What I learned from Joan Rivers

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In reflecting on Joan Rivers’ passing, I thought a lot about what it is about her I liked. Certainly, I am thankful for her pioneering efforts for female comedians as well as her life-long advocacy for the LGBT community. However, in Ms. Rivers later years, her openness about her life and struggles really made her much more than a great comedian. In addition to being funny I’ve really come to think of her as a teacher as well. The much lauded episode of Louie, wherein she berates Louis C.K. for not knowing when he is lucky, is one that transcends beyond just the life of a comedian, as the lessons she teaches could be applied to any artistic endeavor. 

Over the past year I’ve been whining and complaining about how long the submission process has been, and I’m pretty sure if I did this in front of Ms. Rivers she would smack me upside the head. She’d point out that I not only finished a book, but that I managed to write and rewrite it to a point that I landed an agent. That, in and of itself, is something few people accomplish. She’d find my excuses for not working on book 2 equally unacceptable. In “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” the documentary about her, she showed just how hard she works at being a comedian and television personality every day. Given how long Ms. Rivers has been in the business, it’s very easy for us to just believe that people would call her to do her act or appears on television. However, this was not the reality. Instead, she was constantly marketing herself and crafting new material. Why? Because she knew how easy it was to fall out of the lime light. Ms. Rivers’ career had numerous ups and downs, but she never let that stop her from working.

I never met Ms. Rivers, but I certainly respected and admired her. Now that she has passed, I can no longer wait for her to someday walk into my life and set me straight. I have to  listen to the words she’s left behind instead. So I’m going to try to not only recognize how lucky I am now, but also stop looking to the world to pave my way toward being a success as an author. I need to get back to working on making my own success. That’s what I learned from Joan Rivers.

With each morning comes a new chance

I think one thing about being a writer, or really a human, is that you begin to understand there is a special time of day that really speaks to you. For me it is not late at night, nor is it the early morning. It is blissful hour of 10:00 a.m. at That time, I’ve had my morning caffeine, I’ve read what happened while I was asleep, and I’ve generally had my brain working. At 10, something really magical happens, and I normally find myself working until 2 pm. Then I wonder why I’m starting to be crabby and slow down. The answer? I worked through lunch. I usually refuel, but that momentary break, seems to do something to me, and I can never quite get back in the zone.

I think knowing your body and knowing when you are likely to be in the best mood/zone to write/work is important. For me, I try and make 10:00 a.m. a priority. I make sure nothing is going to get in my way, and it is easy for me to do that, because well…I’ve got all morning to do it.

I was really touched that so many people commented on my last post, so I wanted to talk about something that people could weigh in on. I also figured loyal readers might want something where I don’t complain.

So anyone got some thoughts? Are there any night workers? I just have to ask…how do you do it?

Average time?

So something that has had me on edge lately, is that I never know if I am ahead or behind in time. When I was in the writing phase, I knew what a decent goal was. I knew most writers wrote 1,500 words a day, or at least attempted to. In editing/revising/rewriting it is much harder to quantify your progress. I’ve gone pages without changing a word, and then spent an hour on a paragraph. So it’s hard to deal with.

I was listening to a new podcast I found lately called “Dead Robots’ Society” It doesn’t sound like it would be, but it is, in fact, a writing podcast. I scrolled through the archives to see them talk about writing. The two hosts argued over the term “editing” is editing just cleaning up grammar? Or is it revising/rewriting? Or is revising/rewriting a part of editing as a whole? This made me curious. Do people think it is taking me months to check grammar when I claim to be “editing” a book? Should I be saying “revising” instead. I think editing includes grammar checking as well as revising/rewriting when needed.

I think when all you are doing is grammar checking, you are really just copy-editing.

Editing is something that tends to get ignored. I find tons of hints on how to write,  but not a lot on editing. I wonder why this is. Is it because it is assumed that once the story is written, editing is easy? If so…I must be doing it wrong.

Walking it Off

So in school I really hated the phrase “walk it off.” Mainly it was just something Coach’s said, and it was never something I liked, because the advice seemed insane. Taking a walk, alone, after just being brutally tortured is bad advice. However, walking to clear your head, an just get your body into some movement? Well…in addition to being good for your physical well being (I have done a lot of sitting since Saturday afternoon) it also helps in other ways.

As I said in my last post, I have a lot of stuff on my plate right now. All of it is good, but it certainly makes it harder to get work done. So…even though I’m certainly more tired at the end of the day now, I also need to find the energy to get some writing/editing done. This is especially daunting for me lately,because my day job basically involves writing and editing, but instead of fiction, it’s legal work. Now in comparison, even my rough fiction is more interesting that the best legal brief, but editing still uses the same part of my brain that has been working all day. So I needed to give my brain a break, and I’ve found walking works. So while “walking it off” isn’t good advice to a traumatized gay kid in high school, it might be good for that kid when he grows up to be a lawyer/writer.

Working

So this week, I’ve not been super productive on the book front. I’m still in the middle of editing chapter 12. Part of this is because I got some legal work, which is great. I really would ADORE a paycheck right now, as it is something I’ve not had in quite some time. Therefore, I can’t really complain. Especially since I’ve been really incredibly fortunate up until now, to have so much time to edit my book.  Since I am new to editing, I’m slow at it, and that is part of the reason it is not done. That is something I’ve had difficulty accepting. I mean technically I have had months to do this. Why couldn’t I just edit a chapter a day, or something like that? While I am certain I  could have done this, I’m also equally certain the product would be weaker as a result. Still…part of me thinks….I could at least be querying agents, who would read it, and probably get me a real editor, who would make this process easier and faster.

If my only goal was simply to get the thing done…that might have worked. However, I think my book is actually pretty good, and as such, it deserves the best shot I can give it, in order for it to become published. This makes me frustrated, because it is hard to go several days without looking at my manuscript, but after doing legal work all day (which is basically nothing but writing and editing) it is hard to do work on my manuscript. Especially since I don’t stop doing my legal work until I can’t do it anymore.

I realize I’ve basically said this over and over on this blog, but sometimes just writing about it is helpful.

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