On Roadblocks, Ruts, and Walls: or, Did Anybody Get the Number of That Bus?

It’s been a…week. Aside from the general mayhem of a constantly changing three-and-a-half month old baby who refuses to nap during the day (which equals, no productivity time), I managed to sprain my ankle while out hiking with the hubby this last weekend.

Awesome. (Smell the sarcasm?)

What this equates to is so far, a week stuck on the couch, immobile–which is seriously difficult with a little one. We’ve got the whole living room set up like a cluttered tiny house, trying to squeeze everything I could possibly need for me and the Little Guy during the day into a ten-foot, reachable space. Needless to say, I’m quite ready for the foot to be good again. Scooting down the stairs on my butt is not so much fun as I remember from my childhood.

Having even the remote chance of productivity shot down (the Little Guy also doesn’t *really* like sitting still, and in my able-bodied days, typically requires me to carry him around to keep him moderately appeased, and therefore, this lack of walking is proving particularly challenging) hasn’t stopped my inner self from beating the crap out of my psyche about writing. Because, hey, why not kick myself while I’m down?

My mother is a mental health councilor, and over the past few days, I’ve started to really appreciate the impact of what she calls selective-thinking. Basic example? Imagine you’re standing behind a screen. Outside the screen are thoughts, good thoughts and bad thoughts. The bad thoughts get through the screen no problem, but the good ones are blocked, unless they can be twisted to seem like bad thoughts. “Hey! I got into an awesome anthology!” becomes “Yeah, but my story’s probably the worst one,” or “Yeah, but it’s a reprint, so it’s not like it counts as a real sale.”

Or “Hey! I have a healthy baby!” becomes “Yeah, but not making eye contact with him continuously will probably give him abandonment complexes later in life.”

Seriously, Brain? WTF?

Beginning to recognize the ways my own brain sabotages my day-to-day happiness and sense of self-worth is at least a step in stopping it. We always talk about the “inner critic” or “inner editor” as only a part of one’s writing life, but truth is, there’s an inner critic inside our heads all the time. Some are just better at silencing it than others, and that’s definitely something I’m working on.

Because you know what? This last year has been pretty awesome. I wrote the rough draft of my first original novel. About a year ago today, I finished a fabulously fun fiction project that wound up being about 250,000 words long (whoa). I edited and got two new stories out doing the fiction rounds, which is more than I’ve gotten out in the past two years. I *did* sell a story this year, and even if it’s a reprint, it’s an amazing anthology and I’m thrilled to bits to be included in it among all these rockstar authors who are infinitely more published than I am to this point. I had my ridiculously adorable son this June, and *still* managed to post a bunch of fun interviews with my fellow authors (with one left to go!), and have even begun the process of setting aside time every week with a sitter so I can put in some dedicated writing time. And while it may only be once or twice a week for two hours, that’s two hours I otherwise wouldn’t have, and that’s enough to make at least a little progress on my upcoming novel project. I’ve also learned a lot about plotting and structure these past few months, which will only help me become a better, more conscious writer. I formatted a new book project, too, on top of that. And the boy is happy, healthy, and growing! We moved, I’ve read eighteen (Wait! Nineteen!) out of the twenty-five books I wanted to read this year, and am still plugging along nicely on that after rediscovering my Kindle.

Are there other things I wish I could get done? Of course. But this past year doesn’t look so shabby when I spell it all out. And even acknowledging that is something to be proud of.


Days 12-15 – Ah, what a week it is…

Well, as one might have been able to judge by the lack of updates this past week, last week was something of a complete washout. I’m not quite sure what it was that derailed the week’s plans, but I’m going to be making a few changes for the coming week to see if that helps. But before I do that, I’m going to list five things that went *well* last week, because even though I wasn’t remotely as productive as I would have liked, and there were a number of personal things that came up that were out of anyone’s control, there were still a few good things I should try to remember: 

1. I finished FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury. — This is one of the few goals I actually met this past week (and that, technically mostly on Saturday). It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages, and my hubby was listening to it on his drives to and from Pittsfield, so we had a great time discussing it and the ideas therein. It was a lovely time, and we’ll have to do this again sometime soon. 

2. I ate better. — Contrary to last week, I had kefir and frozen fruit and bananas around the house, so that meant delicious (fibrous and protein-rich) fruit smoothies in the morning with breakfast! I’m still not saying I’m a bastion of perfect nutrition, but it was a big improvement despite my penchant for Eggo Waffles with Lyle’s syrup this week, too. :)

3. I had a good cello lesson on Tuesday. — I’m starting (slowly) to get the hang of bowing parallel to the bridge, though that brings with it its own challenges. I learned how to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in one lesson, which is a huge and wildly delightful achievement, since I recall it took me almost a whole year to learn that little ditty on the violin when I was in first grade. I’ll take it! Plus reading THE CELLO by Elizabeth Cowling (my relax-before-bed read) has really opened my eyes to the mechanics of the cello and its history, which just makes it that much more fascinating!

4. The Baby is healthy! — And I’m right on target for weight-gain, so all things said, everything is actually really good. The baby’s been kicking up a storm this past week (little energy legs, and maybe the occasional fist bump, too), and the hubby got to feel it for the first time this weekend, which was awesome. If the baby being healthy and growing just as he should isn’t what matters most, I don’t know what is. 

5. I got out of the house and was social. — I actually got to enjoy some great friend time this week with two close pals of mine. With one, we had a chance to grab dinner and a movie, and with the other we went to IHOP to satisfy a BLT craving I was having at the time. It was delightful and refreshing, and while I perhaps let those things distract me from my weekly goals, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. It’s always so great to see and visit with them and to be reminded that we’re all in the same boat, trying to make our post-college lives into something we can be proud of and excited about. It’s not always easy, but I know we’re all on the right track, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. 

There were a number of other good things, too, come to think of it. Like so far (*fingers crossed*) not coming down with the flu like my dad and my hubby did this past week, and locking down some good editing ideas, and reading a bunch in MINDFUL BIRTHING (which is my go-to “calm the hell down; it’s going to be okay” book). I also discovered that writing by hand IS a lot of fun, and while it is slower (see below), it often results in some very snappy scenes and sequences that seem to lack the fluff I normally stick in when typing. The cats haven’t been especially obnoxious at night. I got a good ways towards finishing the Apex project, too, and just have a bit left to finish up Monday/Tuesday, and then that’ll be done. The hubby, due to said illness, got to come home a bit earlier than usual this week, which meant (despite wearing medical masks to limit my exposure that first evening) I got to spend a bit more time with him this weekend than usual, which is always a plus. That meant he was also here when he received some bad family news, which wasn’t entirely unexpected, but no less difficult to hear, which meant he wasn’t alone or driving back here when he heard. So all in all, it was a busy and good (minus the bad news) week, even if it wasn’t the week I’d planned or hoped for. 

That said, there are a few tweaks I’m going to make to my writing plans in order to hopefully facilitate a more dependable productivity in the coming weeks. 

1. I’m going to limit myself to editing OR rough-drafting one story a week. – I used to be able to multi-task multiple projects at one time, but lately I’ve found juggling projects much more exhausting and complicated. Perhaps it’s working on two short stories (rather than one short story and drafting a novel) that throws me off these days. Anyway, to see if the multitasking is part of what makes my head spin, I’m going to tackle one project at a time and FINISH it before moving on to the next, hopefully with week-long goals still intact. This next week, I shall continue the rewrite of “The Miracle of Jane” into a flash fiction, and see how that goes. Once that’s done, I’ll pick up where I left off on the octopus story, because so far, I really like it and just keep getting distracted by editing. 

2. I’m going to write in the mornings, after breakfast. — I tried the whole “write right when I wake up” thing, and it just doesn’t work for me. With the cats and my parents’ dog and my usual inclination to get warmer (the house temp (controls downstairs) is usually down pretty low in the A.M. and it’s up to me to adjust it to what I’d like), and then my pregnancy related need to pee first thing in the A.M. pretty much gets me up and moving too much to then feel justified crawling *back* into bed, and by then the fuzzy fluff-brain of sleep is pretty much gone. So I’m going back to writing after breakfast, since that actually saw results. Lesson learned!

I may try to read more in the afternoons, but I’m leaving that open-ended for now, since reading one book a week hasn’t actually been a problem as of yet. If it’s getting done, why change anything? Plus with various outside work that needs to be focused on a bit, my afternoons may be a bit wiffly for the next couple of days, and I don’t want to have to keep more goals in mind than the two above. Baby steps, I remind myself! Baby steps!


2014 Writing Goals!

I’ll make this brief, because let’s face it, reading long lists of goals is probably pretty dull for everybody but myself. That said-! I like to get them up here so I have to hold myself accountable. :)

2014 Goals:

1) Read one book a week until B-Day in June (like the beginning of last year, only, don’t stop), with an overall year goal of 25 (I’ve got about 20-odd weeks until B-Day, so a book or two after that, considering sleep deprivation/adjustment time/etc./etc./you know, that whole Life thing).

2) Finish the rough draft of Shadow Engines.

3) Get as many new short stories written/edited/submitted by B-Day in June so I have something to juggle even if I’m not writing much for those few months (6 = good, 10 = amazing). 

4) Keep up with a reading journal every day to discuss what I’m currently reading so I actually THINK about what I’m reading in a concrete way, rather than just spinning the ol’ brain wheels repeatedly without cementing anything specific. (Two concrete references in one sentence? Crazy!)

———–All of this to be moot and void after mid-June. No guilt!———–

Those are all the writing goals. The two others I have, outside of writing, is to 1) eat more veggies; and 2) try to keep up with going through one Pimsleur Mandarin 1 lesson a day, because I was doing so well with it a while ago, and it keeps falling through the cracks. I miss it so!

———–Again, completely moot and void after mid-June.———–

Life is getting back into its ordinary flow again, now that the hubby’s two week vacation is over. It flew by so fast, and sitting here two and a half hours away from him, it does make me think: I’ve got three very specific drivers for being ridiculously productive the next five-odd months. A) Doing the whole long-distance thing means I’ve got a lot of time to myself, and therefore a whole lot of time I could be devoting to something worthwhile; B) with B-Day fast approaching, I know I won’t have this much time (EVER AGAIN, at least for the next 18 years) to pursue my own goals uninterrupted, so I darn well better take advantage of it; C) I’m not working full-time at the moment, which means I’ve got my days mostly to myself, so again–no excuses, no fuss, no buts: it’s as optimal now as it’s ever going to be, so I’m going to take advantage as much as possible. Whether that’ll produce anything of particular interest or use, well…that remains to be seen. But at least we’ll see! :)



NANO Reminder To Self-of-the-Future

This is really just a reminder for myself regarding motivation and productivity. Whiny Future-Version-of-Myself, listen up!

I did not want to write today. No, that’s an understatement. I really, really, really, really didn’t want to write anything today. I wanted to play Minecraft, or doodle, or eat Second Breakfast, or laze around staring at the ceiling, or start the second Forsythe book, or find new music, or watch TV, or keep walking on the treadmill for another couple miles–because that’s productive and healthy, so that’s a good reason not to write, right?

I didn’t know what I would write today. I didn’t have a clue. My brain was empty–EMPTY AND HOLLOW AS A DRUM!–and I didn’t *really* want to figure out how to fill it. It’s been a long week. I’ve hit my 3k word-count requirement every day so far–that’s good, right? I mean, I don’t *technically* need to hit more than 1,666 per day to finish NANO on time, so it’s really just for *me* that I want to do more so I can take weekends off guilt-free (Weekends: the boon of long-distance med-school relationships). Even last weekend, I wrote a little on Saturday and Sunday in the morning, so that means I’ve actually gotten *further* than I need to, so if I just relax for a day, it’s not like it’s going to slam my word count or anything. I could totally get away with it, and no one would even blame me. I’ve already got 14,000 words done, for crying out loud! I’m ahead of the game! I can TOTALLY not write today. Every sane thing in the universe is saying I don’t have to write today. I’m hungry. I need a shower. I had a long, tough day yesterday, and need a mental break. <–All made perfect sense. Good, solid logic. Totally reasonable.

I ignored it. I spent my time on the treadmill thinking and thinking and thinking about what I would write today. It wasn’t easy, it didn’t resolve itself fast, but I *did* get something I could write about that would actually advance the story in an interesting way and manage to entertain me in the process, which I’m beginning to realize is vital to getting words on the page. Distractible Maggie has to laugh and clap her hands at least once–then you’re on to something.

I ignored the urge to delay, to sit back and not tackle this. I *did* take a shower (seriously, I needed it after the treadmill), and I *did* make some scrambled eggs and took a handful of almonds for Second Breakfast (Baby apparently says a big bowl of fruit and cottage cheese with tea is *not* enough breakfast anymore). BUT, and here’s the part I need to remember: I sat my butt down and wrote at 10AM.

I wrote when I didn’t feel like it at all. I wrote, and wrote, and dear-lord-where-did-this-awesome-come-from wrote for two and a half hours straight, slammed out almost 5k, and ACTUALLY LIKED IT. That’s right, Future-Me. You liked it. You were in the zone, you let your fingers fly, your world opened up on the page, and DAMN it was fine, and you relished every minute of it so much that when you hit your 3k, you surpassed it because YOU DIDN’T WANT TO STOP, and when you hit 3700, you thought–Just 300 more and I’ll finish the chapter AND get 4k–and you know what? You went right on by 4k and only wrapped up the chapter at 4780. 1780 words more than your goal. In only a half-hour more time than it took yesterday to get 3k.

You. Killed. It. <–Remember that Future-Me. When you don’t feel like writing, when–in fact–you’d rather be doing just about ANYTHING ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE. On a day when you felt like you’d be fighting for even 500 words, you got 4780. And it was EASY. And you ENJOYED IT.

So stick that in your pipe, Ms. Inner Lazy-Pants, and smoke it.