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.

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.

 

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.

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!

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.

 

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.

Year in review, looking ahead, and my favorite little things (2016 favorites!)

Happy New Year! I know I probably already said that, but “Happy New Year” again. This is my annual year-in-review/resolutions/favorites of my past year’s favorites post.

1). 2016 was exciting, but I don’t have to be wistful about it because the good things are continuing into 2017.

I’m still heartened with deep satisfaction from the life changes I was able to make in 2016. It was a particularly great year occupation-wise. About this, I can only say that I’m thankful every day to experience the feeling of vitality the luckiest people feel when they wake up driven and eager because they know they’re going to spend the day doing what they love, where and how they love doing it. Any work-related stress I experience is self-imposed, productive stress. I keep thinking this is all a splendiferous dream. I’m aware that I may have to wake up one day, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

Fitness-wise, adding (Les Mills) Body Pump to my workout routine was the best thing I did in 2016. It took me almost the whole year to get here, but I finally did, and I. Am. Loving. It.

The year was rich and rewarding family-wise, too. We spent lovely time with my family (between my brother’s wedding and Thanksgiving), and it was fun ending the year with my sister-in-law and her boys during their longish visit.

One thing we did with them was the annual Phoenix Zoo Lights, which is great, anyway, but so especially awesome with kids!

 

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016

 

With Legoland now open down the way at Arizona Mills (where we also went with the kids), Legos were featured in this year’s Zoo Lights:

 

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016 (with Lego sculpture)

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016 (with Lego sculpture)

 

On the darker side of 2016: It was a hard year in terms of our furbabies. It involved upheaval, heartbreak, and a lot of time, effort, and money spent trying to make life good for our kitties. It’s not over, but we’re determined. Our focus at the moment is on healing Cita physically. After that, we can focus entirely on healing her emotionally, with the ultimate goal of integrating her into our household with Nenette… yes, we’re going to attempt that again. We are not going to give up.

We’re already doing what we can to make Cita’s environment as stress-free as possible – putting Feliway (comforting feline pheromones) in her air, and Bach Rescue Remedy in her water – so we’re off to a running start. Reducing her stress is helping her to heal, in general.

2). Looking ahead at 2017, I am:

–Starting out the year with an updated workout routine, doing 3 Body Pump classes and 2 Body Combat classes per week, instead of the other way around. It was time for a change, and my body is loving it!

–Continuing work on alleviating (if not overcoming) my PTSD-related claustrophobia via repeated trips to the sensory deprivation tank.

–Speaking more French at home, since I completely failed last year’s resolution and spoke practically no French.

3). I usually do a “favorites of the past year” list; continuing with the tradition, here’s my list of my favorite of my 2016 favorites!

Favorite Random:

  • Les Mills Body Pump
  • Nature’s Wick Bonfire Nights candle

Favorite Skin care, hair care, cosmetics (all cruelty-free… not tested on animals):

  • Derma e antioxidant natural sunscreen with clear zinc oxide SPF 30
  • OGX Healing + Vitamin E shampoo and conditioner
  • The Body Shop Honey and Oat 3 in 1 moisturising scrub mask
  • The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil
  • The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter
  • e.l.f. Flawless Finish foundation (in Sand)
  • e.l.f. High Definition Powder in Soft Luminescence
  • e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette

Favorite Foods (all vegan):

  • Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry kiwi)
  • Bragg’s organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough (with sunflower and sesame seed) bread
  • Eureka! Seeds the Day bread
  • Seedless red grapes
  • KIND Nuts and Spices bar (dark chocolate nuts and sea salt)
  • Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter
  • Chipotle Tabasco sauce

Favorite Movies:

  • Hush
  • Ghostbusters
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hacksaw Ridge

Favorite T.V. series:

  • Orphan Black
  • The Americans
  • Empire
  • The Affair
  • American Horror Story: Roanoke
  • Better Call Saul
  • Bates Motel
  • Stranger Things
  • Black-ish
  • Speechless

That’s it for the wrap-up. Onward!

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.”

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!

How I manage my mental illness.

I’ve touched on some of this in various posts in the past, but I’ve been asked to share an actual list of tactics I use to maintain my mental health.

First of all, I accept that PTSD and clinical depression are a part of who I am. Mental illness and the management of it are “my normal,” and this acceptance helps a lot.

It also helps to accept the fact that just as there are great days, there are horrible days, and days ranging between the two. Sometimes, all the meds and talk therapy and things on the list below just aren’t enough. When this happens, I try to recognize that “this, too, shall pass,” keeping it all in perspective. (I know that this is so much easier said than done. I can say it easily now, when I’m not at the bottom of the abyss of hopelessness and despair. All we can do is try.)

That being said, here’s my list… things I do to manage my mental illness:

1). I avoid alcohol (with few exceptions).

Alcohol is a depressant. It also counters or otherwise negatively interacts with medications taken for mental illness. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis is never advisable for the mentally ill.

2). I take medication and talk to my therapist on a regular basis.

Meds and talk therapy are basic, first-line tactics of controlling mental illness. It’s critically important to adhere to such a routine and to have my external resources at hand. I regularly visit my doctor at the V.A. hospital, and I know that I always have access to emergency help at a national veterans’ crisis line.

3). I work out and try to eat well (within reason, making sure to maintain a healthy balance).

Exercise heightens our mood by way of its effect on our brain chemistry. It leads to improved physical fitness, which improves our physical health. (For this reason, more and more companies are including gym membership coverage fees in their employees’ benefits packages.) Improved physical health reduces stress and makes us feel more energetic and better about ourselves, in general. Choosing healthier food options most of the time comprises the other half of this picture.

4). I have routines, and I stick to them.

Routines are underestimated and even sneered upon. We like to say that spontaneity is critical to quality of life, and there is certainly something to that, but the fact is that routine can provide us with mental health benefits, too. Routines are valuable. They can be soothing when everything else is chaos. Routines can give us a sense of control and accomplishment.

5). I eliminate toxic factors in my life (to the best of my ability).

The word “toxic” is overused in our current vocabulary (instigated, I suspect, by self-help gurus, but that’s beside the point) – and yet, it captures this point well. In a nutshell, a toxic factor is that which makes us feel badly about ourselves. It’s a negative and destructive force and presence in our lives.

Toxic factors can include situations, places, and/or people and relationships. It’s not always possible to eliminate such factors; when we can’t, we can seek out ways to lessen their negative impact. I recently liberated myself from an utterly demoralizing situation, and that leap hugely improved my mental health and quality of life.

6). I engage my creative energy to the fullest extent possible.

If you have creative juices, let them flow. If you have hobbies, indulge in them. If you don’t have a hobby, get one. Losing ourselves in the physical act of doing something we enjoy goes beyond mere escapism. It often involves honing talents with which we’ve been blessed. The act of doing something physical that requires the creative part of our brains is beneficial to our mental health. There’s a reason why occupational therapy is a part of an in-patient mental illness patient’s prescribed agenda.

7). I have cats.

Connecting with animals on an emotional level and caring for them has proven to be a powerful stress reducer, improving our mental and physical health. Our relationships with our pets can actually extend our lives, improve the quality of our lives, and even save our lives. I can’t think of anything that can compare to cultivating the love and trust of an animal. (I say “animal,” but this applies to birds and fish, too.)

 

Nounours: Please to not underestimate the healing powers of my purrs.

Nounours: Please to not underestimate the healing powers of my purrs.

 

8). I actively express my compassion for others in one way or another, however small.

Example: I don’t have time to physically go and volunteer at homeless shelters, so I choose to do my part by providing with water. I make sure to have one or two small bottles of cold water with me when I leave the house, especially in the hot months.

We buy generic water in bulk, keep the bottles in the refrigerator, and give them to the homeless when we see them on the street or at a red light. (Admittedly, I try to identify those homeless who are vets, though I’ll give water to any homeless person, of course.) Every time, without fail, the person takes the bottle of cold water with visible – sometimes overwhelming – gratitude and joy, which they express in such an open and heartfelt manner that I’m instantly put in empathetic touch with their plight. Water is never an unwelcome thing. The person usually opens it and chugs it immediately.

Kindness is invaluable for the human spirit.

Giving water to drink means and accomplishes much more than giving change or a dollar. Giving water with a smile is an act that says, “I recognize that you’re a human being and deserving of this basic, life-saving thing. Someone cares about you and your well-being.” I don’t think it’s necessary to explain how showing compassion to the needy can be anything but beneficial to all involved.

9). I set goals for myself and plan things to anticipate.

I believe I devoted an entire blog post to this. Having agenda items to look forward to is a pleasurable thing. It can also, in the worst of times, give us a reason to keep on keeping on.

10). I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. (Still trying. Still mostly failing. But still trying).

This can’t be stressed enough: Adequate sleep and quality sleep are important for optimal physical and mental health and well-being.

11). I count my blessings and nurture my relationships with loved ones.

One word: Gratitude.

Being grateful for what we have – and who we have – is an incredibly powerful reminder that things could always be worse.

 

Keeping it real.

Keeping it real.

 

That sums it up: In addition to acceptance, meds, and professional talk therapy, I manage my mental illness by working on physical health, stress reduction, and gratitude. I try.

Writing Project: Not all who wander are lost. (+ note on fitness routine!)

Er… about that big writing project I started a few years ago. I dragged it off the back burner. Don’t get all excited – it’s embryonic; it doesn’t look like anything yet. Eventually, it will look like a novel. (I hope.)

I’ve put together a loose agenda that includes a loose daily word count goal and a loose deadline. Everything has to be loose, because everything, as Heraclitus said, is in flux. You can’t nail down that which is in flux, and I’m not even going to try.

In my experience, creativity and prioritizing cancel each other out. Maybe it’s better to say that creativity often sabotages prioritizing, and prioritizing sabotages creativity. In the last few weeks, I’ve found that setting myself up for that clash (by attempting to prioritize my creative writing projects) shorts my brain connections and I wind up going around the house like a droid opening the mail, of all things, and organizing my workout clothing drawers and emptying the dishwasher and making playlists on SoundCloud and so on.  You know. A rose by any other name is still procrastination.

So instead of fixed times, my agenda holds broad ranges of dedicated writing time, and I can shift between the project, poetry, and blog posts (which includes taking pics) as inspiration strikes me.

I’m setting my focus on that big project, though. I purchased a Scrivener license to help manage the ungainliness of it. I even did the full-length version of their interactive tutorial. If it sounds like I mean business this time, it’s because I do!

Nenette’s involvement is essential because I don’t have a choice in that matter.

 

All the water is Nenette's water.

All the water is Nenette’s water.

 

I’m happy to be in a position where I have to apply time-management strategies to solely creative projects. It’s a new challenge, and a very welcome one, at that.

Also, I’ve been thinking about dragging you along on my journey… any of you who may be interested, that is. Sharing the process with you may come with a side benefit of holding myself accountable for progress. I’ll see how things develop as I establish a rhythm!

Note on training:

In addition to my writing schedule, I’ve been hammering out a workout schedule supplemental to Body Combat three times a week. I’ve started a habit of beginning my days at the gym in order to re-create the daily walk I did when I was transporting myself to a job outside of the house. Getting to work used to involve 20 minutes of fasting cardio Monday-Friday, and my body loved it. Fasting cardio is somewhat controversial and not for everyone, but it works for me, so I’ve added that back into my life by going to the gym and walking on the treadmill (and doing a little on the stair-master) before breakfast every weekday morning.

ALSO-also! I’ve been taking 30-40 minutes out of my lunch hour to lift weights in the garage. New Year’s resolution strength-training finally underway, for real! I’ll still post martial arts/combat sports posts here since some of you enjoy those, but just to check in on that New Year’s resolution – the strength-training has been going well. It’s feeling really good to stick to that commitment.

Powers that be (Haiku 7: Power)

Questions I asked myself all week: Does power always, in every circumstance, corrupt? Is power breakable? What would it take to break chains of power, and would it take a super hero or a super villain to break them?

In these new haiku, I explore the correlation between power and corruption.

 

Haiku 7: Power

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Grand tribulation:

oak doors hewn by elected

justice. Reckoning.

 

Power of position

Power of position

 

2.

Preternatural –

czars savoring backfire,

litanies of blood.

 

Power of risk

Power of risk

 

3.

Gold, palladium…

lustrous, incorruptible,

soft nobility.

 

Power of heritage

Power of heritage

 

4.

Ravishing spittoon:

molten glass posterity.

Inheritable.

 

Power of fortune

Power of fortune

 

In a lighter vein, the week wound back down to normalcy after the in-laws departed. It was a good visit. We took them to typical Arizona places (i.e. Tombstone, Sedona), and they ventured down into the Grand Canyon. They saw a fraction of what Arizona has to offer… one really needs more than a week to take in all of its splendors. Our guests enjoyed what little they experienced.

Skeletons in the closet (Office revamp – the unabridged version)

At present, joyous times are being had with our houseguests (my in-laws) from France, who will stay with us a few more days yet. All manner of general housecleaning needed to be done before they arrived, but I spent the better part of last week taking apart my office, sorting through unwanted miscellany (“garbage,” “recycle,” “Goodwill”), and putting the room back together.

Most of the action took place beneath the surface in the closet and drawers, so the room itself doesn’t look much different now than it did last week. Even so, it’s different to my eyes, which had beheld the spectacle of the room’s innards strewn about on the floor and piled up on furniture over the few days it took me to analyze it all. I felt like a forensics investigator. What has been seen cannot be unseen, as they say. It was a lot of crap.

The terrain of my desk changed slightly when I added a lamp, which makes all the difference. This is now my full-time work environment, so my office needed a desk lamp more than the dining nook did. (Another lamp has taken its place in the dining nook, anyway.)

You knew where this was leading… I’ve got the photographic tour here for anyone who may be interested, such as you fine readers who’d asked about my Table of Death when I mentioned it a week ago. It started as a raucous, dark joke with a friend when I showed her the table and realized just then that a Dia de los Muertos bag hangs in that corner (pure happenstance, which prompted the hilarity – you had to be there). Laughing about it helped to mitigate the somberness of that part of the room, but it helped further when another friend asked to see the table and called it a “Table of Remembrance.” So, yeah. I like pairing that brighter perspective with the dark humor one.

Enough about that. 360 office tour ahoy!

As seen from the doorway:

 

inside left corner (desk)

inside left corner (desk)

 

Desk (top view)

Desk (top view)

 

Desk corner detail: Valentine's Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan "not cal" by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

Desk corner detail:
Valentine’s Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan
“not cal” by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

 

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

 

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

 

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

 

Wall to the right (closet)

Wall to the right (closet)

 

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

 

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

 

This concludes our tour. I won’t be needing to cover a door window in this office, but the door here stays open, anyway.

Dusting off secrets (Haiku 6: Shadows)

Without preamble, I’ll go ahead and acknowledge that this set of haiku turned out to be just the faintest bit… creepy? Spooky? It wasn’t intentional, I swear. Not that I mind it in the least, though. I’m fond of creepy and spooky, and I like that these haiku came out this way of their own accord. Classical haiku has a way of taking on lives of their own within the 5-7-5 structure.

 

Haiku 6: Shadows

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Patterns will shelter

the historic, ancestral,

extinguished, entombed.

 

Shadow tree

Shadow tree

 

2.

Prehistoric ghost

running Santa Monica

stairs, eyeteeth intact.

 

Shadow bike

Shadow bike

 

3.

Indeterminate

aging, voiceless between your

guardians… landlocked.

 

Shadow fence

Shadow fence

 

4.

Palpable swivel:

alleles in a basin,

suspended in space.

 

Shadow self

Shadow self

 

In other news, we’ll have family visiting from France this week. They’re coming in tomorrow. I sense a whirlwind of housecleaning activity in today’s forecast… always a great side benefit of visitors!

Halloween Merriment (and the unexpected adventures of Callaghan’s butt)

Happy Halloween Eve!

Callaghan and I have been celebrating Halloween all week, wanting to make up for the fact that we’ll be apart on the actual holiday. He left yesterday for a 12-day business trip in France (Normandy)… so yes, the week-long celebration was necessary. Priorities.

Actually, we’ve been in Halloween celebration mode all month.

I have no Halloween plans for tomorrow. At first I wanted to go to SCARIZONA Scaregrounds with a friend, but then I chickened out re-thought that plan because they promise to prey on “every possible phobia,” and there’s no way I’m risking the possibility of roaches (real or not). I’m thinking roachaphobia is common enough that Scarizona masterminds would use it in the creation of their haunted house “experiences.” I’m a risk-taker in some ways, but not in the roach way. NOPE. Not going.

Instead, kitties and I will enjoy a quiet, spooky Halloween together.

 

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o'-lantern pumpkin.

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o’-lantern pumpkin.

 

I’m looking at 12 days of quality bonding time with Nounours and Nenette. But fear not – I am planning on some crazy shenanigans for the duration. As they say, the cat will play while the Callaghan’s away.

Here’s some of what’s about to go down:

  • Reading (All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr)
  • Writing (I round-filed both of my neglected big projects, but this new one is actually a starting-over of one of the discarded ones.)
  • Watching Netflix (Yes, I’ve returned to Netflix. What can I say.)
  • Playing with furbabies (Nenette will learn that I can be just as fun as Daddy when it comes to playing.)
  • Taking the bus (to work – this is new) and walking (home from work). I still refuse to pay for parking at work when we live so close.
  • Eating simply. (For the next 12 days, I’m basically going to live on salad, baked sweet potatoes, broccoli, brown rice, quinoa, hummus, peanut butter, bread, and fruit. Because these are foods I love, I’m lazy about cooking, and I don’t want to spend time thinking about it.)
  • Getting my hair cut. (YAY new hair, plus I get to see my girl Melanie!)

And, so as to not make too much of a ruckus up in here:

  • Updating/cleaning up some of this blog’s details, i.e. the About page, stuff in the sidebar, some of the links and tags and categories, etc., etc. Long overdue.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it captures the main agenda. You get the idea. It doesn’t take much to amuse me.

Case in point: I was too easily amused by this exchange with Callaghan yesterday morning when he was at the airport, texting to tell me about his pre-boarding adventures.

You know how a text conversation can get off-sync when you receive a message while you’re texting, so after you send the one you were writing, you immediately answer the new one that came in, and the messages accumulate out of order because the timing got messed up, plus you were talking about two different things at once, so now your phone displays a merging of replies on different subjects, and it either doesn’t make sense at all, or it just looks wrong?

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Callaghan-AirportScreenShot

 

This is what happens when you’re texting about airport security procedures and breakfast at the same time. It’s all fun and games until someone gets a scone up his butt. Of course, it had to be Callaghan.

200th Post! Le Deux Centième!

Well. Today marks a milestone for this blog, because today, exactly one month short of two years since my first post, I’m writing here for the 200th time!

 

Capture200

 

*throws confetti*

Of course, I got to feeling reflective as this milestone approached.

This blog began, in part, because I missed LiveJournal, which I’d more or less abandoned several years earlier. Facebook eventually replaced the social aspect of it, in a sense, but I wanted to journal again. Moreover, I was living in France, in limbo, not working, and I could feel my brain cells disintegrating while my writing muscles atrophied. I did write some poems. I also intermittently worked on a big writing project, but fiction really isn’t my forte… I missed writing creative non-fiction. And when I tentatively returned to writing in LiveJournal, it just didn’t feel the same. For me, the old LJ magic had left the room (but that had happened before I’d quit, which was why I’d quit). Something had to be done!

I went to create a WordPress account, and I was promptly reminded that I already had one. I’d just never used it. How convenient! I named it “That Asian-Looking Chick,” bought the domain and jumped in with the goal of posting two or three times per week. It’s been hella fun, and rewarding, and instructive. I never missed a week, but it wasn’t until March of this year that I fell into a twice-weekly schedule that stuck. By April, it’d evolved into a Tuesday/Friday thing, and eight months later, I’m still comfortable with that.

Surprisingly, getting settled in a regular posting schedule coincided with going back to work. In the same month, Callaghan and I established a consistent routine at the gym. It was interesting how once I was anchored at a job, other things like blogging and working out sort of fell into place. It was like a “structure begets more structure” kind of thing.

I typically just glance at my blog stats and search engine terms, since the superficial layer is right there before my eyes, but in honor of my 200th post, I took a more in-depth look. Some fun facts include:

–Since Netflix released the second season of Orange is the New Black in June, hundreds of views have resulted from searches for the Asian girl who plays a character in those episodes, as I’ve already mentioned. Yes, the OITNB Asian girl madness continues to rage on today! It’s been five months now. (I still wonder whether Kimiko Glenn has any idea of the scope of her popularity.)

–WordPress stats include visitors’ countries. I did a country count and found that, as of yesterday, people have read this blog from exactly 100 different countries. I’m ashamed to admit that a couple of the places on the list are countries that I hadn’t even realized were actual countries. This blog has opened my eyes to the world, and that is fabulous. (Also, if I needed any proof that English is a language spoken, or at least read, world-wide? I’ve got it.)

–You’re mostly a silent crowd on my posts, except for when I wrote about the casting in the film Jack Reacher.

–A few of you have commented with helpful tips in response to my posts, and your sharing has been wonderfully beneficial. For instance, thanks to your awesomeness, we’re hooked on The Following (T.V. series), and I found my favorite Korean facial sheet masks – the Epielle ones I’ve raved about several times – at Big Lots! For an amazing price!

 

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

 

–Because of the search terms, I also know that I’m far from the only one looking for that old (1970’s) Charleston Chew candy commercial, the one featuring King Louis. I trust that if anyone finds it, they’ll come back here and share it.

So, as I reflect back to the beginning, I wanted to thank you for reading and hanging out here with me over the last 200 posts/23 months, or however long you’ve been here. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where all that time went!

Those of you who’ve been here the longest remember when I was an American ex-pat in France who had no clue that she’d move back to the States. You were here when I was an Arizona girl in Texas who had no clue that she’d move back to Arizona. You spent two birthdays with me, you share my “Little Things” (monthly favorites) joy with me, and you’re privy to my enthusiasm for pop culture and martial/fighting arts. You tolerate my kitty blather and pics (mostly Ronnie James, aka the Wrah-Wrah) and “NOT UNLIKE” comparisons. You read about Callaghan’s shenanigans, and you read my embarrassing stories. You follow my occasional cultural comparison observations. You hear me out when I feel the need to rant. You’ve been there during more personal moments, too, such as when my Mom set off on her journey to fight cancer (she’s doing really well, by the way)! And you laugh with me, which I love.

Some things I want to do here in the future? Well, I’d love to get more active as a blogger, reading more of other people’s blogs. I’d also like to mix it up more, spend more time writing about topics that matter to me profoundly. While my routine is fixed, time is actually a constraint (as it is, I’m usually up at around 5:00am to write here). I’d still like to find time to carve out for non-blog writing projects, as well – I currently have a prose piece in the works, and I’d love to pick up on the poeting – so we shall see what transpires over the next two years!

 

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

 

And who knows… I may yet divulge the story of My Most Embarrassing Moment.