“Thank you, God. My character is all built up now. You can stop.”
Debra Doyle

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover illustration incorporates public domain photography from Pixabay.com.
"What the heck does auld lang syne mean, anyway?"
Sat 2017-01-07 00:37:14 (single post)
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Ahoy! So. The Friday Fictionette for January 6 is up. It was supposed to go up at 6 PM, taking advantage of Patreon's clever SCHEDULE POST feature. Only apparently I am not so clever, and I thought today was Jan 7. Eleven-thirty came around, and I was pulling up the HTML excerpt to copy-paste into Wattpad, and emergency! emergency! Where is my post?! Ya fool. It's right where you put it: on tomorrow's docket. Oops.

It's up now, though, and it's called "The Land Exhales" (ebook | audiobook | free excerpt ) It is not one of my more cheerful stories, dealing as it does with a meta-fictional land where everyone is miserable, but I like to think it ends on a hopeful note.

I wish I'd had time to do more with today--like take another crack at the novel-in-progress--but I got a little self-indulgent trying to produce a presentable four bars of "Auld Lang Syne" on the piano that I could include. Why "Auld Lang Syne"? Because it's January. Why on the piano? Why indeed. The flute version worked a lot better.

(Speaking of "Auld Lang Syne," this post's title is a quote from Barry Manilow off his double live album, segueing into "It's Just Another New Year's Eve." It may not be a very good question, but it's a pretty good song. "Don't look so sad / It's not so bad, you know / It's just another night, that's all it is...")

Artifacts are not quite in the mail yet. BUT THEY WILL BE SOON.

In other news, I skated on the track at our practice space tonight. The new floor is done. And it's so nice. it's flat. It's so nice, having a flat and level floor. And clean! So nice and clean...

i get distracted
Thu 2016-08-11 23:59:59 (single post)

I was going to blog about what I did today, but then John and I came home from scrimmage and ordered pizza and watched the most recent* three episodes of Steven Universe, and then we proceeded to geek out for like an hour about what we just saw, what we loved about it, and how it shook our understandings thus far of the characters and their history and their world, and also just what our understandings of these things were, and furthermore what questions we still had and what we speculated might be revealed... but then I did say "geek out," so pretty much everything past the first comma after the bit in italics was sort of redundant.

Anyway, can't blog, too busy making fannish squee noises.

*most recent: ok, well the most recent we had access to. Apparently there's more still. Already. MORE STEVEN UNIVERSE TO WATCH. Glee!

things are lumpy but getting smoother
Thu 2015-11-05 23:54:55 (single post)

Hi. Hello. So... didn't really get back into gear so smoothly after giving myself a Halloween holiday. Took a while to get the engines running. I think maybe taking time off so soon after starting a new routine might be contraindicated when fomenting new habits. Not that it would have been better to try to not take time off, not with everything else that was going on. But I suspect that time off didn't help.

Also, one of our skaters broke her leg Monday night during our scrimmage in Fort Collins. This is a thing that occasionally happens when you play a full-contact sport on skates. We prepare for it as best we can, and then we try not to think about it. We try to play like it's not even in the realm of possibility. And then, once in a while, it happens, and it sucks.

Pretty much everyone in the league who was at that scrimmage had a pretty shitty night after that. Not, of course, nearly as shitty as what the injured skater herself endured. But the league immediately began doing everything in its collective power to make things less shitty for her, from hospital visits to errand-running to plans for bringing her food to just plain sending all our love via the internet and phone and telepathy. That's what roller derby leagues do. It's kind of amazing.

So priorities changed, and the next few days got a little redirected. And that's life.

Today was a fairly solid writing day, if a little weird. I had a ticket to see the live Welcome to Night Vale show at the Paramount. So I took off by bus around midday for Denver with plans to work on my various writing tasks from maybe Leela European Cafe until showtime. And then I remembered that Union Station got significantly upgraded, and is no longer this cavernous hall with bad acoustics and tall penitent pews and an aura of despair. Instead, it is now a fancy hotel and a small shopping mall and a restaurant district. So I splurged a bit at Stoic & Genuine (well, kind of more than a bit) and then settled down at one of the lobby device-charging tables to plug in my laptop and make words happen on it. And words did happen.

The Welcome to Night Vale live show was amazing. Go see it if you can.

I'm writing this blog post on the bus back to Boulder. John will meet me at the station and drive me home, where I will have a bite to eat and then commence whatever the heck I wind up writing for NaNoWriMo.

Have I mentioned that I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year? Well, I am.

About that, more later.

from the oops department
Mon 2015-09-07 23:56:14 (single post)
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Finally got the audio version of last Friday's fictionette up. Don't know why it took me so long. Guess I've been in kinda full bumming-around-the-house mode since I got back from Avon. The two-hour drive home in the sun was so much more exhausting than the four-hour round trip between Avon and DIA at night. It sort of took it out of me.

But it's Monday. Dragging around the house on a Monday is OK. But what happens on a Monday gets left behind with Monday when it turns Tuesday. Tuesday is working hard day! Just you watch!

In reading through the fictionette, I noticed and fixed two typos, so after uploading the MP3 I got to upload a new version of the PDF and correct the excerpts posted to Patreon and here. And this is why I try most weeks to record the MP3 before publishing the fictionette in any format--reading aloud is my best method of proof reading. Even reading the piece slowly so that I could "hear" my voice reading it aloud in my head--which I did while out at dinner Friday night--isn't quite as effective.

Thankfully, Patreon has greatly improved their publishing experience, such that it is now possible to delete and re-upload attachments. Genius, right? Used to be you couldn't do that, which made late-discovered typos terribly frustrating. But now it's simple.

In other news, John and I have been watching a lot of Steven Universe lately. Steven Universe is a cartoon that is awesome and you should watch it. It is good for the heart, it is emotionally deep and gloriously silly, it is constructed with such meticulous care that no detail can be rightly called "throw-away," and it boasts some amazing voice acting talent as well as a cast of characters who are wildly diverse in a delightfully unmarked way. (And it's totally stolen a plot point from my semi-trunked novel trilogy, but nevermind, it's my bad for not having converted it from semi-trunked to publishable by now.)

I've just discovered Vrai's recaps at The Mary Sue. These are smart and rewarding reading, articles that love to delve deep into subtext, point out resonances with other popular animated works, and revel in the show's unapologetic yet entirely understated political statements.

Don't know where I was going with that. What is this, a thesis? Go click on the links and read smart articles and watch good cartoons. That is all.

the illusions we subscribe to
Thu 2015-08-20 22:53:45 (single post)

The repaint job on our building is over, as far as our unit is concerned. They've got a few more units to finish tomorrow, but our front patio and back balcony are all done. Everything we had to bring inside is outside again, with the exception of the bird feeder--I found out it's against our HOA rules and regs. Which is sad, but fair; if you're worried about raccoons, it makes sense to ban animal attractors. We can put our hummingbird feeder out, but that's the one exception.

The back balcony was the last thing, and the paint crew got to it yesterday. I was in the guest-bedroom-turned-office in the front of the house, but I could hear the racket of ladders--ladders being extended and put in place, people jumping down from ladders onto the balcony, people climbing up ladders to the balconies above ours--when they arrived.

It reminded me of something:

Itís this idea of ownership, I think, which is twined so closely with responsibility and duty: this little patch of earth is indisputably yours, and you must take care of it, because no one else will.

But I think I sensed that this concept of ownership was a lie even then. I knew there were countless infrastructural and financial systems whose whole beings were devoted to allowing me and every other person on the block to engage in this happy fantasy. And for them, there were no boundaries. The men who came to check the meters or the gas or cable lines were perfectly within their rights to hop a fence or open your gate and stroll right in.

A fantasy, in other words, must be maintained. And for it to be maintained, it must be violated from time to time, its fragile penumbra punctured by outsiders going about their day to day business.

That's Robert Jackson Bennett, on a very particular fear that inspired his novel American Elsewhere. Only, of course, in that story, the officially sanctioned trespassers are up to something rather different than checking the meters and maintaining the cable. They're not necessarily men and women, either.

But it's a fair point even without the special pleading of horror/fantasy. We lock the door at night and when we leave the house, and we close the office window that looks out onto a ground floor patio. But because the back-of-house access points are some ten feet off the ground, we feel safe leaving them open so that the evening breeze can freshen and cool the bedroom and living room. And it's all an illusion, pierced the first time someone--legitimate or no--comes around the back with a ladder. Hell, the illusion of security wouldn't even survive a single person who didn't mind breaking glass. And yet we lock the door and feel like we've done the whole of our duty thereby.

It's not so much that I have faith that no one will break in, or that no one will steal the patio furniture if we leave it out overnight. It's just that I choose not to think about, because if I think about it, it scares the crap out of me and makes me paranoid as hell. And that ain't no way to live.

Makes a great basis for writing horror, though.

different ways of being self-indulgent
Tue 2015-07-14 00:28:51 (single post)

So sometimes Mondays aren't for getting things done. Sometimes Mondays are for recovering from the weekend. I had a very full weekend, and, considering Monday is not a work day under my current schedule, I spent most of today luxuriating in not having to get out of bed.

That said, I really wish my favorite self-indulgent "Not being productive today, thanks" activity, that of alternately napping and devouring books whole, didn't universally result in headaches and cricks in my neck. There's no right posture, no correct amount of pillows, no position whatsoever that's comfortable for long or doesn't result in the abovementioned afflictions if I fall asleep. I think this must be one of those "getting older" things, along with taking longer to heal from minor injuries and not being able to make it through the night without an extra bathroom visit. Dammit.

But I went to the Rush concert Saturday night! That was awesome. Lots of great music, good humor, lovely memories, a stage design that was itself worth the price of admission, all of it only made a little bittersweet by having gone alone to what was likely to be the band's last tour "of this magnitude". Besides, I wasn't entirely alone--I spent a small amount of the second half tweeting back and forth with an old high school friend who'd seen the tour a few stops earlier, so I had someone to share happy thoughts with during the concert after all. Yay!

So that was awesome. And since that's all I really have to report today--here's a recipe! There may be no writing content in today's actually writing blog, but, darn it, you get a recipe. I call it...

"Wait, This Isn't Shakshuka, What Is This Mess?"

I'm a heedlessly adventurous cook. I will throw things together that do not go together, just because the thought of them together sounds good in my mouth. It is a good thing that I am also an extremely non-picky eater. If the experiment had gone poorly, I would probably have eaten it almost as happily as if it went well. As it turned out, the experiment went rather well. It made a dinner that was almost as deliciously self-indulgent as today's reading-in-bed session was.

Defrost and brown a pound of bulk (not link) sausage. I used breakfast sausage, but anything would do, really. Ground beef would have been fine too. Anyway, while it's browning, chunk and crumble it up as best you can. You aren't going to need to drain the oil. Well, you can if you like. I don't.

Chop up and toss in all the tomatoes burning a hole in your fridge. Between a friend's contribution to the housewarming potluck feast and my husband's experiments with pizza, there were a bunch of tomatoes in the refrigerator, in danger of being forgotten until they composted themselves. This was the main reason this meal happened, actually. "Oh, Gods, I have to use up those tomatoes. Why don't I simmer them with sausage and... oh! with some of that kimchi that I also need to use up?" I have thoughts like that. There may be something wrong with me.

Add a generous portion of kimchi. I am guilty of having about four different half-ful jars of kimchi in the fridge at any given time. Look, they're all different kimchi, OK? After a tour of the available varieties, my nose told me I should use the classic daikon kimchi from MMLocal. It smelled slightly sweeter and less sour than the others, thus matching the flavor profile my mind was reaching for when it said, "Let's put those tomatoes in with some sausage and kimchi."

But wait! It gets better.

Add the juice of half an orange, which also needed using up. These were leftover from another of my husband's cooking projects, tofu marinated in orange juice and soy sauce, then baked until delicious. He bought rather more oranges than he needed, and I keep forgetting they're there. I do not know why I looked at tomatoes, sausage, and kimchi, and said to myself, "This needs orange juice." I may be a genius. A very strange genius.

Add a handful of basil, because there's some in the garden on the back porch, and because when orange juice and tomatoes are on the stove, they obviously need basil. That's the herb that goes into the orange juice tomato soup I make for Winter Solstice, from the Cooking Like a Goddess cookbook.

And also a generous splash of fish sauce, because you already put kimchi in there, so what have you got to lose?

Simmer, stirring often, until the sausage looks fully cooked. Then, because the sight of sausage simmering in juices with vegetables reminds you of that time you attempted (with some success) to make shakshuka, even though this dish really doesn't resemble shakshuka at all, considering the kimchi and orange juice and the total lack of cumin or paprika, crack a couple eggs on top of the mess. Do not stir from here on out. You're going for poached, not scrambled.

When the eggs are done to your taste, spoon them out into a bowl along with a heaping helping of the juicy sausage-tomato mixture that they poached in. Then exercise supreme restraint and same the rest to eat later, probably over pasta shells.

This is my flute. I've had it since 1986. I mostly remember how to play it.
this fictionette can carry a tune
Tue 2015-06-30 23:44:29 (single post)

Behold! On this very last day of the month, we have the Friday Fictionette for the fourth week of June 2015. It's called "Every Note Passes Away Forever." It's got music in it, and also another funeral. Possibly a tiny bit derivative--I mean reminiscent--of the beginning of Tepper's Raising the Stones, now that I think about it. Sorry?

Patterns! After weeks of doing these freewriting sessions every day (or almost every day, shut up), patterns tend to emerge in the way I respond to writing prompts. After a while, it's like a metro bus system, and each writing prompt is like a stop on a bus route. Turns out, some of these stops are on the same bus route. They go to the same places, but maybe they see different sights along the way.

I'm still a bit behind and will have to choose the June 2015 Fictionette Freebie tomorrow. I'm also like two months behind in posting Wattpad excerpts. Backfilling the audiofictionettes? Have not even begun to think about it. But this is a good week for getting caught up. My roller derby team is taking the week off (a well-deserved break after the game on June 27) and some of our friends are out of town, so hopefully I'll be able to put all that sudden glut of free time to good use.

Meanwhile, I have begun reading Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs. I brought it home from the Boulder Bookstore on June 19, the Friday that was declared TorsDay in response to a threatened boycott of Tor Books. (The threatened boycott was in fact laughable, but we're SFF fans. If we can at all afford it, we'll jump at any excuse to buy more books.) Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But Bennett isn't published by Tor, is he?" Indeed, City of Stairs falls under the Random Penguin umbrella. (OK, Random House Inc. But "Random Penguin" is more fun. It sounds like a chapter of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) But while my arms were full of books by Elizabeth Bear and Jo Walton and Cherie Priest and an anthology by the VanderMeers (and if you think that sounds like a heavy armful, you are right!), I spotted the Bennett and I pounced. Without dropping any books.

Bennett is also the author of the Shirley Jackson Award-winning American Elsewhere, which persists in being one of my favorite books ever. It lives on the horror end of the SFF street and it's got beings from beyond space and time, a female protagonist who kicks ass while dealing with seriously strange mother-daughter issues, no romantic subplot whatsoever, and supernaturally unreliable architecture. I am a fan of supernaturally unreliable architecture. (Speaking of which, have you read this fantastic House of Leaves/Sherlock Holmes crossover fanfic? You're welcome!).

Bennett's Locus Award-nominated City of Stairs also has supernaturally unreliable architecture (the eponymous stairs, miraculous walls that are sort of transparent and opaque at the same time, buildings stuck half inside other buildings), but the beings from beyond space are less cthulhuoid and more, well, Gods.

I'm only three chapters in, mind you. I would very much like to be four chapters in or more, which is why I'm going to end this blog post here.

literature and sports take turns taking bites out of my brain
Thu 2015-03-19 23:18:39 (single post)

So I was a penalty timer at the Shamrocks And Shenanigans scrimmage tonight. When you're a penalty timer, everyone comes to visit you. Everyone gets penalties, after all. Maybe not everyone on every night, but everyone eventually. If you never ever get penalties, it's questionable whether you're in the game.

When I arrived, I told our head coach, "I'm ready to be assessed! Whenever works for you." (I got injured before the league went through skills assessments and travel team tryouts. I still need to do that before I can skate with any of our teams.)

She said, "Great! Get your gear on."

And I said, "Er, tonight? I... didn't think that would be an option." I hadn't brought my gear. Drat.

By next week, though. Between Sunday practice and the following Thursday scrimmage, I should have ample opportunity to demonstrate my skills to people empowered to fill out my score sheet. After that... team practice again? Please? As soon as possible? Back with my Bombshells? Pretty-please?

Obviously this has been much on my mind.

It has been sharing space in there with something very random: the Mark Reads archives for the Discworld novels.

You know about Mark Reads? Blogger Mark Oshiro began a project some years ago to read the Twilight novels and comment on them, chapter by chapter. And, well, a lot of people came along for the ride. It wasn't so much that they enjoyed watching him suffer, per se--it was that he suffered so entertaingly. And also enlighteningly, if that's a word. His criticisms were spot-on and his pain was shared and familiar.

Inevitably, the blog community began urging him to read something he'd actually enjoy. As soon as he got through Breaking Dawn, they said, he should treat himself. Read Harry Potter, they said. Because, as it turned out, he hadn't read those books yet. There were a lot of books, beloved classics of the fantasy genre, that he'd just never been exposed to. And his fans not only wanted him to enjoy a reading experience, but they wanted to enjoy watching him experience it.

And Mark read it. And it was wonderful.

You can never go back and read a favorite book for the first time all over again. Not so long as your memory is intact, that is. But the privilege of watching someone else read that book for the first time, witnessing them falling in love with the characters you've come to know so well, that's almost as wonderful. Maybe it's even better.

Mark has since then read many, many wonderful books, and his fans have enjoyed the heck out of watching him discover all these worlds and characters. And for a commission of $20, I think it is, he'll add to his written review video footage of him reading the chapter aloud. And that's the best. His reactions are priceless, hilarious and touching by turns.

So about a year ago he embarked upon a chapter-by-chapter read-through and review of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. In--and this is important--the order that they were published. (Which means he's only now making his way through Eric.) Discworld fandom is large and it is contentious; veterans will often try to curate newbies' experiences by telling them which books to read first. "Oh, don't start with Colour Of Magic, he hadn't gotten good yet, you'll be turned off. Read Reaper Man first," or, "Rincewind is tiresome. Read the Vimes books instead," or whatever they'll recommend.

Which is understandable, but at the same time, it's kind of arrogant. Like, dude, you're so proud of having been around when Colour of Magic came out, you read them in publication order because you had no choice--you still fell head over heels in love with them. Why do you think someone approaching them for the first time today couldn't do the same? Why do you think they need you to shepherd them through the experience? And why is it so important to you that they come to the same conclusion about the characters that you did?

Sometimes it's understandable, like I said; you love a thing, you want them to love it too. You want to spare them the jarring moments of the not-quite-good-enough. But sometimes I think, there are some fans who have a bit of ego involved in being the living filter through which someone experiences the material. I suspect that, either consciously or un--, it makes them feel important.

To hell with that. Mark is going into this as completely unspoiled and unbiased as a reader on publication day would, only without the three-year wait between The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. His spoiler policy is aggressive, and I share it: If I haven't gotten there yet, don't talk about it. Allow me to experience it the way you did--without you hanging over my shoulder saying, "Oh, this is when it gets good" and "Just wait until you meet [CHARACTER] in Chapter [X]!"

I only heard that this was a thing the week after Terry Pratchett died. And it's been fantastic. I've been watching his videos or, where appropriate, converting them to MP3 and listening to them in the car. Not only does it convert these old familiar books into brand new experiences for me, but it comes at a time when 1. I wanted to commemorate the author's passing with a read-through of my own, but 2. all my books are in storage and I can't easily get to them. So I get to have Mark read them to me! And I get to hear him react to the awesomeness! And the hilarity! And the puns, dear Gods, the puns. (Oh Gods the "horse d'oeurves" pun. Mark's reaction to the pun. It takes him like three minutes to get past it, it hits him that hard. I love Mark this much, y'all.)

I've just gotten up to Mark's read-through of Mort. And it occurs to me I may never actually have read Mort before. I could swear I'd borrowed it from a friend back in the late '90s, but I'm not recognizing any of it at all. Maybe my memory isn't intact--which would be odd, for me--but maybe The Last Continent isn't the last Discworld book I've yet to read? This is such a treat.

Like I told John, "Mark's reading Discworld! Expect my productivity to dip a bit." And so it has. Drat.

i have a sad, so i am counting my happies
Tue 2015-01-13 23:49:11 (single post)

As expected, I did not skate at BCB's first practice in the "Barn Shelter" tonight. As expected, this made me sad. So I am thinking of cheerful things, so as to keep the sad away.

Some immediate cheerful things are right here on the desk with me. They are a bottle of beer and a bowl of pasta. Tasty things to eat and drink are inherently cheerful. They add cheerfulness to the sum of cheerfulness at the cheerful end of the cheerful/not-cheerful see-saw. What I'm saying here is, even if you're not all that happy, treating your tummy and tastebuds to something yummy is an easy, no-effort way to increase your happy points score, if only by a little.

Some cheerful things happened today. John and I went to see Into the Woods at the Cinnebar in Louisville. Being somewhat familiar with the musical, I was worried there might be an excess of Disneyfication in the film adaptation. It turns out there was not. With regards to Act II, Disney did not flinch. Oh, the body count is slightly lower, but mostly that's because the character count is too. Where in one really notable case they spared a main character's life, it was very much not to make a happier ending. It arguably made another character's ending that much more tragic. (Yes, I'm circumlocuting. I'm spoiler-adverse. Go see the movie.)

More importantly: the adaptation is really good. It's faithful to the feel of a Broadway musical, not just in preserving the score but also in preserving the sense of limitations in what you can show onstage. Which is not to say that they didn't take advantage of the possibilities of film, but rather that the choices they made were artful and wise.

Some cheerful things had to do with writing! For the first time since October, I put up a post on Boulder Writing Examiner. Yes, my Examiner gigs are supposed to be at a much lower priority than my fiction. It's not meant to be a huge deal. But after two months without a single post on BWE (and barely anything on Puzzle Pirates Examiner other than the obligatory weekend blockade round-ups), it feels triumphant. Like waving a flag and shouting, "Not dead yet!"

I also finally put up all the accompanying material for last week's Friday Fictionette. The Wattpad version of the teaser is up, as are the excerpt and cover notes posts on Patreon. Woot! Just in time to swing into action on this week's edition.

And some cheerful things are coming soon in the future. As you know, I have been reading and thinking about the wisdom of Havi Brooks quite a lot lately. And one of my thoughts was, "It's a brand new year. It's been a while since I purchased a Fluent Self product and made myself feel happy and creative and productive thereby. Maybe it's time." Right on cue, Havi announced a New Year's "Plum Duff Days" half-off sale! So I ordered myself a copy of the DIY Rally/Retreat kit, which will arrive any day now.

By stunning coincidence, the DIY Rally/Retreat kit includes a 2015 calendar. I was just thinking I'd like a new wall calendar...

Anyways, it appears that Plum Duff Days continue through January 19th. For information on that, read a recent post by Havi (this'll do nicely) and look for the Plum Duff link and password.

Yet more cheerful future things: "Broken Bombers Trivia" tomorrow night (a group of BCB skaters, the core of whom are on injury league of absence, show up for Geeks Who Drink and rock the house), me getting back on skates very carefully on Thursday night, the knee brace that a league member loaned me for my sprain recovery, the fact that I'm almost done my writing for the day and can play on Puzzle Pirates for a bit before bedtime, a whole new day full of possibilities will begin when I wake up tomorrow...

My! The world is full of cheerful things. I am a very lucky person!

woe! an incomplete dragon
Wed 2015-01-07 23:19:31 (single post)
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Sometimes, with this blog, you get woo. Sometimes you get excerpts from my dream journal, complete with possible interpretations. Sometimes you get lucid dreams, astral projection, magic, witchcraft, spirituality, religion.

And sometimes you get conversations with imaginary people.

Re-reading Havi's post on avoidance yesterday led to rereading also the post by Emma Newman that inspired it and then Havi's post about sitting down and having a friendly chat with your fears. There are other ways to deal with fear than facing them down, as it turns out, and I'm getting a lot out of them now.

Emma's post was about finding sufficient courage to be her own hero. Which put me in mind of the classic Knight in Shining Armor facing down a Dragon. So I started thinking of my story, the one whose revision I've been avoiding, as a dragon. Big. Big, scary dragon. Rugged scale and sharp claws and teeth the size of mammoth tusks. DRAGON, blocking the road.

It's the story itself that's the dragon, and the road it's blocking is THE ROAD TO WRITERLY SUCCESS. It's that important to me. If I don't pass it (revise and resubmit the story), I lose as an author.

Wait, you might say. That's all-or-nothing thinking, there. A career is bigger than one story. What if you just, well, go around the dragon? You could work on a different story, progress toward WRITERLY SUCCESS along a different road.

But the problem with that is, what if the next time I have a story on the brink of possible publication, needing only a rewrite to make an editor fall in love with it... I give up on that too? THERE ARE OTHER DRAGONS OUT THERE. It would be one thing if this were just not the story to work on right now... but right now the possibility we're courting is most definitely "I never finish anything because I get scared and run away."

It's down to habits, right? And skills. And patterns. Finishing and submitting stories is a skill I want to get better at, a habit I want to foment, and a pattern I want to establish.

Anyway. My story is a DRAGON blocking my road and I am a HEROIC KNIGHT challenging it!

But I don't want to slay my story!

But the dragon... wants me to slay it? "Finish me off," it's saying, "Finish me off!"

That's creepy.

But, no, I misheard. What the dragon is actually saying is, "Finish me up! Finish me up!"

So I look closer at the dragon. And its nose is missing. And its internal furnace lacks necessary components. And its wings are crooked! And it's so very, very afraid that it will never be a finished dragon who can soar and breathe fire.

The dragon needs a hero, y'all. That's what I found out last night when I took my ten minutes or so to sit with my avoidance. The unfinished dragon needs a hero who can make it complete. I'm going to be its hero, y'all. That's what I'm gonna do.

This morning there were more discoveries, because I had that chat with my fear I was meaning to have. It went something like this:

ME: So, hey there, fear. You're here, aren't you? I can be OK with that. What are you afraid of?

FEAR: (Huddling in a corner, the picture of misery) I'm afraid that you'll take one look at your story and find out it's a terrible story. And you'll be ashamed of yourself for writing it.

MY UNSPOKEN REACTION: Well... that's silly, isn't it? I mean, an editor looked at that story and said, "There is much to love here." Then that editor took personal, precious time to do a rough edit on it, just to show me how she imagines it could be made it better.

ME: OK, I respect that fear. It's scary stuff. Let me ask you this: What if you're right? What if looking at my story did make me ashamed of myself? What then?

FEAR: (Huddled tighter in abject terror) It... it doesn't bear thinking about.

MY UNSPOKEN REACTION: Well, dammit, that's not helpful. Think about it anyway! No, that's mean and aggressive and hostile, and the poor thing's clearly terrified....

ME: What do you need to feel safe enough to think about it it?

FEAR: (No answer, just more misery)

ME: Here's what I think will happen if I become ashamed of myself as a writer: I might stop writing. Which is indeed awful! But... how is that different from what's happening now? By paralyzing me with fear, you're creating the awful outcome that you're trying to avoid. That isn't very helpful, is it?

FEAR: (Silent. Miserable. Maybe a little shamefaced.)

ME: Honey, I appreciate that you're trying to keep me safe. I really do! But I need to be able to write, so, fair warning, I'm going to work on my story today. But here's what I will do: First, before I even think about rewriting it, I will read it through as is, beginning to end, looking for all the reasons I have to feel proud of that story. Your timely warning that SHAME might be lurking right around the corner has enabled me to dodge that hell out of that jerk and keep writing. Seriously, thank you!

FEAR: (Still silent, still huddled, but maybe there's a hint of a smile going on in there. It's nice to feel listened to. It's nice to feel like you've been of help.)

All of the above was actually kind of surprising. I didn't know the dragon was going to have no nose. I didn't know what FEAR was going to say. But I guess it's not too different from day-to-day writer-brain. I mean, when I'm freewriting or writing rough draft, half the time I don't know what I'll be writing three sentences from now. It shouldn't be so surprising that when I create a character called FEAR and I invent a conversation with her, she says things I didn't know she was going to say.

Anyway, I still need to do what I promised FEAR that I'd do. It's late, I've been out to Brighton (which is an hour away), I skated for two hours at the very edge of my endurance then two hours more just for fun--but I think I can manage to read myself a story before bedtime.

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