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.

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I might actually mean editing season.

Summer

A lot has happened this summer, and while it feels like none of it is good, that’s not true. There are a lot of good things. We have good friends. We have family. We’ve had a lot of losses, and I have support from many people around me. It’s fair to say I’m stressed and depressed, and it’s expected after the summer’s events. My plan had been to clean up my office and then work in there, but the best-laid plans didn’t happen.

One of my writer friends passed away, suddenly, last month. It’s caused a big ripple among the group, and we’re all dealing with it in our own way.

My office is still a mess. I had been carrying around my binder as if I would work on it, and hadn’t, until vacation when I put it down and stopped guilting myself into thinking I’d work on it when I didn’t.

Yesterday I changed my work-in-progress for the first time since. I also started cleaning in my office. Not a coincidence that I’d reached out to two of my fellow writers from that group and both of them had asked what I’m working on.

Well, I’m working on it again. I’m reading that chapter that completely needs a different POV and tackling that. It’s comforting to know how to fix something that needs to be changed.

I’m thankful for the writers who are keeping me motivated. I’m glad I also didn’t drag it with me on vacation, because I didn’t need the extra weight, but I kept thinking about it while I was gone. I’m thankful for all that time it’s spent in my head while I’m working out the best way to recreate what I want without giving away too much too early in the story.

I’ve learned a lot by sticking to this book. One day I’m going to finish it. Not because I haven’t found the end, but my style of writing is to get the base out, and then dress it up with the necessary descriptions. I don’t know why my brain works this way, but that’s how it goes. Blank room? No furnishings? No problem in the first draft!

It’s the subsequent fixing that takes time. And I know I want to do it right. Even if it’s at my regular plodding pace and how that’s going to be a thing that happens. That, too, has made me think about how I want this to be sent out when I’m done with it, and what I’m going to do to make it successful, and what successful even means for the author I always pictured myself to be.

The writing dream has never died, but it’s changing to fit a world that didn’t exist when I was a kid saying I would write books and be on the shelves in the bookstores. Those bookstores- B Dalton and Waldenbooks – no longer exist, along with so many other things that felt permanent. Change happens- it happens when we are looking for it and when we aren’t, when we’re ready for it and when we aren’t. Even trying to keep things the same is a losing battle that’s also trying to change things. So I’ll keep writing. What will you do?

 

There’s a Funeral Today

My father-in-law died a couple days ago, and while it’s unexpected we still talk about how he didn’t suffer. People want to know how he died (we did the visitation thing last night) and there aren’t definite answers. There’s no autopsy. My husband said he died in his sleep. My father-in-law had struggled with breathing and his heart, and at some point everyone loses that battle.

My humor has run dark and biting – while my husband and I laugh my daughter looks at us and doesn’t understand why we’re laughing. I want to trot out that Heinlein quote from Stranger in a Strange Land about how humor isn’t a funny thing it’s what we do to mask the pain, but I’m also pretty sure she’s not ready for that. I hope my friends who have also encountered this humor understand.

While my husband and my parents weren’t the oldest when we were born (between 22 and 30), the grandparents were much older. (I think the youngest of them was his grandmother born in 1916. We both had grandparents born before 1910.) But when I remember these funerals, these ceremonies, most of them have blurred into that spot of not being able to remember someone droning on about whomever it was we lost. I remember, especially for my husband’s family, standing in a receiving line to speak to the many who wish to share their condolences. We did that again last night. I met people that knew my father-in-law well. It was a long line and we didn’t get a break to eat until after the stated time of the visitation. We sent the kids to run and play and when they got hungry we sent them to eat downstairs.

I don’t want to be remembered this way. Not like today, where a pastor will talk about the life and the family, and we’ll mostly just sit there and listen. I want to be remembered like my grandmother, even though that might be harder. My family got up and spoke- all of us, and anyone could go up there, or just stand where they were. We shared the stories that were important, that we remembered. (We did the same for my biological father.) I remember being engaged in these experiences, sharing in this idea of who they had been, and of the people who were my family and friends grieving with me. Also, I want an officiant who knew me, not a religious personage, one of my friends or family.

I had a lot of time in the car yesterday, between my home and my father-in-law’s, and the circumstances always lead me to wonder how much time we have. Nothing is guaranteed. Many of us don’t live to be old. I don’t ever want to get used to losing people, and I don’t ever want to get good at grieving. I have gotten better at delivering bad news- which is to say I plow through it, say what has to be said, and move on. So if you’ve seen me this week and I lead with ‘my FIL died,’ I’m sharing my grief. (Same for a friend who died two weeks ago. Same for the next loss that I hope is a long way off.) My heart is broken, and I can only repeat these words that communicate the bare minimum. If you ask, I can tell you my FIL didn’t suffer. I hear he died in his sleep. There are worse ways to go.

May

I have been writing on 750words.com since 2011 – 8 years on the first. The goal was to make three million words by my anniversary, and I did.

A good portion of it was in pursuit of novels – either preparing for them or drafting them or sometimes edits.

I spent part of April figuring out how to take on the next edits on this book. Part of that break from the novel was also figuring out something different, changing perspective, allowing it time to breathe. Me, too. That’s what we need.

Then I started looking at one of the characters and writing a different part of his story outside the book. I’m not quite sure how it fits at the moment, but it’s been fun. There may be a ton of library books on the table by the couch, too, because that’s how I check them out. I might be teaching my kids to do that, too. It’s always been about the books. It probably always will be.

The Last Book

I ordered the last book on Ingram for my story, The Art of Science. My contract was over in January 2018, and while the rights had reverted to me, I have been stuck staring at books available through online sellers and I felt I couldn’t do anything else with it until that last book sold.

So only one was available – buy now! The book arrived today. It’s a bittersweet moment, knowing it’s really out of print and only available secondhand. I still have no idea how many my publisher still has – she said she’d tell me a number and offer them for me to purchase but she never replied back to me about it.

Staring at that envelope, knowing the last book is in there, I’m not sure what to feel. It’s a bit more real. That book was a huge journey for me. I learned a lot in the process of getting it out there and then again once it was out.

I have worked hard with writing since then, but I haven’t worked hard with publishing. I have two small children – though they’re both in school now. I finished a draft last week- and it left me a little bit at odds, now what? I shouldn’t just be waiting for my readers to get a little farther in before jumping back into the edits.

One mistake I made last Monday was digging into the drafts that I have, and printing out a couple that I hadn’t. Some of them were learning experiments and some of them are worth fixing. Which led me to my brand and my platform and what I’m willing to focus my time on for edits. Planning is hard. Taking that time to examine the daily schedule and what it is that’s calling me is a difficult venture. I’ve been feeling the winds change around me and I’m trying to be ready to go in new directions.

I do mean directions. It isn’t just one thing that’s come to a tipping point. It’s about three that I’m recognizing, and there are probably a couple more that I simply haven’t acknowledged yet. Occasionally there’s trouble in just knowing the change is coming, and anxiety is rampant when it’s an unidentified change and you’re not sure when it’s coming or where it’s going. Luckily I’m a yoga teacher and I’m getting a good practice to be mindful and present in this moment and make good choices as they come.

Wish me luck.

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