inasmuch as it concerns Technicalities:
Alas, the metamorphosis of a website is rarely as elegant as that of caterpillar into butterfly. There is less quiet in the crysallis, less of the miraculous, more of the goo. But hey! There's gadgets!
writing tomorrow's words today (because that Einang isn't going to defeat itself)
So there was this neat thing that happened at the end of yesterday's writing task list, and it's another 4thewords thing, and I know, I know it's starting to sound like I'm turning this blog into one big continuous 4thewords advertisement, but I am going to take that risk and tell you about it. Because it's kind of cool.
Here's what happened.
I was working on the new story when I hit the word count total needed to win my current-at-the-time battle. And since I knew I was going to work on the story a little longer and then write my blog post, thus generating plenty more words, I started another battle. I think it was an 800-word monster, maybe 500, something like that anyway.
Because I've always got to have a battle going on, right? If I'm going to be writing, I might as well also be advancing my current quests. But it can be tricky to pick the right monster to battle. It needs to be about the right size for the writing at hand. And "the right size" can be terms of either word count or time limit.
Like, right now, since I don't know how much more writing I'm going to do after my blog post, I'm chosen a 24-hour battle. That way, if I don't write enough to defeat the monster tonight, no big deal, I'll finish it off with tomorrow's freewriting session.
Or, this morning, I picked a 300-word monster to battle when I wrote down my dream. (Yes, I count dream journaling toward my daily word count. It's narrative. It's description. It's story idea generation. It's writing.) Because of the short time limit on that particular monster, I really did need to generate all 300 words by writing down that dream. But 300 words (or rather 260--I have a pretty decent attack bonus) seemed like a reasonable estimate. As it turned out, it was an overestimate, but only at first. I eked out the rest of the words by challenging myself, with some success, to recall more dream details to write down.
But yesterday afternoon, I goofed. I still had some 250 words left on the battle when I finished the blog post. The battle timer had only two and a half hours left, and I had to leave in about half an hour for a three-hour roller derby practice. Where the heck was I going to get 250 more words in the next half hour?
From this week's fictionette, as it turned out. I'd already logged a session working on it that morning, but the alarming prospect of having to forfeit a battle (and break my flawless record of nothing but victories!) spurred me to reopen the project and work on it some more.
And that's how I wound up finishing the first draft of this week's fictionette yesterday rather than, say, in a panic on Friday morning.
And that's yet another reason why 4thewords is awesome. It pushes me to finish projects early.
and i will put the days of white-knuckled computing behind me
- 38,351 wds. long
You may have occasionally heard me complain about my laptop.
You may have heard me say such things as, "I think my Asus is auditioning for the part of the typewriter in Stephen King's Misery, because every day another key on its keyboard seems to stop working." (To wit, the "s", the +/= key, the caps lock, the delete, the digits 3 and 7 on the number pad, and the digits 5, 6 and 0 on the top row, including their SHIFT and F components, nixing the end-paren and the hot keys governing volume and screen brightness too. It's an electrical thing. Sometimes they work, mostly they don't. Sometimes when they don't, if I keep hammering away at them anyway, the computer will simply die.)
You may have, perhaps, heard me lament the operating system's tendency to just can't and to forget how to even when I am tasking it cruelly by, say, attempting to run a web browser and Scrivener simultaneously. We are talking five, ten, fifteen-second pauses between my hitting ALT-ESC and the Start menu appearing, between clicking on the little volume icon and having the volume slider appear, between my typing one letter and then another letter into a Facebook messenger conversation.
You may even have heard me curse and seen me facepalm because I forgot to take the wireless keyboard's USB dongle out before telling the computer to hibernate. Because obviously if I leave the wireless keyboard's USB dongle in, the computer will crash rather than hibernate. Obviously. Who do I think I am, expecting the computer to successfully hibernate while anything is plugged into its USB ports? Why is anything ever plugged into the USB ports? Who does that, anyway?
This is the computer that Asus sent me to replace the computer that lost its ability to "see" its fully charged battery, such that if I unplugged the thing from the wall, it died. So the computer sent to replace the computer that started going electronically haywire is also now going electronically haywire. And both of them seemed to run out of memory for ridiculously banal tasks. And its/their warranty is entirely expired
This is a computer that might make you ask, "Why have you not replaced that computer?"
Well. As of tonight, I HAVE.
I did it. I bit the bullet and I spent a slightly uncomfortable amount of money on a computer that, by any measure, ought to be way more computer than I need. It's from the upper-middle range of Dell's "gaming laptop" line, an Inspiron 15 in the 7000 series with an i7 quad core, 16GB DDR4 2400Mz memory, 256GB solid state boot with 1TB storage, bluetooth, dual-band 2x2 wi-fi, and a ridiculously fantastic video card that I will probably never properly appreciate due to my pathetically low-tech video game tendencies.
Also, it's Dell. I have bad-mouthed Dell before, because every Dell I've ever owned has required me to avail myself of Dell's extended warranty repair service. However, my Asus experience has not been devoid of warranty repair interactions, and those interactions were much less friendly than their Dell counterparts. Asus didn't give me the option to extend the warranty past the first year. I had to pay for packaging and shipping. I had to practically pull teeth for them to give me status reports. Whereas, with the Dell I ordered tonight, I got the four-year extended warranty for the price of three, and longer extensions were available. When in the past I had to ship my laptop back, Dell sent me a prepaid laptop-shipping box with a comfy customizable foam interior. And once they didn't even make me ship them my computer, but instead sent a tech to my house. He sat down at my kitchen table and operated on my laptop right there.
I will bad-mouth Dell no more. I have tried both the Dell way and the Asus way of dealing with laptop misbehavior. I am resigned that laptop misbehavior is inevitable, and I prefer the Dell way of dealing with it.
The Cyber Monday discount wasn't nearly as deep as I'd hoped, but, gods damn it, I will have a computing environment that is not painful. It's supposed to arrive on December 12.
Until then, I continue chugging along with my external keyboard and other such coping mechanisms.
I am chugging along quite nicely. I got a bit behind on NaNoWriMo over the weekend, partly because no matter how much willpower I've got and how many over-the-counter remedies I use, being sick is going to slow me down; and partly because it was a weekend, darn it, and I was going to enjoy it. So now I'll need to do 4K per day to hit 50K on time. But I did make my 4K today, plus extra. And tomorrow I won't have a computer to shop for and a bunch of overdue tasks to accomplish. And I'm done being sick! It only gets easier from here.
I've only 11,649 words to go. It's not enough to finish the novel in, but it might be enough to help me figure out how to finish the novel.
forward brave dust warriors - for the words!
- 3,548 wds. long
Sometimes, you have to ask yourself: Is there room for more gamification in your workday? And the answer is YES. There is always more room for gamification in my workday.
I just joined 4thewords.
Like Habitica, 4thewords is a self-improvement role-playing game. But instead of being checklist-based like Habitica, it's word-count based. It's very simple: You pick a monster and you fight it. You fight it by completing X amount of words in Y minutes. For instance, right now at this very minute I am fighting a Wignow. Wignows are fuzzy and fangy and pop-eyed and cute. They come in many varieties. You beat the plain ones by writing 250 words in 20 minutes. When you hit the target word-count, you get your reward. Then, if you are so moved, you do it again.
Actually, there's a lot more to 4thewords than that. It's a complete RPG with quests, markets, the crafting of simple objects into more complex ones, maps of different regions with their own particular challenges and monsters and quests, and limited-time events as the calendar inevitably proceeds forward through its allotment of days.
We are, as you might imagine, in the middle of one such limited-time event, that being NaNoWriMo. There's a brand new region to explore and quests that will go away when December comes, so you can imagine I'm all fired up to beat all the monsters and solve all the quests.
Which means I'm writing all the words.
I'm looking forward to writing all the words. I am looking forward to them the way I usually look forward to taking an earned break to play Two Dots or Puzzle Pirates or solve another jigsaw sudoku. 4thewords has made writing itself into the alluring and addictive time-sink I can't wait to get back to, just like it always should have been.
This is new.
I've used every bit of today's writing to battle monsters and win stuff. Well, everything but the Morning Pages. Everything else. Freewriting (629 words), this week's fictionette draft (1000 words), today's NaNoWriMo progress (1844 words), today's blog post and all the blog backlog (which I finally completed, though I still need to upload it and backdate it). I wrote about 4500 words today--or more like 5000 if you consider this bit since crossing midnight "today."
And I want to write more because there are so many quests to complete!
I'm completely astounded by how effective this game is at getting me to do what I'm already supposed to want to do but have spent so many cumulative hours of my life avoiding. I never thought I could be this motivated by basically an online word-counting application.
If all this burble and glee has got you intrigued, then you should probably visit 4thewords and sign up. Caveat: It is not free. It is, at its most expensive, $4/month. You pay for subscriptions with in-game items called "core crystals," and you can buy crystals in bulk at a discount, lowering the monthly price to something like $2 and change. But the first month is free, and you get full functionality during that month so you can better evaluate whether it's worth your while.
Spoiler: I am totally going to subscribe.
Anyway, if you do sign up, feel free to use my referral code: XABFN67843 to get 20 core crystals free
right from the get-go when you make your first actual payment (and, full disclosure, to earn me 44 of 'em at that time, too, but no pressure). And you can send me a friend request! I'm "vortexae" just like on Habitica (and on far too many BBS systems going back to the mid-90s).
I guess I'm done for the night. Until tomorrow, when I plan to defeat a large number of monsters in Luciola Forest and at Uurwall's Marionette Carnival!
a brief interlude for stationery sourcing
Hey, Boulder County - where the heck do you buy postcards?
Yes, well, "online," I just figured that out, but I need more postcards today. Meaning Wednesday the 4th, because I see it has snuck around to past midnight while my back was turned. Today, I need to send at least one more postcard urging Democrats in Utah to vote for #DrKathie because that's how it works, you pledge to send at least one postcard per day, and I take these things seriously.
Don't look at me like that. I know I've mentioned Postcards to Voters before. To review: You sign up, they send you addresses, you send postcards to those addresses. There are ground rules, of course. Postcard designs must be inclusive. Postcard messages must be legible, handwritten, and stick to the talking points for the associated campaign. Postcards are addressed to "Awesome Voter" or similar; they are signed with first name or initials. Ground rules like that. But it's still utter simplicity and great for folks who love sending old-fashioned physical mail but who maybe get the cold shivers and the hot red hives at the thought of making cold calls.
My postcards to date have been sourced from one of two places:
- A pad of watercolor-friendly postcard blanks I picked up at an arts'n'crafts store while I was still in high school at the latest; and
- A handful of European luggage-tag style postcard blanks I picked up at a stationery store at the east end of Loveland last month.
Those sources have run dry. I can't go back in time, and I'm not going all the way to Loveland every time I need more blanks. Besides, I damn near cleaned the store out of this particular product. And they don't interact with fountain pen ink reliably well, anyway.
I'm guessing maybe Michael's, maybe Office Depot or Staples? Those kind of places?
If anyone local's got suggestions, I'm all ears. Bonus points if it's somewhere in downtown Longmont within skating distance of the library.
kind of like the way pain just means you're alive
- 1,200 wds. long
I've been thinking about interactive fiction. Specifically, I've been thinking about a particular short-short of mine, "Keeping Time," and how I might expand it into an interactive piece. I've actually been thinking about this for a couple years now, but it can take me a while to find myself a chunk of time in which I can do more than think about it. You know how Violet "invents" extra time for herself and her siblings to solve a mystery in The Wide Window by Lemony Snickett? I had to invent extra time for myself. Mostly by getting up earlier and figuring out how better to adhere to a daily writing schedule. So far so good. Deliberate invocation of allergic reactions was not involved.
And but so anyway: Interactive fiction, Twine, and me. Twine! "Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories." I'm learning how to use it. I'm going about this the same way I went about learning PHP: By working my way, page by page, through a book about it. This book here: Writing Interactive Fiction with Twine, by Melissa Ford. Her book may or may not align with the kind of interactive story I want to tell, but it looks like it'll make me a competent Twine user, so.
"Keeping Time" is a very short story, originally under 700 words and later expanded to about 1200, about a character who flees Earth and travels via dimensional portal to other worlds, hanging on tight--despite radically changing environments and perspectives--to their identity and humanity for as long as they possibly can. In its current form, it has five scenes that act as a sort of montage portraying the journey and the changes the character undergoes along the way. As a piece of interactive fiction, I want it to have more scenes--that's a no-brainer--but not necessarily more endings. I want it to be a sort of many-roads-lead-up-the-mountain thing. The ending is sort of inevitable, to my mind, but how one gets there, and how many different worlds one experiences on the way there, and how those influence the remainder of the journey by changing the character either according to or against their will--that's where the choice and variety comes in.
So, less of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure and more of a roller coaster ride with decision points. You get on and off the ride at fixed places, but the shape of the ride from one to the other is up to you.
(Actually I have just thought of an alternate ending. But I'm not going to go into that just now because spoilers.)
You may or may not have seen my old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story Engine? One of my earliest HTML/PHP projects. It's over here, and you can play with it, but be warned it is probably overrun with spam and awfulness right now because I've been an absent moderator lately. (Note to self: get on that.) Anyway, it's an editor and repository of very simple interactive fiction. The first page ends in a choice. Each choice leads to a new page. Each new page ends in a choice or possibly THE END. Anyone can add onto what went before, so it's interactive and potentially collaborative.
That is not what I want to do with "Keeping Time." I want to do something more like what Michael Lutz does with "my father's long, long legs." And I don't just mean the difference in formatting--the difference between interspersing blocks of story with "What do you do next?" on the one hand, and, on the other, presenting choices as hyperlinks from within the story proper. I mean, the variety of ways the choices are used. What the choices are for. Sometimes, the hyperlinks simply advance the reader to the next part of the story--a way to turn the page. Sometimes they act as footnotes--an invitation to examine the hyperlinked concept in more detail. Sometimes they're decision points which will change the story, or your path through the story, irrevocably. Sometimes they're more like scenic bypasses, or branching, braided streams that take a detour around farms and fields before rejoining the main river. There's a lot of complexity there, many different ways of shaping reader experience. Or, rather, many different experiences to let the reader choose.
Also it never stops being a story. Interactive fiction straddles the line between "story" and "game," with some examples falling more to one side than the other. The exact placement of that line, and what falls on which side of it, is subjective. I want to create something that's still very much a story, not a game--at least according to my version of that line.
On another note: The more I think about this story, the more ideas I get, the more ambitious the whole project becomes... and the more terrified I get of taking it on.
This is worth noting: When I become afraid of a (writing) project, that's generally a sign that the project is worth doing.
Can I please progress to the point where fear turns into excitement and I stop eating my own stomach lining? Please? I would like to get to that point tomorrow. It would make my writing life a more comfortable place. And I would like it to be a comfortable place, seeing as how I intend to spend a lot of time there.
middle ground is where you make it
There is probably a middle ground between gaming the system and sabotaging one's own chances of success, but I haven't found it yet.
Maybe I found it today. I went looking, anyway.
To be more explicit: There is a small list of writing tasks I'd like to do each day that I keep! Not! Quite! Getting to! and it's bothering me. Things like: Spending a solid writing session on writing a new short story, or revising an existing one so that it is ready to submit. Working on the novel, for serious. Sending stories back out to new markets (ones they have not been to, of course. I'M STILL EMBARRASSED ABOUT THAT) and logging responses to previous submissions. These things are not represented in my Habitica "dailies," so I can log a "perfect day"--a day in which I check off all the Dailies--without ever getting to that list of much-neglected writing tasks. I suppose it's overstating things to describe this as me "gaming the system," but I'm certainly not making the system work for me here.
Problem is, the act of adding new Dailies to the list does not suddenly cause me to succeed at a task I've failed at week after week. It just makes failing at it feel worse. No more perfect days and it's my fault the party gets thwacked by the quest boss.
An intermediate stage is needed here.
So, Habitica's "dailies" are those task which you hold yourself too every day. If you check them all off, you accomplish a perfect day! But for each Daily you don't check off, you take damage. If you're in a quest, your party also takes damage. That's Dailies.
There's also "habits." Habits are those tasks you'd like, to, well, get in the habit of doing more often. You click them any time you do them, however many times a day is appropriate. Like: "Get up from the desk and stretch" or "Eat a home-prepared meal." You get rewarded with gold and experience points for clicking them, but you don't get punished for not clicking on them. (There's also negative habits which you're trying to break yourself of, and you take damage every time you click them. Example: "Did you pick your nose? Be honest!" But that's outside the scope of this discussion.)
Habit items are perfect for giving yourself incentive to do a thing without putting yourself under a lot of pressure.
So I have added a Habit item for "All items on today's timesheet." (This is a spreadsheet where I track my working hours by task, and it lists all the tasks, including those things I keep not! Quite! Getting to!). It has a positive clicker I can click if I do all the things. It also has a negative clicker, but I'm going to give myself a two-week adjustment period before I start clicking it.
And then, what the hell, I added five more Habit items: "1 hour of writing," "2 hours of writing," "3 hours of writing," and so on up to five. I used to have a "5 hours of writing" Daily, but I pretty much never managed to check that one off. So rather than keep punishing myself with it, I disabled it. Temporarily. Having now brought it back as a series of low-pressure Habit incentives, I might train myself up to a point where it's reasonable enable it as a Daily again.
So that was very technical and will probably make more sense if you go and check out Habitica. You may find it useful. Not everyone does, but it pushes all my buttons very effectively.
Anyway, I did not get to click "All items on today's timesheet" today. But you know what I did do? For the first time ever? I completed a Friday Fictionette early. That's right. July 14th's offering is already up on Patreon for scheduled release. Which means I can begin my road trip to Salina, Kansas (it's bout week again!) on a clean conscience. And I might just get to peck at the novel a bit in the car. I'll certainly get to start next week's Fictionette early. If I can keep this up, I might actually begin building a future fictionette buffer. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Anyway, now I have blogged. Which leaves me only two Dailies left between me and a perfect day (for Habitica values of perfect). Off I go to do them!
YPP Weekend Blockades, June 17-18: technical difficulties
OK, so, I'm gonna keep this short because 1. it's past noon game time, and I'm anxious to get to playing in the YPP blockades myself, and 2. I left my external keyboard at home, drat me, and my laptop's keyboard is currently denying me use of the F5 key, the 5 and 0 on the number row, the 7 on the number pad, the DEL and CAPS LOCK keys, and the letter "o". This makes blog post composition awkward. So I'm just gonna paste the schedule in below and get on with things, how about that?
Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.
Doubloon Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, June 17 ***
*** Sunday, June 18 ***
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, June 17 ***
oh hey i get it now ha ha ha *sob*
Or, Why Nicolejleboeuf.com Went Dark Over the Weekend.
Chapter 1: We Are Careful
The domain was paid through March 18. I got multiple reminders of this. And I did not ignore them! But I had faith in the auto-renewal system. Which is to say: Check the "auto-renew" box, ensure that a valid credit card is on file, and voila, the renewal fee would be paid at the time of expiration and my domain would continue active without interruption.
I double-checked these things. The "auto-renew" box was checked. The credit card on file was the household Mastercard, whose expiry date was still more than a year distant.
So far, so good.
Chapter 2: We Register For Worldcon
You remember my unbridled enthusiasm when the Hugo voter packet became available? Of course you do. But to become a Hugo voter I had to first become a World Con Supporting Member.
On the evening of March 17, I set out to do just that.
For reasons unknown to me, my credit card was declined. To make sure I hadn't typo'd my credit card number or anything, I attempted the payment again. A second time my credit card was declined. I tried a third time, just to make sure it wasn't an email address mismatch. Nope, even using the email address associated with that credit card's billing information, it was declined.
It is probably relevant that Worldcon is in Helsinki this year.
So. What happens when your credit card company detects three failed international purchase attempts? Why, your credit card company, who cares very much about you (but possibly cares more about their own liability in the case of identity theft), cries "Possible fraud!" And, quicker than you can say No, no, I meant to do that, your account gets frozen until such time as you can reassure the credit card company that no, no, you meant to do that.
Did I hurry to reassure them so? Of course not. I just tried a different card instead, and when that payment went through on the first go, "All's well that ends well," I said, and ran off to download all those delicious Hugo finalists.
The credit card in question was the household Mastercard. But you probably guessed that by now.
Chapter 3: Time Waits For No One
Thursday the 18th was the last day my domain was paid through.
Friday the 19th, the auto-renew attempt occurred.
Which, thanks to the misadventures detailed in Chapter 2 of this volume, failed.
And that, skaters and gentlefen, is why NicoleJLeBoeuf.com was unavailable Saturday morning.
Chapter 4: IP Help Desks Wait Forever
And it was unavailable until today because apparently reinstating expired but paid-up web domains (I paid the moment I discovered the error, Saturday morning) isn't a priority with my IP's billing department. Also, when they finally got back to me, they called me by someone else's name and referred to someone else's domain, because that is the kind of personalized customer service you can expect with my IP.
Still, the domain is back, as you can see for yourself, what with you reading this blog post housed thereon. So. All's well that ends well.
The moral of the story is...
Don't wait on the auto-renew. When the first "domain expiring soon!" email comes in, just pay the damned thing.
Alternately: Don't wait until the day before your domain's expiration date to buy your Worldcon registration. At least, not if Worldcon is in a different country than the one you reside in.
Or maybe just don't use the same credit card for both purposes, if you can manage it.
In any case... Hey, here's the Friday Fictionette I released Saturday! It's called "This Time We Play for All the Marbles" (full text in ebook, audiobook formats which Patrons may download). Thanks to the previous one being so very late, I had only a couple days to create this one from scratch to final. And even still I might have managed an on-time release if I hadn't realized too late that I'd brought a novel-length idea to a flash-fiction party. So I had to take another night to mull over how much of the huge amounts of backstory I could fit in, and how much I needed to fit in, and how to sneak in the bits I couldn't quite justify leaving out. I think the final release has turned out acceptable and comprehendible, but you'll have to be the judge of that.
This week is going much better. Having released last week's fictionette only one day late rather than five, I have the luxury of a whole work-week to figure out this week's offering. I was also able today to make inroads on the overdue Fictionette Artifacts (halfway done with February!), and had time to revise "Caroline's Wake" and send it out to the next market on its wishlist. Yes! Finally! I'm working on non-fictionette projects again! Bang the drums and sound the horns, chill the champaign and polish the crystal goblets!
Why, yes I am unreasonably cheerful about this. Y'all, I got to come home from Sunday's roller derby practice and hurl myself across the bed and allow sweet unconsciousness to claim me for hours, and there were no guilt-voices to nag away at me. (Well, there were, but only as a matter of habit. They were entirely unjustified.) And today I have done all the things I could hope to do with a Tuesday, writing and roller derby and household finances and email correspondence and groceries and a home-cooked meal besides.
And my author's domain is active again. Which means I could submit a short story to a prospective market and know that the submission system's automatic "We have received your submission" missive wouldn't bounce, but would land successfully in my inbox for me to file in the appropriate subfolder in Thunderbird. And I could then log the submission in my personal database, also housed here at NicoleJLeBoeuf.com.
In every way I could hope for, I am back in business.
Of course I'm pleased!
whatever gets you out of bed in the morning
I think I'm finally getting back into the everyday swing of things. Got up on time, did my daily writing deeds, dynamited huge chunks out of Mt. Overdue, uploaded the Wednesday volunteer reading recording on time, and went to an optional derby practice because why not.
Then I came home and ate yummy crock-pot shepherd's pie. Look, it was yummy. I had half the potatoes I was supposed to and no carrots, and I cooked it too long so that it came out looking sort of all-over brown in every part and that includes the peas, but it was yummy. Then again, I'm easy to please. It's full of meat and potatoes and mushrooms and onions and tomato paste and beef broth. I'm not likely going to complain. Besides, it was after derby. After derby, you can put a plate of pretty much anything in front of me and, five minutes later, the plate will be sparkling clean and I will say, "Thank you, that hit the spot. By the way, what was it?" So. Don't take my word for it, is what I'm saying.
So it was good day. Still didn't get everything I wanted done, but getting up on time helped me come mighty close. I would love to say that I leapt out of bed like a young Ray Bradbury who's so overcome with eagerness to write that I just! Can't! Stay in bed any longer!!! That's how he describes himself in Zen in the Art of Writing, anyway. I always envied him that. For years I felt like a fraud because I couldn't describe my mornings that way. What saved my self-esteem was becoming cynical enough in my old age to begin to doubt his self-reportage.
Anyway, no, though the prospect of writing (or, rather, getting all the writing done) was what kept me going all day, it was not what got me out of bed in the first place. No. That honor goes to the frickin' weekly extreme jigsaw sudoku.
Heaven help me, I've fallen off the wagon and landed face-first in my old addiction to that website's sudoku competitions. There's a new batch of puzzles every day and a midnight deadline to submit the solution and that, skaters and gentlefen, is all it takes to turn a casual passtime for me into an obsession. MUST INCREASE MY WINNING STREAK TO 350.
But it doesn't just push my gamer-acquisition-achievement button. It also pushes my mechanical obsession button. See, I made myself this .xcf document (like .psd only for the Gimp rather than Photoshop) with a layer group containing all the different jigsaw shapes, a layer group where I put screenshots of all the puzzles for the coming week, a text layer with the exact leading and kerning needed to put the digits right in the screenshot cells--and because it's a text layer, I can select-all, copy, and paste my solution directly into the website's submission form--and, most importantly, there's a huge library of paths which make selecting all the 2s in Box 3, Row G and Column 8 a matter of five keystrokes and a couple mouse-clicks. It is very, very clever and it is terribly satisfying to use and OK, I need to get out more. Granted. But I'll give you a copy if you want.
Last night, just before going to sleep, I was reading solving strategy articles, trying yet again to understand the point of X-Wings. I never quite understood before. I mean, what could they do that double box/line reduction and double pointing pairs couldn't? But this time around it finally clicked (Oh! It has nothing to do with boxes! It's purely about the columns and rows! I get it now) so I Alt-Tabbed over to the puzzle I was working on to test my comprehension. And, wouldn't you know, I spotted one. For the first time ever, I spotted a goddamned X-Wing in the wild while there were still candidates for it to clear.
It was very late at night. I was pleasantly drowsy and tightly swaddled in the blankets. I decided that, having spotted my X-Wing (on the 6s in rows G and H and columns 3 and 8), I'd process its candidate removal in the morning.
So although I'm vaguely embarrassed to admit it, it's dog's honest truth: It was the thought of finally getting to remove sudoku candidates by the X-Wing strategy for the first time that got me bounding out of bed on time.
Ray Bradbury would be ashamed of me. But I don't have to care.
what writers can learn from a sack of angry raccoons
So apparently Chuck Wendig and I have something in common, and that's a birthday in the back end of April. (Also we're both writers, but I would like to stop the comparison there before it becomes too depressing. I mean, what have I published in the last 5 years, right? NOT 20 NOVELS, THAT'S WHAT.) I'm not sure what I'm going to do about my birthday, but Wendig's using the occasion of his to reflect on the lessons of his writing career. Said lessons, he hastens to emphasize, may not necessarily be transferable to other writers--that's the first bullet point right there, Writing Advice is Bullshit and Largely the Product of Survivor Bias:
Even the list below is just meÖ spouting off. Theyíre lessons that apply to me, not to you. Maybe to you, itís gold. Maybe itís a sack of angry raccoons, I dunno. The only writing advice you can count on is: you gotta write, and you gotta finish what youíre writing. Everything else is variable.
I'm down with that. And I'm pretty much down with the whole list, actually. If any angry raccoons are involved, well, maybe they have cause to be angry. They're not saying anything that strikes me as fundamentally untrue or less than useful.
Some of it is really reassuring for me. Take number five, Find Your Damn Process--Then Challenge It:
You have a process. So go find it. Maybe that means writing 2k every day, reliably. Maybe it means writing 15,000 words every other weekend. Maybe it means you write in coffee shops, or in the crawlspace under your house. Maybe it means you eat a handful of bees before you begin. I dunno. Thatís on you to figure it out, and while itís important to figure out what you write and why you write, itís also incredibly necessary to figure out how you write. You may think how you write is the way others have told you it must be, but that doesnít make it true. Also important: when your process isnít working, you need to evolve it. Your process isnít one thing forever just as you arenít one person forever.
I bolded a bit there 'cause it's speaking to me. My current process, the one I was so proud of coming up with, the whole 5 hours a day thing, morning shift, afternoon shift, fill out a time sheet, check the boxes on Habitica, do the daily gotta-git-dones... it's not working. I hate that it's not working because it ought to work and I don't know why it's not working. But it's not. And maybe I have to acknowledge the possibility of some answer other than "Try HARDER tomorrow."
I don't know what the right answer will be, but it probably starts with "change something." Change what? To what? I don't know. But asking the question generally comes before answering the question, I guess. I may not like the period between ask and answer, since it's filled with confusion and despair and flailing around and going WTF I CAN'T EVEN, but I suppose it's inevitable to spend some time there.
Which means this bit is also reassuring. From number 24, You Know A Whole Lot Less Than You Know, And Thatís A Good Thing:
Every day of a writing career is exploring a new planet. All the truths you hold are likely half-truths or even cleverly-costumed lies. Embrace that. Every day I know less than I knew before, and I find that oddly and eerily liberating. It means I donít have all the answers and neither do you.
So it's OK not to have answers. Not having answers is a necessary state of art, and in fact life.
What is also necessary: continuing forward, despite that lack of answers. Despite the lack of success. Despite the lack of hope, even. Quoting number 25, which--given all the times I've gritted my teeth to hear someone say, "Not everyone's cut out to be a writer, so there's no use encouraging the ones who aren't"--sings harmony with my heart of hearts:
Writing as a career takes a certain kind of obsessiveness and stubbornness, I think: the willingness to put a tin pail on your head as you run full-speed into a wall, hoping to knock it down. Again and again. Until the wall falls or you do. Sometimes I think maybe that the thing that separates those who have it from those who donít is simply those who decide, ďFuck it, Iím a writer,Ē and then they do the thing. They choose to have it, to count themselves among that number rather than those who donít. But I have no idea. I donít know what the hell is going on. And neither to do you. What I know is this: writers write, so go write. Finish what you start.
The rest is negotiable.
It may look like I've already quoted the whole darn article right there, but, honestly, there are 25 bullet points in that there list, and Chuck Wendig wrote them all, which means they are (mostly) verbose and profane and hilarious. And also wise and inspiring and reassuring. At least, I thought so, so I thought I'd share it with you.
Besides, I didn't have much news of my own to share. I mean, I got up, I took care of some household necessities, I wrote, I went to see the Doctor Who Season 10 screening at the local theater. Things are OK. They're just not news.
The Volt is back in full repair, by the way. The part that needed replacing--essentially, the charging port--was more specific to the make and model of car than I thought, so I actually had to take it to the Chevy people in Longmont. They spent about three hours chasing down warranty approval and one hour doing the actual repair, so I got very familiar with their waiting room. Too familiar. I kind of had to take a break from the waiting room and go skate around Sandstone Park for awhile. And I have to say they weren't very proactive in giving me updates. Even when they were done, it was like the dude was on his way to another errand and since he just happened to be passing by he thought he'd mention that "We're all done whenever you're ready." Dude. I've been ready all afternoon, where were you? But, hey, all's well that ends well, and I went on to treat myself to Popeye's fried chicken because I was practically at I-25 and 119 anyway.
And now the car is fully functional, the still extant manufacturer's warranty paid for it all, and I was able to charge it all the way up not far from the movie theater tonight, and it's all ready for John to drive it down to New Mexicon for the weekend. The end.