I am Ichek.

I have a shirt with a line from my book. It makes a lot more sense if you’ve read the draft I’m working on- which most of you haven’t. Ichek is one of my favorite characters, and it’s difficult not to make her the star of everything going on in the book. Sometimes. And yet, she’s not the viewpoint character. It’s a fun balance in any writer’s life.

See, Ichek is not human. She has a few secrets that she isn’t sharing with her space-going crew, and navigating that territory makes her difficult and foreign.

The shirt was made through a t-shirt party, and she allowed me to create my own design. I’ve never been to a t-shirt party before, and it was interesting. Some of the designs didn’t appeal to me, but that’s how it goes. No one loves everything. I’ve been so, so excited for this one to arrive. The color is even pretty close to Ichek’s scales (I did mention she wasn’t human, right?). The process, since the waiting, has made me very interested in a Cricut or Cameo or something that easily does the creation process.

And then I thought- no. I really ought to be working on that book. And I know it. So even though I’m struggling to find my workspace when everyone is here all the time – I’m realizing how lovely it was to have the house to myself and be quiet if I wanted it – I’ve been bringing it out and trying to update myself on where my progress was so many months ago.

Wish me luck to figure out where I was and what I was doing. It has felt so far away for a long time. So today, or maybe tomorrow because I’m one of those people who washes everything before wearing it, I’ll be wearing my new shirt, thinking of Ichek and her pals, and editing.

Maybe one day soon I’ll share a sketch of Ichek.

P.S. Hello to two of my favorite nieces who have recently started reading.

Drowning in Domesticity

I’ve been sewing, crocheting, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. No, I don’t do all of it myself, but it takes all of my time to do these things. Not to mention teaching kids – it’s not all school work (which seems to all be optional anyway) – I’m working with my daughter on frustration, I hope, and I’m not sure how that’s going. I’m helping my son learn to do the stuff he needs to do first and play later. Or at least at regular intervals.

Despite that, there are snippets of things running through my head. It’s hard to imagine the world we left behind, that we will simply return to it. I see people pushing back and forth on staying home – so what is it that we’re all fighting against? And in what way do we think that we’re helping – since nobody’s actually listening on social media.

I find that the best way to deal with social media. I often pretend nobody’s listening. Maybe that’s just my way to be more authentic, because if I think I’m pushing a point I worry I’m saying it to those who agree with me and I’ve already been muted by everyone else.

It’s hard not working on my book. I gave myself permission, and usually I even believe that’s for the best. There are just too many things that are distracting me and keeping me from getting into the bookspace that I want to inhabit.

I’ve made a lot of progress in those other ways. Mom reminded me that it’s good that I can create anything at the moment. I’ve seen so many comments about “because of … everything…” That’s about how it all goes.

I’ve also lost track of so many other things I think I had been successfully juggling before. Part of that is what day it is, when I’ve blogged last, and whether I’ve had a meal in the last two hours. (The answer to that last one is often no.)

Sometimes I end up looking for things I know I have, but then they end up in my office (temporarily taken over by my husband) and I can’t access them for that minute, and by the time he emerges I forget what I was looking for. It’s ended up with a bunch of things from my office strewn around the living space when they’re normally contained.

Luckily the library was looking out for me and let me have those books a lot longer than usual, and I haven’t had to worry about due dates on top of everything else. I LOVE THE LIBRARY!

If you’re curious, we’ve been home 40 days today.

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Change

A lot of things have changed in the last few weeks. It’s hard to put my finger on all of them. A month ago I taught my last class in the nursing home (the times before), and I miss them though I’m still in touch. I found a few of my other class people (last class taught 3/12). I’m still teaching online, and it’s a good outlet for me. My writer’s group, a martial arts class, my congregation, and my DnD campaign have all moved to virtual spaces. School hasn’t congealed into a full space yet, though I hear that’s coming, too.

Just because we’re still meeting, it isn’t always at the same time or the same way. It’s taken a lot of adjustment to get where we are, with sort of a routine, and I’m still struggling with it. I know I’m not alone.

In the last few days, I’ve discovered my fiction outlet again. At least, the part that lets me put type it out on the keys. I haven’t figured out where I want to share it yet. Still thinking, but I’ve really missed that portion of writing the words and twisting them to meet the visions in my head. It’s all microfiction, too, far less than 100 words and some just a couple sentences. It doesn’t matter- it’s getting easier every day to write a few of them out.

I feel like I’ve found something I didn’t know I’d lost. I know I was focusing on a book and I was struggling with it, but finding this little beacon within the changed world gives me another thing to hang on to. [there i ended a sentence with not one but two prepositions. it’s not wrong.]

What’s your favorite little turn of phrase? I try to cycle them through and my daughter looks at me for my idioms and asks what they mean. It’s an interesting journey with a very literal 11 year old.

During the massive amount of time I need to tell the kids what to do and make sure they do it, I’m crocheting instead because I can focus on it. The yarn tangled last night, and i stayed up too late conquering it into its different strands. It’s the little things! IMG_20200407_201926255

 

This isn’t the quiet time I was looking for, but —

Today we spent another birthday inside, away from people, and it’s all right. We’re trying to make the best of it, even though this isn’t what we would have chosen. We’d have chosen to go to school, to go to gymnastics, to celebrate with a party, maybe.

But that’s not to be. Still, it’s a nice day. Surprises from friends and good things to do together spice up the routine. And it is a routine we’re settling into. It’s not the one from the memes I read from others- we wear real clothes and we don’t sleep in (Do you count 7 on the weekends as sleeping in?) and we have set out a new way to do things. I’m still tweaking it a bit, but the kids are settling into what they have to get done.

It’s hard to remember we only have so much time, so much energy, and so much drive. It doesn’t help to berate myself over what I haven’t done or what I’m not able to do right now. There’s a comfort in finding what I can do, and what I’m able to manage. I’ve managed dishes and laundry and two kids through their different tasks. I planned a birthday – sort of – to include things to make my daughter feel special.

That doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things. I do a daily yoga video, and that’s not nothing on my brain, either. I relinquished my office to my husband for the duration of this, and I only see it on the weekends or late evenings. So if I need my office to do it, it isn’t getting done.

I’m turning to meditative tasks – crochet, tai chi, sweeping. These are far more rewarding at the moment than something that only cultivates frustration. I’ve finished 3 projects for crochet so far, and that’s pretty amazing. My technique is improving, and I’m excited about that.

My brain seems to be searching for something to write, though. It’s just not in the proper gear at the moment. The hardest part is forgiving myself for not taking this extra time to do something with it. I remind myself it’s important to be present for the kids. I can laugh them off when they insert themselves into my videos, but I can’t keep my characters progressing in my head when they do that. It’ll be all right. I’ll have quiet time to myself eventually. I hope…

Late March, Wednesdayish

Do you forget what day it is after so long at home? I’m getting there. It’s hard to remember if I’ve done the things I’m trying to do today. My projects are sitting undone and I’ve been keeping up with dishes and laundry, which have suddenly become more arduous.

Also I am managing two children to keep them involved in activities within the house. That always takes me longer than I think it will. It takes more eyes and more brainspace and just more of everything. I’m tired, and I don’t want to be so tired. I know it’s because I get up early and I push going to bed late. I should start napping a little in the afternoon because that’s just how things are going.

In other news, my crochet skills are improving. That takes a lot less extra executive function, because I’m following a couple books with patterns based on beginning stitches and building. I have a ton of yarn in my house, so while I can’t always match a specific type, I can get the right size and hook (because I have the hooks, too) and suddenly I’ve released my death grip on the yarn and my tension is coming out all right.

Finding the time and quiet space to write, though, has proven much more difficult so far. My husband moved into my office and he’s busy so much of the time in there. Yesterday he had a conference call with people in Germany and India (and who knows where else) and they were all in isolation at home, too. He wasn’t sure if my daughter practicing her trumpet went through his mike, but he put noise cancelling on his headphones and he was fine.

One piece at a time. We’ve been home long enough that I’m wishing for other faces, other people. We walk in the mornings and we see no one – but we find squirrels, geese, cats, and all sorts of songbirds. Today we heard a woodpecker.

Also, I’m teaching my children card games. This week we’ve played Hearts, Garbage, and Sh*thead (taught to me by a friend in high school called /id-ee-yOt/).Next is Spades as soon as I can get both kids ready to play again.

We’re reading mythology and genetics out loud, because I have books on so many things but these are small doses, 30 seconds or so, that we can talk about it and get a little without being overloaded. But of course, then I want to jump down the research rabbit hole again…

The time is passing, and I wonder how long it will be this way. More and more activities move online, and it’s fascinating how much we don’t need to look at each other anymore.

Note: photo is of the game my husband got for his birthday, along with my son’s Lego spider taking over. IMG_20200320_144222836

Change

Change is hard, and it happens all the time. The little ones we barely notice, and suddenly it’s Wednesday instead of Sunday and it takes a moment to remember your age. The larger ones- like moving or transitioning through life’s changes are better marked but that doesn’t make them easy.

I’m getting glasses. It’s a new transition. One I’ve never had to navigate before, and I didn’t realize it was so hard to know all the things. It’s a very small correction, mostly for the blue light. It might be one clue to why I’ve resisted editing so much lately and focused on things that take me out of the range of the screens.

The difficult part is in my head at this point. I’ve never needed glasses. If it’s on paper, I can read it. Even the small print. Mostly I struggle as soon as it’s on a screen, and that’s just a headache. But headaches become cumulative, and I’d really rather live without them. So while I’m waiting on my “real” pair, I got a cheap pair without correction that only filters some of the blue light.

There’s a difference in the blue on my office walls more than most colors, so I know it’s a small adjustment. But I’m more comfortable driving in the semi-glare without full sunglasses. The first full day and I just felt less strained. (That’s what glasses are supposed to do, right?)

But there are also other things I’m attempting to get used to – like the ring around where my eyes are. When I walk inside I want to take them off like they’re sunglasses, because that’s all I’ve ever worn and it feels weird inside. This pair gets a glare sometimes on the corner where it looks like the person next to me is showing me a cell phone screen but it’s only a reflection from the window behind me.

So many people wear glasses, that very few people even remark on my new look. It was much more of an oddity in engineering school to not wear them. They just assume they’ve never seen me in glasses because of contacts or something else. Some people I know have reading glasses on top of their contacts. I know the adjustment is inside my head.

Partly it’s my age – this is the age where a lot of people need reading glasses or something. It’s around the age where my father also needed that correction. Partly it’s just that we live in a world with a lot of harsh lights.

I didn’t want to teach with my glasses yesterday, because they’re some pretty physical classes, and I was worried to drop them or break them. But I noticed the light streaming in the window, and I almost changed my mind. If nothing else, I am paying much more attention to the light that surrounds me and how it makes me feel. Wearing glasses is a small change, but the sensory differences are worth noting.

It’s time to get back to that manuscript in edits. I know this has been part of my resistance. There are always a few other things hanging, and I’m juggling them even if I keep dropping a couple things. Part of that resistance took the form of organizing and decluttering within my home, which still isn’t done. It’s just another piece of this time of change, and I’ve been feeling that much more acutely than normal.

So, because I almost never talk about my father, here’s a really old picture of the two of us. He’ll have been gone 14 years in May.

fatherandme

Organization

One room leads to another, and all of them are leading me to be calmer in my home. I didn’t expect that, and it never bothered me before.

I suppose it’s just another in a series of changes that I’ve noticed lately.

Focus is pretty difficult, and all through the first room I kept telling myself to focus on that room, to stay within that room, to tackle one piece of furniture/area at a time.

This change might be the last piece of resistance, but it’s hard to say. I hate taking a break from the book, but I suppose that’s also been necessary while I organize my mind. That’s pretty hard to keep track of, and I’m still learning what that takes.

The best part is it does fit with the three-part plan that I’m using for this new year (even if i started more on the Chinese new year than the western calendar) – I have re-homed several items that were more useful to others, managed a plan for moving forward that doesn’t include ripping the entire house apart, and rolling with the extraneous things that happen all the time.

The photo shows my linen closet, post-organization. Before this it contained overflowing shelves and a bunch of stuff on the floor. I couldn’t even remember a couple of the tablecloths I found in there!

linencloset

The New Energy

It’s always that new energy that steals you away from the project you’re working on. I’ve been struggling to focus, but that’s what happens when I’ve been trying to reorganize.

The reorganization is going well, I suppose. It’s something that happens periodically. I have trouble clearing out the clutter and keeping it where it’s supposed to go.

I also have about 500 hobbies, give or take on any specific day, and I think it’ll be all right. I pulled out the crochet, and I finished a random knitted example. Timing is everything, and a woman I know needed to remember how to cast off for knitting. While I’m far from an expert, I could give her memory the jog it needed. That’s exciting for the day.

New Energy is focused around a new idea, and it surfaced sometime after trivia on Saturday. Surprised I went to trivia? Me, too, really. It’s normally not my thing, and it’s only something I want to do when there are fun people to hang out with. Lucky for me, I had fun people even though my husband bowed out for illness.

One of them draws amazing eyes. And she befriended my daughter – they’re only two years apart.

So that new idea is percolating, and I’m not sure when it’ll drop out on paper. It’s given me something to chew over while I’m going through the day, and it’ll probably haunt me for at least a week to come.

I finished this corner to corner project this morning, and sent a picture to the friend who taught me the technique. I’ve been asked several times what this is, and I replied ‘a square.’ I learned to increase and decrease and color change. It might be a placemat or a hundred other things. It’s just exciting to do something new.

Now maybe that story idea will behave a little while so I can get that down, too.

C2c

Resistance

At some point, I have to recognize that it is simply resistance. Why am I resisting? Why am I trying to tidy up the corners instead of sitting in front of my book?

I know I’ve recognized the feeling of resistance. I can sit down and pour out a few words, but it doesn’t come easily and it doesn’t flow. I want to delete everything. I’m resisting that, too, and when I read it, even 12 hours later, it doesn’t seem nearly as awful.

My husband appreciates the disappearance of the clutter, and even helpfully reminds me a few more things to take care of, despite me mentioning that I’m struggling to focus on the project at hand, because fifteen others are calling – hey, just reorganize the LEGO set on the shelf… it’ll only take five minutes.

I learned when I had a baby that five minutes is really code for at least twenty, and twenty minutes is code for an hour. Acknowledging that time is a figment in our heads helped me reconcile that I could never get things done even if they ‘only took five minutes.’

So cleaning up those corners in the room I tackled took about a week. It’s lovely. I still need to sweep. I want to rearrange the built-in shelves in the living room, too. And my office bookshelves. And… apparently I have entered spring decluttering in January.

Sitting with the resistance hasn’t changed it yet. I haven’t been able to sit with any other stories, either. I have one thing I wrote today, though, which gives me hope that it’s all temporary.

It has to be temporary. I don’t have many labels I really identify with, but writer is one of them.

So I used my words today, talking to a friend about an expression I heard. And she listened, and she asked questions, and she made me feel like my words had value. She made me feel like I added something to the conversation, and that reminded me of the keychain that says “word warrior” that another friend gave me.

Word Warrior is a difficult title. That friend wrote an entire letter about how she wanted me to use my words for good purposes. I turn that keychain over in my hands sometimes, because I think about what it means to be a Word Warrior.

That, too, is part of my resistance. This is the story I love, in a world I created, about characters that I want to share. I want it to be beautiful. I want so much for it. I can’t want more than I’m able to craft at this moment.

For this current moment, I’m going to find myself a picture and craft the words that are flowing, thank my friend when I share it with her, and turn that key chain over in my hand again.

Tomorrow, I need to sit in front of my manuscript, even if it’s only 100 words. I may also find time to tidy the other corners.

word warrior

Cleaning, Reading, Learning

It takes a while to get over an illness, and I’ve been sick since before the new year. I had a bunch of grand plans, thinking that I’d get over the cold any minute, and I didn’t. I’m still sleeping more than I usually do, and I don’t quite have my usual energy though I can tell it is coming back.

I’ve been catching up this week, mostly, with laundry and dishes – those things that keep piling up unless you’re constantly keeping up with them. I haven’t finished, but it’s a lot closer today, and all of the holiday things have been put away.

Today I got enough of my desk cleared off to manage the manuscript and the tablet at the same time. I’m nowhere near finished organizing my office, but it feels really nice to just sit in here and work on something. Even if it’s only a blog post.

I’ve been reading a lot, and enjoying the transport to other worlds, but it makes me want to come back to my own project. I’ve also been keeping up with the writer’s world, and all the writerly racism and other -isms have made me also want to turn back to my own project and make it better.

That’s the other reason I haven’t worked on it while I’ve been recovering. There’s a buzz in my head about these characters and how to represent them on the page. There’s more than one intelligent species in my world, and the hardest part is making sure they’re not all sounding the same. I want you to know, both implicitly and explicitly, that these characters are something else.

Some places that comes through very well, and other places, it doesn’t. The plethora of articles about racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-trans only lead me to think about things on my pages in different ways. So if I’m following and reading more articles than just what’s on the top page, and some of them are years old but I hadn’t paid enough attention at the time- it’s seeping in now.

All of that has also helped my articulation of what bothered me about other things I’ve read, some of them years ago, back when all of fantasy and science fiction seemed populated by white males. It wasn’t, but it did seem that way.

If you’re curious, right now my nose is stuck in The Grace Year, and I’m not sorry. I mean to read a few pages and it is usually between 30 and 50 before I can put the book down again only because I can no longer keep my eyes open. I’m about halfway through.

I’ve never worked on a novel as long as I’ve worked on this one. I’m setting up goals for the year, because I allowed myself at least a week’s grace time since I wasn’t feeling well. It’s very hard to give myself leeway. One reason I do so many things is because I do not do that – I drive myself to do more, accomplish more, learn more, all the time.

I’m still finishing the Swedish course on Duolingo and I’ve already started trying to figure out Spanish. I still fiddle around with Mandarin, too, because it’s not enough to just learn one language. I’ll talk about wanting to learn another handful if I ever get my brain wrapped around those. Why those? I may know a native speaker of each of them, and they’re amazing people I’d like to communicate with more. There’s also the moment of wanting to know all the words, in all the languages, and remember how my mother said knowing more creates more concepts in the mind. And that’s only going to add more to what I want to write.

What’s driving you into and through this new year?

Image: Sandwiched among many books is a smallĀ  hanging decoration that says “Careful or you’ll end up in my novel.”

bookshelf

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