Kitchen Timer

I’ve just finished reading Lauren Graham’s aptly-titled Talking As Fast As I Can, which was an utter delight and contained something I did not expect: writing advice.

I had somewhat vaguely been made aware of the existence of Someday, Someday Maybe and thought it to be a memoir, and for some reason never pushed myself to pick it up. For context, it came out during a time when I was mostly reading eBooks, and not especially going to great lengths to get new ones; and even though Gilmore Girls has always been a part of my life, it wasn’t receiving the renewed attention that the revival provided. Still, I knew Lauren Graham had written a memoir or autobiography, but weren’t those always ghostwritten anyhow?

My point being, I went to Talking As Fast As I Can to get to know the person behind Lorelai Gilmore a bit better, and I found more than I expected.

Her best bit of advice comes in the chapter entitled Kitchen Timer. I took it as I take all writing advice: this worked for me, it may work for you, but it is hardly the only way to go about putting words on a page. This way, I give myself permission to tweak things a bit, to try and fail and revise before I find a way to successfully make this into some sort of rhythm. So here goes.

I’ve dedicated the next hour to writing. (I actually forgot to set the timer until just before the previous paragraph, oops.) Before I sat down, I cleared my desk of the most useless and distracting things: now there’s nothing but a burning candle, a beverage, my cell phone (turned face-down and on Do Not Disturb), and my personal journal. I am trying to ignore the dust and the urge to reach for the Swiffer hanging on the corkboard: cleaning is such a great accomplice to procrastination. How can I write when my apartment is absolutely filthy?

No, for this next hour, I am writing. Or I am staring at the blinking cursor. I am certainly not getting up to vacuum, I am not fact-checking (though I did check to see if I was blogging when Someday, Someday Maybe came out), and I am not going out for food. If I get stuck here, I can switch to my journal, or I can open Scrivener to work on a novel.

The journal bit struck me as incredibly brilliant. I have often felt guilty about updating my personal journal when my creative writing was lying ignored, but never forgotten. As if text on a screen would stare at me broodily while I scribbled my feelings in a notebook. It’s absurd. My journal is my emotional homework, it is an indispensable tool when I can’t figure out how I’m feeling, why I’m feeling that way, what would make me feel better. The creative stuff is work, and as important as work is, my mental health takes priority.

On more sensible days, I’ve been able to think, “Even if I didn’t write creatively today, I wrote something. I did a good thing.” However, it never occurred to me that I could set my journal beside my keyboard and have both forms of writing be part of a session. It makes sense, I enjoy writing, I feel things while I’m doing it, I have feelings about what I’ve written, as I’m writing it. My personal journal houses many of my feelings. Come to think of it, this could well be an entry in that journal. Maybe I’ll end up keeping it to myself, but I don’t have to decide that just yet.

I know from prior experience that I am happiest when I am actively working to create something, and that spurs me to want to document that experience, and record the emotions I feel as I go through it. It reminds me of something I discussed in therapy, about how getting going with one thing can lead to me doing other things, because completing these tasks makes me happy and makes me want to do more things to continue feeling that way. By overcoming the initial friction of starting one small task, I’ve gotten to a state where my momentum can carry me through other tasks.

I’m about fifteen minutes into my first hour, and I haven’t decided if checking the clock is against the rules. I am over 700 words into this post/entry, and that’s more than I’ve done in a long while. That feels great.

I have a good feeling about this kitchen timer thing, and I expect to post more about it as I go through. More of my deviations this time around: I have read, opening the book to check on what the rules are. I am listening to music with lyrics. I have not disable the Wi-Fi on my computer, though I have managed to ignore my phone. I haven’t used the Internet for any communication, though I think I will post this, finally. And then I’ll go radio silent until my hour is up.

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Big Goals, Little Goals

Rather than actually writing, I thought I’d come here and write about writing!

A curious thing happens to me on days off where I stare at the computer and refresh various social media sites in some sort of attempt to amuse myself. Hours go by. The sun sets and I feel that I have utterly wasted another day at home.

Today, at least, I’ve had Dabble open. I corrected a typo. I did not write anything new, however.

I have previously discussed with my therapist my difficulty with motivation. Logically, I understand that Motivation, much like Inspiration, is a fickle friend and it’s best to learn how to begin things without either of them. My therapist suggested I set myself a small task, and one of two things would happen: having completed the task, I would feel a sense of accomplishment. Then perhaps, the fact of having gotten started might give me the momentum to continue on past my initial goal.

If that doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. At least I would have accomplished the lesser goal I set for myself.

NaNoWriMo sets out a rather intimidating objective: 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s easier done when broken down: 1,667 words per day. Write every day. Write even if you’ve fallen behind, or skipped a day, or aren’t where you feel you should be.

Side note: “should” is a terrible word, and anytime I use it I feel my rebellious spirit telling me that “should” is made-up and I can do whatever I want.

So here are a few hundred words about my struggle to create momentum, and now that my fingers have limbered up, it would be a shame not to continue typing away. Even if I don’t break 1,000 words, at least I will have written today. Even if I don’t win NaNoWriMo, I will have a pile of words that I didn’t have in October. That’s something to celebrate.

NaNo Eve

I’ll admit, I haven’t really done any outlining since my last post. I’ve made up for it today with two new parts, and getting some new software set up for tomorrow.

I read this post about Dabble, and thought I would give it a shot. Simplistic UI, auto-saving to cloud, ability to create plot points and shift them around? Sounds fun. Since I’ve only finished one roughdraft to date, I have no idea what works for me, so trying something new is never a bad idea.

So here I sit with just under ten hours remaining and four of five parts outlined in Dabble. I will get that last part out before I head into work for a bit of overtime, and then I will prepare for a midnight sprint to begin this National Novel Writing Month. I don’t have a specific goal for tonight: just write, write, write. Then, in all likelihood, come back here to write about how I wrote and what a mad rush it was.

Till then!

Outlining

I took the plunge and did the first step: outlining my novel as a subdivision of five parts. The decision to label them explicitly within the novel will come later. For now, they are a way of organizing my work into distinct acts. Of course, anything can change as I go on.

Now I’ve given myself the task of fleshing out each part with “chapter” outlines. I’m identifying key scenes and the events surrounding them, and will probably only go this far in the outline process. The rest will be narrative linking them, and I will get into the whole of determining how much goes between each major point as I go along.

I have to keep reminding myself that the most important word is ROUGH: this is a first draft and I don’t need to get hung up on refining things. I need a framework, a skeleton. I will sculpt the muscles and the flesh at a later time. I need raw material to work with.

For the moment, I’ve got two out of five parts “fully” outlined. Not bad for just past halfway into the month. I’m doing my best to give myself incentives: do some work in a cafe, or bring home a bar of chocolate I won’t open until I reach my daily goal. (Dark chocolate, sea salt, believe me it was WORTH it.)

I feel happy with my progress so far, and each consistent bit of work I can put behind me makes me more confident that I can keep going and accomplish what I set out to do. I’ve also decided to outline in a notebook I can carry around, and type up the result in Scrivener when I’ve completed it. I should take to keeping it in my bag; I was on the way home from an appointment earlier and wished I’d had the chance to stop at a café and work there. At least I got it done at home.

Let’s give this another shot

Oh, look. The second update in twelve months! Shocking.

So, what’s new? I’ve got a job that actually gives me decent benefits, including insurance, so I’ve been seeing a therapist on a regular basis for a while now. She’s helped me iron out some of the wrinkles in my romantic life, and we’ve recently turned our attention to other goals. We’ve discussed writing in a few sessions, and my propensity for making excuses to keep my ass out of my chair.

One of the excuses is that my apartment is not what I want it to be. There is no separation, so the same space where I play games and watch Netflix is the space I’m meant to use to write. Naturally, there are worse obstacles, and I can overcome this one with a bit of discipline.

My therapist and I discussed momentum, and how that begins with a single, simple action. She suggested I set a goal for myself that is easily achievable, and then the fact of having completed a small task will likely lead me to go further and do more. For instance, rather than say I will plant myself in my seat and write another novel, I will set myself a goal to outline the first three chapters. Easy.

That’s what I’m doing here. I’m setting myself a goal to outline a few chapters of a novel. The grand scheme is that I finish an outline before the end of October and throw myself into NaNoWriMo 2017, but I’m not focusing on the bigger picture here. I’m looking to get some momentum going by taking that first, tiny step. The rest should follow.

 

I know nothing

One of the biggest issues I have with writing here is that I acutely feel that I know nothing, so what value could my words here possibly have? I have limited experience, I have no advice to offer, and who am I to try? These anxieties often stop me from coming here and putting down something new.

Then again, what will I ever know? In five or ten years, despite the experience those years will bring, I’ll probably still think that I don’t know enough to get up here and proselytize. What I know needs to be enough for me, so here comes a disclaimer:

Anything that I write is colored by the lens of my experiences and emotions, and is not to be taken as absolute fact. If you agree, great. If you don’t, it would be nice to have a discussion about it. If you learn something, I am honored.

Ultimately, this blog has to be here for me, as a place to document my painstakingly slow journey as a writer. This will be my last post excusing myself for not being good enough. I am a work in progress, like so many projects I haven’t yet finished, and perhaps one day I’ll be a bit more complete. I will never reach a place of absolute comfort in my knowledge, and I need to be okay with that.

I’m okay with the fact that I can’t know everything, and I won’t let that stop me from trying to learn as much as I can.

I draw inspiration from Alanis Morissette’s “Incomplete” and Amanda Palmer’s “In My Mind.” Fuck yes. I am exactly the person that I want to be. Forever incomplete.

Queer soccer in Montreal

August got away from me. Lulz.

(To what extent is it appropriate to blog the same way that I text? Maybe something to write about later; short answer, my blog, my rules!)

14212084_664695600353706_7502318046475601004_n(I’m the dork at the top right.)

In lieu of writing, I have been very actively engaged in Soccer LGBT+ Montréal. I couldn’t tell you the last time I played soccer before this, probably some P.E. class where I was the last one picked and the other kids made fun of me for sucking so hard. This has been a wholly different experience, full of encouragement and support. I am gradually getting better, and getting to know the members of my team better, and they are a great bunch of people. I’m having a blast.

A lot of what I’ve been doing this summer has been an effort to fully enjoy the last summer of my 20’s. Joining a sports team, jogging so that I can better participate in matches, these things make me feel wonderful and are getting me into better shape. True, they take time away from writing, but I simply need to redouble my efforts on that front. Also, gathering new experiences provides fodder for the imagination.

It’s early yet, but I’m gearing up for a big push in November: National Novel Writing Month 2016. I don’t want to say too much about that yet, however. Stay tuned!

August goals

Talkin’ ain’t doin’

Here it comes: actual, concrete goals to hold myself to. I’ll have to start with arbitrary numbers as I get back into the swing of things, and adjust as I go along. Naturally, I’ll try to push myself harder.

In terms of writing, I’d like to have a new novel outlined before August is up. That gives me three weeks, so I’ll set myself a goal of ten chapters outlined per week.

Revision is a little harder. I’m due for another reread of Yggdrasil to see what needs editing, cutting, and where new material needs to be fitted in. I can manage a reread in one week, then a second look over another week to target problem areas.

Of course, I’ll want to make hokey index cards to put on my corkboards to illustrate my progress with these goals. It helps to have them there, staring at me at all times.

I’ll be back next week with updates on my progress!

 

Shame

I’ve had many ups and downs as a writer, often wrestling with my identity and feeling ashamed for not writing enough. I feel confident and capable as long as I have momentum on a project, but quite often this falls away and doubt begins to creep in.

A big problem here is when I meet new people. The inevitable question is asked, “What do you do?” I talk about my desk job, and I’m quick to explain that my true passion is writing. Usually, people are interested to know what I’ve written. The longer it’s been since I’ve actively worked on anything, the more shame I feel at this query, and the more I question myself as a writer.

This gives way to a loop where doubt stymies my attempts at writing, which feeds doubt, and so on. Presently, I’m at a point where I no longer even mention to new people that I write. I’m not writing, so how can I call myself a writer?

The thought is toxic, and incorrect. I will be a writer no matter what happens, it is something that is part of me. However, I feel happiest and most like myself when I’m actually producing writing, or refining what I’ve already written. This is my main reason for coming back to this blog: it’s a tool that helps me plan and focus and hold myself accountable.

What a year it’s been

It’s been more than a year since I’ve done any sort of semi-regular posting. I have had difficulty keeping hold of the focus that allowed me to write Yggdrasil and create this blog. I’ve finally come to admit the truth to myself:

I have a problem with boys.

I am desperately afraid of being alone, to the point that I put all of my energy into the search for the next guy. Once I find someone interesting and interested enough, I pour my energy into making that work. My social life slumps, my apartment becomes a cluttered mess, but everything’s okay because I’m positively smitten.

I’ve been single for a few weeks now. It’s pretty scary, actually. There’s this wild mix of emotions and doubts, the very thing I’ve so successfully run from in the past. I’m teaching myself to embrace this chaos and find my voice in the midst of it all. I’m off of meet-up (let’s be honest, hookup) apps, because I know my standard pattern:

“Oh, he’s cute.” We chat a bit. “Ooh, he’s interesting!” We chat some more, perhaps meet up. “Omg, there are stars in my eyes!” And so begins another doomed relationship.

There’s a book I’ve read a couple times called the Velvet Rage by Alan Downs. Both times, I took the same thing from it: I need to do what makes me happy, what makes me feel fulfilled. Writing is that thing for me. Though I’ve made plans, I haven’t come back to writing in any meaningful way.

That changes now. I am vowing to come back here, week after week, and reestablish the rhythm I once had. I have a book to finish, I have ideas for other books, I have a need and a desire to express myself creatively. That’s Goal #1: update this blog weekly, more goals to follow.

As for the boys, I’m telling myself I can’t date until I write another novel. It’s high time I put my personal projects and ambitions ahead of the search for love.