Real Life: The Nemesis of Revision

The Hard Work Continues

Well, it’s finally here. Ta da! The Revision Letter. And I’ve jumped right in, I’m proud to say, moving methodically through my editor’s insightful comments. But I’ve made an alarming observation: the better my revision day is, the more my real life (henceforth referred to as R.L.) caves in like an undercooked souffle. I had no idea how difficult it would be to revise while R.L. continues to revolve around me. I’m not just talking about laundry and those other pesky household chores that try to steal my writing time, which if you asked me two weeks ago, I would have assumed would be the biggest hurdle in accomplishing this goal. Nope. It’s actually the intensity of the process itself and how little the rest of the world understands my inability to slip seaminglessly from holing myself up in the revision cave to re-entering R.L. at random intervals during the day. After immersing myself in my character’s world, and describing every little sensory second of their experience (boy, they sure know how to live in the moment, don’t they?), I have a hard time switching gears to Field Trip Driver or Chauffeur-to-Yet-Another-Orthodonist-Appointment.

My brain, it seems, does not transition well between imaginary and real life, and this translates to missed appointments, a house that gets exponentially dirtier every day, leaving the flour out of my banana nut muffin recipe, forgetting to call friends back or just simply not wanting to speak to anyone. Hermititis has officially set in.

L.B. Attempts to Multitask

The problem is, no one understand this delicate state de l’artiste. My family is not used to me having to do so much actual work on deadline before, and they don’t quite get what I do, anyway. (“Boy, Mom, I have to go to school for seven hours and all you do is sit around in your PJs and make up plots!”) Though I try to impart on them the importance of this stage of my fledgling new career, that half my advance won’t arrive until said revision is accepted by my editor, that my future career depends upon this debut novel being a strong seller out the gate, they still look at me blankly and say, “Okay, so what’s for dinner?”

Me: What? Dinner? It’s seven already, you’re kidding me! I’m so sorry, I was in the middle of raising the stakes in my climax scene!

No one ever warned me that the pre-publication revision stage would result in Foggy Brain Syndrome, which gives another disorder I suffered from, Pregnancy Brain, a run for its money. Life has somehow become the dream, and the world of my book-in-progress, reality. I am not fully functional in the noggin’, and I can’t quite explain why.

There are two main things I’ve learned to do to compensate:

• As soon as I hear of XYZ activity happening on XYZ date, I force myself to get up off my ever-expanding writer’s derriere and immediately write it down in the calendar. I refer to my calendar three times a day minimum as I can’t keep R.L. details in my head for more than an hour at a time.

• If something important is happening, I write it on a post-it and stick it on the door. I know my family was thinking about institutionalizing me when they saw yesterday’s Post-It, WATER THE DOG.

Some of my single friends have suggested that I traipse off to a hotel room for a night to write. Yes, but I am sloooow, and that would be some very expensive paragraphs. What I really need, to be honest, is a cabin in Lake Tahoe for the week. But there seems to be no way to convince my family of the urgency of this request. Funny, because I could probably get the entire thing done in that week, but oh, how they’d whine. “We want to come, too. You don’t get to have all the fun!”

So I continue on as I am, trying desperately to turn out something grand with one hand while trying to keep my head screwed on straight with the other. I hope I don’t alienate the world in the process, because the thing is, there’ll come a day when I’ll really need readers.


Filed under Editing and Revising, Editor, Writing and Life

13 responses to “Real Life: The Nemesis of Revision

  1. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    L.B., if you learn the secret to revising while on the Real Life track, please let me know!

    Until then, your dust collector device, is, um, upside down.

    I think.



  2. J. Anderson Coats

    I left sugar out of brownies once. And set pork chops on fire by leaving them under the broiler too long.

    My kid learned how to make mac and cheese by himself at age eight. “Got to,” he explained to a flabbergasted buddy, with a sigh of resignation. “My mom is writing.”


  3. Parents are supposed to guide their children toward independence, right? And our children can already fend for themselves. See what good parents we are? 😉


  4. I’m normally pretty good about keeping RL and the WL on schedule, but it sure makes me all sorts of grumpy.


  5. “Water the dog.” LOL!

    Frankly, I don’t understand how anyone who has (a) children, (b) a job, (c) a spouse, (d) friends, (e) a house, (f) pets, (g) parents, (h) the occasional cold, or (i) any combination of these–and most of EMLA’s writers seem to have ALL of them–can get any writing done at all. I had to wait until my children went to graduate school, I retired from my job, we bought a condo that comes with a handy-man, and the dog died before I could start writing. I’ve managed to hold onto the spouse and most of the friends, all of whom are very tolerant, so far.

    Writing is like an addiction for which I don’t want a 12-step program. I feel like a troll, clutching my computer and looking over my shoulder, suspicious that a well-meaning friend who thinks I should breathe fresh air occasionally will hold an intervention. “Go away!” I’ll hiss.

    Fortunately, I’m learning that these periods are not continuous. They’re intense and deep and enthralling when they descend. Then, I meet the deadline, blink, and re-discover the world–the one that inspired the %&# story to begin with.


  6. Hmmm, maybe it’s good thing that my family already thinks I’m absent-minded and a lax housekeeper. Nice, low bar already set.


  7. My husband has gotten used to leaving the room when I’m crying over a character, and that sometimes I need time to adjust back to real life. Writing’s a strange game.


  8. L.B. Schulman

    No wonder I couldn’t get that dang dust buster to catch anything but dandruff!

    I think this is more of a venting post for all authors out there. Yesterday was to be my big revising day, until pet ratty grew so ill as to need euthanasia. It’s our last ratty, and I have to say they are the BEST pets, but I do look forward to getting off my asthma medication. Being allergic was no fun ride. Still, very sad and today’s the day. But life happens, right? Still need to revise and not let it be an excuse to “write off” today. (I know some of you are like, rat? Eew?!) Onward….


  9. Pingback: Real Life Reevizion (or) The Road to Heaven is Paved with Sharpie Pens | EMU's Debuts

  10. Just curious, did you watered the dog? LOL. I know what you mean. I get caught up in my own writing bubble sometimes. It’s not easy to write and have a real life. I have a four-year-old and a husband who are very supportive but still don’t quite get it. I hope you get those revisions done. Good luck!


    • L.B. Schulman

      Thanks, Kelly! If the dog isn’t watered by me, she will be dehydrateed in 24 hours. That’s some serious responsibility during revision time, and I sure hope I don’t forget. Good luck with your own stuff!


  11. I love this post — the picture especially because that is exactly where I am right now. Yesterday, I brought my netbook with me when I took my 18 month old for a walk because I was just on the cusp of a revision breakthrough. I strategically paused in a isolated spot with the netbook balanced atop the stroller so I could type a few sentences, but I had so much guilt. It’s one thing to be talking on your cell phone while pushing a stroller, but to be on the computer? That’s like a federal offense.


    • L.B. Schulman

      Hi Ann,

      That is too funny. Actually, I was at my most prolific when my kids were babies because I actually felt forced to work during nap time. It is hard having kids and being a writer, though, especially if you don’t have big nappers. (Nyquil works really great….haha, just kidding! I swear!) Keep at it, and it’s okay to steal those moments to write.


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