I’ve been staring at my laptop screen for the past five minutes, trying to think of something to say. It happens a lot. The blank stares. The empty right brain. I’m outside on the back deck right now, squinting through the sunshine at the computer …
I’m at a coffee shop (okay, it’s a Panera, because #suburbs) with my husband right now, writing. We have a couple hours until Cian needs to be picked up from preschool, and I often get more work done on these time-crunch work dates than I …
A bit about her debut novel, The Queen of Hearts:
Now, on to the Five Questions:
When faced with setbacks or rejection with your writing, what was something that made you push through? I had a lot of query letter rejections because I was not a very good query writer. (You can read more about my struggles here ) Eventually, it got so bad that I’d cringe at the sound of an incoming email. I’ll be honest—I did think of quitting, many times. And I still think self-publishing is an excellent option in many ways. But I’m a persistent fool when it comes to carrying out obligations, even ones I’ve made for myself. I’d told myself I wasn’t going to quit until I’d run through the list of agents I really wanted. And I didn’t.
I can definitely relate to a lot of that, Kimmery! What is your morning routine? Depends on if it’s summer or not. Summertime is freewheeling carnage, because all the children are home and it’s beautiful and there’s all this travel. But during the rest of the year, I get up at 6:00, inhale some coffee, wrangle my little people out of bed and into their clothes, make some breakfasts, referee some hostile morning arguments over who gets the bathroom first, and ship them off to school. Then I make some more coffee, exercise for a half an hour, and sit down to tackle whatever is on my to-do list that day. Sometimes I have to go to my day job or meetings, and those days are useless, writing-wise, because I can only write in the mornings. By afternoon, my brain is fried.
What’s your favorite form of exercise? (And on the flip side, what’s your favorite way to be lazy?) Laziness first: I love to read! Curling up with a book is absolute favorite thing in life. I am not a natural athlete but I’m a kickass walker: if I can get outside, I walk a few miles super-fast while listening to music. If I’m indoors, I have a little Pilates routine I do that keeps me limber and reasonably strong. I have discovered that writing is catastrophically bad for your butt. In my other job—ER doctor—I ran around a lot.
Thank you to Kimmery Martin for stopping by leahferguson.net — and congratulations on the publication of her debut, The Queen of Hearts. The Queen of Hearts can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Indiebound (and as always, if you can take a moment to leave a review on a book you’ve read and enjoyed, it is very much appreciated!).
There is a fat bluebird outside my office window. The shepherd’s hook on which he perches shakes under his weight. He’s eyeing the feeder that hangs below, recently filled to brimming with seeds. My writing space is in the front of our house. It’s a …
The writing has been tough for me this winter. I’d been on a roll, but then suggestions from my agent stopped me in my tracks (her suggestions were spot-on. It’s just that when anybody else expresses an opinion about a project early in I tend …
On Thanksgiving I was talking with my Aunt Michelle, an avid, self-published writer, when she said something about the work that took me by surprise: writing is her way to relax. Michelle hustles like nobody’s business, but she cheerfully told me and my mom that she sees writing as her hobby, an activity she turns to as a reprieve from everyday life. She was smiling as she said it. Writing, to my aunt, is absolute joy.
As for me? Well, I stood there listening to her while something like gruff shame flooded my body.Writing is her joy. Let me process that for a moment.
I have never, ever approached any kind of job with a sustained feeling of joy. Yes, there was the thrill of seeing my name on a masthead when I began working for a big national law book publisher. I loved taking the train into and from the city each day (though I do remember vowing that if I were still taking that same train twenty years from now something had gone very, very wrong). I really enjoyed teaching, too, but the whole truth is that every single morning I would sit on the edge of the bathtub with my head in my hands, overwhelmed and exhausted, thinking: If I can’t handle getting ready for this, how am I ever going to have kids? (“HAHAHA!” said Fate). Any task that was happy for me turned into absolute drudgery–even if was a job I’d desperately wanted.
Maybe this is what we’re just all taught: that earning a living is something you suffer through, rather than embrace. I have a pretty fierce work ethic when I’m under deadline and have to move, but sometimes I think it’s just because I like validation so much I’m a bit like a lab rat: if you promise me enough cheese I will run all the mazes you want. Hard work was something I did to get to the next promotion, or the next raise–or even to the job I had lined up for later in the day, after I’ve completed my work at the first job (hello, my 20s!). Work was all about meeting goals. Fun was what you did after the work was over.
But writing, in its truest sense, is the culmination of the work without the validation–which means that the joyous part of the journey should be, well, the work itself. Aunt Michelle recognizes it: the act of escaping for a bit, of creating a world of your very own, of embracing all those thoughts bubbling up in your brain like an overloaded washing machine until they become stories on paper. It is joy. And really, if most of us looked at our daily work through that kind of lens, there’d probably be a lot less head-holding-by-the-bathtub going on.
I look at Saoirse, who plays basketball in the driveway with Quinlan before her actual basketball practice in the evenings. I see David, who stays up way too late creating marketing materials for his job, because that’s where the fun is (though anything probably beats conference calls?). I, too, used to stay in my classroom well through the dinner hour because I was so into making my lesson plans. The joy was there. How lucky to be able to feel it–and how silly to ever allow oneself to lose it.
So. I took my notebook with me to bed last night (sounds sexy, doesn’t it? David is such a lucky man). I usually read for a bit before I go to sleep, but this time, I thought, you know? I’ll work on my own story. This morning, I got up early to do the same thing. And I wrote like Michelle does: for pleasure, for the meditation of it, for me.
(And then I passed out over my pages because regular life is still really, really hard.)
If you’re a physician, a full-time parent, a payroll clerk, do you find joy in your work? Or do you wake in the morning and put your head in your hands and say, “How can I do this all over again?”
If your answer is the latter, can you shift your view? How can–where you are, with the responsibilities you have right now–start to see the joy in the journey of it? It’s something I think about now as I raise my children: maybe it’s more important to teach them to value the pleasure of using their talents over the goal at the end of the road (this sounds a little reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, doesn’t it?). Maybe the work itself is, in the end, is the whole point of our being here in the first place.
I don’t know. But it’s something to think about as I close my laptop, pick up my notebook, and curl up to write a bit more. Or maybe I won’t think about it at all: maybe I’ll be too occupied with just the writing.
I sure hope so.
My dog likes to tear apart the throw rug we keep in our front hallway, right in front of the door. I’ve replaced this rug three different times. Each time, she chews it up within a matter of months. She starts at one corner, grabs …
It’s Thursday, and the weather has finally cooled enough here that you can walk outside without the humidity slobbering all over you like a drunk date. David drove the girls to school this morning, so Cian and I took the dog for a walk around …