“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning.”
William Faulkner

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

having cross words with my bridges
Tue 2015-02-10 21:12:59 (single post)
  • 5,263 words (if poetry, lines) long

So, about that injured knee.

Today, our emphasis shifted from regaining range of motion to strength and motion training. This is good news. It is also exhausting.

Unlike previous appointments, I didn't spend any time lying on the table while the physical therapist manipulated my leg. I was a much more active participant in my recovery today. I was compelled to do a whole bunch of exercises that required standing on one leg and lifting the other in inventive ways, generally while wearing a big rubber band around my knees or ankles. There were also some squats, a few balancing acts, and a bit of shuffling back and forth. (The shuffling was especially exciting; up until now I'd been forbidden all lateral movement.)

The long and the short of it is, I needed a nap when I got home, and I am going to be very sore tomorrow. I am also going to be decently strong by the time I'm cleared to skate. The latter makes the former totally worth it.

And it can't come too soon. Yesterday I had my first impatient-to-skate dream; I was walking into the Wagon Wheel with John, holding my skates in my hand, getting ready to participate in some really simple Phase 1 style skate training (individual skating skills, no pack or contact stuff). Then I realized, "Wait, I haven't been cleared to skate yet. I could re-injure myself. Damn." So I walked back out to the car to put my skates away. At least I could watch John skate, that would be nice. I woke up before I actually got back out to the car.

Mid-March seems so very far away.

I'm walking more or less fine now, incorporating all the bent-knee and straight-leg motions of a normal walking stride, and both the knee-brace and the compression aids are on an only-as-needed basis. I actually went downtown tonight without either, which feels a little daring.

Not that I anticipate maneuvering through crowds much tonight. I've taken my work out to Lindsay's Boulder Deli for dinner and I might make my way over to Bohemian Biergarten once the trivia crowd disperses. I really enjoyed the Biergarten Saturday night, when I meant to see about the Mardi Gras party in the back, but I wound up just enjoying my food, drink, computer, and the restaurant's 80s New Wave mix in a quiet corner near the front. When I walked by tonight, the theme was more Oktoberfest Polka as far as I could tell. We'll see what it's like in an hour or so.

I appear to be doing my work these days according to the theory of productive procrastination. I've been putting off my short story revision for last while doing all my blogging first, and I put off my Boulder Writing Examiner blogging while banking a bit of elbow grease toward refurbishing the final living room closet bi-fold. And of course the whole day gets put off for about 25 minutes while I take time first thing to do my Morning Pages.

And the Morning Pages get put off by... well, by sleeping in. Because Monday morning Morning Pages means oh, Gods, another week has started, why can't it still be Sunday? OK, but aside from that...

...we do get to the story revision in the end. And with plenty of time left in the evening, too, given that I typically don't go to bed until 1:00 AM. So. Wish me luck and I'll tell you how it went tomorrow.

goblin proxies battle the brain demons - and win!
Mon 2015-02-09 23:31:35 (single post)

Again, not dead. Again, Thursday and Friday were ridiculously tiring. Unlike last week, no headaches were involved. A lot of fun was involved, so that's good. The main takeaway is, as always, don't count on the time after a derby activity to be productive time. Even if they are non-skating derby activities, like watching scrimmage or participating in a fundraiser. They will still use up all your doing-stuff ju-ju.

Speaking of Friday: Yes, the Friday Fictionette came out. On Saturday. See above.

But that's not what I came to talk to you about today. I came to talk about goblins.

At this point, some of you may be asking, "Are we talking Jim Hines goblins or Terry Prattchett goblins?" To which the answer is, yes, if you like. Either one will do. But that's not important. The important part as far as this blog post is concerned is the role goblins play in cleaning out the brain demons.

"Brain demons" is my new phrase for those unhappy and/or traumatic memories that show up by themselves in my brain and take up conscious space there. It's a good phrase. It's distinct from "monsters," which I've adopted from The Fluent Self as a way to talk about, and to, the fears that fuel avoidance. But like "monsters," it's a term which others the mental pattern--characterizes it as some other being than myself. This is important. If the unwanted memory-reliving pattern is just me having unhappy thoughts, then I say to myself things like, "Why am I having these thoughts I don't want to have? Why can't I just let them go? Am I just a failure at Having A Brain?" But if I imagine them as inimical others attacking my brain, demons who need to be banished, I can say to them, "Why are you here, still? You are someone else's stuff. Go home already."

Monsters and brain demons can tag-team you, though. The monster arrives and voices its fear. The monster's fear becomes a brain demon when it starts taking over my thoughts when I'm trying to use my brain for other things.

Just to choose an example not very much at random at all...

After writing that blog post, a monster showed up. It was the monster of You Don't Have Custody Of Your Experiences. It's the monster who says, "I know, you're hurting, someone else hurt you, I know it's not fair, but you just can't talk about it in public! You might hurt the feelings of the person who hurt you! Their feelings are always more important than yours, you know that. Besides, if you're willing to risk hurting them, well, maybe you deserved to get hurt by them?" It is the source of that creeping dread after having published a blog post that someone, somewhere, will--correctly or mistakenly--recognize themselves in the experience I relate, and be very upset that I've related it in public. They will not be mollified by my having scrupulously withheld their name and any identifying features. They will be upset. What if they call me up or email me to tell me how upset they are? How will I handle that? How will I keep that new experience from creating yet more decade-long brain demons?

Next thing I know, thoughts of that nature have taken up residence in my brain and won't leave me alone. All weekend long.

And then, at some point, it occurred to me that I could create a proxy for the what-if. Then, every time the brain demon showed up, I could transform it by means of the proxy. (Optionally while declaiming the magic word "Riddikulus".)

So... "What if someone I don't want to hear from emails me to tell me what a horrible person I am" became "What if a goblin showed up offering me a quest I don't want?"

I can see that goblin now. He's got the usual goblin traits, those blameless features that nevertheless can unsettle unwary humans: that shifty look that comes of constantly monitoring their surroundings for escape routes, that tendency to hunch that makes them resemble a crumpled-up piece of paper with ears and elbows sticking out. Nothing weird or wrong there. But he's holding something behind his back in a kinda creepy way. He just keeps telling me, "It's for you. It's only for you. You gotta take it. You don't wanna go crazy wondering what might have happened, do ya? Accept the quest and find out!"

But I am up to here with quests. I have the Quest to Regain My Skates, and the Quest to Finish That Story, and the Quest to Sell the House. And that's just for starters. Another quest foisted on me by someone else, without my say-so? That I do not need. As for regretting missed opportunities? Look, quests are a dime a dozen. For every quest that gets turned into an epic novel about a reluctant hobbit, there are ten or more quests that were firmly refused by that same reluctant hobbit, who thought no more about it. Quests show up all the time, if you know how to recognize them. I can afford to be choosy.

At which point a bunch of other goblins arrive to gently usher this one goblin away and take him home. "Sorry about that," one of them says to me. "He gets like this sometimes. It's kind of like drunk-dialing. Very embarrassing. Sorry. Are we still on for tea tomorrow? Great. I'll bring the cucumber sandwiches."

I adore her cucumber sandwiches. She makes them with butter on one side and salmon spread on the other and just the right amount of salt on the thinly sliced cucumbers. I have in mind a lovely second flush darjeeling to accompany them, along with some fresh-baked gingersnap cookies.

The quest-bringing goblin perks up. "Tea? I love tea. We can talk about this quest over tea--"

"No, bro. You're not invited. You will never get invited to tea if you don't stop pulling this shit. Now, let's get you home and cleaned up, OK? And in the morning we are going to have a serious talk about your quest problem."

I told John about the goblin proxy. He laughed, and proposed the hashtag #NotAllGoblins. As in, "#NotAllGoblins show up at 3 AM at your door with a quest you don't want. That one who does? Other goblins think he's an asshole."

Laughter! And goblin proxies! For the win! Take that, brain demons and other evildoers!

in which physical therapy supports my rage against all things ladylike
Fri 2015-02-06 00:05:45 (single post)

So here is a thing I've learned from physical therapy: Apparently one of the common precursors to an ACL injury is a tendency to stand or sit with the knees "inside of the shoes."

My therapist demonstrated, which involved temporarily taking a pose that was all too familiar to this southern gal.

You know, back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.

I was never actually forced to do the aspirin thing (though I know some women who were). But I certainly got scolded from early childhood through high school for sitting with my legs too far apart. "You want someone looking up your skirt?" "It just seems rude." "People will think I didn't raise you right." "It's not ladylike."

Well. That was the posture my therapist briefly adopted to demonstrate what he's talking about: feet planted at hip-width, knees pointing toward each other. "Even five degrees of rotation inward, we see that as a warning sign," he said. "Ten degrees is definitely a problem."

Knees collapsing to the midline of the body are the main cause behind ACL-tears, especially among women.

So now you have one more reason to despise purity culture and enforced "ladylike" behavior. In addition to being stuffed to the gills with misogyny, this crap also sets up female athletes for a higher rate of ACL injury.

That women do suffer a higher rate of ACL injury is not in dispute. However, you're unlikely to see any official reports speculating on the role that training young women in "ladylike posture" plays in helping to cause this disparity. No, officially they're all guessing it's to do with higher estrogen levels, weaker hamstrings, wider pelvises, etc. Even the article quoted above links the "knees collapsing to the midline of the body" to weaker, less-well-developed glutes. It wouldn't be the first time a difference between the genders was explained away as purely biological, while great glaring differences in social treatment were swept under the rug.

In jumping and landing women tend to land with slightly straighter legs than men who land in a more powerful squat position with knees slightly apart....

Specific skills therefore need to be learnt in landing and jumping techniques - the principle being to land with the knee forwards and not buckling to the side – inwards or outwards. For the female, this means landing with the knees slightly apart, in a more squat and perhaps un-ladylike male posture.

This author comes tragically close to the point before missing it, and so he fails to question it. To wit: Why in heaven's name are we teaching girls and young women that certain stances, postures, and movements are "unladylike" and "male" in the first place? And why the fuck are the endorsed "ladylike" stances, postures, and movements always the ones most likely to fuck up your body down the line?

but processing the stuff creates more stuff to process can i stop now
Wed 2015-02-04 23:44:23 (single post)
  • 5,263 words (if poetry, lines) long

OK, so the story gained a few hundred words this time around. Not to worry. It's all part of the process. Besides, tonight's bit didn't go as well as yesterday's, so there was some "just babble and something good will come out of it" verbiage. I'm trying to stitch in a new microscene segue and I'm trying to start incorporating elements from the deleted scene, so some temporary bloat is only to be expected.

Yesterday's post about changing associations got me thinking: It works both ways. That is, bundling play and work together not only makes the work seem more like play, but it can also help change what goes on in my brain when I play. Or so I devoutly hope.

That didn't make much sense. I can make it make sense, but it's going to get a little personal.

As anyone who's heard me babble about Puzzle Pirates knows, I tend toward mini-games, puzzle-games, and classic arcade games, and not so much for first-person shooters or story-heavy RPGs. I like my RPGs tabletop; I like my video games simple.

But here's the problem, or rather the double-edged sword, about the simple clicky games: They leave a lot of room in the brain for running on auto-pilot.

This has been a bad thing, because my brain develops ruts very easily. Honestly, I think it's a form of PTSD, if a comparatively mild one. It's such that interpersonal interactions that leave me angry, hurt, feeling betrayed, and crying at the time will repeat on me for months, even years. They'll leap into my conscious mind unbidden, at which point I'll emotionally relive the damn experience and sit there crying all over again.

And whatever I was doing at the time that the painful memory came back, that activity may become associated with the memory... so that next time I do that activity, I relive the memory again. Which only strengthens the association. And so forth.

This is why Morning Pages are kind of a crap shoot. In working through the thoughts and emotions on the page, am I going to be successfully processing them, or am I just creating a trigger for them, such that I'll relive them every time I sit down at the spiral notebook? It could go either way.

Besides, how long can one be expected to process this stuff? Some of it goes back twenty years or more. Some goes back to early childhood. "Processing" it doesn't make it go away or diminish. It just means I'm having another experience of pain and anger and helplessness. Let it go? Gee, thanks--you say that like I've made a conscious choice to hold onto this stuff. I would love to let go of this stuff. But it won't let go of me. It comes to something when Cowboy Mouth's "Let It Go" and "Easy" start to feel like victim-blaming songs, you know? Like that time I tried to explain this stuff to Dad, and he just chuckled and said, "My, you sure can hold a grudge!"

Point being, certain mini-games in Puzzle Pirates are indelibly linked to certain unfortunate memories. Treasure Haul requires very little strategizing. There is plenty of room left in my head for running down the rut one more time of why that particular guy left our role playing group and what he said about me damn near fifteen years ago.

Ditto the Bilging puzzle, and the memory of sitting in an IHOP realizing that a particular freelance writing gig--which, mind you, only paid about three cents a word--was killing my brain and my soul but I felt trapped by my honor not to resign from it when I said I'd do it, and you don't go back on your word, dammit. Even if your cat just got diagnosed with cancer, you don't go back on your word! And other forms of punishing myself for daring to consider safeguarding my mental and emotional health.

Ditto the Rumble puzzle, and the pain and betrayal of a trusted friend and mentor telling me she thinks that women aren't to blame so to speak but don't they at least share responsibility for the rape that happened when they wore that skirt, went alone late at night to the party, or say "no" loudly enough and clearly enough to revoke the consent that is assumed to be given otherwise? Aren't feminists going overboard when they say that nothing but an enthusiastic "yes" is consent? She just wanted to know what my thoughts on that were; what a slap in the face that my thoughts didn't support her brave stance against modern feminism! How dare I react to her ideas by feeling less safe around her! How dare I decide she isn't a safe person to introduce friends to, if I know those friends are rape survivors! How dare I say that her beliefs support rape culture! We're friends--she's supposed to be able to confide in me without negative repercussions!

And then it gets recursive. These days, the precise memory that reruns during the Rumble puzzle is... playing the Rumble puzzle in the lobby of the Sheraton Mountain Vista in Avon while trying to block out thoughts of that interaction. While crying over it again, of course.

It's an improvement, though. It's an extra layer of emotional distance. I went from having to watch a movie of the event, to having to reread a novelization of the movie.

Still, I would like my pleasant brainless passtimes to be pleasant, not emotional mine fields. That should not be too much to ask.

So... I have a hope that parallel-tracking Puzzle Pirates and writing will help chase out some of those associations, and replace them with other ones. It would be super cool if every time I return to the Duty Navigation puzzle, that small backburner part of my brain instead remembers, say, trying to write the micro-scene segue glue that this story rewrite requires, or working out the plot of a novel.

I do not know how to break mental associations. I only know how to replace them: by having new experiences. I am trying to create new experiences for myself.

Replace the experience of dreading the scary writing task with enjoying the fun wrting play.

Replace the experience of unwanted painful memory while I'm playing with current writing project percolating while I'm playing.

It's worth a try.

if not you can darn well add your own element of fun
Tue 2015-02-03 23:33:52 (single post)
  • 4,516 words (if poetry, lines) long

More writing. Yes! The short story revision, which was not finished by the end of January, nevertheless continues apace. Today I got through the bit with the maudlin elementary school teacher, which takes the draft just up to the threshold of the first major structural change to the scene. Which details mean very little to you at this time, dear reader, but check this out: the word count came down by another 300 today. Bringing the word count down is a large part of what the editor requested. At almost 6,000 words it struck her as a tad bloated.

Each day I'm finding it easier to get started. This should come as no surprise. All through the fall and winter I had this nasty, negative association with the story, something like "OMG there is no way this is impossible I suck I suck I suck." But each small revision session during which "impossible" and "I suck" is disproven eats away at that association, replacing it with something else, something more like "Where did I leave off? Oh yeah, I was going to do this..."

I find that most of my "stuck" has to do with negative associations, like "it's going to be hard," and "it's going to hurt," and "it's going to suck." Getting unstuck requires creating new, positive associations, like "This is fun" and "Gee, I'm clever" and "Wait, I wrote that? Wow." Which is where such strategies as "Just read it through, that's all," and "Just do that one paragraph, OK?" come from.

This is also where new, radical strategies like playing while I work come in.

Well... It's actually not all that new and radical, except in its application to writing.

For years now, I've used knitting and Puzzle Pirates to combat the deadly boredom of reading an hour of employment ads for AINC twice a week. Don't get me wrong, it's a very necessary and useful broadcast, but producing it is sort of mind-numbing. So while I'm reading the ads, I might also be knitting a sock, memorizing league points on the Jade Ocean, or earning obscene amounts of in-game currency during the latest blockade grudge match on the Emerald Ocean. It's not as complicated as all that. It just requires careful arrangement of monitor real estate so that the browser window, recording application, and YPP client are all visible and in close proximity. Then it's just a matter of glancing back and forth between the text I'm reading and the bilging combo I'm putting together.

Over the years, this has had an effect on my attitude toward reading the employment ads. When I first picked up the shift, I approached it with dread. "The next hour and a half is going to suck," I would think. And I'd put it off, and put it off, and then finally race the clock to get it done in time.

Now, I'm all, "Yay! Sunday morning reading! Which means time legitimately blocked out for playing Puzzle Pirates!"

Well. Recently, I started doing something like this to overcome a deep reluctance to do my Morning Pages. Sometimes I just don't want to do them. They're going to be three interminable pages during which I will distress myself with the contents of my head, stress myself out over the obligations of the day looming over me, and chafe at not being able to get started on said obligations because I still have to get through these three interminable pages of freehand writing. Some days, not even the cheerful bright colors I've put in my favorite fountain pen make Morning Pages look at all attractive.

It was a day like that when I got the bright idea of logging on to Second Life and essentially running around picking up spare change while doing my Morning Pages. There are a bunch of "earn Lindens for visiting sims" mechanisms in SL, most of which involve interacting with some object or other and then waiting around for some amount of time before the object pays out. It's ...not particularly fun, actually. But somehow putting that sort of thing together with the Morning Pages fulfills my need to always be doing two things at once in a satisfying way.

When I can't find a single thing about the task at hand to look forward to, I can bundle the task up with a completely unrelated element of play, and look forward to that.

It's this silly improbable trick that I play on my brain. It's similar to Havi's "proxy" theory, and it's all about replacing avoidance with interest and attraction.

I'm not doing my Morning Pages... I'm hopping traffic cones in Second Life, and passing the wait time at each traffic cone by scribbling down my thoughts in this spiral notebook here.

Sure, I have to record an hour of employment ads... but while I'm doing that, I can make a bundle buying large cannonballs at Armstrong Island and selling them at Paihia. (Emerald, not Opal. Almost always a viable trade. Check it out.)

I don't want to do freewriting for 25 minutes. How about instead I do freewriting for the time it takes to memorize Caravanserai to Kiwara on the Jade Ocean? It's not like I have to interact with the game for more than a few seconds every other minute or so. I basically complete one duty navigation puzzle and then hit pause, and wait to reach the next league point. During which time I can write the next paragraph...

OK, so some of those details won't make sense in and of themselves unless you play Puzzle Pirates too. On the other hand, those details in and of themselves aren't the point. The point is, adding a fun passtime to the dreaded task turns the dreaded task into an eagerly anticipated excuse to enjoy the fun passtime (as long as the task still gets done).

It's radically different from butt-in-chair theory. From a butt-in-chair perspective, it's heresy. But as long as the writing is still getting done, who cares?

On the other hand... I didn't need to bundle today's story revision session with playtime. I wasn't dreading the task enough to need to.

Hooray!

you still get the day AFTER tomorrow
Mon 2015-02-02 23:20:25 (single post)
  • 1,122 words (if poetry, lines) long

Despite appearances, I am not dead. Thursday I got home dead tired, Friday I may have wished I was dead, but I did not in fact die. Hello!

The thing about Friday was this: I woke up with two or three headaches going on, all at once. They tag-teamed me all day long, laughing derisively at every dose of ibuprofen. I spent the day trying to stay unconscious and reading whenever I couldn't. John helped me out with the loan of a heating pad and also with the most marvelous massage, both of which helped mightily to loosen up the muscles of my back, shoulder, and neck. But it wasn't until eleven o' clock at night that I woke up from another nap to discover myself pain-free. And at eleven o'clock at night, what do you do with your sudden sense of well-being?

Stay up until three aye em, what else?

I've never had much use for the advice to "live each day as though it were your last." If I knew I was on my last day, I wouldn't just "type a little faster"; I'd resign myself to leaving projects left unfinished, because who needs the stress of FINISH ALL THE THINGS on their last day on Earth? No, I'd spend the day saying goodbye to my loved ones, putting my affairs in order, and having as much fun as I could in what little time remained. (Robin McKinley got this one absolutely right in Sunshine.)

But you know what saying I could really get behind? "Work each day as though you were going to be too sick to work tomorrow." That's how I wish I'd worked Thursday.

Thankfully, Friday was a fifth Friday, so no Friday Fictionette release was planned. (Friday Fictionettes are not weekly occurrences. They happen every first-through-fourth Friday.) And I was feeling a lot better Saturday, so I had no trouble releasing January's Fictionette Freebie to the unsubscribed masses. You can download it by following that link and clicking on the Adobe PDF icon that you see just beneath the cover photo. (Patreon makes that slightly unintuitive). You can figure out from there whether you like that sort of thing enough to subscribe.

What else? I could whine about my knee some more and about how exhausting PT is and how I wish I could have skated in the first team practice of the season Sunday, but who really wants to hear that? I don't, and I've been listening to myself whine for three weeks now. So how about I quit while I'm ahead?

Less whining tomorrow. More writing. Until then--!

that nasty habit of unnecessary limping
Wed 2015-01-28 23:30:23 (single post)
  • 4,820 words (if poetry, lines) long

All right, it wasn't a full five hours today, but all the tasks got done. The next brick in the story-wall got mortared into place, exactly as I said it would. And I suppose I could stay up and put in some more time--but I am freakin' done with this up-til-four-aye-emm business. Especially considering I didn't sleep well between then and when I got up at ten thirty this morning. I'm exhausted, y'all. Time to shift my work days back to diurnal standard time.

I'm actually quite pleased. Getting to all my usual writing tasks, and my usual Wednesday tasks, and my unusual Wednesday-the-28th tasks (well, one task and one social outing), is kind of a feat. Go me.

Speaking of which: My first physical therapy appointment went well. For one thing, I have been commanded to stop limping, dammit. It's the two weeks of hobbling around and not using the knee's full range of motion that's got things all tight and grumpy around the patella. So I don't have to be quite so protective of the joint. I'm not to run, jump, or make lateral movements ("cuts"), but I've been encouraged, nay, urged to walk normally. And I've been reassured that it's perfectly safe to straighten out the leg, and have indeed been assigned to do so in the context of several exercises. The knee brace has been downgraded from "as much as possible" to "only for extra protection in uncontrolled environments"--crowds, walking on icy sidewalks, anywhere where I might unexpectedly slip or stumble.

I'm to apply compression so as to help the fluid work its way out of the joint. To that end, I'm wearing one of my 187 Killer Pads gaskets--the neoprene sleeves I wear under my knee pads when I skate--until I've got time to pick up an Ace bandage. It feels weirdly comforting to be wearing a piece of roller derby gear during my enforced off-skates recovery.

I've got loads of PT homework. Going off what I remember of each exercise's hold time, repetitions and sets, I estimate that I've been assigned somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour of exercise every day. I'll start on it tomorrow. Today was already full up. Plus the physical therapist worked my knee a good deal already. I'm exhausted. It's amazing how tired a body can get just lying down and being worked on; see also dental visits and MRI appointments.

Back to the writing for a moment. I've got further thoughts on Anti-BIC Week, flavors of writing advice, and possibilities for blending work with play, but, again, I'm exhausted. I'm doing all the item's on today's list (except, alas, for the one about five hours of writing), but at this point I'm taking as little time on each as possible.

So it's only a brief(ish) status report today. I'll make up for it tomorrow with a long-ass post full of philosophizing and woo. Whether that's a warning or a promise is up to you.

have investigated rabbit holes, have not fallen down any
Tue 2015-01-27 22:48:50 (single post)
  • 5,268 words (if poetry, lines) long

Day one of the Anti-BIC experiment is going well. I have all sorts of rabbit holes to report on. And I hit my next goal for the story revision--the one I was going to do Friday but didn't because, as usual, the Friday Fictionette release ran me out of time. One of these days I'll figure out how to make Fridays work.

My goal had been to take the first "brick" in the unmortared wall of rough-revised scene--that is, the first block of text in a revision that consisted of simply moving blocks of text around--and turn it into the opening of the new version of the story. But that opening would be polished. And so it is. And so I did.

Obviously, I can't hit my self-imposed deadline if I work in such small chunks every day. But my hypothesis is that if I make working on the story less scary, then every day I'll get a larger chunk done than the day before.

Now, I don't want to get ambitious and say "I'll finish the scene tomorrow!" Tomorrow I have a lot of non-writing stuff on the agenda. I have my usual Wednesday morning AINC remote reading shift. I have my semi-regular Wednesday night trivia with a fellow BCB skater in the evening. And in the afternoon I have my first physical therapy appointment, about which I'm pretty darn excited, let me tell you. Physical therapy means I get to do something more assertive than just wait for my ACL to heal.

Anyway, tomorrow's assignment on the story revision is simply going to be the next brick in the wall, which is the bit with the guys from Caroline's hunting club telling hilarious stories about the deceased. It's a slightly larger brick than today's brick, which was Demi feeling claustrophobic and the house failing to make it better.

As for rabbit holes, here's what I've got to report.

Slept until noon. Why did I felt the need to sleep until noon? What does sleeping until noon have to tell me? Well, for starters, it's telling me "Don't be up until 4 AM, dimwit." I kid. Sort of. Actually, what it's telling me is much more cheerful and encouraging than that. "It's OK to be up until 4 AM. Just remember that you still have to get enough sleep if you do. Aren't you glad you work from home on your own schedule?" Yes. Yes, I am.

An excessive amount of time playing Two Dots on Facebook, despite having already beat all the boards available to me. I'm actually just trying to raise my Level 73 score from two stars to three. When I realized I was dawdling this way, I investigated what Two Dots had to tell me. "Just connect the dots," it said, which is a reassuring way to look at big projects. "Realize that every action you take now plays a part in the choices available to you in the future," which is a bit of a reality check.

Waydaminnit. Wait a minute. "Trying to raise my Level 73 score from two stars to three." Today's small chunk of story revision included an emphatic narrative mention of how the house was used to accommodating three women, but now there were only two. Two where there should be three. Oh my. That's kind of neat. And also scary. (What, the synchronicity, or your pathological tendency to convince yourself that there are patterns everywhere?) Um. Well. Both?

*ahem* Anyway...

Yet another long Puzzle Pirates Examiner blog post, complete with slideshow. Again. Which, again, I did before the story revision. My instinct was to yell at myself and kick myself in the ass about it. "You know better. Why are you doing this first?" But, again, I'm trying to trust the rabbit holes. So. Investigating. Maybe I'm not putting off the story revision--I'm prepping for it. Something about the experience is part of essential preparation. Something about games and playing. "Remember, what you're about to do? It's not work. It's a form of play. Play hard!"

The urge to go to IHOP instead of home at 11 PM. On Tuesday nights my house is full of people. Happy people who are having fun! Which is lovely, but it is also loud. So I've begun taking my Tuesday night work down to the Remington Post Clubhouse, where it's dark and quiet and empty. So I wrapped up the Examiner post around eleven and realized I was hungry. I could have gone home, but home was still full of people. I could have gone home, grabbed some food, and come back, but that didn't sound appealing. It's kind of a long walk on this knee. So I gave into temptation and I went to IHOP. What's at IHOP? What has IHOP to say to me, to help me with my story revision? "It's about food and drink, and warmth, and creature comforts, and heart comforts. This story is about struggling from a world that's the wrong shape towards a world that's the right shape. Also, why is there no food in the last scene? There's food in the other two scenes. There should be food in the last scene."

And now I'm wrapping up at IHOP, having met all my writing goals for the day and brought my timesheet up past five hours. Day one is a success! I am well pleased. Let's see how the experiment continues tomorrow.

(Let's see first if I can get to bed sometime before 4 AM so I don't sleep until noon again.)

remove the thumbscrews, see what happens
Mon 2015-01-26 23:27:04 (single post)
  • 5,653 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm declaring this week to be Conscientious Anti-BIC week. It's my week for Active Emancipation from the Tyranny of Butt-In-Chair Philosophy.

It's an experiment. Hear me out.

I've stated my intent to have the short story revision done and submitted by the end of January. One week now remains to hit that self-imposed deadline. That's plenty time for the task at hand, if I use my time wisely and don't dawdle.

Which would lead one to believe that BIC would be the best strategy:

Pick two hours a day. It doesn't matter which two hours, but make them two hours that you can do every day.

For that two hours, you will sit in front of your typewriter or computer. You will have no distractions. You will write, or you will stare at the blank screen. There will be no other options.

Writing letters does not count. Reading does not count. Doing research does not count. Revising does not count. You will write new stuff, or you will stare at the screen... Fill the page or go mad.

...Your mind will rebel. You'll want to clean the toilet, change the cat box, mow the lawn. But you won't, because there are no excuses.

Isn't that logical? Doesn't it make sense? To get something done, you allot time in which to do it, and you damn well do it in that time. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Well... I have this brain, you see. A brain full of avoidance monsters.

It goes like this:

The closer I get to deadline, the scarier the project gets, the harder it is to make myself sit down and do the work.

The more work remains to do, the harder it looks to do it, the more I avoid doing it.

And the more I tell myself things like this:

Your body will rebel. You'll get headaches. You'll get colds. You aren't allowed a choice. You will sit in front of that screen even if your head is throbbing.

...the more those two hours begin to look like torture. Which doesn't exactly help with the avoidance monsters, you know?

Now, I'm not saying BIC is bad advice. There is a time for BIC. BIC is about getting from "thinking about the writing" to "actually writing." My daily timesheet, where I log time spent on writing and try to make it add up to five hours every work day, is all about BIC. But neither BIC nor any other piece of writing advice is the right advice for all occasions. I'm convinced that no writing advice is wrong, but any writing advice can be a bad match given a particular writer and a particular set of circumstances.

I'm experimenting with the idea that BIC is not entirely the right match for me right now.

Fast-approaching deadlines make the work look scary... so I need to work as if I had all the time in the world. Huge, overwhelming goals make the work look impossible... so I need to work with small, bite-sized, non-overwhelming goals. And the BIC philosophy makes the work look like a painful, horrible, absolutely unenjoyable ordeal... so I need to work in ways that don't hurt.

I hereby declare this week to be the Week of Following Rabbit Holes.

Following something that appears to be a distraction is not a waste of time, if — and it’s a big all-caps IF — you can do it consciously....

You realize that you are not avoiding your project. You are investigating an aspect of it. Or learning something that will help you with it....

The outside culture says yell at yourself for following the urge to fold laundry instead of writing that proposal.

I say: find out what is waiting for you in the laundry.

Which isn't to say that the writing will magically get itself done for me while I go fold laundry, make dinner, stain a closet door, or just up and walking around the block. Rather, the thing that's got my writing stuck might go away while I do those things. This is the art of consciously following distractions, of deciding that the distraction wouldn't be there if it didn't have something to tell me. (If the writing were going well, would I be getting distracted in the first place?)

And if I give myself permission to dive down rabbit holes and see what's down there, the scary, threatening pressure of "two hours, butt in chair, doesn't matter if it hurts, just do it" ...dissolves away. The threat of pain dissolves away. The fear dissolves away. The avoidance dissolves away--why shouldn't it? There's nothing left to avoid.

And maybe instead of simply not avoiding the work, I might find myself looking forward to the work instead... because I've stopped making it look so much like work.

I'm also going to give myself permission not to keep "logging out" and "logging in" on my time sheet. Rabbit holes, followed consciously, count as part of the writing process. (Just like tea with my avoidance monsters.) If in the middle of the work I feel the urge to take a short walk and look for clues, I'll take that walk "on the clock."

I don't want to draw such bright glaring lines between "writing" and "not writing" right now. I want instead to write from a more holistic space, where all of the things surrounding the writing are part of the writing process.

Like I said, it's an experiment. One of many that I've proposed for myself, all of which address in one form or another the hypothesis, "If I am kinder to myself, I will write more and I will enjoy writing more."

Well, when you put it that way...

Today I learned how to use the GIMP's Fog filter. Also, click to view original empty office photo (license: CC BY-SA 2.0)
this fictionette is not safe for work. no, I mean dangerous
Fri 2015-01-23 23:12:55 (single post)
  • 1,122 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's Friday, so I have done my duty. Again, it is ridiculously late in the day. It almost isn't Friday at all. But the Fictionette is up, and you can see its stats at left and its cover image at right. Excerpt is here, downloadable PDF available to Patrons pledging $1/month is over here. It's horror again, but more of a lighthearted piece of horror than last week's Fictionette. Of course horror can be lighthearted. Think Good Omens and that gut-churning scene with the telemarketers. Well, I was thinking about it. It probably shows.

Yesterday I expressed a hope that my energy level would continue at yesterday's highly productive rate; it did not. Not that I was entirely unproductive, mind you. John and I met the realtor at a nearby property viewing--not because we seriously thought we might jump on something now, but to give the realtor more of an idea of what we liked and what we didn't and what we'd settle for and what were dealbreakers. It was pleasantly close to our current neighborhood, it was huge, it came with a lower H.O.A. fee that neveretheless covered more features, and it had a wood fireplace. These are pluses. On the minus side, it was expensive (as you might imagine, given the size), it was oriented for east/west light rather than north/south, and it had a rather claustrophobic if well furnished kitchen.

Then we went to McGuckin for the polyurethane I need to put a sealant coat on the newly stained kitchen cabinets and panels. Then I went downtown to pick up the remainder of our MMLocal share. Then we came home and I put the final coat of paint on one of the office closet door bifolds.

So I guess it's OK that I fell over for a three-hour nap at that point.

I may have mentioned that I've purchased a destuckification product from The Fluent Self recently? Right. Well, the physical item has yet to come in the mail - it sounds like Havi had post office bureaucracy nightmares which I wouldn't wish on anyone - but I have received the ebook component. The ebook is her Book of Rally Keys (BORK) and I spent about an hour or two reading it last night when I should have gone to sleep already. It is getting into my brain in healthy ways.

One of the healthy ideas that BORK has put in my brain is the idea that naps aren't something to be ashamed of. They can be expressions of terrified avoidance, or they can be expressions of the need for replenishment; in either case, they're entirely natural and they indicate a need. I expect after yesterday and this afternoon my need was very great. So I'm practicing being gentle with myself and accepting my need to nap.

There was another BORK/Fluent Self idea I wanted to mention, but it escapes me at the moment. So I'll let it run free for now, trusting that it will come home again and let me turn it into a blog post sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I have just finished eating the entire jar of Pears With Rosemary, and, now that we're all going to bed and will therefore be unlikely to absentmindedly lean against various kitchen surfaces, I am going to paint polyurethane on various kitchen surfaces.

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