Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 20, 2016

Transformation by Cheetos: A Writer’s Journey to Inner Peace on Summer Vacation

Kimberly Brock

It’s summer. I’m a parent. I’m a writer. This is a combination that results in noise and anxiety and lots of heat and bad hair and snacking in my house. Notice, I did not say it results in progress. Progress screeches to a halt, in summer at my house. Progress sleeps late and leaves its dirty dishes in the sink and trails laundry through the hallways and laughs with its flip flops kicked up on my ottoman, in summer. Dude, Progress got no ambition round here, in summer.

I had a plan. You’re laughing, but I’m serious. I had a hand-written plan, folks. I bought gel pens and everything. I don’t even outline without breaking out in a nauseous sweat, you understand, but I had sort of an idea that I would outwit, I mean, fill my summer with progress by proclamation. I filled in the squares on my planner (Yes, a paper planner. Shut up.), to finish a draft of a draft of a draft of a novel and have that sucker all written down in actual sentences by August. Oh, yeah! August! Like, two weeks from now. Here’s what I had in mind. You’ll see, it is completely rational.

IMG_2916I had a plan that I would take the kids to the pool a lot and really let my mind work out the knots for hours, during which I would also do leg exercises in the pool, so when I returned to my desk/recliner, I could focus on just zipping through the story. Cardio plus pages. Compartmentalization, people. I could parent really, really well so everybody was happy and fill up the pantry with Little Debbies and stock the fridge with Freezer Pops and corn dogs and then sneak off and do the REAL work while they were poking sugar in their gobs, completely oblivious and high on Mama-Luv. I could write my story on the sly, and still get a tan! And baby, I’d Instagram it all!

Also, I set up this thing where the two teenagers would go away to a college camp for a week in a neighboring beach town. Score! Instant excuse for ocean, right? And because I am brilliant and planning stuff, the town just happens to be on the magical Georgia coast, the setting for my first novel and my work-in-progress! (You are, right now, wishing you were me, right?) Get this: next week I get to drive down and back, and down and back again, to the beach town college camp. Four hours each way. Because my husband has a jury duty summons and we can’t stay the whole week. And we’ll do this with an eight year old boy in the car. So, you can imagine all the plotting and story structure I’m going to be just really hammering out in my drive time. Boo-yah!

It’s all about the planning. That was my conviction back in May. Yeah. So far, this is how it’s going: insomnia.

No, really. I am so rested I can’t even sleep. I have eaten my weight in Little Debbies. I have a notebook full of chlorine-scented notes on my novel that are barely legible. I don’t have firm, tan thighs, because I’m sitting under the porch at the pool, sweating the work I’m not getting done. I can’t tell you when the washing machine stopped running, but I guarantee you whatever is in it, is currently moldering. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, for dinner. And I am completely neurotic because I know the plan is total crap. Worse, I’ve done this before! Many times! So, not only am I neurotic, I’m stupid. I do not learn by experience. I am delusional. I am not your role model. I am failing. I am losing. I am eating Cheetos. I am considering taking a part-time job at the frozen yogurt shop and giving up this writing gig. It is over.

I hope by this point, you’re all smug and feeling better about yourself. Because, that’s the point. Really. Think of me as the wise old sea turtle of summer, come to bestow upon you sincere-of-heart, wide-eyed writers, this greatest literary advice of the ages: It’s summer. If you don’t want to end up at the Secret Writer Sanitarium, you have to accept it.

And by summer, I mean liminal space.

photo credit: Sea Turtle via photopin (license)

photo credit: Sea Turtle via photopin (license)

Now, let me lament for a moment on the agonies of liminal space, the empty, soul-sucking yawn of the in-between. Oh, wait. I just spent six hundred words doing the lamenting. Well, you get it. But in case you don’t, or maybe you happen to read this somewhere where it’s wintertime outside and you’re still cursing your own, personal writer’s summer, here’s a smart quote. Picture me in my shell, speaking to you in my wise old sea turtle voice (which is actually Richard Rohr’s voice, so I’m a Franciscan wise old sea turtle and totally legit).

“Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in genuinely new ways. It is when we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. During this graced time we are not certain or in control. This openness allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive. Liminal space is where we are most teachable.”

Based on the summer I’m having, I am excelling in teachability, y’all. I am wide open and receptive and way out of control. I am allowing room for Freezer Pops and the genuinely new. I translate that to mean, transformation. And when it comes to this writer’s journey, in my opinion, there’s one thing I am sure of beyond my compulsive issues with my paper planner or my need to complete my next manuscript - that’s entirely the point. Transformation by Cheetos. It’s working for me.

How do you feel about the liminal spaces along your writing journey? Do you embrace them? Do you discover new energy during your metaphorical summers? Or do you fight against the transitional stages of the process? What works for you when you are betwixt and between with your writing projects and life?

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About Kimberly

Kimberly Brock

Kimberly Brock

Kimberly Brock is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, THE RIVER WITCH (Bell Bridge Books, 2012). A former actor and special needs educator, Kimberly is the recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year 2013 Award. A literary work reminiscent of celebrated southern author Carson McCullers, THE RIVER WITCH has been chosen by two national book clubs.

Kimberly’s writing has appeared in anthologies, blogs and magazines, including Writer Unboxed and Psychology Today. Kimberly served as the Blog Network Coordinator for She Reads, a national online book club from 2012 to 2014, actively spearheading several women’s literacy efforts. She lectures and leads workshops on the inherent power in telling our stories and is founder of Tinderbox Writer’s Workshop. She is also owner of Kimberly Brock Pilates.

She lives in the foothills of north Atlanta with her husband and three children, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at kimberlybrockbooks.com for more information and to find her blog.

57 comments on “Transformation by Cheetos: A Writer’s Journey to Inner Peace on Summer Vacation”

  1. This was so great. Thanks for taking us along on your summer and making us feel all better about ourselves. Mostly. I have a huge edit waiting on my work-in-progress, but I'm ignoring it until I'm through the first weeks of launch season for my current novel. The WIP has been nagging me like wet beach towels on the back porch. Now, I'm just going to relax and eat some Little Debbies on my way to the next book signing.

  2. Love the post - there are MANY who share that bag (or case) of Cheetos with you! I only wish to point out one thing I don't agree with - " During this graced time we are not certain or in control." Hellllooo,,,, Graced? Really?

    I gotta work on my Zen.

    Pass the Cheetos, willya?

  3. I loved this post so much, Kimberly!!!! As someone who's totally lost on schedule and routine with summer camp hours, I laughed ridiculously hard. My paper planner (old school here) is stuck on June 30, the plants are wilting, the most used appliance in my kitchen is the ice cream maker, and my brain is churning as slowly as the ice cream.

    Luckily, I'm between projects so I just have to fit in time to work on retreat logistics. I'm letting the story squirrels gather their nuts and pad their nests. Soon, babies, soon!

    Now, who'd like some pineapple gelato?

    1. I am sooooo lactose intolerant. I eat Cheetos at great risk to myself. Ice cream would kill me dead. But the pineapple gelato is really calling to me... Oh, how I wish!! Seriously, give yourself a break, you work horse!! You are doing great! xo

    1. You're running the whole literary world, so don't tell me you think you're a slacker! Anyone who doesn't know about the Writer's High Retreat needs to go have a look-see! Gonna be fabulous!!

  4. From one GA girl to another... I love this. I lol'd at "not only am I neurotic, I'm stupid." And I love the quote about liminal space. I'm so there. Just sent out a batch of queries yesterday, and am now ready for "something genuinely new to happen."

    1. QUERIES!!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!! That won't make you neurotic, AT ALL! 🙂
      Cheesy fingers to you and congrats all around! Keep me posted and hope to meet you soon! xo

    2. Melanie...queries? Really? And you're not shoving the jumbo bag of Cheetos and the entire cookie section in your craw? I bow to you, girl.

  5. Hi, Kimberly. An SC native here transplanted to the Midwest <>. My transformation this summer is happening by Goldfish and scrambled eggs (the kids are 10 and 8, and their father is a health nut, so we don't really do Cheetos unless they're the baked ones.) But I completely understand. And empathize. And just bought new Sharpies yesterday. So you're not the only one, writing friend! :> Keep at it!

    1. Goldfish work, too. And Eggo Waffles. 😉
      I am obsessed with Sharpies. Also pencils. I LOVE new pencils! Maybe I'll write my next post as an ode to office supplies...xoxo

      1. Ah, Eggo Waffles...how I miss thee. Haven't had an Eggo since I got married 13 years ago. The things we do for the men in our lives...

  6. Now the Little Debbie Nutty Bars in my pantry are calling my name. I consider them breakfast hor d'oeuvres. And, I, too, am addicted to office supplies. Stepping into Staples makes me smile. But then walking in to Lowes does the same thing. I think it is the sense of possibilities. ...Oh well. Back to revising my WIP and hiding from the hideous Kentucky heat wave outside.

    1. I think sometimes embracing all these silly things we love, feeds our creative souls in a way that we forget is really NECESSARY for our writing - or any other joy in life! Gobble up those Little Debbies! xo

      1. I just spent a small fortune in Staples thanks to you guys. Okay, not really just because of you ... I'm a pen and notebook junkie.

        Now I'm off to Lowes. Thanks for the reminder, Beverly. I'm dreaming about building book shelves. 🙂

          1. I used to OWN an office supply store! Yikes, it was like an alcoholic, owning a bar.

            But man, did I have great shit back then! My planner was plush burgundy leather that matched my briefcase. Oh yeah, I was happenin'.

          2. Why don't you just paint a section with the chalkboard paint. I am mad for the stuff. My girlie has an entire wall of chalkboard and i go in and draw butterflies and such when I'm stuck. 🙂

  7. This is hilarious! I tried to not laugh out loud at my work desk but boy, could I relate! Yes, I have an empty nest, but summertime & living on a lake in Minnesota means we have endless guests. Last weekend we had roughly 40 people at our house & some threatened to come back this weekend (they were kidding... at least I pray they were kidding!) I reminded them I actually have a book to write & deadline for 1st book, and when did they think that would get written? They gave me a clueless look... as if they had thought books wrote themselves. 😉
    As you mentioned, it doesn't seem to happen in summer! Hang in there, school resumes soon and you can pack any leftover Cheetos and Little Debbie treats in their lunch. 🙂

    1. Wait, WHAT? The characters don't write the books?
      I have lake envy, Jill. Love the pictures you post. Can I come? I'll grab Kim and we'll have a writers retreat - no cheetos allowed though. 🙂

      1. Wouldn't that be awesome if the characters just wrote the book! Seriously, my family (other than my husband who has questioned several times if my butt is cemented to my writing chair) has NO clue that you need to write a manuscript more than once (is zillion a number? If so, that's where I was at with book 1.)
        Our place would be great for a writer's retreat! Cheetos are accepted as they go well with beer. I'm not sure what one would drink with with Little Debbies... milk? That's so boring!

  8. IT'S LIKE YOU KNOW ME. 🙂 Thanks for this--just what I needed to hear as I stare at my WIP for a new series and think, "How does writing work, again?" Busting out the Cheetos and slapping on the liminal-thinking label to allow myself a little downtime to find my feet again.

  9. Glad to hear that I am not the only parent with school-age children at home struggling to get writing done. Between arguments over the Wii, fist fights in the kitchen over orange marmalade, and constant demands for parental intervention to cure boredom - I am not getting much editing or writing done. Summer vacation is a challenging time for any parent attempting to keep their sanity, not only writers.

    1. Oh yes it is! My kiddo has camps but somehow most of them ended up being half day camps. Two hours of "work" time is nothing more than a frustrating tease.

      Hang in there. It won't be long before the kids are back and in school and we'll all be whimpering about the homework arguments and packing lunches and after school running around. Ahh for the lazy days of summer (*ducking before you guys start pelting me with cheetos*).

    2. My kids are wonderful. I mean that. They really do entertain themselves, feed themselves, do their own laundry and basically get along very well. But I'm the cabbie. 🙂

  10. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, today I am finding Transformation through copious amounts of orange jelly bellies. It's working well, in case anyone wants to join me. xo

        1. That's a great party line for the M&M's, Laura. We used to buy the Costco size to reward the Little Bean for potty training. Can I just say we both went up a pants size during potty training? (Me and the Hubs. NOT the baby girl.)

  11. I love this Kimberly. I don't have children per se. But I'm the great aunt who helps everyone. Let's see last week took the niece's husband and the great nephew (4 months old) to the pediatrician for his 4 month check up. Then on Thursday I picked up the 15 year old great niece, the 5 year old great nephew and the 7 year old great niece. That bunch was two different families. The six and seven year old live in El Paso, they're staying at the nephew's house down the road visiting. The twelve year old sister to the almost 15 year old, had an eye appointment in Austin that her mommy took her to. Aunt Kathy took the kids to McDonald's plied them with ice cream and soda and wrote while the little ones romped in the play area and the older one watched YouTube videos on her phone.
    Friday the niece who is the mother to the four month old baby, who doesn't drive, but works in Temple, and I took the baby to the cardiologist. I asked her about the time. I took the laptop, settled at Starbucks. Got into the story and had to quit to go pick them up. They were all done. So, we go by her work to play show off the baby, pass the baby, play with the baby. It was all good, she bought me lunch at Texas Roadhouse. BUT then she says after we eat. Now, we're going to buy school supplies. By the time I walked back in the front door, I had left at 9:00 AM, it was now 6:30 PM and I was exhausted. I gave up and took a nap.
    It's nice to know that even if you don't have children of your own there are plenty out there that require your attention. 🙂

  12. I'm a teacher and a parent; also the daughter of an aging parent. I make a chart every summer of short and long range goals. More than halfway through the summer, and the only thing I've accomplished is "read" - I can do that in the waiting rooms of the many doctor's appointments one tries to get in before school starts! Ahh, blessed summer! Here's to creative inspiration! *raises Cheetos bag*

  13. Perfect!!! And I don't even have kids at home, only a husband and a son who both teach and are both at home on summer break, one playing ... well, something...in the basement and sometimes mowing the lawn and sometimes going out to play Frisbee golf, and the other playing baseball games on his PlayStation 3 which younger son not living with us (at least there's that) gave him, and watching live baseball games, sometimes it seems at the same time, and asking me what I want to watch. It seems Royal Pains off Netflix suits us both and I'm being good wife. I have gained my weight in red wine. Cheetos sounds a good option. Oh. And scheduling and going to all the attendant yearly medical stuff. I am formulating a new book, having finished one earlier in the spring, and thinking, and pulling out research and scattering it around my writing room, and sometimes dusting. And not writing except for the occasional, very occasional, blog post. At least husband does the laundry so you can be assured there's no moldy clothes. But there sure is noise.....

  14. Back from my own two-week vacation where I got zero writing done but got plenty of relaxing done. I too had a plan to finish a first draft before the retreat in September. Yeah. Not happening. And I'm okay with that...I think.

  15. You are so good about responding to everyone... that's not needed here, but I did want to say what a treat it was to read this and know that I. Am. Not Alone. I am desperately trying not to count the moments until my children return to school, allowing me seven continuous, lovely, uninterrupted and joyous hours to work during the day. Hallelujah!

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