I tend to write much less in the summer for four good and worthy reasons: Sam, Rebecca, Elissa, and Nate. Without school, we have weeks of nothing going on and weeks with random camps in random locations that all require more time in the car. We have lots of time at the pool and plenty of field trips. I don’t like to wish this time away so I do the only logical thing in the face of not being able to time-travel to the first day of school: I embrace it and invest in loads of sunscreen!
In other words, time on the computer will likely be limited to the M-F, 5AM-7AM time slot. Maybe that sounds like a lot of writing time. But I am a sloooooooow writer. I’m slow to commit to an idea, slow to complete an idea, and slow to move on to the next thing after something is finished and submitted. I don’t write for two hours straight. I wish. It’s more like: make coffee, perhaps make a piece of toast (am I the only one still eating carbs?), poke around online for about 15 minutes (I used to not be online at all in the morning, but I’m less disciplined now), over-analyze the worthiness of one idea or another, write, get interrupted by Bryan around 6:45AM and poke around reading blogs again (which I really love to do, by the way, maybe TOO much) until 7:00. So yeah, not two hours at all. More like 45 minutes, tops.
There’s another thing happening with me that is keeping the writing pace slow. I’m having one of those, “What am I doing?” moments. They come up every nine months or so. Yes, I seem to give birth to a crisis of confidence on a regular schedule. I’m organized like that. This time “the crisis” is less intense than I’ve had in the past. In fact, I’d call it less a crisis of confidence in my ability as a writer or my identity as a writer. This time it’s really more of a crisis of dueling interests, and an overall “meh” feeling about the internet these days.
Do I want to try to land on a bigger topic that could maybe be a book or keep floating around from website to website and topic to topic? At first I did a lot of the “I must submit everywhere” freelance writing method because #1. I wanted to make money and #2. I was riding the same wave as everyone else online. But as more sites have become a big mish-mosh of “10 Ways to Write The Same Blog Post On Every Site on The Internet” I’m becoming a little less proud about throwing my hat into that ring. The money is nice and that was a major goal, but it’s not enough to warrant the rat race of it all. I wouldn’t call the income “golden handcuffs” or anything. More like, “tarnished faux silver bracelet I bought on a beach in Mexico.” You know? It’s decorative, but it’s not worth much.
Sometimes it feels as if we’re all collecting bylines like little Tasmanian devils. I can only speak for myself so let me restate that. Sometimes I feel like I’m chasing the next byline. And to what end? I have proven to myself that I can do it. That I can make some money from writing and that I can get the acceptances at least some of the time.
So yes, I can stick to my essay guns and keep writing the ones that I hope are a little more exploratory than “25 Animated Gifs With Fun Scenes From 90s TV Shows.” I know I have my essay limits though. I’m not willing to bare all about my family or about myself, which I know will keep me from getting into certain writing venues. And do I have anything new to say that I haven’t already said in numerous ways in the past few years?
By the way, I’ve published some lists on websites so please know that I say this all in the camaraderie of self-disgust and not finger pointing or judgment. We bloggers have delivered what we’ve been told the internet readers want and will share with their friends. But I’m a reader, too, and to tell you the truth, I don’t read those kinds of posts very much anymore unless they’re written by my very funny friend Jennifer Ball (who also writes incredible, honest essays about divorce). I’m also less likely to share list posts (unless they’re by Jennifer, or about The Gilmore Girls, because I will do anything to assist in any Gilmore nostalgia and appreciation).
I know I’m not alone in my list fatigue (as evidenced by Julie Gardner’s excellent post this week about lists. Also read the comments from her readers.)
Anyway, I cannot settle on a book idea because there are two topics I am most passionate about and one has nothing to do with the other and neither is particularly book-worthy. #1. I love the minutia of the inner workings of relationships between all kinds of friends. I am SO lucky that Jesssica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger at The HerStories Project give me a space twice a month to answer detailed friendship questions and give my (totally unprofessional but very practical) advice. I have to fight the urge to always ask myself what will come of it all because IT is something already. The advice column is an end unto itself. I love it. Readers seem to like it. What else does it need to be!?
#2. My other writing passion is what I call “Jewish stuff.” When I look back on most of my Jewish articles, I’m essentially (though not consciously when I’m writing) expressing the same underlying idea in each one. That is: Do not throw out the baby with the bath water. My husband and I are both passionate about doing things our own way, but with the backbone of tradition behind us, all while living a modern life. Not that we have a problem with Orthodox Jews. Most of our rabbis and teachers are Orthodox and two of three synagogues we’re involved with are Orthodox. We are not, however, Orthodox, but I’ve been clear in my work that my life is more complete and imbued with meaning with Judaism in it. Do I want to ever write a whole book with all that in mind? I don’t know. It can get a little polarizing to be the “crazy-for-Judaism lady,” especially among my in-real-life Jewish friends and family. Plus, sometimes I want to just live it and not write about it, which is the same reason I rarely write about parenting these days.
#3. Sometimes I want to go back to writing short stories. The ones I’ve had published would make about half of a collection if I put them together. Do I have the passion to write the other half? Depends on the day.
So. Back to the question in the title of this post.
What is next for me as a writer?
I don’t know. But it sure was fun writing an old-fashioned blog post just to think about it out loud.