“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” – Philip Roth

Goodness, it seems it’s been almost two whole months (!) since I’ve last posted a Monday Update. During that time I have completed next to no writing and, while I have been doing my weekly training at the gym, my running days have been sporadic at best. Since all my traveling is done for the year, I’m planning on hoping back on the wagon and getting some thinks done by the end of December in the hopes of completing most, if not all of my primary goals for the year.

November is NaNoWriMo, in which writers from around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Technically this is supposed to be a new novel, something you haven’t touched before. But since I really want to complete the draft of my werewolf novel, Under the Midday Moon, I’m planning to use the challenge for that purpose with the hope that 50,000 words will be enough for me to finish the draft. If I can get this done, then next year’s big goal can be focused on editing the dang thing.

As for the running…, it is still possible to reach my goal of running three complete miles by the end of the year, I suppose. So, I will still keep working toward that goal. If I can get to where I’m running one mile, though, I’ll be happy. I’m also thinking of buying the zombie runner app, just because I think it would be fun and would add some variety to my training.

To be accomplished in the coming week:

  • Write a minimum of 5,100 words on Under the Midday Moon as part of Nano challenge
  • Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
  • Do a minimum of two runs.

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Good Reading: I’ve found two posts that could be helpful in my own goal setting this week.

Visuals for goals make an impression” talks about how adding a visual element to your accomplishments can help spur continued progress, like awarding yourself gold stars on the days you workout or pinning up your race bibs as Lisa J. Jackson did. I’m thinking a calendar for the year for posting stars would be great. I might also incorporate not only stars or smileys for exercise, but also for when I submit some of my writing for publication and/or when I receive an acceptance. I’ll have to get a variety of stickers for that purpose. Posting rejection letters, acceptance letters, and/or race bibs is also a great idea, and I may do that as well. 🙂

And on Courage 2 Create, Ollin Morales talks about “How To Add More Time To Your Day (AKA: How to Make The Most of The Time You Do Have),” something that I’ve been definitely feeling as a challenge lately.

“I have tried to see how I can literally add more time to my day. Unfortunately, I have learned that there is no way to actually add more time to your day, but I have learned that there are ways to make the most of the time you do have, and also how to make it appear as if the time is stretching out longer, rather than shrinking at a rapid pace.”

His advice is pretty darn good, and I’m going to try to practice a few of his suggestions in the hopes of getting done what I need to get done.

We’re in the fourth and final quarter for the year. How are you doing with your year long goals? Or, how are are you doing with your day-to-day goals?

Updatery – Life Keeps On Keeping On

The winners of the Rhysling Award have been announced. I am not among them, and that’s okay. I was and still am just so honored to have been included in the list of nominees.

In other writing news, the short story I have currently circulating has been rejected again, but that’s the writing life. Time to send it to a new publication.

My biggest issue in my writing world right now is that I haven’t been writing much of anything at all, which is rather depressing. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, in part due to all my traveling and I’ve been trying to just relax when I get home. (I suppose it doesn’t help that my relaxation has lately taken the form of mainlining episodes of Fringe.) At any rate, I’m going to have to hunker down toward my goals once I’m back from work trip to Italy and into my day-to-day rhythm.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that I am going to Italy? No?

Well, I’ll be traveling to Udine for work, then spending three days in Florence and a day in Venice for fun. I am STOKED.

* * *

In other, other news, my trip to Washington DC (a couple of weeks ago) was awesome. We did so much and saw so many sights. Here are photos I took of the Lincoln Monument, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

DC

Washington DC

Washington DC

The amazing thing about the trip was not just the places we visited, but the people we were with. These women I traveled with are amazing women — books geeks, fabulous mothers, nerds, intelligent business women, joyful lovers of life, and so much more. I feel blessed to know them.

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Last week was starting to shape up into another nothing-gets-done kind of week, when BAM!  I somehow got smacked with some determination and began cleaning out my shelf, adding items to my Goodwill pile, tossing others, and reorganizing the rest. I even created an itemized list to go with the receipt and then took the bags and boxes to the donation station (follow through? what?).

This new sense of order inspired me to go a step further and attack the craft, writing, and office supplies in my closet. I went through every random box in there, from empty shoe boxes to big bins to get a sense of what was where. I kept finding surprises — stuff I’d shoved into boxes because I didn’t know what to do with it or knew what to do with but didn’t have a place for. I kept asking myself over and over, why? why on earth would I have put this here. I have no easy answer.

My closet is now the most organized it has been since, well, since I’ve had it. I now have access to my painting and art supplies, which have been placed in plastic drawers and easy to reach bins, while putting the things I don’t need as often out of the way.

Goddess, that feels good.

With my exercise goals accomplished and the organization done, I feel good about last week, even if I didn’t move my writing goals forward.

Organizational-wise, I have to get some tools to get my shoes and jewelery under control, but that’s a small thing. My next big hurdle will be to try to bring order to my writing projects (various short stories, poetry, etc.), and I don’t have the foggiest how to do that.

Any suggestions on how you keep stories, novels, and all their notes and drafts in order (both in print and in the computer) would be greatly appreciated.

To be accomplished in the coming week:
– Finish second half of Chapter Six of Under the Midday Moon
– Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
– Workout at least three days with two workouts being running training (0/3)
– Do three morning yoga workouts (1/3)
– Practice my Spanish
– Finish stenciling on art project for niece’s bedroom

– Make Progress on Organization (do one or more of the following):
• Buy shower curtain hooks for organizing scarves
• Find a way to better organize shoes with double shelf or slots
• Buy a tie hangar for necklaces and create rack for earrings
• Shred papers and dispose of them
• Measure pictures and buy frames

An Assortment of Five Things

1. I picked up my sister from the airport on Tuesday. She had just got back from visiting my grandmother in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s 90 years old and my sister and I started talking about how important it is to record her life in some way. I told her that I have photo copies of her homesteading journal (which I’ve been meaning to do something with for a long time) and we both agreed that it would be great to put together a kind of memoir. Likely we wouldn’t try to publish this, though we might put it as an ebook and make some print copies for family through LuLu or something. We just need to make sure we make steady progress on this and not let it be just one of those things we talk about.

2. Speaking of writing, while I was digging through my filing cabinet looking for the copies my grandmother found me, I noticed a stack of paper about an inch thick in one of the files. I couldn’t help but take it out and read it — turned out to be movie script. I started reading some of the pages.

My thought: What is this? Did I write this? I didn’t write this. There’s no way I wrote this. *keeps reading* Oh, my god. I DID write this. I can’t believe I wrote this.

Turns out that stack of paper was the crappy martial arts script I tried to write about a guy and a girl who train and go take part in a tournament in China. It is so, so bad and I’m sure chock full of cultural inaccuracies. This will never ever see the light of day.

3. I saw Pacific Rim and loved it. It was in truth long sequences of robots smashing kaju, which was stunning in its realization, as in jaw-dropped, me-sitting-up-straight-in-my-seat in awe stunning. Beautifully wrought action sequences. It also had characters I like and story that dealt with countries and cultures working together for a common goal (that, importantly, did not revolve around good ol’ US of A saving the day). Rinko Kikuchi is wonderful and I will now be looking to watch every movie she has ever been or will be in. So, yay! I’m so glad I saw this one in theaters.

4. Also, in movies, I recently purchased Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, a fascinating art project, in which curator Mike Schneider asked artists from around the world to animate sections of George A. Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead. All of the sound for the original movie is the same, the only difference is that the visual element has been changed (which can be done because the original movie is in public domain). Every minute or so, a new animation style flashes on the screen. It’s a little confusing at first, but quickly becomes hypnotizing to watch. A very cool art collaboration (with zombies!).

5. I went to a Curvy Girls Fashion Show (Curvy Girls is the name of a store in Santa Clara). It was just so cool to see a dozen women of varying shapes and sizes, bravely sporting lingerie walk down this make shift runway, while everyone in the audience cheered them on. Good feelings. Also some really cute stuff, costumes and some day ware too, so I may have some shopping to do soon.

Five Things to Do Instead of Being Jealous of Your Favorite Author

Writers Block

Or, How I Learned to Stop Lamenting and Enjoy the Process

I managed to get myself into a funk last Friday, I was finding myself despairing over my rarely completed to-do lists and my languishing novel, which is suffering through first draft blues. As much as I keep plugging away at the book, there is a deep, ugly, grumbling that believes I’ll never finish the novel or any novel and even if I do, none of them will be worth reading.All this tied into the fact that I had picked up 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma (my review is here), which was blowing my mind with awesome in terms of both writing style and storyline. Normally, I don’t bother with being jealous of my fellow authors, but on this particularly day, I felt it and it layered onto my anxieties. I began to spiral into doom-gloom with “I’ll never write like this, never this good” and “My writing sucks” and “I’ll never inspire or move someone the way the writing of this author does for me.”

Dwelling on this kind of stuff is less than helpful and can lead to an avoidance of writing and/or feeling blocked when staring at the blank page. At least, I know this can happen for me. So here are a few things I’ve done and that others can do to let go of all the negative gobbledygook.

1. Remember that Every Voice Isn’t the Same

I can thank my mom for reminding me of this when I was despairing on Friday and it’s important. No two voices are the same. Every writer has their own stories to tell and their own way of telling it. Therefore, it’s not necessarily an issue of better or worse, but just about being different.

Just because one author writes an amazing book, doesn’t mean that your own story, words, and thoughts are not valuable in their own right. If you have a story to tell, then tell it. Your words are unique to you, and chances are someone will find them valuable.

2. Keep in Mind that Drafts are Called “Rough” for a Reason

I think Anne Lamott says it best in her essay, “Shitty First Drafts” (link to a pdf). Most drafts suck the first time around, and they many continue to suck after the second or third go throughs, but somehow a good story gets drawn out in the rewriting/editing process.

It doesn’t really how many books an author has published or sold, or how great their writing, chances are that author has been through bouts of despair and flailing over the suckage of their own writing at various stages of the process. For an excellent example, check out Libba Bray’s fantastic post on writing despair.

So, be gentle with yourself. Be forgiving of your early mistakes. Be forgiving of your later mistakes. You have to work through each mistake to learn how to write, and every word you write gets you to the next one. You can’t get to the finished story/book/poem if you don’t walk through the tangled, mangy woods of the first (and sometimes second, third, fourth, etc.) drafts.

3. Do a Writing Analysis on the Book

So you’ve found a book you love, with writing you adore, with delightful worldbuilding, compelling characters, and a smooth plotline. Instead of feeling inadequate in all its glory (as I did), use this as an opportunity to learn something.

Once you’ve finished the book take a look at what it was about it that made you love it. What is the plot structure or how it launched immediately into the fray? What it the eloquent scene descriptions? How about how the characters were portrayed?

Create a list of what worked for you and what didn’t. What techniques can you use to improve your writing? What can you try to avoid?

I don’t tend to get too heavy handed with these sorts of analyses, as I don’t want to overshadow what naturally comes out when I’m writing and it’s important not to try to force your writing to fit a mold that doesn’t work. But I’ll often keep these kinds of lessons sitting in the back of my mind while I write and will draw on them when I’m challenged on how to handle a certain aspect of the story.

4. Practice Celebrating Your Fellow Writer’s Successes

Both Justine Larbalestier and Seanan McGuire have posts about how life, art, and publishing are not a zero sum game. One writer or artists success doesn’t take success away from you.

I’ve heard some people say that books like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey should never have been published and lamenting about how many people were taken in by these horrible books. But my sister hated reading, mostly because high school taught her to, and it wasn’t until she read Twilight that she became a reader. That book series taught her that reading could be fun, and that enjoyment has led her to read a multitude of other books in a variety of genres.

What authors like Stephanie Meyer and E.L. James have done is manage to tap into their enjoyment of their readers in such a way that lots and lots of people wanted to read their books. They may not be perfect books, but I salute both authors for their success. Hats off to them, and I’ll keep writing the stories I feel compelled to write.

It’s even easier to salute the writers you love, because their success means more great books for you to read.

But more importantly, if you’re sending out joy and good wishes, then you’re not bogged down by jealousy. Personally, I find it much harder to write when I’m in a fowl mood, so keeping positive (if I can) helps me.

5. Just. Keep. Writing.

Just that. Keep writing.

There’s a momentum to the writing process. I find the more I write, the easier it is to keep writing. If I stop and let myself fall into a mood, it just makes it that much harder to come back to the blank page.

And whatever else is going on around you, whoever is on the bestsellers list or winning awards, one thing you know you can control is the work you put into your own stories and and effort you put into making them the best they can be. That’s a powerful thing.

How do you handle little writing jealousies? What do you do to keep from despairing about your writing?