The best-laid schemes…

I have spent the last few days ridding my house of nauseating Christmas cheer.  The holidays are all fun and games in the outset, but there comes a point where the scale is tipped, and all those decorations begin to call to mind a tinsel and glitter infused bordello – or at least, what I imagine such an establishment might resemble.  I’m not one to suffer clutter for long, so the purge was swift and exact.

Of course, now that the tree is gone, the nephews departed, and the NYE champagne hangover nursed, there is a question of what comes next.

I try to avoid New Year’s resolutions.   Rash promises made in the heat of a self-loathing pity party aren’t normally destined for fulfillment.  In my 41 years, I have only realized one true resolution – a weight loss of 50 lbs some seven years ago. I did keep it off, so maybe that should count double.  Hmm…I digress.  As I sit here on this cold January morning, sipping coffee and listening to Norah Jones shoot the moon, I have the itch to plot a path forward.

So, I asked myself this question:  What do I want to accomplish in 2014?

I had to make a list.

  • Write 2000 words per day, everyday.
  • Finish Retribution rewrite #7 (or is it #8 now?!?) by spring break.
  • Publish one kick ass blog entry per day.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Graduate.
  • Conquer fitness boot camp and run a 5 K.
  • Read two non-academic books per month.
  • Learn to kayak.
  • Take kick ass photographs from moving kayak without drowning.
  • Learn to speak Italian.
  • Attend the U.S. Open – it’ll be Federer’s come back season, I can feel it.
  • Complete an outline for Summer of ’87.
  • Complete a draft for Summer of ’87, and win NaNoWriMo doing it.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

Too ambitious?  Yeah.  Who am I kidding?  Federer isn’t going to stage a come back this season…or anything other season, for that matter.

As for the rest…well, as much as I’d like to say it’s doable, it’s obviously not.  I have a life – work, family, school, outside obligations, nagging phobias.  After a healthy dose of reality and little soul-searching, here is a more reasonable list:

  • Write four days per week.
  • Publish 3 blogs per week.
  • Post a daily “photo of the day” on the blog.
  • Complete a working draft of Retribution by summer.
  • Graduate.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Read one non-academic book per month.
  • Get within five feet of a kayak; take a kick ass photo of said kayak; post it on the blog.
  • Attend the U.S. Open; cheer for Djorkovic.
  • Consider validity of YA/coming of age concept novel Summer of ’87; participate in NaNoWriMo.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

A decent compromise, I think; and one that has potential.  It helps that for the first time since last spring, I am feeling creative and inspired – and open to interaction.  The latter is always difficult for me, especially in this particular forum.  I’m going to work on that.

Alright.  Let’s get ‘er done.

Write on.

Blog? What blog?

Oh!  This blog.

Worry not, my faithful followers.  I haven’t been eaten by a bear or abducted by aliens or fallen down a deep bug infested hole in the middle of a secluded rain forest.

<shudder>

I’ve been busy.  You know, doing stuff.

What stuff?

I’m glad you asked.

The month of May marks the end of my semester and usually goes one of two ways:  1) I am overcome with creativity and spend endless hours either at the keyboard writing like a madwoman or viewing the world through a camera lens snapping photographs of every unfortunate bug and blossom to cross my path; or 2) I am overwhelmed by life, say screw it all, and overdose on trash television.

Sadly, it’s been the latter kind of month, and consequently, my brain is in full-on decomp after watching an endless stream of Ancient Aliens, Married to Medicine (an all-time low for me), and the Real Housewives of Orange County.

I blame science.  Specifically, historical geology.

I spent four months immersed in millions/billions of years of earth history- from its origins to the revelation of geologic time to the theories of evolution and plate tectonics.  I studied orogenies (the process of mountain building – get your mind out of the gutter), sedimentary deposition environments, bio – and litho – facies, faulting and folding, and learned to age date and correlate rock formations.  I can identify a whole slew of fossils based on a laundry list of characteristics.  If you ask nicely, I can even give you their kingdom, genus, species and period of existence.

While this is all fascinating stuff, it is not conducive to cultivating creativity – neither is “reality” television.   I spent the first 2/3 of May stuck in “left-brain” mode.  I couldn’t see the beauty of a rolling field of wildflowers.  I only saw an eroded anticline left over from a Mississippian period thrust event. I wondered if it was faulted; if the adjoining basin was filled with terrestrial material; if there was evidence of a transgressive or regressive marine environment; what fossils might be present.

Disturbing, I know.

To combat this troubling trend, I tried to drown my inner geologist with anything and everything offered up by the Bravo network.  It worked for a while.  Of course, there comes a point when one realizes that consuming junk might be satisfying in the interim, but it lacks sustainability and, in the long-term,  is detrimental – sorta like Oreos.

So, what does one do when faced with a situation such as this?

Go to the nearest art museum; attend a historical lecture; read some frivolous fiction; take a trip to the beach.

Kick that “right-brain” bitch out of bed and tell her to get her shit together.

I did.  I feel much better now.

Just Write: Let the writing begin!

Do you smell that?

That is the smell of uninhibited creativity.

What?  Smell’s like burning plastic…

…humph.

Today, I am getting back into the groove.  Though, if the truth be told, I haven’t really fallen off of the writing wagon.  I’ve just had no time to blog about my progress.  You know how life can be sometimes – it runs you ragged and sucks you dry.    A few months ago, I started outlining the rewrite of my WIP Retribution.  It went badly at first, as I knew it would.   By nature, I am not an organized writer.  A personality flaw to add to my growing list.  However, I figured out what worked best for me, and the awkward process seemed to straighten itself out.  I feel pretty good about what I’ve got to work with, and hopefully it will be enough to get me past the 30,000 word mark – the point at which I threw in the towel last time.

For weeks, I have resisted the urge to write.  Premature writing is distracting and tends to land me in a big old mess of trouble.   Well, the time has come.

Let the writing begin!

To keep with the theme of my self-shaming Sunday update, which will make a return this week, I am going to give myself a goal to meet.

This week’s goal:

Complete draft of opening scene – i.e. introduce the world to Anna and blow up the Piazza Navona.

…and away we go.

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.