Your mind is free. (Writing updates!)

When I finished my novel in early July, I found myself thinking, what now?

I’m still not doing anything with the novel… yet. Soon, though.

~~~~~

As for updates on the “what now?” – After two years of writing this first novel, I’m accustomed to working on and off 24/7. It feels natural. I didn’t feel imprisoned within that cycle of self-imposed deadlines; I don’t want to leave.

For a brief moment in early July, I entertained the notion of finding some sort of paying part-time, work-from-home situation. It was a sensible idea, but… I’m going to keep writing. Sometimes, the sensible idea is to do what doesn’t make sense to others. (All of the time, in fact, as long as it makes sense to you.)

~~~~~

I’m writing poetry. The poems I’m writing at the moment are coming out a little dark and disquieted, not so much in terms of content, but more in terms of mood. It’s not the happiest place, but it’s not a terrible place, either. The strange poems I’m writing right now are some of my favorites of all that I’ve written. I’m going with the mood, because that’s how it works, writing poems.

~~~~~

I’d had what I thought was a solid idea for my next novel, but these new poems give me pause for thought. A couple of characters have emerged from them. What if I were to take these characters and their worlds and create a prose narrative around them?

Or I could just continue writing the poems in this unexpected series, letting a story unfold, poem as medium. I’d write the poems and work on my new novel at the same time.

Or I could continue the series of poems and also continue preliminary work on the new novel idea I’d already had.

Or I could merge the two, weaving their narratives together. That would be interesting.

I’m intrigued by all of these possibilities.

 

This bird landed on the ledge of our kitchen window. He’s a big guy, about 12″ tall, and we see him around a lot. (21 August 2018)

 

 

 

Jack Reacher! Finally getting my annual Lee Child fix. (Also, a limerick by a guest poet.)

File this under “Writing Updates Postscript.”

I mentioned on Tuesday that I’m digging into the submission work phase now that I’m happy with my manuscript. I forgot to mention what else I’m doing: I’m catching up on terribly overdue reading, starting, of course, with the new Jack Reacher (The Midnight Line, 2017). My Lee Child fix, at last!!!

I’ve only just begun, but a page has been dog-eared, so my copy’s been authenticated.

 

Lee Child’s 2017 Reacher (more than six months later)

 

My tower of books To Read is ten tomes high, so I’m not going to be wanting for reading material anytime soon. Lee Child comes first. OH Stephen King has a new novel out… make that pile eleven tomes high. And I just remembered that I’d ordered two others from Amazon the other day. Thirteen. Thirteen unread books, guys, all over the literary spectrum.

I’ve said that books and t-shirts are the bane of my minimalism efforts, and I wasn’t kidding.

Speaking of minimalism, I’m still planning a huge second sweep through the house. I have to wait until after I send 50+ queries, though, so that’ll be sometime in September.

So much to do. It’s fabulous. My list is jam-packed with household stuff, but I’m also looking forward to writing a new poem or two, and planning my next big writing project.

Speaking of poems, for those of you who joke that my poems are “15 levels above” yours, keep reading. One such joker has submitted to me a limerick with which he took creative license to bend the rules of limerick just to lampoon Yours Truly. I’m honored. His limerick is one part complimentary, one part inside joke, and one part smart-ass, which sums him up perfectly. He is an expert at playful lampooning (basically defining ‘limerick’).

I had to share it. If you “only understand poems that have the word ‘Nantucket’ in them,” then Ron’s got you.

Background: I texted him on Thursday last week to say that I wasn’t going to Body Pump because I was “indisposed” (e.g. tunnel-visioning my way through my final manuscript read-through). Here’s his text reply:

There once was a poet from Nantucket,

her talent was no drop in the bucket,

she’s indisposed but the shine on the rose,

“Though there is body pump today I’ll just duck it.”

Hahaha!! I love this. I should donate $5.00 to charity each time someone texts me an original limerick; that might get me a collection of guest poets (yes, Ron, you’re a poet now) to feature here. Limericks are cool. They’re underrated. They’re the class clowns of poetry, and we need them.

That’s all I’ve got for now… June Favorites coming your way next week Tuesday!

There’s a method to my madness. (Writing updates!)

I come bearing something other than June Favorites today, I’m afraid! I hope to be able to put that list together for Thursday… next week Tuesday, at the latest.

It’s taken me two years to get to this particular writing update: I’ve wrapped it up.

I finished the novel yesterday. I’m happy with it, so it’s done. It’s so done, I had the printed manuscript spiral-bound, because hell if I’m going to deal with putting hundreds of pieces of paper back together in the right order in the event of mishap.

I ended up with 38 chapters and 455 pages, 461 if you include the section break and other such non-text pages.

 

Printed (double-sided) and spiral-bound. (02 July 2018)

 

(I’m not planning to mail this behemoth hard-copy anywhere, by the way. This is just for my own purposes.)

How long it took: Out of curiosity, I went through my past agendas and files and found that Day 1 of the actual writing was July 7, 2016. It took just about two years (minus five days) to complete. I quit my job on March 18 and from there spent three months and one week in prep-mode, so in total, it took 2 years and 3.5 months.

How it went down: It turned out that Draft One was actually Draft Zero. It was that rough, in my opinion. By the end of my first run-through, I’d realized that I’d been working on a first draft, not a second draft.

Of course, I then went back and did a second run-through (“third draft”). And in the last week, I ran through it again, quickly, a third time over the rough draft, just to place chapter breaks where they needed to be (things got pushed around during the editing/re-writing/cleaning-up).

In my scan-through of the text that last time I still caught a couple of minor editing errors (two, exactly) and a few inconsistencies. That last round was really a polishing round, and I’m so glad that I took the time to do it.

Inconsistencies were a big concern throughout, mainly technical details such as capitalizing certain terms when used the same way throughout the work.

Take-away: The “find” function has been invaluable. Have I said that before? Probably.

After two years of hammering away at this thing, it feels strange to not have to work on the writing part of it!

What’s next: From now, I’m focusing on writing an abstract, cover letters, etc. as I prepare to release it out into the wilds. Maybe someone will want it, right?

Once it’s out there and I’m in wait-mode, I’m going to start prep for my next project.

This first-novel endeavor has been a priceless learning process. Thanks to you all again for hanging with me on this journey.

Quantifiable. (Writing updates!)

Have I mentioned that I’m finding this second-draft business to be incredibly satisfying? Just thought I’d state that again, because it can’t be overstated.

This is my 4th writing update since starting work on Round 2. Make that the 6th update, if you want to count my two “office updates” posts, the latest of which was really all about my plants.

I’m still feeling good about my non-deadline deadline. I’m still enjoying polishing, re-writing, and deleting, cutting any gratuitous scenes (there’s been at least one) and any fluff (to which I lovingly refer as “sentimental bullshit”) that doesn’t serve any purpose. Just as importantly, I’m finding and fixing inconsistencies. The “replace all” option in “find” has been invaluable.

Here’s a quick look at the quantifiable changes I’ve made to the manuscript since completing the rough draft at the end of November:

Word-count: I’ve written 1,888 more words. Current word-count: 86,478 (up from 84,590)

Page-count: I have 29 more pages. Current page-count: 427 (up from 398)

To note: Many of the additional pages came not from writing more words, but from restructuring existing text. I’ve broken up paragraphs, moved lines, created new section breaks, etc. That sort of thing pushes down everything that follows, adding to the page-count.

My increased word-count is mostly the result of polishing through deep edits and re-writes, fleshing out original text in some places as well as adding to areas that needed more. I haven’t changed the story at all.

Current status: I’m on page 299 as of today. As it stands, I have 128 pages to go. It’s inevitable that the word/page-count will look different when it’s all said and done, though!

Commemorative pic: I’ll have you know that I spent the earlier part of this afternoon trying and failing to take a selfie with Nenette, as she’s my near-constant companion here in my office. At this point, she’s reached ninja-level abilities to escape having her picture taken. My plants can’t escape, though. I ended up taking this selfie with Barclay, my first office plant. [insert heart emoji here]

 

(April 2018 Writing Updates from Crazy Plant Lady)

 

And that would conclude this writing update! I hope you’re all having a great week so far.

First-novel problems: stabbing in the dark. (Writing updates!)

Callaghan said that I look like a teenage boy in this pic, and I guess I can see it. I’m ragged and bare-faced, and my hair is a casualty of my indecision dragging itself out. (I can’t decide what I want to say when I go to get my hair cut, so I just haven’t gone to get it cut.) Then, of course, I filtered the image to make it look even more terrible, because why not. This is the opposite of the way you normally see me. This is my grungy Gen-X writer’s self-portrait.

 

The joy of having a bluetooth selfie stick/tripod: I can glance up at the camera and capture myself looking the way I’m feeling, good or bad.

 

Second draft progress: It’s been wild… wild, but going well. I’m past the half-way point. I’ve been mostly nonplussed. Some chapters I’ve encountered have been so rough, they were like mere templates. Others were already so polished, I glided over them. Some I’d thought were good, then found them to be problematic, and conversely, I’ve come across chapters I’d loathed, then loved upon second reading. The whole thing has been a crap-shoot.

Bottom line, I’m a better writer now than when I started, so deep edits and re-writes have been in order. Have I said all of this before? Writing this first novel has amounted to on-the-job training, self-motivated, self-taught, and hesitant. I leaped out of my comfort zone with this prose project, but I kept one foot in. Poetry. My comfort zone is poetry.

I’m happy with my progress, I’d say, even while knowing that the result will never be “perfect” in my eyes. Is it ever, for anyone? I’d bet that no writer feels that their work is perfect. At the core of it all, I love what I’m doing, and I’m grateful for that.

 

Crazy plant lady. (Office updates!)

Welcome back to my office! My plant family has grown since my last update. I love that the only color in my writing space is alive.

Plants give me life from the inside out, fueling me from the inside and providing a lovely source of creative energy from the outside. My desk still sits at an angle toward the center of the room, facing the window, and I’ve now surrounded myself with plants.

I’ve moved most of these guys around since my December office update. Some of the plants have been re-potted. One of them has departed this world, sadly, and two of them are new. Let’s look around!

Behind me and slightly to my right (on the wall to the left of the door): Icarus.

 

Icarus (re-potted since my December update)

 

Behind me on the left side: Hercules and Angel (on the corner stand re-purposed from the patio). These two are my newest. I discovered Hercules on a dusty shelf at Walmart, all by himself, alone and bedraggled. He’s doing so well now!

Angel sits beneath, on the second shelf. I picked him up from the florist’s section at Fry’s. He’s also doing well, though he’s quite fragile. He’s an aluminum plant.

(The color of the walls in here – in the whole house – is so strange and sensitive to light and camera angle. The wall can look like two different colors even in the same pic!)

 

(from top) Hercules and Angel

 

Here’s a close-up of Hercules… I’m so pleased with how he’s thrived in the short time he’s been here! I’m going to re-pot both Hercules and Angel in the next few weeks. They’re strong enough for it now.

 

Hercules

 

Moving along, slightly behind me and to my left (and to the left of the printer): Jerome.

 

Jerome, my second.

 

To the left of my desk, to the right of my printer: Holder. I’m glad to say that he’s doing well. Linden, his partner, did not make it, I’m afraid. RIP Linden.

 

Holder (re-potted since my December update)

 

Just in front of my desk and to the left: Robbie. We migrated him to my office from the living room. Within 24 hours of moving him in here, he spread out, opened up, and turned a lighter, brighter shade of green. Plants love the strong daylight in this room! There’s no direct sunlight in here, so all of these guys are low-light/indirect sunlight plants.

I pulled this small table out of the closet so Robbie could sit in the middle of the room, rather than against a wall. It’s perfect for him.

 

Robbie

 

A better look at Robbie (as I see him from my desk):

 

Robbie

 

My view sometimes includes Nenette sleeping on the futon behind Robbie.

 

Nenette napping on the futon.

 

Finally, Barclay, my first, sits further out in front of my desk and to the right, same place he’s been… I did have to purchase this stand for him, though, as he needed a greater height. His tendrils had grown to where they were coiling on the floor. I found this cheap little metal stand at Ross.

 

Barclay, two angles

 

Here we are, full circle… and a full circle, it is. I don’t think I’m imagining the cooler note I feel in the air here, or the scent, loamy and damp and fresh. I haven’t burned candles in here since I started cultivating this little oasis in my desert office.

I’ll post an actual writing update next week. Office, part two!

Novel progress: 2nd draft. (Writing updates!)

It’s been over a month since my last writing update post!

Work on the second draft of my novel continues, and I’m having to remind myself every day to be patient with this process. This part is truly fun and exciting, as I’ve said before. I want to enjoy it without stressing over the passage of time. It’s a weird clash: Hurry up. But enjoy it. Hurry up. But enjoy it. Hurry up….

Do you know that feeling? When your own impatience threatens your fun?

Earnest intentions to discipline myself have led to naught. Bizarre and unexpected things keep happening. Last week Sunday, I concocted an ambitious plan to start out the week’s writing, but the very next day, my plan was literally derailed by a tortoise. You can’t plan for these things. I couldn’t have seen the tortoise train coming, because it came out of nowhere.

(That would be a story for another time.)

Neither could I make this stuff up if I tried. Mark Twain’s words come to mind: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

That being said, there’s also an element of difficulty to this second-draft business, which balances out the fun element. It’s an old difficulty that carried over from the first draft to the second. I’m not complaining. We can’t have too much fun, now, can we?

Challenges are good. Moreover, challenges are necessary.

 

Favorite light: early-morning daylight. Beverage of choice: water.

 

Overall, work on the second draft is going well… just not as quickly as I’d hoped. I have to be patient with myself. The work will be done when I love it.

Mini writing update and SEASON’S GREETINGS!

Writing update: simply put, things in the world of writing over here have been phenomenal since I’ve fallen into the unexpected state of euphoria that is the second draft. Yes, the second draft, I’m finding, is like a state of mind. As I think I’ve said before, it’s also a lot of actual re-writing, and it’s more than fun. It’s all I want to do. I’ve yet to crack open any of the books I’ve been waiting to read. If it wasn’t for the gym, I’d never leave the house.

I spent the first few hours of this morning writing, and then I went outside and took a bunch of selfies for my post next Tuesday because our houseguests are arriving on Sunday and today is my last chance to mug for the camera (the whirlwind starts tomorrow with cleaning and baking and such), so I’m later here than I wanted to be.

My plan to do some cardio in the garage today has been derailed on account of the probability that I injured my toe yesterday afternoon. Guess how? Getting into the shower, of course. I stepped over the metal threshold while I was lost in thought, and my left foot didn’t quite clear it. Not to brag, but it was a most epic of toe-stubbings. I actually smacked the front of all my toes against the threshold, but only the second-biggest one looks, literally, bent out of shape and brilliant with several of the wrong colors for a toe. I’m avoiding walking around today due to discomfort, so the only workout I’m getting is in my fingers as I write. PITY. (Not!)

But I digress. Returning to the writing update… I’m not holding myself to a hard deadline for this second draft, I’ve decided. I’ll get through it as quickly as I can while taking the time that I need. Let’s just say that I’m shooting for the end of January, but I won’t be concerned if it takes longer. I’m enjoying this part immensely, and frankly, I think I’ll be a little sad when it ends.

Seasoned novelists: do you experience this second-draft euphoria, too?

 

Nenette and the poinsettia, 2017

 

With love and thanks to all of you for being here! I hope this finds you well as we head into the end-of-year festivities. This is my last post before Christmas, but I’ll see you before New Year’s!

Writing and writing space updates! (REVISED office tour.)

Writing updates, in brief: I’ve been working through my second draft, mostly polishing, but also doing more extensive re-writing where I see the need. I’m loving this part. There’s nothing like a good chunk of time to clear your vision. 18 months later, I can really see this manuscript, and I’m going to town with it, just having fun. It’s exciting.

Office updates: I’ve got a bunch of pics to share for those of you with a penchant for seeing other people’s spaces. I get you. I’m one of you.

Main changes I made to my office since “office tour May 2017”: I snagged my old desk from its spot in the guest bedroom, added two small console/bookcase things to fit in the corner behind the desk, and acquired three more houseplants.

I loved sitting on the floor at my old German trunk, but the anti-ergonomic nature of that set-up became apparent. It was a matter of time, I suppose. I enjoyed it while I could! The books came up off the floor at the same time that I did (enter the small console/bookshelf things behind the desk). In the process of minimalizing, I removed the wall clock and the Luche Libre poster, and the only thing left hanging behind the door is my pair of boxing gloves (covered in dust, since I never use them).

About the houseplants: I’m up to five. I haven’t decided whether this counts as a minimalism fail. Does it? It doesn’t feel like it does. It feels like the energy within my ring of plants encourages my creativity. I would like to add one or two more, in fact.

Here’s the view from my window:

 

view to the front yard

 

…and here’s the interior:

 

looking in from the doorway

 

I keep the room neutral and plain. Only the plants add color.

 

where I write (same as before, except at an actual desk)

 

Nenette often naps on the futon. I can easily see her when I look up from my screen.

 

view from the desk, left of center – Nenette on the futon

 

Here’s a better pic of Nenette:

 

Nenette napping on the futon

 

To the right of the futon:

 

3 plants (Holder, Icarus, Barclay)

 

Behind my desk, right side:

 

another plant (Linden)

 

Behind my desk, left side:

 

another plant (Jerome)

 

Back of the door:

 

boxing gloves I love, but never use

 

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed this. I love peeking into other people’s offices, so this was fun to do.

 

Milestone reached. (Writing updates!)

I’m alarmed* thrilled to be able to share this update on the state of my novel! IT’S DONE.

The first draft is done, that is. It was very nearly done when I posted about it recently. Now it’s done-done.

It ended up at 84,590 words. Remember how my targeted word-count crept up from 50,000 to 60,000 and stayed there for a few months before I realized that I was going to need more words? Not long after I raised my target to 75,000 words, I laughed at myself and ditched the insanity of trying to approximate a word-count. Yeah.

I completed the draft on Tuesday last week, two days before Thanksgiving. It’s 398 pages long, but it’s the word-count that lands it in the widely-accepted “standard novel length” category. To think that I’d started with the idea that I was writing a novella-length piece shows how stories can tell themselves, unfolding in their own time.

*Needless to say, writing “THE END” came as sort of a shock. I went outside to take a deep breath and also a commemorative selfie. Somehow, the sun and the breeze and the warmth heightened my sense of accomplishment. It was a beautiful day.

 

Nov. 21, 2017 – wind-blown and done with draft 1.

 

Neither was I expecting this dual sense of exhilaration and melancholy. I’m at a loss trying to explain where the melancholy part comes from. Maybe it’s just the fact of reaching this milestone after 18 months… to have exited that world.

What’s next?

1). The second draft!

I’m starting work on draft 2 this week. This will mainly involve combing through the book from beginning to end, smoothing out any technical inconsistencies, and deciding whether to keep the novel divided into sections. As of now, I’ve got the manuscript marked with parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, the latter comprising the (hefty) remainder of the novel, which makes no sense. I just got to a point where I gave up on sections. Now I have to decide whether I even want them… and if I do, whether I want to name them or just number them.

2). Reading!

I’m eager to catch up on reading. I’m looking at Matt King’s superhero trilogy (I have the first book; the second and third should arrive this week), Lee Child’s new Reacher novel coming in the same Amazon order (can you believe I didn’t run out and grab it on its release date?!), and another novel that’s been sitting here for what seems like a long time.

That’s about it for now. I’m thinking I’ll post pics of my office in my next writing updates post, because it’s changed slightly since the last time I invited you in for a look. I know that some of you are like me in that you enjoy seeing other people’s spaces.

Happy Tuesday, Friends!

Above water. (On writing.)

Let me confide in you what it is to be a writer of a novel. You’re at the end of your book and terrified of what you wrote: a 350-page shit-storm. You laugh at yourself as you find a selfie that came out expressionless, crop your image into a head-shot, harden it with the angstiest filter you can find – the one that turns the dark bits darker and deepens the shadows in the corners – because suddenly, you need digital armor. It won’t help. You think, I had a moral obligation to write this, and it’s been 30-odd years in the writing that began, in earnest, 18 months ago.

 

Life in two minutes.

 

The drama, the irony, the cliché! You can look at this image once and never see it again, or you can look at it once and see it every day. It’s worse than a mirror, so you share it with the world… especially easy to do when the world makes no sense.

We all have a dark side. Most of us keep it hidden, because it’s our business and no one else’s. Artists tend to display theirs through their work, whether others can see it there or not. Art unravels from buried places, taking form in every medium and genre from comedy to Shakespearean tragedy, capturing curiosity and beauty in music, writing, visual arts, poetry, photography, dance, dramatic arts, and so on, and so forth. Products of our creation spawn out of our darkest secrets, reflecting them in worlds we create… and we do create them, because we can. We can create art that belies the angst from which it springs, art that makes people laugh, even. “Tortured artists” have the means to express what others need to express. Then a step further: everything is okay. But the world, we know, doesn’t need our reassurance. We’re talking to ourselves, but it’s not about us.

So if just one person can find something of value in our work… something that helps… it’s worth it, we feel. One person includes everyone. We believe.

Throw-back poem: “Pursuit 3”

Tomorrow, it’ll be exactly five months since I’ve posted a poem. Apologies to you who are here for poetry! As you may remember, I’m no longer posting new work here, so today I’ve got another early piece from my grad school days. “Pursuit 3” first appeared in one of those wonderful small, independent literary journals no longer in existence. The journal was The Lucid Stone.

The issue:

 

 

“Pursuit 3” (one of my two poems that appeared in this issue):

 

[“Pursuit 3” Kristi (now Garboushian) The Lucid Stone “A Quarterly of Poetry” Summer 2001, Issue No. 26]

(I drew that line through the “s” in “toward” because I didn’t intend for it to be there. I just noticed the typo now.)

As always, thank you for reading. I wish you all a creative day!

Writer’s confessions. (Writing updates!)

I looked back through my planner and verified that I’m overdue for a writing updates post, as one of you wonderful and helpful readers and NOT AT ALL smart-ass people (who may or may not attend Tuesday/Thursday BodyPump) pointed out to me earlier this week, though not in a smart-ass way.

Hence, this is a writing updates post.

As for the post that was going to happen today: I shall regale you with the latest on my minimalism journey somewhere in the first week of November. I do have minimalism updates!

The writing, then. It’s been trucking along. The end is nigh. I’m spending more time than usual strategizing before I put proverbial pen to paper. This last week, in particular, has been a challenging one… the process of writing has felt like an arduous slog through mud. I haven’t had blank-page syndrome, but it’s been difficult finding my groove.

The great thing about this is that I realized why; this is useful for future reference.

We’ve had houseguests. When they all went to lunch without me one day, I got some good writing done, and I had a mini-epiphany: I need to be alone in order to talk to myself, and I need to talk to myself in order to find my writing groove. I’m sure some of you fellow writers can relate to this.

I have a big ol’ chart with ever-changing notes jotted all over it, but in my head I’ve got a mental flow chart of variables that’s always better than any I could scribble out, because my thinking is a million steps ahead, always, and not lateral, as is the nature of thinking. It helps to pace around and talk myself through it.

(Mind you, I’m not complaining about the houseguests.)

In related writing and minimalism news, I found this t-shirt at Target. It was an impulse buy, but I couldn’t pass on it. It’s minimalism news because when I got home, I pulled another shirt out of my closet and put it in the Goodwill pile. Replacing, not accumulating.

 

When you knew better than to expect otherwise.

 

Right?! But mostly, the shirt had me at the font.

 

September writing updates!

I last came to you with an official writing update on August 4. It’s one month later, and I’m back to report my progress, as promised. This is where I fill you in on big-project writing developments, with numbers and everything. (SNOOZE-FEST WARNING for those not interested in dry details.)

So let me tell you where we stand.

Last month’s challenge/goal: to “control the pace and manner of unraveling” in this final stretch of the project.

This month’s challenge/goal: having gotten a grip on last month’s, I’m now focusing on creating and sustaining the tone and mood I desire for the completion of the story. At this point, I want to demand more from you, the reader. This means that I have some intensified atmospheric building to do. In other words, I’m ramping it up.

(When I started this project, I had no idea that I was essentially writing a mystery novel, of sorts. But here we are.)

Last month’s completion status: my word court as of August 4 was 56,952. My goal word count, I said, was “a moving target.” I was done trying to nail down a goal word count; I speculated that I was between 80% and 90% finished.

This month’s completion status: I’m back on the word-count train! Surprise! I didn’t think I’d bother with this nonsense again, either… but I did some projecting, which is much easier to do at this point, and I came up with a rough estimate. I believe I’ll land somewhere in the neighborhood of 75,863 words. This means that the project is about 84% complete. (I will not be changing this word count goal again. It’s a rough estimate, and I’m leaving it at that.)

Breaking it down: I currently have 64,462 words. Roughly 2,137 of those words belong in future chapters (I tend to write ahead a little bit, now more than ever), so about 3% of my 84% completion is made up of future content.

Looking at just my current, finished work, I’ve got 283 pages, and I’m on chapter 26.

I’m also projecting that I’ll have this first draft completed by the end of November.

 

manuscript, 84% complete (minus 3%) (Sept. 5, 2017)

 

So that’s where we stand! Thank you for reading and for sticking with me, as always.

11 signs that you’re a writer.

In case you’re not sure, here are some signs that you’re a writer:

1). Clinical-grade confusion. You’re in the shower and you forget what body part you’ve already washed because you’re lost in your writing, or you’re at the gym and the minute you’re done working out you start thinking about your writing and you accidentally stretch the same side twice.

2). Speculation overload. You see the same white-paneled van crawling around your neighborhood at least once a week, and you become fixated on the narrative you’ve developed around it, which is always serial killers, of course.

3). Belief in magic. You choose the color of your underwear based on a predetermined superstition you have about the day.

4). Hyper-fueling. You operate on a fasting/feeding cycle where you wake up early, remember to have breakfast 4 hours later (ending a 12-hour fast), then eat lunch 3 hours after that, and then you eat every 2 hours thereafter, so by the time 9pm rolls around, you’ve eaten 6-7 times, all because you needed energy for writing, which includes researching and working out complicated problems in your head and so your brain is starving.

(Except on gym mornings when you eat two breakfasts, one before and one after the gym.)

5). Sleep-deprivation. You’re capable of Spartan self-discipline EXCEPT when it comes to your chronic resolution to get more than 5 hours of sleep and “more sleep” has become a unicorn in an undeserving forest.

6). Auto-conversation. You talk to your fur-baby (or finned, feathered, or scaled-baby) all day, except when you’re talking to yourself, which is something like 70% of the time, and if you don’t have a fur-baby, you’re just talking to yourself and your argument is invalid.

7). Full-of-shit syndrome. You have to get used to being asked what you do and when you say “I write” the person looks at you like “Yeah that’s NOT work,” and “You can’t possibly have a schedule, because you DON’T WORK, therefore you must be calling writing ‘work’ in order to have an excuse to not do (xyz).”

8). Other-world desensitization. You watch horror movies for the thrill of getting scared and 95% of them fail, but you keep watching them hoping that one of them will really super scare you, but it’s all good because you like horror, anyway.

9). Bladder resentment. You think wistfully of those times you were in the hospital and you had a catheter and how great it was to drink water all day without ever feeling like you had to pee, and how awesome catheters are and it’s a good thing they’re not accessible or practical for everyday at-home use because if they were, you’d always have one and then you’d never have to get up to go to the bathroom and then you’d develop bedsores.

10). Bermuda Triangle phenomenon. (AKA the unsolved mystery of writing’s impact on time.) You start re-working a paragraph and take a minute to deliberate between using a definite article or an indefinite article and when you look at the clock, an hour has passed and you can’t understand where that time went while you were deciding between the word choices and then you panic that you’ll be late for the gym.

11). Nap dysfunction. You’re sleep-deprived so you try to take a nap with your cat, but you end up staring at each other with starry eyes because you can’t sleep and it’s her fault for being too cute.

 

Sleep-deprived and confused. Must be a writer.

 

I hope this helps.

Happy Friday, All!

 

Writing Q and A: habits, music, status. (Writing updates!)

My last writing update post was on 30 June, so it’s time for another one, I reckon!

Every writer’s habits and rituals are personal, right? And, for many of us, in flux. Things flow and evolve. We go with it.

I still wish I was a writer who could stick to a schedule. The best I can do – more importantly, what works for me – is to protect my optimal writing time. Currently, that’s one full weekday (Mondays) + all early mornings. The rest of the time is for flexible writing, meaning, I can write around going to the gym Tuesday-Saturday, as well as occasional appointments, errands, and lunches.

At this point, there’s never a day that I don’t write at all. I write something every. single. day.

Speaking of which! My Tuesday/Friday blog-posting time here in TALC has officially changed: I’m now posting within the mid-morning to noonish window.

With all of the above, I’ve started off this mini writing Q&A. I’m happy to answer some of these recurring questions:

Q: Can you multi-task while writing?

A: It depends. The deeper I get into a writing session, the more scarce I am on social media. When I’m in a “deep sleep” stage of writing, I’m completely incommunicado.

I can’t be off-line, though, because I refer to the dictionary, and I’m always researching something or another.

Q: Do you listen to music while writing?

A: Not usually, but sometimes.

When I started working on this novel, I’d listen to certain songs to invoke a memory of a time. I haven’t done that for a while. Now, I can write with music playing on a low volume, choosing music that creates a background soundscape.

A current favorite is by Rachel’s: “To Rest Near to You.” It’s moody and eerie with voices whispering “I thought the sea.”

It’s perfect for this last stretch of the novel.

Other good background songs of the moment: “With More Air Than Words,” “Night at Sea,” and “Letters Home” (Also by Rachel’s, from their 1996 album The Sea and the Bells.)

I wish I could provide you with “To Rest Near to You,” but I get my music from Soundcloud, and you have to have a Soundcloud GO+ account in order to hear that entire Rachel’s album. Here’s their song “Stark Sea,” though, also on my current writing playlist:

 

 

I like this sort of music while I’m writing. It’s atmospheric without distracting my creative brain cells with melody that wants following.

And when I say I play the pieces with the volume down low, I mean very low. The planes taking off and landing at Sky Harbor are louder.

Q: Do you take breaks?

A: Yes. Many. I have to stop often in order to put distance between what I’ve written and what’s in my head from having written it.

There’s actually a pattern: on an average day, I go through three writing stages and two break stages, beginning and ending with writing. (I take smaller breaks within the writing stages, usually to eat. In the afternoons, I eat often.)

Q: Distractions?

A: I do get up to wander around the house. I have to unfold myself from the floor every once in a while.

Incidentally, I have Nenette, who is not a distraction. She’s the opposite of a distraction. She puts her nose on my forehead to transmit inspiration.

 

Nenette in her crow’s nest tree in the corner of my office.

 

These days, Nenette is apt to sleep on the floor next to me while I’m writing, but she still spends time up on her crow’s nest.

Q: Current project stage and status?

A: I’ve reached, as noted earlier, the final stretch.

Things are accelerating. That doesn’t mean that my writing’s accelerating, though. I have to focus now more than ever in order to control the pace and manner of unraveling.

As for current status, my word court at present is 56,952. My goal word count continues to be a moving target, so I’m just going to say that I’m between 80% and 90% finished.

That’s it for the monthly update! Thank you all for reading, once again. Happy Friday… or whatever day it is when you read this. =)

Is it Monday yet? TGIM! (Writing-Fitness balance: on changing routines.)

This week, I let go of my Monday evening workout. It was hard. I’d been doing that class for over three years… Monday/Wednesday kickboxing, non-negotiable.

You know how I feel about routines, and you know how I feel about kickboxing. This decision was not easy.

But it was a long time coming. I looked at my 2016 planner and saw that I’d been thinking about it since early November… because I’d just tried BodyPump, which is weight-training, which I’d spent a year trying and failing to do on my own. I finally realized that nothing was stopping me from going to a twice-weekly morning Pump class. It was life-changing. It got me thinking about re-vamping my entire workout schedule.

I did it slowly, starting with switching out Saturday morning kickboxing for Saturday morning Pump. I wanted three strength-training workouts per week, rather than two.

Then I had a few Monday evenings off when the Monday kickboxing class was between instructors, and I realized what Monday really is, now: it’s my favorite day of the week. My best workday. The ideal day to stay home all day and get shit done.

Monday has become my “third weekend-day,” my working-weekend day, my relaxed yet productive transition into the week. It’s my bubble of creative energy day. It’s my fresh-start day. I wake up filled with anticipation and ready to get ALL the ideas down. I’m writing before I even get out of bed on Monday mornings. I can multi-task all day on Mondays, no problem.

I realized that it’s TGIM around here, not TGIF. I had to make changes accordingly!

Easier said than done.

Since I’m slow to see things that are right before my eyes, I first had to have this argument with myself. (We all do this, right? Argue with ourselves, weigh pros and cons, etc.?)

Here’s how my argument went:

  • Monday is my best workday now.
  • And?
  • Leaving the house on Monday interrupts my best workday.
  • Why not just stay home on Mondays?
  • Because it’s Monday. I have to go to the gym.
  • Why?
  • Because it’s Monday.
  • Really.
  • I always go to the gym on Monday.
  • Okay, but why?
  • It’s what I do! Kickboxing on Mondays and Wednesdays!! I love it!!!
  • That’s not a real reason.
  • Because… I need at least two cardio workouts per week.
  • Can you find an alternate day for the Monday cardio?
  • Well, yes. Fridays or Sundays would work.
  • Then do it.

End of argument. Why had I been reluctant – even afraid – to give up Monday evening workouts? Because changing a routine is scary when your mental health depends on the stability routines provide. But I was able to work through it.

I’ve had my boxing gloves hanging up in my office, and now that’s metaphorical as well as practical. I hung up my Monday night gloves for writing.

 

Writing-training balance: boxing gloves hanging in my office (along with my hats and kukui nut lei)

 

The process of making this decision turned out to be a good exercise (pun not intended), so I thought I’d share it with you who may also have a hard time making changes to your routines.

I followed this thought-path:

  • Recognize (when something isn’t working anymore.)
  • Think (of how to fix it.)
  • Detach (to make it easier.)
  • Consider solutions/alternatives.
  • Wait for the immediate “obstacles” to come to mind, because they will… then
  • think beyond them.
  • Think creatively.
  • Do this by asking yourself questions and answering honestly.

Some people would call this “Follow your heart.” Others would call it “Adjust your thinking.” I call it “Wake up and realize that you’re the only one stopping yourself from making changes in order to do what you need to do… you can do it.”

Making changes isn’t easy for we who need routine in order to keep ourselves stable; routine is necessary, but it can also be an impediment. It makes it hard to see when change is needed.

Now I just need to discipline myself to get my ass to the gym to do cardio on my own. That shouldn’t be difficult.

 

Another month has passed. (Writing updates!)

Is this going to be a regular thing, this monthly writing update posting? It’s been a month since the last time I sat here to write out loud to you my big-project progress.

Progress has been even slower than usual this last month. I’d say about an eighth of each writing session goes to research, which is par for the course, but it makes the writing seem slower, yet.

I tend to dream whatever I’m writing about at the moment; ergo, I’ve had some nightmares in the last few weeks.

It’s still strange to me that work can be so grueling and satisfying at the same time. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, no. I’m everlastingly grateful that I can do what I’m doing – what I love – and it’s worth the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears.

As far as word-count, I’ve altered my goal yet again. Surprise! Last time, I’d decided on 80,000 words. As of now, a target count of 70,000 makes more sense. This puts me at approximately 75% done, and I think that sounds accurate.

That’s right… this is my first novel, and I really have no idea what I’m doing. I never took a fiction class. Maybe I should have. Maybe it’s better that I didn’t. I don’t know.

I’m not going to concern myself further about whether this work is a novel or a novella in terms of word-count. This thing will probably end up being considered as a novel, regardless.

Thank you all once again for sticking with me throughout this process! Thank you for bearing with me as I present these reports. I know that they make for dry reading, but as I may have mentioned, writing them allows me to hold myself accountable while considering the situation in a big-picture frame.

Speaking of frames, Callaghan came in to hang out with me while I was working yesterday (I’d set myself a big deadline for late afternoon, and at some point, I realized the time and had to crank  it up), and while he was in here, he took my phone and walked around me taking pics while we chatted. I was at the point in my chapter where I could afford to talk while working… and he was at the point in his day, apparently, where he wanted to take pics and talk.

The lighting was poor (late afternoon daylight + the lamp sitting here next to me), and I wasn’t sitting still, so the pics are a little blurry. In fact, I didn’t even know he was stalking me when some of these pics were taken.

Beyond that, though, I do believe that the camera in my phone is heading for life support. Of late: my hair is dark, and it comes out light. There’s black lettering on a sticker, and the sticker comes out solid white. The sky is blue, and it also comes out solid white.

I’ve given up on trying to color-correct anything. Here, I just stuffed the pics into frames to wrap them up in neat little packages. (There.. that was my point when I said “speaking of frames.”) Does this mitigate the camera’s declining health? I may start doing this with all of my pics from here on out.

Yours truly, working and talking:

 

I don’t even remember what we were talking about here. (06/29/2017)

 

Writing update. (06/29/2017)

 

With that, I wish you all a happy weekend!

Throw-back poem: “Gold”

It’s been quite a while since I’ve offered a poetry post, I know! I thought I’d share a poem today for those of you interested in my older work, especially since some of you started reading here specifically for the poetry. As you know, I’m not posting new poems here these days, so back in time we go.

This poem, “Gold,” was first published in Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies. The issue was Volume 2, 2001; it looks like the journal’s work from that time is saved in PDF. I thought it would be easier, for the purpose of sharing the poem here, to take pics of the poem as it appears in my MFA practicum. I did get online to snip out the readily accessible abstract, though. (Once again, I redacted my former last name.)

 

Here’s the poem:

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this! It’s odd revisiting my older work. It seems longer ago than 16 years, and yet… 16 years?! That means 15 years since I graduated. Yikes. Time is a relentless creature.

Happy Tuesday, All!

Writing updates! (Part 2, aka The Real writing updates.)

This morning, I looked at where I’m standing with my main project, and I thought I’d put the conclusion here to share with you who may be interested in such a thing. Consider this a “writing updates part 2” post, since Tuesday’s “writing updates” post was about my office.

For me, this is a major reassessment/self-evaluation/progress report. I knew from the beginning that I’d one day take stock and then adjust my targeted word-count accordingly. That day has come! My updated word-count target is 80,000.

The break-down goes as such:

  • According to my hitherto targeted word-count of 60,000, I’m now 83% finished; I currently have around 49,823 words.
  • Based on my word-count average for completed chapters, I’m fathoming I still have somewhere around 20,000 words left to write.
  • Hence, my targeted word-count of 60,000 becomes 80,000.

This new target puts me at 62% finished at this moment. Thinking broadly of the material I have yet to cover (numbers aside), this seems more realistic.

Incidentally, a finished count of 80,000 words would place my project at the low end of a minimal word-count range generally accepted for a novel, and at the highest end of a word-count range for a novella.

I’ve been walking the line between novella and novel all this time. If the project does indeed end up at 80,000, it could be accepted as either. This wouldn’t be for me to decide. If anyone who could publish this work actually wants it, they would make that call.

The idea of a novella pleases me. Some of my favorite works are novellas: Albert Camus’ The Stranger. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. There’s also Animal Farm, Billy Budd, Heart of Darkness, Ethan Frome, A Clockwork Orange, A Christmas Carol, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I Am Legend, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The War of the Worlds – all of these and many more popular titles are novellas.

Mind you, I’m not comparing the stature of my project to that of the above-mentioned fine literary titles! I offer these titles as examples because they’re well-known.

At any rate, my project will be done when it’s done, and it’s not really my business to predict when that will be. It’s my business to tell the damn story. (The story has become something of a beast, therefore warranting strong language.) These projections help to keep me on track, but the work will get done, regardless.

And so the writing continues.

How am I feeling about all of this? As indicated in this selfie I took on the freeway last night:

 

Blurry, yet determined.

 

Blurrily determined, yes. That seems about right.

On that note… Happy Friday!

New office aesthetic. (Writing-related update!)

Recent major changes to my work environment prompted a request for pics, so I’m here to oblige! I’m on version 5 – my fifth office change over the last 14 months.

I always had an office in this house, but I didn’t always use it.

When I started writing full-time, I used the desk in the guest bedroom (v1). Then I  started working in my actual office (v2). A few months later, a situation arose that required kitty management, so to accommodate that, I moved my office set-up to the dining room (v3). Callaghan eventually moved his computer work from his office to my office, also because of the kitty situation. Then the kitty situation changed again, and we had houseguests, so I moved my office set-up into Callaghan’s office (v4). He stayed in my office. That was fine for both of us, but it was also temporary. Now, almost a year later, we’re finally back in our respective offices (v5). That’s what this past weekend was about.

It was an opportune time to overhaul my office. The theme I had in mind was no theme at all, so I stripped the room. I wanted as close to nothing as possible in here, and no color or décor. My behemoth of a desk went with Callaghan to his office (the desk was working really well for him) and only kept the futon, the cat tree, and the console table (because it bolsters the cat tree). I’m using my old German trunk as a desk.

I took almost everything down from the walls; I only left the small white shelf by the cat tree. My two plants remain on the side table, because they like it there. I removed the red futon cover and replaced it with an old sheet. It’s a queen-size futon, so our sheets fit perfectly.

In short, office version 5 (haha!) is neutral, minimal, and functional. My new work environment aesthetic is a non-aesthetic.

 

office work corner

 

Yes, I now work sitting on the floor. I’m in the corner, so I have eyes on both the window and the door. I’m still burning this particular candle because I like the ambient noise of the crackling fire produced by its wooden wicks.

 

office from behind the desk

 

That’s Nenette’s string toy on the floor to the left. My laptop and keyboard don’t quite fit on the surface of my old German trunk, but it works, and it’s very comfortable… until it’s not. Then I’m forced to get up, walk around, and stretch. That’s the idea!

 

office from the doorway

 

office – closet wall

 

I use that (hanging) black tote for writing-related dashes around town, when I need to carry papers, books, notebooks, etc.

 

office – Nenette in her crow’s nest

 

Nenette sleeps in her crow’s nest at the top of the cat tree most of the day.

 

hummingbird through the office window

 

I also have a good view of the hummingbirds as they come to drink from the feeder hanging from our patio awning.

There you have it! We’ll see how long this version of my office lasts.

 

Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell. (And Gen-X. And okayness.)

Man, I’m in a dark and strange mood this morning. I shouldn’t be. It’s gorgeous out there.

I live in Arizona and it’s May 19 and we’ve been sleeping with the windows open. It’s been like this for almost two weeks. The bedroom air is slightly chilly in the morning, so I reach for a light robe. This bizarre behavior can only mean one thing: we’re entering a new Ice Age.

It’s not just at night, either. After I get up, I go around the house and open one or two other windows and the front door, and leave them open for a good half-day, if not longer. I open them again in the evenings. This, my friends in other places, is paradise. We desert-dwellers love the desert, but we also love an unseasonably cool breeze through our security screen doors.

For posterity, here’s me this morning:

 

May 19, 2017 – in a light sweatshirt. In Arizona.

 

At the same time, awful things have been happening in the world, including the recent and tragic departure of Chris Cornell, whose widespread fame was launched with his Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. His death was not only shocking and sad, but also somewhat alarming for we “lost ones” of Generation X.

When you spend your childhood in the 70’s, your teens in the 80’s, and your twenties in the 90’s –and when the 90’s was your favorite decade, and Ten is one of your all-time favorite albums – the untimely deaths of icons like Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell are sobering. It makes you want to watch Singles (older Gen-Xers), Reality Bites (younger Gen-Xers), and Office Space all day, kicked back on the couch eating chips and not looking for a job, all of us stereotypical, slovenly losers and slackers of Generation X.

Should I complete my own stereotype as a Gen-X writer and install a coffee pot on my desk?

Should I stare off into space and then write a letter? (“Dear Eddie Vedder: please don’t.”)

But I’m lucky. My depression is under control. I’m okay. We’re okay. Everything is okay. Everything is fine, despite global shenanigans at the highest levels of power, shenanigans of which there’s no need to speak. It’s like that one meme… that one where the dog is sitting in a house that’s burning down around him, and then he perks up and says, “This is fine.”

That’s a sign of our times, though, isn’t it? “Okay” and “fine” have long since been code for “things aren’t exactly hunky-dory.”  

“How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“JUST okay?”

Commence questioning all of your life choices as you’re prompted to consider why you said just “okay.” You can’t be okay if you say you’re okay, because okay isn’t good enough. To tell the well-meaning inquirer that you’re okay is to send yourself an invitation to spill all of your not-okayness right there in the office hallway on your way to the water cooler.

Is this the product of a society defined by extremes? If we’re not flying high on the vaporous joy of life at all times, then something is wrong?

I’ll take “okay.”

Maybe this entire post was a sort of tangent. Maybe I just wanted to say, Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell.

 

 

Change of scenery. (Writing life updates.)

I figured it’s time for a writing update!

Since last time, the writing life action over here has mostly involved changes in the house… namely, the migration of my office again. Some rearranging’s been done chez nous.

I’m now set up in Callaghan’s former office/current art and supply room. Callaghan is still in my former office – basically, we’ve switched offices. The dining area has resumed its original purpose, but The Americans poster still hangs on its wall. We’ll leave it there for now. The house is having an identity crisis. In the midst of the room-switching, we painted the kitchen wall red (no more graffiti wall – all good things come to an end). After that, we ripped out the carpet from the living room and hall and installed flooring. Then we painted the large, main wall in the hallway bathroom black.

As for my writing progress? I’m currently working on chapter 18 of the project. I’ve got about 200 pages and 45,298 words. The writing is on hold until Monday, but things are moving along!

In the most frivolous of writing news, I took the customary selfie at my desk on my first day in my new office:

 

May 3, 2017 (first day in my new office!)

 

The main thing to note here is that the lighting is better than it was in the dining area. As usual, there’s no filter or other shenanigans going on with this pic; the lighting comes from the window on the west wall to my left. This makes the room a wonderful place for writing. It isn’t aggressively bright – no direct sunlight – but my laptop sits in the path of the illumination, and it’s perfect. Funny how little things like that make a difference!

The most important part of the office-switch, though, is that now I’m in one of Nenette’s favorite rooms, so she’s in here with me pretty much all day! Furbaby in the office – ideal office.

Happy weekend, All!

A year later… (looking back)

Friday was the anniversary of my Major Life Change… it was a year from the day I quit my job and made a commitment to take on this writing project. I made the change on the cusp of spring (Happy Spring!), and the timing couldn’t have been more auspicious. Who doesn’t love fresh, shiny, new beginnings?

Of course we had to celebrate.

We kept it low-key, because that’s how we roll. We went for a lunch date on Friday at our favorite place near Callaghan’s work, and then for a movie date over the weekend. It was a good excuse to see John Wick 2, which I’d been wanting to see.

But I digress! Where am I a year later? I’ve been checking in with updates here and there over the last 12 months, but to recap:

Physically speaking, I’ve taken over the Room Formerly Known As Our Dining Room when the Room Formerly Known As My Office became Cita’s Room.

(“Physically speaking” is hugely important to me. I could take my laptop around the house and write, and I’ve done that and still do that, but I’m a person who needs to be grounded somewhere.)

This began innocuously enough, with just my electronics appearing on the dining room table. Things snowballed from there. I’ve even decorated the area according to my project’s theme. Writing is an art, a craft, a discipline, so if the environment needs to comply, one needs to pay attention, right?

 

After a year of writing, and everything that goes with it….

 

Some of my comfort zones have been left behind, too. Instead of having a fixed work schedule, I wake up to a unique day every day, and that’s a good thing, because it allows for fluid productivity, and fluidity is unforced. My creative energy has free reign.

I’ve recognized that for me, this kind of writing is a 24/7 job, and I’ve come to embrace that. It’s an ongoing exercise in recognizing my best hours for concentrated writing. The discipline lies in treating those times as sacred.

There’s continual reading and investigating and learning, a part of the process as a whole. For a year I’ve been eyeballs-deep in crash course after crash course on a hundred different subjects. My brain is swollen with information and (like all writers) I hope my search engine history goes unnoticed, but I haven’t felt more mentally stimulated since grad school over 15 years ago.

(The downside to this is that I’m in my head more, which doesn’t always translate to seamless social interaction. I’m flightier than ever, for one thing.)

The only concrete temporal structure I have in my week is my blog posting schedule and my gym class schedule, and that structure is non-negotiable, especially the gym part. If I don’t make it to the gym, it’s for medical or transportation reasons, or the occasional scheduling conflict.

This work has been challenging and tough from the standpoint of mental well-being, too, but it’s been positive, overall. I owe Callaghan a debt of gratitude for nudging me onto this path in the first place, and for being my number one support system and a faithful reader of the material. Also, thank you all so much for reading here and for accompanying me on this journey!

Writing area chat – the space around us.

The other day, a friend who’s also a writer wrote in Facebook: “Today in writing news, I rearranged my room and made a reading corner.”

For those of us who know him, this is on par with his usual witty and droll FB fare. If we’re fellow writers, we also glance at his post and immediately get it in a serious sense. The smallest change to a writing room, area, or environment has everything to do with the craft of writing, and it can make a powerful difference. A change as small as placing your coffee mug on the right side instead of the left can impact your writing. A change of scenery, however small, can engender creative energy and inspiration.

I have a home-base office for writing where I work most of the time, but sometimes I take my laptop to the living room. Sometimes out to the patio. Sometimes to use our bed as a lounge chair during the day (though rarely).

Some writers need a constantly changing environment. Some need the background bustle of a coffee shop. Even then, there are changes… even if you sit at the same table at the same coffee shop at the same time every day, the environment is different each time because the people around you are different. There’re always the variables of how many people are around, where they’re sitting, how loudly they’re talking, the sounds of traffic on the street, etc.

When I read my friend’s post, I was inspired to share the latest change to my own writing environment, since I’ve shared my space as it’s changed at least twice in the last 11 months. This time, I removed the tablecloth from my writing table.

 

Writing table without tablecloth

Writing table without tablecloth

 

I don’t have a “before” pic, but imagine the same table draped in beige-gold fabric. The clutter effect changes dramatically.

In the last year, I’ve moved my writing set-up from one room to another (three room changes), and in my current writing space, the tablecloth on the table had changed three times. Now there’s no cloth, and it’s the best yet. I no longer have to straighten the cloth from where it’d bunched up beneath my keyboard, or readjust the laptop along with it. Tablecloths on glass tables slide. An elbow on the tablecloth will move it. The straightening-out is constant and distracting. The cloth becomes as much a focus as the writing.

Finally, you realize that you can just remove it.

The writing.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a dear friend who asked me how the writing was going. From the start of this endeavor, my answer to that question would’ve been different with each passing day. Responding to the question yesterday, though, I realized how much the answer has evolved. I’ve arrived at a point of understanding some immutable realities of big-project writing, which include knowing that the learning process will continue, and I’ll continue to grow and adapt.

I said to my friend that the writing is hard. It’s harder than any work I’ve done in my career of sitting behind desks in the professional capacities I’ve filled, and it’s led me to learn a lot about myself that I wasn’t expecting to learn.

Not to my surprise, I’m also learning a lot about the writing process in the framework of a serious commitment, though I am surprised by the extent of this education. For instance, I didn’t suspect that writing would demand more thinking work than actual writing work. For me, the most significant work happens when my fingers are nowhere near a keyboard. In the last six months, I’ve spent endless hours thinking and strategizing, researching and making decisions, trashing those decisions and making new ones.

One stereotypical image of a writer’s life is a frustrated writer sitting at a desk, perhaps with a case of writer’s block or blank page syndrome, as you will, and a wastepaper basket across the room. The writer types, rips the page from the typewriter, crumples it up, and throws it in the direction of the basket. At the end of the day, the basket is full to overflowing with trashed balls of paper, and the writer is still sitting at the typewriter, surrounded by more balls of paper scattered on the desk amongst empty coffee mugs and tufts of yanked-out hair.

We have computers now, so if I had a wastepaper basket on the other side of my writing room, it would be filled to overflowing with discarded decisions and ideas and word choices. I would be buried up to my throat in heaps of writing debris left in the wake of my learn-as-I-go process, strategies trashed along with my premature glee at having surmounted some impasse.

Writing (as a primary occupation) is not a nine-to-five. It’s a 24/7 job, and one has to be self-motivated. I’m working in my head when I’m in the shower and in the car. I’m working while I’m pacing around the house, and when I’m talking “to my cat.” I know it sounds funny, but some of my conversations with Nenette and Cita have resulted in big progress gains. Fur-babies are excellent soundboards; talking through problems with them has produced many a solution. For me, at least 40% of the writing work is thinking work. (Okay, in all honesty, I do talk to myself more now than ever.)

Some days, I write for four to six hours. Some days, I write for 10, 20, 30 minutes. And a day with no writing at all isn’t a day off. A day with no writing is a day of thinking work, and it’s exhausting. The whole project is exhausting. I have sparks of inspiration at midnight and sparks of inspiration before the sun rises. I’m up at 5:30am every day, if not earlier. My posts in this blog have been more likely to be late since quitting my nine-to-five, and I’m still not sleeping enough.

But I’m not complaining. I love this work. It’s my passion, my art, my livelihood, and by that, I mean the thing that makes me feel alive. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m grateful that I’m able to do it full-time. I’m grateful for the support and encouragement lent by family and friends, especially by Callaghan.

I suppose all writers live this way… obsessed with their projects day and night, agonizing over the smallest details. All artists, may I add.

Here’s what an honest pie chart representing my writing “day” looks like:

 

kristis-typical-writing-day-pie-chart

 

A few points about the chart!

  • The chart represents my main-project writing day. It doesn’t include blogging and other writing.
  • “Thinking” includes NOT thinking. I find it necessary to not think about the writing for a period of time so that I can return to it with a clear head.
  • “Procrastinating” doesn’t feel so much like procrastinating, since my mind is working on my project while I’m doing things around the house that need to get done, anyway.
  • None of this is to say that there are never times that I’m not working. I do my share of errands, appointments, lunches out, social media, etc.

I can stop thinking about my project when I’m at the gym. I can stop thinking about it when I’m engrossed in a book or in a movie or an episode of some television series or another. I can stop thinking about it when I’m with Callaghan. I can leave the project behind to be in those moments.

The short answer to the question How is the writing going? is “The writing is hard. But it’s going well.”

Throw-back poem: “Canon of Disassembling an Iceberg” (+ writing updates)

The writing’s been going well, i.e. shenanigans abound… in a good way. So,

Thing 1: Big project writing updates, in brief.

  • 30% through, if my targeted 60,000 word count estimate is accurate. That remains to be seen.
  • I’m about to start the third section, where the main action will get underway. This is encouraging. (I’ve arrived at this point!)
  • Now using Scrivener as a secondary tool, and it’s awesome.
  • Still working at the dining room table, but I’ve been migrating my workstation to the back patio to write out there several hours each day.
  • Currently listening to Russian music to get my head in the right place.
  • But still need total silence as I write.
  • I’ve stopped with the iced coffees; my current afternoon beverage of choice is flavored l’eau gazeuse. (sparkling water)

and

Thing 2: (Still) no longer posting new poems here, I’ve got another old one for you who enjoy my poetry and/or come here specifically for that. This poem, “Canon of Disassembling an Iceberg,” was first published in Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts of Virginia Commonwealth University.

I wrote “Canon of Disassembling an Iceberg” in 2010, and it appeared in Blackbird’s Spring 2011 edition.

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-blackbird

 

 

Being more recent, this poem was published with my current name, so I didn’t black it out (my last name, that is).

Without further ado!

 

KRISTI GARBOUSHIAN

Canon of Disassembling an Iceberg

How about this: first
I’ll jolt the gutter,
ache for its town
without mourning—
nothing is unfixable
in light of the inevitable.

Then I’ll taste the blood
you left on the letter opener.

You’re gone;

you’ve always been gone,
disregarding speed
limits on the tundra,
tearing perforated ice—

you’re an assassin
going after sedge, slow
process of lichen
deforestation
truncating the philosophers’
question, yet pruning
their terraces of syllogisms
and proofs.

It’s a brain-wringing experience.

If I could hear
the bones of the hunted,
feel underpinnings of hunger,
see plasma and red cells
pull apart,
then touching the place
you used to be
could inspire me in the night.

I wait for New Year’s,
for tundra to become ocean.
We’ll say, let’s screw
the champagne,
pop vodka instead.

December 31st,
you’re still gone,
overlooking the sedge.
Your email wants to know
my resolution.

I say it’s to towel dry
an entire submarine.

Pain turns
everything bright,
but anger brings
dark where I can see.
I prefer ire to grief,
indignation to sorrow—
territories I know

well into the reaches
of my own stories.
You won’t
find me there.
What’s light in your eyes
becomes darkness in mine.
Unseen, untracked,
I disappear.  end

 

End of month writing updates!

Whoa. This week went fast. That’s what happens when you spend half of it anticipating the next episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke.

That aside, I’ve got another writing progress post for you today, in brief. Things are going well!

The current picture is, I now have:

–27% of the project done, if its length is going to end up in the neighborhood I’m thinking. Take that for what it’s worth, like I am; honestly, I don’t think I’ll know what the book’s length will be until I write the last word. I didn’t get ahead much this week in terms of word count, but I got a lot done in terms of the non-writing writing work.

–Scrivener in my toolbox, once again. Since my last update here, I’ve figured out how Scrivener can serve me, and it’s doing a bang-up job.

–Tobacco Cedar candle scent in my writing area, because it’s fall (single double-digit temps!), and a masculine fragrance redolent of cooler weather gets me into the right mood for this project.

–Russian music I gleaned from Soundcloud and collected onto a playlist. This is a continuing process that I’m enjoying quite a bit. Again, it’s strategic.

–New décor in my writing area, also to the end of setting me in the right head-space: a). a small painting of Jesus (Orthodox), which I dug out of a box in the back of a closet – an ex-girlfriend of Callaghan’s brought it back to him from Romania years ago, and b) my The Americans poster that Callaghan ordered for me a while back, which I’ve finally framed.

–Speaking of writing area, I’m still using the dining room. (Dining room? What dining room?)

 

Desk detail.

Desk detail.

 

The table at which we used to eat continues to hold my laptop and its paraphernalia, along with odds and ends that get me through the day, such as eye drops, lip balm, nail clippers, and toothpicks. Two glasses of water, one for me, and one for Nenette… because if there is a cat, she will end up on your desk and try to drink your water no matter what, so you might as well preemptively provide her with her own. Callaghan is being wonderfully understanding about all of this. I dare say he’s even digging it.

Thus, I’m taking creeping steps toward completion. I don’t foresee that I’ll feel the need to engage in this level of atmosphere construction when I undertake my next project. This current work happens to be a period piece, so the props are helpful.

That’s it for now. Happy Friday!

Throw-back poem: “Woman Ironing” (+ writing updates)

A couple of things to share with you today…

Thing 1: Big project writing updates, in brief.

  • Roughly 20% of the way done. Not as far along as I’d like it to be at this point.
  • In my defense, 50% of the work happens in my head, away from the computer. (Actually, a lot of the thinking work happens in the shower.)
  • Not using Scrivener.
  • Set up shop on our dining room table due to feline-related shenanigans, but sometimes migrate around with the laptop. An occasional change of scenery is helpful.
  • Made an 80’s playlist for related reasons, but only listen to it on breaks.
  • Need total silence while writing.
  • Afternoon iced café au lait greatly anticipated.

 

Thing 2: Honoring a couple of requests, I’ve got another poetry throwback for you. Like the last one, this was first published in a journal… because when you’re in grad school getting your MFA in Creative Writing, you’re strongly encouraged to submit work; the process is an unofficial part of your education.

LUNGFULL! magazine is a literary and art journal that’s especially interesting because they request a rough draft of your poem along with its final version. They print the two versions side-by-side so readers can see a fragment of the creative process.

I wrote “Woman Ironing” in 2000, and it appeared in LUNGFULL! magazine in 2001.

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-wipoemcover

 

 

“Woman Ironing” was inspired by – and titled after – my favorite Pablo Picasso work. Picasso painted “Woman Ironing” during his Blue Period in 1904.

 

"Woman Ironing," Pablo Picasso, 1904

“Woman Ironing,” Pablo Picasso, 1904

 

 

 

That being said! Here is the poem, with my then-last name blacked out, as before…

“Woman Ironing” [Click on the images to enlarge them into readability]

 

["Woman Ironing" Kristi (now Garboushian) LUNGFULL! magazine number eleven]

[“Woman Ironing” Kristi (now Garboushian) LUNGFULL! magazine number eleven]

[2nd page - "Woman Ironing" Kristi (now Garboushian) LUNGFULL! magazine number eleven]

[2nd page – “Woman Ironing” Kristi (now Garboushian) LUNGFULL! magazine number eleven]

 

Happy Friday!

Bloggy maintenance.

Totally hypothetical question: What would you do if at 4:00am you heard a very loud, repetitive noise that sounded like someone attacking a car with a sledgehammer, but when you rush to the window, you see it’s a half-naked guy violently slamming his head repeatedly onto the trunk of the car parked across the street? Would you think flakka? Would you call 911 even if his buddy is there with him?

Just wondering.

The semester has begun. More than 51,000 students are enrolled at the university down the street. To my knowledge, flakka hasn’t yet been reported in AZ, but thousands of out-of-state students have arrived this month. You never know.

That aside, I’ve got some bloggity administrative updates for you today. Riveting, I know, but I’ve made some changes, and what’s the point in doing that if there’s no memo to go with it?

Mainly, the sidebar here got an overhaul. I uncluttered it by way of removing categories, consolidating other categories, and reducing my external link list by more than half. At the same time, I added a Facebook module for my writerly FB account. Even with that addition, the sidebar has been shortened and simplified. That was the goal.

So, on the right, from the top down, you have:

–Welcome pic of Yours Truly… same one that’s been there since 2014.

–A button to subscribe to TALC.

–A Facebook app connected to the FB account I created for writing-related posts, which can include goals, progress, and miscellany. Once or twice a week, I’ll go to one of my bookshelves, select a book at random, and pull out a quote that inspires me or gets me thinking in a different way. Hit the “Like” button to follow that Facebook page, if you’re so inclined.

 

Living room bookshelf, in disarray, as usual.

Living room bookshelf, in disarray, as usual.

 

–Instagram.

–Twitter.

–Garage Gym pic, below which I’ve put the module for my martial arts & fitness category. The pic is just there because I wanted it to accompany the category, but I can’t embed it into the module.

–Next: Pop culture. I consolidated two categories into one module. Opinion posts about movies and television are mostly my non-review reviews, and Reacher ramblings are my obsession-fueled posts about Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher novels.

–Next: What I’m digging right now, aka monthly favorites posts, wherein I share things I enjoyed in the month that just ended. Mostly, this consists of discoveries in the vegan processed food world. I am a fan of fresh, whole foods, but I’m also partial to processed crap, and that’s the stuff I usually like to share. I do read labels and look for the healthiest crap I can find. Also, I’ll list favorite T.V. series and movies from the month, if any. Occasionally, I’ll talk about cruelty-free products and other random things I’ve found.

–Next: Links… my list of links to cool people who have sites for their art, business, passion, etc. The list has been truncated by a lot, since most of what was there before was obsolete. Yeah, this clean-up needed to happen. The links list will be expanding soon; it’s a work in progress.

–Below that, a list of recent posts.

–Finally, the copyright blurb.

That’s all I’ve got today! Until Tuesday, then.