“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”
Stephen King

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

revision versus avoidance behaviors; also karaoke and a surprise DNS outage
Thu 2014-07-10 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 6,515 wds. long

Tonight I'm writing this from Hurricane's Sports Bar in Metairie, on Vets not far from Bonnabel. My brother tends bar most nights there, so hanging out at the bar means hanging out with him, which is nice. Hurricane's is on Facebook. You may like them if you're so inclined. I quite like them myself, and not just because my brother likes to cover my beers.

It took me a minute to figure out what their event schedule for the weekend was, because rather than hosting an itemized calendar or using FB's event pages interface, they simply take a photo of their calendar and make it their cover image. Once I figured that out, I saw that Thursdays were "Rock the Mic: Live Band Karaoke," and I thought, huh, that's different, and also I like karaoke. I should go. And so I did. And it was joyous. They had one of my standby tunes in their list, and they played it, and I sang it, and they sang backup, and a good time was had by all. It was unlike any karaoke experience I have ever had, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Rock the Mic is also on Facebook, and you may like them if you are so inclined. I like them.

This afternoon I took my short story revision time to the CC's coffee house on Vets at Division. (I had unearthed a decade-old gift card for use there. Alas, its balance turned out to be zero.) I am trying to be virtuous despite being "on vacation," so I am continuing to push my dogged way through the lumps in the draft-in-progress. There are, however, moments when I ask myself, am I actually doing a revision here, or am I just pushing prepositions around in a bid to avoid finishing the damn thing? This is a thing we are sometimes prone to: getting stuck in the mid-book or halfway through a story, and going back to the beginning and endlessly tweaking rather than pushing through the stuckness. I worry that I'm doing that...

...right up until my slow pass through the draft brings me a perfect opportunity to plant a little foreshadowing, based on something I just figured out about how the story needs to end. Then I stop worrying, because obviously revision is getting done here.

Up with foreshadowing! Down with worrying! I like giving myself reasons to stop worrying.

And now, a deep sigh for the frailties of internet. The internet went down at the bar, so I ran along home to upload this, but the internet was down there too, and also for my parents' desktop computer. "DNS server cannot be reached." Ain't no amount of rebooting the router going to fix it when Cox Cable appears to have DNS trouble. I really need to commit some alternate DNS addresses to memory for times like this.

(Oddly, popping in Google's DNS addresses didn't help, nor did it hurt the next morning when service had resumed. I wonder if yet something else was going on. Cox is not saying.)

In any case, this post won't get uploaded until Friday, but it will be backdated for Thursday, just to be confusing. Also I shall be restoring my HabitRPG streaks because I did all the things, I just couldn't click on all the things. Phooey.

the thistle's revenge, and other stories
Mon 2014-06-09 23:28:22 (single post)

As of June 1, my volunteer shift at McCauley's starts at 7:00 AM. There are all sorts of theoretical good things about that. Getting a goodly chunk of outdoor work done before the morning really heats up, that's one of them. Getting more work in before we break for lunch, that's good too.

Getting me out of bed an hour earlier is probably good? Maybe? In the long run?

Only that's not what happened today. What happened today is, my alarm went off at 6:00. I hit snooze, with the intention of getting up when it went off again at 6:15. Next thing I knew, I was looking at the clock and it said 6:30.

So much for doing Morning Pages before my farm shift.

Anyway, I rolled in about fifteen minutes late, which is about on par for me. It turned out to be no big deal (which is about on par for them). The staff still needed to have a meeting to figure out what their plan of action was. So they handed me a pair of snips and turned me loose on five flats of 200 tulsi basil seedlings each: "Just cut off the flowers and put those aside. We'll dry them for tea." When they weren't quite out of their meeting by the time I was done with that, they traded me a forked digging tool for the snips and sent me over to weed the berm, or, more accurately, the flagstone steps going up the berm. (In this case "berm" means "the slope of the hill that encloses the south side of the pond.")

Eventually the meeting broke up and they went over to the east garden for more weeding. Very particular weeding: I was only to pull up the thistle. They had planned on using hula-hoes to weed pretty much everything, but the ground was too wet for that after yesterday's thunderstorm. A hula-hoe is called that because its business end is a rectangular loop of sharp metal ribbon. It's supposed to slice cleanly through the top couple inches of soil, severing all the tiny weeds from their roots without unduly disturbing the crop bed. But when the soil is wet and clumpy, the crop bed will get disturbed. So we pulled thistles today, perfecting the art of loosening the soil enough to let the single thick root slide right out but not so much as to damage the herbs and flowers.

After I'd tossed enough thistles into the furrow to dry down and die, I worked on perfecting my own art of sitting down in the furrow without sitting on prickles.

I've been volunteering with one particular farmer, Rich, for years now. I started working for him at Abbondanza when their home farm was on Oxford Road. Then, when they had to leave that land, I followed Rich to McCauley's, where he had moved some of his operations. The upshot of this is, there's a lot of basic farm procedure that I know pretty well now. I no longer worry, the way I used to worry, that my very presence there added to everyone's workload--that the hassle of training me on every task outweighed the help of me doing the task. A lot of tasks, I don't need training on anymore. Where I do need training, the training can be brief, given in terms of the concepts I'm already in good command of.

This means that if I arrive in the middle of a staff meeting, they can put me right to work--often on a somewhat overdue side project that it's hard to make time for, day to day--with a minimum of pause for instructions. Hence the tobacco thinning a couple weeks ago, or the harvesting of tulsi basil flowers this morning. And after lunch it was easy for me to jump right back into the thistle-pulling without waiting for others to come along and tell me where to do it. I wasn't entirely sure, but I figured I couldn't go too wrong if I just looked for thistles to pull.

I'm kind of proud and pleased about that, having learned over the years to be useful without fuss. And I'm kind of touched and honored that they trust me with it. I realized today that, because they trust me, I've come to trust myself, too. I don't worry anymore that I'll run the whole crop with some newbie mistake while I'm thinning or transplanting or weeding.

These are good folks to volunteer for. They're patient, laid-back, and calm. I know that they must be under considerable stress, given the constrictions of time and money and materials and weather, but they've never handed that stress on to me. And their easy trust helped relax me out of my high maintenance, insecure beginnings, making it possible for me to acquire confidence along with experience.

So that's just something I've started to realize recently, and I wanted to voice my appreciation.

random observations on a random friday
Fri 2014-06-06 23:31:10 (single post)

Observation #1: I rely a little too heavily on external pressures for maintaining day-to-day habits. Those external pressures work great--until they aren't there. When my husband gets up to take his 8:30 a.m. meeting-over-the-phone, I get up and do my morning pages. If my husband is not feeling well and takes a day off from work, when he turns off the alarm and goes back to sleep, so, apparently, do I.

Observation #1, addendum (a): I can do my morning pages in as little as 20 minutes, if hastily made lunch plans with a friend require it.

Observation #2: It is quite possible to achieve a 5-hour writing day and still not manage to touch the short story that so painfully requires work if one gets super-perfectionist with one's content writing. "But I need to put together a slideshow! Examiner is offering a slideshow incentive! And it can't just be screenshots from the game--that's boring--I need to mark it up with borders and circles and areas of artificial brightness and side-by-side compare/contrasts, and, oooh, an imaginative collage illustrating that humorous bit at the end!"

Observation #2, addendum (a): If the homebrew RSS is bootched, the Examiner articles stop re-broadcasting to Facebook and Twitter, which rather makes the "incentive for slideshows that receive X-amount of social media visits" moot.

Observation #2, addendum (b): It's kind of cheating to count time spent troubleshooting the bootched RSS toward the day's writing hours, isn't it?

Observation #3: Playing Puzzle Pirates while reading shows for AINC can be done! But how efficient it is depends on what kind of activities the pirate indulges in. If it's a long solo pillage from Marlowe to Nunataq, and the reading is in Spanish, well, 30 minutes of reading can take something like two hours.

Observation #3, addendum (a): It's past 11:00 PM? When did that happen? Crap-buckets! And I have to be up early tomorrow--

bats in the belfry
Tue 2014-06-03 22:16:16 (single post)

I slept poorly last night, and I'm going to blame it on the bat.

Not, mind you, on the mug of strong tea I had at 9:30 because "It's too early for me to be this sleepy." Not on a session of Puzzle Pirates that went until 1:30 AM because I couldn't resist just one more battle on my way back to port from the site of the looted shipwreck. Neither of these would have been a problem once I finally turned off the lights, lay down, and actually tried to sleep. (Trying to sleep is a thing. It involves actively directing my mind in useful, sleep-promoting places, rather than lying there resentful about the way it races here and there.)

But when a bat gets into your bedroom, well, that'll do it every time.

We still have gigantic holes in our ceiling from shortly after September's storm. Bureaucratic movements towards interior repairs have been detected, but it wouldn't do to get too excited yet. Meantime, it's becoming clear that the roof is not as critter-tight as one might hope. Several days in a row the other week, we were getting bees in the house, despite the windows being closed. They'd show up on the living room window, either crawling around on the inside of the screens or lying dead in the panel track. Our suspicion was, they were getting into the roof and then exiting the roof space via the hole in our living room ceiling. This was no great feat of deduction. It was like seeing rain and suspecting it came from the sky.

That the bat came in from the roof was even more obvious. We could hear it vocalizing from the bedroom ceiling.

Have you ever heard a bat vocalize at close range? It's not a sound you're likely to forget in a hurry. One afternoon a few years ago, we came across a bat clinging to the rim of a step in the apartment stairwell. It obviously wasn't feeling at its most chipper, given that it just hung there stoically as we carefully stepped over it to get to our door. I donned some gloves and gently coaxed that poor, tired, confused thing into our largest plastic leftovers container--the big rectangular one I use for soup--and then I coaxed it back out onto a support strut in the open air parking structure, where it could safely rest until it decided to fly away. It wasn't until it was safely installed in its new location that it took a close look at me (I was taking a very close look at it) and decided it didn't like what it saw. It uttered a series of high-pitched, loud, piercing shrieks that caused me to recoil like a snake just struck at me.

That was when I realized that what I took for "these weird birds that chirp in the middle of the night during the summer" were in fact not birds at all. I've been told that this vocalization is social in nature, rather than having anything to do with their echolocation hat-trick.

Anyway, that sound started going off at 2:30 AM and I sat straight up in bed. "Sounds like a bat in distress," I said, and went to the window. From that vantage point it was clear that the sound was coming from above me, not from outside. "It's a bat in our ceiling." And lo, the elbow bend of a bat's wing briefly jutted into view.

We tried to coax it out--naively, I thought I could get it into that soup container again and take it outside--but it was having none of it. It scrambled back into the tight space between insulation and ceiling until we had no hope of seeing it, much less reaching it.

There didn't seem to be anything we could do. We tried to go back to bed. But that bat kept making noise. It chirped a little more, and then it just--scrabbled. Now, knowing that the scrabbling noise coming from the ceiling is a bat moving around is kind of comforting. It's a lot better than wondering if it's a cockroach, for instance. (Not really a Colorado problem. More of a Louisiana problem.) But it is impossible to get to sleep if part of your brain is constantly listening for it.

But I almost managed it. Right up until the bat was flying circles around our bedroom.

Bats are really, really quiet. It's the most uncanny thing. When a songbird gets into the house, it makes a hell of a lot of noise, not only with its voice but with the very motion of its wings on the air. Feathers are noisy. Furry leather, not so much. It was so contrary to my expectations as to give me the weird impression that I was watching something flying in the far distance, despite knowing it was in the same room with me. Which of course made it all the more startling when the bat's desperate attempts to find a way out brought it suddenly close to my face.

There was no question of trying to get it into a plastic container. This wasn't a tired daylight bat. This was a healthy nighttime bat. It wasn't going to stop for anything. So I opened all the window screens, knelt on the living room floor, and waited. It was kind of awesome in a close encounters kind of way--I could feel the breeze from its wings on my face!--but it was also kind of sad in a trapped bird kind of way. Unlike a bird, it knew exactly where the windows were. But, like a bird, it didn't seem to realize that Here Be Out. It swooped right up to the open windows again and again only to swoop away once more. Every once in a while it alighted on a piece of wall or ceiling to rest for a second. Then it was off again, flying in clueless circles.

Finally it disappeared, not through a window but up into the hole in the living room ceiling. It found the space where the insulation had been removed from the roof awning that jutted out some four feet beyond the window, and it vanished back there completely. I heard a little more scrabbling, and then nothing. It was probably 3:30 AM by then.

I have no idea whether it escaped out whatever hole the bees have been getting into, or if it's still up there. I suppose I'll find out if it starts flying around the house again tonight.

Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll sleep right through it. Like I said, bats are super quiet when they're not shrieking at the top of their lungs. And I am going to be super tired, guaranteed.

the universality of tape
Wed 2014-05-28 23:02:54 (single post)

Tape! The adhesive kind, not the analog recording medium. It was all over my weekend. That is, if "weekend" means "Saturday through Tuesday," which it does because I say so. I had an unusual amount of significant correspondence with adhesive tape this weekend.

Yes, these are the things I think about when I think, "What shall I blog about tonight?" What shall I blog about tonight? Oh, I know--how about that moment last night when I was all, "Hey, this is funny, I'm doing the same thing now I was doing Saturday and Sunday, only on a much smaller scale. Tape has, briefly, taken over my life."

Look, it goes with having the writer-brain. Writer-brain is constantly going, "Ooh, lookit! Lookit this, too! Lookit that!" Only it doesn't just notice stuff that legitimately has a story in it. It notices everything. Which is not entirely a problem, understand; it's much less of a problem than being in the habit of rejecting potential ideas and then wondering why you can't think of anything to write about. But sometimes there really isn't a story there. You just have to say, "That's nice, writer-brain. Yes, that is a very interesting connection. What a good job you did noticing it." Then you pat it on the head, *pat pat pat,* and you hand it a cookie, and you hope the next time it goes "Ooh, lookit!" it'll be something you can actually write about.

Anyway, Saturday we hosted a roller derby bout. And our home bout venue, the Boulder County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, is not a roller derby venue until we make it one. It doesn't have a track marked out. It doesn't even have a safe skating surface. So every time we host a bout, we bring our skating surface with us (it's these blue tiles that fit together like a sort of ornery Lego). Then we clean it, and then we mark the track on it. This involves "At least 385' of rope, rope light or boundary-making material" and enough tape to stick it to the floor in two concentric ovals, more or less. (More is here. Less, you already got.) The best tape is wide, brightly colored, stretchy, and resists getting shredded when you skate over it. It smells like spray paint when you tug it off the roll. And it needs to come up off the floor easily, hopefully all in one piece rather than splintering, because you're going to have to rip it all up when the bout is over so you can reassemble it in your practice location the next day.

So that's what I did for about two hours each of Saturday and Sunday, as part of a hefty team of fellow skaters and officials from our league. It's a lot of work, but it goes quickly with many hands on the job. And the reward is, you get to skate on it when you're done.

Now, Tuesday night involved painting. We came back to finish the job we started last week in the Nexus, by painting the crown molding gold. And that involved more tape. Blue masking tape, to be precise. It was not as difficult as last week's masking job with its fiddly tight spaces (we already did the door jambs years ago, thank goodness), but it still had its challenges. For the bottom edge of the molding, we used a special roll of whose actual blue tape was fairly narrow but that had about three feet of plastic film attached. That stuff is fantastic for peace of mind while you're painting, but I find it a little nerve-wracking to place because I have to do the whole job with one unbroken piece. I get worried that I'll drop the roll, or that the tape will drift off the desired line and I won't be able to correct it without, I dunno, wrinkling it or something. We did the top edge with a wider blue tape that was just blue tape, so I could use my preferred method of ripping off pieces four to six inches long and placing them in a long overlap. So that was OK, but where I was placing them was on popcorn ceiling. Awkward.

Annnnd just to make it a trifecta, yesterday I had to rip open an envelope I'd already sealed to flip over the "return bottom portion with your payment" so that the address would actually show through the window. Roller derby tape, blue masking tape, and now scotch tape. Whee.

Anyway, it was while I was placing the blue tape with film attached that writer-brain sat up and went, "Hey! So, this is kind of like what you did Saturday and Sunday! Only smaller. Isn't that neat?"

Yes, writer-brain. That's very neat. Have a cookie.

"No, but, there's totally a story in that. The main character, they're sort of like a janitor, see? Only instead of a janitor's huge ring of keys, they have every kind of adhesive tape imaginable hanging off their tool belt and stored in the closet. And sometimes they have to use the tape in weird and unorthodox ways. To save the day, see?"

That's... very imaginative. Why don't you go outside and play?

(Although I just might throw tomorrow's freewriting session at it and see what happens.)

er, best of five?
Fri 2014-05-23 23:55:50 (single post)

But today I have Good Reasons. Most of them have to do with bout preparation. Y'know--the cleaning of the bearings and the scrubbing of the wheels and the sewing of new velcro onto the wristguard straps 'cause the original velcro teeth got wonky? And the watching of the opposing team's most recent bout, and the taking of copious, verbose notes that I'm pretty sure I will never reread? So that's OK.

And now John and I am listening to Matt Braunger records and giggling.

Could be worse.

This bit right here? This is the hardest bit.
the purpose of tuesday
Tue 2014-05-20 21:59:00 (single post)
  • 3,071 wds. long

Tonight there was progress towards our goal to Paint All The Unpainted Bits. We completed what conceivably was and will be the most difficult part of the project, ever: The Nexus.

That's what I'm going to call it. It's that squarish piece of the house, three of whose walls are doors into bedrooms or the bathroom, and whose fourth side is partially enclosed by the short end of the living room closet. Where that wall ends is the opening into the living room. In most homes, the passageway that functions as a place to keep all the bedroom doors would be called a "hallway." In this home, it's just not big enough. So I'm going to call it The Nexus.

Because it is a Nexus and not a hallway, there is not a lot of room between the various doors. Masking off the doorjambs was a titchy business. Painting in between the doorjambs was even titchier, especially when we got down to the floor. This is what made it the most difficult, nastiest, least enjoyable part of the house painting project.

I recommend always starting with the worst part of any particular task. I painting the tiny, detail-oriented, brain-melting bits that required the little hand brush first. That way I could finish on the high note of "Yayyyyy! Free of corners! No more fiddly bits! Paint roller! Wheeeeee!" Always try to finish on a high note. If nothing else, it makes it easier to bring oneself to start the next similar project.

As for writing... well. I started with such good intentions! And then somehow my half-hour email break turned into hours of taking care of every piece of household administration and maintenance imaginable.

Around 2:00 I finally broke away for lunch, over which I managed about 40 minutes working on "Caroline's Wake." Those 40 minutes were spent converting the first scene from past tense to present tense, then whittling away at the first two scenes with a meticulousness that, even in the midst of doing it, I recognized as avoidance behavior. Editing existing draft in order to avoid writing more first draft. I suppose I rationalized it as "I'll continue working on this after lunch." But I did not. Other things snapped up my attention and monopolized my sense of obligation.

Moral of the story? There are several:

  1. Get up earlier so that there's time in a day to absorb set-backs like these.
  2. Set a timer when email-and-housework break begins. Go back to writing when the timer goes off. If tasks remain, rejoice! Take a second email-and-housework break later. Time it, too.
  3. Sometimes the purpose of Tuesday is simply to teach lessons by which Wednesday may profit.

Also, that 40-minute revision was by no means wasted time. It was a damn fine revision. I expect when I finally start drafting the third scene (tomorrow! For reals!), it will be all the better for having a more solid first and second scene to emerge from.

these are things that would have happened anyway
Wed 2014-05-14 22:42:23 (single post)
  • 1,234 wds. long

Once upon a long, long time ago, like... oh, say, 1992? Anyway, I wrote a story. And no, you cannot read it, because it was embarrassingly full of the Mary Sue.

Surely you've met the Mary Sue? Oh, Mary Sue is wonderful! She's perfect! She's sexy and adorable and everyone loves her. And yet they can never really know her, not truly, not in all her mystical, magical splendor. She is not from this world, you see, she was always destined to leave it and go home again...

In short, it was one of those stories that teenagers write about the storybook character they kind of sort of wish they could be. And also nobody understands them.

Hey, I have a lot of compassion for Teenage Me. But at the same time, I have to admit, she was not immune to the allure of the cuckoo child story: "Their parents are not their parents. Their lives are not their lives. They are princesses. Lost princesses from distant lands. And one day, the King and Queen, their real parents, will take them back to their land, and then they'll be happy for ever and ever."

But, being a teenager, I lacked sufficient awareness to prevent me from showing this story to Mom. This story in which a much misunderstood woman went back to her real home and her real parents. I kind of wish I could go back in time and slap myself. "Hey! Hey, you! You do not put this story in front of your adoptive parents. What exactly are they going to think you think of them, huh?"

But, happily, Mom didn't pick up on the vibe of "You're not my REAL mommy!" Or if she did, she never mentioned it. No, what stuck with her was the very dramatic conclusion of the story in which the protagonist's return to her home world also had something to do with Lake Pontchartrain leaping its levee boundaries and flooding the city.

Something like the following year or maybe the year after that, New Orleans had a particularly nasty brush with Maybe This One's Gonna Be the Big One. There was a heck of a lot of flash flooding. (This was at least ten years before Hurricane Katrina.) And Mom said to me, only half joking, "Niki, you write things and they come true! Stop it!"

Well. About that.

These days I find myself writing a lot of stories about snow. And they are not happy winter wonderland stories. There's the one about the midsummer week snowstorm that turns out to precursor Ragnarok. There's the one about the snow-glue disaster from outer space. And now there's "Caroline's Wake," a reimagining of the myth of Demeter and Persephone, in which of course the death of the Persephone character ushers in a particularly vicious snowstorm.

You might think it's an obsession or something. But, look, I live in Colorado right now. It snows here.


And I can hear my mother saying, "Stop writing about things that come true!"

If I still had that overinflated teenage opinion of myself, I might get worried about this sort of thing. But, really, think about it--if there's a writer out there who's making things happen by writing about it (and I have a novel that I drafted about that, by the way), why would it be me? Why wouldn't it be a much better writer, someone much farther along their path to greatness, someone who's got lots of stuff published and a shelf full of awards? Why, to be precise, didn't Connie Willis usher in the snowpocalypse with her novella "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know"? That would have been just fine. Her snowpocalypse was temporary, lasting just long enough to catalyze a sense of, depending on the character, wonder or forgiveness or love rekindled.

Guess what? Connie Willis is in Colorado too! Where, as I mentioned, it snows.

Writers are not unaware of the world around them. When they live places where hurricanes and flooding are a yearly danger, they think about floodtastrophes. When they live where the winter gets snowy and they don't like it much, thank you, they write about snowpocalypses. And if it snows in May in Boulder or flash-floods in August in Metairie, well, are you surprised? We all know that stuff happens. We know it's a hazard of our territory. It's on our minds.

And stuff that's on writers' minds tends to show up in writers' fiction. That's pretty much it.

So if it snows again in two weeks DON'T BLAME ME, OK?! I'm not predicting, I'm just complaining.

a pot of tea please and the extinctinction of all other life forms
Tue 2014-05-06 23:54:34 (single post)
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  • 3,400 wds. long

Today I rediscovered Ku Cha as a place to get writing done. Ku Cha bills itself as a traditional Chinese tea house. While I have never set foot in a tea house in China and cannot therefore verify this claim, I'm reasonably convinced. They have oodles of teas in all the colors teas can be. Then they flavor some of them with stuff, and there are even more colors. And scents. And flavors.

Generally I go there for the greens, oolongs and pu-erhs. I go there to buy them by the ounce, or I go there to enjoy multiple steepings of them in Ku Cha's elegant, quiet, and entirely wi-fi-less tea room where I can write the afternoon away without interruption or distraction.

As y'all know, I've been a member of Fuse Coworking for some time now, and a full-time all-hours-access member since late October. I love the community, and I'm excited about what they are doing with the historic Riverside building. But I find I don't actually work there more than once or twice a week, so it's not really economical for me to carry a full-time membership--especially considering that, if all goes well, we'll be looking at paying double our current mortgage payment each month. Thus, as of May first I've demoted myself from full-time member to pay-as-you-go drop-in.

There are several reasons I haven't been working there more often. Some days I'm bouncing between writing work and household tasks all day, so I need to stay home. Some days I'm not able to get my work started on time, whether because certain drop-dead tasks claimed my attention or because I just slept late; on those days I don't want to delay things even further with transit, parking, and "settling in." If I go by car, parking is expensive. If I go by bike or bus, I'd better count on good weather--and extra time in transit. And then there's Wednesday and Thursday, when I have roller derby in the evenings and volunteer reading in the mornings. Sometimes going to the coworking office means less time actually working.

And then there's the painful reason I don't really know how to talk about with anyone, or even whether I should: I can't always get work done there at all.

It's sad! I feel like a traitor even admitting it. But coworking communities each have their own "flavor," their own styles of interactions, their own particular atmospheres... and the Fuse atmosphere is too often too noisy for me. Not always! Not every minute of the day. But any minute of the day could be a problem. Sure, there are specific times designated as "social hours," and I don't expect peace and quiet during those. I join in on the beer and chit-chat happily. But I'd have thought that, this being a co-working office, the default would be quiet time. Turns out, it just ain't so. There is no protected quiet time or quiet space. Rather, the atmosphere is one of jocular camaraderie, where everyone's encouraged to give voice to whatever's on their mind, at any time, in any corner of the Commons or the cafe, at any volume that feels natural. Or, at least, so it has seemed to me.

It is an exceedingly extroverted atmosphere. And I am a vehement introvert with the occasional capacity for out-and-out misanthropy. Basically, we're talking about a personality clash. Nobody's fault! No one's to blame! It's just an unfortunate thing that happens.

For some people, the way Fuse works is probably ideal for them. Most people I see there seem to enjoy it. They seem to thrive where there's always someone nearby to bounce an idea off of or just to strike up small chat with, and where their impulses aren't constrained by "quiet time" rules. But me, though--oh, how I fervently, desperately wish for more formal constraint! Something along the lines of "People are working hard all around you, so please take your phone calls and conversations outside where you won't disrupt them." But for the kind of co-worker for whom Fuse is absolutely perfect, that would no doubt be stifling.

I respect that. And that's why I haven't really said much about it--I recognize that Fuse's atmosphere has evolved out of deliberate choices in its community. And if at any moment I might be rendered absolutely incapable of writing, all my verbal circuits completely overwhelmed by a loud conversation less than ten feet away, it's not because anyone's doing anything wrong. It's just that my needs are a mismatch for the nature of the space.

So I'm now a drop-in member, paying by the day instead of by the month. That means I can reserve Fuse for those days when my workload isn't incompatible with an unpredictably raucous atmosphere, or for when they have special community events I wouldn't mind interrupting my work for. And that means I'll be a much happier person to be around when I am there, so I won't be a drag on the community. Hooray for not being a drag on the community!

Today was the kind of day when I knew I'd need quiet. But at the same time, I wanted to get out of the house. For the first time in several months, I had no disincentive against going somewhere other than Fuse to work.

The reasoning behind the disincentive goes like this: "Well, I could go to the tea house, I could go to a cafe. But then I'd be spending extra money there only to waste the money I already paid for a full membership at Fuse."

Today's reasoning went instead like this: "I need to work on three different short stories, one of which is in heavy revision mode. If I go to Fuse, and a spontaneous karaoke party breaks out in the Commons, I will not get anything done and that will make me unhappy. Instead, I could go to Ku Cha, where there's an aggressive 'no cell phones or loud conversations' policy in the tea room. Also a peaceful fountain, like I used to enjoy when Tea Spot was open. (Ah, Tea Spot.) Ooh! And I won't need to bring my own tea ware to keep myself in quality tea all day long. And I'm biking; carrying my tea ware around on my bike is awkward. That settles it! Ku Cha today, Fuse on Friday. And I'll make sure I have things to do Friday that can get done during spontaneous karaoke parties. Win-win!"

My reasoning is wordy like that.

The tea was Bi Luo Chun. Ku Cha was featuring it at the free tasting station. I had some and liked it well enough to want more. I spent about two hours there. I spent a little time freewriting on "Caroline's Wake" and on the prompt for Shock Totem's flash fiction contest. Then I threw myself against the mud wall that is the "Impact of Snowflakes" rewrite. Mud walls, unlike brick walls, do move, but it takes a ridiculous amount of effort to budge them even an inch. But that's all right; I was able to make that effort, sipping my tea and listening to the fountain.

And by the time the noisy pair of college dudes came in, laughing, bouncing on the cushions, and striking sudden poses, well, I was mostly done by then anyway.

Turns out, no place that has other people in it is perfect. Who'd have thought?

Check it out! All done! Well, almost.
Before and after, conveniently juxtaposed in real time
some things get done. some things don't.
Fri 2014-05-02 23:23:38 (single post)
  • 747 wds. long

Hey, check it out! The entryway is done! So... maybe from this photo it's hard to tell how nice that gold crown molding looks, but trust me, it's glorious. Better yet, it's no longer that "rotten peaches and curdled cream" theme that the unit had when we moved in. See the second photo for comparison, showing where the dining area (done) meets the living room closet wall (not done).

Again, realize we bought the place in August of the year 2000. It feels so good to be finally picking up this project again. It feels really nice to walk into the house and see those newly painted walls that at last look the way we've wanted them to look all these years.

Except--argh!--the entryway isn't quite done yet. You can't see it from here, but the doorjamb is still cream, splashed with white from the new paint job. We'll paint that on Tuesday. Then we'll decide when to tackle the next piece of house waiting for its makeover. And what that next piece of house should be. Probably that central "hallway" where the doors to the bathroom and the two bedrooms let out just off the living room.

Meanwhile, in writing news... More argh. I'll just say that, when the next scene of a short story looks impossible to write, suddenly Examiner articles look really attractive. One of these things I know I can do. And its completion state is easy to define.

"Look," I tell myself, "you don't have to get the scene right in one go. All you have to do is set a timer for 25 minutes and babble to yourself about what needs to be in that scene. Freewriting mode, right? Freewriting is fun!"

To which myself tends to reply, "Sure. Yep. Totally. Except--right after this quick blog article about some writing events this weekend, OK? Sooner I publish that, more useful it is, right? Because it's timely, see?"

It's so very easy to convince myself that I have good reasons for avoiding the thing I want to avoid.


Tomorrow's another day, and next week is another week. That's always comforting to remember, even if--once again--there's only two more "another weeks" to go before the deadline I'm trying to hit is here and gone.