Writers have only so many hours

Desktop with coffee and office supplies. Text: The longer the to do list, the less efficiently I handle it. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt


I mourn the loss of reading material online, which is hypocritical of me, as I’m also NOT producing any of it myself on a regular basis. Blog post reading material, that is.

With me, having two main tasks on the plate is a stretch. Right now I have several – and the blogging has suffered.

I apologize for the self-centered post to follow, but it may explain the hiatus a bit.

The A1 task has become ‘finding a place to live.’

I am vetting Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) in California, with a few in NJ and PA for comparison.

I had hoped we’d be out of here by now, resting after our labors in a new community, preferably in California (land of better weather and my birth), with the time-consuming search behind us, and nothing more challenging, apart from my fiction, than using the new pool and gym and having dinner with other compatible residents.

The problem: it is a ‘forever home,’ and will require quite a lot of our money over the coming years, and, even though we could change once we got there if we didn’t like the one we picked, we’d be older, possibly frailer, and it would be a physical and financial challenge.

So, pick well – and give the community the rest of your life.

So, picking well is crucial. And hard.

The A2 task has become ‘get rid of this house.’

The reason we’re moving, and not aging in place, is that THIS house and yard and my lovely perennial garden consumes way too much of our energy, and our social life is diminishing to the vanishing point as OTHER people leave. And the common-in-this-day: our children do not live near us or each other, and that won’t change.

My mother, in Mexico City, is lovingly taken care of by a rotating staff of three aides – supervised by my whole family. I can’t expect that – no extended family here. I hope we get the kids to supervise when we’re older, but it will be remotely most of the time. We had our children very late as we established OUR careers, and they are barely getting started in many ways – one of the unforseen consequences of me listening to all the people who said you could wait. Plus I never expected to be sick. 28 years this November.

We are being responsible with time, money, and our wishes, and setting ourselves up now, BEFORE the crisis that usually precipitates moving (often then into Assisted Living or a Nursing Home) for older adults.

We also plan to enjoy the freer lifestyle – there is no point to having a suburban house unless you have a lot of family or friends there frequently. One of my ambitions is the ability to travel – because the grass is not our problem, nor the drains, nor freezing pipes… You get the picture.

Many of my generation are starting to see the benefits, and doing the same thing: move while you can enjoy the Independent Living part of the new place, be already situated in a place you chose when you need more care.

So: DEJUNK the place, fix it up, sell it – find new place, move in, fix it up a bit. Unfortunately, for someone like me, this is the same as a To Do list item: climb Everest.

The A3 task is: finish my dad’s last tax return

And do Mother’s for the last couple of years.

I finally got one step further on this task.

A bit of background: as the only child in the States, it has always been my duty to take care of such things as my parents needed. They were both American, and lived in Mexico. And my Daddy was, if not secretive, definitely of the older generation, which kept things close to their chests – especially finances – because it was nobody’s business but theirs. Daddy always paid whatever taxes he owed to the USA as an expat. He was a WWII veteran, and an honest man. I miss him a lot. I don’t get there to see Mother nearly enough – and it is a hugely exhausting trip for me.

That wasn’t a problem, but the orderly transition of information was never made, and a bunch of things had to be regenerated or reconstructed after Daddy died, and the IRS made this rather difficult because there were pieces I had to justify acquiring.

Needless to go into detail, but I now have the information I need to file those tax returns, which means that job goes to the head of the queue, as it has been several years. It wasn’t CRITICAL, because there will be no taxes OWED (fines are based on unpaid taxes), but I really don’t want to have to carry that paperwork with me as we move, and risk both losing it, and having the whole filing be postponed MUCH longer.

The A4 task is: writing Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD (formerly A1).

This is the real reason for fewer posts: the writing is happening when I have the brain and the energy, and I’m much farther along than before. Book over blog posts.

On bad days, if I can write at all, the text seems leaden and ungraceful, but I plow ahead, and have been pleasantly surprised to find that the graceless prose requires far less work to bring it up to my standards than I expected: being tired and low while writing doesn’t get in the way of the fact that the PROCESS I use is solid.

Though, as I stated in a comment recently on FB, no one in their right mind would use my process.

But it WORKS for me, still allows me to put together this vast story by creating tiny individual mosaic tiles to cement into the solid overall framework with some tweaking but no loss. I marvel at this. It’s taken twenty years+ of writing to get to this point, of knowing exactly what to do (except for the art part – that comes from no conscious process I can see or summon): gather everything I have decided must go in a scene, and the process plus subconscious turns it into a short story.

Because that’s how I see every scene: a short story, as complete in itself as I can make it (without the redundancy of creating the world anew each time).

The A4′ task is: marketing Pride’s Children: PURGATORY (formerly A2).

With only one of me, and so much effort in the marketing department being unfruitful (you have no idea how much time I’ve spent on Amazon ads this year, but it was a huge commitment which hasn’t panned out, but may, one of these days), and that me being so low energy, it is currently stalled.

And likely to be ignored a lot, while at the same time I mourn having no sales or borrow except the occasional one I generate at great effort by hand. I’m mourning a lot of things right now – what’s one more?

But this one is actually a drain on the spirit, even though I hope the publication of more works will be the promised kick to sales of Book 1. This is practically an indie promise: write more books, and you will do better.

Which begs entirely the question: nothing will happen without marketing, and marketing two or three is more work.

The rest of the list: singing, a bit of socializing, life.

Less of all that every day – my folk group singing is yielding to the reality that I’ve been in this group for years, if not decades, and every single one of us is that much older – and now finding it hard to drive at night. In its current form, its days are numbered. We’re singing along, waiting for the old dear to have one of those crises I wrote about above.

I thought I had lost my choir singing on Sundays; after the stents, the meds gave me anxiety and panic attacks of major proportions, and I’ve written about the Post-Traumatic Stress created, but most of that seems under control since I am NOT on the meds (and I’m doing my cardiac rehab in the basement, thanks for asking, three times a week). I’m actually better at climbing the stairs to the crypt of the Princeton chapel where we practice (NOTE: shortness of breath IS a sign of possible artery blockage – you aren’t getting enough oxygen!). Now I’m worried about the voice part, which I always knew would happen some day, but it may get a bit better, at least until we leave, if the STRESS level drops. Singing is largely breath support, and stress makes that harder.

And the socializing, when it happens, really wipes me out – but is psychologically necessary. I look forward to it being less stressful in the CCRC, or why move? And I will be missing all my friends, which won’t help. I’ve asked to go to the annual folk-singing picnic by Skype.

That’s the update.

There sure has been a lot of adrenaline – which I handle badly – attached to these events and their outcomes, and the ability to cope, which involves being able to really rest for at least a half hour out of every three, has been severely compromised (and I have no idea how it will go when we visit 5-8 CCRCs in California in the 10-day or so trip I still have to plan).

But I am hopeful.

And I am WRITING many more days than not.

And I am making PROGRESS on NETHERWORLD, which is REALLY the A1.

Peace to all of you. How are you?

For your trouble, here is an epigraph from Chapter 22:

The heart does not rest
For at battle with itself
It can never win.

Tahiro Mizuki,
trans. by R. Heath

My appreciation, again, to Stencil for allowing me to produce the graphics which head many of my posts.











10 thoughts on “Writers have only so many hours

  1. joey

    My apologies for arriving so late. In four more posts after this one, my email will be empty.
    I can see your priorities in working order, and agree that you’re going about it the right way, because anyone who can list their priorities in order has got them right.
    As you know, my father passed away this summer, and the house still isn’t in order to be sold. My mother lives over 1000 miles away. Let me say this just as politely as I can, considering possibilities of a less pleasant sort is WISE. You are wise to search out a safer, healthier space.
    When I first saw your title, I thought, “EVERYONE only has so many hours” but it’s true writers are included.
    I’ve been busy too, but not as early in the morning most days and that pleases me. I haven’t slept well in six days though, and will be treating myself like a baby tonight, in the hopes that it will work. lol Bath, fresh sheets and jammies, story, hot cuppa tea, bit of a rub with lavender lotion. I’d like to wake up feeling like I slept!


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      No worries – I catch up when I can, too.

      This year hasn’t been a good one in some ways, but we get what we get, and do the best we can with it,

      I don’t want to leave my children a cleanup job I should have done. We’ll be happy to keep a box or two for them, if they need to, but they are all at least a quarter of a century old and need to choose what they will carry through life with them. None of us are very attached to ‘stuff’ but it is all full of memories. Next task after I finish each kids 4-scrapbook record of their homeschooling years will be for me to keep a digitized copy, and give them their own ‘school records.’

      There is no excuse any more for not miniaturizing what you love – but is costing you money everytime you move. I ask myself: will I want this with me when I’m in a nursing home in ONE room (eventually)?

      I want a digital picture frame which rotates my collection, up on a wall somewhere, the music on the iPod, and the movies on a hard drive. Then maybe I’ll get around to actually, you know, enjoying it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alice Audrey

    It all makes perfect sense to me. Of course the blog is going to end up low on the list. It really can’t be help.

    I think you are very smart to pick a place for yourself now. I’ve recently got to know a lovely old woman who was uprooted by her family when she couldn’t take care of herself anymore. She hated where they put her and complained bitterly for about two years. A month ago she died. I’m convinced if she’d picked a place for herself, she’d have lived longer.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I’m so tired – I want the search and the move and the sale of the house to be over.

      I want my pool.

      Yes, it might be cheaper to stay home, but it isn’t going to work for me. Cheaper means nothing when you have to end up where someone else decides.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Unfortunately, I’m back at the place where I have trouble starting, especially when my brain is so hard to get going every day. I can function fine, but I can’t write.

      Once it gets going for a day, I’m fine while the good period lasts, and progress has been steady. I know a lot of tricks – I use them all. I’m very blessed that I have no trouble with the work itself (except the usual ‘this is crap’ right before things settle into their final form).

      It’s something anyone who remains a writer gets used to: what we are is unsatisfied with some aspect of the story, and we think we should be better/faster/smarter at figuring it out than anyone could really be. I’ve stopped taking it out on myself, which makes it much easier. It’s just the ‘prelearning tantrum’ – what Karen Pryor call the space when the old stuff doesn’t work any more and the new stuff hasn’t coalesced. I now know that when I hit that, it’s only a matter of time.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Trying to do too many things, but, thank God, the writing seems to have matured. It’s faster (though, of course, NETHERWORLD is more complicated than PURGATORY), and the process has gelled – if I do all my steps, it happens eventually: I get the complex layered effect I love, where things connect and foreshadow and make me think.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Kris Naelapaa

      Iliked this post. I found out a lot about you which I did not know. I did not know that yiu still sang folk songs. Any of them from Camp Maya? I like your blogs. They are easy to enjoy,
      Question about my Facebook page. Can I post a poem I wrote about the ‘85 earthquake. I don’ use my desktop much. Can I just type it onto my ipad Facebook page? It’s one typewritten page long?


      1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

        Thanks, Kris.

        Yes. If it’s yours (and the haiku epigraphs are), you may always do whatever you want with it. You can copy and paste if you have it in digital form, or do a screen capture with your phone or desktop, and post that as a photo.

        Every once in a while I shut up about the writing, and just post a piece of it. Maybe someone will read my books from the snippet, and find it again. I hope with pleasure – or at least recognition.



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