2019: Week 8 assessment

55 days into 2019 and I’m already playing fast and loose with the goals I set for myself in January. The first to bite the dust – running. Damn, I hate running. No matter how I frame it or what bullshit lie I try to feed myself, I can’t get past the fact that running just plain sucks. On a positive, my overall fitness is improving. I had my first match of the season last weekend. A three set win. So in a sense, I feel vindicated in my failure. My coach will likely take umbrage with that statement and threaten to make me run laps in retaliation.

I’ve also had a hard time balancing work, tennis, domestic obligations and writing. A strange dichotomy when you consider the fact that I have fewer commitments this year than last. I suppose it’s more a matter of priorities. A common theme in my life. Writing always gets shuffled to the bottom of the to-do pile. For the sake of my writing, it may be necessary to delegate all of the cooking and cleaning to the other able bodies living in my house. It will be a sacrifice, but one I’m willing to make. For my writing.

And if we are tallying up all things I have failed at thus far, I should be forthcoming and admit that I still haven’t pulled the trigger and joined that writing group yet, either. I’ve thought about it. I really have. Even had a couple conversations about it. Fear is at play here. Nothing more; nothing less. I’m not ready to share with strangers. I’ll get there.

So, we know what I haven’t accomplished in the first two months of 2019. Let’s talk about something I have – contact lenses.

Aging is cruel. I used to have better than 20/20 vision. Then I hit my forties and it all went to shit. Over the last few years, I’ve gone from just needing glasses to drive at night, to needing them to drive in general, to needing them to read small print, to needing them read any print at all. I’ve even had to start wearing them to play tennis.

And that, my friends, is where I drew a red line the sand. I had a long heart to heart with my eye doctor and it was decided that contacts were just the thing to solve all my problems. Monovision for everyday and recreational distance only for tennis. Of course, that’s the easy part. Learning to put those little fuckers in and take them out is a whole other ballgame.

On the day of the exam, my doctor’s nurse – (are they called nurses at the optometrist’s office??) – helped me find the right lenses then “trained” me in putting them in and taking them out on my own. I use that word loosely because it was nothing more than a meeting of the most basic criteria. Get one out and put it back in without going blind. Two minutes from beginning to end, while she stood over my shoulder.

I left their office in the monovisions – one for distance/one for reading. A little weird but nothing dramatic. I headed home feeling confident in my life choices.

Such confidence was grossly misguided.

It was a Thursday. Thursdays are a tennis day for me – a lesson followed by team drills. Playing tennis in monovision lenses is not recommended. Especially for those like me who lack grace and natural coordination. I got halfway home before it dawned on me that I would have to make the switch before I hit the court. Okay. No big deal. I’ve just been trained. Right?

Wrong.

It took twenty minutes of digging around in my left eye (I only need to change the left) with no success before I got frustrated and cut off all my beautiful salon pampered fingernails. By this time, my eye looked liked I had taken 40 grit sandpaper to it. It took me another ten minutes to finally get the damn thing out. I had started to believe that I would never get it out, and that I had made the worse mistake of my life because I was obviously not smart enough to wear contacts. After a dozen or so failed attempts and string of my favorite four letter words, I was finally able to get a contact back in my eye.

Needless to say I was late for tennis. When I finally stumbled my way onto the court, I was a right hot mess and looked like I was just coming off a four day bender. If it hadn’t been so wonderful to play unburdened by glasses, I may have returned them and filed the whole experience under “never fucking again.”

It’s been a little over a week. I can finally get them in and out with little fuss. I don’t look like I’ve been up for three days straight drinking vodka right out of the bottle anymore. That’s a step forward. I will even go out on a limb and say that I like them. They are liberating in many ways, even with the added routine.

So what have we learned 55 days into 2019?

  • Running still sucks
  • I need to hire a cook and a maid
  • Contact lenses – worth the price of admission

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.

Embarrassment of Richest TBR Challenge – April Check-In

At the beginning of the year, I decided to participate in the Embarrassment of Riches reading challenge hosted by author Patricia Burroughs.   The goal of the challenge is to make a dent in that stack of books I have been intending to read, but never got around to picking up.

Given the size of the pile I have amassed, I am aiming to get through 24 of them before the end of the year – a silver level accomplishment.

endersThis month I read:

Nothing!

That’s not entirely true.  I did read.   I just didn’t finish anything on my TBR list.

As I have said before, a multitasking overachiever, I am not.  Reading and writing – at the same time – during NaNo – well, that’s just beyond my capabilities.  I make no apologizes or excuses.  It is what it is.

So what’s on the agenda for May?

  1. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card – I’m about half done with this book.  It’s not my usual genre, but I do find it entertaining.
  2. Prague Winter, Madeleine Albright – This is not a quick read and I am still working my way through Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland.
  3. Gospel of Freedom, Jonathan Rieder – this is a new release and not on my TBR list, but it delves into the MLK’s mindset and the hostility leading up to his iconic Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  I am intrigued by this book, mostly because I have only studied the letter from a literary view – never historical.  I have high hopes for this one.

Progress toward goal:  7/24

What’s lying around on your nightstand waiting to be read?

Camp NaNoWriMo: the aftermath

On Saturday, I surpassed my Camp NaNoWriMo goal by 4K+ words.

That means I won.

Yippee!

Time for a celebration.

Tequila and Ren Faire, it is.

Don’t judge me.

So, now it’s over.  The euphoria that comes with accomplishment is waning, and I am left with the aftermath of writing willy-nilly for a month straight without rereading or editing a single word – just a lot of marking and moving on.  A difficult concept for me, and frankly, the thought of facing what I’ve committed to paper scares me.

I did, though – at five in the morning, over my morning coffee.  My walk through was brisk.  It was all I could muster after four hours of sleep and the realization that I had forgotten to pick up french vanilla coconut milk coffee creamer on my way home.  Black coffee sweetened with refined sugar does not make for ideal shitty writing reading conditions.

I hear war stories from the NaNo veterans.  They assure me that cringe worthy writing is the norm.  After all, NaNo is not about producing a finished product, it’s about a commitment and dedication to the act of writing.  I suppose in this context, what I found was on par.  It is a bit overgrown in places, a little sparse in others.  There are rare bursts of brilliance encapsulated within thick sticky sludge.  Anna is still missing her retribution.   The fragility of her state of mind is not quite right, and her brother is without a completed introduction scene – again.   And the typos – sweet baby Jesus, don’t get me started on the typos.

It is a work in progress, ever evolving.  I am not displeased with what I’ve done – it could be worse.  I’m far from finished, but I am closer to the end.  In the last few days, I have been struck by an idea for a new opening scene.  It is something I’ve struggled with for a long time – where does Anna’s story begin?  This new scene captures Anna’s inability to cope, her helplessness and hopelessness, her quest for absolution.  In other words, Anna hitting rock bottom.  I think it works.  I hope it works.  I’m sure my writing group will tell me if it doesn’t.

On a side note, its inspiration comes from an album that I’ve listened to countless times and never before made the correlation.

It’s all in the timing, I suppose.

So, now what?

More writing, of course.

Anna needs to get her retribution back!

 

I’m a winner

I reached – and surpassed – my Camp NaNoWriMo word count goal.

That makes me a winner.

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Things I’ve learned – Camp NaNoWriMo edition

“A murderer is less loathsome to us than a spy. The murderer may have acted on a sudden mad impulse; he may be penitent and amend; but a spy is always a spy, night and day, in bed, at [the] table, as he walks abroad; his vileness pervades every moment of his life.”

– Honore de Balzac

A multitasking overachiever, I am not.  If I am writing, I’m not blogging.  If I’m blogging, I’m not writing.  And if I have an exam coming up – well then, all bets are off.

Lately, I’ve been writing – a lot.  Well, a lot for me.  I am a slow, methodical writer who sometimes gets caught up in mechanics.  I’ve been known to spend an afternoon contemplating a word, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph only to delete it completely for lack of relevancy.  Such is my process, for better or worse.

Right now, I am participating in this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo challenge.   The thing that attracted me to it was the adjustable word count.  The traditional 50K word requirement is a bit more than I can reasonably handle given my “life load” and meandering writing style.  So, I picked a number I felt comfortable with, and away I went.

Now, as we approach the finish line, I am feeling confident, almost accomplished.  If projections are correct, and I don’t fall into some hidden sinkhole between now and Tuesday, I will reach my goal with time to spare.

Of course, as with everything in my life, I look at this endeavor as a learning experience – and I’ve certainly learned plenty over the last month.

I learned…

…that somewhere in the midst of three incomplete drafts and six outline revisions, Retribution lost its…well…retribution.  Let me explain.  All characters need motivation.  Anna’s driving force has always been the primordial need to avenge, to repay in kind the wrongs leveled upon her by men of unmitigated evil.  It is that encompassing compulsion that keeps her from walking naked into the ocean and setting her shattered soul adrift.

At first, I didn’t notice the omission.  I ticked off word after word, paragraph after paragraph, scene after scene without giving it a second thought.  Just a happy little writing clam – not a care in the world.   Then, at the 15K word mark, it hit me square in the forehead.  Do you know that feeling?  It was like someone gave me a good knock on the noggin and said, “Hey, stupid.  Where did Anna’s retribution go?”

Um…hmm.

Shit.

…that I have an appointment with outline number 7 – on May 1st.

…that utilizing the “comments” feature in MS Word helps stem my crippling need to edit as I write.  I am learning to mark it and move on.  I’ve also learned that if I print the scene along with the comments, my writing group will critique my notes, too.  Very helpful. Unless the notes are filled with nonsensical ramblings and make me seem slightly schizophrenic.  Then they are just embarrassing.

…that no one in my house is interested in me until I sit down to write.  The moment my laptop opens, I become the most needed person on the planet.  And the grumpiest.   My family thinks writing makes me crabby.  Sigh.

…that changing the name of Anna’s brother makes him so much more likable to me.  This go around, I don’t seem to have the overwhelming urge to kill him off sooner rather than later.  I might not even kill him at all now.  Can someone explain that to me?

…that if Ben doesn’t die, then someone else must.  Who shall it be?  Leo, Cooper, Elliot, Kyla?

I know who, but I’m not telling.

…that wine and writing do not mix.  Seriously.

“Friends don’t let friends write drunk.”

Write on fellow campers.  Write on.

Happy camping: Day 10

So, I made it through ten days of Camp NaNoWriMo virtually unscathed.  Seriously, nary a scratch.  I have surpassed the 10K mark, rounded the corner of my first turning point, and am quickly closing in on 11K words written.

tentA couple of days ahead of schedule.

How the hell did that happen, you ask?

Especially, given my overall track record of self-sabotage?

A few things:

1.  I let go of a plot point that I have held onto since Retribution’s inception.  I can be a sentimental person.  The very first thing I jotted down about Anna has stuck in my mind, and has become an extension of who she is to me.  The problem – it is always this plot point that causes me to write myself into a corner.  It just doesn’t work.  I have finally found the strength to banish it completely.

2.  I have accepted that every sentence, every paragraph, every scene is not going to be a work of perfection – yet.  I have long understood that a draft is just that, a draft.  It’s not meant to be print ready, or even good.  I think we are all familiar with quotes reminding us that books are not written, they are rewritten.  I get it, but I’m an overachiever.  Just another flaw to add to my growing list of personality quirks.  You might think this would work in my favor.  I mean, after all, when I think of an overachiever, I think of someone who has the drive to do anything and everything.  I think for me though, my overachiever habits lend to my ability to move on from something I think is structurally flawed.  I obsess and work tirelessly to fix a badly worded scene, paragraph, sentence at the detriment of the work as a whole.  It is my Achilles heel.

3.  I am allowing my DVR to do its job.  The Real Housewives of (insert random city here) aren’t going anywhere.  I can watch all of my brain cell sucking trash TV on May 1st.

Alright, so where do I stand as I begin day 11 of this challenge?

10,871 of 25,000 words written.

Write on happy campers.

Write on.

Just Write–Self-shaming Sunday Update

Forgive me followers for I have sinned, it’s been three weeks since my last self-shaming Sunday update.

Life is about choices.  Sometimes those choices are painful and difficult; sometimes they aren’t.  The last three weeks have been devoted to academics, work, a visit from my favorite brother, and a flu-like virus that sucked out my brain and left a snotty, sneezy mess in its place.

Okay, that last little bit might be a tad exaggerated, but I did feel like a big old pile of poo for several days.  In fact, today is the first day in days that I’ve felt even remotely human.

In spite of all this, I did manage to get some writing time in here and there.   Usually, before classes or at my daughter’s gymnastics practice.
Although, I must admit that I am often distracted by jabbering stage moms who complain endlessly about their trivial trials and tribulations.  So, I can’t really say that I get much accomplished at the gym beyond the occasional dark, homicidal scene which are usually unusable.  They do tend the make the hour much more enjoyable, though.

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

In the last three weeks, I’ve written a short story inspired by Wednesday.  Yes, the day of the week Wednesday.   I’ve always wondered, as I’m sure you have as well, what the days of the week, or the months of the year, would be like if they were characters in life.  I touched on this thought before in past blog entries:  Monday, the millionaire nerd; Friday, the former jock turned sad, lonely drunk; Wednesday, the voice of reason who hides his inner torment behind a bright reassuring smile.  In my blog entries, I didn’t explore the personalities in too much depth, after all, they weren’t meant to be anything more than just a writing exercise.  But Wednesday’s characterization struck a chord with me and I wanted to write something more substantial.  I finished that last week.  I’m not sure how I feel about it, or if it will ever see the light of day, but I’m glad that I got it out.

I also wrote a scene for Retribution.   I know I shelved it and deemed it to be a complete unworkable piece of crap, but this particular scene whispered relentlessly in my ear for about a week.  Who am I to ignore such persistence?

In addition, this week I made a break through on a story that I haven’t worked on in a couple of years.  Ironically, this epiphany came while I was working to outline a third, unrelated story.  Now I’m going to have to dig out that story’s outline.  I really hate outlining, too.  A necessary, but painful evil.

I wish I could give you an accurate word count, but I can’t right of the top of my head.  I should go look it up, but that would likely mean that this entry wouldn’t be posted until Monday.   I would surely be distracted by something ridiculous and forget to come back to plug in the number.  Yes, it is just that ADD in my head right now.

Last time’s goal:  I really don’t remember.

This week’s goal:  I have two actually.  Finish up the rough outline of Untitled Project; and pull out Max and Lola’s outline and see if my new revelation works as well on paper as it does in my head. 

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Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday Update

No, I’m not delusional.  I do, in fact, realize that it is Monday.

I’ve written a lot this week…

(golf claps all around)

…just not much in the way of fiction.

(boo)

Nope, this week has been devoted to the life and times of Thomas Hobbes.  The excitement is overwhelming, I know.  I feel largely the same and  I’ve only myself to blame.  As a returning student, and one familiar with this project, my Western Civilization professor allowed me (and two others) to pick my topic, in exchange for presenting first.  There is always a catch.  I tried to choose wisely, but my choices were limited.  He gives out topics as they relate to his lectures and schedules the presentations throughout the semester to coincide with such.  Ergo, I had a very short list from which to choose.  Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, or the War of Austrian Succession.

Hmmm…

I must admit, this is not necessarily my favorite part of Western history – the English Civil Wars and the Enlightenment.   I much prefer Imperial Rome or the Renaissance or the Cold War to the happenings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  But,  such is life.

I didn’t particularly liked this Hobbes fellow, though I understand his place in western society and his contemporary relevance.  I wouldn’t want to live in his world, or be ruled according to his Leviathan.  I fear it would be a dank and dismiss existence.  Having said that, in my research, I discovered some rather humanistic qualities about him that I found intriguing.  He played tennis until he was 75, he loved to sing, and he wrote poetry – not good poetry, but it is something.

So…my goals…

Last weeks goal – make progress on short story:  Goal met.

I finished the set up, brought a few pages for my writing group to critique, and outlined the next section of the story.  Hopefully, I will be able to decipher the chicken scratch that is my handwritten outline.

This week’s goal – finish up the next section and present it to the writing group for critique.

Wish me luck this week.  I am not a confident speaker, in fact, it scares the shit out of me. This time tomorrow I will be sweating like a pig, shaking like a leaf, and wishing the buzzing in my ears would stop so that I could hear myself speak.

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.

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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