Tag Archives: Starbucks

Shadows, Sun, Stillness

21 Apr

Peace.  Today seems like it just might be full of it.

Unlike yesterday.

Yesterday, I learned that for some people, nothing goes better with 8:30am sun and breeze than a good, loud dose of rap music.  Bonus points if said music echoes through the entire courtyard when others are trying to concentrate.

I also learned that my idea of proper laundry room etiquette doesn’t exactly line up with everyone else’s.  Seriously, just because I got up early to use the four washing machines, it doesn’t mean I might want to dry my clothes right after that, you know?  It’s perfectly fine with me if you disregard the usual order of who-got-there-first and dump your own wet laundry in the dryer right when I’m about to use it.  Perfectly.  Fine.¹

But, whatever.  It was a sunny day, albeit a loud and laundry-filled day, and I did my best to be patient.  The music stopped, eventually, and my clothes are dry and folded.²  Even though my DVR somehow managed to not record Glee, it was still Tuesday: Lost-day.  Plus, my friend brought me a free non-fat latte and some Shiner for our midnight Lost-viewing refreshments.  (Public Service Announcement: there’s a reason Starbucks doesn’t make Grande Non-Fat Beer Lattes.)

Today, though: aaaaaahhhhhhh.

I can smell peace, and it smells like green grass and potted plants.  It sounds like breeze in the leaves, and the on-going conversation between the two little red birds who sit in those leaves.  It’s sun and shadows, and the fact that they’re shifting slowly.  It’s stillness.  This day will not escape me like yesterday did.

I’m fully aware that inner peace and circumstantial peace are two separate things.  Sometimes, though, circumstantial cacophony has its way of drowning out inner peace’s calm voice.  Today, the two peaces are having a nice little conversation.  I hope it’s a long one.

Better take advantage of this morning, so I’m off to start reading the last few chapters of Linda’s novel!  (PS: Go read Linda’s latest post, and not just because she says nice things about yours truly.  It’s full of honest perspective on rejection and the often discouraging querying process.)

I wish you all a peaceful day of sun, breeze, and birds.  (Singing birds, as opposed to creepy Alfred Hitchcock birds.  Also as opposed to the visually challenged kinds of birds who nosedive into windows, or birds who mistake big hair for their nests/toilets.)

¹I guess I should add, in her defense, that she cleaned her clothes in her own washer and they happened to need drying at the same time as mine.  Being dryer-less, what else was she to do?  Wait?  Though I understand where she’s coming from, it had a frustrating effect on me nonetheless, due to the way I had scheduled my day.  (Got up early to do laundry, only to have it take way longer than expected due to Dryer Girl.)  Add rap music to the mix, and the frustration was turned all the way up to eleven.  (This Is Spinal Tap, anyone?)

²As for dry, folded, and put away?  Not so much.

Prioritizing, Yo.

26 Feb

All my notes are typed, sorted, and printed.

All of my hard work?  Is totally paying off so far.  Earlier in the week, I mentioned how tedious last week’s work was, what with all the data entry and whatnot; now, I’m totally glad I took the time to do it.

I’m still not at the start-to-actually-change-things point in my editing, but that’s okay.  Right now, I’m sorting through all of my thoughts, scene by scene, evaluating the magnitude of work required for each.  

Time for a game.  Guess what I did?

A.  Bought a hot pink magic wand¹ and straightened my hair, which made me feel pretty, which gave me confidence, which reinforced that not only CAN I write this novel, but I WILL write it, and well.

B.  Spoke before thinking and decided the perfect way to spend Spring Break would be in Minneapolis, on a mission trip with my church.  Thought about it some more, decided it was still an awesome idea, and committed.  Decided to throw manuscript in the trash.

C.  Made another spreadsheet, on which I am assigning numerical values to each scene; each numerical value corresponds with priority level. (1 = This is a MAJOR ISSUE; 7 = this scene is weak, but can wait to be dealt with because it doesn’t affect the plot. Etc.)  Am one-third of the way through with this step in the process.

D.  All of the above! 

E.  All of the above!  (Except for the whole throwing the manuscript in the trash thing.)

If you guessed E — you have won your very own copy of LOST: Season 7 on Blu-Ray!  I’ll ship that to you right after they decide to not end the series after Season 6, after it is produced, filmed, and packaged for our at-home enjoyment.  Okay?  Okay.²

So, yeah.  That’s where things are right now.  The next step is, obviously, to finish prioritizing: hopefully I’ll finish, or almost-finish, this weekend.  That way, next week will be The Week Where I Start to Fix Stuff.

Perhaps this is an abrupt ending to a post, but well, my hands are FRIGID BLOCKS OF ICE due to this Starbucks’s identity crisis (is it a meat locker? an igloo? a coffee shop on Antarctica?).  Better go outside into the 39°F weather to thaw out.

Peace and hot chocolate and electric blankets to you all.

Revision Update, Phase Two | Sorting through notes, assigning priority to scenes based on the magnitude of work needed.  Am 1/3 of the way through the scenes, so that leaves (obviously) 2/3 to go.

¹Known otherwise, to Muggles ’round the world, as a flat-iron.  

²Disclaimer: Should they, um, decide to actually do the impossible and make a Season 7, despite concrete, set-in-stone evidence to the contrary?  Fulfillment of this absurd promise is contingent upon my improbable inheritance of riches.

Project: Diligent December

1 Dec

December’s here, and I can’t believe it, really.

Time’s flying, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.  Seriously — it feels like just a few days ago that I was embarking on my Oktoberzest project, just a few days ago when NaNoWriMo started (then promptly ended).  

Now, here we are, first day of the last month of this decade.  

I haven’t written anything on my novel since before we left for Kansas, but that is about to change.  Though I have a surprising amount of catching up to do from our time away — emails, phone calls, all those people I told, “Let’s hang out the week after Thanksgiving break – I’ll be free then!” — I’m close to the point where I can kick it with my writing goals again.

Eesh.  I’m at a Starbucks — a very crowded Starbucks — and I’ve just been encroached upon by an unavoidably unfortunate whiff of something that smells like too-fruity teenage lip gloss.  Oh — wait, what’s that?  Thank you, thank you, no seriously THANK YOU, kind sir in the cowboy hat and cowboy boots for offering to share your large table with Tooty-Fruity-Lip-Gloss-Lady.  My nose appreciates your generosity.

Now that that’s resolved: where was I?  Oh, yes.  Goals.  December Goals.  

My daily word-count goal for December is yet to be determined, but the overarching goal: finish this draft before Christmas Eve.  It’s more than possible; I’ve got somewhere in the twenty-ish-thousand range remaining.  If I really hunker down (yes, I did just say ‘hunker’…) I’ll be done sooner than Christmas Eve, even.  So, Project Diligent December is now on!  Doesn’t flow as well as Oktoberzest, but whatever.  

Any of y’all have goals you hope to accomplish during December?  If you need/want/require/will-just-die-without accountability — especially with busy holidays fast approaching, or perhaps you have post-NaNo burnout but still need to get stuff done — feel free to post your own Diligent December goals in the comment section.  Encouragement and accountability shall be yours in return!

In closing, I’m proud to mention (something that has nothing to do with anything) I can now actually call myself an honorary Norwegian.  I married into a family of lefse-making experts, and have struggled to get my lefse¹ to work out ever since our first year of marriage.  Today, though, I made a perfect batch.  It’s thin, fluffy, light, and best of all, the dough didn’t stick to one single thing.  

December is already working in my favor.

¹Lefse, in case you don’t know, is a traditional Norwegian food.  Basically, you make a dough out of mashed potatoes, roll it out, and cook it like a tortilla.  My husband’s family makes it on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it’s traditional to drink a lot of beer while doing so.  We butter it and pour ghastly amounts of sugar on it, roll it up, and enjoy.  In the past, my mashed potatoes always turned out too wet, and the dough would stick to the pastry cloth and the rolling pin.  Not pretty.  (Oh: the picture at the top is of lefse-making utensils.  I think they’re cute.)

Monster

28 Oct

Oh, man.

Um…why didn’t you guys warn me not to get absolutely, totally excited about my NaNoWriMo idea?  Oh yeah, and that once I got excited about it, I’d just have to commit, once and for all, because I have zero idea whatsoever how this new story is going to end?

I simply must find out.

In order to find out, I’ve got to start the thing.  And, in order to start this particular project come November 1st, there’s a bit of research involved.  

Ahem, did I say a bit of research?  I think I meant three tons of research.  Never fear, though.  I know (kind of) enough to write the thing right now (I think), to get a story on the page bare-boned.  It’s just that the research will make all the difference between a good story and an excellent one; it will make me a she-nailed-her-facts kind of author instead of a poser-extraordinaire.  And nobody wants to be a poser-extraordinaire.

So, yeah.  The rest of October, I’m going to get as much written on my WIP as possible, along with justenough research as necessary to get going for November.  After November, I’ll return to my WIP, let the NaNo piece simmer in a drawer, and come back to it later.  That’s the plan, anyway.

I am definitely a project-driven kind of girl.  How on earth did it take me so many years to realize that?  So many years spent in day-in/day-out futile jobs, jobs where you could see no progress over time.  Countless checks cashed, countless pitchers of milk steamed, countless chicken sandwiches hurled¹ at customers through the drive-through window.  Countless days waking up earlier than the sun, countless curse words uttered (loudly, in harsh tones) at me when I was the Angel of Bad-Banking-Account News², countless days of wanting — needing — to do something more.

Give me a monster pile of research any day.  I love projects, where results are visible, problems malleable, and an end in sight, no matter how far away it may be.

¹Poetic license?
²Your account probably didn’t get $1,000 in the negative by you being 100% on top of your budget, now did it?  And you really think I’m going to let you take all of your ex-husband’s funds from his account, which you are not on?  For more awesome opinions on working my lovely job at the bank, check out this old post I almost forgot about! (Warning: Sarcasm ahead if you click the link…)

Hide and Seek

21 Oct

Now that’s more like it!  

Oktoberzest Monday got off to a somewhat rocky start, but Tuesday was much better.  In the time I was able to spend focusing on the novel (about an hour and a half, given some unrelated responsibilities), I wrote 620 new words.  This is still not quite up to my (sometimes unusually high) expectations, but I’m much happier with Tuesday than Monday.

Makeshift Desk

Here’s why:

While I spent more time on Monday planted at the makeshift desk I’ve constructed in the living room (using two tray tables, positioned beside my potted-plant-covered porch¹), my time on Tuesday was much more fruitful.  I got into the scene, felt it, smelled it, tasted it, and then?  I finished it.  It was the end of a particularly difficult scene, with some emotional/motivational layers going on.  Writing it took some fine concentration, and I feel good about what I wrote.

Discipline is proving to be addictive, by the way.  Sometimes, I find myself feeling like I have to combine such a serious attitude with the discipline, though.  What I tried yesterday was to remember that I’m doing this because I LOVE it.  That I love to write, that it’s fun to create, that it never ceases to amaze me what pokes its way through from the other side of the page to claim its spot in the story.  In short?  Fun.  It is fun, it’s supposed to be fun, and you can be disciplined while having fun!  Talk about an epiphany.  I always knew it, but I let my serious side pin fun to the floor for a little while.

The leaves are shaking, and it’s gray and rainy outside my makeshift Starbucks window.  I’m going to give Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” a play on my I-tunes before I get started writing, because it’s that kind of day – inspiring, with mystery and beauty hiding in plain sight. 

Have fun today, you guys.  Thanks so much to those of you who are supporting me this week (and always, really).  Your comments are making more of a difference than you may know! 

¹Yes, I am trying to convince myself that this random section of my apartment can feel like a Starbucks café.  It’s working, so far.  Oh yeah, and anyone wondering why I’m not at the beautiful desk in the bedroom has obviously not met our new kitten who lives in there right now.  We call him Dexter the Crazy Flying Squirrel, if that gives you any idea what it’s like to be around him.  He also has a penchant for making beautiful music with the blinds.  Not quite the soundtrack that fosters any emotion other than frustration, I must say.

Spiderlegs

11 Oct

I don’t know too much about spiders.  I know I’m afraid of them, I know they spin webs, and I know they have eight legs.  Sometimes I wish I had eight legs.    

At the ghastly hour of 7am¹, I woke up this morning, mind reeling about my novel.  The past few days, I’ve been working on switching the order of events in the second quarter of my novel.  

It’s mind-boggling, people, mind-boggling, I tell you.  Worth it, yes.  Easy, no.  

The good thing is, I’m finding my cause-and-effect skills are turning out a more cohesive product than I thought.  So cohesive, in fact, that it’s been difficult to re-order the events I wrote due to everything building upon itself so seamlessly.  Changing the order of one scene means changing six more things around it, changing those six things affects a few others.

It’s difficult, but not impossible.  This is where the eight legs would come in handy.  I feel like I’m knitting a cable-knit sweater with gossamer spiderweb thread.  With only two hands, it’s hard to keep track of all the knits and purls and switching of stitches, all while devoting care to the delicate thread so it doesn’t tear.  It’s worth the time and effort, of course, because no one has a spiderweb-thread cable-knit sweater.

So, for the past week, I’ve planted myself at the table and surrounded myself with my manuscript, lattes, and homemade double-chocolate biscotti.  When I get stuck, I get more coffee, listen to a song or two from Glee², then plant myself at the table again and keep on crunching my brain.  When I leave, my head spins, and I’m exhilarated from all the new ideas I’ve had, and implemented, that strengthen the manuscript.  I enjoy my evening, then go back at it the next day.

I love writing.  It’s hard work, but I love it.  Heck, the challenge is part of the reason I love it.  

And, I’m glad to be able to connect with all of you writers out there as I do it.  I’ve learned a lot from you guys, too, from reading your blogs and having discussions in the comments.  If I could, I’d send you all some homemade double-chocolate biscotti and a latte.  Thanks for all your support.

  ♦

¹Okay, not so very ghastly after all.  I’ve seen much worse, like 4:30AM when I worked at Starbucks and 3:00AM when we were trying to catch our flight to Guatemala.  But for a Sunday morning, after I went to bed late?  A wee bit ghastly.

²My favorite of the moment is their cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.”  Love.  It.  When I say “a song or two,” it sometimes just means this one song repeated twice.  Just so you know.  You can watch the cast perform it live here.

The Dreaded Middle of the Story…

3 Oct

For the life of me, I cannot understand why groups of people watch videos on their laptops at Starbucks, with the sound at full volume for the entire café to hear.  And, on a Saturday night, no less.  

Fortunately, I finished reading through my novel before this heinous crime commenced.  As you know, when I say novel, at this point I’m referring to the 40,000 words I’ve written on this particular draft.  Now I’m just trying to think clearly enough to write a coherent post, which is difficult given the blaring video noise combined with “Everybody Hurts” wailing in the speaker overhead.

I told you all the other day I was encouraged by what I’d read up to that point, and it’s still true.  However, my suspicions were right on the nose – the last 5,000 words or so are an unrefined mess.  Buried in the mess, thank goodness, is great potential.  

Poor little protagonist, I sent him undefended into the dreaded middle of the story, wandering aimlessly.  Here’s the thing.  There are crises, oh yes, and fiascos that move the plot along pretty well.  The problem?  They all happen in the same day.  It’s an overwhelming amount of crises to squeeze into one twenty-four hour chunk of time.  I wrote it, and I can’t even keep track of all the horrible things that plagued my little guy from breakfast to dinner.  

So, yeah.  That’s obviously an issue.  The good thing is that, spread out, they’ll make quite a good way to build the story.  Over time.  With room to breathe, and sufficient time for emotion to grow, in both the character and the reader.  After reading through, I have a clear picture of what needs to be cut, what needs to be added, and what needs to be switched to earlier/later in the story.  Fixing this portion will fill in the cracks with some necessary connecting events, instead of just tacking on unnecessary filler.  My characters should then be positioned to proceed to the next set of Big Events, and then to the Even Bigger Final Events.  No filler, no tangents, only the stuff that matters.

I like knowing that I know what’s wrong and how to fix it.

Breakthrough!

25 Sep

Confession: at an underwhelming 143 new words written on my novel this week, it’s safe to say this has been the worst week to date on my novel’s progress.  

Now.  I could hurl my computer to the cats and let them have their way with it, but that’s not really the best solution, I’ve decided.  I could scrub the baseboards with a toothbrush, but distraction doesn’t help much in the way of progress, either.  

I wrote the other day about the need for a peaceful place to write.  After reading the comments, it was increasingly clear to me from all of your experiences that words ache to get out if they’re in there, and ideas refuse to be silenced.  If words aren’t fighting to get onto the page, a change of location doesn’t work too well anyway – like Jennifer Neri said in her comment, “It’s got nothing to do with my setting but with head space.  If [the writing]‘s not coming, it won’t come anywhere unless I figure out why.”

That resonated with me – I keep trying to find someplace clean, uncluttered, without distraction.  What I realized, though, is that it has less to do with physical clutter and more to do with the mental clutter. 

I sat down at the library¹ this morning, determined to make much-needed headway.  I opened an outline² I created back in June, just to evaluate my progress and see where I should go next, since it has been a week since I wrote something solid on the novel.

Then, a breakthrough:  I’m overwhelmed.

I feel like I know my characters, that I’m doing them justice in my draft.  Looking back over that outline, though, what I hope to write and what I’m writing aren’t exactly the same thing.  

I know that in a novel, what the reader sees is just the tip of the iceberg of the character’s entire personhood.  I’m trying to bring their entire story above the surface through layered action or dialogue, conveying much meaning, so that no matter how much face time my characters are given, they have a story.

What I have right now is decent.  Not incredible, but decent.  I’m trying to weave a lot of threads but while I focus on one, others are left dangling.  There’s a fine balance between a rich story and a story in which you are bombarded with way too much.  Obviously, I’d rather have a rich story, but it takes a lot of work to weave so many threads in a way that comes off as seamless instead of frayed.  

My story is frayed right now, and I need to tighten it all up.  Then, I remembered: hey, wait.  No one says I have to complete the draft before I go back and evaluate what I have.  Why not give it a read-through and see what needs tightening, or if I’ve introduced a piece of neon orange string in an otherwise earth-toned tapestry?  After all, isn’t that the very definition of editing?  

Ahhhh.  I have a LOT of work to do.  It’s tempting, like I said, to hurl my computer to the cats and let them go at it like they do my feet.  But…no.  As much time as this will take to evaluate what’s good so far and what’s not, I’m itching to get started.  Then I’ll continue to write the draft.  From day one, I’ve said I’d rather write an amazing novel than a quick novel; I’m not one for mediocrity.

Though I have a lot to think about now, I don’t feel mentally cluttered anymore.  That problem eluded me for days.  Now that I know what it is, I think I could work on this thing with both cats in the room.  Fighting.  Any time of day.  With a mess all around me, hungry, and without my morning latte.  

Okay, I lied.  I’d need my latte.

¹And, side note?  Why have I lived in this town for a decade and never discovered the city library?  I’ve been to the libraries at the universities, but never the public one downtown.  It’s quiet and there are a lot of great tables and outlets.  As far as peaceful places go, this may be my new go-to spot of the moment.

²The document is a major-conflict-by-major-conflict outline that details what my main characters feel at those big points in the story, and how that motivates them to act next.  It’s super helpful for creating cohesion, and I got the idea from Karen Wiesner’s From First Draft to Finished Novel.

Peace, Please

23 Sep

DeskThe peaceful desk you see here is where I normally sit down to write.  

There are times, though, when I cannot focus for the life of me while at this desk, or anywhere at home.  I get wrapped up in life’s infinite to-do list, distracted by dishes, dirty clothes, and other necessary tasks that beckon my attention.  It certainly does not help that over the weekend, we adopted a second kitty.  His name is Dexter, and he’s the most adorable three-month-old bundle of fluff who chases my feet, swats my curls, and runs around the room with a worn workout sock dangling from his mouth.  Cute, yes.  Also?  A fun distraction!

When I get in these can’t-focus-funks, I head to Starbucks or La Madeleine.  The problem with this, though, is familiarity.  Not only am I on a first-name basis with every Starbucks employee, but they’re my friends, as well.  Plus, it’s hard to focus when five chatty businesspeople take the seat right beside you – seriously, two feet away – even though it’s plain you’re trying to concentrate.

One day last week, I ended up writing 1,500 words from the passenger seat of my car, for lack of other private (or quiet) options. Rain splattered my windows the entire time, the sky was gray, and I parked in a place overlooking a green field lined with tall, green trees.  It turned out to be an amazing place to write, something I’d never tried before.  I’d go there now, except my battery is about to die.  

I don’t know what my problem is.  Some days, I can write until my wrists hurt in any location, no matter how loud, no matter how many chores are begging me to spend time with them.  Other days, I feel like I have to have just the right environment or else my productivity (in terms of writing, anyway) is doomed for the day.  Sometimes this depends on where I am in my novel.  Sometimes I just feel like life is cluttered; the clutter closes in on me as I sit in the midst of it, whether it’s noise clutter or chore clutter or too-many-thoughts-about-other-things clutter.  

When this happens, I either push through it, go elsewhere, work on a different project,  read, or succumb to the clutter.  If this happens, I try again later in the day, sometimes with better results, sometimes still under a fog of funk.  Today is finally getting back on track, after writing this blog.  Victory!  Hopefully that will translate to my ability to make necessary headway in my novel this afternoon.  

How much does location affect your ability to write?  How do you beat the clutter, the to-do lists, short of forsaking your writing time to eliminate them?  If you have no place else to go, do you have any tricks for setting your mind to work, and then getting it done?

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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