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

Welcome to 2020.

Sometimes you stay up to make sure the old year goes out, rather than to bring in the new. I did, and promptly went to bed. I’ve been struggling with my voice the last couple days, and I had enough to talk to my guests for New Year’s Eve, but often they had to shush to hear me. This morning it’s not so great again, and I might just need to chalk the week to a loss of spoken words and diminished energy for socialization.

Which means it’s a great day to go clean my office, and make room to work on my manuscript. I only work on it when I can see it, and my office has been a pretty big disaster for, well, months. I keep managing to get part of it where I want it, and the rest of it sags around a random project or holding the other things (like gifts that need to be hidden) that must be out of sight.

I’ve seen so many writers talk about the last year and the last ten years – so here goes: My daughter is ten, and my son is seven for another few days. This decade has been spent learning how to be that parent for them, learning to juggle what I need for me around what I need for my family, and changing residence three times.

I’ve almost lived here longer than I’ve lived in a single place. It’s been 7 years 6 months in this house. My record is 7 years 7 months – in the house I was born in. I had 9 years in a town once, but we changed houses even though it stayed on the same property. And we took the house with us when we moved.

It’s hard to think that at my children’s ages – the younger I had moved once to a much different place, and the older I had actually moved three more times – leaving family and/or friends behind each time. I wonder when we’ll move from this place, but it hasn’t come yet. We thought it might last year because we got plates on my husband’s car that matched our county, which has generally heralded a move.

Not yet. Not yet.

For writing, I’ve learned how to set out a rough draft, sometimes I call it a zero draft because it’s not usually organized enough to call it a first draft. I’ve tried editing but I’ve only sort of learned how to get myself to sit down and stick to it. I’m struggling there, but I’m working on it.

In ten years, I’ve written several zero drafts. I’ve published a few short stories. I’ve talked about setting out a couple self-published books (the one that’s recently gone out of print and another one). I’ve rewritten one science fiction book entirely, and I’m on the next pass. Description is sort of the bane of my existence, and I’m learning to appreciate what it looks like when I finish that even if I hate the actual process. I actually have triaged the zero drafts to know which one comes next when I finish this draft.

I also sought out writers in their groups, and eventually formed one of my own. They keep calling me their fearless leader, and I have tried to strike out in the direction that works for all of us. No mutinies so far. It’s impossible to please everyone, and it’s impossible to always accommodate every possibility – but I’m very pleased with the group and how we work together and that we all keep learning from each other.

[We also watch and share larger things happening in the writing world, like JK Rowling’s anti-trans comments and the implosion of the RWA. Quite a lot happened last month in the writing world!]

This year, I’m going to finish the draft I’ve been working on for what seems like forever and isn’t actually. I’d like to do it by the equinox. It’ll probably be close, so long as I don’t abandon it for easier projects. Then I’ll immediately start the next triaged draft, which may or may not be a good idea.

I’m also going to get a better blogging schedule and review my social media. It’s a good time to do all of those things since I haven’t for a while, and it’s an important step to keeping myself focused on the path I’d like to take. Even if that path changes every few steps.

 

2020

Day 2422

I hit that day Tuesday- the longest streak of my writing to date. Yes, I write every day. Yes, it’s difficult and sometimes frantic. No, it’s not usable fiction – it’s more likely to be things i need to pull off my brain in order to focus for the day.

If you need that translated: 6 years, 231 days. I started this streak in March 2013.

Yesterday I broke it. I woke up this morning and looked at it twice. It’s not like me to miss a day. It’s always the little things that add up – I can tell you I wrote in the hospital after I had my son. I wrote around my ankle surgery though I’m sure much of it isn’t really functional. I wrote through moving a few times, even borrowing my mom’s computer once while we were in transit. It’s so hard to look at that streak to be broken.

I know why – my daughter is sick. I rushed her off to urgent care, and that took 2.5 hours. Then I had a scheduled MD appointment that took two more. (I’m not sure if I ought to apologize, but it’s a getting-to-know-you, and it’s important to get to know both of us. Then the dentist, too, and being the delinquent mom to pick up my son when they have them all standing outside.

At least the teachers waiting with the kids knew me – one was my daughter’s teacher and he poked his head inside the car to question where she was, which was in the car with me because she was sick but not staying home alone. The librarian called him on it- dude, you stuck your head in the car? We all laughed together.

Today I stare at that 1 day in my streak column for the current day, and I’m taking that big, deep breath. One cannot be and do all the things. If I keep track of my writing through that site, I can’t count the four both-sides covered written pages of the tracked outline for this book I’m revising and trying to make work. They don’t count because I didn’t write them in, not because I wasn’t doing work while holding my girl’s hand as she just lay on the table waiting for the next test.

Lucky for all of us, today she’s better and I’m working back to my ‘normal’ routine. It’s never a normal day, but at least when I write it feels more normal.

What’s the thing that keeps you feeling like things are going all right, even when it’s all slipping through your fingers?

For the Love of Books

I’m a novelist. I write books more than I write anything else, and I learn with every project that I work on. Last March I finished a draft. I hoped it was in better shape than it actually is- because my writer’s group will finish it next month. (We have two meetings next month, and they’ll finish it at the second of those meetings.)

They’ve been reading it for me for over a year now, partly because I started and I needed them to keep me on track with writing it, and then because I outpaced them and I hold to our limited word counts per meeting. It’s hard to remember where we started, and it’s hard to think about the feedback they’re going to give me when they finish.

But since our meeting this week, I’ve been rearranging this book in my head to be two books, and how that would look like. I agree with most of the feedback I’m getting, and I’m really lucky to have such a great group to work with.

Sometimes the hard part is thinking about all the things I’ve learned and remembering there will always be more. It’s true of any topic out there, and it’s good to be reminded that even the experts are still learning.

Then I started writing my thoughts down, and probably after the yoga class I teach today I’ll break out the colored note cards and an actual notebook and see how these things fit. They also gently remind me that there’s still too much in my head, so as I’m writing an alternative introduction I’m looking at it as if I haven’t met these creatures yet. That’s the hardest thing.

The writer’s group isn’t all bad news, though. I may have to rewrite it again but they’re excited about the characters and each one seems to have a different favorite. They’re excited to read more from these worlds. That excitement keeps me going even though I know this task is huge. The good news is it’s writing season.

draftblog.jpg

I might actually mean editing season.

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