Last night I went to the birthday celebration of a good friend. She’d hired a tarot card reader to do 10 minute readings for any of the party-goers who were interested. I was excited for this new experience, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. The woman helped me craft a question that was open-ended but specific. We settled on focusing on the process for the book I’m currently working on. The reader instructed me to select 11 cards from the deck spread out on the table. She then laid my eleven on the table in a specific order.
She said many things, all of them interesting to me, but in case you are already rolling your eyes at the idea of Tarot Cards, I’ll cut to the chase. The reader observed that I’ve been working on the current project in fits and starts. She said that I’m treating it like a hobbyist and that if I want to finish it, I need to develop a daily habit of working on it.
Now you might be wondering if I really needed a tarot card reading to remind me to develop a daily habit of writing. Intellectually, no. But it was a sort of wake up call to me. Even though I didn’t think I was treating my writing as a hobby, the way I’ve spent time on it lately is very much like a hobbyist. If there’s time, I will write — as opposed to the immutable time I used to give writing. The tarot card reader’s comments reminded me of Ingrid Sundberg’s post in which she analyzed how much time she actually spent writing. It was far less than she’d expected. Similarly, I spend a lot of time thinking about writing, talking about writing, lamenting about writing — but comparably-speaking, very little time tapping my fingers on the keypad of my laptop.
The other day, the snow day, the clock was closing in on 2 p.m. and I still hadn’t written. I had been telling myself that it was because my kids were home, but let’s be real. My two sons are teenagers. I barely see them when they’re home. If I was tending to their needs by making pancakes from scratch, hot cocoa and cookies, that was all me. So I told on myself. I announced that I needed to spend two hours writing and if either of them saw me wandering around, they were free to shame me back to my laptop. I also gave them my phone, reasoning that they were home and my husband was safe at work so there were no life-or-death reasons to check my email or text messages. I mean, how important is it that I see the latest 25% off deal from Eastern Mountain Sports?
My 14-year said, “That’s fine, but what are you going to write about? You should have an idea about the scene.” I told him what I’d planned to tackle. He said, “Okay, but don’t plan all of it. The writers of Adventure Time said that you need leave space for the character do what he wants.”
I love when I get pearls of wisdom from my offspring courtesy of a Buzzfeed article. I sat down and guess what? I wrote a really cool scene during that time. I can say so with confidence because the 14-year asked to read it and I got a “Whoa,” which everyone knows is teen speak for “That’s awesome.”
Here we are at 3 p.m. on another snowy day and the words of the tarot card reader are still in my head. “You need to make this a daily practice. Otherwise, the stops and starts will drift into more stops than starts.” Off I go. I think I know the scene I’ll work on this time, but I’ll be sure to give my character some space to walk around. Tomorrow, I’ll plan to do the same. Notice that I didn’t say “hope to do the same” because hope suggests that I’ll do it if I can. “Plan” says that I’m going to work it into my schedule. I’ll be sure to report back.