Leah’s Cleaning House (and decluttering her mind too)

I did something last week that I’ve not done…well, probably since the early ‘80s. (Yes, we were one of the early adopters of the home computer and have been plugged in ever since.)

It started two Sundays ago. I finished polishing a novella I’d started writing two years ago, sent it to the formatter, and then turned off my computer. No, that’s not the thing that is unusual. What was unusual is that I didn’t turn my computer back on until yesterday. One whole week later.

I’ve never disconnected for so long. Okay, to be truthful, I didn’t truly disconnect. I still checked my email and FB via my phone. But I didn’t do any writing. I didn’t update my website. I didn’t do anything to promote my books or any sort of marketing at all. I put my writing completely on hold for the week.

It’s something big authors like Stephen King say you should never do. They always insist that if you’re a serious writer, you Must. Write. Every. Single. Day.you-should-be-writing-loki

Well, I’ve done that since the fall of 2006. And to be honest, I’d burned out. I’d come to resent writing. To resent the long hours not only writing but marketing too. It had taken all the joy from my life. I had literally been eating, drinking and sleeping thinking about writing, and the whole business of writing stuff. Things like how I can improve not just my writing but my marketing, how I can get my name out there in front of people. Trying to figure out where to take my characters next, why a scene wasn’t working, whether I should change genres. I have spent far too many times staying up 26 – 28 hours without sleep in order to meet a deadline. And blah blah blah whine whine whine.

I knew that I’d be juggling between writing and real life the last two weeks when my hubby informed me he’d booked them off as his vacation as part of our agreement to do a thorough decluttering of our house. But I figured I’d write in the mornings and work on the house in the afternoons. Or vice versa.

Except when it came down to it, I never went up to my office the entire week.

What did I do with all that free time? Well, it was Thanksgiving up here in Canada that first weekend I disengaged. My eldest son visited and informed us that he and his girlfriend are now officially engaged. (I’ve made a vow to not become the stereotypical MIL!)  So are big wedding plans in the works? Nope. Apparently it has been my future daughter-in-law’s dream to elope. So they plan on having a small private wedding just with the two of them somewhere “up north” (they love northern Ontario) next summer and then come back and have a small barbecue in her mother’s backyard for select family members and friends. And they’ll use all the money they could have spent on a big wedding as a downpayment on a house. Now some of you may think that as a romance writer, I want that big walk-down-the-aisle romantic notion. Nope. I want whatever makes them happy. Because, to be honest, when it comes down to it, the wedding is a single day — what counts more is what they do with all the days after they’ve taken their vows.sonandfiance

Then I made Thanksgiving dinner with not a lick of guilt about not being up in my office. (The way I’ve spent far too many holidays since I decided to be that ever-serious professional writer.)

Over the week, we decluttered the house–most of our time was spent cleaning out the crawlspaces where we’d been stuffing things to “deal with later.” Some memories were discovered and carefully stored away, and a whole lot of “WTF, why did we keep this” was tossed. Why the heck did we keep so many empty cardboard boxes for as long as we did? And OMG the cartons of floppies – both 5 ¼ and 3 ½ inch disks. Yes, cartons. Plural. I don’t think we even own a computer that uses a floppy anymore. In the end, we donated four cargo vans full of items to various charity organizations in the area, and took two cargo vans full of…junk…to the dump. And the crawlspaces are a lot clearer now. The only spot left that needs to be decluttered a bit more is the boxes of sewing things I have.  Because I may have a craft habit that I have trouble admitting.

On Wednesday, after a FB discussion oohing and awing over the instructions for the Outlander cuffs posted on Smart Bitches a few weeks ago, a friend and I decided to learn to knit. So we headed out to a local knitting store and sat down for a couple hours for a little one-on-one instruction, learning to cast on, cast off, and the difference between the knit and purl stitches. We learned the difference between a garter stitch and a stockinette stitch, and how to do ribbing. I’ve never knitted before—oh, I know how to crochet, and embroider but knitting always confounded me. Yet with the right instructor, and fun company (waves to Nikki), I got sucked in and now I’m totally hooked.knitting

On Thursday, after my youngest son found out King Lear was playing at Stratford, I braved driving through the Toronto traffic (I abhor driving in Toronto traffic—and I’ve driven in places like Atlanta and DC – Toronto’s worse!) so that he and I could attend one of the last of the year’s performances. Stratford Festival Theatre is the true Shakespearean experience of theatre in the round. And Stratford itself is a beautiful little town to visit — the fall colors were in full glory. Colm Feore played King Lear – Wow.What a wonderful performance! And when the festival gives warnings about seizure-inducing light effects, heed them. That scene with Lear ranting at the thunder and lightning? People literally screamed. stratfordinside Festival Theatre outside

On Saturday, Hubby and I went to an apple festival one town over and wandered around there, returning with a bushelful of Macs and Honey Gingers. I may have also found a knitting store on the main street and went a little crazy. But hey, those balls of wool were on special for a buck apiece. I couldn’t turn them down, could I? I’ll find a use for them at some point. Same with those bamboo knitting needles for $3. (Um, remember what I said about my crafting habit? I think my hubby may be concerned this newest addiction will add to that stash in the basement instead of reducing it.)

Then I knit some more. And some more. Turtle has decided knitting is fun too – both chasing the wool and chewing on my needles.turtleneedles

But by Sunday, I was looking forward to hubby going back to work (even though he’s expecting to be laid off at any day, like the three coworkers who were laid off while he was on vacation). My brain was spinning with ideas for new stories, how to solve issues on works-in-progress, and all sorts of character ideas.

And on Monday morning, I returned to my office, refreshed and rejuvenated. Ready to started writing again.

Oh and figuring out how to promote my upcoming novella, Feeding the Flames, which will be part of the Five Alarm Alpha bundle…coming November 7th, at 99 cents for a limited time. 😉 See, I’m back on track.


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Leah’s Cleaning House (and decluttering her mind too) — 11 Comments

  1. As much as I agree with the idea of writing every day, I think taking a break when you really need one is essential. If you don’t, you risk burn-out, and risk losing the joy that brought you to writing in the first place. After a promotion I have scheduled for my birthday on November 5, I plan to take a break from marketing for a while. For a while, all I want to think about is the actual writing of my stories. And Christmas.

    P.S. I’ve always wanted to go to Stratford, but it’s a bit of a hike from Winnipeg. Lucky you! And I agree with you about the traffic in Toronto. My daughter lives there and we’ve been unfortunate enough to get stuck in rush-hour traffic. What a mess!

    • I have always been a slow learner, LOL Jana. I think I need to schedule regular breaks but I’ve been on deadline for 18 months and I’m finally done with them, though I still owe a book to Angela. (making sure I keep my love of writing alive with that one and it’ll be better for it, I hope.)

    • My craft/sewing area is … scary. I have trouble letting go, even if it’s something I’ve not touched for over 12 years. There’s my sewing/quilting stash, my embroidery stash, my jewelery making (beads/wires and polymer clay) stashes, and now knitting? My husband doesn’t say anything but I am sure he gives me a few sidelong glances.

  2. Good for you!! Sounds like you had a fantastic time and relaxed your mind for a while. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make all things look and feel better. And congrats on getting a new DIL.

  3. You’re son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law are really smart. I saw a study recently which showed that people who spend less on the wedding have longer marriages. It worked for me. Honestly, people have gotten ridiculous about the amount they spend on a wedding dress, never mind the ceremony and reception!

  4. I’m glad you got a chance to unplug and have some family time and “me” time, Leah. Sounds like you worked the heck out of that week off. Bravo! Congrats to the newly betrothed couple. I think their plan is smart. It’s great that they’re doing what makes them happy, rather than feeling pressured to be traditional.

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