Writers keep bizarre schedules: some compose late at night, some early in the morning, some whenever the urge overwhelms them. I am a disciplined early riser–or should I say that my three Dalmatians are early risers who tromp all over me and my blankets until I get up and feed them at 6:45 a.m., just as the sun is coming up. You will find me at my desk by 8:30, where I remain until lunchtime at 1:00 p.m., when I am working on my usual sort of writing–memoir and fiction. Before Bespotted hit the shelves in the independent bookstores and on Amazon, I was successfully spending my writing hours drawing out character sketches and plotting the action for my new novel, currently titled Sunday’s Magician.
But that was all before my daily schedule blew up in my face–when life simply spun out of control. I have named this state of affairs “publication psychosis.” So many outside events have overtaken me that I have stopped working on the novel at all. Instead, there are weekly blogs and a weekly newsletters to be written, ad copy that I have to dream up when I have never, ever, written an ad before. And there are guest blogs, to be posted on other writers’ websites, when I am lucky enough to be asked. All this requires careful writing and revising and editing, as I am never content to let anything go on the first draft. There is also the formatting on the website, working with the designer to make last minute changes each week, adding links, uploading photos, creating captions for those photos (harder than you might think), making up titles for the blogs and newsletters (also harder than you might think) and updating the events that are occurring as Bespotted makes its way through the ranks at Amazon. Public readings from the book take more time, standing in line at the post office to mail signed copies back and forth to readers who want autographs takes even more. All of which does not include posting on my two Facebook pages and two group lists, learning how to Tweet, and sorting through over 250 emails a day. And next week I begin a twenty-five station radio tour. I am not complaining–just detailing what publication psychosis can do to a writer’s life.
Yesterday I put my head down on my desk and admitted to myself the obvious: I was going to have a nervous breakdown if I continued at this pace. My true work was suffering, my dogs were being shortchanged, and my husband was nowhere on the horizon. It was then that the phone rang and a friend heard the desperation in my voice. ”Come over,” she urged. ”Come visit the puppies.”
I did not have time, truly, to go anywhere, not even the supermarket–and my cupboard was bare–but I went anyway. She had a six week old litter of seven Dalmatian puppies, who greeted me at the door in a short-legged tide of black and white. I did the “puppy shuffle” across the room, moving my feet carefully without lifting them from the floor so as not to kick or step on anyone. I scooped up one of these delightful packages into my needy arms. Ahhh–the distinctive smell of puppy breath, a soft nuzzle beneath my chin, a tiny nibble on my ear with sharp little milk teeth. And then the predictable squirm that meant, “let me down!” Another sweet one waited at my feet and I picked her up, held her high, stroked her face with my own and was rewarded by a little pink tongue lapping my nose and cheeks. Her taut belly was soft and pink and ripe for a Bronx cheer, which made her wiggle with delight.
How much better can life get? My endorphins were as high as if I had just finished running a marathon. I returned home to work refreshed and in love with the very beginnings of life once more. A puppy fix for a puppy addict, who just happens to be a writer.