I haven’t been to a Romance Writers of America annual conference since the last one in Washington, DC, and then I made only a brief appearance. The last one before that was the one in St. Louis when they had the flood and the tornado warnings and 20 lightning strikes per hour.
It’s true that I’ve met several Wenches at RWA conferences–they say it’s true, and I have to believe them because a good part of my past is a blur, especially the past involving those endless-sea-of-people conferences–but these days I prefer to meet new friends and renew old acquaintance at smaller gatherings, like chapter conferences.
As a member of RWA I get the monthly Romance Writers Report, which this month contained an interview with Nora Roberts. And I am here to say, Thanks, Nora. I needed that.
Not that I haven’t been on the same page with Nora–ah, if only I had the same results–previously. However, she has a short, blunt way of cutting through the b.s. in which this business of writing often becomes mired.
People talk about the Muse and I nod, Uh huh, uh huh, and meanwhile I’m thinking, Muse, what muse? It’s just me and the computer for as far as the eye can see. My brain is like the home of someone with the pack-rat version of OCD: tons and tons of junk crammed in there, and no, I don’t know where everything is. I have to keep looking until I find it.
That’s how I write. I keep looking until I find it.
Unlike the amazing Ms. Roberts, I do start with an outline and very much unlike her, I cannot write one book a month. One book a year is my great accomplishment. I would like to write more. It isn’t for lack of trying, believe me. It isn’t for lack of discipline, either–although I’m not sure anyone’s at Nora’s level of discipline. Besides, I didn’t go to Catholic school and I’m not Irish, so there’s a cultural gap, too.
But my attitude about the job seems to match hers pretty well. This boils down to It’s my JOB.
And as she points out, it’s a terrific job. I don’t have to get up at a particular time in the morning (good thing, because I’m not an early riser), I don’t have to fight traffic to get to work (good thing, because I hate driving–and that’s another story), and I don’t have to wear panty hose (not that panty hose has no place in my life, especially the control top kind). I don’t have to look businesslike. I don’t have a boss trying to manage me (I’m not very manageable) and I’m not a boss trying to manage others (I’ve done it; I’m bad at it).
When I was a meter maid (a job I kind of loved, actually, because the experience was so Dickensian), I not only had to get up at a certain time, dress in an unattractive brown polyester uniform that included panty hose and ugly shoes, but I had to deal with drivers. Everyone in the world but me thinks he/she is a great driver. No one seems to realize that this is statistically impossible, especially in Massachusetts. Not only this, I discovered, but everyone in the world–with occasional exceptions–thinks he/she is a great parker, too.
A parking ticket contradicts this rosy self-image. Many drivers did not take the contradiction well. Some of them even threatened me with bodily injury. Mostly, though, the abuse was verbal. I wanted to respond, but not in the polite way the meter maid rules insisted upon. I wanted to say things like, “Hey, Big Guy, learn to tell time.” Or, “Learn to read the signs, Lady.” I wanted to point to the NO PARKING ANYTIME sign and ask what part of it was giving them trouble.
Above all, I wanted to say, “Get over it and pay the $^>%&*# ticket”–which at this time BTW was in the great majority of cases a meter violation, to the tune of $1. Yes, you read that correctly. Drivers went ballistic over a $1 ticket, despite their being clearly in the wrong. I made one error regarding a fire hydrant, when I started out–and the guy took me to court, another interesting part of the job–but meters were easy. You had that helpful yellow VIOLATION sign, which popped up when time ran out. It didn’t matter. People yelled, stamped their feet. Once a man practically started a riot on a street. Over a whopping $2 ticket.
Sometimes my hecklers were funny. Once, after shouting down at me for a time–from a window of an apartment–a guy finished with, “And I don’t like your hair, either,” and shut the window. My hair, too? I was so hurt.
At least once a week, someone serenaded me with “Lovely Rita Meter Maid.” Various street people of the mentally unbalanced variety ranted at me. Drunken men wooed me.
Well, I could write a book.
Which I’d much rather do instead. Even if it means that this year I have to give up my two weeks of August vacation to do so.
This is necessary if I don’t want to run the risk of turning my book in late. People–especially non-writers–tell me that it isn’t the end of the world if the book’s a little late. To me it’s a catastrophe. In spite of my best efforts, I have missed deadlines, and it always upsets me and I hate myself. So I was grateful to Nora for saying it was important not to miss them. This is not only because I had someone on my side on this issue, indicating that I was not neurotic–or no more so than at least one other published writer. I was grateful, too, because I could quote from the interview to my husband and other family members. You see, if I act like that, I’m a nut case. But Nora makes the big bucks. Nora has a kajillion books in print. She gives me total credibility. For a time–until people forget about what she said–my obsessive
work ethic is not only not insane but actually quite intelligent.
So after this, I’m going right back to work–even if it is Saturday, my usual day off as well as what could have been the first day of a Maine vacation.
Am I sobbing? Please. Not hardly likely.
I’ve got a POS to wrestle into submission, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.