“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads.”
Erica Jong

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

everything's in the details, god, the devil, everything
Wed 2014-08-27 23:50:04 (single post)

Excellent. I now have five drabbles ready to go. Tomorrow's goal is to write two or three more. Specklit allows a maximum of ten to be submitted at a time. I'll be happy just to submit another portfolio of eight.

So I've been meaning to blog about my new genius innovation in Successfully Getting Work Done. It's amazing. It's upped my game by like 150% and I have never felt so productive. Here it is. You ready? Check this out:

Daily scheduling.

I know, right? Seems kind of obvious. But until last week, I'd been actively resisting the idea of scheduling my day with any assertive specificity.

To be fair, I'd thought I was already being specific enough. I'd have the goal of five hours of writing on a work day, and I'd have my spreadsheet for keeping track of those hours divided into categories like "fiction" and "content writing" and so forth. While scribbling my way through my morning pages, I'd often worked out which specific tasks I need to work on in a given day: "For Boulder Writing Examiner, that review of Rogers's Word Work that I've been meaning to do," or, "For short fiction today I need to do a final revision on those two drabbles in progress and come up with their 'About the story' snippets."

But I hadn't been holding myself to doing these tasks at specific times during the day looming before me. I didn't trust myself to do it. I didn't trust my day to let me do it. And I didn't trust myself, if, having planned to begin my work at 10:00, I were to find my day delayed by an hour due to unexpected household administrivia muscling into my morning, not to just give up on the whole day and go back to sleep. One of my glitches is, once I get attached to "the shape of the day" as planned, I'm terribly dependent on the day going as planned. If circumstances beyond my control change those plans, I go into a low-level panic. A glitch, like I said, but I didn't want to set myself up for that kind of stressy neurotic crisis.

So instead I'd just had this vague idea of "These things need to get done, and I have all day to get them done in." Which reduced the pressure. I wasn't relying on starting at 10 quite as much. Which meant that if my working day got pushed back to 11, instead of tossing out the whole day as "Nothing's going to get done on time, there won't be enough time, why bother?" I just sort of shrugged and thought, "One hour late. No big deal. There's lots of hours left in the day."

Except that "one hour late, no big deal" can often stretch to "four hours late, no big deal," and so on, until it hits algebraic impossibility. Which is to say, the point at which I realize that 24:00 minus Y < X, where Y is the time of day and X is the amount of hours remaining in my daily five.

So I gave in and tried hammering out a schedule during my morning pages. It would be a very specific schedule, with each task assigned to a particular hour of the day. I'd plan when my lunch break would be, too. I was determined to give myself a lunch break. And I'd take into account when I'd have to stop to get ready for derby practice, if it was a derby practice day.

As a result, two important things happened in my favor:

  1. The algebra got worked out right up front rather than on the back end when it was too late.
  2. I had my lunch break to look forward to!

The effect of front-loading the time calculations was this: That "predicted shape of day" attachment of mine got proactive. Instead of "OMG things changed on me now nothing's going to go right," my mindset was more like, "If you want things to go as planned, you have to put down that sudoku--yes, even if you're not done with it yet--and get to work now." And so I did.

And the effect of having my lunch break to look forward to was this: I didn't feel crushed by the weight of the day ahead of me. Before, I'd cringe thinking about the long hours, all achingly draggy five of them, of drudgery that wouldn't end until it was time to go to my evening obligations (usually roller derby practice), and the realization that I'd never get any significant length of obligation-free time all day just sat on top of me like a lump of despair. But defining my schedule every morning allowed me to divvy up the work day into two or three chunks separated by playtime and meals (and, yes, roller derby), and that in turn made me excited about every stage of the day, the work as well as the play (as well as the skating).

It's hard to explain, harder still to justify. My brain is like a toddler who wants everything just so and is prepared to scream itself blue if someone tells it "no." But specific hour-by-hour planning of my day ahead enables me to appease that toddler in healthy ways. And as it turns out, simply knowing how long everything will take me and having a starting plan for where to slot each task makes me much more able to absorb the unexpected and juke around obstacles productively.

I can still have off days. Today was one of them. But even my off days are better than they used to be. They're near misses instead of total abject failures. I can still be proud of what I accomplish on a near-miss day. (Look! Two more drabbles ready to go! And a book review!)

It's no big shock that specificity works for me. I am the checklist queen. I am notorious for overthinking things. But it sometimes surprises me how well it works, and how many more aspects of my daily life could stand to be improved by it.

no sleep til pago pago
Fri 2014-08-15 23:57:24 (single post)
  • 7,733 wds. long

It's 11:30 PM. Do you know where your story is? "Well. Um. It's almost done. I got to the end! But... it could be so much better than it is. It certainly could stand to lose a few hundred words." Well, Niki, you had better hurry up. You only have until 5 AM Mountain Time.

Well, that's a relief. I'm going to get this story submitted, in whatever shape it's in when I finally just crash for the night. But it's also kind of disappointing. Every deadline I latch onto, I think, "This time, it'll be different. I'll finish with time to spare." But no, as the deadline gets closer and closer, it becomes clear that once again I'm going to pull it off by the skin of my teeth, if at all.

I do not have a healthy relationship with deadlines.

Some people theorize that people like me get a sort of existential thrill out of creating artificial crises. Putting off work until the last minute before a drop-dead deadline injects a bit of excitement into our lives, they say. It makes us feel important. It gives us the adrenalized oomph we need to finally get shit done.

That may be true for some people, I don't know. It's not true for me. Though the imminent deadline does jolt me into action, it's less excitement and more dread that does the trick. Dread of letting yet another deadline go by without me. Dread of adding to my collection of regrets.

Meanwhile, there's stress. I don't need more stress.

I'm not so much looking for sympathy or solutions as I am just griping. I'm also sort of leaving this post here like a bookmark to which I can point from some future time and say, "That was the last deadline I let beat me over the head with stress and angst. The next day, I began implementing important changes in my time management strategy, which lead to a much healthier relationship with writing and with deadlines."

At least, I hope I can say that. I'm going to try really hard to enable Future Me to do so.

the banality of If This Goes On
Mon 2014-08-04 23:45:52 (single post)

Each week's farm work has a lesson to impart. Today's lesson was about maintenance, the importance of, for use in taking control of one's future or at least exerting control over the shape thereof. In other words, weeding.

We spent all morning in the herb garden. The goal was to harvest a bunch of variations of thyme and also the winter savory, but first a lot of weeding was needed. And it's amazing how the weeds just take over. You think you're keeping up with them, but suddenly they bolt, and now you've got a four-foot ragweed stalk shooting up out of the center of your mother-of-thyme like it thinks it belongs there.

It has always struck me as particularly unfair that the crop you want always seems to grow slower than the weeds you don't want. Thyme is a ground cover, right? In addition to being an herb? And lemon balm is a species of mint, which is known for getting out of control. And yet, if you leave the crop bed to its own devices, you will eventually find your mint, thyme and savory drowning in bindweed and thistle and lamb's-quarter and ragweed and ouch did I mention the thistle? Yes, well, I only mention it because a pile of it is what I sat in just now.

So before we got to harvesting, we had to pull up or slice out a bunch of weeds.

Then there was harvesting itself, which is also a lesson in how important it is to deliberately maintain. Best practice with leafy herbs is to keep them from flowering just as long as you can, forcing the plant to put all its energy and growth and aromatic oils into its leaves. Once the plant starts blossoming, seed-time can't be far behind, and before you know it the leaves have diminished markedly in flavor. Also, if you don't cut them back often, herbs like thyme and savory start changing from soft green sprigs to stiff woody stems that don't make for a high-quality harvest. So there's that.

We made up for a lot of lost time today and harvested a heck of a lot of thyme. And I brought home a few flowering sprigs of savory for that corn chowder I intend to cook any day now.

My daily routine is a lot like that, too--without deliberate maintenance, the stuff I want (good habits) tends to drown under the stuff I don't want (bad habits). Working with HabitRPG has been a big help, but even when I click my way to a perfect day there are loopholes to slither out of. Like, yes, I did my Morning Pages even on a Monday, but did I do it right when I woke up, or did I snooze away my before-farm time and leave it hanging over my afternoon? Yes, I checked voice mail on the land line today, good for me, but did I do it as part of my arrival home, or did I only remember to do when I saw that the corresponding HabitRPG "Daily" task was still not checked off? When I put in my five hours writing on a work day, did it go towards meaningful progress on my career goals or was it just busywork? Did I get right to my daily writing tasks, or did I putter around, reading forums and blogs, playing jigsaw sudoku and Puzzle Pirates, until finally, late in the afternoon, I finally and grudgingly gave in to basic arithmetic, recognizing that if I didn't start now it would be chronologically impossible to clock five hours for the day?

Well. As for today, damn straight I did my Pages before I went to the farm. And when I got the call that I wouldn't be needed until 45 minutes later than usual, I did my CTC29 too.

That's what I call daily weed-pulling!

Still, I'm sure that by tomorrow they'll be making a vigorous comeback. Hopefully I'll be up to the task of knocking them back again.

wait hold on you mean i have make decisions
Fri 2014-08-01 23:36:29 (single post)

Not to leave you hanging, but there isn't a whole lot more information than there was yesterday, because I am indecisive and stuff. But here's what I've got so far--

Wait. Drat. I keep getting interrupted mid-blog by the sound of what is undoubtedly yet another instance of Bat In The Belfry. Er, mansard. Soffit? It's pattering about up there, so it's only a matter of time before it comes swooping out into the still-attic-like office. That's what happened last night, anyway, and also several weeks ago. We basically waited for it to get tired, then we waited for it to come out from its hiding place in the baseboard heater, then we trapped it against the wall in a big plastic soup bin with which we tipped it out the window.

Well, I've got the soup bin ready.

Don't worry. It won't be forever. In a little more than a week, the house is getting all its interior repairs. We will have whole ceilings again. After that, we'll be able to ignore the sounds of bats in the soffit because at least then we'll know they won't be able to get into the living spaces of the house. They'll just keep us up nights pattering around amidst the joists, that's all.

Right. Where was I? Information. I have very little of that. What I've got are thoughts.

The first thought was, "I'd like to do something like this." This being Bruce Holland Rogers's subscription service, Short-Short Stories. For $10 per year, subscribers get three short stories a month emailed to them. They're very short, most of them between 500 and 1500 words long, unpredictable in genre, sometimes oddly unclassifiable. Apparently he has about 1,000 subscribers and most of them do renew each year. That's a nice deal for everyone: 36 new stories for each subscriber every year, and, if that subscriber number holds steady, a respectable side income of $10,000 (ish) for the author.

Obviously I like money. I'd like to make more of it by writing. I joke about being a full-time writer on the spousal subsidy grant, but I'd like to rely on the spousal subsidy somewhat less than I do. But there's also a handful of intangible benefits going on here that I'm interested in. The author is writing and completing way more stories than I do in a year. This is no doubt helped along by 1) knowing he's got an audience waiting to read them, and 2) knowing that the audience has already paid for the product. That mutually beneficial relationship between expectant audience and productive writer is something I'd like to explore.

I also recently was introduced to Patreon, "bringing patronage back to the 21st century." It's a way for creators to find funding, and audiences to support creators in a more ongoing way than via one-time Kickstarter/IndieGoGo campaigns. Its interface looks perfect for doing something like what Rogers is doing, but with potential for different levels of support receiving different levels of product. Except not exactly product. Patreon's emphasis is not monetizing products, but rather on enabling a mutually beneficial relationship between audience and creator. See above.

I was bouncing some ideas about this off of John--that was the extent of my researching the project today--and he suggested that I produce a certain amount of short fiction to post for free, and that supporters via Patreon could get them ahead of schedule. Other ideas I've been noodling on include taking those same stories and recording an audio version of them, or a decent ebook that exposes more of my daily process, or...

"But who wants to see my daily process? I mean, me. Not Neil Gaiman or George R. R. Martin, but little old me. How is that worth money to anyone?"

"You'd be surprised."

I don't know exactly what I'm going to do quite yet. But I do know this: What with all my daily freewriting, I've got oodles more raw material on my hard-drive than I could turn into salable fiction at my current rate of production, and certainly more than anyone but me will ever read at my current rate of commercial publication. This idea I have that every ounce of my writing, no matter how rough and incomplete, needs to be protected jealously from "wasting" its first rights just in case I'll come back to it and develop it into a story that will see print in Asimov's or F&SF or something... well, it's based in truth but I think I take it too far. And so I do less with my writing than I could.

Instead, I could be developing some of those daily vignettes and thought-experiments into short fiction, prose-poems, odd unclassifiables, things that, while not viable in most professional slush piles due to their form or format, might still be worth putting in front of other people's eyeballs. It would be a good practice, releasing these small things on a schedule, and, hey, y'all might enjoy reading 'em.

So that's where my head is at, right at this moment.

Meanwhile, I'm one day into the Conquer the Craft in 29 Days challenge (it's apparently not too late to join!), which will require me to do my daily freewriting on an actually daily schedule. Y'know, as opposed to just Tuesdays through Fridays. Which means more raw material to throw at this subscription-style relationship-with-audience-building project I'm noodling on. Hooray!

I expect I'll spend most of August figuring out what I want to do and what kind of schedule I can keep to. As I have more thoughts, I may end up floating 'em by you. If you have thoughts, well, I don't have comments enabled on this blog (I don't in fact have any mechanism for comments programmed on this blog, if you want to be precise), but I do read Twitter at-replies and Facebook comments. And there's always good old email.

And I think I will go ahead and set up that Patreon page, just so I can explore the interface, and see what other authors are doing with it.

(That bat never did come down out of the soffit. Hopefully it went back outside via whatever hole it used to come in.)

that fine line between good days and bad
Fri 2014-07-25 23:06:59 (single post)
  • 6,939 wds. long

In terms of time spent writing, yesterday was pretty much non-existent. Today was only about an hour better. (Context: I aim for five hours a day Tuesday through Friday.)

Despite the low time clock report, today feels better. Its emotional weight rests more lightly upon the psyche. I can think of two reasons for that; there may be others.

First reason is, it was better even if it wasn't much better. Half an hour's work on the short story is better than none at all, even if that half hour was mostly me staring at the final scene, typing out a sentence, and then erasing it again. And then re-writing the sentence at the end of the fifth scene. And then staring at the screen, trying to decide whether the flashback at the end of the fifth scene really belongs there or closer to the end of the story. What I'm saying is, it didn't feel like progress at all. However, it was process, and I take it as an item of faith that the process itself is an element of progress. You gotta show up on the page, right?

The other half-hour was my daily freewriting. (Allegedly daily; it didn't happen yesterday either.) My most recent freewriting has been to prompts I came up with Tuesday, when I tasked myself with generating a list of magic realism style concepts which involve mismatched categories. The inspiration was rereading Karin Tidbeck's short story collection Jagannath, which is wonderful and strange, full of elegant nightmares and emotionally resonant weirdness galore. It opens with a story whose theme, I think, is to do with miscommunication and projection, but whose explicit text is about a man who falls in love with an airship and briefly rooms with a woman who is pursuing a love affair with a steam engine. This is what I mean by mismatched categories. Another of her stories expresses the universal angst of parents watching their children become their own unexpected selves, but does so through the textual medium of a woman creating a homunculus in a jam jar. Reading Tidbeck's fiction is like a jolt of electricity to the brain's inspiration center. It makes me want to dream up weird stuff of my own.

So I did. Some of the mismatched category prompts I came up with were: Doors in people's chests which opened upon the heart; a bicycle that hatches out of an egg; buildings as public transportation vehicles; a harp hung up on a wall. The last one isn't exactly a mismatched category situation--musical instruments do often get hung up on the wall--but in my head it was the grisly harp from a particular well-known ballad, years and years after the story takes place, when it begins to "play alone" once more for reasons TBD. After noodling around on the idea today (and trying to determine those reasons), I slapped the "To Do" label on it in Scrivener because I think I'm on to something here.

So it wasn't just that an hour of writing was better than none. It was also that a day on which I come up with a brand new story idea is better than a day on which I don't.

Second reason? It's kind of silly, but, here it is: Yesterday, I mostly poked around listlessly at the internet, thinking, "I really ought to write," until I ran out of time in which to make it happen. Today, by contrast, I very definitively thought, "I ought to get back to the writing, but, dammit, I'm going to play some Puzzle Pirates." And I did.

The moral of the story is this: If you're going to procrastinate, do it deliberately and have fun with it. Otherwise, you might as well get to work.

Hey, look! A blog post. Something else I did today but not yesterday. Third reason!

speaking of floral f-bombs
Wed 2014-07-02 23:18:27 (single post)
  • 51,730 wds. long
  • 5,984 wds. long

Yesterday's successful last-minute completion of "Caroline's Wake" and submission of same to its very first market (which has now sent me an receipt acknowledgement email of the "We look forward to reading it" variety, which I believe means I no longer need fear that it will be deleted unread due to various infractions of the... idiosyncratic guidelines) has led to the usual feeling of "now what?"

The pressure's off. The deadline's past. The battle's been fought and won. So... "Now what am I supposed to do?"

This should not be a hard question. There's always the next story in the revision queue. There's always content writing for fun and small amounts of profit. And there's always the novel I'm supposed to be working on every day but, well, haven't.

"The" novel. Honestly, that's more like the twelve or fourteen or so novel drafts that have been accumulating since I first discovered the existence of National Novel Writing Month. But my serious efforts this year have been on behalf of Iron Wheels (working title, naturally), the YA urban fantasy teen romance roller derby novel that I tried to write last November.

I've started poking at it again, picking up where I left off re-envisioning its eagle's-eye-view outline with Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake Method" for novel-writing. One of the steps in this Snowflake Method is to write a synopsis of the story from the point of view of each character. It's actually a lot of fun, and a useful reminder that every character is the protagonist in their own autobiography. When the "real" protagonist is being heroic out in the forest approaching the castle, the evil overlord isn't just sitting up in the high tower playing solitaire and twiddling his or her thumbs. The evil overlord is living that story, too, and from his or her point of view, they're the main character and the hero.

What I'm mostly uncovering is the fact that I don't actually know what the evil overlord--which is to say, the Faerie Queen--I don't actually know what her story looks like. I know its general arc, from wanting to having to losing to desperately trying to regain to finally resigning herself to loss in the end--the story arc of an antagonist is often tragic--but not its details. So I keep poking away at it, hoping details will fall out of it like candy.

By the way, did you know Shakespeare never actually named the flower that Oberon and Puck use to restore everyone to normal at the end of "A Midsummer's Night Dream"? The love spell flower, the one that causes all the ruckus in the first place, that one he names. Heck, he even gives that flower an origin myth (apparently Cupid is a bad shot with that bow of his). But despite what my big book of illustrated retold Shakespeare stories for young readers led me to believe, the flower that cures everyone has no name or reference other than "Dian's bud," which has greater power than "Cupid's flower" and thus can nullify love spells.

("Dian" of course is "Diana," also known as Artemis, the chaste Goddess of the Hunt and of the Wild. I have opinions about this whole "pristine wilderness = celibate woman" thing. My own personal theory is, it got thought up by men who considered women's only roles in sex to be "witholder of" or "endurer of." If you consider that there's another role, "enthusiastic participant," then you start wondering why Diana/Artemis wasn't allowed to enjoy any of what Her forest critters were getting plenty of.)

(Oddly, there is a plant called Artemisia that sounds like, via Artemis, it ought have something to do with this "Dian's bud" business, but no, it's thought to be the bitter "wormwood" Hamlet namedrops.)

Anyway, I'm kind of relieved. I wanted to reference the Shakespearan herbs by name when that very same type of love spell gets cast and later broken in my novel (and I'm still having thoughts about that), but damned if I was going to refer to any herb as "Sweet Normality" with a straight face.

Not, mind you, that "Love-in-idleness" is any easier to take seriously.

multitasking does not come with an OFF switch
Tue 2014-06-17 23:35:35 (single post)
  • 6,434 wds. long

I printed out the story, all 28 pages of it in standard manuscript format. (How did it get to be 28 pages long? How did it reach 6,500 words?) I always self-edit better from paper than from the computer screen. It's how I read others' manuscripts for critique, too. Put a double-spaced, 12-point story in front of me and a brightly colored pen in my hand, and it's like flipping the "editor" switch on in my head. The manuscript will be full of scribbles by the time I'm done. (I always worry that the sheer number of scribbles will alarm the author whose manuscript I just defaced. I have thoughts, I think them on the page, I think them in quantity and with great verbosity.) It doesn't matter if the story is mine or someone else's; the resulting forest of scribble is just as profuse.

Trying to take my own advice, I went into tonight's read-through trying to focus on one thing only, and nothing but that one thing. On this pass, that thing was making the house more of a quasi-sentient character. Basically, there's a bit at the beginning of the wake scene, where Demi remembers someone commenting...

that the house was "too big," that two women and one small child rattled around in it like the last three beans in the bin. Demi had protested mildly and with perfect accuracy, "It's everything we need."

Which, in my head, meant that the house provides everything they need, up to and including extra rooms for parties or a nursery for when Caroline is newborn. The house is almost a fourth Deity in this small, self-contained pantheon. But I never really followed through on that thought in this draft, other than having the fire in the fireplace responding to Demi's moods--and that could just be part of the way the weather outside responds to the fact that she's grieving Caroline's death. (Or it could be mistaken for a rip-off of Howl's Moving Castle, which would be unfortunate.)

So I went through today intending only to look for places where I could mention the house's supernatural responsiveness: the refrigerator always having the ingredients Demi wants to cook with, the wine cellar never being too small for Bobbi Mae's growing collection of home brewed beverages, the door reluctant to open when bad news comes knocking. My hope is that this sort of helps move the narrative into Mythology Headspace.

But the editor in my head cannot stand to let a thought go unscribbled. There is no way to get her to understand that, yes, that phrase there may well need tightening up, the stage blocking here does need to be simplified, the story needs to be shortened by about 750 words, yes, this is all true, but we'll talk about that later, OK? We are only concentrating on one thing today, right? Right? Hey, come back here! Where do you think you're going with that pen?

This is why the read-through took about two hours. And why the first round of revision type-ins can wait for tomorrow.

this is not the permanence i requested
Tue 2014-06-10 21:58:13 (single post)
  • 4,325 wds. long

I don't like how long it's taking me to finish this story.

Well, I don't like how long it takes me to finish any story, but--one thing at a time.

I'm poking at this story at a rate of a half hour here, an hour there, measuring my progress by the clock rather than by completion, checking off the ticky-box for "Yes, I beat my head against a brick wall for the prescribed amount of time today" and getting very little for my pain. Something has got to change.

By the way, if this dissatisfaction in the face of my slow pace now sounds contradictory to my stoic resignation to said slow pace then, well, then, I contradict myself. I am vast; I contain multitudes. It is a human being's 100% prerogative to change one's mind, and I am changing mine about this.

Here's the thing that occurred to me: Practice makes permanent. You've heard that before, right? It's a thing my guitar teacher used to say back when I took lessons during my high school years. "Practice makes permanent. Not perfect. Permanent." Meaning, the outcome of your practice depends on what you practice, and how. You can erase your mistakes or you can entrench them. I fear that right now I am entrenching the frustrating and entirely unhelpful mistake of not finishing the damn story. I would very much like to practice finishing stories, please and thank you.

I'm going to lay it on the line here: This draft will be done, and ready to email to friends offering critiques, by the weekend. That's my goal, that's my intention, and that's my solemn promise that I'm making to myself. It's a scary promise to make, because what if I fail? But I don't think I will fail. It seems like an eminently reasonable goal. Hell, if I can't finish a draft in a week, what am I doing with my time? Seriously.

I'm not sure what that means on a day-to-day basis other than a lot of stress on Friday. But it'll come to me. Something'll come to me, anyway.

I hope it will be a useful and encouraging something.

maybe it really is that simple
Wed 2014-05-21 23:05:53 (single post)

Today I am all about libraries. I have one book checked out from the Boulder Public Library (Riggs, Ransom, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children), several from the Longmont Public Library (including the Riggs sequel, Hollow City), a couple of paperbacks bought for 50 cents each off the Longmont "Friends of the Library" book sale shelf (Cornelia Funke's Inkheart and Tamora Pierce's Magic Steps), and three more books I'm requesting holds for so I can pick them up at the brand new NoBo (North Boulder) Corner Library and hopefully read them in time to cast an informed vote for the Best Novel Hugo (the Stross, Leckie, and Grant. No, I have no interest in Larry "Sad Puppy" Correia or The Wheel Of Time: A Novel In 14 Parts. But thanks for asking!).

Me and libraries. We're like this, y'all. I wuv me some library.

I also get writing done at libraries, it would appear. And also at lunch. And also early enough in the morning that I'm still squinting. And sometimes even late at night after derby, in between mouthfuls of "hey, this is carbs too, right? So it's OK if I eat it? How about this?" (Did you know that a suggested serving of Haribo "Happy Cola" contains 3 grams of protein and 30 grams carbohydrates? That totally makes it a derby recovery snack.)

I am not sure exactly how today went better than yesterday in terms of Getting The Work Done, or honestly why I'm sure it did go better than yesterday. Seems like I did about the same amount of writing tasks and had the same amount of interruptions keeping me from them. But I feel a lot better about today than yesterday.

I'm not sure the answer is roller derby, since I was feeling pretty good about the day well before I went to practice. But it didn't hurt. Had a fantastic last team practice before the bout (y'all are gonna come watch us play Saturday, right?). We did a ton of drills that reminded us of all the awesome and absurdly effective tools that we've got in our toolbox. Also, it was New Recruit Night. Knowing that a handful of potential new derby skaters on the couches in the corner were watching us practice, it kind of put me in happy cheerful show-off mode. I want those gals to go home saying, "I got to watch the Bombshells practice! It was amazing! I want to learn how to do all the fantastic things they were doing!"

Definitely, roller derby helped. And going to Longmont early to visit the library, check out books, and write for another hour, that helped too. Also the bit about not having the painting project hanging over my head all day, that was nice.

But I think what really set the tone was--surprise!--getting up on time. Last night's hypothesis was, "In case of not enough time, add hours." So I did. I added about two of 'em. I got out of bed when John did (he has a daily 8:30 AM telemeeting with his geographically diverse coworkers) rather than sleeping in. And dang if I didn't use those hours for all sorts of shit. Grocery run, McGuckin's (hardware and housewares) run, going out to lunch with John and taking our time in leisurely conversation before settling down to our respective work-a-day tasks, taking my Wednesday volunteer reading at an unhurried pace and playing Puzzle Pirates while I recorded it... And, um, writing. I think I really will hit the 5-hour mark today. It's amazing how adding two more hours in the morning can add stretch to the whole day!

Note to self: Sleeping late is almost never as rewarding as adding two more hours to my morning is. Can we do more of this? I want to do more of this.

avoidance! it's what's for dinner (too bad i'm not hungry)
Fri 2014-05-16 23:55:30 (single post)
  • 3,078 wds. long

For the second time I've missed a Sword and Sorceress submissions deadline. It's already 11:30 as I begin writing this blog post. There is no way I'm finishing the story and preparing it for submission in under half an hour.

I just left it too late, is all.

For one thing, I left almost the entirety of the second scene and the rest of the story after for today. That was pretty dubious from the start. Then I woke up with a headache, and that headache refused to shift itself all day. I didn't really feel able to work on it until the headache finally faded around 7:30 or 8:00 tonight. That was what sealed my defeat.

Nevertheless, I sat down to work on it, thinking, "Hey, it's still possible! And even if it isn't, it'll be time well spent." And it was time well spent. I just wish I'd spent the time last Tuesday.

I can get really pathological about deadlines. The closer they get, the less time I have to finish, the more resistance builds up around the project, making it even harder to use what time remains. It's not that illogical, really--it's just that the project gets scarier the closer the deadline gets, so I panic, and in my panic I avoid the project really hard.

The good news is, I've finished the second scene, the one with all the moving pieces and bit-part characters. I probably need to go over it again and smear a light glaze of "other people in the room" over the top of it, just to more convincingly texture it as a crowded party setting. And I probably need to massage the pacing a little, give more of an impression of the hours passing until the scene culminates at drunk-o-clock. (These are more reasons why a story shouldn't still be in incomplete rough draft form on deadline day.) But the basic building blocks of the scene are all there, and it reads fairly smoothly.

Getting it even this far is an accomplishment that did not at all look feasible last night or this morning. It's amazing how suddenly the writing looks possible when you just sit down and make yourself start writing, isn't it? *shakes head, sighs, feels stupid*

The next scene is easy. There are only two people in it, and despite it representing the emotional climax of the piece, the actual action is minimal. The real challenge is in making the dialogue natural and not clunky, given the job it's going to have to do, the things that have to get said and reacted to. But since dialogue is typically something I find easy and fun, it'll probably be OK.

I should not find myself avoiding it, is what I'm saying.

So I can't submit it to Sword and Sorceress 29. But I can think of several places it might be a good fit for, and I'm looking forward to sending it to one of them.

Meanwhile, I get a weekend.

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