I make no secret of the fact that I have a day job in addition to writing my novels. Some in the publishing community say it means I don’t take my dreams seriously enough. My children, however, have told me once or twice that they enjoy eating. As their voices are typically loudest in my ear, I tend to listen to them more than faceless critics. That said, it also helps that I enjoy my day job too.
While my day job has a corporate headquarters, its staff are scattered across North America. This has allowed me to meet and interact with people coming from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences, which has been an even bigger plus. I’ve also since learned that I am one of many who have chosen to give a new career a chance.
For example, I learned the other day that one of our most recent hires was a spin instructor in her once-upon-a-time past professional life. It came up in conversation when she mentioned she was stiff and was shocked by how out of shape she’d become. She also mentioned how difficult it was to get back into a workout routine after taking an extended absence.
It occurred to me that I could say the same about my blog writing habits.
I’d been incredibly disciplined for several years. I’d written even when I could barely summon the energy to get out of bed thanks to a fever. I’d strung words together in between birthday parties and bedtimes. I’d filled page after page time and time again. I’d told myself once the manuscript was done getting back into the blogging habit would be easy.
It is not. It’s not that I’ve forgotten the formula. If anything, I know what needs to be done better than I did before. However, I’ve forgotten how to properly warm-up. That said, I’m here today. I showed up. I followed my own former instructions.
I might not be fit enough to teach a class at the moment, but I’ve taken my first step toward getting back into shape. And when it comes to writing, or pretty much anything else for that matter, there is a lot more you can accomplish by trying than by giving in to all the many excuses to hold it off another day.
Ok, in fairness, I wrote another manuscript. The book part will be a few weeks longer yet as it still needs to go through early reads, professional edits, and formatting. But I wrote another book. (Update – the book is done and scheduled for launch on March 26, 2020)
So what, you might be saying. You’re a writer — a novelist — that’s what you’re supposed to do. I thought so too until I tried to write this one.
However, this time was different from the rest.
Perhaps it was the fact that it is the final book in my science fiction trilogy. It was as if my characters refused to share their story with me, knowing it likely was their last.
Perhaps it was the new house or the new job. Maybe my brain needed its old combination of background and routine to get into its groove.
Perhaps it was my family. The kids are getting older now. I am unfortunately finding they aren’t as willing to go to bed before the sun completely sets, just because their mom needs to hit her daily word count. Nor have our weekend become any less full.
Perhaps it was simply me.
I should have finished this manuscript in February. That was my intent. I would take a break from the blog for the holidays and focus, instead, entirely on it. When February passed, I said, eh, it’s a short month anyway, I’m not that far behind.
Weeks stretched into months and still the most glorious words in the writer’s language, ‘the end’ continued to elude me.
I wrote during this time. Don’t get me wrong, but it was a steaming pile of word turd mixed with verbal vomit left behind to fill a blank page and little more. Thanks for that imagery, you might be thinking. Just be glad you weren’t the one expected to clean it up.
This is all to say, I might be late, but I’m still here.
I set a goal — I missed it — but I didn’t let a self-imposed deadline stop me.
My family has logged an inordinate number of hours this summer on various US highways, byways, and the occasional gravel trail. We’ve gone from the mountains to the sea and several places in between. I wish I could say all this travel was for fun, but sadly that’s not been much of the case.
However, it could have been worse. (This post includes affiliate links)
Far, far, worse.
My eldest son suffers from acute motion sickness and we’ve spent the last ten years honing our senses in order to detect the little signs and giveaways that indicate that it is either time to pull over or locate a makeshift barf bag. The signs are subtle. First, there is the unnatural quiet that descends upon the back seat. Then there is the closing and stowing of electronics or the howl of wind from a rear window cracking over. Ignore any of these signs at your peril.
I didn’t know then that I would be spending so much of this summer on the road, but whether by coincidence or providence, I decided I’d had enough after nearly being christened again following a long drive into the mountains. I recalled seeing an ad with a set of funny-looking goggles appear in a browser search months upon months ago claiming to relieve motion sickness. I’d dismissed them at the time as nothing more than yet another way to separate me from my money, but at that moment, seeing my boy’s normally happy face take on a shade of pale green (yet again), I decided to give it another look.
“Order them mom,” my son begged.
And so I did. A few weeks later, the goggles arrived in a narrow tube. I call them goggles and not glasses as there is nothing in the four rims (two in the front, another one on each side) other than a thin chamber containing a blue liquid. The frames themselves are made of a thick rubbery plastic that bends and makes you wonder how well the device can actually stay up on a child’s ears.
However, somehow they do.
Even better, after forcing him to wear them for ten minutes at a time for one long car trip after another, I am happy to say they somehow work too!
The downside is now my son’s ravenous appetite is still in full effect from journey start to journey end. This has done a number on our travel meal budget as he used to not be able to stand the sight or smell of food for at least an hour after we finally put the car in park, but I suppose I prefer cleaning out a few extra snack wrappers to the alternative.
We may still have miles and miles to go before we sleep, but at least, thankfully, we don’t have to immediately find the laundry machine when we get there.
The best part about the kids being in a scouting program is the excuse it gives us to get out into the great outdoors. The worst part about scouting is then sleeping out there.
After a series of shivering through near-freezing nights and huddling under nothing but a thin piece of treated nylon during thunderstorms, I decided that as much as I enjoy hiking, it might be nice to actually stay under a real roof during our next trip to the mountains. Luckily for me, my other half mentioned he was thinking the same thing.
He told me about an app he’d found called Outdoorsy.
Think of it like Lyft/Uber meets Airbnb/HomeAway. Only, instead of it being a ride-sharing program or app to let you rent out an unused room, you can use it to turn that depreciating asset/eyesore you call a recreational vehicle parked out front into a potential profit center. It also gives a person like me, the chance to actually try to see if RVing is the way to travel.
It may be the fact that I live in an urban area and am centrally located between the mountains and the sea, but there were more than a few options for us to choose from when planning our trip. In the end, we decided to go with a 1998 Coleman Mesa pop-up trailer, which, thanks to its low profile, would allow us to travel around the sharp turns of the Blue Ridge Parkway and under NC’s historic stone bridges with ease.
It would also mean we would have a regular sized vehicle during the long weekend for taking us from one trailhead to the next. We thought that extra vehicle would be our truck.
Unfortunately, the holiday weekend meant we weren’t the only ones to hit the road for the weekend. Unseasonable highs hadn’t helped either as people, like us, sought higher ground and cooler temperatures.
We’d been stuck in slow-moving traffic for more than a couple of hours when suddenly the check engine light appeared on the dash. The truck began to groan. If that wasn’t bad enough, we were at the base of the mountains by this point, meaning our cell reception had already begun to degrade.
My other half looked none-to-pleased. He’d just gotten the truck, which is still relatively brand new, checked out by a mechanic prior to our departure. We pushed on, but at a slower, more careful rate. What choice did we have?
We finally limped into the campgrounds where my mom and stepdad (who’d had the foresight to drive separately) sat waiting. The sun hung low in the sky–too low to worry about pesky details like how we were going get home. We sprang into action. One crank raised the roof. Another lowered stabilizing blocks. We sweated in the effort, but it made me glad our rental harkened from good old 1998 when vehicle systems were still more mechanical than computer driven.
The most challenging part about the setup was figuring out where the various poles needed to shape the more tent-like portion of the camper, especially as the sun had fully set by this point, but even that didn’t take too terribly long. Soon we were settling in for a much deserved night’s rest.
Did I sleep better than I might in my regular tent? You bet I did. Though the camper shook anytime someone tried to sneak outdoors to … er… commune with nature, I remained thankful for the mattress under my back and the solid walls that could protect us against any unexpected change in weather.
We spent the weekend hiking and enjoying food cooked over the open flames of a campfire. My kids spotted waterfalls and at least pretended to be interested when the park ranger regaled us with the story of how the river running beside us got its name. Spoiler – it was violent.
Then it was time to return home. Cranks were turned in the opposite direction and support bars were safely stowed. The truck even managed to get us back home. Then all we had to do was drop the keys and the camper back with its rightful owner.
Would I use the Outdoorsy app again? Absolutely. I only wish I could give our truck an equally high rating.
Here are some additional pictures from our trip, which I hope you will enjoy:
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