Fits & Starts

There’s this theory that if you do a little of something every day, eventually you’ll have accomplished a whole lot of it.  For example, BIC—Butt In Chair—stands for sitting your butt in the chair every day, regardless of whether you “feel like it”, and just writing.  The corollary is, if you do a little every day you’ll get in the habit of doing a little (or possibly more) every day, and so it’ll be less of a struggle to do every day.  Twenty-one days to create a habit, or whatever that number is supposed to be.

But then there’s also this theory, which is mine, that there aren’t enough hours in the day, and there isn’t enough energy in my body, to do a little of all of the things I want to do every day.  Writing, house-keeping, paying attention to my people, WORKING for money, gardening, brushing my teeth (ok, I manage this one every day pretty well), sleeping (if I could only do without…), knitting, listening to interesting & educational podcasts.  Etc.  Oh yeah, and READING.  I do a whole lot of that already.

So instead, I tend to binge on those things.  I’ll spend a weekend vegging because I’ve been pushing too hard for too long.  I’ll spend another weekend away Doing Something.  I’ll spend the next weekend catching up on housework* and maybe knitting and watching TV.  I’ll spend another weekend on a knitting or sewing project.  Another weekend caring for my garden.  In most cases I’m not devoting the whole weekend to that activity, but rather a significant portion of my energy.  Same goes for weekday evenings.  This past week, I spent a lot of evenings between work and paying attention to my significant other.  Other weeks I manage to write in the evenings.  Other weeks I manage to at least compose a few blog posts.

I feel guilty when I haven’t written several days in a week.  I feel guilty when Ben’s hat is sitting half-made for several months.  It was his Christmas present.  With any luck it’ll be finished by next Christmas.  I have a sweater I want to start making some day**.  I have tomatoes that need my attention, and kefir & yogurt to make at least weekly, and …

But maybe it’s not so bad to accomplish things in fits and starts.  I do make progress on those things.  I keep them all going, one way or another.  Not always “on time”***.  The thing is, it’s not that I’m slacking off.  OK, I’m not consistently productive on any one thing.  But that’s not my style.  Maybe it’s time for me to accept my style as the one that works for me, and stop trying to be the person who does the same things every day, or even every week.

And by the way, I’ve read 27 books so far this year.  So I’m clearly not slacking off on my reading.  🙂

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* Apparently it’s been four weeks since I last did laundry.  :-/  That’s long even for me.

** I have to buy yarn first.

*** See: laundry, hat.

priorities

I’ve been thinking about what’s important to me lately.  It’s become absolutely clear that I don’t have enough energy to do all the things I want to do or should do.  It’s frustrating.

So, I figured I should make a comprehensive list of what’s important to me (in no particular order):

  • My sanity
  • Having enough money to have food and clothing (i.e. my job)
  • My family & friends
  • My writing
  • Other creative pursuits
  • Becoming a better person

Honestly, “other creative pursuits” could probably drop to the bottom of this list, except when it relates to “my sanity”.

I’d be happy to drop “my job” off the list, except that I’d just have to replace it with some other source of money and/or food and clothing–which would probably take just as much time and energy as the job, so I might as well just stick with the job.

I struggle with “my family and friends”.  None of my family and friends gets to see me as often as they would like.  So, I think it ends up lower on the list than it ought–and so it definitely can’t fall off the list.

I think it’s pretty clear around here that “my writing” is a priority for me–but at the same time, it’s not as high on the list as it would need to be in order for me to become a professional writer.  I don’t write every day.  Sometimes I don’t even write every week.  *shame-face*  Maybe I’m just a hobbyist.  Since it’s one of the things I define myself by, I’d hate to relegate it to “hobby” forever, but … is it more important than the food & clothing that come with having a job?  Is it more important than my friends and family?  Is it more important than my sanity?

This is really the crux of my dilemma.  I put quite a lot of stock in “my sanity”.  I “need” 8-9 hours of sleep every night.  I “need” down-time, in which I’m not harassing myself about what I “ought” to be doing.  And when I get home, and the idea of figuring out how to switch my brain into thinking about something different–like, my current novel–is just so painful, I can’t even fathom it.  So I lie on the couch with a book, or a movie.  And then I get absorbed into the movie, or the book, and I don’t ever switch back into brain-functioning mode.

I wonder if setting a timer for myself might help.  Read for 30 minutes, then go pick up the notebook and stare at it with a pen in my hand for at least 30 minutes.  If the pen happens to scratch symbols onto the page, all the better.  I think that’s called BIC*.  When the 30 minutes are done, if I want to go back to the book or the movie, then I may.  Hmm…

This doesn’t resolve how to have time (and energy) for all those other things.  Like, learning to be a better person.  Spending time corresponding with the people who are interested in corresponding with me.  Knitting that hat I told Ben I’d make him for Christmas….

* I may have to remove the piles of paper from all around my office in order for this to work^.  And I seriously need a comfortable desk chair.

^ You say I’m procrastinating?  Who, moi?

More Vampires!

I’ve continued writing the vampire story I started last month.  I’ve figured out how to make it a short story, I think, though of course I’ve also concluded there’s a much bigger story it fits into.  :-/  But since I never finish anything, I figure I’ll write the short story, make it the best I can, and then move on.  Either to something else, or to the next part of this story.  Whichever.

I’ve been really bad at sitting my Butt In the Chair.  I find good excuses—other things to do in the evening, too tired, home too late—but in aggregate they’re just excuses.  Today I decided I was going to sit down and finish this dranglefarbing story, so I sat down and spent several hours on it.  I decided to step back and look at the big picture.  Who are the characters, what’s important about them, how does it fit together.  Mostly these were things I knew, but I found a few important nuggets, without which I wasn’t going to have a coherent story*.  Of course, I didn’t finish it, but I deleted a scene, wrote a different one, and figured out what comes after that.  Unfortunately, now I don’t know how to get from that scene to the last scene.  :-/  I don’t expect there to be any other scenes in between so… I really need to get that figured out.

And once I’ve finished it, I have to go back and fix the beginning, which is a mishmash of PoVs and ideas because I didn’t know where the story was going yet.

And I want to get all this done by next Sunday.

* Of course, I still might not have a coherent story. 😉

Glorious day by the coast

I mean, uh, it’s horrible and cold and you wouldn’t like it.  Yeah.

Well, none of the tourists believe me, either, and all the attractions (Barbara’s Fish Trap, for example) are very crowded.

The sky is blue, the air is warm, I’m wearing a tank-top.  Ben and I went for a walk at the Point, and I took my fleecy off.  I *never* take my fleecy off while walking up there, it’s too cold.  So this, today, is one of the five beautiful days we get per year.  In a month it’ll be foggy and cold, but for now the flowers are amazing (we counted 30 different types of flower blooming in our backyard), the sun is warm, and it’s just like summer.

We had Ben’s family over for brunch today, and we had all different yummy food.  We decided to make all the food ourselves, not do a potluck, so we picked yummy simple things.  Homefries, a frittata* (gruyere, mushroom, and scallions), braised greens (chard** and kale), a fruit salad (strawberries, mango, orange, and grapefruit), a bean salad, and something Sunset Magazine calls an “apple oven cake”, which I’ve made several times now and is super yummy (butter and brown sugar, apples and a little cinnamon, with an egg/flour/milk mixture to hold it together).  It was all a big hit, but the apple stuff was the biggest hit, and was definitely the easiest to make.  🙂  Oh yeah, and mimosas.  Except a bunch of us had orange juice-free mimosas, aka champagne.  Mmm, it was good.

We managed to prepare a lot of stuff last night, and get everything chopped and ready this morning, so we could just compile everything and cook it at the last minute when they were here.  The homefries took longer than we expected, and we were waiting for them to finish before starting everything else, but everything came together perfectly for us to sit down with all of the food ready (except the frittata, which was a little slow, so I guess it was only nearly-perfect).  It was so yummy.  And even though it seemed like a lot of food, everything was finished off except the homefries and bean salad. And the ingredients for a second apple oven cake.  So we’ll have those for breakfast tomorrow!

None of Ben’s family have been over since Ben finished my office, so I straightened it all up (no extra papers or boxes anywhere in sight!) and we showed it off.  It’s so nice and comfortable in there.  Everyone was very impressed with Ben’s handiwork.

Last night Ben and I thought to pull out the two of my mom’s paintings*** that I have, and we discovered that one of them looks wonderful in the room, so we’re going to hang it up.  The other is too dark (lots of black), so I think maybe I’ll trade it in for a different one, because there’s plenty of space for two on my wall.  And it’ll be nice to have Mommy art hanging in my office.  🙂

Other than that… I started writing a vampire story the other day.  I don’t do vampires, but I had a title that included vampires, so it had to be about vampires.

Recently I’ve noticed that I have trouble distinguishing between “I must continue working on story x so that I’ll finish it some day” and “I must only work on story x, to the exclusion of all other stories or writing”–the latter of which is incredibly stifling to me.  And then I wonder why I don’t want to write.  So, I’m trying to ease up on myself and write whatever I want… while keeping in mind that I have Story X which I’d like to be working on if I’m so inspired.  In other words, I must write in order to write.  BIC.

* How do you spell that? Firefox doesn’t like fritata, frittata, or fritatta.  How about frittatta? No, that can’t be it.  Google + wikipedia tell me it’s frittata.

** I’ve discovered I really like braised chard, whereas kale tends to be more tough even when braised.

*** You can see her art at her website, but neither of the two I have are up there so I can’t show them to you specifically.  My mom is so prolific that the website doesn’t even contain a tenth of all of her art. If we included all of her drawings, it might not even be one percent.  So, the likelihood of me having one of those is pretty small.  :-/

† And with a new update, WordPress + LivePress will properly cross-post daggers (†) to LiveJournal, so my footnotes should go more smoothly.  Yay!

Commitment vs. Realizing I’m Writing the Wrong Story

Is it giving up if I decide that this story that I’m telling isn’t the one I set out to write, and isn’t one that I want to write–at least not right now?

I started this story with the question: Why would a group of people (monsters, particularly) choose to remain enslaved?  And then I thought of my monster-soldiers, and Fen in particular–and then I wanted someone for contrast, someone who was enslaved but trying to escape.  Not literal slavery, but genetic slavery–I mean, she’s the daughter of the Lord of the Land, the Pater Familias*, absolute head of the household, who has the right to decide anything for anyone in the family (or in his land), up to and including ordering execution without justification.  Absolute power, over his daughter Allie, his soldier-slaves, and everyone else.  But in the society I created, this became all about arranged marriage, and how much it would suck for this one character.  To remain true to that society, Allie couldn’t become badass, at least not immediately and without extraordinarily unlikely things happening, and I want her to be badass.  I wanted her to be witty and capable, not angsty, choosing and acting.  But I’m giving her an impossible decision: accept the arranged marriage to this horrible guy, or run away and leave her younger sister to the same fate.  Or have her sister run away too, and have the whole land, their whole family, be overrun and brutally killed.  This is a dark, hard situation.  The time between the beginning of the story and the point at which she could become badass was too long, and I was getting too frustrated by her lack of action.  She’s not in a situation to have actions to make.  And the situation I started out putting her in was to be struggling against was her enslavement, not the future husband, not the attacking monster-army.  Those were incidental and extra–yet they would have to be central to the story for it to make sense.  So what story am I trying to tell?  I still want to tell that original story.

And do I really want to write a story about a woman being raped?  That was effectively where I was leading, and if she managed to escape it, it would be too pat.

So I got stuck at about 3000 words.**

And then I wrote a scene that was really dark, even darker than I’d been managing, which would’ve totally shortened the story, getting us straight into the dark and scary.  And dude, I write funny.  I’m most interesting when I’m funny.  Can I maintain a dark and scary tone?  Can I maintain a dark and scary tone while telling a story that isn’t the one I was trying to write?

I don’t think I’m just copping out… but I do feel like I’m copping out.

Last night I realized I could write a different part of the history of this world–unfortunately, also dark and dismal–this one in a place where I can just create badass women without feeling like I’m being untrue to historical accuracy or to the society I’ve established.  I know the ending of this story–it leads directly into the world of Allie & Fen–but I don’t know the beginning or the middle, and I don’t know who is involved.  I don’t know what happens, but I know where they end up.  I don’t think I’ve ever begun a story already knowing the ending.

I don’t even have any characters yet, or societies, or settings, and I haven’t really decided if it’s sci fi or fantasy.  Right now I’m leaning towards sci fi, because it feels more exciting with that tone, and anything that excites me is more likely to lead to an exciting story.  🙂

How I feel today: “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people” -T. Mann — quoted by Laura Anne Gilman (http://twitter.com/LAGilman/status/9394628190)

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* This is a Latin phrase from Ancient Rome^.  Wikipedia says this:

The pater familias (plural: patres familias) was the head of a Roman family. The term is Latin for “father of the family” or the “owner of the family estate”. The form is irregular and archaic in Latin, preserving the old genitive ending in -as (see Latin declension). The pater familias was always a Roman citizen.

Roman law and tradition (mos maiorum) established the power of the pater familias within the community of his own extended familia. He held legal privilege over the property of the familia, and varying levels of authority over his dependents: these included his wife and children, certain other relatives through blood or adoption, clients, freedmen and slaves. The same mos maiorum moderated his authority and determined his responsibilities to his own familia and to the broader community. He had a duty to father and raise healthy children as future citizens of Rome, to maintain the moral propriety and well-being of his household, to honour his clan and ancestral gods and to dutifully participate – and if possible, serve – in Rome’s political, religious and social life. In effect, the pater familias was expected to be a good citizen. In theory at least, he held powers of life and death over every member of his extended familia through ancient right but in practice, the extreme form of this right was seldom exercised. It was eventually limited by law.

My Pater Familias seldom uses his powers of death, either, but … he could.  And marriage?  Marriage is definitely controlled by him.  Usually arranged for political reasons, which was true for powerful men throughout much of European history and many (most?) other cultures in this world, too.

^ Studying Latin and history extensively give me all kinds of useful concepts to draw on.  Some more depressing than others…

** “So” implies causation, and I don’t know that this is actually the cause.  Here is the root of my concern.  Did I get stuck because I’m telling the wrong story, or did I get stuck because it’s hard and I don’t want to work this hard?  Or worse, did I get stuck because I committed to finishing this story, and committing makes me not want to work on the story anymore?

To do today

Yesterday morning my mom called saying she was feeling dizzy and would I come over in case she needed to go to urgent care?  🙁  So of course I did, and we didn’t go to urgent care, but I stayed to help make food and make sure I was around in case she needed me.  And we watched an episode each of Star Trek TOS, TNG, and Voyager.  It was great fun.  🙂

But because of that, all the things I meant to do this weekend have to happen today.  And I need a list, or I won’t do anything*:

  • Call my Dad, my Aunt, and my Dad’s Second Cousin (left messages)
  • Do laundry
  • Write a post about the book I read yesterday.
  • Work on my story
  • Pick out at least one book** and one DVD about Archetypes to acquire – either library or Amazon (found several at the local library… now I just need to go get a library card.)
  • Plant the succulents Mommy gave me  -> Next week
  • Plant a few onions
  • Plant bulbs
  • Repot succulents into a strawberry pot  -> Next week
  • And apparently I was gonna write about going to see Avatar for my birthday a week ago, but never did.  Weird.

EtA: Alright, I’ve done a few things… and now we’re going to make risotto.  Yummy.

* Yesterday morning Ben and I had a conversation about all the things we wanted to do this weekend.  And at the end of it I said, “Alright, on that note, I’m gonna read a book.”  This is how I deal with having things to do.  :-/  It was a fun book.  🙂  So really, having the list may not make me any more likely to do things.  But when I do, I can cross them off!

** this is homework, so it doesn’t break my no-new-books rule

Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, Yay Writing, Cramps Suck

Happy New Year!

I had a wonderful New Year’s Eve with my favorite [ljuser]purpleleopard[/ljuser], my mom, my boyfriend, and mojitos, at my house.  I don’t have cable (or an antenna), and we couldn’t convince the Internets to give us the ball dropping at the appropriate (west coast) time.  🙁  I like watching the ball drop.  But with nice champagne, homemade pizzas, and good company, it was wonderful.

My bday is on Monday, which I’m planning on celebrating by staying home all day and not going anywhere.  (I took an extra day off for it.)

I’ve managed to *write* a bit this vacation.  Only a bit of actual story (just shy of 1500 words, which feels really pathetic), but also brainstorming and other bits of writing happened.  I’m trying out Scrivener, which is a (mac-only) text editing program for writing fiction.  So far I like it, but I’m worried that creating so much structure for myself will set myself up with too many expectations and I’ll stop wanting to use it.  So I’m trying it, and I like it, but I’m gonna wait 30 days before giving them money for it.  So far it has a lot of similar features as CopyWrite, which is the program I’ve been using, but it has more ways of looking at the same info.  This may or may not be helpful for me… we’ll see.

And my period started yesterday.  No cramps, no obvious mood-swings… it was a bit weird.  Today the cramps started.  I could feel them starting, and decided to take painkillers, which usually makes me feel better until next month.  And then Ben and I went for a nice long walk on the bluffs (the ocean was beautiful, it wasn’t too cold or too hot…), and I noticed that the cramps weren’t going away.  They still haven’t.  So now I’m home on the couch with hot tea, wishing I felt better.  🙁  I think TV (hulu–I’ve already mentioned my lack of cable) will have to be my solace.