this is what a successful day looks like
- 2,986 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 51,730 words (if poetry, lines) long
As far as implementing my Diabolically Cunning New Workday Plan goes, today has been a success. (We will not speak of yesterday.) Today I did all the things, and then some. Not in any particular order, nor with any particular speed or urgency, but I did them. So there.
What helped a lot was, I set up a to-do list template in a new Open Office spreadsheet. For each writing task, I logged start time, end time, and duration. Then, at the bottom, just because productivity tracking is fun, I added up each task's duration to determine how many hours I'd spent writing or performing writing-related tasks. Today's total was about 6 hours, which made me feel very accomplished.
Oh, by the way, speaking of productivity tracking, check out how science fiction author Jamie Todd Rubin does it. And here is how he works. Neat, huh? Now I no longer feel alone in usefully overthinking things. Although I'm beginning to feel defensive about my video game time.
I separated it out into sections:
- Woke Up At: If I log this, I'll probably stop sleeping in, just out of sheer embarrassment. So far, so good: today it was 8:30 AM. The category should more usefully be Morning Pages with time stats logged just like for the other tasks. The start time is functionally the same as the Woke Up At time, or ought to be. Morning pages takes me about half an hour immediately upon waking up, but can go to an hour and a half if I put them off until later. Just-woke-up-brain spends less time going "What now? What do I write now?" Just-woke-up-brain just freakin' writes.
- Fiction: The four tasks here are Freewriting, Short Fiction, Novel, and Submission Procedures. I spent about an hour and a half on annotating the recently critiqued draft of "It's For You" in a new Scrivener project, and about a half hour on everything else. That means it did in fact take a full half hour to submit "Blackbird" to a new market, and another full half hour to take Iron Wheels through Step One of the Snowflake Method. (Step One: "Write a single sentence synopsis of your novel." To be fair, Randy Ingermanson suggests a full hour for this.) Spending only 3 hours on fiction is admittedly on the brief side, but that won't stop me patting myself on the back. (pat pat pat)
- Content Writing: Boulder Writing Examiner, Puzzle Pirates Examiner, Demand Media Studios. Didn't do any of 'em today. Not too worried about it. I'll see about easing content writing back into my life after I'm reliably getting fiction done every day.
- Other: Here's where I logged the time spent reading and critiquing those manuscripts slated for tonight's writing group, and the time spent attending said writing group. I feel a lot better about the brevity of today's "Fiction" category knowing that most days I'll have at least two and a half more hours to spend there.
- Blogging: That would be this. Hi!
So here's Tuesday's Breathtakingly Obvious Epiphany: Going to writing group counts as writing. Right? It is not a biweekly obligation that gets in the way of writing. It is part of the writing. It is a thing that writers in fact do.
I'm very fortunate to be in a group again, and to have friends who pushed beyond "Wouldn't it be great if we got together and formed a writing group?" until it actually happened. There's six of us, all of us in Boulder or Gunbarrel. We write on a wide spectrum from speculative fiction to mainstream/literary, serious and satire, prose and poetry both. Everyone has really insightful things to say, and our critiquing styles seem to mesh well.
I'm embarrassed to admit that they critiqued "It's For You" back in September, and I'm only now working on the revision. I'm even more embarrassed to admit that the 4-month delay is an improvement. The draft my current group critiqued was revised from the first draft based on feedback from the Denver-Area Codex Writing Retreat in July 2012.
Fie on embarrassment. Improvements! Improvements are good! Today has been a success. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
We're Fixing a Hole Where the Rain Gets In
Our closest circle of Boulder friends have a tendency to come up with cute names for our abodes. Why? I don't know. Maybe it's a gamer nerd thing. Maybe it's like the way families develop unique terminology based on things various members said when they were very young. In any case, we don't just say this house or that apartment. Our homes have developed names.
For instance, there's "The Caboodle," an apartment so named because one of the people living there is named Kit. Obviously.
Then there's "The White House," which is the apartment inhabited by the trio one of whom has a cat named Richard Nixon. Really, it all makes perfect sense.
Our place? Well, John informed me that "Chez LeBoeuf-Little" wasn't cool enough for prime time. One of the White House denizens came up with the winning replacement nickname: "The Observatory."
Why? Because you can see the sky through the holes in the roof.
Not really. But there are certainly holes where the rain gets in, having the expected effects on the minds of everyone inside. That's been the case since we moved in. We know this because there was a stain in the area of the ceiling that started leaking water some years later. Up until then, we'd thought it had been a past problem adequately handled by previous owners who simply failed to follow up with the interior damage. Oh, how wrong we were!
The saga of our leaking roof has been a constant source of pain and stress to us ever since. Maybe not as intimate as living with a bad back or arthritis, granted, but just as constant, and just as much a source of uncertainty: Are we going to make it through this spring without having to tell the homeowner association manager we need another patch job, and argue with the homeowner association board that really, really, this time, isn't it obvious the patches aren't sufficient? Really?
I'm not going to go into the sequel saga involving several changes of management, one of whom finally put the leaking roof problem on the board's TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY radar, and the installation of an HOA board who actually seem to care, just in time for the Storm of the Century to make the roof leak utterly unignorable, followed by a lot of very slow moving meetings and consultations and then realizing that we needed a competent management company if we were going to get anything done--
But I'll tell you this. Today, a notice appeared on the corkboard of our stairwell advising residents not to park in the circled section of the map and if they didn't move their cars they would be towed and the HOA will not be responsible for any breakable items falling off walls or shelves so be prepared, y'all, 'cause NEW ROOF CONSTRUCTION BEGINS JANUARY 13 WOOT!
Come February, we're going to need a new nerd name for our condo unit. Or else we're going to need a telescope to justify it. (Hey, wait, I've got one back in Metairie!)
2014: The Year of Not Being In Charge of Things
So I posted my daily check-list the other day. Deciding on a daily check-list has been a very important part of this whole Reevaluating My Workday and the Productivity Thereof. But another important bit took place behind the scenes: Making room in my life for the dang thing in the first place.
This is why "Content writing" comes after all the fiction stuff. I have been jokingly referring to my two Examiner columns (Boulder Writing, Puzzle Pirates) and my articles for Demand Media Studios as my "day job," but over the last few years I've been taking that a little too literally. I've been treating them like the thing I have to do, while the storytelling has been relegated to whatever time is left in the day.
This was additionally problematic when I wasn't even get the "day job" writing done.
I needed to remind myself that one of the privileges of having a hard-working spouse supporting my writing career is I can actually prioritize my writing career.
But another thing I had to do was prune my life of all these odd responsibilities I've picked up, mostly inadvertently, over time. The joke is that 2014 will be my Year of Not Being In Charge of Anything. So with the end of 2013 I left two volunteer positions behind me...
1) I've relinquished the role of National Novel Writing Month Municipal Liaison for the Boulder area. 2013 was my 10th year fulfilling that role, which is a long time--especially considering I didn't choose to take it on in the first place. True story. The previous ML told the region, "I'm moving, so I won't be here to ML next year, but I know vortexae will do an excellent job as your new ML!" And I said, "You what?" And she said, "That's the spirit!" I was pretty much voluntold. And, well, it was fun, so I didn't fight it. But ten years really is enough.
Oh, I'll keep participating. I get epic amounts of rough draft written every November. But that's all I intend to be: a participant. I won't be organizing write-ins or parties or anything. The only thing I'll be organizing is my plot outline.
2) I also passed on to the next willing volunteer the hat that goes on the Head of the Recruiting Committee for Boulder County Bombers. I took that one on because at the time the previous Committee Head had to relinquish the post, I was the only feasible replacement, but that was near the end of 2012 and, again, it's been long enough. I did enjoy the warm glow of being one of the very first to welcome new members to the league, and getting to meet people as they ventured, excited and nervous, into the sport of roller derby. But it was a year-round part-time job, and if it didn't take up all of my time, mathematically speaking, it certainly had the capacity to drain my energy.
So with the dawn of 2014 I not only passed that hat but I also left the committee system entirely. I'll join a committee again sometime in the future--I love my league and I want to support it as best I can!--but for now I just need to take a step back and assess where my time goes.
So that's how 2014 became the Year of Not Being In Charge, and the Year of Prioritizing Fiction.
Woolen Printness Imminent
- 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
So I have a Thing to announce. Remember that story that was going to come out in that magazine sometime, maybe, hopefully? Right. So, we're closer to actually seeing it in print. I got to review the PDF proof of [NaMeL3ss] Digest Issue #3 (née "Spring 2013") back in mid-December.
A PDF proof exists, y'all. I saw it with my own eyes. Can a print issue be far behind?
That's all I got today. Today started early and it involved a lot of driving. Also roller derby practice. I'm beat. I've being doing the little bits of everything, but they are very little bits.
See y'all tomorrow.
If you can't do a little, do a lot.
So. Newly determined daily work schedule, as mentioned yesterday. It's more of a newly determined daily check-list to give me some focus.
Focus is necessary. It's the difference between a nebulous sort of intention to spend the day writing, whatever that means, and a tangible set of goals tacked up inside a working framework.
So the check-list goes something like this, and remember it's largely hypothetical still:
|Task||When||For how long|
|Morning Pages||Upon waking up||Three notebok pages longhand|
|Freewriting||After morning pages||25 minutes|
|Current Short Story||After email break||1 hour? Maybe?|
|Current Novel||After lunch break?||2 hours? I think?|
|Submit for publication||Lastly||As long as it takes to research a market or actually submit a thing; should submit a thing once a week|
|Content writing||Afternoonish, if there's time||Complete one blog post/article, or as much as fits in work time remaining|
|actually writing blog||In the evening||'Til done|
It's very much a work in progress. It's vague in places. This is partly owing to the tendency of household maintenance and surprise crises to make clock-scheduling beyond "Get up by 8:30" somewhat futile. This is also partly due to my never having successfully pursued a daily schedule with any regularity before, or at least not since college. How long should I devote to each project in a multi-project day? How long can I go on a single task before I'm ready to climb the walls? I really don't know. Not as a daily thing, anyway.
So this is the cautiously prescriptive version of my work-a-day schedule. A more descriptive version may be forthcoming, but don't wait up.
OK, so, right, maybe I overthink things. But that's how I function. Other people, certainly anyone who looks at the above and thinks Overthinking it much?, function differently. But I've discovered that unless I have a concrete and detailed idea of what I want to accomplish in a day, I don't actually accomplish much. I sort of float towards evening in a haze of good intentions, certain until about 3 PM that there's plenty of time left, equally certain afterwards that it's useless to start anything now that the productive part of the day is gone. Hence all the details.
Today, like I said, was full of distractions, and a perfect example of why the "When" column is so vague. To wit:
After morning pages (and I'm probably due another blog post about my relationship with morning pages), instead of going straight into freewriting, I went into the email and administrative household duties portion of the day early. This is because last night I burst up off the cusp of sleep with the certainty that at least two bills, possibly more, were late and I needed to deal with them now now now.
And then it was lunch time. No more work would happen until lunch had been consumed and about a half hour of Puzzle Pirates was played. (Those brigands don't just knock themselves out, you know.)
After freewriting, I went into full-bore clean-up mode. The first of our out-of-town guests is arriving tomorrow. The office/guest room has been in chaos since the Storm Of The Century. Said chaos consisted of boxes and other packaging materials, and also piles of things that needed to be out of the way pronto for the Winter Solstice party. Taming that chaos would be required if someone was supposed to sleep in here. And the results of taming the chaos was a car full of things to go to storage. So John and I drove stuff to storage. And bought groceries. And had dinner. And bought more groceries.
We got home, put groceries away, and promptly took note of mutual exhaustion. I confess, when John said, "Want to play with me?" and pulled up ibb and obb on the Playstation 3, it was much easier to yield to temptation than it was to pull myself away three levels later, citing my unfinished check-list.
I regarded the items on my check-list with despair. So. Tired.
Which brings me to my next new year's resolution: When I haven't time or energy to do a lot, I'll do at least a little.
About that three-ring-binder: I discovered it in a pile of stuff in my old bedroom back in Metairie. It's a heavy-duty Mead number, woven canvas exterior the color of old blue jeans, blank weekly schedule and contact info list on the inside front cover, conversion tables inside the back. I'm pretty sure I once used it during high school Spanish. This is because, among the multicolored geometric doodles and surprisingly realistic stick-figure unicorns, there are rudimentary translations of Rush lyrics, lists of verbs in the infinitive, and phrases such as "diez minutos quedan" evincing a student watching the clock in desperation, probably because said student was desperately trying not to fall asleep. (Sometimes after lunch I just get sleepy. It's awful. It's involuntary. It's plagued me since at least seventh grade. It is not a referendum on the class, movie, opera, or party I'm attending, I promise!)
It delights me to repurpose this notebook, last seen in the hands of ambitious teenage me, to hold copies of a work actively in progress. It feels like fulfilling a promise. It's lovely.
"A little" in terms of working on my novel (the roller derby faeries-in-Wyoming YA supernatural romance/adventure): Installing Scrivener for Windows on my computer.
I won a copy of Storyist when I made a donation during National Novel Writing Month's big Writing Marathon + Donation Day. I was thrilled! Until I realized that Storyist is Mac only. But the NaNoWriMo rep tasked with getting a registration code in my hands decided to remedy the situation by offering me a free copy of Scrivener for Windows. So all right then.
The license for Scrivener is decidedly non-evil. I have never, that I know of, seen this sort of language in a license before:
Upon accepting the terms of this agreement, the Licensor grants you, the licensee, (“you”) and your family that live with you at the same address (“family members”) a non-exclusive, non- transferable limited licence....
This licence agreement enables you and your family members to use the Software on your own respective computers within your household but you may not copy or transfer the Software to any other computer or hard drive. Any members of your family not residing at your address for eight months of any year or more are not family members for the purposes of this licence agreement must purchase a separate Software licence. Additionally, you may make one copy of the Software for back- up purposes....
Maybe I haven't been around the block enough, maybe I'm just cynical, but I'm rather impressed by license that acknowledges that, hey, maybe the other people in your house want to use it too. Maybe you have more than one machine you want to install it on. Maybe that's how we use computers.
So. Tomorrow will be even more full of distractions, because we'll have a house-guest from about 9:30 AM on. I make no promises other than the resolutions already stated:
Distractions are no excuse;
If I can't do a lot, I'll do a little.
It's a new year. I'm thinking optimistic thoughts. You know the sort: New year's resolutions, making a fresh start, and all that general gung-ho go-get-'em population of the mental nation known as The First Day of the Rest of Your Life.
Unfortunately, Life sometimes has minor upsets that mess with planning The Rest of. Seems like John and I both picked up head colds when we were in New Orleans--and how much of that is due to our insisting on spending a rainy Saturday in the French Quarter, I couldn't say--so our new year has been off to a slow start.
John's been staying more or less active throughout. I'm not sure how he does it. Me, I spent Thursday in bed. Friday I started getting better, Saturday better still--then Sunday I had my first roller derby practice since A) being sick and B) returning from sea level, which landed me back in bed most of the daylight hours of today while my lungs threatened to go on strike. But I made it to the Rock Day Spin-In and Potluck at Shuttles tonight, having baked banana bread for my contribution during the afternoon. I'll mark my small triumphs where I find them.
Tomorrow, I hope, I'll be able to put my new year's optimism to work pursuing my newly determined daily work schedule (about which, more tomorrow). There are distractions in the near future: preparations for out-of-town guests, then the actual activities involving the out-of-town guests, not to mention sharing the house with said guests between Wednesday the 8th and I think Monday the 13th. But if I waited until my life was distraction free to really settle into a daily work schedule, it might be New Year's Day 2015 before anything got done. So I guess one of my new year's resolutions should be to stop using distractions as an excuse.
Another resolution is, once again, to get back to blogging here daily or at least five days a week. We'll see how that goes.
Meanwhile, here's a picture of one of our neighbors. He came around the side of our building while we were chatting, then headed across the street to spend some time in the Atrium's loading dock. John followed him with a camera, for which exercise he graciously posed. Happy New Year!
Communications Resume From 7,421 Feet
Good evening. I'm hiding away up in Avon, Colorado for a week. It's my usual annual-or-so personal writing retreat. Let's hope it works.
Which isn't to say I haven't been writing at all since my last, very optimistic post. I finished the rewrite of "It's For You" and got some great feedback on it from my neighborhood writing group, for instance. But productivity has been sporadic.
Lately, I blame the state of the house for this. Though the Storm Of The Century (or whatever the kids are calling it) did not flood our building (we reside on the third floor, anyway), nor did it cut off our access to the necessities of daily life, it did exacerbate the existing Leaky Roof problem. We are now dealing with our leaking roof in a more active way than before.
First, we chased the leak with buckets as it colonized new areas of the house and multiplied therein.
Then, we repositioned furniture and belongings excitingly and rapidly while helpful maintenance-type people hacked out pieces of ceiling and wall. Also carpet. Anything that got soaked, maintenance hacked it out and carted it away in trash bags. The office got hit hard; it is now romantically attic-like.
Next, we had several days of phone calls with the appropriate people to coordinate the retrieval of all the Magic Fan Appliances Of +2 Drying-Things-Out. Until then, they were In The Way.
In the meantime, we had several visits from other appropriate people--on-site maintenance staff, homeowner's association board members, other HOA-related personnel--to survey the damage, make appropriately shocked noises (especially when they saw that after two weeks of sunny weather we are still getting about a pint of water per day in the buckets in the office), and go away with either purposeful or despairing looks in their eyes.
And just this morning, round about 10:30 AM, we had a surprise re-visitation by the helpful maintenance-type people, needing to take measurements toward replacement drywall and insulation. I am not sure what they are going to do with these measurements, seeing as how replacing the hacked-out stuff would be a waste of time, money and materials while the roof remains dramatically non-watertight. However, I am sure these measurements will be Helpful.
My point is, every day has seemed to develop a Dealing With The Leaky Roof component. Sometimes that component was planned. Sometimes it was an improvisation. In every case, it's left me drained and with about as much energy as it takes to log on to Puzzle Pirates and bilge until my eyes fall out for the night. Other than those things that were definitively scheduled and involved other people (roller derby practice, my weekly farm volunteer shift, cooking or cleaning so that friends could eat, drink, and be in our house, etc.), nothing was getting done.
So tonight is my first of 7 nights under a definitively non-leaky roof, away from my usual weekly schedule. Writing is going to happen, dammit.
Well, not tonight. Tonight I am exhausted. Tonight, regretfully, followed a little close on to today, and today included, in no particular order,
- Cleaning the fridge
- Packing an ice-chest full of fresh veggies to consume over the week
- Packing a suitcase
- Giving an alpaca-wool-spinning demonstration at McCauley Family Farm's "Family Farm Day"
- Playing a few songs on Rock Band before wireless drums decided to stop speaking with the Wii
- Cleaning up the towels used to clean the fridge
- Taking out recyclables, trash, compost
- Driving two and a half hours into Colorado's high country
That last one gets special emphasis for obvious reasons.
However, tomorrow is a new day. This week is a new week. If writing doesn't happen, I won't be able to blame anyone or anything but myself.
Not that there aren't non-writing temptations. Some of them even involve roller skates. And the in-room internet is much improved from my last visit, such that online gaming is always a viable procrastination tool. And the hotel's Wii game library includes Guitar Hero.
But I will be strong.
Practice Makes Permanent, On Skates and Off
- 2,670 words (if poetry, lines) long
As blogged earlier, I was a RollerBull in this year's San Fermin en Nueva Orleans celebration. This was my second year participating, and I have every intention of going next year, too.
Last year, it felt like a huge big deal that I opted to skate from the Bourbon Orleans (roughly in the center of the French Quarter) to the Encierro starting line and central wrangling point at the Sugar Mill (a ways down Convention Center Boulevard). For one thing, it was more than a mile (or 27 laps as reckoned by WFTDA, for those of you playing along at home). For another it was more than a mile skated on unfriendly terrain.
I'm talking about the flagstones and cobbles around Jackson Square, treacherous to roll over. I'm thinking about grates and utility hole covers requiring unexpected sessions of careful toe-stop walking. I'm remembering how every bump and pebble on Decatur rattled right up my shins for blocks. And then there were the sidewalks that slouched down to the street at the curb, the curbs pocked with helpful raised bumps, the cross-streets where the asphalt broke up into holes filled with gravel and sand.
So, yeah, all that, and I was wobbly like a baby deer. But I got better over the course of that long Saturday. By the time I was hours deep in the Crescent City Derby Devils' "To Skate or Not To Skate" pub crawl, I was toe-stop hopping up curbs on Bourbon Street and skating backwards on Royal. I didn't fall down but once, and that was on a particularly rough curb-street seam on Rampart as I parted ways with the remaining pub-crawlers and headed back to my hotel room
Even more impressive was the improvement between last year and this. We are talking leaps and bounds here. Things I used to toe-stop walk over, I just rolled over without a second thought. Or I hopped over them. I started hopping over the street car tracks, y'all. Or cross-stepping over them at an angle, at speed. I climbed stairs.
Sure, you'd hope I was a more stable skater after a year of constant derby practice, right? If not, what would be the point? Still, it's improvement that comes gradually. Like the increasing height of a younger sibling you live with for years: You don't necessarily notice until you suddenly look up one day and realize he's taller than you are. And when it's a skill, you don't just fail to notice improvement; you actively deny it, because every practice is full of "I shouldn't have done that" and "I could have done better."
But then one day it's a year later and you watch yourself moving around downtown New Orleans on your roller skates like you were born that way. And you think, "When did that happen?"
During the afterparty after the Bombshells' July 6 bout, one of my earliest Boulder County Bombers trainers--now retired from the league though still teaching skaters in a different capacity--gave me a fantastic compliment. "You've come so far since last year," she told me. "You weren't looking at your feet at all. Instead, you were all like, 'I know where I want to be and what I want to do, and I'm gonna do it!'" I took that compliment and I hugged it, y'all, it meant that much to me. But it took all my street skating on San Fermin weekend to come to know it as truth.
It gets even better. During the CCDD scrimmage the next day, I barely fell down at all. None of this wiping out while trying to return to the pack after chasing the jammer crap. And even in the second half when I suddenly seemed to be every opposing blocker's favorite target, I didn't so much go down as get pushed around. Temporarily. Which is great, because I wasn't looking forward to catching air over that concrete surface. But it was surprising. This wasn't just "better than last year." This was "better than last week," including the July 6 bout. What gave?
What gave was, I'd spent the whole previous day staying stable on unfriendly terrain. The day before, too. You can't spend some eight hours on skates in a weekend and not be affected by it.
Practice makes permanent, as my old guitar teacher used to say.
So this is where I bring things around to writing. ("When I talk about derby, I'm talking about writing.")
That scrimmage was Sunday the 14th. Monday the 15th I got on my departing train. And Tuesday the 16th, displeased with having done precisely nothing productive during the New Orleans to Chicago leg of the journey, I devised a schedule of writing tasks to do while in transit from Chicago to Denver.
Item 1: 30 minutes of "story idea of the day" freewriting, starting as soon as the sleeper car attendent has finished with the "welcome to the train, here are your amenities" ritual.
Item 2: 60 minutes of short story revision, rewriting the ending of "It's For You" from the bit where Arista's phone starts ringing, starting an hour before my dinner reservaton.
Item 3: 60 minutes of novel planning, starting as soon as the attendent converts the seats in my roomette into a bed.
And then I did those tasks. I did them almost precisely to order and to my planned schedule. I went to sleep Tuesday night feeling quite pleased with myself. I thought, "If only I could keep this kind of work day practice up, it would become a habit. Practice makes permanent, after all."
Unfortunately, I have far more practice making permanent the habit of avoiding the work and fleeing anything to do with writing. So it's an uphill battle. I've gotten very little done between then and now.
But today, knowing my working day would end at 1 PM (Avedan was coming over for lunch and Spiral Knights!), and being kind of disgusted with blog posts like the one I wrote yesterday (whining about not writing, making excuses about not writing, anything at all about not writing), I still managed to do 30 minutes of freewriting, 60 minutes of revision work on "It's For You" (the bit where Arista discovers the mystery phone's location and takes steps to answer it), and 60 minutes of novel planning.
My next working day is Monday, and the work will begin after I get home from the farm. We'll see if I can't get a little practice at making healthy work habits permanent then, too.
I See the People Working and See it Working For Them
This past Sunday, I had to skate a lot of laps in a hurry. This was because, in the time since I took my WFTDA minimum skills assessment last year, they changed the standards for one of the skills being assessed. Now, instead of skating 25 laps in five minutes, you have to skate 27. So that's what I had to do.
The reason for the change is, 27 laps more closely approximates a mile. So you can say, "You must be able to skate a mile in 5 minutes." Except, of course, one of the tricks to skating X amount of laps in Y minutes is skating less distance. The longer you can hold the inside line rather than spinning out on the straightaways, the less distance you have to cover. So this whole "mile" thing is kind of a red herring.
Whatever. Those of us who tested up with 25 laps under the old rules have been obliged to clock an official qualifying time for 27 laps under the new. I was to do this Sunday.
I was not looking forward to it.
Don't get me wrong; I knew I could do it. In an unofficial capacity, as an endurance exercise during practice, I've managed as many as 29 laps in a five-minute sprint. I had no doubt I could do it again.
But I knew it was going to hurt.
Still, the time came, and my coach said, "You ready, Fleur?" and what was I gonna say? No? Pfeh on that. It had to be done, so let's get it over with. On your mark, get set, tweet!
Before I'd done even 10 laps, I was in pain. My chest developed this tight burning knot like someone driving her shoulder into my sternum. My legs turned into spaghetti and wouldn't quite do what I wanted. I remembered telling the Phase 2 skaters, just the day before, that "the lower you get, the deeper and more powerful your crossovers, the faster you'll be and the less tired it'll make you." Sounds easy, right? But I kept telling my knees bend, damn you! and my left foot push, you lazy thing! and they wouldn't. It was like this glass guillotine had sliced off the top part of the Good Skater Form graph: I could the positions I needed to be in, but I couldn't seem to get there. My knees bent so far and no farther. My left foot crossed under the right only so much and no more.
And, oh my goodness, the hacking. The coughing. The wheezing. It did not end until sometime after I'd gone to sleep that night.
So it hurt, just like I knew it would. But just as I expected, I succeeded. My official time on record for 27 laps is 4:23:29. That's a better time than I clocked for my 25 last year, so, things are as they should be. With time and practice, I've gotten faster and stronger.
"All right," you might say, "but, what about writing? This is a blog about writing."
And I will say, "Cut me some slack. It's a metaphor. Like Natalie Goldberg talking about jogging and meditation. When I talk about derby, I'm talking about writing."
Why don't I write when I know I should be writing? Because I know it's going to hurt.
Doing what I don't want to do, and thus not doing what I do want to do, sort of hurts, OK? Yes, it makes me sound like a spoiled brat to say it--I don't wanna! You can't make me!--but it's true, nonetheless. Pushing through the do not wanna requires a sustained effort that is distinctly uncomfortable. And though it's not the same physical pain as skating my fastest for five minutes straight, certainly it's the same emotional fear-of-pain standing between me and what I know needs to be done.
When I worked a 9-to-5 web development job, I experienced that same fear-of-pain when I arrived at the office. I'd put off the work for as long as feasible, puttering around the office kitchen to make myself iced tea or hot coffee, queuing up just the right playlist on my headphones, and, as a last ditch effort, arranging the windows containing the code I was working on just so.
But just like Sunday when my coach looked at me and said, "How about now?" I couldn't lastingly refuse. I was on the clock. I had responsibilities. This thing had to get done, and there'd be real consequences for not doing it. So eventually I stopped puttering and started working.
At this stage of my writing career, there are few external pressures like those to help push me through the do not wanna. Oh, there's disappointment in myself, the sense of failure, the fear that I'm wasting my life, wasting the gift of time my husband gave me when he agreed I could quit the day job... but those are less tangible, farther off. There's always tomorrow, after all. There's always next year. Like the monkeys in Kipling's The Jungle Book, I comfort myself with the wonderful things I'm just about to do, any moment now.
But just at this moment, it's easy to give up the effort to push through. It's easy to just never start at all.
So here's what I need. I need to convert my goals into daily deadlines I can't blow off, just like I couldn't blow off the deadlines at the 9-to-5 job. And I need to develop that voice in my head, like a roller derby coach, that says, "It's 6:30! If you're not on the track, you're late! Pace line, NOW!" On your mark, get set, tweet!
If I have to, I will buy an actual whistle and blow the damn thing myself.
Even RollerBulls Gotta Talk About Writing
Vacation is not a thing to pin one's hopes for productivity upon. Obvious exception: Writing retreats. But this is not a writing retreat. This is San Fermin en Nueva Orleans, and I am a RollerBull. I have the horns on my helmet to prove it.
(I have officially filed for a week's vacation with my roller derby league so as to get credited for some of the practices this trip is making me miss. So what am I doing while on vacation from roller derby? Roller derby, of course.)
Yesterday I attended a practice with the Crescent City Derby Devils in preparation for Sunday's mix-up scrimmage. We practiced for Saturday's "Encierro" (the Running of the RollerBulls) by performing drills that involved whacking each other in the butt with approved Fat Bats. This is really a good thing to practice. There is a right way and a wrong way to "gore" a runner. Dropped your bat? You did it wrong.
During that practice I was invited to participate in a super secret mini-run where a handful of RollerBulls would surprise the Voodoo Hash House Harriers during their Thursday night run... walk... hunt... pub crawl thing. This week's activity was billed as "Running of the Bullshit", after all. So that's what we did. We weren't on skates because of the threat of rain, but we had our horns on and we jumped out from behind the bushes and chased the runners and whacked some butts and everyone had fun.
Afterwards, we stood around chatting in front of the snoball stand. One of the runners, upon hearing I was a writer (look, it comes up, people ask you "What do you do when you're not doing this?" and there's your answer) got curious about the process.
"So how do you turn an idea into a story?" Er. I'm not sure? Mainly, I try not to disqualify ideas before I've explored them, I guess.
"Do writers just write it down as it comes to them, or take notes, make big outlines, or...?" Depends on the writer. Depends on the story, too. Every writer has their own process and every story has its own life-cycle.
"How long does it take?" That depends, too-- "I mean, think of, like, one page of a story. How long does that take?" Dude. It depends! "But how long--" UP TO 90 WORDS PER MINUTE, OK, YOU DO THE MATH.
And it turns out, I am a crappy explainer of process.
I've heard it said, though, that process isn't teachable. A writer might suggest things that another writer might not have thought of, but in the end every writer discovers their own process for themselves. So I guess while I could probably explain my process, at least for a given story or maybe for a given day, I can't explain What Writers Do. I could only give examples, one after another, at great length. And while my querant seemed persistently curious, I'm not sure he was that curious.
But so anyway that appears to be it for today's writing content. Don't expect much from the rest of the weekend, either. It's San Fermin en Nueva Orleans, y'all.