“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.”
William Stafford

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Arrival upon the train they call the City of New Orleans
Wed 2014-04-02 21:54:01 (single post)

I arrived in New Orleans today. Dad picked me up at the train station and drove me back to Metairie, where Mom and a goodly handful of neighbors waited to say hello. Thus, this blog post comes to you from the very comfy location of my childhood bed in my childhood home. Other than a lingering familiar paranoia reawakened by finding a two-inch long cockroach scrabbling noisily in the kitchen sink when I went down for a late night cup of tea, which has me fighting down a case of the screaming heebie-jeebies every time I go to open a cupboard, retrieve stuff from the pantry, or, y'know, set feet to floor, I'm feeling fairly happy.

(This is not an indication of any lack of cleanliness in my parents' household, by the way. This is simply an indication that their house is in the Gulf South. Two-inch long cockroaches are simply a fact of life, which I must face if I ever want to live here full time again. Or even part time.)

The train ride was two nights long, and I managed to just about keep to my five-hour-a-day writing schedule throughout. That's because there's really nothing else on the train to do. Well, other than listen to podcasts, read ebooks and digitally published short stories (downloaded ahead of time because there is no onboard wifi on the California Zephyr), play video games, knit, darn socks, talk to strangers, and space out watching the scenery go by. So! It was easy. Kinda sorta.

I brought my skate bag along, reasoning that since I was going to miss three roller derby practices I might as well get some outside skating time. In Chicago, between trains, I skated from the station over to Sushi Pink for food, sake, and the wifi necessary to get yesterday's blog post up and do various online errands. A man on a street corner saw me coming and shouted, "Hey, what's up, roller derby?" which made me grin. A little girl on another street corner told her mom, "I want to roller skate!" which made me grin even harder.

Today, after greeting practically everyone in the neighborhood and then helping Dad eat all the cold boiled blue crabs he had remaining in the refrigerator, I went for a skate/walk with Mom (me skating, she walking) up the levee and over to the Bonnabel boat launch. Levee access is all open now, and the bike/pedestrian path is smooth as silk. I showed Mom some of the stuff I'm practicing, which I think she appreciated. She hears about roller derby all the time, but she doesn't much get to see it, so I think that, despite the one time she got to watch me scrimmage, she mostly just has this vague idea that "Niki gets to learn how to do new things in skates, which makes her happy, which in turn makes me happy."

So I'm getting skate time in, and I'll try to make it a daily thing. Weather permitting, that is. I'm also going to try to keep to my writing schedule, though I'm not letting HabitRPG hold me to the full five hours until I'm back in Boulder.

And that is all for tonight.

permission to be imperfect
Tue 2014-04-01 16:50:41 (single post)

This past week, I realized something else about Morning Pages and why they're useful to me. Put briefly: They're a safe place to indulge uncertainties. Which is to say, I can natter on to myself about how unsure I am, how worried I am, how doubtful I feel, how much I despair. And it's OK, because Morning Pages are not a performance. They're not going to be graded. They aren't the space where I have to be certain, sure, confident, perfect-perfect-perfect. They're a safe place to admit to insecurities.

I haven't readily given myself permission to do that. I'm insecure like woah, but I know I shouldn't be. I'm not allowed to be. So it was sort of an epiphany this past week to realize that it's OK to write down things like "I'm just writing the same thing over and over and over. Is it really doing me any good?" or "Renaming the protagonist of the snow-glue-apocalypse story after the kid in Dr. Seuss's 'Ooblek' story isn't clever, you know." or "It's late. I overslept by a bunch. Is it even worth trying to get the day started at this hour?" or even "I've been trying all weekend not to think about the City of Boulder 'failure to file' tax liability assessment1 that arrived Friday because I can't do anything about it until offices open later today, but it keeps popping up in my mind and making me feel sick to my stomach, and I really didn't need that on bout day2 or while preparing to leave town, as though it weren't hard enough combining bout day with travel prep weekend, right?!"

It's OK to admit to doubts like that on pages no one will read, in a space of time during which I'm not expected to produce.

It's a good thing to do. At the very least, it can't hurt. It's not like forcing myself to relive unpleasant memories on the page, which can sometimes be usefully cathartic but is just as likely to be a needlessly agonizing experience that poisons my mental state for the rest of my day as though the awful incident had only just now happened, and that also poisons the Morning Pages process itself with painful associations that will make me reluctant to do Morning Pages tomorrow, and that ultimately delays a much-needed healing process by ripping the emotional wound wide open to Day 1 status. (This is why I'm less likely to force myself to journal incidents I don't want to think about, and more likely instead to just write, "I'm thinking about something unhappy and unfair and infuriating that happened yesterday. I don't want to be thinking about it. Here is what I would rather be thinking about instead...")

Unlike that, this is harmless. And it's freeing to be able to admit that I'm imperfect. It's freeing to just let myself be imperfect. I'm in a backstage sort of space, where it's OK to allowing myself time for the pre-show worries and nervous breakdowns. And in doing so, I can work through why I'm full of doubts and come up with plans for working through or around the doubts. Having done that, it's more likely I'll actually leave those doubts backstage (on the page) and be able to perform better despite them on the stage (over the course of the rest of my day).

Realizing that it's OK to wibble on the page was also a realization that I needed to have that realization, if that's not too recursive. I just hadn't been acutely aware of how much of my day-to-day stress was coming from the combination of being uncertain and not allowing myself those uncertainties, and therefore not admitting to those uncertainties, even to myself.

So I guess that's the takeaway here: We have to put on a good act for everyone else; why make our jobs harder by trying to fool ourselves too?

1It's OK, it's all good. "Your actual tax due for those periods, even if it was zero, replaces your liability assessed here." But I did have to take an extra trip downtown, that I didn't really have time for on OMG I GET ON A TRAIN TONIGHT Monday, in order to have a smiling, friendly tax specialist in the municipal building reassure me to my face that "You are OK now." Totally worth it, though. If I'd just mailed my written note, I'd still be worrying, and I'd keep on worrying all through my travel. That face-to-face reassurance was two grand worth of a weight off my mind. (back)

2Bout day went great. No one got injured, neither during the mix-up bout nor during the "B-Team Showdown" as the announcer kept referring to our game. My Bombshells won, and I personally was responsible for two power jams in jam #2 in the first period. (Since the latest rules change, penalties are only 30 seconds long, so a single skater can go to the penalty box multiple times in a single jam.) I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of that. Whenever I feel ashamed of the stupid shit I did--"Fleur, if you come off your line one more time, I'm benching you," ARGH--I remember that, yes, while there are things I still need to work on, I've improved enough to be aware enough and quick enough on my feet to run back and cause the jammer to cut the track. Twice. During my first time out on the track that night. OK, so, maybe I get a Destruction of Pack Major penalty of my own one of those times. But still. Also, our opposing team, the Pikes Peak Derby Dames Slamazons, were a lot of fun to bout against and to party with after. There is proof of this on the internet. I'm not sure what we were doing in that photo. Pretending to be puppies? (back)

we have people to do that for us
Fri 2014-03-28 21:24:17 (single post)
  • 3,100 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today I got the quickest response to a rejection ever. I think it came in under twelve hours. I submitted "...Not With a Bang, But a Snicker" (previously titled "Anything For a Laugh") to UFO3 last night, and got a personal note back this morning saying that it wasn't a good fit for the anthology.

That is awesome. No, seriously. Given that most publications I might submit will not consider simultaneous submissions (a story that is being simultaneously sent out to other markets) nor multiple submissions (sending several stories to a single market at one time), a quick rejection does two things: it frees that story up to be submitted to a new market, and it frees that market up such that the author can submit a new story to them.

Roughly speaking, of course. The latter is subject to some conditions. Some markets ask authors to wait a minimum number of days before sending something new. So a quick rejection means that countdown begins sooner. And of course some markets do allow multiple submissions; still, once you've sent your ten drabbles to SpeckLit, you have to wait for their response before you can send more. The idea is, each market defines what a single go-round in their slush pile looks like, and you have to wait for one go-round to be done before you can go another round.

In the case of Unidentified Funny Objects, authors may only send one story at a time. If that story gets rejected before the submissions window closes on March 31, the author may send a second story. (But not a third after the second is rejected, I think.) Unfortunately, I don't have a second story that's remotely appropriate. But I appreciate the speed and decisiveness of the editorial team for giving me the option.

That kind of rapid decisiveness is helped along, it must be said, by sending a story that was easily recognizable as not their kind of thing. I was afraid that might be the case. Witness all that maundering about "But is it actually humor, or is it just 'rocks fall, everyone dies' with some comic relief?" At the end of the day, it's a story about all life on Earth being wiped out. This is something that is intrinsically kind of depressing. OK, maybe Douglas Adams succeeded at making the destruction of the planet hilarious, but first off, we can't all be Douglas Adams, and second off, there's a lot more going on in his books than just "rocks fall, everyone but Arthur Dent dies."

My understanding is, the UFO anthology series wants humor of the uplifting sort rather than the bleak. My story falls more on the bleak side of the line.

So how come I submitted that story despite suspecting its balance of humor to bummer might not be quite their cup of tea?

Well, as the commonplace goes, "Don't self-reject. We have editors to do that for us."

That's not to say a writer needn't do any market research nor have any discernment at all. It's more a reminder that, beyond a certain point, the fit of story to market becomes too subjective a call for the author to make on the editor's behalf.

I can make the easy calls, like, "Send the 'soft' SF that's borderline fantasy to Asimov's, not Analog" or "Don't send a story with graphic sex and obscene language to Intergalactic Medicine Show, since they want to keep things PG." And I think I have a decent handle on what makes a story a Shimmer story. (I could be wrong.)

But it's possible to second-guess oneself into immobility, and that's no way to pursue a career.

Basically, as long as I genuinely think my story's in the near ballpark of what they're looking for, then I'm (probably) not wasting their time by sending it. I might be wrong, but that's what rejection letters are for.

And if I don't send it, they can't say "Yes."

So that's my take on not letting market research turn into self-rejection.

the meticulous and paranoid author submits a story for publication
Thu 2014-03-27 21:21:07 (single post)
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 3,100 words (if poetry, lines) long

Just because I got to the end of my story revision last night didn't mean it was ready to submit.

I mean, there's spell-checking. Which apparently can't be done in the current beta version of Scrivener for Windows. (I am very brave, to beta-test Scrivener with my precious, precious stories. Or very foolish. It's so hard to tell.) So we'll compile to RTF and spell-check that way, making sure to make any corrections in the Scrivener project and not in the RTF.

Then there's reading the story out loud to myself, stopping every few sentences to cringe at the awkwardness and try to figure out how to tidy it up, tighten it down, and make it sound like something a reasonably competent author came up with. And then thinking better of the somewhat related bit three pages ago. And then realizing that the three-pages-ago bit, having been changed, requires a small change six pages ahead.

At some point, the thought occurs to me that three thousand and some-odd words shouldn't take this long to read aloud. We'll brush that thought under the rug because it is not helping.

Then there's another Scrivener-to-RTF compile, another spell-check for the sake of all the bits that got typed anew, and finally a half-hesitant nod of approval from myself to me.

Off to the submissions guidelines web page! Create new email message! Fill in subject header exactly as specified! Fill in correct email address and check it three times! Attach manuscript!

Read the rest of the submissions guidelines. Note, with a sense of "Shouldn't I have noticed this before?" that submissions are read blind, and, as such, attached RTF or DOC manuscripts should have absolutely no identifying information inside.

Open up RTF manuscript. Remove name and contact info from upper-left corner of first page. Remove byline from beneath the title. Remove last name from the header that appears on every page after the first.

Save manuscript.

Attach manuscript to email, replacing previous attachment.

Send email. High-five self. (Tricky, but worth it.) Log submission in personal records and over at The Submissions Grinder. Check off related HabitRPG to-do item and very nearly reach Level 11 thereby.

Realize that, since [MARKET REDACTED] uses a blind submissions process, perhaps I should not be blogging so chattily about how "Anything For a Laugh," which is the story about the [IDENTIFYING CONTENT REDACTED] and whose title I have changed to [NEW TITLE REDACTED], just got sent there today.

But it did just get sent there today. I am pleased.

Now. Back to "Snowflakes" for a few minutes today, with the greatest hopes for getting all the way through it tomorrow and tidying it up over the weekend. It, too, must be submitted by March 31. Working on it tonight is how I'm going to finish my 5 hours. I am going to reach my 5 hours, darn it, even though I have to be up until 1:00 AM to do it.

*hangs head*

Look, I had ever so many good intentions for starting early today. But I didn't get much sleep last night. And no, it wasn't because I was up late playing addictive games. It was because all my roller derby playing bits were sore, with a stealth soreness that doesn't make itself usefully known until I've been tossing and turning and almost drifting away and then waking up again to wonder, "Why am I not sleeping?" and then realizing "Oh, it's because of what feels like a deep tissue bruise on my right arm that yelps when I lie on my right side, and the aching muscle of the inner left thigh that's yelping every time I roll over. And also, I have a headache." At which point I drag myself out of bed and take two ibuprofin, knowing that they won't actually start doing me any good until it's wake-up time. And then it's wake-up time, and I'm only just starting to enjoy sweet, sweet unconsciousness, so I say, "Eff it, I'm not going to stop now that I'm getting good at it." And I turn off my alarm clock.

And that's how oversleeping happened this morning. Also, my imaginary dog ate my homework.

But I did get that story submitted though. Hooray!

musing on hours allotment at the late-night office
Wed 2014-03-26 21:35:47 (single post)
  • 1,699 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today's blog post comes to you live from Breaker's Grill in downtown Longmont. Breaker's Grill supports the Boulder County Bombers, so we support them back. At this late hour, all the activity is centering around the bar and the many billiards tables. The table seating area is entirely deserted. It is also separated from the bar-and-billiards area by an opaque partition. So although I can hear loud voices and pool balls going click, I'm effectively isolated: all alone in a room full of empty tables, just me and my laptop and what's left of my dinner.

It's perfect. I've spent two hours finishing up the rewrite of the snow-glue-from-space story ("Anything For a Laugh" isn't quite right, but I haven't come up with a new title yet), and now here I am writing this blog post.

As anticipated, today was totally a Wednesday. Which is to say, in addition to being Wednesday, it suffered from all the distractions and delays to which a Wednesday workday is prone. Only I can't blame roller derby practice or volunteer reading. I sort of overslept. By sort of a lot. (Why? I don't know. It can't possibly have to do with staying up until 2:30 playing 2048.) Thus my late start in the afternoon. Thus my needing to log another two and a half hours of writing after roller derby practice.

Now that I'm reaching the five-hour mark more regularly, I'm beginning to feel that five hours isn't enough. But I'm not quite trusting that feeling. On the one hand, I don't think it should have taken three days to rewrite a 2,300-word story. That it's taken me so long has to do with splitting my five hours each day between short story revision, content writing, and the "scales and arpeggios" stuff like freewriting and morning pages and so on. On the other hand, I know I don't actually function well when I do the same thing for five hours straight. I work best when I vary my tasks throughout the day.

What's to do? Experiment, I guess. Try spending more time tomorrow on short story revision ("Snowflakes" is waiting for me to return to it) and defer Examiner or Demand Media Studios to another day--like I did today, I guess. Definitely get started earlier in the day--especially considering Thursday is another day that ends in roller derby practice. Maybe log extra time beyond the five hours, breaking it up into reasonable chunks, and see how that feels.

The simultaneous advantage and drawback of working for yourself on your own schedule is that there's no one forcing you into a particular work-a-day rhythm. You get to work at the pace that serves you best. But first you have to figure out what pace serves you best.

In any case, one sure conclusion is this: don't wait until the week the story is due to start its rewrite! Right? Right. For what it does me now, anyway.

Poster for this Saturday's roller derby double header. Also, the Roller Derby 20XX sprite needs to be my new HabitRPG avatar.
mildly guilted into (almost) perfect productivity
Tue 2014-03-25 21:11:24 (single post)
  • 1,699 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today's report comes to you live from the wilds of Habitica, where Vortexae's party faces the inexplicable rage of a being made of fog, magic, and the spirit of springtime. The Ghost Stag charges! One warrior of the party raises her axe, doing 10.2 damage to the Stag. The Stag attacks back! It misses. The round continues--

*ahem*

So. One of my friends who's playing HabitRPG, they got ahold of a quest. They formed a party. I accepted their invitation.

This changes things.

It's no longer, "Eh, I can take a few hit points of damage tonight. Big whoop. I'll level up before it catches up with me."

Oh no. Now, it's, "I have to do all my Dailies! Or else I'll be responsible for everyone taking damage! That is so not OK!"

The happy effect of this benign and silent friend-on-friend pressure has been two "perfect" weekdays in a row. I'm logging my five or more writing hours without pulling weird late-night tricks out of my magic hat. They're good, solid hours spent on short story revision (making progress on the snow glue apocalypse from space), new story drafts (the ongoing portfolio of drabbles), blogging and content writing (Examiner as well as this blog here), and of course the daily morning pages about which I had so much to say the other day. And, as "5 hours of writing" is not my only daily task, I'm also exercising a little, both on- and off-skates, on my own time; writing down every dream memory I can get my hands on; catching up with the dreaded Box of the Doing of the Books (of Doom); and being more meticulous than ever about household and personal chores.

It would appear that, through all these years of inconsistency and struggle, all I've really needed is a gaming environment in which someone other than me suffers pretend injuries for my failures. Huh. Who knew? Thanks, Habit RPG!

I'm still not done with revising the space snow-glue apocalypse story, mind you. This is somewhat distressing to me, since I'd hoped for otherwise.

And I still have Wednesday ahead of me. Wednesday starts with an hour and change of reading employment ads for AINC. It ends with roller derby practice. In between, Wednesday is not very tolerant of random delays, interruptions, or travel time.

That's the bad news. The good news is this: If I can manage a "perfect" Wednesday, I can manage anything.

Although this particular Saturday might be a challenge... but how about we worry about Saturday when it gets here? Indeed. Sounds like a plan.

Is it funny enough to be in here? Only one way to find out.
not quite ready for carnegie hall
Mon 2014-03-24 21:14:13 (single post)
  • 1,699 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm switching gears for a moment. At the rate I'm poking at "Snowflakes," it won't be done by March 31 of next year. And it would be unfortunate if I missed a chance to submit the snow-glue-from-space story to UFO3 because of that. So I got to work on that rewrite today.

Here's the thing: I'm not entirely certain that it's funny. It has its funny moments, but I don't think you'd quite shelve this sucker under "Humor." Humor is hard to do. I'm not sure I've got the knack.

At best, what I've got here is a "science-fiction-flavored horror story with moments of comic relief." I've got "grimly slapstick pair of bad guys." I have an Arthur Dentish character reacting Arthur Dentishly to inexplicable things that seem determined to happen to him despite his not having really given them his approval.

But what I don't got is "funny science fiction."

Maybe by the end of the revision (end of day tomorrow?) it will have recategorized itself. Whether it'll be funny enough for UFO3, only Alex Shvartsman will be able to say for sure. One way or another, though, it'll be a story. And I will submit it.

Then maybe I'll be able to come back to "Snowflakes" with a bit more fuel in the jet-pack.

drabbling
Fri 2014-03-21 23:11:02 (single post)

I have begun composing drabbles during my daily freewriting time. Drabbles are stories that are exactly 100 words long. Apparently there are a handful of online markets, some as blogs and some as podcasts, that publish them. So it's a multiply useful venture.

Drabbles, like certain forms of poetry, impose rules and restrictions. Restrictions make for very effective writing exercises. They exert a pressure under which the writer discovers what she's really capable of.

If nothing else, you learn to be very choosy about the right word in the right place. You only get one hundred of 'em, after all.

agency is for other people's characters
Wed 2014-03-19 23:42:56 (single post)
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm a lot better at spotting mistakes in others' fiction than in my own. That's why I participate in critique workshops. It means that while I'm pointing out the motes in my colleagues' eyes, I'm putting the ginormous vision-occluding planks of my own right where they can see 'em and tell me about 'em.

None of this should be a surprise. And yet.

I remember once telling a fellow workshop member that his story didn't ultimately work for me because his protagonist's emotionally satisfying ending came at the cost of the supporting character's agency. "I don't buy that she just accepts what he did to her and falls into his arms like that. I'd expect her to be angry. The romantic moment you're aiming for doesn't strike me as earned."

That critique session predated the first draft of "The Impact of Snowflakes."

You would think--well, I would think--that, having spotted in another author's manuscript this de-agentifying of a supporting female character to provide a touching denouement for a male protagonist--that having discussed it not only in terms of his story but also that of the larger unfortunate media trends it slots neatly into--well. I'd have expected myself to be alert to this sort of thing when writing stories of my own.

But what happens in my story? The female protagonists slowly learns the true situation (which is not a good one), comes to realize it was either caused by or at least known about far in advance by the male supporting character, and reacts to this realization by saying, and I quote, "The last man alive in my world is coming to meet me... I think I'd like to meet him halfway."

A close friend and one of my story's recent workshop critics gently pointed out that the ending was, well, kind of more gendered than what she'd come to expect of me. And also she wanted to know if the last woman alive in this world had a name?

I had not even given the protagonist a name, y'all. All the *facepalm.*

OK, so, now it goes like this. Her name is Ashley. She's been isolated much of her life because the male supporting character has been subtly and with the best of intentions manipulating her since her early years. By the end of the story she knows this, and she's kind of pissed off.

(She is also, seriously, I promise you, not into him that way. But that's the jumping-off point for a whole separate rant which I will save for later. Later!)

three pages of longhand navel-gazing with a fountain pen: totally worth it
Tue 2014-03-18 23:31:33 (single post)

So what's the point of doing something called "morning pages" when it's nine o'clock at night, anyway? This is something I ask myself when I have days like yesterday. I also periodically ask myself why I still do Morning Pages at all. It's good to reevaluate a long-standing daily ritual, the way you might reevaluate whether some keepsake still belongs on the mantelpiece after all these years. Is it still there for a reason, or is it just there because no one's taken it down? Is this habit still useful, or am I just doing it because I've always done it?

A quick review: Morning Pages is a practice popularized by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way. The book is a twelve-week course in creativity and identity. As the reader works their way through the chapters, they gradually build a new toolbox full of tips, tricks, exercises and inspiration. Morning Pages is the very first tool that Cameron puts in the reader's hand.

Simply put, it's three pages of longhand writing which you do all at once, without pausing for interruption or thought. You just splat your brain down on the page. Whatever thought crosses your mind, deep or petty, banal or beautiful, you write it down from beginning to end. Then you move on to the next thought.

Cameron has a particular warning for writers: Don't "write" your Morning Pages. Just do them. This is not meant to be an act of deathless or even competent prose.

When my kind and generous husband first agreed that I could leave the nine-to-five world and take my writing full time, I made gleeful plans for what my writing day would look like. I would start with Morning Pages, of course. I would then do timed writing exercises, at least three sessions of fifteen minutes each, to really get the juices flowing for the day. And then--

"And how much of your day will be left after you've done all this noodling around?" said one of the self-assigned gurus in the online writing community I frequented at that time. "My advice to you is, don't waste your time. Just write."

This was ten years ago. I was, well, younger and more impressionable and more easily made to feel ashamed then than I am now. Admittedly, we're not talking "college freshman" levels of young and impressionable--I quit my full time job just before my 28th birthday--but "young and impressionable" comes in waves. It's amazing how easy it can be to poison someone else's innocent enthusiasm, no matter what their age.

So I bowed to my unasked-for advisor's wisdom and did the newsgroup version of shuffling my feet in embarrassment, and I shut my mouth. And I abandoned for a while the activities that he disparaged, because every time I thought about doing them, I heard his words in my head again: "How much of your time are you willing to waste with these things?" For months I couldn't even pick up Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones without feeling ashamed.

Oddly enough, the daily routine my correspondent shamed me into abandoning then is very similar to the one I try to adhere to now. I begin with Morning Pages, and I try to include a 25-minute freewriting session early in the working day. These two things combined take up about an hour, tops, and it's an hour well-spent.

More about freewriting another time, I think. Suffice it to say that my unasked-for advisor might as usefully have told a pianist not to waste her precious time with scales and arpeggios, or a roller derby player not to waste her time warming up and stretching.

"My advice to you is, just play."

How about no?

Anyway. One reason I still do Morning Pages is because they help me focus my mind on the day ahead. I tend to describe to myself what I want to do with my writing time. I also mention other to-do items I don't want to forget. It helps me keep from floating passively from whim to whim. It gives me direction.

More generally, Morning Pages is where I meet myself on the page. I take stock of what's in my head. Maybe I don't want to actually face everything that's in my head, maybe I'm not going to write the crappy stuff down, maybe I'm just going to say, "There's a thing that came up yesterday that I don't want to think about and so I'm not gonna," but even that much is more "facing it" than I'd do without the pen moving across the page.

If I've got a story revision in progress, I sometimes end up brainstorming on it during Morning Pages. "Brainstorming" might be overstating things. I talk to myself on the page. I ask myself questions. I don't always have answers, but it helps to know what the questions are. As previously observed, "How do I find space to include Backstory Point A in this scene?" is much more useful than "How do I get started when rewrites are clearly IMPOSSIBLE?"

Midway through Morning Pages, I sometimes surprise myself by remembering a piece of the previous night's dream. When that happens, I'll pause whatever thought I'm on, maybe start a new paragraph or make a free-floating text block off to the side, and I'll write down whatever dream memory just occurred to me. Then I'll draw a little crescent moon in the margin so I can find it later when I've got a moment to put it into my dream journal.

Morning Pages is where I practice my handwriting. I would like to have nice handwriting.

Morning Pages is a chance to play with fountain pens filled with ink in fun colors. I like Sheaffer pens with fine-tipped nibs and refillable converters. I like saffron orange, peacock blue, foggy gray, purple. Sometimes the ink gets all over my fingers, an indelible reminder all the rest of that day that I Am A Writer.

Morning Pages, even when I don't get to them until nine o'clock at night, is a task I know I can accomplish. There is no question of not being able to finish. And on a day when I get nothing done until that late at night, I need to experience achievement. I need to remind myself that I am capable of finishing a thing I start. You know how one of the benefits of short story writing is that it lets you practice story endings more frequently than novel writing does? Morning Pages lets me practice feeling accomplished.

In the end, there's a sort of faithfulness that happens in Morning Pages. That rendezvous with myself on the page is a matter of trust and self-care. Doing it every day, no matter how late, is a way of reinforcing the assertion that I'm worth trusting, I'm worth treating well, I'm not a lost cause to give up on. (These are assertions I need reaffirmed from time to time. I sometimes catch myself doubting them.) Also that my brain's a worthwhile place to spend time in.

Doing Morning Pages even when it's gone nine o'clock at night is a way of holding that faith up against all the disparagements of the world, the rejection letters we all must face and the dismissiveness we shouldn't have to, all the naysaying, all the temptation to hopelessness, and saying, "No. It's never too late to begin."

So that's why I still do it after all these years.

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