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  • Melissa Westemeier

my brain gets f̶u̶l̶l̶e̶r̶ more full

It's strange to think about writing full time, being a writer, like this is actually my career. For most of my life, writing got shoved into the margins, over summer and holiday breaks, burrowed into spaces when I've had a hot minute or two to spare, but never allowed to dominate my schedule.

Before last summer, I wrote in my "free time." It was a hobby, akin to quilting or collecting coins or watching makeup tutorials on TikTok. I crammed in character development and revisions after teaching my high school classes, caring for my offspring, completing household chores. These days I'm wrapping my head around writing for 40 hours a week and pushing everything else to the margins. It's so weird. I used to GO-GO-GO, bring work home at night, multitask, fret about the limited hours in each day and my guilt about not doing ENOUGH. Now, my new schedule feels leisurely. I finish my coffee while scrolling through my emails and updates. I spend an hour or so reading over yesterday's work and making revisions, get up to run a vacuum or clean a bathroom, then tuck into adding on new scenes. I eat lunch, sometimes at 11, sometimes at 1, sometimes I skip lunch and have a little snack. Most afternoons I take a hike and think about what scene ought to come next, where the characters or plot feels too thin, what connections could get built into the story. I return home and take some notes and...that's it. Bells don't ring, I don't check in with anyone, I don't put in for free time and write up sub plans. These days I work at the pace I set and am only accountable to myself. My weekly schedule of events has been reduced to a few tutoring and volunteering commitments and the occasional appointment. If I want to write through the entire day and into the evening, I can. If I want to step away for a day--or two or three--I can. As long as I keep chipping away at my projects, the deadlines don't press very hard.

It has taken me a while to get used to the change in my daily rhythm and fully attend to my work instead of feeling distracted by the sense of urgency that previously drove my life. The school schedule dictated my life for over thirty years, shaking it off has not been easy. It's a bit embarrassing to admit a Monday or a Thursday looks no different from a Saturday, but it does.



My grey cells are bursting with new ideas, all the neurons firing at full power while I invent plot points, characters, pitches for new projects, and settings. I scribble notes that land all over my desk, some brilliant ideas and some duds, but who knows until you try them, right? Currently, I've got a manuscript for the mystery series sitting in the hands of a beta reader, a short story half-written, and a new book-length project pulled up on my screen. The new project is not a mystery, the short story is, so my brain hops between the two worlds: a dead body discovered in the woods and two couples with huge secrets and trust issues. I'm farting around (yeah, that's official writer-speak for "developing") with pitch ideas for books 4 and 5 so I can bring them to Malice Domestic and glean some wise feedback from other mystery writers before I present them to my editor at Tule.

And I'm learning. Oh, reader, I've got so much to learn in order to level up my game and go pro. I'm learning about Book Bub, poisons, how to create a newsletter, and which workshops and conferences provide valuable experiences. I'm networking with a legion of other writers, figuring out what they write, where our work might crossover and create opportunties for expanding readership, and how to build relationships to support our collective work. I'm watching videos about marketing, craft, adapting a novel to a screenplay, building my brand, researching, and publishing pro tips. There's a world of apps, sites, and tools all the cool kids use when they're writers. Professional writers know contests and organizations, bloggers and influencers, they juggle their creativity and craft with publicity and connecting with readers. I've been a rookie writer, barely Little Leauge. If I want to write in The Show, I have to put in the work.

I knew "becoming a writer" required more than sitting at my desk and typing words, but it is SO MUCH MORE.

The physical labor of writing requires very little of me, but the mental labor, oh it becomes staggering. I'm reading, watching, absorbing--then considering, trying, and deciding which of these tools and strategies and networks will serve me well and which I will reject. I keep telling myself I'm like a first-year teacher all over again. Soon I'll know what to pay attention to, what to ignore, what makes my life easier and what creates work without payoff. It just takes a little time, and that's something I can spare.

Spill it, reader. What's filling your brain these days?


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5 Comments


leafmonster2000
Mar 22

I am glad to hear that your daily 'schedule' has changed to allow for fewer interruptions while you are writing. We are now empty-nesters, and I periodically find myself wondering how in the heck I did all that stuff that I did 10 years ago.


Every time I see "Malice Domestic" I first pronounce it in my head "Maleeese" and then correct myself.


What's filling my brain this days is a total mishmash jumble tangle of stuff.

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Amy Stingle
Amy Stingle
Mar 16

Very excited for you! And cannot wait for that next published book!! I am super happy this is working out for you. If you feel like a first year teacher, that is awesome! Because you were a fabulous teacher!

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bluevirgin.graff
bluevirgin.graff
Mar 15

Totally identify with that huge shift from writing 'on the side' to it being the dominant force. And then finding you create your own schedule, when my nursing background was so rigidly organized. It's a freeing feeling but daunting at first. But you are embracing it with gusto!


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Becky Calvert
Becky Calvert
Mar 15

This is so exciting! I love this for you.

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jennifer.brecht
jennifer.brecht
Mar 15

I love all of this for you.

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