This Writer Is Always On Call

Most jobs come with a schedule. 9-5 is probably the most common. Some people punch a time clock, others just show up, put in their time and leave. If I had to describe my work hours, it would be easiest to describe them as ‘on call’.

I write for a living. So you’d think I can set my own hours. Show up at the keyboard, pound out a few pages and call it good. Right? Except it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me. I’ve read a lot of advice on the craft of writing that you should force yourself to sit down – and the words come out. Apparently my muse never got that memo. (Or she did and she’s too busy laughing hysterically to give it any credence.)

Don’t get me wrong. I prepare. I plot like there’s no tomorrow. I know what has to go into the scene I’m trying to write. I know the POV, I know the setting and I may even know whole snippits of conversation. But if it’s not ready to come out my fingertips…it’s not ready. No amount of sitting (or chocolate bribes) will get those words to flow if they don’t want to.

Here’s how my creativity works on call. I plot and plan and set up the scene…every weekday morning after the kids leave for school. Sometimes it comes right then. I write for a few hours, the scene is done. I call it a day. But sometimes (more often, lately, than not) it doesn’t. And I have to get up and do something else. Fold laundry, walk the dog, run a few errands. I’m giving it time to percolate.

I never know when it’s going to hit — that moment when the stars align and everything falls into place. It could be just an inkling, or it could be a fully mapped out, word-for-word scene. It starts in my brain, then my whole body is buzzing. My fingertips literally start wiggling. I can feel the words right there on the ends of them! The urge to run to my computer is a compulsion I cannot control. Nor, do I dare deny.

Now, unlike a surgeon who is on call…my situation gets a little more complicated. Have I mentioned I’m working on four books at once? Can you imagine an on-call surgeon with four different specialties? They’d never know if they were being called in for an appendectomy, a face lift, a c-section or brain surgery. I wait for the muse to strike, but I never know which book she’s going to hit me with. Keeps me on my toes.

Either I’ll keep my mind busy enough to ward off dementia, in my older years, or my sanity left the minute I decided to devote myself to a writing career. We’ll just pretend it’s the former. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

Anyone else have a schedule that requires them to be available on a whim? Tell us about it.

Unplugging & Reconnecting

WP_20150704_001Our 4th of July routine usually involves staking out a spot on the parade route a day or so early, then lighting off fireworks and sparklers once it gets dark. But this year people started putting their chairs out along the town’s main street on June 26th. Seriously. Am I the only one who finds that obnoxious? It used to be the night before. And then it was the entire day before. But now… Nope. I’ll pass, thanks.

WP_20150704_003This year we decided to do something different. We packed a backpack with water and snacks, headed out the door bright and early and spent the day exploring Mt. Rainier. You guys — THIS is how you spend the 4th. The views are phenomenal. The crowds were minimal (compared to what we would have encountered at the parade). The air was fresh and clean. And the temperature was blessedly cooler than the heat wave we were going through in Seattle.

WP_20150704_013I was so excited to take pictures and hopefully find a little inspiration for my next series, set in the Pacific Northwest. But the best photo ops happen when you are unprepared, as I discovered when a deer came out to stand in front of our car less than five minutes from the park entrance. It was like she was saying “Welcome to the mountain, DeCuir family. Enjoy your visit.” By the time I was through gawking, hubby had honked his horn to get her to move along and I couldn’t scramble to grab my phone to take a picture fast enough.

WP_20150704_064Oh yeah, did I mention that my phone became a camera only, that day? There was no cell service up there, no wifi to tap into. I thought I’d get the shakes. I was taking some fantastic pictures, but I couldn’t upload them to Facebook. I had no access to my email or texting. I had no choice but to live in the moment. And I’m so glad I did.

We took the easy trails. The kids ran on ahead, searching for cougars and black bears. Hubby used the gnarled walking stick he bought a couple of years ago for hikes that we’d promised we would take but never did. Everyone had a favorite wildflower out of the varieties that grew so prolifically. We realized that we could take the exact same route at different times of the year and have an entirely different experience, depending on the season.

By the time we piled into the car at the end of the day, we were all covered head to toe in dust and dirt. We were exhausted and achy. But we were smiling and talking and, most importantly, happy. I thought the kids would grab their DS games and lose themselves in technology, once we got on the road. But they didn’t even touch them. We talked the whole ride home, about the day we’d had, the things we’d seen, the things we didn’t get to see but would like to go back for, the things we’d like to do over the rest of the summer…

It wasn’t the way we usually spend the 4th of July. It was better. We made memories that I hope the kids will be able to share with their own children some day.

What did you do for the 4th? Are you hardcore traditional, or do you like to mix it up? We need some ideas for next year. 😀

Blogger’s note: I uploaded a TON of pictures to wordpress. Either half of them came out sideways (and refused to let me turn them) or they were too big to insert in my post. Sigh. Apparently they are just not meant to be shared with the world. lol If you’d like to see more, I’ve added some to a Pinterest folder: https://www.pinterest.com/mzdecuir/research-photos/