The Write Stuff (part I) aka “Houston, we’ve got a problem”

the right stuff

Paula’s Post #99 – I’m back. Back after my longest 5writer blogging hiatus ever.

I published my previous post: Multi-Tasking Writers: Are you a tortoise or a hare (part 3) way, way back at the beginning of February, in what now seems a long, long, time ago; in a universe far away.

Since then, my husband and I have:

i) inked a deal to sell our single family second home in California with the intent of downsizing;

ii) inked a deal to purchase a smaller single family second home in a nearby community;

iii) reviewed the home inspection report for the proposed second home and cancelled the agreement;

iv) inked a deal to purchase a condo in the community where we presently live;

v) a mere three days later, simultaneously closed on the sale of our old home and the purchase of our new home and packed up and moved into our not-so-large condo, two blocks away;

vii) unpacked, unpacked, unpacked…

viii) purchased a new washer/dryer, new sound system and subsequently welcomed the Sears appliance delivery, the cable guy, the audio-visual guys (they’re here right now, making my husband’s TV and sound system even louder – oh, joy – and so on, and so on, and so on).

But wait, there’s more.

That is just the, pardon the pun, “home front”. Since I drafted my last blog we have also, in February:

i) flown from California to Canada;

ii) driven from Canada to Washington State; picked up darling LuLu, our new, 8-week-old, miniature poodle puppy in Washington State; driven 2500 kilometres for three days straight across three states, crashing in three hotels with LuLu in tow, introducing her to the thrills of watching the finals of the Australian Open and the SuperBowl while eating take-out pizza in ‘yes-we-welcome-pets’ chain hotel rooms.

ii) arrived back in California in time to welcome 5writer Helga and her husband to the desert and to celebrate Valentine’s together at the iconic Riviera Hotel in Palm Springs, home of the Rat Pack;

iii) cheered on my teammates on our Ladies 6.0 over 55 tennis team and even played in a match. We’re on a roll this year – undefeated – and just this week, after celebrating our sixth straight win, learned our team will be going to the USTA Southern California Sectionals in Santa Barbara in September. Whoo-hoo!;

iv) shown clients at least a dozen homes; hosted two open-houses; attended a glittering soiree at the famous Bing Crosby estate in Rancho Mirage and a couple of less than glittering office meetings;

v) participated in last weekend’s Club Championship Mixed Doubles Tournament with my brave (though novice) husband as my partner in a sport that, when spouses play together, is invariably referred to as ‘Mixed Troubles’;

vi) participated in the Club Ladies Guest Day “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” event (which of course involved first watching the movie on the big screen, planning wardrobe and props and a full day of fun and camaraderie on the course). Never anyone’s first casting choice for Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, I decided to play to my strengths (5’7″, blonde, ‘big-boned’) and cast myself as George Peppard’s character, Paul Varjak). Guess what: winner of ‘Best Costume’?

Paula as Paul

I could go on, enumerating a long list of social and business events that have filled the days of my calendar, but what’s the point?

By now, we all get the ‘real’ point: this is not a writer’s calendar. Not by any stretch of the imagination. At least in February of this year, I no longer had ‘The Write Stuff’ and, if truth be told, haven’t had ‘The Write Stuff’ for a very long time.

Too long.

If there any consolation, I seem to be in good company. While my 5writer colleague Silk is Clearing Roadblocks to Writing, my 5writer colleague Joe struggles with Making Writing Fun (again). To some extent or other, with the possible exception of the ever-disciplined 5writer Karalee, we’ve all been struggling lately.

When we started this blog in September 2012, we definitely had ‘The Write Stuff’: courage, confidence, dependability, daring. in other words: the necessary qualities for the given task of writing and publishing a novel.

But that was then.

This is now.

Do we still have it?

In my heart, I know we do. Just like the heroes of Tom Wolfe’s acclaimed 1979 novel, The Right Stuff, profiling the US test pilots engaged in the first early rocket experiments, I believe we 5writers have all the essential elements in our own chosen field of endeavour, fiction writing. Specifically:

1) Courage – In mid-2012 we created the epic challenge of writing a novel in just 5 months. But we didn’t stop there. We decided to engage in this challenge in a very public way, not only creating this blog, but also blogging about our often exhilarating, often painful, and always intensely personal experiences on a weekly basis.

2) Commitment – Through 2012 and into 2013… not a waver. We never lost our way. We stayed strong, dedicated to our craft, focused. But 2014… 2015? Hmm… have we lost our way.

3) Confidence?

4) Dependability?

5) Daring?

Hmm…. while the jury is still out, I, for one, feel that we have lost our way.

And that’s a damn shame.

We 5writers, at one time, had something very special. And I don’t just mean this blog and our followers. We had a unique relationship born of our shared membership in a very special critique group. At the outset, we shared not only a burning desire to write, but also the shared commitment to give and accept criticism with candor… with grace and with above all, great good humour. Sure, one or more of us were occasionally reduced to tears. A raised a voice was occasionally heard during an especially spirited meeting. But more often than not, we shed tears of joy and laughter, let loose with shrieks of excitement, enthusiasm and inspiration.

We had fun. But that’s not all. We were productive.

Prior to our 5writers challenge, each of our 5writers, on average, churned out the first draft of a new novel every year. Maybe not Pattersonesque speed, but not bad, either.

We were learning from one another, honing our skills, our craft, our gifts. What’s more, we knew we had something special. Smug in our knowledge that as members of our own very special and dedicated writers’ critique group, we had an immense advantage over those poor lonely writers struggling to ‘go it alone’.


Today, my fear is that we may have squandered this advantage. That we’ve lost our core focus. Our momentum. Our track record of achievement.

So what do we do about this? Well… perhaps the first step is admitting we have a problem. Only then will we have the courage to rekindle our commitment and return to the shared vision and core values that imbued us with ‘The Write Stuff’.

LuLu enjoys the Westin

4 thoughts on “The Write Stuff (part I) aka “Houston, we’ve got a problem”

  1. Okay Paula, my dear friend and the best writer I know who ISN’T writing anything: I accept your challenge.

    I will re-commit to putting in the time, if you will. I’ll promise to focus on writing and make it my priority, if you will. I’ll give back to my 5writers colleagues by putting in the effort to read and critique your work – in whatever format we can make work now that 2 of our 5 are splitting their year between two residences – if you will.

    Like you, I agree that the 5writers, as a group, have lost their way. Temporarily, I hope. But I don’t agree that it’s about character flaws, about losing ‘The Write Stuff’. Honestly, I think it’s much simpler than that. I think it’s about putting in the time.

    And since we all have only so much of that – a mere 24 hours a day, no matter how we try to stretch it – putting the time into writing probably means taking time away from other things that are keeping us so busy busy busy. Actually, not “probably”, that was a euphemism. It’s definitely about spending the time that writing requires – a pretty stark choice, no matter how many complications and compromises may be involved in making it.

    So, thanks for getting this issue on the table. I’ve already promised not to write anymore about why I’m not writing. For me, it’s time to hardline this thing. To sacrifice whatever I need to in order to reclaim the time to actually write.

    How about the rest of the 5?

    • Ah, dear Silk, so happy you weighed in on this. I am tippy tapping this comment out on my phone as this weekend, I am in sunny if chilly Edmonton for a weekend of playing with two of my five grandchildren.

      Now, why this might not be the best environment for writing (at this precise moment I’m watching Disney pixie videos) it is a marvellous environment for thinking about life’s priorities and how to re-balance them.

      So, for a follow up post this Tuesday, I suspect I will be writing about just that: Step 1 – taking stock of where I’m at vs where I want to be. Maybe I’ll need an entire 12 step program – who knows! But the important thing is to start sorting out priorities. So stay tuned!

  2. Pingback: The Write Stuff – Part 3 – Re-Kindling the Fire | 5 Writers 5 Novels 5 Months

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