Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday Update

A quick recap:

When I last left you, I was struggling, as I am wont to do these days, with the death of Retribution.  Perhaps death is a strong word.   Hiatus may be a better way to put it.  That sounds less absolute.

In my last self-shaming blog entry, I vowed to take the advise of some fellow writers and write something different I decided to write a short story.  I am and it feels wonderful.  It’s not finished, but it is in full swing.  I feel very good about the plot, the characters, and my intended destination.   I will admit that the general gist of the story has likely been done a million times over with all manner of twists and turns, but really, what story hasn’t?  I can only hope that I bring something new and refreshing to the table.

My main character, an aging scholar, has a dark and hideous past – one that haunts him with every breath he takes.  In the wake of atrocities too horrible to imagine, he has found a way to carve out an anonymous life.  No one knows who he is, or what he’s done.  Of course, he goes to great lengths to keep his secrets from becoming known, and is largely successful.

Until he meets the girl.

I haven’t quite decided who and how many will have to die.  Someone always has to die.  Perhaps I will let my main character live, though.  I’ve grown attached to him in the last week, but then again, perhaps that is the very reason he has to go.  Only time will tell.

So where are we?

Short story – in progress.

Goal for next week:  continued progress.

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**I should add a little disclaimer here so that when we get to next week and I’ve not finished, I won’t seem like a complete and utter loser.  I have a huge project due for my Western Civilization II course next week (the 7th).  I seriously doubt that I will doing anything more than immersing myself in the life and contributions of Thomas Hobbes between now and then.  But you never know.  Maybe I will finish early.

Yeah, right.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would have been my father’s 60th birthday.

These are a few of the things that always remind me of him.

One of my dad’s favorite movies. We watched it nearly every weekend when we lived in Germany.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you.

Things I learned this week

This week I learned…

…that Beginning Yoga for a grade is really a combination of intermediate Yoga and Pilates for a grade.  This is something that I feel is grossly misrepresented in the course description.  The instructor, a tiny woman with Madonna arms and the flexibility of a Circus du Soleil performer, is surely the spawn of the devil.    She is an unsympathetic, anti-whining, whip cracker who doesn’t understand why we all showed up to the second class limping and chugging bottles of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines.   I am happy to say that I did make it through the week without disgracing myself.   I managed to perform every single pose she threw my way.  They might not have been pretty, but I did them.  Of course, I can still barely walk.  Hopefully, my body will forgive me by Monday when I have to start it all over again.

…that I don’t like change.  Yes, I know this is no revelation, but sometimes I forget how uncompromising I can be.  Lately, I’ve had an issue with getting through the books stacked on my bedside table.  After a four-month struggle to finish one novel, I finally resorted to an audiobook.  I’ve always sorta looked down my nose at audiobooks, like they were a means of cheating.  Of course, now that it benefits me, I have had a complete change of heart.  I’m fickle like that.  What can I say, I’m a Gemini.   In the last week, I’ve finished two novels.  Both Gabriel Allon spy novels by Daniel Silva, and both read by the same man, John Lee.   I have come to associate his warm, accented voice with these characters that I love so much.   This morning, I popped my little flash drive in the handy-dandy USB port in my car, and settled in as the opening chapter of Prince of Fire began to play.  What is this?  No John Lee? Where’s John Lee?  As it turns out, John Lee is not the reader for this next installment of Gabriel Allon’s adventures.  This new reader is terrible and his Ari Shamron interpretation sucks.  I may never recover.

…that sometimes I forget that my daughter is a girl.  I know that sounds strange, but if you knew her, you would know exactly what I mean.  She is a tomboy, through and through.  She doesn’t wear frills or ruffles or anything with a skirt.  No pink or purple.  No glitz or glitter.  She wears dark jeans with a flared leg, graphic tees, sneakers, and a hoodie – right now she is in love with her lime green Invader Zim hoodie that comes complete with ears.  She will only wear her thick blonde hair in a severe, slicked back ponytail.  No earrings or bracelets, though she does like necklaces – of course, those must meet a certain criteria and cannot be overtly feminine.  These are the rules.  Any deviation from such will result in a big sigh and an eye roll.  So it is not unreasonable for me to sometimes forget that she is, indeed, a girl.  Today is a big day for her.  She plays the clarinet in the sixth grade band and they are doing a performance tour of our local elementary schools.  This morning she dressed with extra care, made sure she didn’t have a hair out-of-place and then, as she studied herself critically in the mirror, announced, “I’m as pale as a vampire, Mom.  I need to use some of your powder and blush.”  Um…okay.  Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off of the bathroom floor.

…that Roger Federer allowed himself to be ousted from yet another major by Rafael Nadal.   This time the Australian Open.  I hope Novak Djokovic kicks Nadal’s ass in the final, and if he does, I am swearing off my allegiance to Federer for good.

…that after my little temper tantrum last week, I find that I am feeling better about my writing, though I still don’t want to talk about the Retribution implosion.  This week I have started work on a short story and have fallen in love with a very flawed old man with a penchant for old books and aged scotch.  His past is peppered with unimaginable pain and the horrors of a war.  I hope to find him a measure of redemption, but it’s too soon to tell if he will know absolution or fall victim to his crushing guilt.

…that my hockey player problem has resolved itself. I am happy to report that half of them have dropped and the other half have decided that the young blonde two tables over is more their speed.  I am grateful.  I can hear the professor again.  Now, if only the girl with the weird bouffant hairdo that sits in front of me would move so that I can see all of the projection screen…

…that I don’t have a pet peeve of the week!  OMG.

…that last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this adorable little baby otter named Cayucos.

Source:  http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Chicago-s-Shedd-Aquarium-rescues-baby-sea-otter-2727899.php

Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday Update

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.  ~Henry Ford

I’m done.

I’ve decided that in order to avoid prosecution and a hefty fine for violating my county-wide burn ban, it would be prudent of me to take a step back from Retribution and let it simmer on the back-burner for a while.  I don’t feel that I am really ready to thoroughly explain my decision or what incident lead me down this path, but I know in my heart that I am doing the right thing for the story.  Boy, that sounds more dramatic than it should, huh?  Well, I must admit that right now I feel like I’ve just abandoned a dear friend on a desert island with only a pistol and a jug of rum.

Today, I feel sad but determined.  I am beginning the process of flushing out ideas, picking themes, characters and situations from my little box of randomness.  I am also going to take the suggestion of fellow blogger, Dawn G. Sparrow at Write Away, and my husband and write something different, something that I wouldn’t normally write.

I am going to write a short story.

This weeks goal:  Unmet

Next weeks goal:  One short story.

“Failure is the tuition you pay for success.” – Walter Brunell

Things I learned this week…

This week I learned…

…that nothing strikes fear in my heart, or pisses me off more than being surrounded by young, obnoxious kids in a freshmen level class.  This semester I am taking Intro to Sociology.  It is a low-level course and thus, it is expected that the majority of the class will be under the legal drinking age.  I knew this going in.  I was prepared for it.  Turns out one can’t really prepare for a surprise invasion by six hockey players.  They sauntered in five minutes after the professor began to take roll, and proceeded to occupy all of the seats at my table.  I can’t tell you what to expect this semester in Sociology. I can’t tell you when our first exam will be, or what our first writing assignment entails.  However, I can tell you that the six hockey players are all good buddies and play for the same team – their camaraderie is nauseating;  Collin College is just a pit stop – they fully expect to be scouted soon; they all think that Sociology is going to be a stupid class; they are all in agreement that it is a good thing that this professor will not be grading attendance – I myself can’t attest to this as I was unable to hear that part of the introduction; and one of them insists that he is from England and can turn his accent off at will – I call bullshit on this one.  If he’s English, I’m the queen of Denmark.  It’s going to be a long semester; and before it’s over, I might need bail money – and a good defense attorney.

…that Rick Perry has come slinking back home to Texas.  I am relieved by this. I don’t look forward to his continued leadership, but at least I can watch the nightly news without seeing his smug mug and incompetent gaffs splashed all over every channel.

…that the librarian who mans the circulation desk at my college library conspires against me, I just know it.   I am a huge advocate of their online card catalog system that allows a student to electronically browse all of the districts books, media, etc.  I can order any book I choose – as long as it is not checked out – and it will be delivered to my campus.   All I have to do is go pick them up.  I love this and take advantage of it every change I get.   Unfortunately, the books seldom arrive at the same time.  This is where the conspiracy comes in.   I will pick up part of my order with the expectation that the rest will not be delivered until a later date.  Inevitably, twenty minutes after I’ve left campus, the librarian will call me to tell me the rest of my books have arrived.  She does this to me every semester.  She did it to me again on Friday.  I think she holds my books behind that circulation desk of hers and waits until she knows I am too far away to turn around and come back.

…that my new “Yoga for a grade class” is going to very interesting.  Very touchy-feely; much like I imagine group therapy to be.   I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m not much of a “kumbaya” kinda gal.  I’d rather remain anonymous, quietly sitting in the back of the class assessing my classmates.  An impossibility in this one.  On the bright side, I’m sure I will benefit from the five minutes of meditation that will close out each class period.  That just might keep me from doing harm to the hockey team in Sociology.  Or, at the very least, allow me to contemplate a proper disposal method.

…that after five months, I finally finished the third installment of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series.    I don’t want to give the impression that it wasn’t a good book.  It was.   Great, in fact.  I just have a very hard time committing myself to doing nothing but reading.  Yes, I can hear my fellow writers groaning at me.  Shut up.   I always have something else that takes precedence.  Since Christmas, I have been determined to finish it and I had to resort to an audio-book to get the job done.   That worked out so well, that I’ve decided that audio-books are not cheating after all and am going to listen my way through the rest of his books.  I am already a third of the way through the next one.  The only problem I have with audio-books is that sometimes in the carpool line when I am watching the moron’s around me, I lose track of the story and have to back up.

…that a new spy thriller has quietly been released when I wasn’t looking.  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  It’s based on the 1974 novel of the same name by John le Carre.  Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth and who?  Benedict Cumberbatch?  My new favorite Sherlock Holmes?  Where do I buy my ticket?

…that I am going to have to step away from Retribution or else I will end up burning it.  I tried the weekly word count push, but if the story isn’t there, it isn’t there.  No matter how much I desire to finish it, I feel that I am force it.  I think I’ve just made it too complicated and I lack the experience to work through.  Does this make me feel like an utter failure?  Yes, and I don’t want to talk about it.

…that upon editing this post, I notice that I had a lot of negative energy this week.  Hmmm…

…that – in trying to find something a little more positive – the smell of new leather in a new car is almost as good as the smell of rich, dark chocolate – but without the caloric consequences.

…and last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this adorable baby hippo.

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Source:  http://pinterest.com/pin/138345019772779073/

Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday Update

Why do I suddenly feel like it’s weigh in day and I’ve just come down off of a ten-day junk food eating binge?  Could it be because I am feeling guilty?

Most definitely.

Let’s get right to the unpleasant self-shaming, shall we:

Last week:  28089 with 144 pages

This week: 30,299 with 154 pages

That is a grand total = 2210words written this week in Retribution.  Goal = 3500 words.

Goal not met.

So while I did make progress, I didn’t meet my expected goal for the week.  I am disappointed, but not surprised.  This week, the majority of the progress was made in the creation of a new scene.  I am usually more comfortable in writing in a linear fashion.  Skipping around confuses me and therefore, mistakes are made.  This new scene occurs much later in the novel than what I am currently working on.  However, it screamed at me to be written.  Literally grabbed me by the hair and threatened my life.

Okay.  Maybe not quite so dramatic, but the urge to write it was overwhelming and as I said before, who am I to argue?  Unfortunately, this scene caused a bit of chaos and controversy.  It brought to light and created some issues that need to be resolved.  I am working on that.  I suppose these kinds of things are a necessary evil, but it is frustrating nonetheless.  And I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for failing to deliver 3500 words.

But if there is one thing I’ve learned in the last few years, it’s that if you fall down and miss the mark, you get up and have another go at it.

Next week’s goal:  3500 words.

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Things I learned this week

“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize.  We don’t tell ourselves, ‘I’m never going to write my symphony.’  Instead we say, ‘I’m going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.’”  – The War of Art – Steven Pressfield.

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit.  We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.” – The War of Art – Steven Pressfield.

This week I learned:

…that listening to the Bee Gees or any other disco era music while working out on the elliptical, is dangerous.  Not dangerous in that I might fall off and hurt myself, though that is always a possibility when we are talking about me.  I was passed over when they were giving out the coordination gene.  Case in point:  I once fell off a ladder while painting my bathroom.  I guess I shouldn’t have put the ladder IN the tub to paint.   But that’s a blog for another time.  No, it’s dangerous because I find myself strutting in time to the music.  And when I say strutting think Tony Manero in the opening credits of Saturday Night Fever strutting.

It took me a while to figure out what everyone was staring at.

…that I am easily entertained and enjoy scoffing at the incompetence of others – when it doesn’t directly affect me.  This is a character flaw that I’m not necessarily proud of and yet, I can’t seem to stop myself.

…that my belief that there is some unseen force sucking out the brains of the parents at my daughter’s middle school still holds true.  This week there were no carpool line scuffles, but there was some interesting parallel parking going on.  One lady tried, and failed, to squeeze her mini-van into a slot several times, before giving up.  Instead, she opted for something similar to the photo below.  I took this snapshot in 2004 while walking through the heart of downtown Rome, with my dear friend Manie.  Somehow it was funnier in Rome.Rome 2004

…that I’ve successfully pissed away another holiday break with nothing to show for it.  I was supposed to finish my novel – didn’t happen (though I didn’t really expect to finish and I did make some pretty good progress).  I was supposed to clean out my flowerbeds and winterize – didn’t happen.  I was supposed to finish Daniel Silva’s The Confessor – didn’t happen.  I was supposed to finish working on my husband’s incorporation documents – didn’t happen.  Oh well.  There’s always Spring Break.

…that while I’ve been making word count progress on my novel, I find that I am increasingly frustrated with certain plot points.  Major plot points.  I’m going to have to work this out or I see myself going ahead with the ceremonial cleansing burn in the backyard.  Who wants to bring the marshmallows?

…that Lisbeth Salander is still one of my all-time favorite fictional female characters.  I was skeptical about the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I feel that we have become a society of reboots and remakes with very little originality coming out of Hollywood.  I’ve read the book, seen the Swedish film, and I doubted that even the great David Fincher could make this story better.  I was wrong.

***Warning!  Pet Peeve of the Week***

…that it is very frustrating when someone forwards me an email and instructs me to inform them of associated deadlines when the deadlines are spelled out in the very first line of the forwarded email.   I’m all for delegating, but good grief.

…and last but not least – this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this little guy who seems to be digging winter just as much as me.

Just Write: When ideas strike

Every Thursday my writing group meets at our favorite coffee shop.  We crowd around little round tables, in wooden, straight back chairs and shoot the stink eye at the losers taking up space in the comfy chairs – our comfy chairs.

Okay, maybe that last bit is just me.  Damn you knitters and internet daters!

We sip our poison of choice, nibble on something that is not at all diet-friendly, and commiserate.  We complain about our process or lack thereof, offer encouragement to those feeling disparaged, and argue over such things as alternating points of view and plot twists.  Thursdays are my favorite day of the week.

A few weeks ago, one of our members mentioned that the piece she brought for critique was inspired by a dream.  This sparked a lively conversation about how dreams influence a writer’s work and the best way to capture these little fragments of inspiration, in the dead of night.  I sat quietly as the group debated the benefits of a bedside notebook versus a mini voice recorder.  This is a conversation I’ve heard before.  Indeed, the first time was in Patricia Burroughs’ Basic Novel Writing class five years ago.   As I did in class, I listened with a sense of wonder, a lot of confusion, and a dash of self-doubt.

I have never been influenced creatively by a dream.  Ever.

I rarely remember my dreams and when I do it’s usually because I’ve done some mentally exhausting activity right before bed and my mind is unable to let it go.  When I was in the homestretch of a hellish four semester math marathon, I frequently found myself solving quadratic equations or finding an inverse in my sleep.  Last semester, I had a night of fitful sleep after I made the mistake of studying the Reformation and the Renaissance together, right before bed.  It was a weird, yet interesting dream, but not worthy of an earth shattering storyline – well unless I was working as a consultant on the new Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure movie.

Eek.  I shudder at the thought.

The conversation at the coffee shop started the gears in my brain turning and once again I began to question my ability.  Is there something wrong with me?  Is this something I need to be worried about; something I need to work on?  Then, Agatha Christie whispered in my ear:

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

Vindication!

I don’t plan a book, or a scene, or a blog entry while doing the dishes.  It’s not my chore anymore, but I do find that I am the most creative in two places:  the shower and the gym.  When an idea strikes, I am either soaking wet and naked or in the middle of a workout without my trusty notebook close at hand.  Unfortunately, my memory is shit, and even more so if I am having one of those over-stimulated days.  I’ve lost some pretty brilliant stuff that way.

Get your mind out of the gutter – not that kind of over-stimulated.

I’ve been chugging away on my novel.  I’ve set a weekly goal for myself, and so far so good.  Because of this, my story is on my mind a lot.  I’ve been slowly working through some early plot problems and character development.  Things are taking shape, but I’m not all that far into it.  Maybe a little more than one-third is down on paper.

So, Monday afternoon, I was trucking along on the elliptical, sweating like a pig, silently seething because not a single television in my direct line of sight was tuned to anything worth a damn.  I guess I could have gone to the perky little girl behind the desk but…oh wait…what was I talking about…squirrel.

I was plugged into my digital music library, listening to one of my favorite live albums by The Police – only the greatest band ever.  Don’t judge me.  The song King of Pain began to play.  It’s one of my favorites, especially when performed live, and it never fails to effect me emotionally.  So, I suppose it’s not too surprising that it was during this song that the little idea troll in my brain decided it was the right time to reach out and give me a good slap to the back of the head (Gibbs style for all you NCIS fans).

Bam! I had a vision.  It was as clear as if the scene was unfolding right in front of me, between the row of elliptical machines and the recumbent stationary bikes.  A catalyst scene – a point in the story where one character does irreparable harm to another – and one I’ve not spared one thought beyond a few scribbles in the margin of my rough outline.  But suddenly there it was, a vivid picture in my mind’s eye, the echo of their dialogue reverberating through me, their tension palpable.  All of it just begging to be written, to be cast out of my head, and down onto paper.

Who am I to argue with such clarity?

I spent a good half an hour hunched on a bench, in the gym locker room, surrounded by women with no sense of modesty, scribbling away in my notebook.  I couldn’t chance it getting away.  It was too powerful.  Too real.

Of course, I spent the better part of my evening trying to decipher my chicken scratch so that I could incorporate this new, pivotal scene into the work in progress.

I suppose the point of my nonsensical rambling is that there is nothing wrong with me.  At least, not where this is concerned.  Everyone is inspired and struck by ideas in different ways, be it in a dream during the dead of night, or in a vision at the gym while listen to The Police.  We are merely slaves to its creation.

Yeah, I still don’t see the correlation between King of Pain and my scene, but again, who am I to argue.

Just write: Self-shaming Sunday update

What a difference a week can make.  You may recall that this time last week, I was wallowing in a big old vat of homebrewed self-pity, bemoaning my inability to make any meaningful progress toward the completion of my novel, Retribution.  If you don’t remember or have not read my previous blog entry, you may do so [here].

In lieu of making an all-encompassing New Year’s resolution to finish Retribution by some arbitrary date, I decided to make myself word count goals.  When I dropped a good bit of weight several years back, this is how I did it.  I set 10 pound goals for myself.  As I progressed and met a goal weight, I reset it.  It is a practice that carries over into my daily workouts.  Now I use it to increase my stamina.  I call it my five-minute rule.  As I get stronger, I add five minutes to the end of my elliptical or bike work out.  I have found that I can put my body through just about anything for five minutes.

So, I had an idea.  (Cue the animated light bulb.)  Why not do the same thing as it relates to my writing?   I am convinced that by applying the same school of thought that I used for dropping 50 pound, I will finish my novel.   It might take me until the end of summer, but at least I will make noticeable progress, instead of floundering out in the wind, waiting for the book to miraculously write itself.

Last week I set a word count goal for myself.

Write 3000 words in Retribution by the next Sunday.

DSC01554This is how my numbers progressed:

Last week: 24940 words

This week:  28089 words

Last week: 129 pages

This week: 144 pages

That is a grand total = 3149 words written this week in Retribution.  Goal met.

Next week’s goal:  3500 words.

I’m going to call it my 500 word rule.

Baby steps.

Things I learned this week…

“Resistance is not a peripheral opponent.  Resistance arises from within.  It is self-generated and self-perpetuated.  Resistance is the enemy within.”  – The War of Art:  Winning the Inner Creative Battle – Steven Pressfield

“Resistance has no strength of its own.  Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us.  We feed it with power by our fear of it.  Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.” – The War of Art:  Winning the Inner Creative Battle – Steven Pressfield

This week I learned…

…that if I want to succeed at this writing business, I need to suck it up and just do it.  My fellow WC-er Bill Chance turned me onto a book by Steven Pressfield called The War of Art.  Absolute brilliance.

The-War-of-Art_Pressfield

…that discovering a new thing, no matter how small and insignificant, can really change my whole outlook.  This week I discovered how to make comment notations is my Word documents.

What?

You’ve been doing it for years?

Nobody likes a braggart.

This is eye-opening to me because I struggle with the  need to produce perfection.  I think it comes from my profession.  I am a paralegal.  When I write, it needs to be damn near perfect before I hand it over the my attorney for review.  Otherwise, I look like a complete moron, and they wonder why it is that they are paying me good money for crap they have to rewrite.  Unfortunately, this bleeds over into my personal writing.  It’s a habit I have vowed to break – not at work, at home.  These little notations help me tag something that needs review, ask myself questions, offer suggestions, and move on.  By getting it out, even if the issue is not resolved, I am free to continue.

…that meeting my first weekly writing goal within two days of making it was a great feeling.  Maybe I should up the ante.  Or maybe I should just wait and see how next week goes, and the week after that.

…that the holidays are finally over.  Finally.  I can file them away under “done” and move on to the next thing.   Though, I don’t really have much to complain about this year.  I had one of the most laid-back, stress-free holidays ever.  I can only think of a handful of instances when I seriously contemplated body dumping sites and weighed the likelihood of a criminal conviction over a temporary insanity plea.  That might be a record for me.  Usually, during the holidays, I fantasize about having a Bond car with a machine gun and rocket launchers.  Maybe I am mellowing.   Yeah, what are the odds of that?  Maybe I just had an off-year.  Maybe I should go book my December Caribbean trip now.  You know, just for peace of mind.

…that aside from the fever, ringing in the New Year from the warm, cozy comfort of my bed was fabulous.  I spent New Year’s Eve battling a nasty little cold and watching a Jason Bourne marathon on one of those “not in HD” channels.  I should try that again next year – well, minus the fever.   I might even splurge and dig out the DVDs.

…that on January 6, 1540, Anne of Cleves married England’s Henry VIII.  It didn’t work out too well for them, but at least she didn’t lose her head.  On January 6, 1996, I married the love of my life.   So far, so good.   At least I think so.  He does keeps telling me I’m no picnic to live with; that I’m snarky, moody, and unreasonable.  I’ve no idea what he’s talking about.

…that the Kardashians have entered the building – or more accurately – the city of Dallas.  Hold on to your hats, folks.  We now have ourselves a couple of genuine Hollywood “celebrities” in our midst, and they are taking the metroplex by storm.  Screw substantive news, or anything else that might enlighten or educate our feeble minds.  We are now to be subjected to a chronology of every breath they take, every move they make, every vow they break…

****Warning – Pet Peeve of the week****

…that with the New Year, my gym has been inundated by folks who have vowed to get in shape.  That’s great.  Awesome, even.  I applaud anyone out there willing to get fit the old-fashioned way – by sweating.  What I don’t applaud are the newbies with no manners.  I realize that there are those among us who believe their time more valuable; that waiting their turn is a foreign concept.  However, I will not be cowed by the intimidation tactics of others.   I will be done with my reps when I’m done.  Not before.  Staring at me will not make me move on.  Asking me how many reps I have left will only motivate me to do more, at a slower pace.   I can’t wait until February.  By then, they will have either learned a little gym etiquette or fallen off of the fitness wagon.  I hope, or else I might need to find myself a good criminal lawyer.

…and last but not least – this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this prehensile tailed porcupine.  Look at that face.  Don’t you just wanna hug him?

Stop surfing and start writing

I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump that last six months or so.  I’d like blame it on a grueling work and school schedule, but that would be a lie.  The truth is, I haven’t been applying myself, and I’ve allowed self-doubt to wiggle its way into my subconscious.

In an effort to rectify this bad habit and regain some much-needed confidence, I sat down at my computer this weekend, pulled out my binder labeled Retribution, and opened the Word file of the same name.  I scrolled through page after page of text until I found the spot where I last left my main character dangling off of the side of a yacht anchored in the middle of the Danube.  I reread the preceding paragraphs, noted the word count.

I was ready to write.  It was going to be brilliant.  I knew it.  I could feel it.  Creativity surged through my veins, setting my soul on fire.

But first, I needed to know how to say “I am going to kill you, you piece of shit” in Hungarian.

That’s where it began – and ended.

A productive afternoon of writing derailed by the time sucking abyss known as the internet.  Sure, it started out innocent enough.  I did go to my favorite online translation source.  I did find a comparable and acceptable phrase.  I even wrote it down. But that’s when I “accidently” clicked on the Facebook toolbar tab; then MSNBC; then OMG Katy Perry and Russell Brand are getting divorced?

Squirrel!

Three hours later, my character was still dangling over the side of the yacht; still waiting for an opportunity to make good on a promise to kill the man who is responsible for her predicament.  And I was no closer to get her down than I was when I started.

It was at this point that I realized I have a problem.  I am too “plugged in”; too prone to distraction these days.  I am by no stretch of the imagination the queen of procrastination, but it seems that if left to my own devices, I will choose pointless, brain cell killing pop culture uselessness over substantive creativity.

So what to do?

Unplug.

Duh.

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially, in today’s society where we are programmed to need instant access to everything – emails, voice mails, status updates, news, the Kardashians.   We are a bunch of instant gratification junkies.  As a writer, the internet is an invaluable research tool.  It’s convenient, efficient, and quick.  But I am finding that I have to draw a line in the sand.  I need to make the conscious effort to avoid logging on and signing in.  After all, I’d like to finish this damn novel before I am too old to type.

How am I going to accomplish this?

I am going start by disabling my wireless when I sit down to write.

I am going to learn to mark what I don’t know and move on.

I am going to learn to accept that a draft is just that – a draft.

Of course, none of these things will be easy for me, but then, nothing worth doing is ever easy.  It will take some time to adjust, but I am confident that with a little practice, I will begin to see some real progress.

Now, excuse me.  I have to go write my character off the side of a yacht.  She’s been there since October and is starting to get a little belligerent.

Just Write: Sunday Self-shaming Update

In the past, I’ve been reluctant to write about my writing process, or lack thereof.  I admire those who write blogs, documenting their failures and successes; giving advice to help ease the way for newbs like me.  I don’t feel that I can compete with those writers.  I don’t mean to imply that this is some sort of competition and that I am advocating my skills by screaming “hey, look over here!  I’m a better writer than so and so over at blahblah.com.”  No, my reluctance comes from the knowledge that I have nothing useful to add to the mix.  I’m still trying to find my way out of the fog and find my voice as a writer.

This lends to a personality trait that some might call a flaw.  I am a watcher, not a joiner.  I like to stand on the peripheral, and take it all in – learn from what is going on around me, and silently, walk away.  Not necessarily a bad thing, right?   Maybe not.  But in this realm of my life, I am discovering that this quirk is a clear disadvantage.

Recently, my creativity has hit a bit of a road block.  Well, if I’m to be completely honest, “road block” seems to be a bit of an understatement.  I have run headlong into a brick wall, spray painted with the words “You, a Writer?  Dream on.” in big bold letters.  Now, as I lie on the ground, thoroughly bitch slapped by self-doubt, and stare up at those mocking words, I am faced with a dilemma.  Get up and try it again;  or lie here, lick my wounds, and consider knitting as a safe alternative.

I will get up, of course.  I hate knitting.

But now the question is:  How do I prevent this sort of thing from happening again?

I need a platform that I can chronicle my failures and successes.  I am learning that even though I am not a seasoned writer, my process is important.  Even if only to me.  Surely, by whining about my writing/plot/character problems, and sharing my successes, I will find a way to cleanse my convoluted creativity and unburden my mind enough to actually make a dent in this novel – a manuscript that has plagued me for the last year.

The answer:  I will blog about it and torture my few followers.  Brilliant!  Misery loves company, right?

I am not one to make New Year’s Resolutions.  I think they are a recipe for failure.  I’ve only made one other in my life.  I succeeded in that – losing 50lbs.  However, I accomplished that feat, not by making an all-encompassing pledge, but by making small attainable goals for myself and then resetting them once they were met.  I will apply the same school of thought to my writing process.

DSC01542December 20, 2011:

Novel:                            Retribution

Current Word Count:      24,001

Number of Pages:               124

January 1, 2012:

Novel:                                Retribution

Current Word Count:       24,940

Number of Pages:                129

Not a lot of progress made in ten days time.  But, in reality, it is.  In that time, I dove in and did a lot of word purging.  A painful process, but a necessary one.  In all, I wrote and rewrote some three thousand words or so.  I also was able to realign some plot issues, create a new character conflict, and deepen a main character’s sense of purpose, clarifying her goals.  Of course, as often happens in these situations, my character spontaneously goaded me into alluding to a twist; one that will be difficult to incorporate, but you never know.  We’ll see where it goes.

Lesson of the week:   Accepting that sometimes a fresh scene is poorly written and perhaps lacks the precise tone of the flanking scenes, but, at least, it is out of my head and “on paper.”  I can fix it later – after I’ve typed those sweet words – The End.

New goal:

What:                        3000 words written; Including 2 new outlined scenes

Completed by:           Next Sunday – January 8, 2012