That’ll do, Pig

Today I was supposed to work on paid posts, and instead, I decided to edit the book and then I took a nap and recorded two podcasts I had scripted last week. My batteries are drained right now, and though I had tried to edit a little bit more, the words are all just mushing together. So, I’m going to spend the last bit of my energy to post here.

I cut through the last chapters of the first 1/3 of my book. I gutted a lot of stuff. I decided one plot point really wasn’t that important. I might come back to it in subsequent drafts, but really I was just sick of that character and needed to end it. I was getting bogged down in the details. The character needed to make their departure and it was done for the sake of pacing. By cutting out that one detail, I was able to compress three different scenes and really bring out another scene that was more important.

Onward and upward with the next section! I can already tell that the writing here is more solid. The story is coherent, focused. I can work on things like technique and threading storylines together. Flashbacks. Parallels. Themes. Developing characters and their story arcs. The first part was mostly just to set the stage, make a connection, and like beginnings, it was a little rough. I’ll smooth that out in future drafts.

When I was recording my podcasts, I had to turn off my floor heater because of background noise. I just realized now why my legs are cold. It’s kinda neat when I figured out that I hadn’t even noticed being cold. I was putting things together, doing good work, and just in the zone. It would be awesome to make a living doing this kind of thing. In just under two weeks, I have eight episodes and 58 downloads and climbing. Here’s the link for Spotify Here’s the link for ApplePodcasts. That’s all I’ve got left in me for links tonight.

The other day, I watched the Jonah Hill documentary, Stutz, where he interviews his therapist. He had a lot of good things to say which helped this whole process of being a creative. Particularly what we attach ourselves to as far as self-worth and work go. He said there are three things we all have to experience as human beings. Pain, Uncertainty, and knowing that there will always be more work to do. Sometimes people, like me, have a hard time even getting out of bed. We see the constant work as unsurmountable. Pointless if it keeps coming and there is no reward to it. Stutz seemed to take a stoic approach that the work is its own reward sometimes. He had a theory he called the string of pearls, which has helped lately. The idea of it is that you look at everything you need to do during the day as a pearl on a strand. No pearl is more important than the next. Your goal is to just take each moment of your day and add it to the string. Starting with getting out of bed. And in each pearl is the crap you have to deal with. So each pearl is good and bad, encapsulated.

I think today I strung enough pearls together. In a few minutes I’m going to go to bed, hopefully exhausted enough to just fall asleep. Penny has already come in twice to tell me to come to bed. She’s been laying out in front of the furnace, and her fur is nice and toasty warm. Her nose is cold and wet, and she keeps using it to nudge me. Dad! It’s time for bed!

I think I did enough today. I didn’t put the pearls of paid assignment writing on the string today, but I did something that gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. The book is moving forward. The story is being told. I understand now that the story doesn’t have to be told as everything happened. I can work the story like clay and it can become something else with the same lessons learned. The same growth.

That’s all I’ve got in me for tonight.

Work that isn’t work

The last few days, I have had to take a step back from writing. Last night, I took an allergy pill to help with the effects of the wildfires that have been smoking out the Front Range, and in combination with the masks we wear, had been wreaking havoc on my sinuses. The allergy pill dropped me this time and I slept a full ten hours or more.

The night before, I tried to catch up on sleep, heading to bed early(about 11pm), but woke up two hours later with an article idea I needed to pitch to a magazine. I wrote up the pitch and sent it. And then I wrote about 750 words of the article before going back to bed. At 3:30am.

The night before that had been nerve-wracking, with thoughts of upcoming court, a continuation of the Family Law battle that has been raging for the last six years, which I for one was sick of six years ago. I tend to think courthouses are a gathering place of people who have taken some wrong turns in their lives. I’m not a fan of courtrooms and the dregs of society that gravitate towards them. I would rather sit on a barstood in a dive bar for an hour than a courtroom for ten minutes.

But sometimes you have to shift gears and focus your attention on these things, instead of the work that isn’t work of writing.

I really mean that when I think of writing, and sometimes I feel guilty about it. I can sit for hours and peck away at my keyboard, telling stories, writing the lives of characters, and dragging the images out of the aether as they wish to be told. Not a moment of it feels like work, and sometimes I feel like I can’t consider it worthwhile unless I am miserable doing it. I love writing. The last couple days I haven’t been able to write, I have gotten bluesy. Talking with a friend the othe day, I realized that was my problem. I hadn’t written. So, tonight I finally got a chance to sit down and hammer out the second half of a chapter.

The writing is going well. My word count wasn’t that great tonight, but the chapter was completed and I got some good stuff down. Tomorrow is another day.

It is hard as a creative, who was raised in a blue collar family who measure their productivity in the grey hairs on their heads, the lint in their pockets, and the aches and pains in their joints that bear witness to an honest days work. When I tell my stories, relate my experiences–obliquely, and not so subtlely either–I feel accomplished. Moreso than I ever felt pushing papers from one side of my desk to the other at a university for nearly twenty years. It’s hard to justify what you do as a creative, when you were raised to think that kind of work wasn’t honest.

But as anyone who ever tried to create a story out of nothing, or even a story out of something, will tell you. It isn’t easy. If what writing has done to my sleep schedule these days, not to mention my fingers from typing, my wrists, my joints, and my neck, it does beat the hell out of you.

It isn’t turning a wrench or digging a hole, but it is important. At least, for the first time in my life, I feel like the work I am doing is important.

Saturday Evening Post

Get it? Because it’s Saturday evening?

Last night I was pretty frustrated with myself. Two days and almost no writing. I’ve gotten to the point where I start to get a little squirrely if I don’t write every day. But this is my son’s last week of Summer Vacation, and not a very great summer vacation at that. Last summer, we went to hot springs and swimming and visited grandparents and so many other things to fill his mind with new experiences and broaden his horizons. This year, as all of us know, we blew through Spring and are finding ourselves at the end of summer vacation without having done much other than sit at home and gain weight.

So for the last several weeks, we have been using our time together to ride bikes, go places, spend time together, and not play video games as much as he would like. Much to his frustration and disappointment. $45 at a farm supply store got us inner tubes a few weeks ago, and since then, we have been hitting several places along the river, tubing! It gets us out into the sun, it gives us a chance to exercise, and we don’t have so spend much money, other than gas and snacks for the trip.

This week we did a number of things, which I will write about on my travel blog. Unfortunately we have been spending so much time together and I have put my focus on getting him on a river or a bike lately that I don’t get a lot of time to write. Usually after he falls asleep. The barrier I am running into though is by then, I am tired. If I start writing at 11:00pm, then I know that my brain will continue to keep writing until about 2 or 3am. Then we have to get up, I have to feed us, and the whole process starts all over again. I don’t have the luxury of writing all night in a cool, quiet house when he is around, so I tend to play more with him and work more when it is just me.

I didn’t work much at all for the last few nights, and to my mental state, it shows. The other night my brain decided to work, but it didn’t produce anything. It just fretted over structure and which chapter would come next. I still didn’t have any answers. Then, yesterday, a really bad burn on my right hand delayed my writing for late afternoon and the evening. Just a reminder: if you are using a steel skillet as a broiler pan, just remember it will probably be very hot even a few minutes after you pull it out of the oven. Use an over mitt to pick it up. Not your bare hand.

Raw aloe does help. But it only does so much.

Last night I was up really late, just scrolling through social media, then reading a little bit. I finally fell asleep at about 3:30am and woke up at 10am. I had a series of nightmares which are pretty common to me…and BOOM, that was it! This was the next chapter I needed to write! This was the transition in the story! I picked up my phone and went into Notes and just started Writing!

Tonight, after a cat nap post-inner tubing again, I sat down to visit with a couple friends online, and once they faded out (as people usually do when you are visiting on Messenger), I decided to transcribe notes from my phone into Scrivener. As it turns out, I had six or seven files to move over from the last few days. Mostly little snippets of dialog or a theme for a scene. But the chunk that I wrote this morning was 1600 words. Boom. An hour’s worth of work using just my thumbs on a Notes app.

Today I actually feel good about the writing.

There are some days I feel like the book is demanding that it be written. These sleepless nights are usually the confrontation between an active mind and an exhausted body. In my case, the mind usually wins, but the body is useless and painful when it doesn’t get sleep at night. Sometimes the boredom of solitude gets to be a little too much. There is also the problem of money and what to do when you are looking at quickly running out of it. I have to heed to call to write and put the words down. I can’t worry about structure and plotting and all that because that kind of thinking is actually getting in the way of how the story is asking to be written.

It’s weird as hell.