Carol Callicotte

Author

My Writing Schedule March 30, 2009

Filed under: For Writers,Funny stuff,Goals,Projects,Self deprecating humor,Writing — A French American Life @ 2:14 pm
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For my “real” job, I’m a physical therapist. I work part time at the clinic, which I realize is incredibly lucky. So, on my days off from physical therapy, I write, with every intention of making this time worth it.

Here’s the writing schedule I aspire to:

5:45 The alarm goes off. I bounce out of bed, well-rested and eager to begin a brand new day.

6:00 I’m in the “gym” we’ve set up in our garage, where I get a killer work out.

7:00 I shower and get ready for the day, just as I would if I were going to work. I fix my hair, put on makeup, and wear shoes. This is a great psychological method for improving motivation and productivity.

7:45 I eat breakfast and get caught up on the major news, because it’s important to be a good, well informed citizen of the world.

8:15 I meditate to quiet my mind and allow calm and positive thoughts to center me.

8:30 I arrive at my desk and do a writing warm up exercise.

9:00 I work with enthusiasm and energy on my current project.

12:30 I suddenly realize I’m a bit hungry. I’ve been so absorbed in my writing that I don’t even realize it’s lunch time. Lunch is a random assortment of tasteless and uninspired fuel, but that’s okay, because my mind is lost in the world I’ve created, and words are flowing quicker than I can get them all down.

12:37 I’m back to writing.

2:00 I take a walk at this time to stretch my legs and neck, get some fresh air and sun, and give my mind a bit of time to ponder some things. I take a 1 ½ mile loop around our neighborhood, admiring the brightly colored flowers, enjoying the scent of orange blossoms, and feeling a general satisfaction with the writer I am becoming.

2:30 I’m back to writing. I might check some of my favorite industry blogs, or check in with Absolute Write. But mostly, I just write inspired stories of beauty and depth.

6:00 I’ve had a wonderful day and am satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. I pour myself a glass of wine and begin to make dinner. I have a relaxing evening with my husband.

Here’s what a typical day looks like lately:

5:45 The alarm goes off. I reach over to hit the snooze button, and in doing so, knock my watch onto the ground. It breaks. I hit snooze for an hour or so.

7:00 I finally drag myself out of bed and put on my work out clothes. On the way to the garage, I stop in the office to get my laptop so I can watch The Daily Show while I’m on the elliptical. As I sign on, I see that I have email, and realize that another minute cannot go by without me checking to see who has written to me and why. I check my messages. Some of them are notifications from Facebook, so I go to Facebook and end up reading everyone’s updates, seeing who has thrown what animal at me, taking a test to find out what mythical creature I am. Eventually I find myself looking at pictures of people I don’t even know. It’s 8:30.

8:30 I do my workout while watching the Daily Show. When that’s over, I surf the internet between biceps curls and squats.

9:30 I’m frakking starving, so I sit down to eat and read the paper. I get annoyed with the news and turn to Dear Abby and Ask Carolyn. I become saddened by the state of our world. I read Dilbert and get a little laugh. Then I pull out a novel to read while I finish my cereal.

10:15 The morning is half way over and I’ve accomplished nothing. I berate myself and rush to the shower.

10:45 I slip into yoga pants, an old T-shirt, and slippers. My hair begins to dry into a frizzy mess of a mane that would barely be fashionable in 1973.

11:00 I sit down at my desk and realize it’s an absolute disaster zone. I clean my desk. Which means rearranging all the piles into differently sorted piles. I sort my pen container.

11:30 It’s almost lunch time, so I might as well go online and check the industry blogs. I go online and check my email. Then I go to Facebook. Then all the world fades away and I am sucked into an internet vortex of information, bright colors, videos of kittens playing and fat men dancing, advice on the best toenail polish for your skin tone. I come to and realize I’m reading about how Paris Hilton chose the name for her dog. What’s happening to me? Where am I? It’s 1:00.

1:00 I eat quickly, because now I’m really behind. The crap food I eat instantly gives me heartburn.

1:30 I stare at either my computer screen or a blank page for 20 minutes. Then I remember that the ridges on the doorframes have not been dusted in I don’t know how long. It’s horrifyingly unclean, and I must clean them today. I do this.

2:00 I briefly consider going for a walk, but instead I take a nap on the couch.

2:30 I wake up. I decide I need a change of scenery. I walk to the coffee shop 50 yards from my front door. I ask for a mocha – not too chocolately, please! Only one little scoop! The barista glares at me and gives me an extra chocolately mocha. I sit down with my notebook and ponder whether perhaps he doesn’t like me because of my frizzy hair. I drink part of the mocha and throw the rest out. I go home and take a couple of Tums.

2:45 I examine my hair in the mirror. It’s embarrassingly frizzy. I try some product in it, then try pinning it up a few different ways. It ends up in a ponytail. I realize I’m avoiding writing.

3:00 I sit down with a blank notebook, thoroughly disgusted with myself. I manage to write half a page before I decide that my idea blows. I decide I must look up a better word for “strolled,” so I go online. I have more email. And someone on Facebook commented on someone else’s photo.

4:00 I extract myself from the internet and write another half a page, and it’s worse than pulling teeth. It’s pulling out my toenails with my teeth.

4:30 I spend a bit of time coming up with status updates for my Facebook page. I play with the wording a bit.

5:00 I consider quitting, because clearly the day is a bust. But then I decide I must write more. I stare at a blank page for thirty minutes.

5:30 I start on dinner and spend the evening irritable. I resolve to do better next time.

 

Update February 4, 2009

Filed under: Goals,Projects,Writing — A French American Life @ 11:16 am
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I’m nearing completion of the rough draft of my YA novel, tentatively titled ANNA AND WILLIAM. It’s Rough with a capital “R.” When I look back over what I’ve written, I realize most of it is not as bad as I think it is, and some of it is much worse. It’s a far cry from what I envision it being one day. That’s why it’s a rough draft, I suppose. (See my previous entry titled “A Writer’s Prayer.” I’m saying it right now.)

I wrote this one, so far, straight through, which is new for me. I tend to write several sequential scenes, then realize something before needs to be fixed or changed, so I go back and do that, then move forward a bit, go back and repave some things, move forward, then eventually I’ll start jumping around when an out of sequence scene pops into my head. I didn’t let myself go back and rewrite this time, nor jump forward. Instead I left myself notes when thoughts or ideas came up.

I don’t know that I’ll use this approach again. It pushed me toward a completed rough draft, but I fear it may have stifled my creativity somewhat when a scene popped into my head and I only outlined it instead of fleshing it out. But, this is a year of experimentation and trying to find what works best for me.

I anticipate being finished with this rough draft by the end of next week or so. I’ll then let it sit and work on a new project. I’ve got a few potentials, and I’m excited about 2 or 3 of them, and ready for something different! Placing myself in the mind of a teenager these last few months has resulted in teenage angst creeping into my dreams and has drawn me back into the world of high school drama. Didn’t anticipate reliving that!

 

Writing Process August 11, 2008

Filed under: Writing — A French American Life @ 2:54 pm
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My non-writer friends often ask me, “How do you go about writing a book?”

I used to think writers plunked themselves down, pen (or keyboard) in hand, started on page one and continued on through the end and then – voila! A book! Non-writer friends look at me a little funny when I say things like, “I don’t always know what will happen when I start to write.” Or, “My characters don’t always listen to me.” Or, “Yes, I finished my sixth draft, but I still have a lot of work to do.” Or, “I forgot to eat yesterday; I was writing and all of a sudden it was one a.m.”

I don’t fault them for their confusion. It confuses me, too.

The writing world likes to divide us into “outliners” and “blank-pagers.” This artificial division oversimplifies things. There are too many of us who are somewhere in between. Sometimes, I sit down with a blank page, let my imagination run, and I’m amazed where I end up.

While working on CHEATER, I bombarded my husband Stephane one day with this: “You will never believe what happened today. Sydney found out that so-and-so is actually so-and-so, and then Arthur said blah blah blah, and then this guy showed up, and it turns out that he blah blah blah…”

Stephane squinted at me and said, “Are you talking about your characters?”

I nodded. “Yeah! Can you believe it? I couldn’t!”

Of course, I was half-joking, but the fact is that sometimes my characters take and over surprise me. And sometimes, several scenes start flying through my brain and so I jot down a few notes and this becomes an outline; a map to follow. So it goes for me.

My first draft is always a skeleton – it has the bones but is missing a lot of the meat and the style. It’s accompanied by an ever-expanding outline of ideas and storylines that I’d like to follow. Sometimes I try to rein my characters in and whip them into place, and sometimes they run wild and it’s all I can do to keep up.

I like to think of it as the competing sides of my brain striking a healthy balance. I’m ridiculously driven, logical, and organized, which helps me tie up all those loose threads in my stories and to finish what I start. But my creative side is in there too, and when I let that loose and allow things to develop organically, I get some of my best stuff.

Finishing a book is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it took my whole brain, a lot of tears, sweat, and some blood (damn papercuts) to do it.

But this I know for sure: Finishing a book felt just as good, if not better, than scoring the game-winning basket, acing that microbiology final, and getting my physical therapy school acceptance letter. No matter what happens with CHEATER, I will never forget the feeling I had when I first saw a book I wrote printed out and nestled in a manuscript box.