Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SANER, WISER AND WEARING PANTS: THE WRITING PROCESS

Lynn starts off...

I have mentioned before that the writing life introduces me to a boatload of amazing people, right? Well, this morning's post is the result of a "friend of a friend" thing. I got introduced to Carol Steingreaber through a mutual friend, Mary Donahue, whose post, "Write What You See" graced our blog almost a year ago.

Proof that good things just keeping arriving in your email's in box when you hang out with writers. Enjoy.

Guest post by Carol Steingreaber

Ah…is there anything more glamorous than the idea of writing a book?

Let’s close our eyes and envision Hemingway in a lovely pub in Paris, occupying a corner table, smoking a cigarette, with a watered down drink at the ready and staring out of a dusty window. So romantic!

If this picturesque scene played out for any of you authors reading this I applaud you. I had high hopes of keeping some form of the “romance of writing” alive as I penned my autobiography. My wooden desk was clean and had a faint scent of lemon Pledge. My land line was turned off and my cell phone on silent. Kids were at school. No interruptions. I was showered and smelling like a fresh ocean breeze. I had set the mood and the romance was on fleek, right up until I spilled coffee on myself, ten minutes into the writing process. This was an omen I did not heed. From that moment on, I entered an alternate universe. When I emerged a year and a half later, I was saner, wiser and wearing pants.

Funny, I pictured my published book arriving at my doorstep, all shiny and glossy, TV and radio crews at the ready for my author visits and book signings. I imagined the residents of the city of Cedar Rapids all clapping, violins playing and brooks bubbling with excitement.

Why didn’t I imagine the journey I would embark on the minute I sat down to write? Why had I left out this important part of the process? Why could I not imagine it? Because you don’t know what you don’t know. As a writer ready to embark on her first book, I had no idea what lay ahead of me for the next year and a half and that was a blessing of great proportions. Spoiler alert: First time writers stop reading. Seasoned writers read on so we can commiserate together.

Writing in the middle of the night became the norm for me. I was a baby with her days and nights mixed up. My brain would not shut off when the sun went down. I would lie in bed and write the stories in my head. When my brain was ready to explode from too much garbbley gook (scientific name), I got up and wrote the stories down. I would fall asleep at my desk in the coffee-stained clothes I had on the day before. I would jar awake, brush my teeth, tell my husband to have a safe trip, then find a real bed and collapse for five hours.

My family perpetrated my behavior unknowingly. During part of my writing journey into the underworld, both kids were in college and my husband traveled every week. I would have days and days where I wouldn’t leave my laptop. It was glorious and insane all at the same beautiful time. I would sit down to write and eight hours would pass, with my coffee gone cold, a bag of Cheetos, empty and laying on the floor, my keyboard orange and crummy. How many bags of Cheetos can one person consume in a year and a half? About 25 pounds worth, give or take. I would oscillate between the crunchy and the puffy kind. I greedily overused the term “writer’s block” when my family would find me in front of the TV, binge watching Will and Grace.

Life went on around me and I tried to cooperate and participate. I would attempt the grocery store with my greasy hair and sweat-stained baseball cap. No makeup adorned my face (perhaps I was frightening small children but I couldn’t muster the energy to care). I would create giant casseroles on Friday, knowing my family could eat leftovers for the next three days and I wouldn’t have to cook. 

The worst would be running into an acquaintance two days in a row. They would look at me, confused and “concerned”. Then it would dawn on me that I had the same sweats, running shirt, and baseball cap on the day before when they saw me at the gas station. These same people would never see me when I was showered and sitting upright in church or out at a restaurant (in non-workout attire) using utensils to eat a meal not prepared on a paper plate.

They would say, “Carol, are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help?” not really meaning it and just hoping to get some juicy bit of information to share with their real friends. Thoughts running through their heads were so loud I heard, “Is she having a midlife crisis? Is she depressed? Is Paul leaving her? Is her curling iron broke? Did her hairstylist die?” I would just smile (not a big smile because I probably had Cheetos stains on my teeth) and convince them I had just come from a 24 hour camping trip. My real friends knew I was writing my life story and would leave ice-cold diet coke and bags of Cheetos at my doorstep, never ringing the doorbell, knowing they might wake me or interrupt the brain waves working on the next great chapter.

When my body screamed for real food and there was none in the house, drive-thru’s became my best friend. I could jump in the car, put on giant sun glasses that accompanied my wrinkled, stained clothing and roll down the windows to get my fifteen minutes of allotted fresh air, returning with a greasy bag of hot food that would sustain me for the next couple of days. It was magical.

I remember the day I put the last period on my last sentence of Pants Optional. It was the summer of 2014. This bizarre journey had begun on January 2, 2013. It was a sunny, glorious day and I stood up from my laptop with tears in my eyes. I was shaking from excitement, malnourishment and dehydration. It was finished. I wanted desperately to tell someone.

At that moment my son, who had been mowing the lawn, came running into the house and yelled, “MOM! Can you make me a sandwich? I am going to be late for my shift at Coffeesmiths! PLEASE? Where are you? Can you hear me?” Door slams. It only made sense that this moment wrapped up my stream of unconsciousness, subconscious and barely conscious writing that had been pouring out of me for a year and a half. I had officially entered the realm of the fraternity of writers. I had been hazed and made it out alive.

Alive, sane, wiser and wearing pants.


About the Author:

Carol Lynne Steingreaber was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She graduated from Loras College with degrees in English Literature and Writing. Carol has experience as a correspondent, proofreader, copywriter and marketing director. The author started writing her first humorous autobiography, Pants Optional, in 2013 in honor of her mom.

Pants Optional has been on the Amazon’s Best Sellers list, reviewed in the Cedar Rapid’s Gazette and has been featured on her local CBS news. Carol has been a guest on The Michael S. Robinson Show, a New York talk radio program, on Microbin Radio in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and has done numerous author visits and books signings.

For more information visit Carol’s website at pantsoptionalstories.com, follow her on Facebook at Pants Optional and on Twitter @PantsOptStories.

About Pants Optional:

Pants Optional is a refreshingly honest book and a quick read that offers hilarious insights on life and motherhood. While the author tries to navigate through marriage, sex, and friendships, Carol reminds us that it’s okay to laugh at ourselves and not take life so seriously.

Carol shares 33 UNconventional tips on how to use humor, comedy and parenting genius when disciplining your kids, caring for an elderly parent or while experiencing eternal moments of embarrassment. Pants Optional gives women an excuse to sit down, put their feet up and just laugh.


2 comments:

  1. I'm glad I went to the bathroom BEFORE I started reading this week's installment of Writing Wyoming. Carol's narrative of her year of writing her autobiography would have had me running, probably unsuccessfully for the bathroom. Not sure which was the funniest part, the Cheetos stained teeth, the 24-hour camping trip, or the giant casseroles to feed the family for half a week. Fun. I hope you and Susan can keep up the parade of wonderful blogs.

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  2. Hi Art! I'm glad you enjoyed my blog. If I've made somebody smile, giggle or belly laugh I've done my job.

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