Archive | August, 2009

Spaten Franziskaner Dunkel-Weiss

31 Aug

Now, doesn’t that sound like a beer you just have to try?  I thought so, too.  My sweet husband took me on a date this weekend, where we ate under the stars and drank Spaten Franziskaner Dunkel-Weiss¹, interrupted only by the occasional group of frat boys who wanted to sit at our table with us².

This weekend was relaxing, as planned – almost too much so (not that I’m complaining).  I probably could have slept for a few more hours this morning, but even through the sleepy haze, thoughts seized me, and compelled me to get up.  It’s Monday!  It’s a fresh writing week!  I actually want to run on the treadmill!  I could write a new blog!  I need to do dishes and laundry!³ 

So, here I am, doing the more desirable of my plans for the day.  I’m hoping to be Wonder Woman this week with my writing – my goal is to infuse my work with a sort of laid-back discipline.  Lately, I’ve been able to absorb myself into the story and get some good work done.  The only problem with this is my tendency to stop after I get a decent chunk of words written (the 1000-1500 word range, usually).  I tell myself, “That’s good enough for one day!” and while it is, I could probably spend at least another hour or so getting a bit more than that accomplished.  Probably lots more, actually.

So, my goal this week?  Get into the story, feel it, communicate it; then press on, even after I reach “good enough.”  I hope to up my word count this week† in a major way (though I’m hesitant to decide how major) and retain that laid-back, wrapped-up-in-the-story feel that is so necessary to getting quality words to jump out of my head and land on the page.

I love the freshness of Monday, so here I go.  Hopefully I can maintain this energy all the way through Friday, but I have a feeling I may need another Spaten Franziskaner Dunkel-Weiss when this week is over.  Maybe another starlit date, too, minus the intrusive frat boys.

 

¹Which made me feel so very German indeed!

²To which we kindly responded no, then received in return a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me doofus stare.  Granted, the tables were few and they were massive, way bigger than necessary for two people; cramming six frat guys with us on our starlit date, though?  Not a chance.

³Exclamation point included only for visual consistency.  Gotta say, I am not excited about those lovely chores.  By the way?  You should worry if I ever wake up on a Monday and say, “Oh goody!  There’s a pile of laundry and a stack of pasta-sauce encrusted dishes waiting just for me!”  

†Check out Merrilee’s post on her 28-Day Writing Marathon.  It’s both fun to read and a great source of motivation!

Okay, Seriously?

28 Aug

So, now I have proof I’m not just paranoid: there is a fresh dent in the back right side of my husband’s Honda Accord, as of half an hour ago.

I feel like I’ve written so stinkin’ much about bad drivers lately, so I both apologize and thank you sincerely for sticking with me.  Now, thanks to a college girl in a white pickup truck who didn’t look before she backed up, I’m writing about it again.

Fortunately, it doesn’t look too bad and no one was injured.  And, thanks to Aloof Pickup Girl’s insured father, we shouldn’t have too much to pay, right?  In all these years of bad drivers, I haven’t had too much experience with actually having to use insurance, so we’ll see how that goes in real life.

Now that my love has set the claims process in motion, and has set up a meeting to assess the poor Honda’s damage, we are going to proceed with our initial plan for tonight: food and relaxation!

Sludgetrudger

27 Aug

It’s gray and rainy, my favorite kind of morning.  Most mornings like this, I find myself inspired and ready to write.  Something must be off here in Texas, though, because it’s been a strange twelve hours, and I need a bit more help in the inspiration department this morning.

It all started last night, after a long talk with a friend whose divorce was finalized Monday.  She’s only 22 years old, and there’s been some crazy stuff happening, but I just did my job – I listened.  And then, I left.

Apparently, the gorgeous landscaping at her apartment is actually a grass-covered swamp, which I found out by unfortunate experience.  I took a shortcut to my car so I wouldn’t have to walk alone in the shadows of her complex, and came out on the other side muddy and without shoes.  Seriously – I took two steps, sank down two feet, and am now short two flip flops.  Poor garden maintenance guy, he’ll probably think there’s a girl buried in the mud, because I just left them there.  With muddy jeans and muddy feet, I crossed the parking lot and drove home.

This morning, I ate a chicken biscuit from Chick-fil-A, which usually taste divine slathered in honey.  You know what’s not divine when it’s slathered in honey?  My glasses, and also, my entire eyebrow.  Somehow they both ended up covered in the gooey stuff, even though I squirted only a few drops onto my biscuit, at waist-high level.  No, I have no idea.

Also this morning, I almost rear-ended a car because they — and the car in the next lane — mysteriously came to a stop at a very obvious green light.  I joined in the honking cacophony, of course, and they sped up.

Got home, found my husband’s debit card on the table, so I sent him a text message lest he need money and worry about its absence.  He wrote back, “Whoops!  Forgot to put it back.  AND I just noticed my zipper’s down.  Goodness me…”  

Crazy times here in Texas, crazy times.  

Which means I must have amazing potential with my writing today, or else the universe would not be conspiring against me.  I’ve trudged through the sludge and honey, yet still feel excited about immersing myself into the little world of my novel and getting real with my characters again today.  

May your day be mud-free and your eyebrows un-honeyed.

PS: I finished this post about half an hour ago.  I feel the need to add that I just stepped on a wicked painful carpet tack, which for some reason, is jutting up right outside the bathroom door.  It feels worse than it looked, only a few droplets of blood sprang to the surface.  Sheesh.

Sylar

26 Aug

Sylar¹ and I have a lot in common, it occurred to me yesterday.  Except I’m not a super-hero (nor a super-villain, for that matter) and I don’t slice people’s foreheads open and I don’t have caterpillars for eyebrows².

Poor Heroesthey’ve had about a zillion plots, loose ends dangle like frayed wires, they drop characters and whole stories without looking back.  For some reason (let’s just call it a Lost-shaped hole in our lives), my husband and I spent several summer evenings watching every Heroes episode they’ve made thus far.  We walked away confused, yet mildly intrigued, by the entire thing.

Sylar was one of the more intriguing characters, at least back in season one.  Back then, he was this power-hungry murderer with no remorse.  These days, he’s a lot less interesting.  The writers are basically toying with motivations like “I’m a product of the circumstances around me, I’m a victim, therefore I slice people’s heads open,” while in the meantime giving him lines fit for a doofus.  

So, a couple of days ago, I was toodling along the highway at a 30mph pace³ and for some reason, thought of Sylar.  Though I am not a fan of his reasoning – victim or not, it is not okay to eat people’s brains – a small thought formed in my head.  Perhaps I, too, am a victim of my circumstances!  Perhaps my lack of patience with stupid drivers is merely the result of many, many, many experiences with people who should never, ever steer a vehicle.  

For example:  on the day this thought popped in for a visit, I’m on my way to a friend’s house (a little late, which made things worse).  I’m toodling not by choice, but because there is a thousand-year-old lady “driving” the ancient car in front of me, with her blinker flashing left.  She swerves left, then back again, then she veers toward the line…but it seems she has no intention of turning.  I’m so close behind her, I can see her reach to the lever beside her steering wheel.  The blinker flashes right momentarily, then switches back to left – at which point the windshield wipers also begin flailing about.  By the way, it was a hundred degrees with no clouds in the wide, blue sky.  Eventually, I made a break for it and passed her, as did a long line of other victims.  The wipers wiped and the blinker blinked the entire time I was behind her.

I could type four different examples from the past 48 hours of things like this†!  I’ll spare you, but seriously – I’m losing patience for a reason, people!  If anyone knows of a place where all the drivers are kind and competent, please let me know and I’ll be on the next flight.

 

¹Villain-extraordinaire from Heroes, played by Zachary Quinto, in case you aren’t familiar.  

²(Anymore) 

³Speed limit? Sixty.

†Man wearing the eyepatch, I’m referring to you.  People make mistakes – the guy in front of you hardly seemed to care that you ran into his back bumper.  What worries me is that you didn’t even notice you’d hit him!

Button Eyes and Lemonade

24 Aug

Guess what?

After much discussion and thought and prayer, I decided to take the opportunity I told you guys about last week.  Now that it’s officially part of my life, it’s only fair to fill you in.

I’m going on my tenth year in this place.  The first eight years, I was heavily involved in the college ministry at my church.  Over those eight years, I was in Bible studies, I led Bible studies, I did an internship, I did a nine-month long program for women who want to learn more about their Bibles.  All of this stuff was great, until I tried to do too much at once.

Because of my good intentions to serve in the ministry, I overcommitted and got a bit burned out.  I learned that even if you’re good at stuff, you can’t commit to a thousand things and give 100% to everything.  Sometimes saying no is the most helpful thing you can do.

The past two years I spent laying low and learning a lot of things: things about being married, about being a good friend, about living a balanced life where I think about others, but don’t neglect myself.  Finally, I figured out what it is I have a passion for (writing fiction) and am pursuing it.  These things are great, and I’ve recovered from my final two years of overcommitted crazy tiredness.  Those were years I gave of myself – to the church, to employers, to people-people-people – until there wasn’t much left to give.  Those were years I tried to be Little Miss Perfect when really, I’m just this worn-out rag doll with mismatched buttons for eyes.

Last week, I got a phone call: Would you consider being a mentor for the leaders of the freshmen Bible studies?

Deep breath.  First, I’m surprised they’re even asking.  My failures intimidate me, but I guess they’ve considered that and are asking anyway.  I think about the opportunity and know I now have a lot to offer these girls – I’ve been there, for many years, with the good, the bad, and the ugly.  But, I know myself, and I know how it turned out last time I helped.

People change, have you ever realized that?  I changed.  I have more of a spine than I had a few years ago.  I don’t tiptoe around people’s eggshell feelings, I don’t take blame when it’s not mine to take.  I definitely have more road rage and am more forthright with my thoughts (though I still aim for tact).  I’ve learned more about love, not only the comfortable kind but the kind that’s sometimes tough to hear or say.

The ministry I worked with is changing, too.  New ideas, new leaders, new members, which means an exciting time to come back.  It’s a blank slate.  For everybody.  For me.

I said yes.  Now I’m praying that God will change people’s lives despite me.  That I’ll be successful at the few commitments I’ve made – my marriage, my novel, and now, the girls from church.  

I’m hoping to turn my lemon years to lemonade; I’m hoping for, well, more hope.

Return from Unproductivity Land

20 Aug

Oh, blog world, it’s nice to have good news to report today.  I’m back from my brief trip to Unproductivity Land, though I think I may have retained a little bit of my inner drama queen.  

Last night, when my friend Allison asked me The Question*, I gave an answer I hadn’t given before.  

“Well,” I said, “If I have more weeks like last week?  Six weeks.  But if I have a lot more weeks like this one, it might take forever.”

Über-Productive Friday, only six days ago, must have gotten my ego up or something, because this week?  Has been LAME.  (Okay, not utterly lame – I had a great day on Tuesday.)  Before today, I only managed a meager 300ish words this week!  Yes, friends, you read that right.  Three days and only three hundred words.  Sheesh.  The worst part is that I got up early, completely ready to make magic, with good blocks of time committed to this project.  Then, life happened, as it so often does.  

Of course, I love conversations and this week has been full of them; also, I’ve been Yoga Queen this week and even tried a Pilates class.  It’s been productive, but not in terms of my writing.

Like I said at the beginning, I have good news to tell you:  my unproductive streak is over, and the skies are sunny again.  Somehow, the story just came easily today and my fingers were ablaze.  These were the most fruitful three hours of writing I’ve had yet on this draft, and it’s so energizing.  What’s more, not only did my word count climb, but I feel like the heart of my story is beating strong.  That’s a little cheesy-sounding, my apologies**.

But, yeah.  It feels good to sit down, get a clear idea of what’s going on, and put it clearly onto the page.  Now I can feel good about taking a break from it, and go play some music***.  

 

*You know, the “When do you think you’ll be finished?” question that I am now dealing with like a mature human being…

**Apparently I don’t feel apologetic enough to change it to something less cheesy.  

***We’re playing a little concert of music written by the same Allison who asked me The Question.  Here’s a link to her blog if you want to see what she’s all about.

Gray (Though I Like it Spelled Grey Better…)

19 Aug

Why is it that people are so quick to see things only in black and white, but nothing in between?  And then, why is it that people who only see gray forget that black and white must exist in order for gray to happen at all?

I know that’s not much of a blog post, really – it’s so short.  I’m sure I have more to say on the subject, but at the moment it feels best to just leave it at that.  Gray has just been on my mind lately, for reasons not completely related to today’s outfit, a light gray shirt paired with dark gray pants (though choosing that outfit may have had something to do with the fact that gray has been on my mind).

Oy vey.  I’ve gone all artsy-fartsy on you guys.  I’m such a drama queen sometimes.  I’ll be back to my non-vague self soon enough, I promise.

Electrified

18 Aug

Maybe it’s just the two lattes I’ve had today, but I feel strangely energetic for five in the afternoon.  Then again, maybe it’s all the stuff that has gone so right today.  

I only managed a few hundred words on my manuscript today, but I’m alright with that.  I’m wearing a cute sundress today, colorful and very summery – so that might be part of my good mood.  Also part of this sunny mood is my friend Emily, with whom I had an encouraging conversation this morning over my first latte.  Add to all of this an interesting opportunity that has fallen my way (totally unrelated to writing, but interesting nonetheless…I may or may not take it).  I’m feeling good.

I have a little journal with (what else?) owls on the cover.  I love it, and scrawl in it all the personal things I can’t say here, or am not ready to say here.  The things I wrote today are one of the big reasons I feel so energetic: today, I made a point to remember why I am writing a novel.  And you know what?  I have a pretty good reason to write.  I uncovered reasons I didn’t even realize existed, underlying currents that move through the blood of my characters.

Now, these thoughts went in the owl journal for a reason, and I’m not about to divulge them all.  Not yet, anyway – I kind of feel like they’re my little secrets, pockets of burning energy, similar to the buzzing you feel when you write a first draft and no one knows a single name of any of your characters.    

Suffice it to say I filled nine pages without hesitation, nine pages of black cursive words that made me fall back in love with, and identify with, my characters.  Even the most nasty ones, I want – I need – to tell their stories.

Believe me, I needed to fill those nine pages more than I realized.  I scrapped the entire last chapter I’d written because it bored me, then started to rebuild it.  After my little journaling exercise, I can almost hear my characters’ hearts beating, see their tears, and carry on a conversation.  Now, they’re jumping off the page again instead of sitting, tame, in the stiff wooden chairs I chained them to.

The most important thing I’ve taken away from this: you cannot do this just once.  You’ve got to do it a lot, as much as it takes to keep their skin soft and their screams loud.  

I felt this in tune with my characters when I started this draft, but here I am, only a couple months into it, and I needed a reminder.  Fortunately, I figured it out sooner rather than later, and am able to infuse life to my little heroes again.  

Regardless of how close you feel to your characters right now, it’s motivating to take a step outside the minutiae and remind yourself of the big picture.  If you bend in and listen, you might just uncover secrets about characters and scenes that emerged from your own brain, but have kept themselves hidden the whole time.  

You could write anything, but you’re pouring hours, days, months into this project.  Taking a step back to remember why you’re writing this book can make you feel like you are able to – and will – conquer the world, one word at a time.

Victory!

17 Aug

Happily, I report to you that I vanquished the Enemy (procrastination) on Friday, and conquered last week’s lofty goals.  I know, I know – I sounded confident in my last post, but truly, it took much effort to get it all done.  Side note, the term all done should be read kind of loosely.  I am nowhere near all done with this project; rather, I’m all done with an arbitrary milestone deemed important merely because I named it as such.

The weekend was full, and I didn’t work on anything novel-related; sadly, there was no time even for Stephen King’s memoir.  (Well…except for some vague theorizing about whether or not King’s example of bunnies with eights painted on them have anything to do with the numbered bunnies in Lost, but that’s not really reading…) 

Now?  Monday.  Deep breath, because it starts all over again today.

Another set of lofty goals, another week of diligent discipline.

Oh, I just remembered something I want to tell you guys.  La Madeleine, the Batcave of my Friday, was the perfect place to find unexpected encouragement.  A lady at the table beside me asked what I was up to; I told her I was writing my first novel.  She asked for my name.  When she left, she paused next to my table and told her daughter, “When we see her name on a book in Barnes & Noble one day, we can say we met her at La Madeleine!”  La Madeleine was also a good hideout because all the women with screaming children sat, miraculously, on the far end of the café when they saw I was busy typing on my Macbook.

Well, that was encouraging.  However: I reached my goals of last week, but I face new ones this week.  And, if I ever want that lady’s encouragement to ring true, I’ve got to forget it for now.  She’ll never see my name on a book in Barnes & Noble if I just sit around all day thinking how amazing that would be, now, will she?

Time to connect my brain to my fingers, my fingers to the keys, and make some magic.

Today, the Stars Will Align, or I Will Make Them.

14 Aug

I’ve decided: today is hereby Über-Productive Friday, and I shall work my way through it to atone for yesterday, also known as Where-Did-That-Funk-Come-From? Thursday.

After a brief encounter with a latte, I shall truck on over to La Madeleine, purchase something delicious, and plant myself there all day.  As long as they’ll let me, anyway, or until I feel the need to relocate to the Barnes & Noble down the street.  (Always buying something, of course.  It is not right to suck resources without paying at least a little back, but that’s another rant for another day…from Yours Truly, the ex-Starbucks-barista…)

I am intentionally choosing La Madeleine for this Day of Wonder Work, not only for their super-cute interior design, but because they do not offer any form of wireless internet.  It’ll just be me and my manuscript, baby.  Plus, it’s a good twenty minute drive, so I will not be tempted to clean, grocery shop, go to the gym, or other things like that that are at my fingertips here.

Most of this week has proved productive, but I had lofty dreams for the week and I really want to meet my goal.  Don’t know if I possess the ability to do a twelve-hour day, like Laura did a few days ago – I do know this is wicked inspiration for Über-Productive Friday! (Thanks, Laura!)

Now that I’ve admitted this for all of you to see, of course, I’ve locked myself into additional accountability.  Hopefully I’ll have a look of victory on my face next time I write (instead of shame, shame, I-procrastinated-all-day shame…). 

 

PS:  Let me just add, I have a love/hate relationship with the prefix über.  Most days, it annoys me.  Today, for some reason, I’m feeling like a generous queen, allowing the poor little über-pauper to exist in the realm of my kingdom.  I’m just in an umlaut sort of mood, I guess.

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