writing recap 2018: w48

Short little update today, lovelies.

Won NaNo on Thursday, so took the weekend off. When it’s not November, I’m mostly taking the weekends off anyway, so this is more a return to routine than a new routine.

I feel more satisfied about winning NaNo this year than I did last year, but it still doesn’t feel like as big of a deal since I’ve been trying to put in daily writing anyway. Although I did accomplish a substantial amount on one large project instead of a bunch of little ones. I’m not done with the first draft yet — the story isn’t finished — so I’m going to continue on, doing roughly 2000 words daily, until it’s done.

I haven’t done the requisite re-outlining yet, so that’s a Monday thing.

Something about doing writing adjacent things instead of just putting the words down on the page feels at odds with the ethos of NaNo. It feels like losing momentum, like that work (as critical as it might be) doesn’t count somehow. Which is a terrible mindset to have about it, I know. I’ve been trying to tease this out in morning pages, and haven’t quite gotten to the core of it yet. There’s something there — about external motivation and incorrect goals — but I haven’t figured it out.

Because ultimately, I don’t need NaNo to build a writing routine. I’ve already done that. And I don’t need it to give myself permission to write or to let myself tackle a project. So when I’m doing NaNo, it’s almost like I’m disrupting my established workflow to have a bit of external structure. Because it’s still easier (and will probably always be easier) to have some external source tell me what I should be doing instead of having to figure it out for myself.

I don’t know. I have some more thinking to do about it yet.

Word count total: 56,731

writing (and life) recap 2018: w47

Survived round one of marathon family events season. Which, as a moniker, makes it sound rather dire (even for all that it is certainly true).

Thanksgiving shenanigans were good, better than expected even. This year, we went to go visit my family in Houston. Had waaaaaay too many huge meals, which surprised no one. The usual number of (or maybe slightly fewer, if I’m being optimistic) problematic things were said and called out. For Thanksgiving proper, we had an elaborate hot pot, which is our go to holiday meal. My mom and stepdad tend to go all out with it; they event built their own giant hot pot specific table. It’s fun and interactive and social. (Should’ve snapped a pic, but I’m bad at remembering things like that especially when confronted with tasty food.)

Got to see the brother and the stepsister and a lot of dog nieces (and one dog nephew). They were all happily spoiled by my mother who insists on feeding all dogs table scraps. Her own Maltese, named Proton, now eats mostly people food, and has terrible tableside begging habits because of it, to no one’s surprise at all. This has been a running conversation for duration of Proton’s entire life, and this year, I chose to be very ambivalent and vaguely amused about it, which was less stressful. I think partially it’s because the parties involved were more honest about their intentions — whereas previously, my mom made overtures about not wanting Proton to beg or was (seemingly) annoyed at her behavior, now she just fully embraces the fact that this is how she wants to raise her dog. Which makes the whole thing simpler because then I can let it go instead of watch advice that I was asked for go completely unheeded and then hear the same lamentations at each meal.

Everyone should be more honest about their intentions.

Writing was a little more difficult this week, but I got the words in. I wanted to make sure that I wrote while traveling because I didn’t want to feel too tied to location or supplies when trying to get work done. It would be totally like my jerkbrain to try to entice me away from being productive by telling me that I needed to be at my desk or I needed to have x, y, and z. So proving to myself that I can/should work away from home was important. It seems like such a minor thing when you say it (or write it) out loud (or on paper), but I think it’s helpful. It’s sort of like how last year’s NaNo, though I wasn’t totally happy with my end result, proved to me that I could do it.

And it’s not even that I’m proving to myself that I can do these discrete things, not really. It’s more proving to myself that I can hold myself accountable. That I can keep the promises I make to myself, which is essentially the only category of promise I have historically had no compunctions in breaking.

I am worried about a couple of plot points where I think things get a little weak. In those bits, my characters lack some agency and are reacting mostly to external stimulus instead of pushing the plot forward themselves, so I need to think about that. I’m solidly in the muddy, mushy middle, and it’s feeling messy, which makes my enthusiasm flag. (That was a lot of M’s. I should have said motivation, I suppose, to continue the trend.) What it tells me is that I need to outline to where I am and figure out where it breaks down, go back to where I was enthusiastic, and figure out a new way forward. That feels very daunting right now though…

Word count total: 42,460

writing recap 2018: w46

Had a dip in the middle of the week where my jerkbrain did the whole “what’s even the point, you’re terrible and this is terrible and everything is terrible.” And then I remembered there was a bonus Writing Excuses for NaNo that was published this week, so I took some time to listen to that. It was about writer’s block or things akin to writer’s block i.e. things that stop you from writing. Brandon Sanderson mentioned that sometimes when he had students come to him with problems making the words, it turned out the main problem was a confidence one — the words they were making were not as good as the words they wanted to make and it was discouraging.

That’s most definitely my problem.

I could be even more mad at my past self for making the decisions that I made and not making the decisions I knew I should have made, but then I’d still be here, but I would just be more mad. And that doesn’t really help anyone, does it?

So instead, I try to take a deep breath and just write through that feeling. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I found myself highly dissatisfied with a bit of plot that happened when I wasn’t looking — it wasn’t part of the outline and I wasn’t sure what the point was, but the characters insisted that this needed to happen. I’m still skeptical, but we’re going to see where it goes. I have started to use my analog morning pages to brainstorm these things, and that has helped quite a bit.

Plus, I’m finally using my fountain pens and some of the very pretty inks I’ve collected but haven’t tried. (This year has very much been about “you don’t need anymore fountain pens or inks or notebooks until you use the ones you have!” Although I’m very much eyeing a stub nib fountain pen… NO. I DON’T NEED MORE PENS. But…) Right now I’m alternating J. Herbin’s Poussiere de Lune (Moon Dust purple, I mean, come on) and Diamine’s Dark Forest inks. They are gorgeous, and scrawling with them in my notebooks is one of my great pleasures in the morning.

Did a few extra words here and there to make a bit of a cushion for next week what with all the Thanksgiving travel and faaaaaaamily stuff. I think even if I only manage a thousand words a day or something like that while I’m in Houston, it’ll be okay. I should be able to find the time though. Should.

Now I’m off to prep for the early Thanksgiving meal we’re hosting here. Instead of turkey and whatnot, I’m making carnitas and we’re going to build tacos. Because I can. And because carnitas are delicious.

Word count total: 35,345

repeat repeat repeat

You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

– Neil Gaiman, NaNoWriMo author pep talk

writing recap 2018: w45

First full week of NaNoWriMo down. It is going much more smoothly and consistently this year than last year.

I’ve been putting in my slightly-above-2000 words per day and feel no qualms or apologies whatsoever about taking Sunday off. I used to feel weirdly guilty when I wasn’t writing more and more each day, but I’ve largely been able to let that go (there are occasional flare-ups of guilt where I feel like I’m not doing enough, but I’m working on it).

I’ve come to appreciate more how much the time I spend not writing contributes to my writing. Because when I’m not writing, I’m usually reading. Or walking. Or sewing. And I’m recognizing now that background brain processes are still thinking about my writing and working on little problems that my conscious brain was struggling with. So now, I don’t (usually) begrudge myself time off for baking or reading or doing something else (this doesn’t include Netflix binging (that does not look like the gerund of binge) because that is just a bottomless time suck for me — your mileage may vary (though I haven’t found anyone who binges Netflix productively) (how’s that for nested parentheses)).

As long as I get the words in of course. Butt in chair, and all that, as they say.

In other news, it’s almost cookie season, and I have some GRAND and possibly OVERAMBITIOUS plans.

Word count total: 20,780

intuition

You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. You need to trust yourself, especially on a first draft, where amid the anxiety and self-doubt, there should be a real sense of your imagination and your memories walking and woolgathering, tramping the hills, romping all over the place. Trust them. Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

writing recap 2018: w44

This week was rather eventful on the writing front.

I finished out my October flash fiction challenge. Overall, I felt like it was a success. Upon reflection, it helped me establish a few helpful patterns of thought and behavior. I learned to stop shooting down my own ideas and to follow them down their little paths instead. I got better at thinking through plot points and being a bit more agile instead of throwing up my hands and self-flagellating.

I’ve been using the technique of “meditating productively” (from Deep Work) — while I’m doing something that occupies me physically (dishes, vacuuming, walking, etc.), I’ve been deliberately focusing my attention on figuring out plot for whichever piece I’m working on. I mostly use this technique in the shower now. And by the end of the month, I didn’t have to redirect my attention nearly as much. I would just get in the shower, and my brain would think “Oh, I guess it’s time to spitball ideas about where this story is going,” and away we would go. This means that I have many podcasts that are still unlistened to, but a bunch of pieces of fiction that I think have potential. I’m more than happy with that trade off.

The other major writing event was the kick-off of NaNoWriMo, of course.

My mindset this year feels very different than last. Last year, I was full of nervous excited energy and not sure that I could write so many words in a month. This year, after some initial nerves, I’m feeling pretty calm and measured about it. I mean, once I decided I was going to do it (not try to do it). Once you just accept the truth of your success or failure, there’s no more agonizing. Like, ho hum, this is just part of my routine right now.

My plan is to write around 2000 words a day, while taking Sundays off and accounting for some lost days around Thanksgiving. I should still come in nicely at goal even with those allowances.

I still have doubts. The two loudest ones are “what if I’m not good enough to write this story yet?” and “what if I don’t have the endurance to stick with this story through the end?”. When the first comes up, I mostly shrug. How would I know if I’m “good enough” (whatever that means) to write this story if I don’t try to write the story? So although that doubt still sits with me, there’s not really anything I can do about it.

The second doubt is a slightly more interesting one. Because if you think of endurance/willpower/the-ability-to-do-deep-work as a muscle that needs exercising, then the only solution is to just do it (the Nike slogan applies everywhere).

But the deeper fear underlying both is that it’s going to be hard. That it won’t feel easy and simple all the time. That it’ll feel terrible and difficult and frustrating. And, well, yeah. I mean, it will. (That’s why one of my morning page daily “affirmation” things is “It’s supposed to be hard.”) And not only is that okay, but it’s expected, and I’m going to fucking do it anyway.

(Buckle up. I get a little rant-y from here.)

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perfection sucks

This is a very special time. The beginning of the beginning.
It’s just you and the manuscript.
Your full mind and the empty page. Tip the cup to spill part of you all over it.
This is fundamental and formative.
This is volcanic and pyroclastic.
This is pure.
The empty page is perfection.

And perfection sucks.

– Chuck Wendig, 30 Days in the Word Mines