inasmuch as it concerns Consuite:
Hanging out with other disciples of the pen and, er, talking about writing. Yeah. That's what we're doing.
There's Always Tomorrow...
So today was not the productive, happy, high-energy day I was hoping for. It started with a headache and it dragged along in slow motion. Today did not represent any sort of significant step in the great plans I have for new-habit-forming and rut-reconstruction. But I promised I would blog, and blog I am indeed doing. So there's that.
Here's the deal: I am tired of getting nothing done. On any given weekday I've been as likely to stay in bed with a book until the early afternoon as I am to get up and write. More likely, in fact. It's pathetic. And while a full-time work-at-home writer can set her own hours, I find I never really get up to useful speed if I stay in bed past noon. I'm a morning person. (A morning person who can't seem to get out of bed. I know, it's weird.) Besides, I've got derby practice three days a week. I can't entirely set my own hours.
So recently I've been collecting strategies to combat that tendency. The best one, the main one on which all strategies depend, is to pattern my schedule after John's such that I wake up with him and then go in to work with him. Well, not with him at his office (though I suspect his coworkers would actually get a kick out of me coming in and taking over an unused desk once in a while), but with him in downtown Boulder. There are at least four co-working spaces set up in that area, and at least two more out on our side of town. I don't have a full membership anywhere, but most of them have a daily rate as well. For $15 or $20, depending, you can work there from 9 AM to 6 PM. And I've been doing that once or twice a week. I've worked a few days out of Scrib, I've tried out Co-Motion and BDA, and I've just about fallen in love with Fuse at The Riverside.
As it happens, the day I checked out Fuse for the first time was also the day John's company moved house. They were in the Colorado Building at 14th and Walnut; now they're in One Boulder Plaza. So after John and I walk to his office together, I continue on for one block south along Broadway. It's very convenient.
(And then, if it's Tuesday, we meet up after work and have dinner, then we both go back down to The Riverside because we're taking swing dance lessons in the event center space there.)
Thing about Fuse is, it's very much still under construction. But it is going to be awesome. It's already got rentable desks and an open seating work area and a creekside conference room. The cafe counter just got finished and revealed this week. Now they're working on the kitchen so that the cafe can actually serve food. And I can't wait for the library and wine bar downstairs to be completed. I'm really excited about what they're going to be. And I am this close to just plunging in and becoming a member and renting a desk. I want to support them. And there's value in getting in on the ground floor, so to speak. I sort of want to be part of the process of Fuse's creation.
But because they're very much a work in progress, they're still trying to build, or perhaps accrete, a community. It's like the physical version of the dilemma of starting a new online bulletin board: you need people to join in order to have a community, but in order to get people to join you need to have a vibrant community. So what they really need is people to be there, working or co-creating or conversing, filling the space with bustle and productivity and excitement, so that prospective members checking out the place see that instead of silent, empty rooms and construction dust.
So I committed to coming in twice a week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That's twice a week that I'm absolutely getting out of bed, going downtown, sitting down at a desk, and working. So far it's been really productive. I have set myself a schedule -- fiction before lunch, "day job writing" after lunch -- and if I haven't adhered to it perfectly, well, I'm at least approximating it.
And I'm hoping that the way I work at Fuse will become a new habit that will play out on my at-home days, too. It didn't happen today. I partially blame the headache for that, and also having to put my skates back together and do stuff like that. But mostly it was just me falling back in that same old rut. It's OK, though. It doesn't mean my attempts to change things are worthless and doomed. There's always tomorrow. Tomorrow could be a productive day. And, at worst, Tuesday will be here again soon.
One More Duck
- 6,000 wds. long
Today I finally secured resort accommodations for Sirens 2012 . I purchased early registration while attending World Fantasy last year, then said to myself, "I have oodles of time before I need to do anything else!" That statement ceased to be true some time ago. The Skamania Lodge (in the majestic Columbia River Gorge, in Stevenson, Washington) showed no availability via their online reservations. I called the 1-800 number in hopes of receiving better news. A charming and pleasantly chatty reservations operator found me the very last room available and slotted me in.
Meantime, we also talked about French last names ("LeBoeuf" may have to be spelled a lot for people outside New Orleans, but it could be far, far worse), urban fantasy (she recommended Laura K. Hamilton; I recommended Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Midnight Hour), and various inspirations for writing fiction. As phone calls to hotel reservations go, it really was an unusually pleasant example of its type.
Now I just need to get my train tickets to Portland. I'm pretty sure I'm going by train. It's a straight connection from the California Zephyr to the Coastal Starlight. I've never been on the Coastal Starlight before. It's got wifi! The entire journey takes two overnights, not materially worse than Denver to New Orleans, though the Denver-to-Sacramento leg is 31 hours compared to Denver to Chicago's 18. But, you know, meh. More time with me and my laptop and/or knitting and/or sock-darning or jeans-patching. And less time trusting my belongings or my person to commercial airlines and airline!TSA, which trusting I'm slightly allergic to. (Amtrak!TSA exists, as far as I can tell, exclusively on video loops on infinite play in the Chicago terminals. I'm OK with that.) I can only rejoice in my spouse-given freedom from the 9-to-5 world that allows me to extend a weekend excursion by 48 hours on either side. Thank you, John! Now, to get this "writing" thing up to the "possibly making a living off it" speed...
Speaking of which, got my doubly-signed copy of the contract for the publication of "Lambing Season" back in the mail this week. Hooray!
It's About Writing This Time
- 2,481 wds. long
As promised, this post is about writing. Actually Writing Blog: Does What It Says On The Tin. And I want you to appreciate this, because I'm on my way back from a fantastic roller derby event that I want to blog about So! Very! Much! But I will defer that pleasure for now, because I said my next post would be about writing. And so it shall be.
But it's not such a sacrifice as all that, because a mere three weeks or so before this I was at a fantastic writing event which I kept meaning to blog about. So now I get to do that.
Back in June, several of us from the Codex online writing group got together and had a writing retreat here in the Denver area. For me, this was a hugely needed thing. Like I've been saying, roller derby has been eating my life all up, bones and all. Stealing a week out of its hungry jaws and feeding those seven days to the poor starved writing beast was a matter of self-defense. It was a great big shove on the pendulum to encourage an eventual swing toward equilibrium.
Can I sorta-but-not-really interrupt myself here (of course you can, Niki; it's your blog) to mention that I now have proof positive that one can be a novelist and skate roller derby all in the same life? It's true! Exhibit A: Pamela Ribon, author of Going in Circles. Premise as I understand it, not having read it yet, is that a recently divorced woman joins a roller derby league to find and reinvent herself. I need to read it. Point is, Ribon is writing from life here. In second "Big Idea" guest post at John Scalzi's Whatever concerning her more recent novel You Take It From Here, she says she received the phone call that kicked off the new novel while she was sitting on the bleachers healing up from a derby injury.
I find Ribon's example immensely reassuring. It means my ongoing attempt to balance derby and writing isn't doomed to failure.
Anyway. Interruption over. Returning now to the writing retreat: A week in a house in remote Centennial. Surrounded by writers. Who are writing.
It wasn't just writing. All work and no play etc. There was also going out to eat (where we mostly talked about writing) and playing games (Dixit and Arkham Horror, both in their own ways appropriate for spec fic writers). But mostly it was writing, in the house or out at coffee shops. And critiquing each other's writing. And enjoying the very great privilege that was an afternoon's chat with local literary agent Sara Megibow. Mega awesome.
(Sorry about that.)
(Well, no, apparently I'm not, as I don't seem to be going back and erasing it.)
(I pun. Deal with it.)
The concrete good that I got out of this week of almost nothing but writing was to finally finish a draft of the current short story in progress. This required, as it turned out, not only the writing retreat environment but also finally getting WordPerfect 5.1 up and running on my computer again for the first time since Dell's customer service techs needlessly reinstalled Windows 7 on this machine. (I told them it was a hardware issue. They didn't believe me. They have a Process. But I told y'all this tale already.) Once I had the story up in WP51, it stopped feeling like a solid wall. I could think my way into the crevices and cracks where editing could take place. It was like magic. I swear, should WP51 ever get taken away from me for good and all, there'll be nothing for it but to customize my replacement word processor with a yellow system font on a blue background.
Anyway, the story is called "It's For You". It involves a phone that rings at odd hours from a mystery location, such that the protagonist is helpless to answer it; and a next-door neighbor with a more assertive outlook on life. Everyone at the retreat who critiqued it proclaimed it "surreal" and I suppose they're right. Anyway, this is now my main project: another rewrite followed by submitting it somewhere before the month is out.
This goal is complicated somewhat by a recent tendency for any random freewriting exercise to turn into a brand new story draft, complete with beginning, middle, and end. Which is... good? I think? One of the effects I was hoping the retreat would have on me? Probably? In any case, I now have enough new stories to keep me busy for the rest of the summer. (As though I didn't have enough older stories waiting for me to please revise and submit them, too.)
This ideas business. It's like, feast or famine all the time. But I guess that's what happens when you shove the pendulum writingward. I guess the real goal now is to take another stab at that "writing like it's my day job" thing. Because it is. Right? Right. Writer by day, Fleur de Beast on eight wheels by night. Then perhaps instead of feast or famine it'll be three well-balanced meals a day. With a modest roller derby dessert.
But I've only just gotten off a train in Denver and unpacked my suitcase in Boulder and done my Wednesday AINC reading shift. Now I gotta go view the video footage from our last home bout tonight with the rest of the Daisy Nukes. Then it's serious fun quality time with John, who misses me. And then there's the rest of the weekend, which involves scrimmage Thursday night, a mix-up bout on Friday, and the rematch home bout against the Shrap Nellies on Saturday.
I guess normality and sober dailiness will have to wait for next week.
Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness! (0/5)
- 1,400 wds. long
Today's my birthday! I am now thirty-six whole years old. Hooray! (That's a multiple of twelve, so, hello again Year of the Dragon!)
Today is also William Shakespeare's birthday. (And death-day. But never mind that.) As a writer, I think it particularly cool to share a birthday with the Bard. (I don't particularly object to sharing his death-day, either. We all gotta die someday, so it might as well be on April 23 as any other day of the possible 366. Just so long as the year in question resides in the far, far future.)
April 23 now also has the distinction of being the date of a brand-new modern holiday of special interest to writers on the internet. It's called International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretch Day!
(Why of course it's on Wikipedia. Why are you surprised? It's also on Making Light.)
Anyway, the day celebrates writers who post some of their works on the internet for others to read for free. It also pokes gentle fun at someone who, six years ago, apparently got a sharp mental wedgie over the notion of writers posting some of their works on the internet for others to read for free. I can't do the incident justice by paraphrasing it, so I'll just link you to Jo Walton's original declaration of the holiday, which in turn links to the getting of the mental wedgie. ("Mental wedgie" -- like "panties in a wad" only without yet another toxic association of Something Shameful with Something Stereotypically Feminine. I suppose I could say he got his "briefs in a bunch," but I am unprepared to speculate on Dude's boxers/briefs alignment. Gender-free phrases are more useful anyway.)
I'm as delighted as you might expect to have yet another awesome thing to celebrate alongside my birthday. But, what with having a happy birthday and all, I'm unprepared to do my pixel-stained technopeasant wretched bit just now. Happily, today is also a Monday, which puts me in a good position to say "Check back every day the rest of this week!" My plan is to put a piece up each day, Tuesday through Friday. I've got some already-been-published stuff bordering on "juvenilia" to share, kinda like I did with "Last Week's Rhododendron," but I hope to write something entirely new in time for Friday's post.
So with that optimistic declaration, I'm off to continue being totally and enjoyably useless for the evening. Until tomorrow!
World Fantasy Interlude: That Whole Flying Thing
OK, so. World Fantasy. A day late, and, as it turns out, a good deal short, because there is no way I'm typing up the entire contents of my head to do with WFC in a single blog post. Let's just pretend I was blogging the con as I went, and my blog posts simply showed up just under a week late. Or something like that.
The first part of any trip is getting there. I got there on a plane.
This was my first time flying commercially since, quite possibly, the North Devon countryside vacation. Certainly it was my first time through the TSA/DHS ritual since the implementation of the notorious "naked or groped" measures. I wasn't particularly worried about either of those options in particular -- which is not to say that concerns about these unnecessary violations of privacy and bodily integrity, not to mention the potential PTSD trigger for sexual assault survivors, aren't absolutely valid; I'm just lucky enough to generally arouse little-to-none TSA suspicion (i.e. I'm small, white, and cisgendered female) and to not be an assault survivor myself; o hai there privilege! this R me, checkin U. No, rather, I was nervous and unhappy about the whole process: take off your shoes, take your laptop out of your bag, do whatever the people in uniform demand, don't protest as possessions are confiscated, don't protest if they tell you they're going to touch your privates, don't demand to know how any of this is serving to make air travel safer, why do you hate America?
I resent the whole circus. I take trains when I can partially in protest of security theater. Unfortunately, between my Dad's visit before the trip and NaNoWriMo afterwards, I couldn't take an extra four days for travel this time around. So I screwed up my resentment and bought round trip airfare via Southwest.
And I did in fact encounter a little hiccup going through the full-body scanner on the way through Denver International. Thankfully, there was no trauma nor any confiscation. When I came out of the round scanning chamber, the image on the screen -- just a childlike outline of a generic female body, since TSA is phasing out the naked pics -- superimposed a square outline over my head area. The security officer, a woman -- they seem to match officer and passenger genders when touching the body is deemed necessary -- asked me to bow my head so she could investigate my hair. Lo! It was my wooden hair pin, by which my hair stays up and out of the way so I don't sit on it or get it caught it doors. She allowed it through, though I suspect that if I'd taken the pin out of my hair so she could see the sharp ends, or simply if another agent who'd been having a bad day was on shift instead, I might have lost it after all.
I resolved to put my hair pin in checked luggage on my return trip and just deal with sitting-on-hair and hair-in-doors problems as they arose. And I resent having to do so. I resent being subject to this behavioral conditioning. I resent that it's working.
By the by, apparently the TSA claims that the new full-body scanners have increased their success. But they quantify their success by how many "illegal or prohibited items" they can find now that they couldn't before. Sure, this includes illegal drugs, but it also includes bamboo knitting needles (and wooden hair pins) depending on how the agent on duty interprets the prohibition on "sharp objects." I think claiming a higher success rate based on detecting "prohibited items" is a lot like claiming higher success for the local police force by counting convictions: you can artificially raise the rate just by prohibiting more items or criminalizing more actions. (Note, meanwhile, that to date no explosives have been detected.)
Anyways. Thence to gate C39 for the Southwest Airline flight to San Diego. I chose Southwest because, like their advertisements say, "Bags fly free!" Because another thing I resent deeply about post-9/11 airport security theater is the paired impact of A) more things you can't take aboard the aircraft, and B) charging $50+ per checked bag. I cynically suspect that some of the major airlines are helping TSA come up with their list of "prohibited items," specifically suggesting dangerous uses for items many passengers won't travel without, to increase the number of bags getting checked at $50 a pop.
I also chose Southwest for their sense of humor. I find their ads utterly charming. And when I arrived at C39, I saw other evidences of fun. For starters, they had decorated the gate desk for Halloween in a Wild West Saloon motif. On the return trip, I'd see even the ticketing desk dressed up for the holiday, but that being San Diego, they went with a pirate theme.
At their gate were some awesome amenities for the electronic generation. Lots of A/C outlets, both at a tall bar-stool-outfitted countertop and between the new comfy-looking armchairs. USB outlets, too, presumably for charging phones. I looked up and down the terminal and did not see similar furniture at other airlines' gates. As I would learn later, Southwest even makes wi-fi available aboard some flights. Just fire up your computer, connect, and pay $5 where prompted at the network gateway. If my flight had been longer, I might have tried it out.
Another features unique to Southwest gates: a series of numerical posts to facilitate passengers lining up in order. Boarding passes come printed with a section letter and position number, which is essentially your place in the first-come-first-served line. I assume the sooner you check in, the forward-er in line you get, and thus the more choice you have in where to sit. They do open seating, see; whatever seat is still open when you get to it, window aisle or middle, is fair game. And here's where Southwest do make a little extra money: for $10 extra, you can do "early-bird check-in", whereas for free you get checked in automatically up to 36 hours before the flight, rather than checking in online up to 24 hours ahead of time like non-fee-paying schmoes do. Or, Gods forfend, an hour ahead of time at the airport, which is what I did. (It wasn't so bad.)
Later, a friend asked me if the flight attendants "sang a little song" for us on landing. Apparently that's what they did last time she flew. On my flight, we just got a little casual humor inserted into the passenger briefing. Also life-size images of Southwest staff members waving us goodbye all up and down the ramp to the plane. These were cheerful, if slightly creepy.
The one thing I regret about my transportation choices, though, was flying home on October 30th rather than on Halloween itself. Southwest apparently gives you complimentary treats (with an alcoholic component for those over 21) on certain holidays, Halloween being one of them. But I really didn't want to have to skip out on another Monday morning at Abbondanza, seeing as how I'd missed so many since August already, so I did not get to sample these treats.
All in all, the flying-between-Denver-and-San-Diego portion of my World Fantasy experience was remarkably pleasant. I would definitely fly Southwest again. Next time I can't take the train, that is.
(One day I will fly myself everywhere. But for that I would have to first A) own an aircraft, because overnight rental hours add up in an expensive way, and B) start practicing again. I haven't been in the cockpit for more than two years, and I'm feeling it.)
Reading Today from BLOOD AND OTHER CRAVINGS at #WFC #WFC2011
Oh, hey there, social media. You have corrupted me into putting Twitter hashtags in my blog post titles. Because the blog post title will show up on Twitter. Logical, isn't it?
Anyway. I'm in San Diego. It's Friday, Day 2 of the World Fantasy Convention. Today at 3:00 PM there will be a group reading from the vampirism anthology Blood and Other Cravings; it will take place in the Tor Suite. The Tor Suite will be somewhere in the Royal Palm Towers, the big tall U-shaped building at the end of the property nearest the mall. We don't have a room number yet. But whichever room it'll be in, I'll be there, reading my story "First Breath" and attempting not to stutter from nervousness. Steve Rasnic Tem will also be reading, as will I think three other anthology contributors. And of course Ellen Datlow will be there. Big thanks to her for organizing the reading!
I'll leave it at that for now, and blog more about the convention later on today. At least, that's the intention. I am so very full of good intentions.
Sirens 2011! Day 3, Which We Will Talk About Later
You know how each of the previous two days at Sirens ended with "I want to write forever. I am also exhausted"?
So, today was a lot like that, but it ended with a three-hour Monster Mash full of dancing and costumes and the continuing Silent Auction and a murder mystery to be solved and also, lest I forget to mention it, dancing.
Today will have to get blogged about tomorrow. Good night.
Sirens 2011! Day 2, and a Rare Bonus Drawing By Me
Hello, the blog! I have a picture for you, which I drew. And I'll have you know that I don't do much drawing, 'cause it's harrrrrrrrd, so go ahead and feel special about it. I do!
This drawing is my monster. It's my dear little fearing monster from the Imposter Syndrome family. Isn't it adorable? It's a picture of its future self, after it has successfully moved out of its family home and into a safer place where it can learn to take better care of itself and me.
That may have been a little obscure. The logic goes like this: The Imposter Syndrome family is made up of a bunch of monsters, all of whom say, each one in its own special way, "It's only a matter of time before you find out you're not really a writer. And that will suck rocks." This particular member of that family tries to protect me from that inevitable discovery by preventing me from writing at all. In this picture, the fuzzbucket is handling its fears in a much more constructive way: in order to reassure itself and me that I really am a writer, it is urging me to pick up that pen and write.
Also it's a Legend of Zelda joke, because that's funny. (You probably didn't need to be told that.)
I did the sketch during the 5:00 PM write-in today. Because it was a write-in, our fearless leader gave us writing prompts and time to work with them or on our preexisting projects. But she also gave us monster pencils and big sheets of monster paper in case we wanted to contribute a monster drawing to the big red notebook. The theory is, conference participants fill up the notebook with monster drawings, the notebook gets auctioned off, and someone goes home with THE most awesome souvenir of Sirens 2011 or indeed of any conference ever.
I'm sure the original intention was to collect drawings of the fantasy monsters that are the theme of Sirens 2011. I'm pretty sure no one was thinking in terms of this sort of internal monster. But I've had this in my head to create since Wednesday's long walk, Zelda quote and all, and so there you go. The original went into the notebook, and the photo came home with me.
So. Speaking of writing and not writing: Remember that bit yesterday about "I want to go home and write forever, starting tomorrow"? Add another tomorrow. I am exhausted all over again and then some. This conference is wearing me out. In all the right ways, yes, with my brain all tingly from ideas I hadn't ideated before, but wearing me out nonetheless.
Today our keynote speaker was Laini Taylor, and she too had that "I want to write forever" effect on me. She gave a speech that was all about stories: the narrative expectations of life books had given her as a teenager; the desire to escape into a book and live in a book but not really live in a book (because who really wants to have to try to keep a pet dragon fed? Especially in this economy?); and the opportunity cost of every choice, in story writing as in life, which is to make impossible every other choice you could have made. "If I choose to become a mermaid... there goes my tap-dancing career!"
But the bulk of her speech was to make these points by telling a story. She wrote a story specially for this keynote speech, and she told it to us, stopping now and again at cliffhanger points to further make these points with related stories, some of which were fictional and some of which were biographical or autobiographical. And though a lot of characters showed up on the main page, I'd say the main character of her story was Story. "This," her story was saying (in that meta way that stories do say things), "is what it's like to write stories."
I know I, for one, when faced with the common writerly woe of a headstrong story insisting upon some element or direction that I didn't plan on adding and am not happy about being forced to add, will forever-from-now imagine -- in addition to the things I have already imagined -- a horde of extra cooks all salting the soup with unwanted monkeys.
So that was awesome. And somehow I am going to need to hold onto this sense of "you are awesome and writing is awesome and I want to write forever because you make it look easy and fun and like a total adventure!!!" that I'm getting by listening to the guests of honor talk about writing, because I'm not going to get to act on it until probably next week.
And although I am having a great time here in the Vail Valley and I don't especially want to leave, I'm very much looking forward to next week's daily writing. It will be a blast.
Sirens Day 1 and Other Stories
Exhausted to the point of dropping where I stand, so this will be very short. Well, maybe not so much short as in fact kind of long but consisting of very short thoughts. And actually, once I put them in bullet list format, they weren't all that short, either. Nor particularly coherent.
- Story notes: Caroline's suitor, as it turns out, was not working the marketing department with her at some job or other. He knew her from the hunting lodge. Because I'd already decided she was a hunter (because why just be Kore when you can be Diana too?), and, in short story writing, it is almost never a bad idea to condense entities. (This is not in the document file, nor yet reflected in the story's official word count. I scribbled it in my notebook over breakfast. Or maybe I thought really hard about scribbling it. One or the other.)
- More story notes: Billie Rae has a really gruesome keepsake from the last time Caroline was murdered. (Neither of them were going by those names at that time.) The nature of the keepsake owes some inspiration to Patricia McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, and specifically Maelga and her collection of witchy oddments. I haven't decided whether the previous owner of the keepsake survived their amputation. (This bit I did manage to scribble down. Along with other things I don't remember right now. For what it's worth, it occurred to me in the shower. "Billie Rae strung his fingerbones on a necklace the way today's children make jewelry out of penne macaroni." Such cheerful thoughts I have in the shower.)
- Important for life in general: If you ever find yourself training to work the checkout stand at Office Depot, or any other retail outlet with a customer loyalty reward card program, remember this. No matter how hard your trainer tells you to sell that customer loyalty reward card program, no matter how many new accounts you're expected to open in a day, it is never appropriate to argue with the customer after she has declined to open one. Seriously: No means no, guys.
- It is also never appropriate to view the customer as an opportunity to practice your charm. Your alleged charm. That stuff you're displaying that you think is charm? That's actually what the kids these days call "douchebaggery."
- On Glitch: Adjustable quantity picker. Finally. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE
And now for a second bulleted list, which we shall call "First impressions of Sirens." Remember Sirens? (Remember Alice?) The conference started today. We went to it. We shall be going to it through Sunday morning.
- Any lingering sticker shock at the price of attending membership ($200) began to fade once they pointed us to the "afternoon tea" buffet table, and vanished completely at the cheese and chocolate reception.
- I only began to regret not staying at the con hotel when I looked at the con hotel's hot tubs. I'm bringing my bathing suit tomorrow and I may just smuggle myself into that steaming water with the gorgeous overlook view of the river.
- Justine Larbalestier has written a lot more books than the Magic or Madness trilogy, and I must read everything. I have made a start by purchasing books: Liar, and the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology she edited with Holly Black. I fear that this is only the start of my book-purchasing for the weekend.
- Elvis: sexist fuck, Y/Y? Seriously. I mean... wow.
- Listening to Justine Larbalestier talk about the writing of her books and everything that went into them makes me want to go home and write forever. Because of stupid only-too-human exhaustion, forever starts tomorrow. At the soonest.
More coherent thoughts from before the reception may be found at Boulder Writing Examiner, and, I hope, here tomorrow. Right now, I go flop.
Pre-Sirens Avon Writing Retreat, Day 3
Today is an exercise in self-forgiveness. Some days, none of the stuff on the Big Scary Checklist get done, and then it's 9:30 PM and I'm tired. And beating myself up for getting nothing done doesn't help. Like, what, tired-and-guilty is better than just plain tired?
So. I hereby officially forgive myself for not writing today.
I did other things. For one, I did my Wednesday morning volunteer reading for AINC. I do three and a half hours of reading for them each week. On Wednesdays, it's 54 minutes of employment ads from varying parts of Colorado, and the recording has to be uploaded by 2:00 PM. It actually takes more like an hour and a half because I have to gather the reading material from several newspaper websites and then sort out the ads that don't have verbally tranmittable contact information. (Phone numbers are good. Email addresses are good. "Click here to apply" is not so good.)
Why, by the way, am I so reluctant to acknowledge how this task screws with my day? I guess I'm in denial here. I don't want to admit that this hour and a half has to come from somewhere. I mean, it would be nice if I could pull it out of a pocket dimension and magically have 26-hour Wednesdays, but I can't. And so it's an hour and a half I can't spend writing, it's an hour and a half of my productive energy for the day, and it's even more time taken because afterwards I sort of need a break. And I just need to take all this into account when planning the shape of my Wednesdays and my expectations thereof.
Lori and I tried out a couple restaurants up here. Lunch was at the Avon Bakery & Deli, whose bread really is just that fantastic. And dinner was at China Garden inside the Lodge at Avon Center. It was more expensive than I had remembered, but the food was delicious and the portions were generous enough to feed us for lunch tomorrow.
I had a good long afternoon walk along the riverside path, mildly regretful that I didn't have time to do the four-mile hike all the way to Edwards. I went as far as that townhouse campus that's just west of Nottingham Lake, where I settled down on a pillow-like boulder at the foot of what looked like an ex-bridge (which will be a completed bridge again in the near future, if the active construction crew across the river was any indication) and read some more of Cameron's Walking in this World. And it was just as well I didn't go any farther, because by the time I got back to our room, I was exhausted. That was pretty much the energy expenditure that all but guaranteed that the productive part of my day was over.
I wish I had more energy in a day. The stuff listed here ought not to have eaten up my day's allotment of potential. But "oughts" are sort of useless, because they aren't "is."
This morning I woke up dreading today, knowing that I needed to work on my short story and feeling scared of it. And the fear won the day, which makes me sad. But in the fear I recognized an opportunity for monster watching. "Monsters" is how Havi Brooks, whose blog I have become quite fond of, conceptualizes these fears and blocks and inner obstacles. You should read the whole post linked above, but here's the nutshell edition:
When you're working on a stuck or sitting with a hurt or working through the layers, you eventually discover that your stuck just wants to protect you.
Your monster means well. It's just going about it all wrong.
Your monster is small and vulnerable and fuzzy. And it just wants to know that you'll be okay. And that's why it makes itself so big and fierce — to scare you into letting it take care of you.
And once it knows that you know, it can turn into something else.
So I tried to have a little chat with my "stuck" in the safety of my Morning Pages. I called it "Dear little fearing monster," and I asked it -- asked myself, really, but writing dialogue is more fun for me than writing angsty internal monologue -- what precisely its goal here was.
As it turns out, it's trying to protect me from the ineviteble blow of finally discovering that I can't actually write and every success so far has just been a fluke and I'm not really a writer which means I'm not really anyone at all.
Dear little fearing monster comes from the family Imposter Syndrome. It's a family that many writers become familiar with. I see successful writers bemoaning it on Twitter with a frequency that is both depressng ("You mean it never goes away?") and heartening ("You mean even the big kids feel that way?"). I am in good company here.
So I had me a chat with this scion of that familiar family. "Dear little fearing monster! In protecting me, you're not letting me write. You're so afraid I'll find out I'm not cut out to be a writer that you're not letting me be a writer. In attempting to protect me from this bad thing, you're actually making the bad thing happen."
"Well, that makes sense... but what if I do let you write, and you write something that's no good?"
"I'll revise it."
"But what if you can't revise it enough? What if it'll never be any good?"
"I'll never know. I'll just keep revising it, or, in a pinch, put it away temporarily and move on to the next story. You can't prove a 'never'; you can only create one -- by deciding never to try."
(I say things like that a lot. For instance, my rote response to anyone who argues against encouraging would-be writers because, they say, some people aren't cut out to be writers and really just shouldn't try. People really do say that, and I find it rage-inducing. So I've got my response down to a slogan: "The only way to prove a person will never make it as a writer is by getting them to stop writing." Of course, the rage-inducing naysayers then like to say that anyone who can be so easily discouraged doesn't have what it takes to make it as a writer anyway. Because apparently they think that only the invulnerable deserve to survive? Only those with skin two inches thick have anything to say worth hearing? Really? How convenient to bullies, then, that no blame accrues to them, but only to their victims for being bullyable! Gah. This would be the point at which I am obliged to remove myself from the presence of such compassionless pieces of excrement, lest I do them a violence. Besides, it's not them I'm talking to. I'm talking to my colleagues, to my friends, to the walking wounded: "The only way it can be true that you'll never make it as a writer is if you stop writing. And even if you do stop writing today, you can always pick up the pen tomorrow.")
To make a long story short -- and I'd better, since the original conversation went on for two full pages of longhand, even without parenthetical asides -- I gave the monster job security. I gave it permission to keep scaring me. But I told it to change its method. That old refrain of "But what if today you try to write and discover that you're no good?" It's no longer allowed. I am taking it out of that toolbox and throwing it off a cliff. The replacement tool is, "But what if you never write again?"
My little monster has full permission to nag me with that question. And I will respond to that question with, "Nonsense. Look! I am writing now."
That was this morning at about 9:00 AM. Thirteen hours later I haven't written all day, and my monster is concerned. I would like to reassure the dear little thing that a day without writing doesn't mean no writing ever again. Tomorrow, unlike today, the AINC reading can be done late in the evening, so I have no reason not to go straight from Morning Pages to story.
But "tomorrow" doesn't appease the monster. The monster knows I said "tomorrow" yesterday, and see what happened?
But look! I am writing right now. And now I will take what I wrote and paste it into my blog editor, and send it out to meet the nice people of Internetlandia.
Hello, Internetlandia! My monster says hi!