inasmuch as it concerns Spit and Polish:
Contortions performed upon that endless search for perfection.
here be dragons and doooooom (needs citation)
- 5,489 wds. long
Hey! I made some progress on my story today! It went something like this:
I only managed one micro-session around 6 PM rather than several throughout the day, because avoidance monsters. Of course. Avoidance took the familiar form of bog-standard procrastination. "Oh, just fifteen more minutes... just read one more blog post while I eat my dinner... just use up my turns at Two Dots and then I'll get to it for sure..." It took the equally familiar form of creeping fear and dread, the usual hazy certainty that the story was awful and impossible to fix, all of which would certainly be confirmed the moment I opened the Scrivener file, so why ever open it at all?
Avoidance also took the novel form of dutiful logic. Like, I'd love to do a micro-session before my volunteer reading, but unfortunately the recording has to be uploaded by 2:45 PM, and besides I should take advantage of the time I'm alone in the house and won't have to close the door to the office to do the reading. So clearly it makes more sense to do the reading first. And, oh, I should do a second session after freewriting, but I still have to do my physical therapy, and the weight room closes at ten. And... you know, I'm running out of evening, so if I want to get my other daily writing tasks done, I'd better do them. I can always do another session on the story after I get everything else done, right?
However. I did spend about half an hour on the story. During that half hour, I got a pretty good idea of how the micro-scene I'm working on is going to go. I figured out how it's going to incorporate elements from the scene deleted from the previous draft. And I got most of it written down.
And I left the scene in a loose-ends state to entice me to come back to it tomorrow.
Here's the thing. As long as the avoidance monsters can keep me from looking at the project, they can keep me from challenging the narrative they're pushing on me. It remains a vaguely terrifying, looming thing. It's too scary to even think about. But if I can cut through the fog enough to think about it clearly, I come up with things to say to the avoidance monsters. Things like...
"Hey, even if you're right, what's the worst that can happen if I open up that file?"
"How about we open up that file just so I can see what you're talking about?"
"You know what? I don't believe you. Prove it! ...by opening up that file and showing me how awful you think it is!"
So there's that. There's also this: Wanting to write and not writing is painful. What I finally told myself was, Hey, I have the power to make the hurting stop. All I have to do is open up the story file and get to work.
So I did. And again, it sounds kind of pathetic and neurotic. It's embarrassing, is what it is. But it got me there.
Here's the thing about getting there: Now that I have indeed opened the file and worked on it, the story isn't so much a big looming, terrifying thing as it is a puzzle. It is a puzzle I have begun trying to solve. And once I start trying to solve it, I don't want to give up. I'm eager to get back to it.
So tomorrow I'll get back to it. That simple.
...I hope you have enjoyed this tour of my warped little brain. Aren't you glad you don't live in it?
we all have our hot cross buns to feed to bears
Hooray! The "Fictionette Freebie" for the month of February is out and free and clear and all yours. I chose "If On A Winter's Night Two Travellers..." because, looking back at the last four months of Freebies, I thought we needed something a little more uncomplicatedly light-hearted. Granted, being stuck in a broken-down car in a snow storm outside of the range of any cell phone signal isn't exactly a pleasant situation, but then neither is getting kidnapped by vampires, and no one ever accused Robin McKinley's Sunshine of heavy-duty grimdark.
In fact, now that I've got occasion to review it, I think the narrator of "Travellers..." does sound more than a little influenced by the narrator of Sunshine. I may have been rereading that novel during the second week of February, around the time I would have been polishing this one up for publication.
So now I am all caught up on February, as far as Friday Fictionettes go.
How am I doing on the story?
...I've been avoiding it today. Which is embarrassing. I've been very diligent in everything else. I did all my physical therapy for today, despite maybe having pulled a muscle in my left calf during the lunges (please dear Gods no whyyyyy). I finished them as very small lunges, but I finished them. I had a great time with my freewriting, during which a word-of-the-day prompt got me thinking of the will-o-the-wisp at the beginning of The Neverending Story who's gotten lost despite usually being the agent of other people's getting lost. What does a will-o-the-wisp follow when it is lost? And I put up a Puzzle Pirates Examiner post. And I worked on Fictionettes, as above. And I even cleaned out the file cabinet just a bit more, and caught up on email and other online communications.
But the short story? Heavens help us.
OK. So. Plan for tomorrow: Don't save the short story until last, because I might never get to it that way. Don't invest the task with the forbidding weight of "an hour and a half of butt in chair" or "get to work and don't stop until you've finished the scene," because I might never manage to start. Instead, try small sessions throughout the day, each one with the goal of "just open it up and do whatever you can in 25 minutes." Just keep coming back to it, the way I kept coming back to the closet doors project when that was still going on: a session here and a session there, between other tasks of the day.
I need to jump start a mental habit of coming back to the task regularly. I've been so irregular about it lately that every session has required the routine of two days spent sneaking up on it and dodging the avoidance monsters. I need to put it back in the brain space where it's just a thing that I do when it's time to do it. Ideally, I'd return to the task every day without fuss. Maybe by sitting down to multiple micro-sessions throughout a single day, I can pack many days' worth of mental habit formation into that single day. And the day after that.
It's better than dodging avoidance monsters for weeks, anyway.
Yes, I do sound like a pathological bundle of neuroses, don't I? We all have our crosses to bear. And possibly hot cross buns to bake, which sounds a lot less melodramatic than bearing crosses, and also tastier. I mean, on the one hand, you have a method of torture and execution; on the other, you have yummy sweet rolls. When they offer you cake or death, choose cake. That's the point I'm getting around to here. Writing should be more like cake than like death.
various lights sighted at the end of various tunnels
Alas, this week's Friday Fictionette will arrive on Saturday. Today has just been one of those days, full of unforeseen things hijacking my plans. And now it is almost eleven o' clock, and the idea of doing a rush job on the PDF is simply painful.
Also, my brain just coughed up the best possibility for an ending, such as these things have endings. I want to let it percolate overnight to see what kind of prose it turns into.
- A bit of hopping has been added to my physical therapy routine--you know the one where they have you lunge, but your back foot is on a raised block, and then you hop on your forward foot? Right. My next appointment is on March 5, at which point I will very possibly, hopefully, if all goes well, be cleared to skate. Setting my sights on a Phase One practice that Saturday!
- The potential buyer from Thursday won't, but that was only the first showing, so, oh well and onward. Tomorrow we head to a south Boulder condo unit that's smaller but has a two-story layout separating bedrooms upstairs from common areas downstairs, no one living above or below, and a backyard. A postage stamp of a backyard, I'm sure, but still. The property we looked at Wednesday remains an option, too. There are so many options. Wheels continue turning and I am seriously visualizing myself Not At This Address Anymore.
- The very last closet door panel is fully stained and will get finished with three coats of polycrylic per side over the weekend. I am so glad to be finally done with this project. Then there will be a flurry of house cleaning and moving things to storage so that the realtor can take pictures on Mondays for listing the place.
- And next week will be the week of Finishing The Short Story Rewrite, Dammit. Yes, small goals, I know, but--this is ridiculous. I'm tired of it not being done. So, small goals, yes, but one small goal every few hours rather than every few days, yes?
February. The month of Getting Things Done Finally Dammit.
the wheels keep on turning and turning and turning and
My blogging has been sparse these past two weeks, but my days have been rather full. As you know (Bob), I've been in the middle of several "sagas" for some time now. How much time? Oh, several weeks, or several months, or even a couple of years, depending on the saga. Or quest, as I like to think of it. As in, "No more quests! I do not need to embark on any more quests. I have enough quests in my life right now."
Well, significant progress has been made on all active quests recently. Here's the review!
The Quest to Move House! (since Aug. 2013) John is this close to being done repainting the kitchen. I am this close to being done refurbishing the living room closet door. The plan is to take pictures on Monday and officially list the place on Wednesday.
Yesterday we took a look at a condo unit about half a mile away from our current address, and fell rather in love with it. It's not "more house-like," as I had hoped; rather, it's like our current home but upgraded. There's 200 more square feet, which shows in the second bathroom, the spacious master bedroom with walk-in closet, the huge common area which communicates with a roomy kitchen over a sit-down countertop. Also a utility closet with washer and dryer, which would mean no more obsessing over quarters or dragging laundry up and down all those stairs.
Though the units are stacked in rows just like at our current place, the clever floor plan allows the master bedroom to receive lots of natural lighting through a west and a north window. The unit is on the "ground" floor, with nothing below us but underground parking accessible by elevator.
Also, forced air instead of radiant heating. Wood fireplace. Two sinks in the master bathroom. Half a block away from the Wonderland Path greenway trail. Across the street from a wee private lake. So many good things.
We fell in love with it and said, "Oh, if only this had come up next week instead of now!" The realtor said he'd contact the seller about timelines. The seller seems flexible. And, on top of everything, despite our place not yet being listed, we've a potential buyer coming to see it. Tomorrow. At noon.
The buyer reportedly doesn't mind that the place currently resembles a low-key construction zone, but I predict a flurry of house cleaning tomorrow around 8:30 AM.
The Quest to Get Back on Skates! (since Jan. 10, 2015) Last week Tuesday my physical therapist gave me homework that involves lateral movement. Have I mentioned this before? It's a big deal. Lateral movement was taboo up to that point.
Well, yesterday we hit another big deal: He had me do a few different jumping exercises to see how that felt. Jumping! It felt OK. A little tired-sore behind the recovering knee, but OK. He says he may give me some jumping homework after tomorrow's appointment.
Meanwhile we're spacing out my PT appointments. We started at twice a week, but we're taking next week off and then doing only one a week. I'm scheduled on the 17th, March 5, and finally March 12. Do I get to skate after that? I do not know. I can only hope, and do my PT exercises. Religiously.
The Quest to Revise That Damn Story! (since Sep. 2014) ...well, I'm getting to that. I haven't moved much on it since last week. Hopefully I manage to get it moving tonight and tomorrow. Returning to my strategy of small goals, I am setting myself the Small Goal of "Don't worry about getting it right; just get it down."
What I have before me is the task of re-homing a bit of key dialogue from the scene I'm cutting to the scene the story now starts with. "Getting it down" might simply consist of copying and pasting whole blocks of text from the previous draft. It might consist of a bunch of sentences in the style of "And then this happened and then that happened." What it doesn't consist of is creating the perfect micro-segue written with the perfect phrasing in the perfect final-draft way.
It's hard to come up with the right words on the first go. I get stuck when I try to put perfect words down on a blank page. But if I put so-so words down, and then I read them, I will then magically know what the perfect words should be. Or at least I'll know how to turn so-so words into better words, which can then be turned into even-better words, and finally into not-perfect-but-it'll-do words.
I know this. I've known this for a long time. But I keep having to learn it over again. My excuse this time is, "Well, I'm working on a revision for resubmission. I can be forgiven for thinking that what comes out my keyboard next had better by perfect." The moral of the story is, One Revision Ain't. Ain't "one" revision, I mean. Any work on a story at any stage in its life cycle involves iterations of micro-revision. There's no getting around it. I'm happier, and more productive, when I don't try to get around it.
So my goal is to get the bit I'm working on unstuck by giving myself permission to write it badly. I'll tell you tomorrow how it went.
the sun always shines on tv but we don't get cable
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
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
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
- 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.
have investigated rabbit holes, have not fallen down any
- 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?
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.)
when cliched platitudes are startlingly spot on
- 5,653 wds. long
I'm happy to report that I met today's small goal. I made a copy of the scene-to-be-rearranged, and I moved paragraphs around like Lego. Or, actually, more like wooden blocks; the bits aren't "snapped" together like Lego are. They're like a stack of bricks with no mortar. But that's OK. That stack of bricks was what I wanted to accomplish today.
Tomorrow's small goal is as follows: Take that first brick in the stack and turn it into a plausible story opening.
Meanwhile, today saw an upswing in the rate of home improvement projects. I realized all at once this morning that there's no reason not to run the various projects on parallel tracks. While waiting for stain or polycrylic to dry, why not get to work painting the office closet doors or re-staining and finishing the weathered kitchen cabinets?
Why not, indeed. The usual "why not" is an extremely limited energy budget. If I can manage to do one coat of stain on a closet door in a day that contains writing, roller derby, and volunteer reading, not to mention household chores and trips to the grocery, I'm doing good.
Then it occurred to me: I can't skate roller derby for at least a month, and my first physical therapy appointment isn't for a week. My schedule is miraculously clear right now. And for all I complain about the stairs, I'm reasonably able-bodied for an injured athlete. I can move around unassisted. I can sit, stand, kneel, or sit on the floor. I can paint and stain and sand and whatever. And now I have the time to do it in.
It's not just a platitude. This injury really was the Universe's way of telling me to slow down. The silver lining, it has been spotted.
The other thing holding me back was a mental block. I kept looking at the kitchen and all I could see was a fractally complex job involving bits and detail and impossibility. But today I gave it a shot. I removed one of the under-sink cabinet doors, the one with the worst staining and the most deteriorated finish, and I washed it off, and I sanded it some, and--with several prayers to any Gods that might be listening--applied Minwax wood stain.
This was nerve-wracking. For one thing, I knew that I hadn't removed all of the surviving finishing coat from the wood. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to try. That level of comprehensive detail work would put the project way outside my ability, patience, and time frame. And if you don't get rid of all the previous paint and stain and finish, maybe the new stain doesn't sink in so good. Still, I reasoned that any place where finishing coat survived probably didn't need new stain anyway.
Secondly, matching stain colors is an iffy process. Even having brought one of the cabinet doors that was in like-new condition to the store with us, we weren't very confident that the tin of Minwax "Lt Pine" we'd chosen was going to be the right stain.
Turns out we'd chosen just the right stain. How do you know you've chosen the right stain? When you brush it on, you think, "Is there any color in this liquid, or did I get scammed into buying a tin of water?" Seriously, it just looked like I'd gotten the cabinet door wet.
In my excitement at how easy this turned out to be, I did the second under-sink cabinet door and the entire panel surrounding them. Pretty much the whole area bounded by the dishwasher, the sink, and the oven. It's the most important area, being fairly central, thus right where your eye first falls upon entering the kitchen.
The realtor came to visit today to help us get back on track for a mid-February listing. He looked at the cabinet work and pronounced it likely to "pop." That's realtor speak for "will give a potential buyer a great impression." He said that the refurbished and newly stained/finished living room closet doors also "pop." I'm pleased to hear it.
Between today's progress on the living room closet doors, the kitchen cabinets, and the office closet doors--not to mention today's work on the short story revision--I'm feeling pretty darn accomplished tonight. I just hope I can keep up this level of accomplishment for the next couple of weeks, is all.