Carleen Brice is the author of novels Orange Mint and Honey, which was optioned by the Lifetime Movie Network and was a #1 Denver Post best-seller and Essence Magazine Recommended Read, and Children of the Waters, which One World/Ballantine released in June 2009.
Carleen also wrote Lead Me Home: An African American’s Guide Through the Grief Journey (HarperCollins), and edited the anthology Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife (Beacon Press, Souvenir Press). Her book Walk Tall: Affirmations for People of Color sold over 100,000 copies and was in print with traditional publishers for ten years. It is now available from iUniverse.
In 2008, she won the Breakout Author of the Year Award from the African American Literary Awards Show and in 2009 she received the First Novel Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. She is a finalist for the 2009 Colorado Book Award in literary fiction, and is a two-time finalist for the Colorado Book Award in nonfiction (for Lead Me Home and Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number). She lives with her husband in Colorado where she gardens and works on her third novel, Calling Every Good Wish Home.
Carleen, thank you for stopping by The Debutante Ball during Bad Habits week!
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Bad Habits: An Appreciation
I was going to write about procrastination, the ultimate writer’s bad habit, but, you guessed it, I waited too late, and ran out of time to say anything interesting about the subject other than I do it. If you’re a writer, you probably do too. It’s why God invented Facebook … and Twitter … and People magazine, Harry Potter, movies on demand, gardens, and cuticles that need moisturizing. What was I talking about? Oh, that’s right: bad habits.
All kidding aside a bad habit I’d really like to address is worrying. Worrying does no good, but I come from a long line of worrying folks — on both sides. I worry about everything. Everything and nothing.
Right now, I’m worrying about what comes next for me. See, I’ve just had a huge success. My first novel Orange Mint and Honey was published two years ago. Last week, the movie version of it (“Sins of the Mother”) premiered on LMN, the Lifetime Movie Network. It did very well. Surpassed expectations. Yay, right? Everybody keeps asking me if I’m floating, soaring, walking on air. I should be. I guess I should be, but really what I’m doing? Planning what’s next. Writing what I hope will be my next novel. Talking to my agents about future projects. Strategizing. Already looking ahead to the next thing instead of just sitting with this thing for a moment.
That is a really bad habit that I’d like to change. It would be lovely to just enjoy for a minute, you know?
But I just had a thought. These bad habits of mine have gotten me, and yours you, this far. Maybe they’re not so bad. Think about it. Sure we procrastinate, but those of us who are published and who will be published do eventually get to our work. Maybe procrastination is just part of the process. We writers live in our heads, focused on the past, alternative versions of the present or wondering what the future might be like. We spend a lot of time with people who don’t exist. It is the opposite of mindfulness. Some would call it monkey mind. But dreaming turns out to be an excellent habit for a novelist.
Maybe worrying’s not so bad either. I mean getting my ducks in a row so that I can strike while this iron is hot (let’s play how many clichés can one writer cram into a sentence!) isn’t exactly a mistake. Maybe all my neuroses combine to create just what a writer needs to get her work done and just maybe succeed. It’s dawning on me: some bad habits just might be a gift.
So this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to enjoy the process of being a writer, all of it, the highs, the lows, the boring parts, the thrills, the obsessing, the doubting, the dreaming. I’m going to try to like myself, as Darcy says to Bridget Jones, “just as I am.” Hope you will too.