By Leslie Lindsay
A curated newsletter on the literary life, featuring ‘4 questions,’ reading & listening recommendations, where to submit, more
Leslie Lindsay|Always with a Book
~MUSINGS & MEANDERINGS~
To be honest, I am struggling to find my post-travel, post-summer, new-school-year writing routine. There’s always that wobbly, indiscriminate time where everything feels in limbo.
Can you relate?
Has your old routine stopped working? Maybe and that’s okay. It’s supposed to!
Yep. Because time is linear and keeping marching on, so do you. We’re always in the process of evolving and that means our routines should, too.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about (writing) routines:
One: Routines are helpful to our creativity.
By establishing one is saying, “I respect my creativity and will carve out time to satisfy my desire to create.” Our creative self craves predictability, time, and space; it triggers a creative flow. Every Tuesday, for example, is my day to do hands-on art, flatlays, images of book covers. I may get a trickle of books through the week, but I set them all aside for Tuesday. I rely on that. Creative moments breed more creative moments.
Two: It’s about consistency.
Every Saturday, I spend the day at a coffee shop responding to emails, submitting to journals, editing, and working on social media stuff. I have dedicated reading times and other times I focus on creating new writing. It doesn’t always happen at the same (clock) time each week, but by setting aside these days, it primes my brain for certain tasks. One can accomplish an entire manuscript by writing for two hours every day for 6 months. Maybe less, maybe more, it’s the effort and consistency. You cannot, for example, complete an entire manuscript by writing two hours every month or ‘when you feel like it.’
Three: Writing Routines are…malleable.
So much of my routine–or practice–is flexible. It revolves around the kids’ (school and sport) schedules, my other commitments, holidays, vacations, travel, extended family, even the seasons! In summer, for example, I do not have the bandwidth to immerse myself into something new, but I can ‘collect’ moments, experiences, even snippets of writing here and there, but nothing really substantial. In the fall, I feel more introspective, more scholarly, and so that’s often when I get jazzed about something new. The good thing: kids are back in school and it’s easier to invest the time and energy. Winter gets dark earlier and sometimes I flounder. Sometimes, I read more then–that often happens in summer, too.
There will be seasons where your writing flows and others where its more stagnant. That’s okay. The important thing is to recognize when this happens (or anticipate) and have a tentative plan in place. Maybe it means changing your workspace around, trying a new-to-you coffee shop, working in a chair or kitchen table when you used to be committed to an office. Try writing at different times of the day, or taking a walk before a writing session, or just after.
Are you struggling with your creative routine(s)?
I have a writing routine in place, but I hope to add some more hands-on art time. I want space where my laptop (or phone!) is not in my face (otherwise, I scroll, respond to email, or feel compelled do something that resembles ‘work/writing.’ Pro tip: It isn’t.)
Here are some questions I’m pondering:
Where and when do I feel most creative/artistic? In a quiet room? A cafe with ambient noise? Outside? On a walk? In the bustle of city life? What pockets of time are naturally available in mycurrent day? What routines have been successful in the past? How have they shifted? Can I go back to that? If not? What might work? Late nights? Early mornings? (no, on both for me!), on the train? On the patio? [Is this sounding like a Dr. Seuss book?!].
I know whatever I decide, there will be some ‘settling-in,’ tweaks to be made. It might be easy to compare myself to my ‘old routine,’ but I’m going to resist the urge! I’m not the same person I was ‘back then;’ I shouldn’t be.
NEW! Four Questions: A mini-interview series
A WOMAN IN TIME: A Novel
- Without responding in complete sentences, what would you say A WOMAN IN TIME is about?
Bobi Conn :
Women’s power in the home and in society. Women’s wisdom. The magic of Eastern Kentucky. My great-grandmother’s possibilities. The maternal lineage. Psychological development. Motherhood.
2. Where did you write A WOMAN IN TIME? Do you have any special writing routines or rituals? Do they change with each project, or remain constant over time?
Bobi Conn :
A Woman in Time is my pandemic book – I was mostly holed up in an apartment in northern Kentucky while I wrote this. I don’t have a set routine for writing yet, other than setting a word count goal for myself and determining what my average needs to be each day so I can hit my goal. I found that kept me very motivated while writing my novel. I’m also a night owl, and I like to get started after I feel like my home is in order for the day. The only exception is if I take a day off work to write, because I’ve always had a job while writing. On those days, I just make sure I use all of that precious time to focus and fully immerse myself in the world of my book.
3. If you weren’t writing, you would be…
Bobi Conn :
Playing pool, swimming, reading, putting together an elaborate spread of food for my friends. Also, daydreaming about being in a forest and thinking about so many beautiful and difficult aspects of this human experience.
4. What book did you recently read that you can’t stop thinking about?
Bobi Conn :
I recently re-read Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. When I first read it in college, I was amazed to discover that some people can write prose that feels like poetry and that amazement has stuck with me ever since – his words never grow old. However, this time, I also read the material that follows the letters in this particular translation, which provide context for Rilke’s life when he wrote each letter. That context reminds us that Rilke addresses his recipient (Franz Kappus) with such insight and surety but was experiencing his own pain while writing words of comfort to the aspiring poet. Since re-reading this book, I have thought often about the beautiful words Rilke penned because someone else needed to hear them, and maybe he needed to hear them as well. But he could give those to words to someone else because he understood the need for them, rather than possessing and claiming the answers for himself. I am encouraged to think that in my own times of doubt, pain, and need, I can aspire to give others everything I am seeking for myself.
Take a peek at all of my historical fiction recommendations at Bookshop.org.
A WOMAN IN TIME will be published August 30 from Little A. Please consider pre-ordering.
Recently-published Stuff You Might Have Missed:
- A piece in the nostalgia dossier of Levitate Magazine, about my childhood interest in a (vintage) kid’s rooms and spaces book.
- A conversation with Carla Zaccagnini about her book, Cuentos de Cuentas (Amant/Verlag, spring 2000) in The Millions.
- A Conversation with Marie Myung-Ok Lee in The Millions, about her new novel, The Evening Hero, featuring aspects of immigration, Minnesota, color, and medicine.
- “Breaking Ground,” by Leslie Lindsay, flash fiction in The Tiny Journal
- “Making Space: Cicadas & My Mother,” by Leslie Lindsay, CNF in ANMLY
- The Midwessay: Fragmented Thoughts on Being a Missouri Girl in ‘the north,’ Essay Daily, May 9, 2022.
- In Conversation with Maud Newton, author of ANCESTOR TROUBLE: A Reckoning and Reconciliation (Random House, March 29, 2022), Hippocampus Magazine, May 2022.
- In Conversation with Kim Adrian, author of The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet, The Florida Review, spring 2022.
- Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, 2nd edition (Woodbine House, 2021) through some online retailers, your local library, used bookstores (it’s now officially out-of-print), and the audio edition is downloadable (with additional PDFs, resources) through Penguin Random House.
A conversation with Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder about her book, Existential Physics (Viking, August 9, 2022) in Hippocampus Magazine.
A piece about being a book ambassador, reading about family, inheritance, postmemory, and landscape in Moms Don’t Have Time to Write.
A a hybrid flash non-fiction piece about the mysteries of ancestry in ELJ Editions Scissors & Spackle.
My experience at a retreat/workshop abroad, featuring architecture and design, how writing is always a work-in-progress in The Smart Set.
A conversation with Kristina Langley Mahler about her new hybrid memoir, CURING SEASON: Artifacts (WVP, October 1) in Brevity.
I’ll be sharing my published interviews here, after they’ve ‘gone live’ with their various publications.
There’s more to this newsletter. Keep scrolling.
What I’m reading:
I just finished an early edition of a January 2023 essay collection, YOUR HEARTS, YOUR SCARS (Bellevue Literary Press) is being published posthumously by a very bright literary star, Adina Talve-Goodman )11986-2018), who underwent a heart-transplant at age nineteen, worked as an editor in New York, and was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. What’s more, she’s from St. Louis, my hometown. The collection is incisive and thought-provoking.
Up next: Lauren Acampora’s new novel, THE HUNDRED WATERS. I mean…that cover!!! Plus, I just love her work.
What I’m listening to:
These pretty great old-school tunes from the 1980s on Sonos Music/Yacht Rock. Still. I know. I said this last week. Still happening till Labor Day. I am pretending to be on a yacht.
You are reading Musings & Meanderings, a consistently inconsistent weekly newsletter about the literary life from Leslie Lindsay, and home of an archive of bestselling and debut author interviews. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can. Feel free to find my book suggestions on bookshop.org, and also check out the authors I’ve hosted in in-depth interviews HERE.
In the meantime, catch me on:
Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.
Thank you for letting me guide you on your bookish journey.
Let’s walk this bookish path together.
Some of you have been reading my reviews, interviews, and meanderings for more than a decade now. That’s huge and I am so humbled. Thanks for being here.
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