Archive for the 'momentum' Category

Jun 04 2010

Cancer Chronicles: throwing money at the double standard

With my writerly powers, we will now leap forward in story-time for this post, and talk about an interesting recent household solution.

Post-cancer, the coins of the realm are energy and time spent.  How much time and energy a particular activity takes, and where it intersects with how much you care about said activity, is what determines what you decide to do.  You never, ever again get to have as a remote abstraction the awareness that death awaits around a nearby corner.  Every activity choice carries with it the underlying question, “If the cancer returned tomorrow, how much would I care about having done this activity?”  It forever changes your barometer of “what matters”.

So as my husband takes on a new, out-of-the-home job, we know we have to prioritize adding back in the he-and-I time, once we know a bit more about our new daily activity flow.  Because that’s exactly the sort of thing in a normal life that you wake up months later and realize you’ve totally slacked on, and whether you scramble to fix it depends on how invested each partner is in the status quo, etc.  But married to a cancer survivor, you don’t know if those months slipping away like hourglass sands are .005%, 5%, or 50% of the time you have left with your life-mate.  So we have to take extra steps to make sure the lazy easy habits don’t set in, in the first place: our time together is too fucking precious for that, forever.

Every choice of new activity brings with it similar questions, like returning to school: is putting up with the stress and bullshit of academia worth that much of my time to get the end product?  Or do I re-prioritize those plans to something that I know for sure will bring fulfillment and enjoyment without the accompanying stress?  What are the hobbies or recreational activities that I’d always planned to “get around to someday”, and why are they not just being done?  When the heck is “someday”?  Not to mention the emotional shifts: how invested am I in being angry/upset/resentful or whatever about an interaction, when that takes both time and energy away from the option of doing other things and feeling content or happy?

The most interesting recent manifestation of this process, happened this week as we hired a part-time house assistant.  We’ve also recently hired a part-time personal assistant/financial manager for the DreamCafé, as we’d all rather be working extra hours than balancing the books. Money management stress?  So not worth that time/energy coin.  Less stress will also probably lead to more functionality on the finance front for everyone, bonus!  But back to the house assistant.

In our 21st century enlightened household, though none of us preferred to do so we have nevertheless been operating under a functional gendered double standard for house upkeep and maintenance.  This is not because my housemates are sexist; they are in fact some of the least sexist men I’ve ever met.  However, whether due to geek nature or subtle male privilege, they are much less invested in the upkeep of, and able to more easily block out disruptions in, their immediate environment.  I, whether due to my hyper-awareness of my local environment or my own gendered societal programming on who’s responsible for mess, get driven quite batty if the house reaches a moderate level of mess and clutter and if it gets past that, the chaos will start actively affecting my own ability to get useful work done.  However, being a 21st century feminist sort, my efforts at superwoman status don’t eagerly encompass the traditional women’s duties.  I’d much rather be busting my ass at 18-hour workdays along with the menfolk, and doing any cooking or other chores because it’s my turn or I feel like it, rather than the shit rolling downhill and sticking to me because I notice it fastest or because the other monkeys in the group think it’s my job.

Pre-cancer, we tried various combinations of chore sharing and internal grumpy grumbles on my part for continuing to end up with more of the housework because I cared more about whether or not and how it was done.  (Note: my menfolk are very willing to help out when asked, and over time have voluntarily taken on several chores as regular habits without being asked.  I’m not at all trying to paint them with a “typical male” brush, just attempting to describe actual events and make best guesses as to the whys.)  Post-cancer, I don’t have the time or inclination for either the chores or the grumbles (see life-too-precious comment above).  I’m finding that at my current recovery phase, I have energy for either work or house maintenance but not both. The other two aren’t interested in taking on or keeping the extra chore duties either.  Yet still, the chores need doing.

Enter: a good friend needing a part-time job to fund her own creative pursuits while paying her bills.  Ah ha, my clever brain thinks!  Discussions ensue over several weeks, giving everyone time to find any hiccups in the friends-working-for-friends scenario (not usually the best idea), discussions of job and payment expectations, and extreme openness on my part as to the ultimate purpose: we’re paying for the privilege of removing the household functional double standard — which none of us actually wanted — so that all of us can do more of what we want to do on a daily basis, which is share time together and work our little butts off.  When work equals writing and high level computer geekery, every work day is also play day: one of those secrets to success you can probably find in a self-help book somewhere.

A friend mentioned that having the class privilege to pay for the financial and house assistants might be controversial for some folks, and I suppose I can see that.  Post-cancer, though, I can’t make myself care that much.  We have the opportunity to take a huge load of stress and drudgery off all our plates, to free up more time for us to enjoy just being around each other, which is what we like best to do anyway, and to add to someone else’s self-support.  All I have to be responsible for is overseeing that it all goes the way I prefer the house to function, and I like that kind of overseeing and organizing.  It would seem really dumb not to take that opportunity simply because there are folks in the world who don’t get that choice.  We worked our asses off to get to the place where we can afford to make that choice, and life really is too precious to squander the chance to have quality slack along with our persistent daily work.

Thank you, Nathan and Steve, for freeing me from the chains of the three-shift-woman social standard.  Work and child-rearing are enough shifts for anyone.  In the couple of days since we started this endeavor, I’m already getting much more writing done — I wrote a 3150-story draft from start to finish in 25 hours (with breaks) this week.  And it feels like there’ll be enough time for play and shared time with some of my favorite people daily, along with all the work parts. Post-cancer, that suits me just fine.

Comments and discussion welcome as long as everyone remembers their manners.

8 responses so far

May 01 2010

The Places We Don’t Like to Go

Published by under callie,momentum,Writing

Z’Aria’s chatter seemed to have more of a nervous edge than before their encounter with the trapped little kid. Callie considered the thought once more that her companion might not be the sort of person to keep herself together in a crisis. It was worth watching.

Out loud, she said, “Who is this person you mentioned who helped you before?”

“I think they’re some kind of detective. I met Johnnie originally over at the Elm Creek Cafe, we were both having burgers at the bar and I can talk to people pretty easy.”

“A detective sounds like a good source for getting more information.”

“Johnnie’s a little weird, but helped me find my way back to the overpass when I was super lost.”

Callie didn’t think that was a strong selling point for this person’s ability to help their current situation, but it also sounded as if they were nearing the end of options for assistance. She wasn’t looking forward to having to do all the work herself, whatever it was.

They topped the hill and descended into a strange scene. A car was stopped in the middle of the road, driver motionless behind the wheel. A body lay prone just forward of the front wheels, and another person bent over the body as if to inspect it, also unmoving. All three continued to hold position as Callie and Z’Aria drew near enough to see. Callie chose to watch Z’Aria’s face first, which melted into disappointed lines when the girl was near enough to see the standing person in front of the car.

“Let me guess, this is Johnnie?”

Z’Aria sighed and shrugged, then stomped off to the side of the road and sat down, looking away from the scene. Callie bent down to look through the window at the driver’s face and stopped, sure she could hear murmuring as if someone was talking very low and quite near. Her attempts to pinpoint the sound by tilting her ears first slightly one way, then another, completely distracted her for a full minute from noticing the full weirdness about the situation.

She realized the body in front of the car had the exact same face as the frozen driver and the bending observer. At the same moment, she finally figured out that the muttering was coming from the mouths of all three: “Fuck, I’m dead. Fuck I’m dead. FuckI’mdeadfuckI’mdeadfuckI’m…”

Callie backed away until she reached where Z’Aria sat. “I’m fairly certain your friend won’t be helping us today. Is there anyone else?”

Z’Aria finished wiping away the signs that she’d been crying and said, “I remembered there was a guard in this one spot, back that way. Mostly he kept people away from a dangerous area, but maybe the guard could help us?”

Callie didn’t feel any more hopeful, but didn’t show it. “The guard it is, then.”


Callie squinted hard, but even her well-trained eyes couldn’t make meaning out of the few flecks of words peeling on the battered and chipped sign. The sign hung from a simple link chain, long rusted, that stretched across the road. “This is where you met the guard before?”

Z’Aria gulped and nodded. “I was scared of him then. But he just wanted me to go around the chain a different way, he was sorta nice after all.”

Callie sometimes found it difficult not to stare openly at Z’Aria’s peculiar ways of thinking. She returned to examining the barrier.

“Uh, Callie?”


“I don’t think I want to follow you past that chain. Remembering that guard still scares me.”

“Wait here. If I don’t return after a while, try to go find your overpass again. Understand?”

Thankfully, Z’Aria didn’t start crying again. The girl found a comfortable place to sit where she could watch the road and see when Callie came back.

Callie stepped over the linked chain easily, knocking a few more paint chips loose from the old sign in the process, and waved to Z’Aria as she landed on the far side. Three steps later, she vanished from sight. Z’Aria sighed, and waited.

One response so far

Apr 29 2010

Out-of-time interlude

Published by under blwio,callie,momentum,Writing

(I’m a terrible tease, since this isn’t the section I’ve been working on, but it’s better than nothing at all…right?)


“Inari, please wake up. I’ve talked to my dads all day but they still won’t move. Ember neither. I’ve tried and tried, but no one will wake up and I don’t know what to do!”


“Inari, please wake up! I’m so scared.”


“Inari, please wake up. I saw people outside and tried to get them to help but I don’t know if they will and then I woke up after sleeping and there was this key under my pillow and I don’t know how it got there or where it goes.”


“Inari, please! Namah needs you, she might be in trouble.”

When Iris awakened from crying herself to sleep, with a hand finally on her shoulder and shaking her, she burst into tears. At least twenty minutes passed before Inari could go about the business of waking the others — or at least Namah — while Iris ran to get the key from where she had hidden it.


One response so far

Mar 09 2010

What to do when your block isn’t a block

We’ve talked several times on this blog about creative “blocks”, and some ways to cope with and get around such things. One of the things I’ve slowly come to realize over the past several months, however, is that often something that looks like a “writer’s block”, might not be quite that. A friend pointed out a similar struggle in her own creativity recently, thus the topic (and title) of this post.

What do you do when what feels like writer’s block is something else? To clarify definitions for purposes of this discussion (though you can argue my parameters in the comments if you’d like), “standard writer’s block” often arises through struggles with regular writing routines, or insecurities or doubts about the worth or quality of one’s own work. What’s the point of all of this? or why am I trying something I’ll never succeed in? or I’m not that good a writer anyway are common refrains from the internal judges and censors in many of the blocks you might encounter. And we’ve talked before, and likely will again, about different ways to hack around those sorts of bumps.

There are several other life reasons you might need a break — or at least a slowing down — of your regular creative process. Because we’re used to the blocks we know, often these other reasons will feel like standard creative blocks, to our internal emotional perceptions, because those are the well-traveled neural pathways. For example, Elizabeth Bear refers to a state after she finishes a major project she calls “post-novel ennui”. She describes it feeling as if her brain’s insides are scraped clean, or the creative pool has been emptied and needs refilling. It’s taken her several novels to better understand her own patterns, but she’s found that if she gives herself the few days or weeks she needs to recharge — read books, do physical activity things, learn something new, watch TV shows, and just the minimum maintenance needed on her writing obligations — she can get to functional creativity on the next project much more quickly than if she just tries to push ahead immediately after finishing the previous project.

What if your need for hiatus is different than arriving at a project’s end? Major life changes can be stressful whether positive or negative, and if there is enough upheaval present, it can quite legitimately disrupt the energy available for other things (at least for a while), including your creative projects. Sure, you’ve spent time and sweat making sure you will keep writing anyway, even when life gets tricky, but what about when it gets extreme enough that taking a break would actually be more advantageous to your later creativity? A promotion, household relocation, or new addition to the family are all situations where it’s possible to keep creative flow going…but depending on the specific circumstances, it’s also possible a break would be better for long-term creative health.

Or what if your need for a pause is darker than that? Major life trauma will, if not bring your creative progress to a halt, at the very least cause extreme disruptions in your routine. It could affect which projects you continue working on, or even want to work on. Loss of a job, loss of family members or children, major physically debilitating or activity-changing illness, all these and more can make you question the very reasons you create at all, not to mention whether your current work is worth the work you’ve put into it. Depending on your emotional state, you may not be able to access the same creative energies that you could before. A project that was conceived and begun when you were in love and on top of the world is rather difficult to connect to, if you’re currently in a bleak and despairing place emotionally.

So what do you do when this sort of thing is on your plate?

First, you have to find the space to give yourself to take the needed break. In order to do that successfully, you’ll have to avoid the common habit of punishing yourself for the break-taking. For those of you inclined toward this behavior, a guilt-free break is harder than it looks.

(quoted from, quoting someone quoting someone else clever)
“flamingnerd writes:
I asked her, “do you have any negative self talk?” She burst into laughter and said, “Do I ever fart?!” And I got it. EVERYONE has negative self talk. And some people are more flatulent in that
regard than others. And it’s ok. It’s normal, not some great tragedy.

She went on to tell me of a talk given by a young Buddhist priest. “When you beat yourself with a stick just beat yourself with a stick and don’t beat yourself for beating yourself.”

Thanks to nationelectric for sharing the good reminder.”

For me, in my own recent-past traumatic experiences, I found that giving myself the space for a creative pause and recharge to happen wasn’t an adjustment I made overnight. It was a few months of struggle between what I felt I “should” be doing at a particular point in time, and what I knew internally needed to be happening if I was ever going to create regularly again. It was slow progress, a bunch of baby steps and “two steps forward, one step back” frustrations. It also required a lot of practice in trusting myself, in my ability to assess internally what I “knew” I needed to heal, and to ignore the conflicting inputs externally from people or sources less informed about my situation. Plus enough stubbornness to keep going on all of that when I didn’t “do it right” the first time or three.

When you’re in brownout mode, the pause is likely to be longer than you want it to be. Yes, that means your patience gets practice along with everything else. Fun times, eh? You are worth it, even the waiting. One day, finally, you might find yourself with a little more energy than you’ve had. The next day, more. One of the trickiest parts, at this stage, is not overloading yourself the first time you have energy to do more than just get by. That’s asking for a relapse, and that won’t help you get more functional. Add some small creative act into your daily routine, and stay with that for a bit, give your artistic muscles time to stretch after some disuse.

Soon enough you’ll notice that you’re a bit bored or frustrated with doing just one thing. This is probably a good sign that you’re ready to do more, but keep the lessons you’ve learned throughout this time in your mind, as you progress back towards more fullness of functioning. Push your limits, but in the spirit of a good workout, not burning yourself on as much as you can do. Let your momentum creep back in a healthy bit at a time, and use those healthy bits to springboard even more positive change.

Trusting ourselves is part of how we better learn to love ourselves. Your baby-steps will make progress. Heck, even 2 steps forward, 1 back will get you there eventually. When you start making visible progress and changes to your routine toward your goals? Don’t forget to notice it, and congratulate yourself. Ideally you have a couple of close friends to whom you can brag about your progress, however incremental, and have them support and cheer you on as well. But at the very least, make sure you give those kudos to yourself. Noticing all the work you’re doing for yourself is one of the best ways to get more such work out of you!

Throughout all of this process, spend time figuring out what really matters to you in this incarnation, regardless of which past goals or projects were important before. Allow your goals to change as you change, throughout your life. It is not a failure to survive and keep creating, even if your process is different than before — even if your work is different than before.

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Mar 01 2010

Discussion: consider the carrot

Published by under momentum,Writing

With writing, as in so much of life, your internal attitude or perspective is a large part of what defines how and how much you succeed. One of the more sad patterns I see newer writers (and sometimes those not-so-new as well) engaging in, is developing an almost (or actual) antagonistic relationship with their writing and process. It becomes a quasi-hated chore, to be avoided as often as attempted. Or perhaps they treat writing as a demanding parent, and they the rebelling teen. Whatever your analogy of choice, why does this happen?

Is it the old Puritanical saw about too much fun in the work you do being somehow sinful? Twisting the Buddhist premise that “life is suffering” to mean you should live in suffering? A self-destructive aversion to expressing your creative impulses? Old triggers from punishments for “doodling” or “scribbling” carried into your adult years? Shitty parents that you didn’t leave behind when you moved out, their ghosts undermining your confidence in your own mind long after their words cease echoing in your ears? A belief or attachment to the myth of the tortured, agonized artist achieving greatness? Guilt, in general or specific?

I think all of these happen, and likely more not listed, depending on the person involved. We’re far more likely to beat ourselves up, on average, than pat ourselves on the back. How many of you had a parent who, when you presented them with a “95” score on a test, said “What happened to the other five points?” rather than “That’s excellent, darling!” A lifetime of messages like that and you’ll quickly learn to look for the half-a-worm in every apple. Practice that enough, and looking for the worm first — or only — becomes not only reality, but the way it should be. It’s comfortable. Protective. Wanting good things only gets you hurt, in the end, right?

Consider: as an adult, you now have the power to give yourself gifts that no one else ever did. It is not always an easy choice or a smooth path, but you can learn more healthy models for caring and nurturing yourself than you previously knew. Taking better care of yourself than anyone else ever did is such a stronger slap-in-the-face for those oppressor types then following the self-destructive path they carefully laid out for you and “always knew you’d end up like”. Figuring out how to find moments of happiness, creativity, and contentment in your life is perhaps the only true revenge you can have, in the end, against the folks trying to keep you at their level of miserable.

One possible way to start working this out is ask yourself this: How do you self-motivate on activities you want to do, versus activities you don’t want to do but need finished anyway? (I presume the first question has already been pondered, that of “do you want to write? really WANT to?” Which can be its own scary process, because allowing ourselves to really want something can feel vulnerable, which goes right back to all that other baggage carried.)

The “stick” motivation can actually be reasonably useful in the second category, that of getting done the things you’d rather not spend time on but need to for functional adulthood. Sure, “carrot” can work here too, as delayed gratification, or gifts to your future self: you’ll be really glad later that you got this thing out of the way. However, some people have conceptual or even biochemical difficulties in future-based motivation; activities like going to work, washing the dishes, showering, and life’s other little maintenances have to get done whether your future self likes it or not.

Where “stick” makes much less sense is in activities that we actually want to engage in. Again, thanks to our current culture and common parenting practices, most of us don’t have much experience in positive feedback and reward-based models. Most dysfunctional households make rewards non-existent or deliberately capricious, so that you learn to inherently distrust them. One of the points of adulthood is learning how to have a less dysfunctional relationship with yourself (whether you can achieve same with your family-of-origin totally depends on the family; your responsibility first is caring for you).

So what are activities that you actually enjoy and seek out? A favorite show you keep up with, games you play, a craft or hobby you enjoy obsessing over randomly? How do you feel when you do these things? What are some aspects of deciding to engage in a pleasurable activity that you can bring to your writing (or other creative act)? Shifting from habits of avoiding your writing as a tedious chore, to seeking it out as a fun game you play with yourself, isn’t the easiest work in the world to do. There’s likely many years of low-grade frustration and resentment clouding the way. You are worth that work.

You’re allowed to feel good about being creative. You’re allowed to feel. You’re allowed to do a better job caring for you than your parents or significant others did/do. You’re allowed to have fun, and get work done. And definitely, allowed to create.


8 responses so far

Feb 13 2010

How far will you go, artist?

The question of how far down the rabbit hole to fall, when working on a creative project, is rather an interesting one. The possibilities are legion for hacking, warping, and weirding the mental processes to create art. However, an artist of whatever stripe often runs up against their own self-boundaries, in such explorations. Sometimes they’re self-imposed limits that should probably be pushed against; other times they might be coping mechanisms for biochemicals that really need to remain at certain levels, thankyouverymuch. Finding the line between what to give to yourself and what to give to that art can be difficult; even for how many artists have gone before, there just aren’t universal roadmaps for making good, deep, provocative art and staying “sane”.

So where do the compromises come in? There’s a wide range of individual choices. We’ve all heard stories of the people who ultimately lost themselves — either the qualities that made their work stand out or their life itself — to the imbalance between care of self and creation of art. And if you aren’t willing to take at least some risks with your own psyche, you’re likely to have a shallow or surface-level artistic end-result.

For me, it’s usually about finding the balance point that allows me to push forward. If I’m going to be doing some crazy internal meanderings, delving into the Shadow self, finding the locked-box memories that are still raw with emotion and creative potential and dragging them out for a look…then if at all possible, other areas in my life should be as stable and least-disruptive as can be. If everything else in my life is chaos, or my own internal landscape is unstable, and I’ve already considered and rejected taking a creative break for whatever reason, then it might be better to steer toward the more “brain candy” level projects. I can keep creating but not get so locked up into my work that I lose myself in the rest of the instabilities. It’s why I don’t believe in the myth that every work must be a Masterpiece For the Ages. Heck, even the master painters of the Renaissance and other eras still took portrait commissions to pay the bills, it wasn’t all frescos and finery.

Sure, they were Really Good portraits, and taking a brain candy creation path during stressful times isn’t license to avoid doing the best work you can, either. But hey, if all you get written during a rough time is a silly zombie story (to pick an Entirely Random Example), you still maintained the creative drive so that it’s available for “more serious” work later. That is definitely good work done.

And when you do give yourself the opportunities and stability to peer into the abyss…how far will you look? How deep can you go and still come back to yourself, or at least a version of you that creates and with whom you can live?

12 responses so far

Dec 06 2009

NaNoWriMeet wrap-up

Published by under blwio,momentum,NaNoWriMeet,Writing

I realized I forgot to post my final post in this series, so here it is a bit belatedly. For my part, I’m planning to return to a more weekly rate on the about-writing posts instead of maintaining a daily rate, but I hope you enjoyed the extra. Other effects for me were that I really liked the challenge to ramp-up my own writing that I took on mid-month, even with the increasingly comedic series of interferences in that plan. I still got several thousand words written and a MUCH better idea of what I’m doing with my novel. (Still re-writing chapter three, and deleting much of what I copy-and-pasted in, but at least theoretically it’ll make for a better story. I’ll report here when I’ve gotten through all that mess.)

Even on the days I’m not writing about it I’m back to talking about it daily, and I have housemates that are genuinely interested and wanting to help my process so that makes things MUCH easier. In addition, I have an awesome inner circle of friend-fans waiting for the next piece to be finished and encouraging me along in their excitement, which also helps a bunch. It’s refreshing to be around people who are stimulated by rather than threatened by other folks’ creative pursuits. I nearly always find myself inspired to new ideas when I see the beautiful creations of the lovely people I’m blessed to know. If you’ve been struggling with staying the course on your own creative work, consider some of these options if you don’t have them already. Steven Brust thinks that it would benefit every writer to have someone who gazes adoringly at them with the attitude of “wow, you are the Best Writer Ever.” He got a dog, which works quite well for this. If you don’t already have a dog or room for one, try finding a parent, lover, or awesome friend with a similar attitude. Sure, critiques have their place and usefulness, but sometimes the “wow someone thinks I’m totally awesome!” feeling helps more than any constructive criticism.

Another angle to try is to break the writer trope of the solitary artist locked with their computer into a room to scribe Art for the Ages. If you’re repeatedly getting stuck in the word mire on your own routines, take a different path. If you have portable word processing capabilities, try out a variety of different venues for writing in public. The most common places are bookstores and coffee shops; a quiet restaurant that isn’t obsessed with table turn-over might also work. In nicer weather, a park or picnic could be a refreshing and inspiring change of scene. Heck, even try different rooms in your own home, or setting up (in nice weather) in your backyard.

A compatible community of creative folk is another valuable resource. Whether you have a more formal writer’s group, or a more informal collective of artists wanting to support each other in their endeavors, or a full-on collaborative project, the exciting things that can happen when multiple creative minds meet together in the same “space” is exhilarating. Quite often it’s the equivalent for your creative flow of slamming down a four-pack of energy drinks. If you’re isolated enough that all you can do is an online equivalent of this, then try that. I was active for several years in an online writer’s group that is sadly not very active any more, but was quite helpful and enjoyable for a long while. Some of us met in person a couple of times, but it was mostly online and worked really well that way. I would expect that recent interfaces such as Google Wave and the like are quite useful places to try and set up such an endeavor. However, for any of you that can, I’d recommend trying some in-person creative jam sessions as well. I’m not so 20th century as to rant against online community or its usefulness, but I’m realistic enough to note that the benefits one derives online are certainly different in many aspects from those you get with in-person creative brainstorming. I think they’re complimentary, and I’ve noticed it feels better when I perceive myself to have both in-person and online creative support. So ask around, figure out which of your friends you enjoy being around who also want creative support, and form your own “artist’s collective” where you meet up regularly and each work on your own creative projects; or perhaps more focused brainstorming sessions, where you each get some group time to help bash through a stuck spot on whatever project you’re creating at the moment. There are multiple options that work based on the individuals involved; however you decide to, remind yourself that it is work worth doing.

I’m interested to hear about the experiences of those of you who tried NaNoWriMo (or a modified variant of it) this year. It’s so easy, especially if you didn’t make your goal, to just drop the subject and slink back into the not-creating land from whence you arose. So I challenge each of you who tried it, to comment either here or in your own journal, and give a report! Document what worked as well as what didn’t. Note at least three things you learned about yourself and your writing. Look the really hard thing you attempted head-on; not as “I failed”, but “I tried something really big and am not ready yet. How can I get more ready for next time?”

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Nov 26 2009

NaNoWriMeet: when cheating with writing is fun

Published by under blwio,momentum,NaNoWriMeet,Writing

Sometimes when you’re limping along with less forward writing progress than you might wish, it helps to try shaking up the normal routine a bit. Whether that means giving yourself more get-up-and-move-around breaks, or trying your writing session at a different time of day, or picking a different POV (point of view) or scene change while writing your words: if what you’re doing right now isn’t getting you the wordcount you want, change what you’re doing. Otherwise, remember that old quote about insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

There are times when you can make it even more fun for yourself, in writing. Maybe you discover one of your brain-hacks that makes a certain part of the writing process easier, or you figure out a deliciously tricky situation in which to enmesh your characters. Or perhaps, you know a holiday is coming up to demand extra time (and likely less writing) from you, and THIS time you gave yourself two extra writing sessions the week before the holiday to allow yourself space to do the holiday chores and enjoy the holiday socializing. (If not, then try it for next holiday, there are several impending!)

Since I’m working on a revised (heavily, heavily, revised–like a new story even!) draft of my novel, I have several “completed” chapters from the first draft. Most of these aren’t being used in the order they’re in, or sometimes from the viewpoint they originally were from, and several pieces aren’t making the draft transfer. In addition, there’s usually new text that has to be created to give better transitions between the current story thread and the new pasted-in bits. For the pieces from the first round that I do use, most of them require at least some (or much more) editing to bring them up to second draft quality. This isn’t exactly the same process as fully engaging Editor Mind, it’s one of those weird hybrid writer-editor processes. I’ve done this enough times by now that I’m not worried about slipping fully into Editor Mind and tripping up my current draft, but if you decide to try it and you don’t have that practice, then maintain awareness of the risks involved and don’t let your inner critic run out of control.

Hmmm, you might say, I’m waiting for the part that sounds like fun. For me, the fun part comes in when my page count jumps from 20 pages to 41 in one day’s work. Whee! I suppose purists might insist that while it counts as writing work, it shouldn’t count as “new wordcount”. From my perspective, I’ve already done the work writing those words at SOME time so it doesn’t seem wrong to count them at THIS time; when I look at my current page, 41 is significantly different in feel from 20; and at this stage in the process, the psychology matters. If I feel like I made a big leap forward, it energizes me to want to write more, not to take breaks because I already did work. When I feel an urge to take off from writing is when I’m already struggling with it due to word-flow stoppage or external circumstances, not when the writing is flowing well. That’s a good feeling, and I want more of it!

Give some thought to how you might “cheat” on your normal routines to get more writing done, rather than to excuse a lack of writing. What do you think might give you the little thrill of “I got away with something clever” over your hindbrain that will keep your words flowing?

Today’s wordcount for yesterday only includes the copied-and-pasted text. Next post will have the transitions and new text wordcount. At this point, Chapter 3 is about 85% done. I’m already hard at thinky-work on exactly how I want to be doing chapter 4 structurally (which might mean Ch 4 will be largely new text); I have an idea or two I’m hoping to brainstorm verbally in the next day or two, so that I can have a rough outline to keep my writing momentum rolling into the next chapter.

Previous novel wordcount: 24,364
Today’s words: 4423
This blog post: 719
Total daily words: 5142

New novel wordcount: 28,787
Favorite bit: too many to itemize fully; 21 “new pages” is probably favorite bit overall. Story awesomeness pasted in includes haptic-suit earth-space sex, wenchly computer geeks, sarcastically stoic bodyguards, weirdly likeable amoral twins, pesky spying precocious kids…
Funniest flub: Argh, the first draft text quality, it burns. Quick, to the edit-mobile!

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Nov 23 2009

NaNoWriMeet: do what you can

Published by under momentum,NaNoWriMeet,Writing

Yesterday was a major pain day for me, so much so that being at the computer was difficult.  When you’re presented with a roadblock of that sort or something similar, it’s durned unlikely you’ll make your standard daily count.  So the obvious options are, take a health day and don’t write at all?  or write what you can write, then more later?

Obviously, which you decide is going to vary from case to case.  However, when you’re in high wordcount goal territory or deadline crunch time, it’s worth strongly considering that second option.  You’re likely going to feel worse about your process if you skip writing when you really could have fit in a page or two, even with the bumps along the way.

Again, are your excuses to yourself for your behavior designed to encourage you to write, or to avoid writing?  If you’re being avoidant, try practicing a mental shift toward the other side.  Instead of “wow, I think I’ll clean the cat box instead of writing, because It Needs It”, try on for size “ooh, writing would be a perfect excuse to avoid folding those clothes!”  (Of course, it’s a good idea to schedule some clothes-folding etc. time somewhere after writing, especially if you have roommates, or your brain-hacking cleverness will quickly become an Annoyance To Others.)

Find more ways to fit writing sessions into the daily routine of your life.  The more it becomes part of just what you do (get up, brush teeth, feed cat, check email, write pages, wash dishes, check facebook, play stupid apps for an hour, write more pages, and so on) the easier it will be for you to find your optimal wordcount rate and writing processes.

Previous novel wordcount:  22,446
Today’s words: 601
This blog post: 316
Total daily words:917

New novel wordcount: 23,047
Favorite bit: uppity escorts, back-pedaling billionaires
Funniest flub: no major screw-ups today (only two pages)

What have you noticed about incorporating writing into your daily routine so far?  What was easy, what was/is difficult?

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Nov 22 2009

NaNoWriMeet: this is not your regularly scheduled post

Or, Murphy REALLY loves me.

But we knew that.  At times his is a particularly sick and twisted love, as in this week.  Yeah, that nice 6 pages I wrote?  The next afternoon, Steve’s dog’s tail knocked over a coffee cup that Nathan had accidentally set too near to my netbook…

That’s right, computer number 2 is down for the count.   So after two days of bargain shopping around town as we don’t really have the pennies to spare right now, I am now on my third work computer for the week.  As cousin Charlie would say, good grief.

On the plus side, thanks to my trusty half-terabyte, which thankfully did NOT get bathed in coffee, my paltry 15 pages so far this week are still existent.  I’m back on the internet (again-again), and tomorrow we’ll try again with your regularly-scheduled post and some written pages to report.  In the meantime, the word of the day from the Chicago Manual of Style is “integument”.

Also, in case you’re not keeping up with industry recent events, Ms. Figart’s blog has a nice perspective on the recent Harlequin faceplant.  RWA, MWA, and SFWA have all issued censures in various forms against Harlequin as a result of their recent decision.  Remember this mantra, dear writers:  Writers sign checks on the back.  Be highly suspect of any situation, no matter how vanity-pretty, that looks to make you sign on the front for your work; it’s likely otherwise known as a “scam”.

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