W & P Q #5 & vacation ideas & literary tattoos

Looking for a place for a vacation combined with books? You can stay at Nora Robert’s B&B or follow the Bookstore Tourism blog and plan your trip accordingly. Then there’s always the Library Hotel.

Do you have any other book/author-friendly vacation spots?

Unrelated, but fascinating, to me anyhow. Do you remember, in TWISTED, the English teacher told the main character, Tyler, about a friend of his in grad school who had Homo, fuge written on his arm, in Latin? (A wonderful librarian quotes the entire passage on her blog entry about TWISTED, if you don’t remember.)

Well, there is evidence of a real-world person getting this tattoo, though he went for the English translation, not the Latin. I am quite sure this tat had nothing to do with my book and everything to do with the original Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. It’s just cool when the real world and the world in my head intersect. (thanks to Susanna William via Fuse #8 for the linkitude.)

You wrote: This is probably one of those “whatever works for you” kinds of questions, but I’d like your perspective. Since, as you mention, most writers must maintain full-time jobs to live on while writing, how does one balance writing with the other demands of life? This includes not only the full-time day job but also raising children and family demands. I’m sure that your juggling of book tours and fan mail and running and family alongside your writing time must provide some wisdom…please share!

No wisdom, just sympathy. Every writer I know faces these struggles. And they don’t seem to get easier, they simply morph into something new. Most of our kids are grown, but now taking care of our elderly parents takes up a lot of time. Chances are that when our parents have all passed away, grandchildren will appear on scene. “And so it goes…,” to quote a famous man.

I’ve always set well-defined and somewhat attainable goals for myself, both in my writing and my real-world life. Having goals helps me keep the right compass heading when life gets overwhelming. I’ve also gotten better at turning away from the kinds of activities that do not support the priorities in my family life and my work. This means watching little television and going to few movies. I’m not much of a volunteer anymore. I kind of feel bad about that, but to my dismay, there are still only 24 hours in a day.

Here’s something that might help. Indentify the core values in your life (family, marriage, creative work, financial stability, for example). Try to keep it at 5 or fewer.

Write the values down and then list the tasks that you do everyday that connect to and strengthen those values.

Here’s the tricky part. For one week, monitor how you are spending your time. (Maybe you could do this at the top of every hour, or before you go to bed each night.) List which activities support your core values and which had nothing to do with them. Then figure out how you can detach yourself from the things that are not within your core value system. This will free up time for the things you care about the most.

Any thoughts on this?

Back to work. Scribblescribblescribble…

18 Replies to “W & P Q #5 & vacation ideas & literary tattoos”

  1. Oh, I’m glad Ms. Roberts inn opened! The fire was all over the local news last year (I grew up about 1/2 an hour from Boonsboro), and I’d heard they weren’t sure if they were going to keep going with it. I’ll have to go check it out next time I’m up there. Thanks for the link!

  2. A FTM transsexual at my college who now goes by Ian had “O homo, fuge” tattooed on his arm in white ink. He has a slight obsession with Faustus and theatre, so it kind of fits.

  3. That’s very helpful advice, I think, on tracking how spending time matches (or doesn’t) our core values. I’m going to try it.

    I think an ancillary benefit is that it might also help remove the guilt about spending time on genuinely fun things. As in, I regret the time I “waste” on the internet, in the sense that I don’t even enjoy it all that much. I don’t necessarily regret the time I spend re-watching my favorite TV shows; they’re stories I love that I think enrich my life. But when everything seems pressing, it’s hard not to lump them all in together.

    Thanks for posting this.

  4. How does one balance writing with the other demands of life?

    I don’t know: I just drop things instead. I’ve never been good at doing several things at once. If my life were a circus plate spinning act, there would be eleven plates in shattered pieces and one plate spinning so fast and hard, it looked like it could take flight and orbit the planet.

    Writing is an act of solitude. The typing of the words into the word processor is the culminating event, not the beginning. The writing happens inside a mind that is busy exploring, visualizing, sensing the unreal. Mundane things that require cognitive processing–holding a conversation, actively listening, grocery shopping–cause the exploration to seize up. I’ve always said that I can write in the middle of any activity no matter how hectic, but the caveat is that *I* can’t be hectic. I have to be quiet, and that is the most difficult time I have in the writing/work/life balance, finding time to be quiet.

    1. Interestingly to me, my latest surge of writing energy has come from complete nonsolitariness; I’ve been writing in intimate contact with someone else, reading and revising everything back and forth or together, and it’s been very sweet.

    2. You make an interesting point. (Of being quiet within the hectic-ness.) I agree that typing is “the culmination.” I can (and often do) conceptualize a story (or dialogue, etc.) when driving to work, but I need my own quiet focused space in which to write it down.

  5. Love this formulation and have been making progress in this direction lately — more writing, lots less TV — though unfortunately also less reading and very very little sleeping, fun in the short term but impractical as a general life plan.

  6. Blogs like yours, and the writing blogosphere in general, are a huge help to pre-published writers concerned with the balancing act, because they offer a variety of models.

    The other thing I’ve had to learn over time is that no matter what the priorities, at times life will get overwhelming. Perfect Storms are inevitable. For a while we’ll have to run before the wind and if we’re lucky, we survive. Once the storm passes, we can haul out the compass and get back on course.

    Now, off to meet the deadline before I have to go off to spend another weekend dealing with my current storm.

  7. I LOVE the library hotel! After we discussed it in my master’s courses (library science), I dragged a group of my girlfriends there. It was charming and the drinks at the bar were all named after classics – I was hooked. 🙂

    As for other book/ author friendly places, as far as I’m concerned there are few places more like a breathing fairy tale than Edinburgh (Scotland). And this past summer I had a great time wandering around the Lexington/ Concord area (Mass.) to find the Alcott and Hawthorn homes and to visit the graves of some of the greats of American literature. Book-nerd-dom aside, it was a truly beautiful area with great food.

    I’m no writer, but I really enjoy reading your answers to publishing questions – thanks! 🙂

  8. With you answering my question earlier and lots of other writers first aid sites I finally made it through my word block. Thank you for your blog. My story is well on its way.

    I don’t know about any specific hotels that are good for book nerds, but there is a few cool places with neat tours for the creative. London has a tour that will take you places where famous authors would sit and write some of their greatest stories. Savannah G.A. has a ghost tour year around. New Orleans L.A. has grave yards with famous people buried in them. The coolest part of the grave yard is the messages the living leave for the dead and of course the statuary. You can find these kinds of grave yards in any famous city like Miami and so on. That’s all I can think of for now.

  9. I just wanted to say thanks for posting these. I know that you are busy in multiple ways, but it still matters to those of us who are starting/aspiring authors. It helps to know that our heroes are human.

    If I were to ask one question, it would be, “What if you only feel like you only have one book to write?” I ask this because I’ve heard many places that one should “move on to the next book” while waiting for the (publisher, agent, press release, whatever). I’m an artist and a teacher who has had a book in her head for 5 years. I’m writing this story because I feel like it needs to be told, but I don’t necessarily need to be an author “just to write”. (Even so, I want very much for this story to be published.) Any thoughts?

  10. Your advice reminded me of how Toni Morrison did it: “There were only two things without which I couldn’t live: mother my children and write books. Then I cut out everything that didn’t have to do with those two things.”

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