Last night, around 1am, I sat with Marc for a break in my writing and editing marathon. Without doubt, I had a “stressful” day…between books being in various stages of editing (#help) and new manuscripts due soon (#doublehelp), it was a late night for one writer (#me).
A thought suddenly crossed my mind. It was a flash, like lightning…one of those thoughts that strike me from time to time. Sometimes I think it is God talking to me. A little whisper in my ear…
“You know, Marc,” I said, my bottle of chilled cucumber water in hand. “We live an unusual life.”
He looked intrigued and, with his deep voice and thick French accent—the one he denies having!—he asked, “How is that?”
I wasn’t certain how to explain it to him.
Some of my more ardent followers may have heard me mention the period of my life when I travelled with a circus. As a student of anthropology, my professors applauded my travels, letting me miss classes if I flew back for my examinations. I even wrote my Senior Thesis at Drew University on this experience.
I loved traveling to different towns, seeing the reaction of the children’s faces when they saw elephants, tigers, and clowns. I loved the smell of the animals and popcorn, the noise of laughter mixed with music. And I loved the normalcy of standing with my friends, engaged in a normal conversation only to have an elephant reach out with her trunk, the tip of her nose poking around at my pocket for the pack of mints that she knew I kept there.
Doesn’t everyone have an elephant trying to steal mints from their pockets?
Circuses make people happy. I loved being there to see them leave their cares behind as they performed and, even if for two short hours, be happy.
Fast forward twenty-five years: not much has changed.
Yesterday, I stopped by the barn to see how Marc’s day was going.
After catching up with him, instead of immediately leaving, I jumped the fence into the pony paddock and said hello to the goats, donkeys, and two baby ponies, Cooper and Autumn (or, Amber, as I always call her for some strange reason). I sat down and let the little white donkey nibble at the back of my neck while Cooper came over to chew on my shirt.
In the paddock next to me, my daughter’s two-year-old mustang whinnied, probably wondering why Cat hadn’t arrived yet for their daily training session. Cars began to pull into the parking lot, mothers bringing their children for their scheduled riding lessons. In the closest ring to the barn, instructors worked with their riders, teaching them how to take a two-point position before jumping over the cross rails. And, in the distance, one of the workers led two Percheron horses to the back pasture where another fifteen horses already grazed.
Just a different type of normal?
Writing books is not a job; it’s a passion. I suspect that most writers need to be a little off their rocker in order to sit for days on end, hour after hour, staring at a blank screen and watching as it fills up with words, sentences, paragraphs. We live in our imaginations, working to bring the stories in our head to the rest of the world. We have heightened emotions in life so that we can transfer that to fiction. If we are successful, our readers will want more.
Creativity isn’t something that can purchased, outsourced, or even scheduled. It simply happens when it happens, although I have found that the more I write, the more I want to write and that leads to the need to write. Some days, I might write only 1,500 words and others might find 7,500 new words on the screen. There are nights when I stay up until 2am writing because the words are just there…inside my head waiting to come out. And then, a few hours later, I get up to see the children off to school before starting to write again.
But it’s not all about writing.
Yesterday I was in discussion with a Los Angeles record label regarding music and merchandise for an upcoming series, scheduling a photoshoot with my publisher in Manhattan, trying to organize the logistics of a San Diego book signing, planning a social media campaign #secondchances, and researching flight information for the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual Convention in October. I’m practicing for a dancing competition in a few weeks and organizing transportation for Cat’s two out-of-state mustang competitions.
Because isn’t that all in a day’s work?
So last night, when the realization struck me that our type of normal is, perhaps, a bit abnormal, it came as quite a surprise.
Both Marc and I have a passion for what we do. Our goal is to make people happy: Marc through his riding programs and I, through my writing. Success only comes on the heels of working seven days a week, sometimes with 14-16 hour days. We have to find time to squeeze in “normal”: family dinners, movie nights, and catch-up times. I steal ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there so that I have that one-on-one time with both of my children. It’s quality time, after all, not quantity time that counts.