“If this is not what you expected, please alter your expectations.”
Mark Morford

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

More or Less Simultaneously
Sat 2012-11-10 22:25:19 (single post)
  • 778 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 11,834 words (if poetry, lines) long

So I'm doing National Novel Writing Month. And what's different this year is I'm not writing a new novel; I'm rewriting one. To be specific, the one I wrote in 2010. The story I'm sticking to is this: I have not yet succeeded at revising a novel straight through to Professionally Submittable. I've only ever gotten something novel-length all the way to THE END by participating in NaNoWriMo. Thus, NaNoWriMo is clearly the engine that will propel me to the goal.

The theory is, I spent the months revving up to November in examining the existing draft and making good notes about character development and scene structure and plot. Now all I have to do is type the new draft. In actuality, the new draft bears striking similarities to a fresh rough draft. It's OK, though, because I'm having Big Picture Thoughts to guide my choice of new scenes to write (or new versions of old scenes to rewrite). I am thinking in terms of Theme! and Symbolism! and Parallel Character Development Tracks! This does mean I'm moving through my word count a bit more slowly than I do most Novembers, though. As my word count so far shows.

Will there be excerpts? There probably will not be excerpts. As this thing gets closer to "hopefully publishable," the whole excerpts-on-the-blog thing becomes more of an issue in terms of first rights and encumberment. Which, drat. But hopefully I'll have other fun things to post, like Niki's Plot Dilemma Of The Week or Essay Topic: Why My Characters Hate Me. It'll be fun. For certain values of "fun."

Within the NaNoWriMo community, I also continue in the volunteer position of Municipal Liaison for Boulder, and Boulder is requiring a little more planning this time around because there are so darn many of us. We've exceeded several write-in venues' capacity, prompting me to come up with new plans in a haze of emergency panicked inspiration. I do not like emergencies. I do not like panic.

Too bad! Because this month I've also picked up a new work-for-hire gig which is very similar to the National Novel Writing Month thing in that its official deadline is November 30. It is unlike NaNoWriMo in that the word count requirement is twice as big. Also, like every other WFH project I've undertaken, it's not fiction. It requires research. The words must be correct, factually and stylistically, the first time around.

I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of this timing.

No, no, it's OK, I can do this.

Also in the work-for-hire category, Demand Media Studios is a viable source of income again. They've finally rendered a decision on whether I can write for their Fitness & Well-being channel, and the decision is "Approved." My reaction, given my long history of writing LIVESTRONG.com articles for them, is sort of "Well, duh," but you never know. They rejected me for the Garden channel despite my long history of writing for GardenGuides.com. So OK. In any case, I now get to chose from a huge list of titles that I can actually feasibly write for $20-$30 per article (as opposed to two or three titles which nobody can write and that's why they're still available, and by the way they only pay $15 per article).

And hey roller derby! Did you know Boulder County Bombers are in their off-season? Do you think that makes much of a difference to any of its members' time commitment to fast-skating, hard-hitting awesomeness? The correct answer, in case you're wondering, is it does not. Were you thinking that? You probably were. Congrats! You Are Smart.

tl/dr: I got a lotta stuff going on this month. If I seem in a hurry when we pass on the street, I promise I'm not avoiding you. I'm just in a hurry.

And I seem to be coming down with a cold. GREAT TIMING, IMMUNE SYSTEM. Feh.

The Author Discovers a Kryptonite Strata in Her Daily Diggings
Mon 2011-01-17 01:03:16 (single post)

So recently I've been trying to create and adhere to a useful daily schedule, as per New Year's Resolution the First. And one of the things I want to get done during a typical work-day, rather than, say, once per week, is a spot of web content writing or other project guaranteed to result in money. In trying to improve my output there, I have figured out something really important about researched content writing, such as a writer for Demand Media Studios ends up doing. About how I do said writing, anyway; your mileage may vary.

You ready? Here it is:

Too much data kills.

So I'm researching an article about fruit trees and how they metabolize stuff. This naturally leads to college course study guides describing photosynthesis and cell respiration. And the photosynthesis equation, which I dimly remember from high school. And the krebs cycle, to which I attribute most of the physical pain and nausea that resulted from my taking the AP Biology test (which I passed, but which the University of Washington had absolutely no use for, so there went uncounted hours of my life I will never get back). And molecules of ATP and ADP and NADP, some with ionic plus signs on the end signifying something or other and--

And this is a $15 article I'm writing, here. I should not feel like I have to write a chemistry thesis. But I'm staring at these course study guides and my brain is spinning and my tummy is churning and writing is not happening.

Then I find a PDF describing the process in a chatty, breezy tone and from a broad top-down view rather than from under a microscope. It's all "Light hits leaves, therefore chemical energy, therefore water breaks down and carbon dioxide breaks down and viola, oxygen and glucose! Yaaaaay!" And suddenly things are very simple in my head, and I'm mentally composing the first two sections of the paper. Yaaaaay.

It really comes down to finding the right reference articles that have the right balance of info detail. Also to knowing what kind of info needs to go into the article, so I can distill the right amount of detail from a microscope-level description of photosynthesis if I need to. Also remembering that I'm only getting $15 to $20 for the article, let's keep the time spent per article short, OK?

Besides, I've got a novel to edit. I can't do that if I'm spending all day attempting to relearn the krebs cycle.

The Avon Lady. (I don't know who she's supposed to be. Sacajawea, maybe? She has a baby on her back.)
Dinner: The Cast of Characters
Looks good, don't it?
Leftovers packaged for single microwave-ready serving.
Writing! In Avon! With the Avon Lady!
Sat 2010-12-04 23:23:18 (single post)
  • 631 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 2,986 words (if poetry, lines) long

So I'm celebrating NaNoWriMo being over by getting the heck out of town. Whee! Bridget and I didn't exactly intend the timing to work out this way -- it just happened to be the first weekend available at the Sheraton Mountain Villa from when I called back in early October to make the reservation. I made the call sort of late; Bridget had to kick me electronically about it. "Avon lady wants to go to Avon!" I emailed back, "Good idea!"

Somewhere along the way we started a tradition of treating ourselves to a writing retreat once a year or so. There are worse ways to make sure an annual time share week gets used.

The first time we did it, during one of our daily pedestrian pilgrimages from the Sheraton to Loaded Joe's, Bridget noticed the statue standing at the traffic circle where Avon Road and West Benchmark meet. "Is that the Avon Lady?" she said? Then, maybe five years later, she became an Avon Lady herself. The connection wasn't causal, though it may have been gestaltic. That first trip is also the origin date for our tendency to refer to our favorite bar/cafe/wi-fi hotspot as "Exploded Joe's." It only takes one slip of the short-term memory to start a tradition. (Ask me sometime about "fermentas" in musical notation.)

So. On a writing retreat. But am I writing? Well... two Demand Studios articles in two days is more than I managed all November. And I've kept up with my Examiner pages, which I did manage to maintain more or less throughout NaNoWriMo. Thus and thus for the daily professional hackery. But what about fiction?

Goal the First: Daily free-writing, also known as "Story Idea Du Jour." I did it Wednesday, the day I finally threw up my hands and said, "You know what? Today's my day off." And I did it Friday morning here in Avon. I'm getting something really juicy about a book that's like the Winchester House, in that its creator believes that something awful will happen the moment that it is no longer actively under construction. Possibly a demon will escape.

Goal the Second: Grab a story from the pile of stories waiting to be made ready for submission, and work the hell out of it. I've decided on "Unfinished Letter" but I haven't done any work on it yet. I think I may be in that stage of composting that resembles procrastination. I have my hard copies with peer critique notes on them; I think I shall read them before I sleep tonight. Also, I'd like to get my hands on some epistolary literature from the U.S. Pioneer West at the turn of the twentieth century, in hopes of shifting the voice away from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and more towards something like, I dunno, that's the point, I don't know. More like the U.S. Pioneer West at the turn of the century, that's all.

But of course we are in Avon. We are not holing up in a hotel room and writing nonstop. We're on vacation. That means Karaoke with Sandman at Loaded Joe's (I don't care how many photos Sandman puts up on Facebook; I only got up on the stage once! This year!). That means walking our feet flat up at Beaver Creek Village and nearly getting flattened by skiers. That means paying homage to the Avon Lady statue, eating at Fiesta Jalisco, drinking our share of Loaded Joe's "Irish Americano", toasting marshmellows for s'mores at the fire pit by the pool.

Also, that means feeding ourselves lovely meals prepared in our minimal villa kitchenette. We're very proud of this. The Sheraton Mountain Vista has rooms of two basic floor plans, one small and one large, paired off into two-bedroom lockoffs. John and I actually own a week in the 2-bedroom unit, but what we had left to use during this season (there's an exchange rate involving StarOptions[TM] and three basic seasons) got us the smaller floor plan. And the smaller unit has, as far as cooking goes, pretty much a sink and a coffeepot and a combination microwave/convection-oven. Also a certain amount of flatware and cookery aids.

Using just these resources, here's how dinner went tonight:

  1. In the large, shallow, uncovered dish: 1 Field Roast brand "Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute". These are fantastic and only produced during the holiday season.
     
  2. In the smaller, covered casserole: 2 apples, sliced but not peeled, mixed with 1 packet syrup from Denny's and about a tablespoon cinnamon from Loaded Joe's coffee condiment bar.
     
  3. Place roast atop rack in oven. Place casserole, its lid on but upside-down so as to take up less vertical space, below rack in oven.
     
  4. Oven buttons: "Roast", "425", "45:00".
     
  5. With about 15 minutes remaining, remove apples from casserole and pile around uncovered roast. Drizzle juices over roast. Return roast to rack in oven; finish baking. Wash out covered casserole meanwhile.
     
  6. Pull roast from oven and set to cool. Meanwhile, follow the microwave directions for a packet of Uncle Ben's Long Grain & Wild Rice, Sun-Dried Tomato Florentine. Nuke it in the covered casserole, mixing in a bag of Eating Right brand Broccoli Stir Fry mix.
     
  7. Eat. Make happy noises if so inclined.
Bridget gets all credit for the maple cinnamon apples and for deciding we needed a wild rice side. Tossing the veggies in, and whim-purchasing the roast Thursday morning, were my ideas. I also take credit for the upside-down lid strategy that allowed us to fit both cooking vessels in the oven at once.

Clearly we are mad geniuses. But then, what else do you expect from two authors?

Day 9: More of the Same
Tue 2010-11-09 21:38:01 (single post)
  • 16,849 words (if poetry, lines) long

Apparently I'm a day ahead again. It was likely to happen, with two write-ins I could go to. I go to a lot of write-ins. My total cafe and restaurant expenses tend to be pretty high in November.

The wise thing to do would be to use my current lead as a cushion against which to get caught up on my day-job style writing. I've kept up with both Examiner blogs, but I've only done one Demand Media article all month. And it's not for lack of time. Once again, I'm leaving the least pleasant job to last, and before I get to it, I find myself thinking, "I've done so much good work today, I deserve a little break." And next thing I know it's midnight.

I don't think the pattern will change tomorrow--I have a lot on my plate. I have to bring John to the airport, and then I have to go to class. I still have to read the piece for critiquing during class. And in between are the Usual Wednesday Things.

But, who knows? I might surprise myself. We'll see. A good night's sleep followed by rising bright and early--that could turn into any sort of day. Even a productive one.

Speaking of productivity, I'm rather pleased with today's 3,000+ words. They started out all talking headsish, Jet explaining to Lia how the cosmos really works. It felt like I was crossing an As You Know, Bob with a I've Suffered For My Art (Now It's Your Turn), cf. the Turkey City Lexicon. I was waiting for something, anything to happen. And then something did--nothing unpredictable, to be sure, but it was fairly satisfying. As a plot pacing landmark action, it works. I can always revise later the conversation leading up to it.

Lia's shoulders felt bruised where Jet's fingers pressed deep into the muscle. Her eyes remained trapped by the weird desperation in Jet's gaze. "What will you do if I don't help you?"

"Here." Jet let go of her suddenly; Lia swayed back as though those hands were all that had been holding her up. Jet reached her left hand into her hip pocket and drew something out, something that she pressed into Lia's clasped hands. Her attempt prized Lia's hands apart, and Lia knew what she held: a copy of her apartment key. "This is yours. I don't want anything from you that you're not willing to give." She lowered herself into the chair next to Lia's. Her left knee rested atop Lia's right thigh, heavy. It might leave a bruise as easily as her fierce hold had done. Lia transferred the key to her right hand and spread the fingers of her left, let her palm rest on the invading part of Jet, invading her back. Jet said, "I want to do right by you, Lia."

Lia was unsure. Jet had told her an awful lot that, if true, she could hardly expect Lia to believe. Lia wasn't sure how much of it she did believe, from the mad claims of supernatural origin to the impassioned disclaim of all control over Lia's choice. Jet had handed her back her key and her agency in a single motion. And yet--if she wanted Lia to help her, how better to get that help willingly than by insisting willing help was all she'd take?

But in the end, Lia didn't care. She hadn't from the beginning. Her own desires were simple, and she didn't need to trust Jet to get what she wanted tonight. "Then start now," she said, and shut her eyes, and waited.

It felt like a significant fraction of eternity, but it was only a moment later that Jet's lips met hers.

Lia reached out blindly with her left hand, found first Jet's hip and then her pocket. She slipped the key inside and let her hand linger on Jet's hip. She felt Jet rise from her chair, heard Jet's feet shifting in the snow. Then Jet's weight settled gently over her, astraddle Lia's thighs. She kissed Lia again. The snow trapped between them began to melt in earnest.

Lia, untrusting, knowing herself used, determined to use Jet just as heartlessly as Jet would use her. Starting now.

I like when my characters surprise me. The surprise for me in this scene was Lia's stark cynicism. It leaves a lot of room to develop this relationship through a long spectrum of emotions. I only hope I'm good enough to do it on the page. In my head, where everything is perfect and, sadly, nothing is real, it's quite lovely.
Happy 1st Birthday, Atlas!
Day 5: From the Stanley to Happy Birthday Atlas
Fri 2010-11-05 20:27:47 (single post)
  • 10,782 words (if poetry, lines) long

Right now this very moment, I am at Atlas Purveyors. I'm slightly typo-drunk on a red plastic cup of Boulder Beer's Flashback Anniversary Ale, poured for me lovingly by the familiar face behind the counter whose name I never quite caught. The cafe is crowded with people here to celebrate Atlas's 1st birthday--a year ago this month they opened where The Tea Box used to be--and I'm being a little antisocial. The only people here that I know are the proprietors and staff, and they're fairly busy (see above). I've escaped the crush by hiding with my beer and my laptop back in the hallway, which is inexplicably empty.

Occasionally someone picks up a bit of chalk and adds a thought to the freshly cleared wall-long blackboard. "We ♥ Atlas." (That was supposed to be a heart. I don't know why it doesn't want to be a heart. ♥, dammit, ♥!)

I've been up since 7:30 this morning, and I've driven up to Estes Park and back. Between the small amount of sleep last night and the trek up to 7,522 feet (I thought it was 8,300 but I was wrong), you'd think I'd be more tired. But I was looking forward to the party, and I kind of feel obliged to be here. A bunch of NaNoWriMo buddies and I, we've been meeting here since Atlas's beginning. It's a favorite office-away-from-office, and I want to help celebrate them, even if it means slipping out of a crowd of strangers to hole up in the hallway under a photo called "Blue Crossing."

Atlas is inextricable from recent memories, and current experience, of NaNoWriMo. So here I am.

But most of today I was in Estes Park, at an all-day write-in that the Municipal Liaison of "Colorado :: Elsewhere" set up. We met at the Stanley Hotel, famous filming location for Kubrick's adaptation of King's The Shining. Appropriately, one of the Wrimos present used a typewriter, an Underwood with features remarkably like my off-brand Sears knock-off. The dining room manager asked her to knock it off, as it was noisy. Shame that.

(Incidentally, I've heard enough "red rum" jokes today to last me until Halloween 2011. You are not allowed to recommence the jokes until then.)

We had word war after word war, and when I surpassed 10,000 words early in the afternoon I gave myself permission to put it away and make a start on my Demand Studios queue. Which is a little backwards. You're supposed to do the Soul-Numbing Professional Hackery first, then give yourself the reward of Working On The Novel. But, oh well, my schedule put them backwards. It all worked.

--oh hey! Speech! Applause! Good things! (Owner Chris Rosen, quoting his dad: "When someone walks through your door, remember: that might just be the best part of their day.") And the raffle prizes are being announced! It took them some 5 tries to find someone present to win the Illegal Pete's gift certificate...

So where was I? Ah. Well. I haven't done any editing since I got back into Boulder--I mostly started cooking. Like a fiend. "Bake the eggplant before it rots! These okra are about to go--quick! Cook them down for frozen gumbo starter! A fly landed on the butternut squash; is it going bad? Quick, roast it! And if I'm going to defrost the pork bellies for lard for the gumbo, I should make kimchichigae with it..." Then I remembered the party at Atlas, and I looked at the time, and I hastily put everything in the fridge. (The eggplant got baked and the squash got roasted and the okra went into the crock pot.)

Anyway, today's excerpt is short, because it's entirely Zero Draft. No light polish this evening. Enjoy... I guess?

What she absolutely did not expect was a short, dark woman in a button-down blouse and jeans of indeterminate color--it was dark in there, the curtains drawn tight, the only light what ventured in from the hallway fluorescents past Lia--a woman fallen from the bed to the floor, legs tangled in the blankets, her arms still outstretched from having reached for the nearest support, which had happened to be Lia's nightstand, temporary rest place for cast-off coins and life accoutrements still on her person at bedtime. The woman lay under the strewn shards of last night's water glass, two pairs of glasses, uncountable loose change, and random silverwhere. Her clothes were no longer bloodstained, but you'd expect a woman to change clothes sometime in five weeks. You might not expect her alive and unwounded if the last time you saw her she'd been dead of a slit throat, though.

Lia stared, her right hand slowly lowering the kitchen knife.

"Oh, like that was going to work," said Jet. "Trained assassin, remember? Well--come on, can I get a little help here?" Lia backed up a step, shaking her head. "Sorry about your glass--I hope it wasn't terribly irreplaceable? Hey--Lia--don't be like that--"

She was slamming the door before she even knew she was moving. Slamming the door, dropping the knife, bolting down the hall and out the door. She knew you couldn't run away from hallucinations, but she didn't know anything else to do but try.

Which is actually from the very first few hundred words of today. After that we have Jet cleaning up the mess and unknown dude trying to convince her he lives here while searching the apartment. And Lia hiding from hallucinations under a bush in the park. It's the dude I'm not sure about--I mean, adding him was a good idea, but I'm not sure what he's up to. I think whatever he's looking for, Lia is wearing it. Maybe on an earring. Maybe on a nipple ring. Something she stole when she fled the city. Fun times!

(Meanwhile - yum, birthday cake! And possibly more beer...)

The Preliminary Results of Good Intentions
Thu 2010-10-21 22:27:48 (single post)

Well. Alternating one day off and one day on isn't ideal, but it's improvement. At two articles each "on" day, it comes to a week averaging one per day. Which I haven't had for months. So. Improvement.

Via researching articles at my Day Job, I now know far more than I ever wanted to know about nitric oxide boosters, saunas, marine phytoplankton supplements, and Colorado authors whose words may or may not have been embroidered and used without permission by promoters of marine phytoplankton supplements.

Also, via certain "improvements" to the Day Job's author interface... OK, the scare-quotes weren't really appropriate their. They really are improvements, I have to admit. But the "Recently Submitted Work" section I've discovered has more than one possible status per article. There's "Pending," which I'd expect. But then there's "With Editor," so that neurotic writers like me can get the heebie-jeebies. "OMG! An editor is looking at it RIGHT NOW! They're still looking at it! Why are they taking so long looking at it? I did a bad job, didn't I? It requires stupid amounts of editing, doesn't it? It's going to get rejected, isn't it? I FAIL AT LIIIIIIIFE!"

This is how many writers' minds work. This, despite the logical voice in my head that quietly points out that "With Editor" probably means the editor selected my article out of the ready-for-edits queue and will eventually get to it.

What "eventually" means I do not know, because the new-and-improved interface is missing an editor's deadline on my pending articles. Oh well.

I'm beginning to really miss working on fiction. Which I hadn't done except in fits and starts for... well, months, I think. Fiction is work, too, but it's enjoyable work.

Now, there are times when I begin to think fiction isn't enjoyable. I'm told all authors have times like those. For me, those times are mostly when

  1. I've begun to think the story I'm working on sucks great big sandstone boulders,
  2. I think the story is fantastic but my ability to get it down on the page is nonexistent, so I'm not even trying.
At times like that, I suppose, I can always remind myself, "But you are enjoying it. You are. Even when it's going badly, it's about stories. You love stories. Listen, would you rather be writing a 5-point summary of how to choose a good multivitamin for kids? You don't even have kids."

Not that I'm complaining, mind. I am transmuting words into money. But it doesn't hurt to use these moments as teaching moments: there are other words you can transmute into money. The process is much less certain and depends on a hell of a lot of other external factors, but it's so much more enjoyable.

Roll on November, eh?

Oh Hey, I Already Have a Job
Sun 2010-10-17 21:59:22 (single post)

As those of you already know who follow my husband, John, on Facebook or on Twitter, he's between jobs at the moment. Since 2004, John's been the only one of us who's been employed full time outside the home for actual real money, so when he's not in anyone's employ we both get a little antsy. Not that we're really worried--he has a couple interviews scheduled next week and recruiters lighting up the phone like a Christmas tree. Turns out, they hear "senior-level java programmer" and they want a piece. Excellent. And we're covered for basic expenses for a reasonable period of job-hunting. But, still, antsy. Perhaps more me than him with the antsiness; I'm a pro worrier, and I'm the household accountant.

Also, the reason we've been a one-income household for more than 5 years now, the very specific reason, is my writing career. I left a well-paid web development job in order to write full time. So what's my excuse for not having written much recently, hmm? Non-productivity causes guilt. Lots of guilt.

So, feeling guilty about being the household bum, I asked him last week what he thought about my going back into the workforce. He told me not to sweat it yet. I nodded and felt simultaneously relieved and unconvinced.

And then it occurred to me this weekend: Duh. I already have a job. And I don't mean "I write like it's my job." I mean, "I have a job. A writing job."

I write short articles for Demand Media Studios. That right there is as much of a job as I want to make it. The gig goes like this: They have a list of titles. I get to choose titles from the list and write the corresponding article. Once a copy editor approves the article for publication--which they generally do, giver or take a rewrite request--I get a flat fee of $15 to $25. My accumulated earnings show up in PayPal twice weekly.

It is absolutely within my power to conjure up money by the power of my pen. Well, my typing. And some mad l33t Google-fu.

But I'd been holding onto this one article title since researching it from Chicago Union Station, and had done nothing with it whatsoever. I hadn't earned much in September or August, either. I could hide behind the excuse of recent travel getting me out of my rhythm, but the fact remains: I hadn't really been using this power of mine for awhile now. And, really, that's inexcusable.

That quiet muttering noise you hear is me calling myself all sorts of foul names.

So this weekend I reserved as many titles as it took to fill my queue, and I wrote and submitted two of them today--including the one I'd been hanging onto since Chicago.

And it was a pretty darn full day already, what with grocery shopping, assembling a two-week supply of cat food, doing laundry, tending a compost pile, and other household chores. Not to mention lunch at Harpo's and watching the Saints rip the asses off pretty much everyone on Tampa Bay's defense and handing each back to the corresponding player in the end zone. (After last week's embarrassment, that felt good.)

So after doing two articles on a Sunday full of Stuff, I am imagining how much I could get done on a weekday when I'm supposed to be "at the office" (usually Atlas Purveyors, sometimes Red Rock Coffeehouse) for a full working day.

Of course, part of that working day should involve fiction. I have several short-shorts that really, really, really want to go out and meet the nice people if only I'd take the time to redesign their wardrobe and give them driving directions. But I think I might put some of that on (further) hold while I concentrate on making up for lost time at the day job. At least until we see how John's interviews this coming week go.

Besides, NaNoWriMo is on its way. Fiction will absolutely happen then, never fear.

So Practice Detachment Already
Tue 2010-08-31 21:59:55 (single post)

Intensity of intention has an inverse relationship with productivity.

To wit: This morning I got up and said to myself, "You've only finished three paid content-writing articles all month! And the third requires a rewrite! And when this month have you done anything substantial, fictionwise? But it's a brand-new day! 24 potential stuff-doing hours remain in August! Do your rewrite, and then spend the rest of the working day doing articles! See how many you can do! I bet you can do a lot!"

Then I did absolutely nothing all day. I read a lot of blog. Blog this, blog that. Answered emails. Read more blog. Walked around downtown. Ate pizza. Ran out of blog to read, so went back and read previous blog after hitting refresh a lot.

Finally, finally, roughly around stupid o'clock PM, I did a quick Denver Metblogs write-up and I completed that one article rewrite.

And that was all.

So at one end of the spectrum is "Eh, whatever. Kick back and relax." At the other end is "OMG panic panic panic GET A MOVE ON!" It's a stress-and-guilt spectrum. It goes from zero to stomach-churning. But it's a weird little spectrum in that it's not a line but a circle. The two ends curve back around and meet up at a single point, and that point is called total lack of productivity.

Somewhere in between is a happy area, a land of the blessed, a sort of Avalon of stress-free motivation where tasks are approached in a Zen-like state of detached intent. It's all, "Yes, I have stuff to do," but it's missing that instinctively self-destructive component of "and any sense of self-esteem I can rightly lay claim to hangs on my doing it!"

I'm not sure I've ever actually been to Avalon. I'll tell you this, though. I'll know it when I see it.

Defining "Part Time Self-Employment." Also, Happy New Year.
Fri 2010-01-08 11:40:18 (single post)

The original mission statement with this blog was, "I will blog every day, and only after I've written that day." And of course I began to fail at that standard pretty much the moment I put it into place. But it's never too late to get back on board with a good idea. It's my reusable New Year's Resolution: This year I'll write more, with more self-discipline and better time-management! This will be the year I Act Like A Writer!

The problem with New Year's Resolutions, though, is the high expectations involved. It isn't enough to say, "Tomorrow I'll write more than I did today." Oh no. We have to put it in terms of a whole year. So the moment we drop down out of the stratospheric levels of Perfect, well, that's the year down the tubes. It doesn't help that we ante up an amount of self-esteem proportional to the impossibility of the perfection we seek.

Some people, recognizing this, turn the idea of New Year's Resolutions into a joke. They set deliberately impossible goals, or deliberately trivial ones, and they laugh about them. Laughing is good for you. Jokes are healthy. But I don't want to turn the idea of self-improvement itself into a joke. I seriously want to take all that magical, psychological power bound up in our communal awe for the event of the annual odometer ticking over, and push it into my personal engines. Vroom!

So. A do-able New Year's Resolution with a reasonable attitude toward success and failure.

Here's another tank of gas for that: John and I just purchased health insurance. He got a new job, and, since it's an hourly contract position, he didn't get a new company-paid health insurance policy with it. Well, they offered him one, but the options offered cost about the same but provided less coverage than what we were contemplating purchasing on our own. (His new employers did, however, offer him a dental policy worth the premium. I will never understand this system.)

What does health insurance have to do with my writing goals for the year? Well, it has to do with how we signed up. Since we had the option, we made me the primary insured. I'm the one with more time on my hands, after all, or, if not, if I actually am spending all the time writing I should and the rest of my work week being a housewife, at least I'm the one with a more flexible work schedule. I can bike down to the State Farm office on Mapleton just about any day, weather permitting, and sign stuff. Or make phone calls. Or whatever. Not that it this hasn't been the case since I quit my day job in April 2004, but I since I haven't been the insured employee, I haven't typically been authorized to handle the bureaucratic details. Insurance companies want the signature of the guy in the number one slot. They don't want to talk to the dependent or beneficiary.

(Speaking of companies that won't talk to the beneficiary, let us another day discuss companies who, when receiving an application from a married couple with a hyphenated last name, "helpfully" "correct" the husband's last name by removing the hyphened-on half, and then require the husband to call them and then fill out a change-of-name form rather than just saying "Sorry, we goofed" when the wife calls to point out the error. Shall we? It would be a blast.)

When you're the primary insured on the application, the application wants to know all about you. Including your employment status. I always fill out "Self-employed" not just because that's what writers are, even if they aren't making a lot of sales, but because it's an act of magic. Or psychology, take your pick. I am not unemployed and dabbling at a hobby. My writing is my job. I mean to treat it like a job, and I expect others to respect that it is my job, and I'm not going to wait until I've sold a novel to say so. "Self-employed." Emphatically.

And then when they ask "Part time or full?" a little sliver of conscience grimaces and admits I don't spend 40 hours a week on my writing like I think I should. "Part-time." Sheepishly.

Entering "self-employed" and "part-time" caused a new section of form to unfold on the web page (yay, Javascript!), "Determination of Self-Employed Business Group of One," asking me to check yes to four more questions. Among them: have I been doing it for at least a year? Do I have taxable gross income from my self-employment from which I have derived a substantial part of my income, defined as sufficient to pay the annual insurance premium, at least one year in three? And do I work a minimum of 24 hours a week?

This is Magic 101. Mundane action, or "sweat," is a necessary component of any spell. It's very important to say "Writing is my job! I am self-employed!" It is also very important to then write like it's my job. The Goddess is very prompt at reminding me of this, and very versatile in how She delivers the message. This day, She was sending the message via Assurant Health and Time Insurance Company.

Well. I wasn't exactly going to sit there with a calculator and go, "I think last week I only worked 15 hours, and the last time I had gross income sufficient to pay this policy was three years ago." I said yes, and yes, and yes, and yes, and I signed on the dotted line.

And that's where the New Year's Resolution juice comes from. There's nothing quite like being unsure whether I've told the truth to inspire me to make it the truth.

So. My resolution, in precise: Write 5 hours each day, 5 days a week. This should consist of at least two articles for Demand Studios, any assigned blogging, and constant work on completing and submitting fiction submissions.

And blogging here when I'm done.

...And also flossing my teeth every morning, and achieving World Peace by December. [laugh track] No, no, but seriously, folks...

Happy Two Thousand And Ten!

Meeting Ghosts and Goals
Thu 2009-11-05 21:00:47 (single post)
  • 8,365 words (if poetry, lines) long

So Melissa did meet the Ghost Prince in today's writing. And the conversation was terribly stilted. And every line felt really, really unnatural and hard to eke out. And some days are just like that. I just keep telling myself, someday I'll know more about the story than I do now, and that will be a better day to think in terms of perfection. Today I know very little, and so I must content myself with exploration. Sometimes exploration is done by eking out stilted dialogue and out-of-character narration. Sometimes it's the only way to get from here to there.

My additional challenge this NaNoWriMo is to do one article a day for Demand Studios,, a work-for-hire content provider that publishes in respectable places (eHow, GardenGuides.com, etc.) and pays reliably on schedule. That's my endorsement. Go ahead and apply; I won't try to stop you. Some people who write for them make a full-time living wage from them, all working from home. Me, well, I've been patting myself on the back for four articles a week. I'm not satisfied with that, neither as an accomplishment nor as a paycheck. (Also, Demand Studios will soon be offering an optional health plan but only to writers who average 30 articles a month. I should like to qualify, if only to know I have that option.) So I'm trying to do one article a day in addition to 1667 words on the novel.

How've I been doing so far? Well, divide my current word count by 5 and then multiply by 30; I think you'll find the result to be slightly in excess of 50,000. However, I've only done two articles. Gotta be behind in something, I guess. But there's time yet to catch up. I've done two articles in a day before. I'm not worried. Tomorrow is a new day with lots of writing time scheduled in.

(Schedule, you say? Why yes! There's a calendar at the top of the Boulder Regional Forum home page. Go take a gander.)

That's enough for today. Food blogging tomorrow. Maybe. (But I still feel clever!)

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