How I Got Over Myself By Getting Under A Deadline (or Six)…

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Guest Post by Jen Malone

I’m a tiny bit obsessed with reading about other author’s creative processes, hunting for the one nugget of wisdom that will solve all my writing woes and turn me into Judy Blume overnight. Alas, despite the glowing testimonials I’ve seen, I can’t write standing on my head (or on a treadmill, it turns out) and every time I head to Pinterest to start a Book Setting inspiration board, I end up trying to talk my husband into building me a treehouse using blueprints I’ve discovered there.

And then I got busy and my whole creative process changed. When I say I got busy, I mean really, really busy. You probably don’t know me, but get ready to weep for my sanity anyway…

In the last nine weeks, I’ve co-written the second half of You’re Invited Too, my Winter 2016 middle grade novel, and completed revisions on it; I’ve completed revisions, copyedits, and first-pass pages on my Summer 2015 YA, Map to the Stars (it’s digital-first so the timeline is compressed); completed revisions on my Summer 2016 YA, Wanderlost; and drafted my Summer 2016 middle grade novel, The Sleepover.

For five of those weeks (and who knows how many going forward), we’ve had construction workers in our house all day, fixing extensive damage from a roof leak caused by a winter ice dam and during that same time span all three of my children came home from school with head lice and we had house-guests for a week. I have a MG novel, You’re Invited, releasing on May 19th, so in the past six weeks I’ve done five book panels/signings, two book festivals, two school visits, one month-long project with students in my role as Author in Residence at a middle school, three Girl Scout troop visits, and two writing workshops in my role as Girl Scouts of Eastern MA’s Author in Residence. This Saturday I’m accompanying sixty-five Girl Scouts and their chaperones on an all-day bus trip from Boston to NYC to scavenger hunt among all the locations mentioned in my 2014 MG book, At Your Service.

Oh, and I teach a college course completely unrelated to writing.

Crying yet? Am I crazy?

OH GOD YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

My writer friends think I have fallen off the deep end. To be fair, I certainly didn’t set out to have the winter/spring I’m having. I sold these novels at different times to different publishers, after discussions and strategic planning with my agent. Ah, but publishing: never content to leave well enough alone. Dates shift, opportunities come up, and bam: a zillion deadlines at once! Have fun!

But then this weird thing happened: I kind of (totally) love it.

Yes, I’m certifiable, but here’s the other thing: I’m also soooo lazy. Seriously, so lazy. If left to my own devices my every day would consist of three things: couch, pajamas, stack of paperbacks. However, I prefer that way I feel about myself when I’m accomplishing things, crossing them off the to do list, and collapsing, tired but happy, into bed at night. The way I am now. I suffer from seasonal affective disorder and bouts of depression and, to my shock, this is the first winter neither happened (and I live in Boston, so you know the winter we just had!).

I definitely write far more efficiently under deadline, but I think maybe even more creatively because I have no choice but to find strategies to push through the lulls. In the past, I would give myself oodles of time off to refill the creative well between projects. But this winter I’ve had to come up with some new strategies. Switching projects is one—when one revision is stumping me, I move on to the other and work until I get stuck, then switch it up again. When I don’t feel like writing, I force myself to just do one hour and usually I’m on a roll by then.  It actually works!

I worry that I’ll hit a wall soon or that just one “life event” will derail this train, but in the meantime this accidental overload is teaching me some things about my creative process that I never suspected. Mainly, that it all works better when I’m forced to put my butt in the seat each and every day.  Best of all, I can still do most of it on the couch and in pj’s. Life achievement unlocked.

In the meantime, keep the Game of Thrones spoilers to yourself. I’ve just scheduled in a binge day.

You're Invited cover high res
Four best friends start a party-planning business in this fresh, funny tween novel from the authors of At Your Service and Breaking the Ice.Twelve-year-old Sadie loves helping her mom with her wedding planning business, and with Sadie’s mad organizational skills, she’s a natural! That’s why it’s so devastating when her mother “fires” her after a Little Mermaid–themed wedding goes awry.Enter Sadie’s best friends: sporty Vi, ace student Lauren, and boy-crazy Becca. The girls decide that in order to get Sadie’s mom to reconsider, they have to make her see how amazing Sadie is at party planning. Except no one’s gonna hire a twelve-year-old to plan a wedding. A birthday party, though? Definite possibility.

Before long, RSVP—your one-stop shop for the most creative parties in town—is born. Of course, Sadie can’t wait to prove herself to her mom, but the other girls also have their reasons for enlisting: Vi has her eye on the perfect gift for her hardworking dad, and Becca’s all aflush at the thought of connecting with Ryan, the new Irish cutie in town. And though Lauren thinks she’s too busy with summer studies to “officially” join, she’s willing to help out in any way she can.

But in this particular party-planning business, nothing goes according to plan! Sadie’s mom is a perpetual no-show, Vi’s archrival is dead set on ruining her summer, Becca can’t seem to get Ryan to glance in her direction, and Lauren keeps choosing studying over her friends. Is the girls’ friendship strong enough to survive a business? Or does RSVP spell the end of these BFFs?

 


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