Tag Archives: coffee

Lemons and Things

25 Jun

So, uh, hey.

This is the part where I awkwardly tell you about my inadvertent, week-long blogging absence.  That’s what I get for breaking up my every-other-day-or-so routine last week.

Note to self: oops.

Rather than spelling out things you already know¹, I’ll just skip to the juicy parts.  Let’s pretend my life is a lemon (a before-I-made-lemonade-from-it version of lemon).

The juicy part?  My absence was inadvertent² for a reason: June has been more productive, in terms of novel revision, than both April and May combined.  This is rewarding and awesome (not to mention difficult and tiring).  I crawl into my cave³ and re-emerge hours later, only to realize time has, indeed, continued to pass.  And not at a snail’s pace, either.  Unless said snail is propelled with rocket-boosters.

The sugar in the lemonade, while not technically part of the lemon itself, would be the oh-so-fun distractions I’ve had in the past week!  Namely, I got to play the guitar and sing at church for all three services on Sunday.  This involved, like, an all-day commitment, plus a rehearsal.  It was a lot of fun, and it went well, but my poor hands are not used to that much guitar-playing.  I ended up with fingers full of blazing sore calluses-in-the-making.  (Needless to say, typing was a blast for the next few days.)

And now, for the seeds.

Obviously, the seeds represent the more annoying part of the week.  I’ll lump the pith in there, too, since bitter white nastiness isn’t anyone’s idea of tasty.  Right?  (I hope no one thinks pith and seeds are the epitome of yum.  That would just be sad.  And confusing.)

Moving on.  So, my week had its share of seeds and pith.  Like seeds in a lemon-raspberry tart which, otherwise, is the picture of perfection, some emotionally draining stuff keeps popping up where it’s least expected.  Responsibilities and commitments to think through, advice and support to give, random frustrations to deal with.  Nothing terribly terrible on its own, just a lot of it all at once.  Plus, I’m getting a cold.  In June.  Weird.

Rather than carry this lemony analogy full-circle (“My attitude has been…so…ZESTY!”) — mainly because I now have a wicked craving for lemon-raspberry tart — I’ll end it there.

In case you’re wondering where my Creativity Workshop end-o’-the-week-assessment is, it was eaten by snails.  Don’t worry, though, you didn’t miss much.  I took an inadvertent break from that, too, so there wasn’t much to report.

Also, in case you’re wondering why I didn’t post a new music video this week, in the tradition of the last two weeks (see here and here) — see my aforementioned blazing fingertips.  I may have also had some bad hair days in there, and did not want to frighten anyone.  (Give me some blue dye, I become Thing One and Thing Two.)  I’ll do a new video next week, provided my fingertips and hair do not go on strike.

Aaaaand, last but not least?  I get to hang out with THE Melissa Williams again tomorrow.  Hello H-Town, hello humidity.

Hello, awesome weekend.

Hope things are going as well as a seedless lemon-raspberry tart for all of you!

PS: Here’s the recipe for the lemon-raspberry tart — just in case you’re now craving it as much as I am!

¹Things like: time, these days, has a way of making a girl feel like she’s been sucked into a time warp and spit out six months in the future.  Or the past.  Or somewhere else entirely.

²It would appear that the opposite of inadvertent is not the word advertent.  This is inconvenient and somewhat illogical.  Just a thought.

³Also known as my living room, with no lights on.  Or, my favorite Starbucks.  Or, my new favorite library.  Who knew writing caves came complete with lattes and strange patrons?

Patience + Discipline = REALLY HARD.

13 May

So, as I’ve been writing this week, the same struggle has been popping up over and over and over again: it’s REALLY HARD to balance discipline with patience.

Seriously.

I can be Czar of Productivity, or I can be Girl Who Puts Thought Into What She Does.  It’s not easy to be both.

On one hand, we have the Czar¹of Productivity version of me.  Give me a calendar, and I will whip up the most ambitious color-coded schedule, complete with alarm alerts that sound like submarines.  I’ll even follow it, and be excited about following it.

On the other hand, we have Girl Who Puts Thought Into What She Does.  Though this girl loves discipline in theory, she also loves freedom.  Freedom to write what she feels like writing, when she feels like writing it.  Freedom to write for another hour past that stupid submarine alert (which then begins to remind her of the Jin and Sun Tragedy).

What I’m learning this week is that the Czar has the tendency to be a bit more dominant.  This leads to a feeling of go, go, go, Go, GO! in me, an unsettled get-everything-done-NOW! feeling.  This feeling lies to me, telling me that I must produce, and produce a lot.  That words are the fruit of each hour, and the less I have, the worse I’ve done.

That.  Is.  Not.  True.

Just because I’m devoting more hours to writing, and devoting more hours to different projects, it does not mean the writing itself will automatically go faster.  That, at the end of the day, just because I’m in ‘productive mode,’ I’ll end up with pages upon pages to show for it.

To remedy this, here’s what I’m doing.

First, I’ve realized that hour-long blocks of time make me feel too rushed.  The time flies too quickly, and I try to cram too many hour-long blocks of different tasks into the same morning/afternoon.  This produces that unsettled bubbly feeling in me, and it makes me write fast instead of write well.  Therefore, I’m doing things in 1.5- to 2-hour blocks, instead, and I’m putting them in different times of the day instead of back-to-back.  Making, and sticking to, a schedule does not mean that schedule has to be tight, tight, tight.  Kind of like a financial budget, it needs to allow for real life tendencies, not just the ideal.

Second, I’m learning patience.  Patience to allow myself the freedom to think, and to think deeply, about the words I put on the page.  Patience to sit in the chair and think, or write, hopefully both, during the whole time I’ve scheduled for the project at hand.  I’m reminding myself to slow down, to insert myself into whatever scene I’m writing, and not worry about quantity as long as what I’ve written feels like quality.

These fixes are already working well.  I finished revising a particularly stubborn scene this morning, one who’s been quite the diva.  That felt good.

Ironically, I’m on a time crunch right now — I’m about to go pick up my sister-in-law at the airport.  A few more things before I go, though: in case you’re wondering why I put a picture of my potted plants, it’s not just because they’re pretty.  I thought they were a good representation of discipline and patience, and planned to write more about that.  (Basically, just that you have to have discipline to water them, but you can’t force them to grow.  Helpful writing analogy, in my opinion.)

Also, to all you sweet new friends I’ve met through Merrilee’s workshop, I’ve given you a horrible impression of my ability to respond to comments in a reasonable time!  This week has been abnormally crazy, and I’m dying to write back to all of your comments.  Thank you for leaving them, and I plan to get better at responding in the future.

You people rock.  It’s off to the airport, and out of this freezing place they call a coffee shop.  I’m guessing they keep it below zero to encourage patrons to purchase more steaming mugs of awesomeness?  (It works on me.)

¹Czaress?

Phase One = Complete!

12 Feb

Thanks to our amazing snow day yesterday, I didn’t get any work done at all.  Didn’t even try, to be honest — I’m well aware of what makes for a futile attempt, and this falls squarely in that category.

So!  This morning, with 51 pages left, I went back to work.  Determined to finish Phase One of Project: Edit today, I made myself a latte (which was dang good), planted myself on my couch with a lap-desk (which I had to re-claim from Mr. Cat, who was curled up on its cushioned side) and my multitude of colored pens (which I’ve managed not to lose).

I’m pleased to report that I made it through, without rushing or skimping on the observational notes, and am finished with Phase One!  On Monday, I’ll dig into Phase Two (which will happen right after I come up with a concrete plan for Phase Two)(and, of course, after I share that plan in a new post).  In the meantime?  Fun, and rest.

Yep: fun and rest.  I have a Project Runway episode to catch up on, I still haven’t finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife, my parents are coming to visit tomorrow, and Valentine’s Day is on Sunday.  Oh yeah, and I need to spend some time looking at the snow since everything is still white.

Happy Valentine’s Day Eve Eve!

Revision Update, Phase One | 336 down, 0 to go | 100% complete!

Tea Stains and Deadlines

27 Jan

So: if you are reading this post, it means that the people who live in the apartment directly above my head have not, in fact, managed to fall through my roof/their floor.  For the past, oh, I don’t know — hour, perhaps? — there have been knocking noises of varying intensity and speed, intermittently sprinkled with heavy thuds and galumph-galumph-galumphs that make me fear for my ceiling, myself, and my cats.

Obviously, this is just the best environment ever for reading and editing a novel!  I’m about two galumphs away from relocating to a much happier place (i.e. Starbucks).  Speaking of that happier place, I haven’t had coffee in over a week, since before my unfortunate date with feeling horrible.  I know, right?  Weird for me, the Latte Queen.  Side note: I’ve replaced lattes, temporarily, with tea.  I used to think my coffee mugs were just special, magical sorts of coffee mugs, impervious to those annoying little brown rings that appear and don’t like to come off.  Now that I’m tea-ing instead of coffee-ing, I’m discovering that this is most certainly not the case.  My sweet ceramic vessels are merely ordinary, vulnerable, non-super-powered mugs, susceptible to vile, stubborn stains.

(Seriously, what are those people doing above me?)

Project: Edit is coming along well enough, though not as speedily as I had hoped.  When I set my deadline for Phase One, I allotted two weeks, thinking, “Wow — This is a big challenge!  I love big challenges.  I can do this, but I’ll have to work really stinkin’ hard.”  Unfortunately, I am (like the coffee mugs) susceptible to falling short of my own expectations, especially when random sickness strikes.  If I had to give myself an arbitrary number that reflects my productivity level this week, I’d say I’ve been at a 6.2 on the scale of 1 to 10.  Friday will be here soon, and I’m only (almost) a third of the way through the draft.  

Therefore, I’m officially going to tweak the deadline by a week.  If I can up my productivity level to at least an 8 (more like a 9.4)(what does that even mean?), I can most likely finish Phase One by Friday, the 5th of February.

Wow.  Just as I’m about to leave for Starbucks, the banging overhead has finally stopped.  Our ceiling is still in tact, and Mr. Cat is curled up on an electric blanket, safe and sound (and snoring).

Happy writing to you all!

Revision Update, Phase One | 104 pages down, 231 to go | 30.9% finished!

Project: Edit

18 Jan

The day has (finally) come: time to start reading through my second draft.  I couldn’t be more excited!  Now, I’m not going to refer to today as “Day One,” because my husband hates it — says it’s overused and inaccurate, sort of like the way people toss literally and ironic around haphazardly.  For example, before the final showdown on any given reality show (such as, of course, my favorite: Survivor) the final few start to reminisce about how they’ve been in it to win it since Day One, or in an alliance with so-and-so since Day One, or suffering through typhoons and enduring the eager parasites since Day One.  Very few of them actually mean Day One itself.

So!  Even though today is actually Day One of edits, I shall refrain from (officially) labeling it as such.  

Um.  Anyway.

Latte?  Check.  A fresh set of red pens ready to bleed on my pages?  Check.  Easy access to this and this (by Natalie Whipple and Holly Lisle) ready to go?  Check.  Cute new outfit from J. Crew that makes me feel like the writer/editor that I am?  Check!  A plan?  Check.

Perhaps now is a good time to mention that this plan of which I speak is going to get tested out for the first time starting this morning; therefore, it may get tweaked/trashed/overhauled along the way in favor of something better.  

What won’t change?  The end goal: to make this project an exciting, well-written novel; to inspire and entertain those who read it; to write characters who reach through the page to connect with the reader on an emotional level.  To not only write a novel, but to write an excellent novel.

It’s been so hard to take a break for this long, but I’m a) glad I did, and b) glad to get back to work.  Today’s task: start to read the thing, from front to back, checking to make sure my scenes are scenes and that the story is as interesting, fun, cohesive, and suspenseful as I hope it is.  (Preparing myself to read with objective eyes, in 3…2…1…)

I know at least a few of you are working on your own edits — how is that going?  What has worked well for you along the way?  This is also a question for those of you who, even though you might not be editing right this minute, have done it before.  I’d love to hear what worked well from those of you already on the other side of edits.  (Side note: as I write this, I remember Jennifer Neri wrote a post about this type of thing recently, too — you can find it here!)

I’d love to stay and chat, but well, there’s a two-inch stack of pages just itching to be sliced up with my pens.  

PS: In the sidebar, I added a new(ish) page called “Challenges!”  This is a place where I’ve started an organized, easy-to-access list of my writing process, and the various challenges I’ve set for myself/others along the way (Oktoberzest and Diligent December, for example).  I’ll be keeping it current as I progress through Project: Edit.

Can She Do It?

22 Dec

Probably not, if she keeps playing with adorable pictures of Mr. Cat wearing Christmas bows.  However, that’s not the plan for the day.  The plan for the day?  To finish.

Hopefully.

Due to various bouts of sickishness, three weekends full of plans (two vacations and one wedding gig), and the realistic expectation that going to visit my parents for Christmas will be — as usual — like taking a brief trip to another planet on which all we do is eat, play games, and have Lost marathons, it all comes down to today.

And today, my friends, is daunting.  

The good news is that my average word count, on the days I’ve gotten to write, is about 1,500, with the past four days averaging around the 2,000 mark.  Then, there’s the…let’s call it other news, shall we? (Not bad.  Just other.)  That news?  In order to meet my Diligent December goal, I still need to write 5,121 words.  Today¹.  

It’s still early, though, and I wrote about 600 before the sun poked its shiny little face above the cloudy horizon, so I’m encouraged!  I also have a pretty good idea of what I want to write, it’s just the whole getting it on paper in the right way that may be challenging.  Also challenging?  The sheer number of words.  

It can be done, though, and I hope it will be done.

Thanks for all your encouragement, you guys!  It’s super valuable to me as I go through this process, and my writing is better because of you all.  I’ll try to be back with a status post later today or tomorrow with the results of my mini-marathon² today!

Okay.  Time for another coffee.

Diligent December Update: 64,879 down | 5,121 to go | 92.68% finished!


¹Technically, I need to write them by Christmas Eve, but hey, even the most diligent among us would have a hard time resisting the pull of Planet Let’s-Watch-Lost-And-Eat-And-Play-Games-And-Oh-Yeah-Christmas-Too.  So realistically?  Today.

²By the way: I am a member of the slow-and-steady-daily-goals camp, as opposed to the write-as-much-as-you-can-every-now-and-then camp.  However, I am also a citizen of Meet-Your-Goals Land and despite my best efforts, I need to take a brief voyage to the other side of the lake (via canoe), sit by the fire of write-as-much-as-you-can, and then do a little tribal celebration dance³ when I reach the end via their foreign methods.

³Oy vey.  Better go while I’m still ahead.

News flash!  This just in!  Extra bonus update so I don’t leave you all in suspense until the next time I get to post…since I’m not sure when that will be: I didn’t finish today, but I’m okay with that for several reasons, which I shall now list for you!  

One: I cut my “need to write” words from 5,706 to 2,093, which means I wrote 3,613 today – I’m pleased with that, for sure.  

Two:  those 3K+ words were quality, and I’m excited about them.  

Three: I stopped right after major drama and right before even bigger drama.  Didn’t want to rush through my ending just for the sake of finishing a goal.  Quality trumps speed, in this case.

Four: Um, two words: present wrapping.  I did a lot of it tonight, plus packing, plus kitty control.

Five: Though I have just over 2K to my goal, I think the book will run longer.  Therefore, I’m putting writing on hold for the holiday, will resume on Monday, and plan to finish by New Year’s Eve.

In case I don’t get to say it before then, Merry Christmas, everyone!  Thanks for your sweet comments and support, and I’m sorry I haven’t been able to respond well yet.  They encouraged me greatly today, so thank you!

Nothing Like Relaxation

19 Dec

Just wanted to drop a quick note to all of you to say I’m surviving, thriving, and taking a break from all Diligence this weekend.  My sweet husband booked us a weekend in a fun hotel to celebrate no-more-grad-school-(for a month)-and-happy-almost-Christmasness.  So…that’s what we’re doing!  

With less than 8,000 words to my goal, and the gravity with which the end of my novel keeps sucking me in, taking a break for the weekend seems to be an alright decision.  Never fear, though – Monday and Tuesday, I plan to dig deep, sit long, and write until my hand falls off.  Then I’ll put it back on, drink another latte, and keep going.  

I miss you all, which is why I wanted to drop you a quick line.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to squeeze in one or two more posts before we leave for Christmas.

Take care, all, and I’ll see you again soon!

Diligent December Update: 62,214 down | 7,886 to go | 88.73% finished!

PS: To clarify, it’s my sweet husband who is in grad school.  Just in case you thought I’d left out a sort of major detail of my life.

15 Dec 09 | Diligent December Update

15 Dec

Between receiving LOST: Season Five from the blessed UPS lady’s hands and the fact that I wrote almost 3,000 words today (2,915 to be exact), this Tuesday has rocked pretty hard.  

After a stellar Friday, the weekend was, in a word, bleak.  Okay, I exaggerate.  The weekend itself was pretty good; only the word count was bleak.  Three days of zero words in a row?  Not pretty.  At all.  Unless you’re particularly fond of zeroes, and also fond of no progress made whatsoever.

But!  This morning, I woke up with determination, I woke up with zeal, I woke up with…well, you get the picture.  I woke up.  In haste, I tied my unruly curls behind my head, threw on some clothes, purchased my latte (With a gift card!  Bonus!), and returned home to settle in for some serious work.

I accomplished way more than expected in the most unusual of settings: I sat in semi-darkness on my couch, beside our so-not-yet-decorated-it-isn’t-even-funny Christmas tree¹, with a lap desk, a pen, and an almost-full lime green Moleskine notebook.  To answer the question you didn’t ask, why, yes!  I am still writing by hand, still loving it.

Speaking of writing by hand, here’s something fun…I ran across these last time we went for a visit at my parents’ house.  Twenty years of writing, and it all began with this.  Take a look at the ridiculous stuff my six-year-old, second-grade self created (complete with some unique illustrations)(click to enlarge):

“The scariest monster I ever saw was Frankenstein.  He had fourteen eyes!  He had a pumpkin head.  It was black, purple, green, pink, and orange!  He had a screw in his neck.  His clothes were black.  And he had slime hair!  And he lived in a mummy case!  He flew a nasty old kite.  He had twenty feet!  And forty arms!  The End…(His Kite)” – October 25, 1989

- and -

“‘A Halloween Ghost’ – There was a ghost that lived in a haunted house.  His name was Kooky!  He kooked alott [sic].  And he scared peppole [sic] too.  He wasn’t terrible.  He was silly.  The End.” – October 18, 1989

Diligent December Update: 59,744 down | 10,256 to go | 85.35% done!

¹Perhaps I should make the Christmas tree its own post altogether.  Long story short, we are trying to train certain feline cohabitants that the tree is not, in fact, their new cat food, nor is it a bed.

Footsies, I Tell You!

7 Nov

It’s Saturday!  And, what does any normal person do on a Saturday morning?  Probably not get up at 6:17 in the morning to work on a novel.  I haven’t even had coffee yet, can you believe it?  Believe me, I’ll be crafting a fine espresso beverage as soon as I hit publish on this post.

After hours of focus and diligent typing, I’ve managed to almost catch up to where I need to be.  Yesterday, when I posted last, I was at 7,385 words.  I’m pleased to say I’ve written 3,686 words since then.  Whee!

As fellow writers (and fellow humans), I think you will appreciate this little random story I’m about to tell.  My sister teaches 6th grade creative writing – how fun, right?  Um, apparently not.  This is her first year to teach the subject, after two dreadful years of teaching 7th grade math.  In the small town where she teaches, they require her to test the kids using those Scantron formats — multiple choice tests where kids have to fill in the bubbles to show their answers.  

I was pretty much appalled that for CREATIVE WRITING she had to give multiple choice tests.  What?!  Whatever happened to, say, writing creatively and getting a grade based on your work?  What’s even more appalling are some of the answers to the questions the kids had to answer.  The test was kind of dumbed down, because it was an assessment for my sister to see where she should start teaching them.  Even so: wow.  Listen to this.  

You tell me — when asked what part of speech the word “person” is, how is it freaking possible that more than half the class answered ‘verb?’  And, when asked what the plural of “foot” is, and given the choices A) foots, B) feet, C) feets, or D) footsies, what moron parents and/or teachers taught these children that “footsies” is the right answer?  Fifty-three percent said “footsies,” I tell you!  I’m astonished and perplexed and all those other words that sound so much better when coming out of Tim Gunn’s mouth.

Poor sister.  Poor kids!  She certainly has her work cut out for her.  I’m encouraging her to write Jen Lancaster-style books about all her crazy experiences.  She could probably turn out six different memoirs about her life, and they’d all be captivating and hilarious.  I’m serious.  The first one, which she’s already started, will be called I Make the Peppy Girls Cry, about being a tough (stuck-there-against-her-will) cheerleading sponsor for some catty-bratty junior high girls.  

On that note, in the midst of stressing about word counts or the right way to pace a novel, let’s just be thankful we know what verbs are and that those things with toes (or is it “toesies?”) at the end of them are called feet.  

NaNoMeter: 11,071 down | 38,929 to go

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…)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers