Extra income is good for my family. As it is now, I’m so close to telling them, “I can’t work in these conditions!” while doing my best Norma Rae impression. Because of my unproductive summer, I now know why Thoreau slipped off to his cabin in the woods. It wasn’t to be one with nature. He “deliberately” wanted to be left alone. I even have a Pinterest board called My "Thoreau" Spaces. I fantasize about being alone all the time. Solitude. Quiet. Productivity. *sigh*
The worst offender in my family is my youngest. As some of you know, she has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. While she is considered high-functioning and perfectly fine on her own at the age of (almost) fifteen, she likes to pace the house—which includes the master bedroom and where I have my writing area. I can count on her to come in almost every seven minutes. Each time, she talks to me and concentration is lost. No. Not lost. Trampled on. I’ve tried to explain to her how important it is for her to pretend I’m not home. Her older sister’s around to watch her and help out if she needs anything. All I want is two to three measly hours of uninterrupted writing time each morning. That’s it. I hate having to remind her I’m working. Hurting her feelings isn’t worth my productivity. And then there are times of frustration when I almost grind my teeth into dust. For some reason, her normal hobbies aren’t keeping her busy. She works with an in-home, private tutor once a week so she doesn’t lose academic ground while school’s out. Since we live in a rural area, there aren’t any local day camps for special needs kids so she can get out for the day. As for classmates, she really doesn’t have many friends. On the rare occasions we’ve scheduled play dates, she loses interest two hours into it. It’s a sensory thing. She will leave her friend, find me, and say, “Is it time for them to go now? I’m ready for quiet.” Or, “They keep following me and won’t leave me alone.” Nothing like having your child go to their room, shutting the door on their guest, and me having to scramble to entertain them while my daughter isolates herself to decompress.
Alas, it is what it is. School resumes the last week of August. I’ll be able to settle back into my Monday through Friday writing routine. Since my first book, Seventy-Two Hours, came out in August of 2012, I have gotten to experience what it’s like having readers excitedly ask when my next book is coming out—even more so since I entered the world of book sequels. My Ellis Springs book series has been popular among my readers. One customer review likened the characters’ friendships to those in Steel Magnolias. Others talk about how much they like getting to visit with old friends each time a new installment comes out. And I like that. Before, I’d only experienced this type of devotion as a reader and having to wait for the next book in a series. I’ll admit to being impatient while waiting for Patricia Cornwell’s next Scarpetta book or Janet Evanovich’s next Stephanie Plum. I may or may not have even commented on Julia Spencer-Flemings’ readers’ page that I’d gladly go to her house in Maine to clean, cook, and drive her kids to and from activities so she could work on her next Millers Kill mystery. In a role-reversal, I’m getting to hear offers like this from my readers! I love their enthusiasm. And a little frightened by it. I’m in a daunting situation now. What if I take too long writing book four? What if I let them down by writing a hollow story just to get it done? In all honestly, a book series is a little overwhelming. I’d rather err on the side of literary caution; write with quality instead of quantity. I just want to write.
Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser on the Starz TV series Outlander
based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon.
On the bright side of all of this, I have been finding time for reading. It doesn't require the same level of concentration as writing does. Thank God. I'm currently enthralled with Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Can't wait for the Starz TV series based on her books. I'm a little obsessed at the moment. If you haven't read the books, you really need to. I have a feeling the TV show is going to be "verra fine, Sassenach." If you need further convincing, let me just add: hot men in kilts. Need I say more??? 
How is your summer going? Have you taken any exciting trips? I’d love to hear about it so I can live vicariously through you.   


  1. I can't imagine what it would be like to have kids and try to write...I have a hard enough time with a full time job - and even though I've been on leave for two months, for a while I had a husband who was always there. I can finally write now that he has a job! lol I appreciate him more. But still - I totally get you.

  2. Mr. Stringham wasn't happy with this blog post. He says he does understand. And then the debate began.

    1. I bet. Probably a lot like the debates I have sometimes with Mr Janney. lol.

      non-writers only understand to a point. they don't understand our need to shut out the outside world and just be by ourselves. I get the need to get out their and experience life...but I'm a big girl...I ought to be allowed to make then decision of when/where/and with whom on my own. Not everyone in my life is willing to understand that far lol