Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” On the first of each month, Catching Days hosts a guest writer in the series, “How We Spend Our Days.” Today, please welcome writer Kathryn Craft.
The alarm goes off in the dead of night. At least it feels that way, since it’s March, and at five a.m. the sun will not be greeting me. I roll over and check my iPhone. Its artificial light completes the job of waking me as I free myself of notifications and emails, then check for new reviews at Goodreads and Amazon, tangible proof of the thrill that can still sneak up on me at any given point in the day: right now, somewhere, someone may be reading my debut novel.
My goal is to get my feet moving in the direction of the gym, just one block away, before any part of my conscious mind argues that I don’t have time. If it gets any later than six-thirty I worry that I’ll lose too much of the day and will probably skip it. Then I shower and, if it’s Wednesday, head to the local Wegman’s grocery store by eight to reserve a favorite set of tables near an outlet in the second floor Market Café. Soon I’ll have the notes for my next novel spread around my laptop, and three to five writing friends will join me.
The six other days of the week I commute up two flights of stairs to my loft office, but on Wednesdays I fight that monotony. Each member of our “Weggies” group is immersed in her own work, but because we cheat and peek at email now and then, we’ve been there for one another as we’ve received initial cover concepts, offers of representation, new rejections. Most importantly, we witness, so that published or not, we can say of each other with certainty: we are writers.
What I want to happen next but I don’t think happened once in March: to be home by two p.m. sitting in a comfy chair by a sunny downstairs window reviewing work for one of my developmental editing clients. Since publication, this time is instead when I return interview questions or come up with marketing copy for upcoming talks or answer requests to meet with book clubs or get back to my publicist or draft a guest blog post because these things are needed now now now. As long as my day has already jumped its tracks, I’ll also post some promo to Twitter and Facebook.
My new reality: sometimes the sun will be low in the sky before I get to my paying work. I need the income and I care to see the work of my talented clients through to fruition, so it will be another fifteen-hour day. Counting my blessings, I will skid to its end at nine p.m., my brain shredded from firing on all cylinders for so many non-stop hours.
I haven’t spent significant time with my grandchildren in months. A friend who invited me to dinner in early December is still hanging, waiting for me to pick a date I’ve not yet found. One of my two sons moved from Rochester, NY, to nearby Philadelphia and yet I’ve seen him no more often. My work feeds me by virtue of the fact that it stems from my interests and passions, but other than that, since September, I’ve done nothing for longer than a few minutes that might be considered recreational or restorative.
I promise myself that this will change after June 1. I will reclaim my evenings, and push the editing back into the afternoons. I will return to that spot by the window while the sun still hangs in the sky, fueling my effort with energy and not caffeine. In the late afternoon, I’ll once again run errands on foot, one of the joys of living in a walkable town. For now, if all I can do is sit on the stoop with my face tilted toward the sun for a few minutes while the snow melts around me, I’ll take it.
June 1 is when my next book is due. Based on true events surrounding the standoff that resulted in my husband’s suicide sixteen years ago, this was the novel I felt moved to write when my young sons and I were spared. This is not just any book; this is the book for which I’ve tilled my soul and learned my craft. This next book is my calling.
But all of writing is a calling, is it not? Including this piece, and I have opened to its message: “emergency mode” has become my reality. What to let go of, to make room for the new? A tough question when you love everything about your life. But for the love of my health, my family, my small-town life, and daily a visit with the sun, I must address this question.
After June 1.
AND THOSE SAME 3 QUESTIONS…
1. What is the best book you’ve read in the last few months and how did you choose it?
- Because I met Therese Walsh at one of my recent tour stops in Binghamton, NY, where we purchased each other’s books, I am currently reading her novel The Moon Sisters. I am enchanted by its fanciful imagery, the language, its story about moving on from the suicide of a parent, and its characters’ search for something more magical.
2. Would you give us one little piece of writing advice?
- Write about something that matters deeply to you. Infuse your character set with different perspectives so they will naturally come into conflict over the issue. Focus all the power of your craft on the exposed, vulnerable, conflicted heart of your story, and allow its beat to drive your narrative. Then celebrate, for you have written with the kind of rare courage that will hook readers and change the world.
3. What is your strangest reading or writing habit?
- I adore reading and immersion in water. In the winter nothing makes me happier than reading in the tub; in the summer I like to read on an inner tube or inflatable raft while floating on the lake.
By Kathryn Craft