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You know what’s super productive? Reading blog posts other writers (far more successful than I) wrote about productive work habits. And cleaning pee off the kitchen floor. To be fair, I have not hit my “golden time” yet, which appears to be right before I read in bed, which is right before sleeping. There are always moments throughout the day when there’s this little lull in the crazy, and I think, “Ah! Maybe I could write, now!” Bug’s in the bath, or he’s quietly reading himself books in the front room, or he’s actually finished eating something and is happily playing with trucks while I finally sit down to eat my own food. I think, “Ah, it’s a quiet moment. Bug’s happily occupied. Now is precisely when I can start upping that word count for the day!”

But I stop myself. Because I’ve learned over the last number of years that those moments are insanely fleeting, or at least, they’re fleeting once I open a word processor of any kind. It’s like the same reflex that occurs at night when the instant I shut off my lamp in my bedroom (with doors closed between, mind), Bug wakes up. I don’t know how he does it, but it must be some sleep-cycle thing–anyway. The instant I open a word processor, it becomes “work” time. I get into the flow. I figure out what I’m doing, where the story’s going, and I’m ready to plunge head-first into it, when it abruptly ends (usually in a frustrated scream or someone wanting “belly” which means sticking his thumb into my bellybutton, or just the usual “what are you doing if you’re not playing with trucks” commentary–which if you have a wee one, you know they will literally never get an answer they consider the end of the conversation.) This is life at home with kids. It’s fantastic in many, many ways, and I wouldn’t trade it (most days), but there are few feelings more frustrating, more castrating, than feeling that energized creativity seeping into you, lighting your mind from within, only to have that moment cut off without warning. For me, at least, it gets very frustrating. So I don’t usually let myself get sucked into that daydream of daytime productivity, to avoid the feelings of–

Well, that. The loss of the brain train. I’m already incredibly distractible, and perpetual questions inevitably derail me when they’ve been repeated and answered several times already. I find it frustrating even when I’m not doing creative work, so now I simply mark that as an invisible line not to cross. Same goes for any kind of drawing or painting, too, for the time being.

(And though I’ve considered the idea of getting up before Bug gets up (an oft suggested solution to writer-parents), but there are two conflicts with this: the first being that I hate mornings, and it takes me forever to wake up and be civil, let alone productive. Unless staring at the wall like a zombie is productive, in which case, MAN, I’d be crazy productive then; the second is that the only reason I’m not already up at 5:30/6am is because Bug crawls in with me, and sleeps lightly enough for an hour or (when I’m lucky) two that I cannot get up without waking him (thus, I’d have to get up around 5 or earlier to scrape out an hour’s worth of grumpy, wall-stare-y work, and it wouldn’t be precisely quiet work because that’s about when the hubby gets up for work anyway tromping back and forth, and then I’d get to deal with cranky Bug at 5:30/6 every morning, which would make us both miserable, and that would inevitably ruin the evening time I might otherwise have, because to get up at or before 5, I’d need to go to bed crazy early, and honestly, I’d rather just stay up late.<–night owl logic, though this article on sleep habits and work productivity I came across a few months ago does have some interesting routine thoughts. If I had to guess, I’m a cross between a wolf and a bear.)

But! Our probation month of “no TV at all” (due to semi-accidental TV smashings a month ago) is about to end, which means at least I’ll be able to get back to letting him stream a show or two in the AMs or PMs while I get a little work done. Or maybe I’ll just stick to the night times for now and wait to absorb the school hours when the fall comes. The trick becomes setting goals that keep me pushing forward and excited, despite odd and unpredictable hours, rather than just throwing my hands up in the air and not working at all. That’s still a balancing act I’m trying to master.

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So, it’s obviously not Sunday, but I need to take a few minutes to check in and make sure I’m actually thinking about what I’m doing this week otherwise it’ll be another week gone in a blur.

Last week, I did pretty well. I did review that one chapter bit and even did some thinking about the next steps that story will take. I *also* (more importantly) re-implimented the age-old plan of writing 500 words a day, no matter what, no matter weekends/weekdays. So far, I’ve stuck to it since last Thursday, so if I can keep it up, I’ll be rocketing towards the rough draft of a new short story by mid/end-of the week, which would be fantastic. But I do need to think about when I’m going to make the time to start (the dreaded) Draft 2, and what that’s going to entail. I know I won’t be writing anything at all this coming weekend due to a short travel stint, but next week may lend itself to some good opportunities.

What am I working on this week?
This week, I’m going to try to finish the started short story draft. If I can get it wrapped up by Wednesday or thereabouts, I’m hoping I’ll have time to start a bit of an edit on it–or at least get it off to my beta readers for a quick review prior to next week.

And if I can come up with a date to sit down and punch out Chapter 1 of Draft 2, that would be stellar, too.

What’s inspiring me this week?
I started listening to Writing Excuses again recently, and somehow through the magic rabbit holes of the internet, found these seriously cool sounding free MOOC (massive online open courses) classes available from University of Iowa’s Writing Program. They’ve got a bunch on fiction and on poetry, and since I know so very little about poetry (much less than I’d like anyway), I started listening through a class yesterday, and am pretty fascinated. I’m not sure how long or how regularly I’ll be able to work through them, but they seem like a cool place to self-educate for the time being.

Also, that article on saturation diving is A.MAZ.ING. (It’s here: The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver). Thank you so much for recommending it, @writing, writing, words words words! It’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been looking for!

I’m also getting sucked into Riverdale again, because it hits that drama button so well, and because the soundtrack is aPOPcolyptic, and I love it. Kind of rings with EmpathyTest or “Acid Rain,” by Lorn or even some of lowcityrain‘s stuff, which my husband introduced me to, and is totally unnervingly fitting to these times.

What action do I need to take?
I did better about reading this past week, so I’m hoping to continue the trend. The key so far seems to be getting to bed early enough to read before sleeping, and even a half-hour can be incredibly fruitful in moving forward on various reading objectives.

Into June, and I gotta say, I need to make some concerted effort to get some books off my reading list. I realized yesterday via Goodreads that I’m currently circulating about ten books, which is two shy of my ABSOLUTE CUT-OFF of a dozen (at that rate, I’m just avoiding reading other books rather than simply swapping books based on mood). I should have more time–in theory–this month, because at the end of last month, Bug gave our beautiful, 1.5 year old 4K TV a mega-wallop and it’s gone to TV heaven where everything is available on streaming and the internet speeds are faster than light. Goodbye, sweet LG. We’ll miss you. *sobs quietly into sleeve*

The upside of this is that my evenings aren’t (as easily) filled by the temptation to watch hours of TV. Has it stopped us from TV binging? No, of course not. We just set up my laptop. But in theory, it should be easier to resist. Or, more realistically, I need to consider that by evening, most nights, I’m simply burned the hell out and don’t feel like thinking at all. That said, I do like reading rather than TV watching in the evenings; the real challenge is that 1) I’m tired, and 2) my husband’s tired-er, so if we sit down to share some reading time, in about 8 minutes, he’s asleep with his neuro textbook flopping onto the floor. I can sometimes read right before bed for an hour or so, if I get to bed earlier, so that’s another option. (Like, by 11pm latest.) That may be the ultimate solution.

On another side, however, I have been reading for about 30-45 minutes a night with Bug, who has just graduated to The Chronicles of Narnia (wee!) and other few-picture books, so we’ve been plowing through all my old childhood favorites, and I’m having a blast with that (and it’s keeping my reading numbers up, given I’ve always meant to go back to those and revisit them as an adult to see how they work their particular magic).

But the list still grows, and I need to start focusing in on the list to cull out some easy things to finish.

 

Notes:

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit – Still dragging my heels on this one. Probably about a quarter to a third of the way through, and it’s fascinating, but it’s also so packed with information it’s a bit of a slow read, and it’s overwhelming after a while. Should make a few pages goal per day to make progress.

One Breath – Picked this one off my shelf of Thriftbook finds, and it sits squarely in the armchair-adventurer/biography kick I’ve been on this year. While some of the biographical details (chapters) about Nick Mevoli’s background drag a bit, the chunks about freediving itself are truly amazing and I’m learning a ton I didn’t know about the sport. This one I can probably finish this month, if I give it some time.

Worlds of Wonder – This is actually a very smooth read, and it’s giving me lots of thinks, so I really just need to have it on hand. But while there are a few things here and there that make me twitch a little (as any writing-advice book inevitably has), it’s got some great nuggets that have made me rethink the way I approach various forms of fiction. Can probably finish this one in June, too, if I–you know–give it the time.

Clockwork Angel – I actually made quite a bit of progress on this one in May from reading it right before bed. I’m still not in love with it–it’s okay–but I know it’ll be useful having read it in terms of the tropes I’m finding in dark fantasy YA with clockwork-elements involving the rescue of an older brother. It’s got that classic gothic vibe, but that kind of annoys me in the whole wide-eyed heroine thing. It’s fine. But I need to just press on and finish it. It’s well-written, I’m just feeling a little too aware of the puppet strings attached to the characters.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Just started this one with Bug for our bedtime reading, and are probably over half-way through. Should finish this one in no time and will probably pick up another Narnia book before the month’s out. Really enjoying going back through some of my favorite old classics, and cannot WAIT to get to back to Prydain sometime in the near future.

The Year’s Best DF&H 2014 – Haven’t really touched this one in a while. Will need to just make a concerted effort (maybe next month) to really double down on my short-fiction reading to get back into the headspace to write it.

Bored and Brilliant – This one’s a fine book, but I’m just not digging it right now. It should be easy enough to finish, but the truth is I feel like I’m already unconsciously engaging in a lot of the “spend less time on your phone” techniques, so it hasn’t offered any particularly new insights…yet. But I’m hoping it’ll pick up. Should try to finish this one this month just to get it off the list.

A Rage in Harlem – Plowing through this one–it was a tad bit slower to get started, but now it’s really cranking, and I’m loving it. Again, Himes is just a master of explosive emotion and his details–good grief! They’re brilliant! I mean, you can smell the river, even without his having described it at all, simply because of the few other details he picks to use, and they’re so clean, never overwrought, just–BAM. Instant head-image. Amazing.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony – Had some success with that two-pages-a-day plan, so will go back to that this month. It’s such a thick, chewy book, I don’t intend to rush it. I love the thinks it gives me on a day-by-day basis, so I really just want to savor it in small bites. May take a while to finish, but I’m still really enjoying it and learning a TON about Greek mythology I never knew before. Fascinating.

Damn Fine Story – I kinda forgot I’d started this one, but really, once I get started on it, I expect it to blaze through pretty quickly. Will probably finish Worlds of Wonder first, and then pick this one up as my “writing-related” book.

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Just a quick cross-post from Peter M. Ball’s website from earlier. I’ve been super bad at keeping up with these check-ins lately, and could come up with a million excuses, but the primary one is that I simply forget to do it and realize on Wednesday I’ve missed it again. So I’m going to try to keep up on it a bit more.

What am I working on this week?
The last few weeks have been totally unpredictable, with unannounced houseguests, Bug’s b-day party prep, and–oh yes–Bug busting our TV (literally hit it with a small (surprisingly padded, but still hard) hockey stick), so my usual hour of writing in the AM has gone by the wayside for the next few weeks (after that, he’ll be allowed to stream on my phone for that period, but we felt for obvious reasons that a month away from his beloved cartoons was probably appropriate to start learning that “causes-effects” thing about life). So writing time has been a bit undependable lately. That said, I’m still trying to get a little something done at least sporadically as I re-assess what time is available to commandeer. So this week, I’m going to review the beginning of Chapter 2 of a new book rough draft, and maybe add a bit to it, and then start ramping up the energy needed to tackle Chapter 1 of the novel rewrite for last year’s rough draft. Don’t know if I’ll actually get to putting down words on it, but starting to think about a day I could set aside in the evening or on a weekend to write for a big chunk of time.

What’s inspiring me this week?
It’s been all robot and toddler-entertainment round these parts, but we built a fantastic cardboard box maze that took up one whole room and part of another (which Bug lived in for a few days) and all sorts of felt-works (small robots for the kids to take home, and robot costumes with interchangeable buttons–may do a post on this in a week or so once I’ve decompressed!).

I’m also reading One Breath about free-diving records and am learning a ton I did not know about the sport. (For example, the current depth record for free diving (without tanks, single breath-hold) is 702ft (214m)! Most recreational scuba diving doesn’t tend to go deeper than 130ft (One guy did get to 1000 feet with scuba, but decompression going back up took 15 hours, apparently).) It’s fascinating to look at the extremes of human endurance (and insanity, in some cases).

What action do I need to take?
I need, need, NEED to motivate myself to read more. I’ve been reading to Bug at night (we’ve gotten through The Magician’s Nephew, 21 Balloons, and we’re almost done with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and he seems to really be enjoying it, but I need to get back into reading my own current-reading list, too, because I haven’t finished anything in a while. Without the TV, it should be easier, but somehow it’s not, so I need to make a bit more effort, or find other times than late evening to get some pages in.