A New Routine

07 Feb

During the past two weeks I’ve taken steps, tiny toddles which moved me as a person, and an author. It began when a blanket of cold air and puffy clouds blocked the sun and Old Man Winter blew out a frosty breath. I have been, downtrodden. I’ve never experienced SAD before, the winter ailment that changes happy people into someone who doesn’t want to get out of the bed. But this year, I am SAD. I could feel the difference in myself, in my body and worse, in spirit. There has been a heaviness wrapped around my body, constricting the person I am like a turtleneck sweater that’s two sizes two small.

As most of you know, I am an author. This life isn’t one of glamour and fame; it is filled with hours, and hours, and hours of solitude, worry and fret.  For a people person such as myself, solitude is a recipe for disaster. People persons who prefer hugs really shouldn’t do this writing thing; it is far too painful. I am working on my first novel and this work-in-progress has been locked down tight. Unmoving. Frozen like I-285 during last week’s snowstorm.  My next book is coming out this October, but my first novel really, really needs to be complete before then. That is why two weeks ago I started making steps toward the person I think I’m supposed to be.

My house is a dark monstrosity, shaded by hundreds of beautiful trees that I adore in the summer, but in winter, block the sun. But like a lizard, I determined to seek the sun, and doing so meant leaving the house with my work in progress tucked inside my bag. I set up my office in a local coffee shop. Literally: tea goes here . . . pencil, highlighter, eraser and paperclips there . . . work in progress, front and center where it belongs. writingroomSunshine drove out the chill and being surrounded by chatter energized me. On days when I didn’t really want to leave the house, I hold up in my writing room, which is nothing more than a sunny window in our bathroom. Yes, the bathroom.

I have also placed myself on a strict schedule which hasn’t been easy. Limiting Facebook has been necessary. There’s too much negativity and right now it sticks to me like a static-covered sock. As an example when I asked for prayer for a family who had just suffered a tremendous loss due to suicide, three people started blaming the family for the suicide. Compassion, it seems, is as scarce as the sun this winter. My new regimen: Facebook in the morning, then once more before dinner, and then I am unplugged. Nothing electronic after 6 pm, not even email.

Tuesdays are devoted to Bible study. I admire women of faith. Strong women who are ready to grab your hand and pray, who have an encouraging scripture during times of trouble. I have wanted the knowledge of Godly women, and then one day it occurred to me, BOOM, that type of knowledge doesn’t happen by osmosis. I must study the word. I guess you could say I am seeking the Son and the sun.

By 9:30 each morning I’m either in the coffee shop, or my writing room at home. Soaking up the sun and writing – by hand – as fast as I can, except when I’m seeking the Son.

Part of my discouragement came in December. In November of 2013, I accepted the NaNo challenge to write 40,000 words during the month of November. I don’t know why I did this to myself, I can’t write 40K words in 30 days. I am a mother, a wife, a ball-thrower for our Labradoodle. Each day NaNo writers enter a word count reporting how many words they have written that day (notice the last word in that sentence . . . day). The goal is to motivate yourself and others, and know how you are progressing. The problem is that there are always, ALWAYS, people who by day two say they have written 10K words and by day four, they’re posting 30K. Going from zero to 30K in three days is not physically possible. At minimum, one must eat, and use the bathroom. Let me call that behavior what it is: lying, cheating and wrong. Even I can tell when someone is taking their old work in progress and plugging the numbers into the counter. That type of behavior, like negative Facebook posts, discourages. I finished NaNo with roughly 28,000 NEW words with a personal goal of finishing my manuscript by January.

That did not happened.

But this week I pushed past 40,000 words. These were my words. I own them. I wrote every single word and they’re not half bad. I have studied books on scene, plot, character development. I didn’t copy someone’s ideas, they came from inside of me. I found a sunny spot, poured a cup of tea and invited my characters to join me. They told me their stories. I listened. For that I am incredibly grateful, and while I am no braggart, I am also a tiny bit proud. If you are an author, step away from the nonsense and the desire to be like someone else or write like someone else tells you. Find a routine that works for you and your characters. Be yourself. Only you can pen the story inside of you. Write your words and then be proud of that accomplishment. If you have a routine that works, please share.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at 


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4 responses to “A New Routine

  1. Karen Nolan Bell

    February 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Looks like we are kindred spirits. I’ve struggled STRUGGLED this winter with a heavy blanket of negativity that has kept my fingers still. My brain is silent,too. My imaginary friends have left my house and gone to a nice, warm, sunny beach somewhere. All I want to do is cuddle up with my heated throw and sleep. It’s terribly frustrating when I can’t force myself to do what I want to do.

    But, Renea dear, you motivate me. I know I’m not the only one having issues this winter. I also think the missing ingredient is my time alone with God, actively study His word. I’ve resorted to whimpering a prayer to Him as I wallow in my pity party and not being proactive. I hate schedules. They force you to do things you don’t “feel” like doing. Guess that says it all. So, I’m going to attempt to change my ways. Notice I said attempt. I’m not convinced yet that I can. But, I will attempt it. First, I’ll get into a normal sleep/awake routine. We’ll see if I make progress.

    My prayers for you as you change your SAD ways. You always bring a bit of sunshine into my life. Hope it spreads into yours as well. 🙂

  2. Donald

    February 8, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Reading your blog today, don’t let NanoWrimo be a discouragement Renea.

    the first year I did it I just wrote the story was a mismass of words, ideas half formed the resulting mess was 51,000 words I would never have written.

    Had I failed or won, I certainly had the word count and that by many is the whole point to get the words out. I hadn’t written a story, What I had done was set my creativity free by by throwing away self criticism, by pressing ahead for the goal I passed the goal posts.

    What did I have after? I had a bank full of ideas and concepts, characters I loved some I hated, one who was simply a girl handing me a burger at a drive though a throwaway character with a bad attitude went on to
    my surprise to be the second most important character in the story and is now three years on reborn in my current story.

    the second year Nano only 28,000 words good words a story to take somewhere to build on which is what I did till the next Nano the one you took part in.

    A very star angle thing happened in this years nano, a dream took over the well developed idea as I plunged into what was effectively book three in my nano series.

    My character feel asleep and started to dream and for the remainder of the story diverged into a strange mix off scifi and post Orwellian society while the location stayed the same. this dream made it easy to get the word count the limitation being typing speed and oppertunity to sit there.

    now this sub story is the book I am writing the one that might even get published, nothing else has felt this way.

    Renea to achive you have to be prepared to fail, you have to get out off that comfort zone to fail means you tried that’s not failure rather its you did you simply misjudged what you could achieve.

    Life gets in the way, don’t be discouraged rather rejoice and do as you are continue by doing that your winning.

    smile and forge ahead, and perhaps consider cutting some trees to allow winter sun to your home.

  3. tmy_chronicles, phd

    February 8, 2014 at 11:38 am

    This was so great to read. Thank you for the inspiration. As a mother of two small ones, I two juggle the routine of writing and taking care of family. What has helped is every weekend going to the local Starbucks and writing from 6-10am, I’ve been able to keep this routine for over a year now, and it has REALLY helped.

    Wishing for you all that is best and blessed.

    Warm regards,


    • Renea

      February 17, 2014 at 2:59 am

      Lock yourself in a room somewhere and write. Even if it is the bathroom !


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