“When I am dead
I hope it is said,
'His sins were scarlet,
but his books were read.'”
Hilaire Belloc

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

i blame the snooze button
Thu 2015-04-02 23:45:31 (single post)

Sometimes I don't know what to say in these blog posts. I get to that time of the night where I need to cross "actually writing blog" off my daily to-do list (or, to be precise, check its checkbox on my list of HabitRPG "dailies"), and I find I don't have much to say. Not that I've ever let that ultimately stop me, as my nearest and dearest have learned to their chagrin. But that's arguably part and parcel of being a writer. You can't let "I don't know what to write" stop you from writing.

It doesn't help that tonight I can't seem to hold a thought in my head much longer than it takes to chew and swallow what's in my mouth. Roller derby ate my brain, and only food can give it back. Tonight's scrimmage was especially brutal, because it was an interleague scrimmage--BCB's Bombshells versus the combined might of Castle Rock 'n Rollers, South Side Derby Dames, and I think High City Derby Divas were in there too. (Look, I don't know, once the whistle blows all I see is hips and shoulders and helmets. Especially the helmet with the star on. Sometimes all I see is the helmet with the star on, and not useful things like, say, jersey colors, and I try to block my own jammer BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I DO DURING TEAM PRACTICE.) Anyway, it was a great outing. We had a rotation of two blocker line-ups and three jammers, so it really worked our endurance. It was great practice for our upcoming tournament. The opposition hit hard and didn't give an inch. All of which means I am now gobbling down egg fu young and cold sesame noodles as fast as I can shovel it in my mouth.

Anyway. When I first started blogging, my thought was, it would hold me accountable, because 1. I would not blog unless I had written that day, so 2. if I didn't blog, it meant I hadn't written. Which at the very least kept me in subject matter. If I'd written that day, I probably had something to say about how the writing day had gone.

But now my rule is to blog every weekday. In theory it should work out to about the same thing, because I'm also supposed to write every weekday. Well, every Tuesday through Friday. Although it's looking like I won't be doing farm work on Mondays, so it might be time to consider Monday a writing day. (Or I could continue preserving Monday as a Get Shit Done day. I rather like that idea. There's shit that doesn't get done unless I have a weekday that isn't a writing day.) But the sad fact is, there are days I don't get any writing done at all.

Like today. For no really good reason at all.

And then, unless something really momentous happens (like, say, closing on the sale of our home of 15 years), I wind up without much to say.

Well, I suppose I could say something like,

I slept until ten and I wished I hadn't, because what with one thing and another I wound up with no time to do Morning Pages before the representative from The Cleaning Fairies arrived. She walked through the house, took notes, asked questions, and concluded that the job would take two staff members and three hours for a total of $240. So, nine a.m. to noon on Saturday the 11th. Armed with this knowledge, I called back our buyer's agent and scheduled her final walk-through for one p.m. on the 11th. Then I realized I couldn't both be there and be at the Longmont YMCA to take my turn at training the Phase 1 skaters, so I double-checked with John that he could be there instead. He said yes. After that I spent rather a while on the phone hammering out details about the mortgage because it turns out the sale of our place lets us make a somewhat higher down payment and thus take out a smaller loan, and also get explained to me how it works that our condo owner's insurance policy is now bundled up in the mortgage payment too. Once all that was done, I failed to be productive until it was time to leave for scrimmage. At least I got to my Morning Pages, if only by 4:00 p.m., and used them to hash out with myself what the next few days are going to look like. That is, what they'll look like if I actually manage to get out of bed on time.

And I suppose I just did say something like that. But it's boring. It's full of minutiae and administrivia and excuses. Worse, it has very little to do with writing, and this is the actually writing blog, dammit. I would prefer to have a writing day to report on.

Hopefully that will happen tomorrow. If I get up on time, that is.

the wide world of Android apps, as illustrated by Default Dude
Thu 2015-03-26 23:54:24 (single post)

Some years ago I was introduced to the Pomodoro technique for time and task management. I tried it out. After a while, I drifted away from some of its tenets--like, tracking how many 25-minute sessions, or "poms," I got done, or considering interrupted poms forfeit, or logging my distractions, or limiting myself to 5-minute breaks between poms. But the basic idea stuck with me: Set a timer, work during the timer, take a break after the timer goes off.

The timer application I got in the habit of using was Focus Booster (which I see has come up a few version numbers since I last downloaded it). I think at the time the Pomodoro people were linking to it. It's designed for the Pomodoro technique, in that it alternates work sessions and breaks, whose length you can define separately (default 25 and 5 minutes, respectively). But I started using it for just about anything with a duration of 2 minutes or longer. It came in useful for physical therapy, for instance.

I never quite got around to installing Focus Booster on the ASUS laptop when I moved all my work off the Dell. Either I just timed myself off the computer clock, "I'm done at 15:45" kind of thing, or I maybe possibly perhaps didn't actually get my timed writing done at all. *shamefaced*

Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated part of my brain, I'd just gotten the news that there will be no new levels for Two Dots rolled out to the Facebook app. This made me all kinds of unhappy. I don't have a smart phone, I don't want to have to get a smart phone--and, thanks to John's smart phone, I managed to get addicted to Two Dots during our train trip to New Orleans back in December. We'd take turns attempting levels, passing his phone back and forth. I was so happy when I found out I could play it on my computer via Facebook--and so sad to learn the game designers would not be supporting it on that platform anymore.

The disappointment was enough to spur me to try just one more time to install the Android emulator BlueStacks on my laptop. I'd tried to get it to work back in December, but either the application froze on initialization, or once it launched it felt klutzy and laggy to navigate, or I couldn't figure out how to get Google Play to let me install Two Dots in the first place ("You don't have any devices!" Damn straight I don't--that's why I'm trying to install an emulator!). Well, this time I managed to get it to work. BlueStacks itself seems to have rolled out a more stable and fluent version earlier this year, for one thing. But the main thing is, I flailed harder at Google Play until I stumbled across the process for linking my "device" (i.e. BlueStacks) to my Google account. I'm honestly not sure how I got there. I logged into Google, I logged out, I Alt-Tabbed over to Firefox, I came back, the dialogue box was waiting for me.

So now I'm happily playing through the Two Dots levels all over again, eagerly anticipating the happy day when I finish level 185 and keep going. Cave levels! Jungle levels! More dots! More!

I'm also happily discovering the world of free Android apps. Oh my gosh, y'all, is this why everyone loves smart phones? All the apps! For doing everything.

Maybe for timing poms?

I was completely app-happy by now, so I went looking for timer apps. And I found the Pomodoro Challenge Timer. It's like Focus Booster with more stuff: the ability to define projects, to track poms completed on each project, to define both short breaks and long breaks, and, best/worst of all, a tendency to nag you until you get to work. Seriously. When it's time to get back to work, it whistles at you. Like a sports coach. If you do not promptly click the START POMODORO button, it whistles at you again and displays the message, "Any reason why you're not working?" Nag, nag, nag! I'm not sure it motivated me per se, but it amused me, and I played along. And I logged five poms today before I had to do other stuff to get ready for tonight's roller derby scrimmage.

Did I mention it has achievements? It has achievements you can unlock. They are very sarcastic. Today I worked for at least two hours in a single day using the Pomodoro technique, thus unlocking the coveted "One foot off the couch" achievement.

Anyway, all that stuff comes with the free version. If you pay a whopping $4, you unlock Pro mode, which gets you a few other perks.

My only complaint about the thing, really, is about its front page design. The WORK button is illustrated by Iconic Construction Man! The PROJECTS button is illustrated by Iconic Science Guy! The ACHIEVEMENTS button is illustrated by Iconic Triumphant Business Dude! Like, would it have hurt to make one of these three Iconic Dudes a Dudette? How hard is it to insert a Rosie the Riveter type figure, or Marie Curie? For the love of little bran muffins, people!

It's a little piece of discouragement that looks me in the face every time I fire up the app: Male is the default pronoun, and Man is the default human. (Yes, even in women's sports. The number of times I've heard a roller derby coach or trainer tell a bunch of women on skates to form a "four-man wall," or describe the goal of our pack sprint as "no man left behind," exceeds my patience for keeping score. And don't get me started on "if you can't do a boy push-up, do a girl push-up!") "Everyman" really is a man, by whom women are expected to feel adequately represented and with whom women are expected to seamlessly identify. We shouldn't need to see female protagonists or pictures of women using the products we enjoy; of course that male cartoon figure stands in for everyone. What, don't you have any imagination? Are you really so selfish that you have to see pictures of yourself everywhere you go? (Meanwhile, when a woman is on the cover of a book, just for instance, or invited to speak at school, boys are expected, even obligated, to tune out.)

I'm sure the developers made their Iconic Humans men because they just didn't have a good reason for making any of them women. Now, if the app were primarily designed to help Mommy time her baking, or her children's time-outs, that would have been a good reason to include a picture of a woman. Or if the app was rewarding the user's hard work with pictures of sexy supermodels. Good reasons like that, see?

("Because about half of the population is women" never seems to be a good enough reason. See also.)

It's disappointing. Not enough to keep me from using the app--today's use of the Pomodoro Challenge Time was indeed useful!--but enough to itch every time I use it. And this is just the mildest example of what is called microagressions.

Which is a bummer of a note to end on, but it's past midnight and I'm out of clever exits. So. In sum: Two Dots is fun, the Pomodoro technique works, and human beings come in a wide variety of genders and colors that are all worth acknowledging. Do better, app designers!

(Oh hey! Also, I have downloaded Hybrid Stopwatch and Timer. Just in case it's ever not awkward to sit in the infield and time a skater's 27-in-5 with my laptop.)

i mean if you can fit every kind of weather in just one day
Wed 2015-03-25 23:44:38 (single post)

Today we got every kind of weather. We got hail and rain and snow and blissfully warm sunshine too. To fit all that into a single day takes a strict timetable, I imagine. "Hurry up," said the weather coach. "We have a lot to do today. And no chit-chatting between drills! Move it, move it, move it--"

Or maybe Colorado was presenting its meteorological portfolio to a prospective employer. At the job interview, when the Rocky Mountain Front Range was asked "What's your greatest weakness?" it probably answered, "Inconsistency." Or perhaps, "I have a tendency to try to do everything at once. But I make up for it by being a great multitasker!"

I had foolishly, optimistically thought that we needn't turn the heat on ever again this spring--in fact, ever again at this address, as we're moving in about two weeks. (Two weeks! Shit-bird, that's scary-soon. I should be making check-lists and writing an inventory of stuff-still-to-be-packed!) But it got cold while the snow was driving at 45-degree angles this afternoon, and it got cold on the drive home from roller derby practice this evening too.

Tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny, just like yesterday (and the day before, and the day before that) but more-so. Tomorrow, Colorado will wake up with a hangover and declare that it doesn't remember and has absolutely no desire to be told what it got up to on Wednesday the 25th. It's just too embarrassing.

Speaking of roller derby (as I always am), Bombshells team practice failed to kill me. It didn't try all that hard, mind; it only lasted two hours instead of three, but more to the point, it's the environment in which I've been practicing for almost three years. I'm comfortable there. Which is not to say it goes easy on me either, but it's the level of practice I've grown used to. I'm more accustomed to its demands. Whereas yesterday's All Stars practice was a shock to my system. Everything was faster! stronger! harder! longer! and done by people who are so much better at this stuff than me. It's intimidating.

But yesterday's the only taste I'm going get of it, just a dip of the toe in the pool, until next week Thursday. The All Stars are going to the Dust Devil Tournament this weekend in Tucson, Arizona. I was added to the team far too late to go with them, which is just fine. Frankly, I need another week of Bombshells practice just to remind my body, after its enforced two-month "vacation" from skating, what regularly practicing is like.

And it's not just practice I need. I need to adjust my entire lifestyle. Well, that's a bit strong. I mean, I need to get into better self-care routines so that my body is able to handle not just a higher intensity of physical activity when it comes time to skate, but also my unreasonable demand that I do more with my days than just skate.

Just look at all the different kinds of weather that can fit in a single day. If Colorado can do that, I should be able to cram all my writing projects into a day that contains roller derby, right?

But the body is a machine that needs regular maintenance. I haven't been taking very good care of mine. I've been up until all hours and staying in bed late with headaches and exhaustion because of it. Which then leads to a failure to eat right or hydrate sufficiently.

This has been less than ideal for my ambitions to productivity. It probably also has something to do with the way this past weekend laid me out flat.

Preliminary steps to fix this include getting up at 8:00 AM--no excuses!--regularly feeding myself breakfast and a good multivitamin, drinking a glass of water for every cup of hot caffeinated tea, having no caffeine past five in the afternoon, and getting to bed no later than midnight.

I have not been very good at that last thing. Days aren't long enough to start with. I can't get nearly as much done in one as I'd like. Naturally I'm reluctant to let one come to an end.

But this one is coming to an end now, because new good habits have to start sometime.

Goodnight, everybody!

the things you don't even know you don't know, until you know them
Tue 2015-03-24 23:34:48 (single post)

A thing I learned today: It's amazing how much one can do if one actually gets out of bed up on time.

However, it's also amazing how easily a small roadblock can dam that fresh flow of productivity. To wit:

A thing I really wish I'd learned today: Why the heck Scrivener will only successfully launch once on the ASUS.

That's it. Just once after install. After I exit the program, the next time I attempt to use it, it will completely fail to launch ever again. Sometimes it signals its failure by a big blank window that includes the parenthetical "(Not Responding)" in its title bar. Sometimes it just sits there, invisibly, in the Task Manager list of processes. In neither case will it enable me to write. Recovering functionality then requires uninstalling Scrivener, rebooting the computer, and reinstalling Scrivener. Some service or background application is clearly jamming up the works, and it's not Dropbox, because I got rid of that sucker. It may be time to disable pretty much every service listed in msconfig and see what happens.

A thing I already knew: What doesn't kill me makes me stronger.

It is still too early to determine which of those two categories, "things that kill me" or "things that make me stronger" All Stars practice will ultimately fall into. But if you illustrated that venerable saying by means of a Venn diagram, with "things that kill me" in one circle and "things that make me stronger" in another, non-overlapping circle, you would then draw a larger circle such that it encompassed both of the smaller two, and that larger circle would be labeled, "things that are, in fact, trying to kill me."

I dunno; maybe I'm being a little overdramatic. I plead not guilty by reason of being under the influence of my body, which is top pro at complaining, y'all.

Complain or not, it's going to skate again tomorrow evening at Bombshells practice.

(This may or may not occasion more Venn diagrams.)

the sun always shines on tv but we don't get cable
Thu 2015-02-12 23:23:57 (single post)
  • 5,389 wds. long

I'm not at the fun part of the short story revision.

Is there a fun part? I hear that there is. But then I mostly hear that from writers who like the revision phase, so I'm not sure if I believe them. I believe it's fun for them, but I'm not sure the experience translates.

In any case, if there is a fun part, this isn't it. I'm still stuck in the segue glue. And it feels ridiculous, because the segues aren't between scenes. Microscenes, maybe. They're the transitions for getting the protagonist from one paragraph to the next, essentially. They need to be concise and perfectly worded to do two emotional tasks per sentence, and they need to either be written anew or refined out of existing draft.

Which is not easy. If it were easy, I'd have already done it, and the story wouldn't need revising.

Basically, I'm going from stuck to stuck. And it's not like getting stuck in rough draft, where getting unstuck means running for pages and pages on the new idea. No. Every "a-ha!" that gets me unstuck is good for about a sentence. Maybe two. Then I'm stuck again.

I think if I could bottle that "a-ha!" feeling and prolong it, that would be the fun part of revisions.

So, in keeping with my anti-BIC play-while-you-work strategy, I'm attacking the revision in very short sessions. Like, spend 15 minutes throwing myself at the current brick wall, then go do some unrelated thing. During that unrelated activity, something about the story will unknot itself and give me an "a-ha!" which will send me back to the revision with great joy and hope. Fifteen minutes and maybe two sentences worth keeping later, I'm making brick-shaped indentations in my forehead again and it's time to go do something else. Rinse, lather, repeat, all day long.

It's better than no progress at all, but it's not what I'd call fun.

(Which is why the unrelated thing is generally video games.)

having cross words with my bridges
Tue 2015-02-10 21:12:59 (single post)
  • 5,263 wds. long

So, about that injured knee.

Today, our emphasis shifted from regaining range of motion to strength and motion training. This is good news. It is also exhausting.

Unlike previous appointments, I didn't spend any time lying on the table while the physical therapist manipulated my leg. I was a much more active participant in my recovery today. I was compelled to do a whole bunch of exercises that required standing on one leg and lifting the other in inventive ways, generally while wearing a big rubber band around my knees or ankles. There were also some squats, a few balancing acts, and a bit of shuffling back and forth. (The shuffling was especially exciting; up until now I'd been forbidden all lateral movement.)

The long and the short of it is, I needed a nap when I got home, and I am going to be very sore tomorrow. I am also going to be decently strong by the time I'm cleared to skate. The latter makes the former totally worth it.

And it can't come too soon. Yesterday I had my first impatient-to-skate dream; I was walking into the Wagon Wheel with John, holding my skates in my hand, getting ready to participate in some really simple Phase 1 style skate training (individual skating skills, no pack or contact stuff). Then I realized, "Wait, I haven't been cleared to skate yet. I could re-injure myself. Damn." So I walked back out to the car to put my skates away. At least I could watch John skate, that would be nice. I woke up before I actually got back out to the car.

Mid-March seems so very far away.

I'm walking more or less fine now, incorporating all the bent-knee and straight-leg motions of a normal walking stride, and both the knee-brace and the compression aids are on an only-as-needed basis. I actually went downtown tonight without either, which feels a little daring.

Not that I anticipate maneuvering through crowds much tonight. I've taken my work out to Lindsay's Boulder Deli for dinner and I might make my way over to Bohemian Biergarten once the trivia crowd disperses. I really enjoyed the Biergarten Saturday night, when I meant to see about the Mardi Gras party in the back, but I wound up just enjoying my food, drink, computer, and the restaurant's 80s New Wave mix in a quiet corner near the front. When I walked by tonight, the theme was more Oktoberfest Polka as far as I could tell. We'll see what it's like in an hour or so.

I appear to be doing my work these days according to the theory of productive procrastination. I've been putting off my short story revision for last while doing all my blogging first, and I put off my Boulder Writing Examiner blogging while banking a bit of elbow grease toward refurbishing the final living room closet bi-fold. And of course the whole day gets put off for about 25 minutes while I take time first thing to do my Morning Pages.

And the Morning Pages get put off by... well, by sleeping in. Because Monday morning Morning Pages means oh, Gods, another week has started, why can't it still be Sunday? OK, but aside from that...

...we do get to the story revision in the end. And with plenty of time left in the evening, too, given that I typically don't go to bed until 1:00 AM. So. Wish me luck and I'll tell you how it went tomorrow.

but processing the stuff creates more stuff to process can i stop now
Wed 2015-02-04 23:44:23 (single post)
  • 5,263 wds. long

OK, so the story gained a few hundred words this time around. Not to worry. It's all part of the process. Besides, tonight's bit didn't go as well as yesterday's, so there was some "just babble and something good will come out of it" verbiage. I'm trying to stitch in a new microscene segue and I'm trying to start incorporating elements from the deleted scene, so some temporary bloat is only to be expected.

Yesterday's post about changing associations got me thinking: It works both ways. That is, bundling play and work together not only makes the work seem more like play, but it can also help change what goes on in my brain when I play. Or so I devoutly hope.

That didn't make much sense. I can make it make sense, but it's going to get a little personal.

As anyone who's heard me babble about Puzzle Pirates knows, I tend toward mini-games, puzzle-games, and classic arcade games, and not so much for first-person shooters or story-heavy RPGs. I like my RPGs tabletop; I like my video games simple.

But here's the problem, or rather the double-edged sword, about the simple clicky games: They leave a lot of room in the brain for running on auto-pilot.

This has been a bad thing, because my brain develops ruts very easily. Honestly, I think it's a form of PTSD, if a comparatively mild one. It's such that interpersonal interactions that leave me angry, hurt, feeling betrayed, and crying at the time will repeat on me for months, even years. They'll leap into my conscious mind unbidden, at which point I'll emotionally relive the damn experience and sit there crying all over again.

And whatever I was doing at the time that the painful memory came back, that activity may become associated with the memory... so that next time I do that activity, I relive the memory again. Which only strengthens the association. And so forth.

This is why Morning Pages are kind of a crap shoot. In working through the thoughts and emotions on the page, am I going to be successfully processing them, or am I just creating a trigger for them, such that I'll relive them every time I sit down at the spiral notebook? It could go either way.

Besides, how long can one be expected to process this stuff? Some of it goes back twenty years or more. Some goes back to early childhood. "Processing" it doesn't make it go away or diminish. It just means I'm having another experience of pain and anger and helplessness. Let it go? Gee, thanks--you say that like I've made a conscious choice to hold onto this stuff. I would love to let go of this stuff. But it won't let go of me. It comes to something when Cowboy Mouth's "Let It Go" and "Easy" start to feel like victim-blaming songs, you know? Like that time I tried to explain this stuff to Dad, and he just chuckled and said, "My, you sure can hold a grudge!"

Point being, certain mini-games in Puzzle Pirates are indelibly linked to certain unfortunate memories. Treasure Haul requires very little strategizing. There is plenty of room left in my head for running down the rut one more time of why that particular guy left our role playing group and what he said about me damn near fifteen years ago.

Ditto the Bilging puzzle, and the memory of sitting in an IHOP realizing that a particular freelance writing gig--which, mind you, only paid about three cents a word--was killing my brain and my soul but I felt trapped by my honor not to resign from it when I said I'd do it, and you don't go back on your word, dammit. Even if your cat just got diagnosed with cancer, you don't go back on your word! And other forms of punishing myself for daring to consider safeguarding my mental and emotional health.

Ditto the Rumble puzzle, and the pain and betrayal of a trusted friend and mentor telling me she thinks that women aren't to blame so to speak but don't they at least share responsibility for the rape that happened when they wore that skirt, went alone late at night to the party, or say "no" loudly enough and clearly enough to revoke the consent that is assumed to be given otherwise? Aren't feminists going overboard when they say that nothing but an enthusiastic "yes" is consent? She just wanted to know what my thoughts on that were; what a slap in the face that my thoughts didn't support her brave stance against modern feminism! How dare I react to her ideas by feeling less safe around her! How dare I decide she isn't a safe person to introduce friends to, if I know those friends are rape survivors! How dare I say that her beliefs support rape culture! We're friends--she's supposed to be able to confide in me without negative repercussions!

And then it gets recursive. These days, the precise memory that reruns during the Rumble puzzle is... playing the Rumble puzzle in the lobby of the Sheraton Mountain Vista in Avon while trying to block out thoughts of that interaction. While crying over it again, of course.

It's an improvement, though. It's an extra layer of emotional distance. I went from having to watch a movie of the event, to having to reread a novelization of the movie.

Still, I would like my pleasant brainless passtimes to be pleasant, not emotional mine fields. That should not be too much to ask.

So... I have a hope that parallel-tracking Puzzle Pirates and writing will help chase out some of those associations, and replace them with other ones. It would be super cool if every time I return to the Duty Navigation puzzle, that small backburner part of my brain instead remembers, say, trying to write the micro-scene segue glue that this story rewrite requires, or working out the plot of a novel.

I do not know how to break mental associations. I only know how to replace them: by having new experiences. I am trying to create new experiences for myself.

Replace the experience of dreading the scary writing task with enjoying the fun wrting play.

Replace the experience of unwanted painful memory while I'm playing with current writing project percolating while I'm playing.

It's worth a try.

if not you can darn well add your own element of fun
Tue 2015-02-03 23:33:52 (single post)
  • 4,516 wds. long

More writing. Yes! The short story revision, which was not finished by the end of January, nevertheless continues apace. Today I got through the bit with the maudlin elementary school teacher, which takes the draft just up to the threshold of the first major structural change to the scene. Which details mean very little to you at this time, dear reader, but check this out: the word count came down by another 300 today. Bringing the word count down is a large part of what the editor requested. At almost 6,000 words it struck her as a tad bloated.

Each day I'm finding it easier to get started. This should come as no surprise. All through the fall and winter I had this nasty, negative association with the story, something like "OMG there is no way this is impossible I suck I suck I suck." But each small revision session during which "impossible" and "I suck" is disproven eats away at that association, replacing it with something else, something more like "Where did I leave off? Oh yeah, I was going to do this..."

I find that most of my "stuck" has to do with negative associations, like "it's going to be hard," and "it's going to hurt," and "it's going to suck." Getting unstuck requires creating new, positive associations, like "This is fun" and "Gee, I'm clever" and "Wait, I wrote that? Wow." Which is where such strategies as "Just read it through, that's all," and "Just do that one paragraph, OK?" come from.

This is also where new, radical strategies like playing while I work come in.

Well... It's actually not all that new and radical, except in its application to writing.

For years now, I've used knitting and Puzzle Pirates to combat the deadly boredom of reading an hour of employment ads for AINC twice a week. Don't get me wrong, it's a very necessary and useful broadcast, but producing it is sort of mind-numbing. So while I'm reading the ads, I might also be knitting a sock, memorizing league points on the Jade Ocean, or earning obscene amounts of in-game currency during the latest blockade grudge match on the Emerald Ocean. It's not as complicated as all that. It just requires careful arrangement of monitor real estate so that the browser window, recording application, and YPP client are all visible and in close proximity. Then it's just a matter of glancing back and forth between the text I'm reading and the bilging combo I'm putting together.

Over the years, this has had an effect on my attitude toward reading the employment ads. When I first picked up the shift, I approached it with dread. "The next hour and a half is going to suck," I would think. And I'd put it off, and put it off, and then finally race the clock to get it done in time.

Now, I'm all, "Yay! Sunday morning reading! Which means time legitimately blocked out for playing Puzzle Pirates!"

Well. Recently, I started doing something like this to overcome a deep reluctance to do my Morning Pages. Sometimes I just don't want to do them. They're going to be three interminable pages during which I will distress myself with the contents of my head, stress myself out over the obligations of the day looming over me, and chafe at not being able to get started on said obligations because I still have to get through these three interminable pages of freehand writing. Some days, not even the cheerful bright colors I've put in my favorite fountain pen make Morning Pages look at all attractive.

It was a day like that when I got the bright idea of logging on to Second Life and essentially running around picking up spare change while doing my Morning Pages. There are a bunch of "earn Lindens for visiting sims" mechanisms in SL, most of which involve interacting with some object or other and then waiting around for some amount of time before the object pays out. It's ...not particularly fun, actually. But somehow putting that sort of thing together with the Morning Pages fulfills my need to always be doing two things at once in a satisfying way.

When I can't find a single thing about the task at hand to look forward to, I can bundle the task up with a completely unrelated element of play, and look forward to that.

It's this silly improbable trick that I play on my brain. It's similar to Havi's "proxy" theory, and it's all about replacing avoidance with interest and attraction.

I'm not doing my Morning Pages... I'm hopping traffic cones in Second Life, and passing the wait time at each traffic cone by scribbling down my thoughts in this spiral notebook here.

Sure, I have to record an hour of employment ads... but while I'm doing that, I can make a bundle buying large cannonballs at Armstrong Island and selling them at Paihia. (Emerald, not Opal. Almost always a viable trade. Check it out.)

I don't want to do freewriting for 25 minutes. How about instead I do freewriting for the time it takes to memorize Caravanserai to Kiwara on the Jade Ocean? It's not like I have to interact with the game for more than a few seconds every other minute or so. I basically complete one duty navigation puzzle and then hit pause, and wait to reach the next league point. During which time I can write the next paragraph...

OK, so some of those details won't make sense in and of themselves unless you play Puzzle Pirates too. On the other hand, those details in and of themselves aren't the point. The point is, adding a fun passtime to the dreaded task turns the dreaded task into an eagerly anticipated excuse to enjoy the fun passtime (as long as the task still gets done).

It's radically different from butt-in-chair theory. From a butt-in-chair perspective, it's heresy. But as long as the writing is still getting done, who cares?

On the other hand... I didn't need to bundle today's story revision session with playtime. I wasn't dreading the task enough to need to.

Hooray!

that nasty habit of unnecessary limping
Wed 2015-01-28 23:30:23 (single post)
  • 4,820 wds. long

All right, it wasn't a full five hours today, but all the tasks got done. The next brick in the story-wall got mortared into place, exactly as I said it would. And I suppose I could stay up and put in some more time--but I am freakin' done with this up-til-four-aye-emm business. Especially considering I didn't sleep well between then and when I got up at ten thirty this morning. I'm exhausted, y'all. Time to shift my work days back to diurnal standard time.

I'm actually quite pleased. Getting to all my usual writing tasks, and my usual Wednesday tasks, and my unusual Wednesday-the-28th tasks (well, one task and one social outing), is kind of a feat. Go me.

Speaking of which: My first physical therapy appointment went well. For one thing, I have been commanded to stop limping, dammit. It's the two weeks of hobbling around and not using the knee's full range of motion that's got things all tight and grumpy around the patella. So I don't have to be quite so protective of the joint. I'm not to run, jump, or make lateral movements ("cuts"), but I've been encouraged, nay, urged to walk normally. And I've been reassured that it's perfectly safe to straighten out the leg, and have indeed been assigned to do so in the context of several exercises. The knee brace has been downgraded from "as much as possible" to "only for extra protection in uncontrolled environments"--crowds, walking on icy sidewalks, anywhere where I might unexpectedly slip or stumble.

I'm to apply compression so as to help the fluid work its way out of the joint. To that end, I'm wearing one of my 187 Killer Pads gaskets--the neoprene sleeves I wear under my knee pads when I skate--until I've got time to pick up an Ace bandage. It feels weirdly comforting to be wearing a piece of roller derby gear during my enforced off-skates recovery.

I've got loads of PT homework. Going off what I remember of each exercise's hold time, repetitions and sets, I estimate that I've been assigned somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour of exercise every day. I'll start on it tomorrow. Today was already full up. Plus the physical therapist worked my knee a good deal already. I'm exhausted. It's amazing how tired a body can get just lying down and being worked on; see also dental visits and MRI appointments.

Back to the writing for a moment. I've got further thoughts on Anti-BIC Week, flavors of writing advice, and possibilities for blending work with play, but, again, I'm exhausted. I'm doing all the item's on today's list (except, alas, for the one about five hours of writing), but at this point I'm taking as little time on each as possible.

So it's only a brief(ish) status report today. I'll make up for it tomorrow with a long-ass post full of philosophizing and woo. Whether that's a warning or a promise is up to you.

have investigated rabbit holes, have not fallen down any
Tue 2015-01-27 22:48:50 (single post)
  • 5,268 wds. long

Day one of the Anti-BIC experiment is going well. I have all sorts of rabbit holes to report on. And I hit my next goal for the story revision--the one I was going to do Friday but didn't because, as usual, the Friday Fictionette release ran me out of time. One of these days I'll figure out how to make Fridays work.

My goal had been to take the first "brick" in the unmortared wall of rough-revised scene--that is, the first block of text in a revision that consisted of simply moving blocks of text around--and turn it into the opening of the new version of the story. But that opening would be polished. And so it is. And so I did.

Obviously, I can't hit my self-imposed deadline if I work in such small chunks every day. But my hypothesis is that if I make working on the story less scary, then every day I'll get a larger chunk done than the day before.

Now, I don't want to get ambitious and say "I'll finish the scene tomorrow!" Tomorrow I have a lot of non-writing stuff on the agenda. I have my usual Wednesday morning AINC remote reading shift. I have my semi-regular Wednesday night trivia with a fellow BCB skater in the evening. And in the afternoon I have my first physical therapy appointment, about which I'm pretty darn excited, let me tell you. Physical therapy means I get to do something more assertive than just wait for my ACL to heal.

Anyway, tomorrow's assignment on the story revision is simply going to be the next brick in the wall, which is the bit with the guys from Caroline's hunting club telling hilarious stories about the deceased. It's a slightly larger brick than today's brick, which was Demi feeling claustrophobic and the house failing to make it better.

As for rabbit holes, here's what I've got to report.

Slept until noon. Why did I felt the need to sleep until noon? What does sleeping until noon have to tell me? Well, for starters, it's telling me "Don't be up until 4 AM, dimwit." I kid. Sort of. Actually, what it's telling me is much more cheerful and encouraging than that. "It's OK to be up until 4 AM. Just remember that you still have to get enough sleep if you do. Aren't you glad you work from home on your own schedule?" Yes. Yes, I am.

An excessive amount of time playing Two Dots on Facebook, despite having already beat all the boards available to me. I'm actually just trying to raise my Level 73 score from two stars to three. When I realized I was dawdling this way, I investigated what Two Dots had to tell me. "Just connect the dots," it said, which is a reassuring way to look at big projects. "Realize that every action you take now plays a part in the choices available to you in the future," which is a bit of a reality check.

Waydaminnit. Wait a minute. "Trying to raise my Level 73 score from two stars to three." Today's small chunk of story revision included an emphatic narrative mention of how the house was used to accommodating three women, but now there were only two. Two where there should be three. Oh my. That's kind of neat. And also scary. (What, the synchronicity, or your pathological tendency to convince yourself that there are patterns everywhere?) Um. Well. Both?

*ahem* Anyway...

Yet another long Puzzle Pirates Examiner blog post, complete with slideshow. Again. Which, again, I did before the story revision. My instinct was to yell at myself and kick myself in the ass about it. "You know better. Why are you doing this first?" But, again, I'm trying to trust the rabbit holes. So. Investigating. Maybe I'm not putting off the story revision--I'm prepping for it. Something about the experience is part of essential preparation. Something about games and playing. "Remember, what you're about to do? It's not work. It's a form of play. Play hard!"

The urge to go to IHOP instead of home at 11 PM. On Tuesday nights my house is full of people. Happy people who are having fun! Which is lovely, but it is also loud. So I've begun taking my Tuesday night work down to the Remington Post Clubhouse, where it's dark and quiet and empty. So I wrapped up the Examiner post around eleven and realized I was hungry. I could have gone home, but home was still full of people. I could have gone home, grabbed some food, and come back, but that didn't sound appealing. It's kind of a long walk on this knee. So I gave into temptation and I went to IHOP. What's at IHOP? What has IHOP to say to me, to help me with my story revision? "It's about food and drink, and warmth, and creature comforts, and heart comforts. This story is about struggling from a world that's the wrong shape towards a world that's the right shape. Also, why is there no food in the last scene? There's food in the other two scenes. There should be food in the last scene."

And now I'm wrapping up at IHOP, having met all my writing goals for the day and brought my timesheet up past five hours. Day one is a success! I am well pleased. Let's see how the experiment continues tomorrow.

(Let's see first if I can get to bed sometime before 4 AM so I don't sleep until noon again.)

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