Tag Archives: gym

111.43% | (The End)

31 Dec

Why didn’t anyone tell me that reaching the end of this draft would feel like winning the lottery, or meeting the entire cast of Lost, or finding out that Starbucks would like to give me free lattes for the rest of my life?

Or, that finishing a second draft (also known as a complete rewrite) would feel utterly satisfying, but in a drastically different way than finishing the first draft did?

Or, that knitting a zillion strands of gossamer spiderweb, without leaving loose ends, would be as rewarding as it was challenging?

Or, that by the end of the novel, when you’ve basically just been this diligent stenographer spying on the lives of your characters for months, watching them struggle and conquer and feel, they peek at you through that fourth wall, satisfied with you for being patient enough to see them through to the last page and tuck them in for sleep?

This is how I feel. 

Months of patient plotting and planning and crafting did not prepare me for the satisfaction I felt when I typed word number 78,000 yesterday.  That’s a full 8,000 words past my original goal (hence the title of this post, as 78K is 111.43% of that goal), and I’m more than pleased.  This way, the manuscript can gain or lose a few thousand in edits and still be a good length.  

Because this post will turn into a jumble of randomness if I don’t structure it somehow…

…here are some things I learned along the way.

1) Goals are Good.  Seriously good.  Diligent December was a raving success, as I wrote 26,290 words this month.  Though I didn’t get to write every day, I tried.  When I did get to write, I made the most of it.

2) I Can Write More Words/Day Than I Thought I Could.  I wrote 26,290 words this month, with only eleven days of actual writing.  That’s an average of 2,390/day.  Turns out 1,500 words every single day is hard for me, but 2,300 every other day works well for me.  Weird.

3) I Like Writing By Hand.  With the exception of the last chapter, I wrote everything in December by hand, and then typed it up as I went.  That means I drained at least two pens of their poison and filled two Moleskine notebooks.  (One was fuschia, and the other was lime green.)  This helped me feel more attached to my characters and their stories, possibly because I felt like I was journaling about my own life.  Also, it was easier not to dwell on how many words I’d written without a running total at the bottom of my screen, and it was easier to remain focused without the Internet at my fingertips.

4) It’s Important To Feel.  Without feeling, words are dead.  Without closing my eyes and trying to experience what the character is feeling, or think how she’s thinking, it’s hard to get into a scene.  Conversely, it’s amazing to get wrapped up in the emotion of it all.  The word visceral comes to mind.

5) Therefore, It’s Important Not To Rush.  The last day I posted (22 Dec 09), I was so incredibly tempted to FINISH, since I was only 2100 words away from my goal (even though I’d already written 3600 words that day).  I made the decision to wait, to not rush the climax.  It was a good one.  Monday rolled around, and unlike most first-days-back-from-long-vacations, it was a Monday of Awesomeness.  I wrote 3450 that day, putting my heart on the page, but it still wasn’t done.  Same story with Tuesday; several hours and 3834 words into that day, I was so ready to be done, but again, I didn’t want to rush the end.  Wednesday came around: 2810 words later, with heart and soul and time put into it, I reached the end.  I’m glad I ended up with 10,000 extra words of quality conflict and resolution, rather than 2,000 words of crammed, subpar, just-to-say-I-made-my-deadline-and-I-really-want-to-finish crap.

6) Enjoy the Process.  It’s been over a year since I started working on this novel, and I’ve still got several months of edits ahead of me.  I’ve loved every single challenging minute of the process so far, and I think that’s an imperative part of being an aspiring author.  I love learning how to do this, learning how to be diligent, learning how to use so many different parts of myself to their maximum potential.  Being a writer, you have to create, think, feel, communicate, organize, prioritize, observe; you have to be ruthless, passionate, subtle, patient, economical, and honest.  I’ve used so much more of myself than I ever have in any single paid job I’ve ever had.  Ever.

7) Alone ≠ Good.  Though writing is a solitary act, usually (for me, always), having people in your life is imperative to being healthy, happy, and productive.  I’d still smell like coffee grounds and spilled milk, and my manuscript may or may not stink just as bad, if my amazing husband hadn’t been so supportive and encouraging with my desire to write. (Thanks, Love!) Also, I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to connect with such a rich group of supportive blog friends, and that you’ve pushed me, encouraged me, and held me accountable to do what I set out to do.  Thank you, too.

8 ) Enjoy It, Then Keep Working.  One thing my workouts and my writing goals have in common is this: I get to a point where I start getting excited about what I’ve accomplished — doing yoga, running a mile, saying no to cheesecake, meeting whatever writing goal it is that I’ve set — and then, somehow, I get comfortable.  My workouts slip…and I eat cherry pie…and have whipped cream on my mochas…and then it’s back to square one.  Treadmill time.  

I’m determined to avoid this with my novel, so here’s the plan: I’m taking two weeks (until January 18, the Monday after my birthday) away from my it, and then it’s time for a read-through.  In these two weeks, I will rest and relax but also continue on with being diligent, in areas such as (much-neglected) organizing of closets and storage bins and stuff like that.  I plan to catch up on everyone’s blogs, though (I’ve gotten so behind, but I’m really really excited to see what you guys have been up to!), and finally finish reading The Time Traveler’s Wife (How, oh how, did I manage to keep that thing on the table and not get utterly lost in it this month?).

Sorry for the week I’ve been absent, by the way.  Thank you to all of you who’ve been patient and stopped by in the meantime.  Guess all those blogs I haven’t written in a week were just dying to get out, and spilled themselves into this one, very huge, post.

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone — be safe and have fun!

Iron Sharpens Iron

3 Nov

Looks like I’m going for the less-traveled road, like I told you yesterday I thought I might.  In one of the comments on yesterday’s post, Jennifer Neri wrote:

Just write, stop thinking about it.  What will come will be your novel, and I am certain it will be great whatever way it goes.

(She also mentions her recent post about writing from intuition, which is excellent, and you should check it out here.)

Jennifer’s advice is so true, and so very helpful.  I shouldn’t lock myself into must-write-this mode – I should listen to the story, listen to the characters, and not just force them to squeeze into my little idea box I’ve molded for them.  Though it’s looking like my story is headed toward the direction I initially planned, the shape of its characters and story details are coming together in a totally unexpected way.  I didn’t expect to like these characters so much, honestly.

On a different-yet-related note, my NaNo friends are kicking butt and taking names.  They’re rocking so hard on this challenge it makes me feel inspired to do so much more than I already have.  I’ve met the Day 1 and Day 2 minimum word counts, and I’ve got a few hundred more to go before I meet Day 3’s expectation.  Though I’m blowing my personal levels of recent productivity out of the water, I’m so inspired to keep going because of all the committed people around me.  Shout-outs to my NaNo buddies:  J.C. Hart (6,262), Melissa (4,614), Joy of Dawn (3,230), Katherine (5,052), Brigid (6,842), and Nicole (6,444)!   

Well, the day is hardly over – it’s only 11 AM here – but today is looking to be another busy one, even without the writing.  I’ve got cleaning, cooking, and shopping to do, since we’re having friends over for dinner – we’re hanging out for the series premier of V, a new show starring Lost‘s Elizabeth Mitchell.  I should probably get to the gym, too, if I want to keep fitting into all the cute skirts I bought last week.

Thanks for being iron to me, you guys.  I’m sharper because of all of you.

NaNoMeter:  4,457 down | 45,543 to go

Good Day, Sunshine

24 Oct

What a week, you guys.

This is the first time in a very long time that I know exactly how I spent my days for an entire week.  It was one of those make-the-most-of-every-moment weeks, one of those wow…I-feel-like-I-did-something-great weeks.

So, this morning, I did what everyone should do when they’ve worked hard: I rested hard.  Well, except my definition of rest is sleeping until 9:00am, putting on my super-cute apron, and whipping up a fluffy batch of lemon-ricotta-buttermilk pancakes for breakfast.  That’s restful, right?  As is enjoying them with my husband over a French press and the last of my cherry-pistachio biscotti.  Okay, I’d better stop, because I’m starting to get hungry again…

Official Update #5 of the Oktoberzest Project is another pleasant one to deliver:  1333 words for yesterday.  That brings my five-day total to 6,183 words added to the manuscript.  I’d say this has been a fruitful project, and it’s definitely helped that you guys have been so encouraging along the way.  A huge thank you to everyone who’s commented and left such kind words for me to find on my writing breaks!!

I know it’s Saturday, but well, I will have a chunk of time this evening to work, so I’m going to extend the Project for (at least) one more day.

On an unrelated note, I leave you to ponder the awesomeness of this little anecdote:

Riding out my you-can-do-it momentum, I tried something new last night: a cycling class at the gym.  I tried to sneak in unnoticed, but unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well.  The instructor, middle-aged Gary who sounds like the Saturday Night Live announcer, said “You must be neeeeew!” and proceeded to single me out for the rest of the class.  Oy.  The awesomeness came in mid-workout, when the newest (ridiculous) Shakira song¹ started to blast through the speakers, and Gary says, “Let me hear all you she-wolves out there hooooooooowl!”  

Some people did howl.  Some of these people were he-wolves.

That is all.  Oh yeah, and I am extremely sore today, due to the pressure I felt to stick out the entire class and actually do well, since Gary kept correcting me and telling me to “Puuuush harderrrrr!” from the front of the room.

¹”There’s a she-wolf in your closet / Open up and set her free / [insert a limp ow-oooooo here!]”…um, you can hear it here if you’ve never heard it.

Oktoberzest

19 Oct

One batch of cherry-pistachio biscotti baked, a mountain of laundry (almost) cleaned¹, every meal in October prepared at home (with two exceptions), numerous cat-fights squelched, countless coffee dates with friends, and one a-cappella-jazz-singing-group joined:  it’s been a busy month.  

Throw in the writing and revisions I’ve done on my novel, and the still-semi-frequent trips to the gym, and you’d think I’d be overwhelmed, or zonked out on the couch watching marathons of shows like MTV’s Made, or old seasons of Top Chef.

Actually, though, I’m quite energized by all of this awesomeness going on as of late.  I’ve only succumbed to one episode of Made, and no marathons of anything.  A few years ago, I went through a my-life-is-one-big-meeting season, which led to the I’m-sick-of-my-life-being-one-big-meeting phase, during which I swore off busy-overcomittedness altogether.  I’ve come out of that one, and have built up my commitment level again to something healthy.

Anyway.

So, now that we’ve established I’m not zonked or drowning, you should know that today is the day I’m moving forward.  Enough of this twiddling over mid-draft revisions: time for new action!  Yay!  I waited until it was Monday morning so I’d have a fresh start, a fresh week, fresh energy².  

Hold me to it, you guys.  

It’s easy to let the yumminess of cherry-pistachio biscotti get in the way of sitting down to write, easy to put aside my goals for coffee dates, easy to say but I need to go to the gym…But, there’s a time and a place for those things.  While important, this week, I need to FOCUS.  I need to DO, not just talk.  

This week, in order to motivate myself even more, I shall commit to the scary:  every morning, I will post an update on how well I’m doing at this goal.  To give you perspective, I have about 40,000 words left to write on this draft.  I haven’t set a specific goal for this week, it’s more like an ambiguous write, and write as much as you can that passes for quality goal.  That way, I won’t stop when I merely write a sufficient amount of words, but hopefully it will get me to push myself as hard as is reasonable.

Support and encouragement are welcome, whether they come in the form of kind words or kicks in the butt.  Like I said, hold me to it.  You guys rock.

¹Folded and put away?  Another story.

²In case you can’t tell, the energy showed up on time.  (Or, maybe that’s the latte.  One can never be too sure.  I think the energy came first, though.)

Remy Strikes Back!

15 Sep

Remy in the DrawerCat Scratch Fever:  Does that not sound like the stupidest name for an ailment in existence?  

Yeah.  That’s what I thought, too, when my doctor told me I had it.  

A few weeks ago, I noticed some knottiness near my right elbow, and it felt like a bruise.  Naturally, I freaked out and thought it was cancer.  I scheduled an appointment, shelled out $40, and next thing I knew, I was told I most likely had the weirdest-named condition on the planet¹.

Turns out, Cat Scratch Fever is also a song, but having never heard of it before that very moment, I looked at Dr. Burke² like she was crazy.  She assured me she was not crazy, and that it was indeed a real disease.

What is it, you ask?  Apparently, there’s a bacteria on kitty claws that isn’t so friendly to human lymph nodes.  If you get scratched, and the kitty has this bacteria, it infects the nearest lymph node and causes it to swell.  Hence the knot near my elbow, and later in the week, the pain in my armpit that made it impossible to sleep on my side³.

I had to go back in for some blood work and a sonogram two weeks later, just to make sure it was Cat Scratch, like she thought, and not something else.  By the way?  The sonogram people should really inform you before they start doing their thing that it is okay to interrupt them if you need to use the bathroom.  I learned this the hard way.

Dr. Burke left me a message today, while I waited for three hours at jury duty¨ – the blood tests came back, and it is definitely Cat Scratch.  

When I told my husband, he said, “Remy strikes back!”  If I had bonked his head on the doorknob before I got infected, I’d definitely think he was on to something there.  I’d want revenge on me, too.  Poor kitty.  

Oh, by the way:  my life and well-being aren’t really jeopardized by Cat Scratch Fever.  It hurt for a while, but now it’s just the knot, which should go away in time, with the help of antibiotics.  I’m amazed my doctor was familiar with this ridiculous ailment, and even more amazed that someone I picked based on her same-name-status with a character from my favorite TV show has turned out – so far – to be the best doctor I’ve ever had.

Biggest Loser starts tonight – anybody planning to follow this season?  I spent an hour sweating at the gym in preparation, so I wouldn’t feel guilty watching it.  

 

¹To my knowledge.  I’d love, love, love to hear about any medical condition with a name that could steal the award from Cat Scratch in the Who-Named-That-Disease-And-Why? category.  

²Who I chose not only for her fine reputation as a doctor, but based on her name, since it reminds me of Lost‘s amazing Dr. Juliet Burke, played by Elizabeth Mitchell (and rumored to have made it through The Incident of the Season 5 finale, and thus is rumored to be remaining on the show…).

³Though, to my amazement, it didn’t hurt to do push-ups or planks with it.  The body is a weird thing.

¨Got selected for a panel for a custody case.  Apparently the woman involved in the case was a nut who showed up two hours late every time she was called to court, and went missing for two hours while dismissed for a brief bathroom break.  The judge got fed up, pushed the trial to today (from yesterday), and then, what happens?  She was two hours late again.  When she finally showed up, they all decided for some reason that a jury was no longer needed.  I waited for three hours this morning, just to get told to leave again.  Unlike everyone else, I was a little disappointed, because I thought it would be an interesting experience.  Maybe next time.

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!

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.

Navy Shirts & Zebra Skirts

30 Jul

Confession:  In the past week, I’ve watched Coraline more times than I’ve done the 30 Day Shred.  My husband said the movie was great – I wouldn’t know, since I fell asleep a third of the way through.  I tend to do this (accidentally, of course).  Just goes to show you how great Lost is, since I never once fell asleep while watching it.

Anyway, back to my confession.  

The negative?  All those posts ago, I was gung-ho about making it through thirty straight days of pain.  Now, here I am, having to admit I abandoned the Shred after the delicious massage I got on our anniversary.  It would have just been wrong to put all those knots back in my neck after she worked so hard to dig them out!  Right?

The positive? After eight long months, the LA Fitness opened in my town.  Finally.  I repeat, finally.  I’ve been going there, instead of doing the Shred.

Everyone I know was beginning to wonder if the fabled gym would ever actually open its doors.  They promised a December opening back when I signed up last November, and, well, it’s almost August now.  For months, it loomed desolate on the corner, bricks in tact but with a jungle for a parking lot.  When I saw a sign that boasted “LA Fitness opens today at 4pm,” I texted my friend, Ha.  I’ll believe it when I see it.  

Lo and behold, the myth was true after all.  

I’ve been there every day since.  Seven minutes each way beats thirty, for sure.  Right off the bat, I noticed two distinct differences between the new gym and the old one.  

First: it’s so nice to see a variety of people working out.  At the old gym, it seemed like only the fast and the super-fit frequented it.  Not so, at this one.  Just as a church is not for the perfect, a gym is not (only) for the in-shape.  Everywhere around me, I see people learning how to lift weights or do crunches for the first time.  Not everyone has proper clothing to work out in, and it reminds me of the days when I’d walk the track in my jeans.  It’s kind of like watching The Biggest Loser in real life, and I hope we all stick around long enough to see some real transformations.

My second observation is not so heart-warming.  However, it is inspiring: it inspires me to talk some sense into one of the sales-people who works there.  Who on this planet works at a gym, and wears the company’s standard-issue navy t-shirt with a zebra print skirt and red heels?  Or, tucked in to a black skirt that goes higher than the belly-button and is paired with gold gladiator sandals?  I thought maybe it was a one-time offense, but no.  It is an everyday thing, apparently.

So, I abandoned my shredding goal.  Truthfully, I don’t feel that bad about it.  The shorter drive leaves plenty of time for a solid workout and time to get a lot done on my novel.  Now, the novel?  That is a goal I will accomplish.  

I’ll keep you posted on the novel (and perhaps on other outrageous outfits worn by the sales girl).  In the meantime, don’t spoil Coraline for me.  I plan to rent it one morning or afternoon, drink a lot of coffee, sit in an uncomfortable spot, and not fall asleep.

Ouch.

8 Jul

Twenty-minute workout DVD.  Beginner level.  Two days in a row.

Thanks to you, Jillian Michaels, now I can hardly walk up – or down – the stairs.  

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I purchased Thirty Day Shred at Target.  Let me just say this: I love it.  I really do.  It’s just…a little surprising that I feel so much pain from twenty minutes, especially since I’ve been working out consistently for a while.  

If you read my last post, you know I started my second draft this week.  So far, it’s going great, and today has already been productive.  Since this project requires much time and focus, I thought it wise to come up with a home-based workout. Back in November, I signed up for the new gym in town.  They said construction would end in December, so I started going to the one twenty minutes down the road.  It’s now July, and it’s still not done.  (LAME.)  So, I always try to make the drive worth my time.  Usually, I do some combo of weights and cardio, except on yoga days.  As a result, it takes about an hour and forty minutes of my day, including the drive.

An hour and forty minutes is valuable time, as anyone who does anything is well aware.  Add in my mane of curls – clean hair means an additional half hour.  An alternate means of working out is necessary if I truly want to focus on my second draft.  I bought Jillian Michaels’ workout, even though I was hesitant to substitute twenty minutes for my usual hour of activity.

Little did I know that these twenty minutes would make me feel so sore.  I can’t believe I’m only on level one, out of three.  I’m pleased to know I won’t be getting out of shape while I focus on my writing.  So, for all you busy people out there – this workout is great.  Just be warned that you will feel it the next day.

Endorphins, Schmendorphins…

2 Jul

…or so I thought, back in the days when I considered “working out” to mean my walk around the park that happened precisely two occasions per year.

I remember watching Legally Blonde for the first time, when Elle Woods arrives at her defense logic by means of endorphins (“Happy people just don’t commit murder!”), and thinking – how can exercise make anyone happy?  All I feel before, during, and post-exercise is blah, dread, pain, and excruciating are-we-done-yet syndrome – those people are just insane if they look forward to this torture!

Well, things have changed, people.  Today, as I pondered the deep blue of the sky and practically smiled my way home from the gym, it occurred to me that I do indeed like working out.  Somehow, in the time since last year’s New Year’s resolution to work out more, I have not only kept my resolve but begun to enjoy it.  

I’ve come a long way from those ancient days before I got my Ipod (January, 2008).  Back then, music was my only motivation.  I must have been a sight to behold, balancing my annoying, skiptastic CD player in the palm of my hand as I cruised past the elderly on the civic center track (seven times around = one mile).  The concept of going to an actual gym was both foreign and intimidating.  Work out, in front of people?  No.  

Now, I go to yoga classes – with three walls of mirrors – as often as my schedule allows.  I lift weights, run, row, and do the elliptical machine.  I’m getting better at holding my planks – both regular and side variations (yay!).  

The best part?  It’s paying off, physically and mentally.  Combined with my newfound love of eating well (Good riddance forever, chipotle bleu-cheese bacon burger from Chili’s), my body feels – and looks – better than ever.  When I can’t work out for a few days, I actually miss it now.  Go figure.  Let this be encouragement for those of you who still consider endorphins to be creatures of myth – a little discipline goes a long way, and eventually, it will get better.