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A Life Less Ordinary

IWSG Writing Update June 2017 – Let’s Call It a Downdate

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) encourages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement or anything really about their writing. A different question is posed each month, as a writing prompt for IWSG members. Answering it is optional. For June, that question is “Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the inspiring and accomplished co-hosts are JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they are up to. Don’t be shy.

That’s me, hard at work as an IWSG co-host in May

I can hardly believe another month has passed. And, what a month it has been! Since a writing UPdate usually involves some progress, accomplishments, change in status or at least some UPlifting writing tidbits, and none of that has happened in my May, I am inclined to call this post a writing DOWNdate. As in “thumbs down” instead of “thumbs up” when it comes to my memoir. In the month of May, I managed to work on my book for a total of three hours, at the library in Newburyport, MA during our hectic three-week stay at my in-laws’ condo. Yep. That is all. Since arriving at my childhood home in Belgium on May 21st, I haven’t even had the space in my head to think about my book, let alone take action. Maybe I am excused from writing duties when visiting family?

I had also signed up for the new Book Club of the IWSG and therefore committed to reading the book “Chapter After Chapter” by Heather Sellers by the end of May. I failed! I read a few chapters during our last house sit in Sebastopol and took some notes, but then, once I entered the first plane, all this ceased. Luckily, the discussion online is accessible indefinitely. I’ll be sure to check out what has been said later this month.

The more I read blogs of other writers, the more I believe they are the “real deal” and I am not. While I enjoy writing and have been practicing the habit for personal use since fourth grade in the form of diaries, travel reports, blogs and articles (first in Dutch, then in English), and while I can be passionate about a story or book idea, my life is just not cut out to be a full-time or highly committed writer, like most of my peers. If I can call them that. I don’t make a living writing; barely a pittance with some articles. And, the grand idea and promise to write my first memoir stalls often and long-term, due to our lifestyle. You see, while I truly and honestly would like to have a boring year to totally focus on said memoir (I really tried, believe me, I want multiple-month, uninspiring house sits – yet can’t help being attracted to the more exciting ones), it just does…not…happen. We roam about and need to explore. Too much. But, that is for another post.

Approaching Boston

I never say “I quit” and I don’t really ever quit writing. I just take long breaks, depending on how our life evolves and which priorities take over. I get back to writing, when circumstances allow and when life gets a bit quieter. I might not have focused on my book at all in May, but that is because we have been super-duper, crazy busy with other commitments and initiatives. I won’t bore you with the details, but last month has been filled with multiple doctors’ visits, helping my in-laws, getting a Massachusetts driver’s license, downsizing Mark’s belongings, co-organizing a couple of events, meeting friends and family, two flea markets, co-hosting for the IWSG, crossing the country and the Atlantic ocean (by plane), a yet secret development, and once in Belgium, organizing another garage sale, downsizing my stuff, playing with my niece and nephew, more doctors’ visits and going on one long weekend. June started with more of the same, but for our first adventure of the month, you will have to wait until next week. 🙂

My husband’s parents are moving – there was a lot to do

Writing in earnest will resume on June 22nd, when we start our next house and pet sit in Oakland, CA. I even wrote it in my calendar, so I vouch to glue myself to the keyboard again!

Watching the ocean eases the mind…

For writers, how has your writing progress been in May? For other readers, did you accomplish anything substantial last month? (Please, say no…)

57 Comments

  1. May was pretty good as far as writing goes. I kept writing my daily paragraphs, and have begun writing a shorter piece that is starting to take shape. I’m hopeful. Here’s to a fantastic summer, and maybe, just maybe reaching some more writing goals.

    • I already told you you are doing great, Ryan, so I won’t repeat it here. Forget it. I will, too. You are awesome and I admire your focus and commitment, even when the weather is nice. Keep it up!! And, that is going to be the problem with summer… Winter (read: the “need” to remain indoors) was the season to reach goals and make a lot of progress. I did make some, but, when the sun is out and the outdoors awaits and there are dogs who love some walks and, and… Yeah. Stop the excuses. I will resume my spot in the chair in a couple of weeks, albeit a different chair and a different spot than my last work space. 🙂

  2. Writers write. If you’re doing that, you are a writer. And more importantly, if you get paid, even if it’s in pennies, you are a professional writer. =) Never forget that.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Crystal. Here’s to becoming an author as well one day! I am in awe of your writer’s path and accomplishments. Talking about a busy life and lots of hands-on responsibility! A big congratulations, by the way!!

  3. I think you can be excused from a lot of writing when you are busy with family and friends. Be kind to yourself and allow time to make even more memories.

    • Thank you, Janis! Memories are being made. 🙂 I just feel like there is always something else that takes priority over writing, though. If I would be more committed to my book, that wouldn’t happen. And, because of our lifestyle, not needing a lot of money and the lack of a deadline, I get away with it. Anyway, I have good intentions this summer. If I don’t get too distracted by other ideas and plans… 🙂

  4. mlouisebarbourfundyblue

    June 7, 2017 at 18:58

    Hi, Liesbet! I so enjoyed and related to this post! My husband and I have thought about dog-sitting as a way of traveling around, but I worry about getting a neurotic dog with a complicated med schedule, or some big mastiff that’s bigger than two of me. LOL Like you, I need to roam and explore, so sometimes my writing happens for fewer hours when I’m traveling. What’s helping me with my memoir is tackling it in pieces in my blog. Even if I can’t get to my home study with everything I need to work steadily, I can chew a small bite of that overwhelming memoir elephant while traveling. It keeps me moving forward and more encouraged. Have a great June!

    • I’m so glad you understand what I mean! Cutting the task in smaller pieces helps. I”m working chapter by chapter right now, but have no idea yet how the whole book will look like or fit together. Posting excerpts on the blog is such a good idea and probably creates a following for your memoir already. I might give that a thought. Your writing is beautiful and it is so amazing that you have all those letters and photographs. I’m going to check your posts out a bit more later on.

      In regards to house sitting… before we commit to a sit, we always see photos of the pets and the house, or get a tour by video. And, we always have a Skype or FaceTime conversation to gauge the owners, the pets and the surroundings! It is a great lifestyle and if you have any questions about it, please, let me know!

  5. Hi Liesbet,
    I really enjoyed your post.
    The most telling sentence is “I never say ‘I quit’ and I don’t really ever quit writing.” I think that’s absolute confirmation that you are a writer. You’re the real deal, Liesbet. You’re just at a point in life where you are busy. We all have those ebbs and flows. As Donna said, all of these experiences are allowing you to make even more memories.
    The other thing I’ve been feeling more and more often lately is that there’s a good reason you aren’t getting time on your memoir right now and that, when you do, you’re going to look back and recognize that the timing wasn’t quite right before but it is now.
    As far as my writing in May, blog posts and journal entries – that’s about it. And I don’t even have the excuse of a super busy schedule like you do.
    By the way, I read Chapter by Chapter years and years ago. I don’t remember it all that well, but I remember thinking it was a good book. When you do have time to read it, you might find it a bit inspiring for future writing.

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Karen. You are right, there is a time for everything and I will never stop writing. I just hate it when things are “hanging” over my head and no progress is being made. When I write blogs or articles, this does never happen, but with a big project like the memoir, I just have to get used to it taking years, especially when life gets “in the way”, or, better, when I let it get in the way. 🙂 As your blogs have been rolling ito my inbox the last few weeks, I kept think about how much you are writing and how busy and active you are. So, I think you are pretty much on top of everything writing-related right now. 🙂 I, on the other hand, would love to catch up on everything you have been creating the last few weeks. I will get there. I promise. 🙂

  6. Sounds like you’ve had a full plate and with all the traveling from one end of the country to the other, it’s no wonder you haven’t been able to write. Hopefully things will settle for you soon and you’ll be able to get back to writing. I look forward to hearing all about the big secret.

    • That’s the short-term plan, Ingrid, from the moment we “settle” again in a couple of weeks, I will make writng my priority. And, the more I say it out loud, the more I keep myself accountable, right? As to the big secret – it is one that you will certainly appreciate… 🙂

  7. I will make you feel better – I did not accomplish anything substantial this month! I’m just glad I was able to get a few blog posts in. I also think if you are visiting your family you get a free pass. I enjoy reading about your house sits. Please keep writing about them.

    • Writing blogs also counts as writing, luckily! 🙂 Thanks for making me feel better. I am such a mean person… But, sharing the same feelings of unproductivity – and then encouraging each other to do better next month – is not necessarily a bad thing, right? I will keep writing about our adventures and house sits, Jennifer. I”m glad to read that you enjoy them!

  8. I love writing, I love reading other writers, I will never NOT write as I go through life but, ultimately, I always put life itself above writing! When I am traveling, I experience and pull in all I can. I might take some notes, but the real writing has to come later. I am too busy enjoying the travel, the people, etc. This is especially true when I am with family. Enjoy your time away, Lisbet; the paper and pen (or computer) will always be there when you’re done being busy. 🙂

    • I recognize the feeling, Lexie. When you are visiting and sightseeing and traveling, all you really can do is take it in, enjoy, and maybe make some notes. I keep a diary already for a very long time, so that is a daily activity no matter where I am and what I do and see and experience. Although, when I am exhausted, even that has to wait until the next morning or a few days later!

      Life itself is more important than writing, so I think you have your priorities right. 🙂 As for me, I just have to make my life a bit less exciting, to be able to write. But, here is another “problem” I have learned over the years… The more you do, experience and sight-see, the more material you gather and the more you want to write about, for which you need even more time. Yeah… it is a vicious circle. 🙂

  9. Hi, Liesbet – I agree with Karen. You are the real deal! The experiences that you are gathering when you are too busy to write, are exactly what make you a good writer….and will help create a richer, more interesting memoir.

    • Ooh, stop right there, Donna! All that recent stuff will have to go into a second memoir, since the first one is already running out of room, because of too many ideas and too much material to pick from! 🙂 Thanks for the compliment!

      As I mentioned before, it is not working out to just sit still long enough and finish this writing project. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what happened the first time I ever wanted to start a memoir (about our year-long camping trip in Mexico and Central America in 2005-2006)… Before I had the time to do something substantial with that, we bought a sailboat and set out cruising. I am doing my very best this time to not do something similar again and hold off the next adventure until my memoir is done…

  10. Liesbet I certainly am no expert here. If I can manage 2000 words for a blog post I feel like I have completed a marathon. I’d encourage you to do what makes you happy. Rather than being hard on yourself perhaps you are seeing that this will be a long term project. I think that missing out on adventures and living in the moment may not be worthy of the sacrifice. I wouldn’t suggest you quit either but I would suggest you do what makes you happy.

    • I think that is the best attitude, Sue, you are right! If I put in my head that this book thing is a long-term project with no deadline, I might be a bit more relaxed about it (and our life). On the other hand, when it starts to “drag on” or it feels like it is “hanging over my head”, I better get that butt in the chair. 🙂 I do love our current lifestyle, so I should try to enjoy it as much as possible!

  11. I know what you mean about how roaming about can affect your writing. I’m finding it so hard to focus on it while we’re out cruising. It’s not that I don’t have the time, it’s just that everything else is so distracting. Hopefully, I’ll be more focused once we’re back at Indiantown and hauled out working on boat projects.

    • My focus on the boat was hard as well, together with a lack of electricity (we needed all the juice for the fridge and Mark’s computer – he had/has a “real” job :-)). A bit similar now, without the lack of electricity! 🙂 I did manage to write about a blog a week (blogging was less popular back then) and the random article, but, in a boat yard, there would definitely be no time for any writing. We hated boat yards, so we tried to be out and back in the water as quickly as possible, resulting in crazy long and exhausting days of manual work. I hope you manage to do some of your writing back in Indiantown (your “home base” :-)).

  12. I totally get this, Liesbet! It is so easy to get distracted from writing. I just came back from a few days in San Diego and I had great intentions, but just got too busy with family, and rightly so. I only have the summer to write to get my next book moving, so I just have to dedicate 2 hours a day to focusing on that, although I’m researching now. You will get it done when it needs to get done! I hope your Oakland sit is enjoyable!!

    • Good luck with your writing schedule this summer, Terri! When the weather is lovely, it is very hard to remain indoors and work. I’m a bit worried about that myself. I keep telling myself that Oakland will bring time to write more, but I already know that there will be a lot of distractions and other tasks as well. 🙂

  13. You have been busy. With all that traveling I think that 3 hours of writing was great. Happy IWSG
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

    • We will take all the writing time we can get, I assume. A month in Belgium has produced zero hours of book writing, so I guess I should be happy with the three hours last month. 🙂

  14. Everyone’s writing process is different. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Let your writing, your stories, enhance your busy and exciting life. 🙂

  15. Your visits back home in Belgium sounds pretty much like our visits back to NY once/year:

    “…and once in Belgium, organizing another garage sale, downsizing my stuff, playing with my niece and nephew, more doctors’ visits….”

    Volkan and Heather

    • Yes, you guys know what I mean! And, all these things are fun as well, a nice home coming with lots of spoils every year, so I shouldn’t complain. Different priorities in different places, at different times of the year.

  16. Again, we share similar fates and coincidences. I share your sentiments (see, I’m three days late in reading this month’s IWSG postings!) Our week in Cape Cod (last week) netted 5 haiku poems, but I did finish reading two books of poetry. You’ll knock it out of the park on the 22nd!

  17. You are the real deal Liesbet, life can sometimes take us away from writing and when the time is right, all will fall into place. Every blog post you produce is part of your memoir, including this post :o) xxx

    • Thanks for the encouraging words, Xenia. I think being more relaxed about this project might improve my quality of (emotional) life! Not that my life is bad, of course!! 🙂

  18. Liesbet, you have always written since fourth grade, and you have stated that you will never quit. That tells me you are a writer. The last month and your lifestyle have their own rhythms, and you can’t compare yourself with others. It’s just you, and the story, and the page. The memoir will continue to develop as long as you are determined to write it.

    Jude

    • You say it so nicely, Jude: “It’s just you, and the story, and the page.” It makes me sigh deeply and let that sink in, imagining a beautiful, balanced rhythm to get that story on the page, when time and inspiration permits. I am determined to write it, so one day, it will get done! 🙂

  19. I had to accomplish something substantial–the deadline on GhostWriters #3 looms. It needs to be out in time for Halloween, which means my deadline is mid-July. Yikes!

    That said, I hear ya. If I had your life, traveling from place to place and always in a new locale, I don’t think I’d get any writing done, either. Even when I take a brief trip, I need time to get back into a writing routine.

    Guilt aside (and guilt is what writers feel when they’re not writing. It’s just one of the prices we pay for being writers), how do you feel about your life? If you’re perfectly happy, why sweat it? Write when you want to and let it work for you. There’s no shame in that.

    *hugs*

    • If anybody has been productive writing and promoting and focusing (and making decisions) on being an author the last months, it’s you, jmh!!! And, I am so very proud of and happy about your accomplishments, despite my last comment in the blog. 🙂

      You know, I should actually enjoy the “not having a real job” a bit more! I love my current lifestyle – it has so much to offer. But, the pressure to write my book is always there and spare time (when house sitting) happily goes to the animals. I’d love to read a book once in a while, so I do hope to come up with a balanced and enjoyable schedule once we are back in California. But, could you please make the days a bit longer for me? 🙂

  20. It is not easy to write about your memoirs when you are so busy living them. Just keep writing. The book will come when the timing is right.. Love and hugs from Pankgor. We miss you guys!

    • That’s what I always say (and use as an excuse), Lisa! I’m too busy living my adventures to be able to write about them. I sometimes wish we had a quieter life (that truly is needed to productively write), but that would not satisfy our itchy feet! This house and pet sitting offers the right balance. Missing you guys as well and we appreciate your and the Captain’s private messages! xx

  21. Truthfully nobody’s going to chain you to a desk if you don’t want to do it yourself, Liesbet, but I expect you can be excused for family reunions. Life’s for living, didn’t somebody say? Maybe you’ll come back stronger in commitment after a break. 🙂 🙂

    • I count on you to tell me how it is, Jo! 🙂 As you know, restless souls have a hard time chaining themselves to a desk. I will certainly try (for a little bit) after this European break!! Have a wonderful rest of your week – I hope the weather is as nice and sunny in the UK as here in Belgium.

  22. Everybody’s composition procedure is distinctive. Try not to be so difficult on yourself! Let your written work, your stories, upgrade your occupied and energizing life…

    • Wise words! Life itself and the stories go together – I have to find the symbiosis and balance to let them merge. 🙂

  23. A rest in a while is good

    • Totally! And, I am enjoying a rest from writing and thinking, but I am happy and ready to take a physical rest now and get back to my keyboard. 🙂

  24. We all dance to our own beat Liesbet. We are writers. We write. We don’t base what we do on the amount of time we spend doing it or how many books. We all have life to deal with to, and yes, many of us, like myself, beat ourselves up when our writing gets neglected. That’s what reminds us we are writers. My own new book is causing me several pauses and I’ve walked away from it several times this year. But I didn’t quit. I just take pause. 🙂 <3

    • Pauses are good, Debby. When you put your newest book aside, do you have another writing project (other than your blog) to work on, do you read (I know you do), more than usual, or do you prefer a total break from anything related to writing? I”m curious about what you are working on!

      • I read a lot of articles to do with writing, current things in the publishing world. I’m usually working on two books as once as it turned out each time, but this time I’m only jotting ideas for future work. And as you can well imagine, writing blog posts takes up a fair bit of time, especially when I’m putting guest interviews together, ie: gathering info for questions. I’m also trying to get work done an online freelance writing course. Believe me, there are no spare moments in my days, or nights. Reading is reserved for bedtime, no time for luxury leisure. 🙂

  25. Wishing you much writing productivity in your new house next week Liesbet. And to answer your question: I have had to take almost a couple of months off blogging. Best wishes!

    • Denzil, I hope you took some time off blogging because of other, enjoyable, pursuits! Thanks for the wishes. We are now at the new house and I am trying to come up with a productive schedule. It proves to be hard yet again… I truly need a dull lifestyle to get some work done.

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