Monday, October 3, 2016

MIlestones, Millstones, Rhinos and Hippos

Happy October, everyone, or "Inktober" for the artistically inclined, or "Pre Holiday Rush" for the retail oriented. The latter category includes my son, who has officailly joined the almost-full-time working world as he discovers his own path through life. That path now means staring Christmas full in the face for nearly the next three months as he's going to be surrounded by it at his day job. I have no love for the general commericialization of holidays, but hype at this time of year especially rankles me. It's pie season, in short. And who doesn't love lingering over a good pie? Recent shocking revelations notwithstanding -- i.e., canned "pumpkin" may legally be canned squash -- autumn is still my absolute favorite season, and adjustment move to longer nights and less sweltering days is a welcome one. Especially is one is prone to bake and consume pies, pumpkin, "pumpkin," or otherwise. I'm all in, pie-wise, and am not so eager to have that swapped out for peppermint-everything.

Can you tell that I'm blogging before breakfast today?

Of course, I also love October because for me and my Famously Flawed Writing Process, it's the kickoff of my NaNoWriMo prep season. This is the second NaNo I'm participating in since my personal pledge to Write Every Day, Dammit. Last year, I was still wrestling with digitizing/redrafting my 2011 attempt, and looked forward to October for a chance to stop and refocus. This year, I almost hate to put it down, even though it's still the same work-in-progress. I've found a good technology mix for the task: my AlphaSmart Neo for the original digitizing, and my tablet and bluetooth keyboard for the rewrite, plus some good habits about making backups. (Specifically I'm using a Belkin keyboard meant for mobile devices, which has its own supporting panel. I should do an entry on it.) The Neo, as Joe V. pointed out, is excellent for its distraction-free simplicity, at the cost of not being able to see much text at once. It's closer to the raw paper typescript than a finished product. Using the tablet lets me see about a page at a time, and get through more text at once, and having that context is important for pulling together coherent overall paragraphs.

So anyway, October. My Nano Rhino is ready, though it's not clear when he'll be starting. I do have a habit of over-planning things, and I may try for a more skeletal approach to the novel this fall. Perhaps I won't sketch out the daily writing as much as the overall big ideas, and save the specifics for November. I'm still due to dive into my notebooks and see what I've got going in there. And as I posted previously, having the known quantity of my daily rewrite chore is also keeping me mentally anchored in the face of personal turbulence. I want to see those characters through their own journey, I suppose, before I set them aside again and introduce more into my head-space. One can only juggle so much chaos. But the Rhino is itchy nonetheless. I think he may get a friend this year, a new addition to my menagerie of malapropisms. I'm keeping my eye open for a "Hippoplotamus" to join my writing totems: a creature that lurks beneath the surface, just showing enough that you know it's there, watching. One poke, though, and it erupts noisily and dangerously. You better be ready when the hippoplotamus decides it's had enough or when it's time for a snack. 

I wonder if they like pie?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Drafting Adrift

Just surfacing for air again, meeting my daily chore of writing, and feeling seven kinds of smug because despite having a very bad day yesterday -- or perhaps because of it -- I buckled down and reached the end of my 2011 NaNoWriMo draft: a long meandering through middle age, video games, love, life, death, religion, Las Vegas, and funnel cakes. It's kind of complex. It's also (surprise) kind of wordy, and it took me over a year and a quarter to finally get it into digital form, and another six months to get through that. That's the six months I just finished, and in that time there's been a few personal dramas and life changes. And maybe it's the old from-adversity-comes-strength maxim, but I still believe that some of this writing is the best I've done, at least on a micro scale. There's some turns of phrase in there that I like. I'm worried, though, that the entire mass is maybe less-than-readable. So that's the next draft. Get it all together in a file, and print/read/scrawl upon it, and try to get it in a steady state where I can ride out November.

November! It's closing in fast. I usually give up October to my pre-planning over-thinking super-outlining frenzy so NaNoWriMo can happen relatively smoothly -- thirty days of assignments, in essence, with the option to pop the chute and write randomness if I start feeling rangy, or heed the Master Plan if I feel at sea. I want to get this draft in before the next draft blows through and is added to the stack. I'm not worried about it, though. Right now I'm cruising along on the high of semi-completion, riding in the wake of a lot of hard work. I've made the pledge to myself to Rhino Every Day, and that has been an anchor in these turbulent weeks. There have been days when I found very little encouraging to look forward to, but knowing that the writing was waiting -- that I owe myself that time -- at least put a consistent button on the days. Life has been blowing around pretty hard this summer, so it's been good to have a tether, even if the other end is fastened to funnel cakes and video games.

I'm also finding out what sort of writer I am, by at least better-defining what sort of writer I am not. There's a pretty good chance that this November's draft is going to veer sharply away from the magical realism underpinnings of this novel. I'm not sure I have enough imagination to keep up with everything that Real Life can dish out. I'm looking forward to it, even though I don't quite know the hows-and-whens of my writing schedule this year, or even if I'll be able to Brigade it. The social acceptability of a typewriter on a commuter train seems unlikely. But the Rhino doesn't care about Real Life, just the Writing Life. Real Life can go blow on the wind, carried away on endless drafts.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

In Which Change is Experienced, Resisted, and Begrudgingly Embraced


This has been an interesting month, as in the old proverbial curse "may you live in interesting times."

Our family dynamic is shifting around, as my firstborn is now attending college, a reality that seems unreal, as it can't have been long since I graduated college and (mumble mumble counts on fingers) ah, yes. Well, it's a change, anyway. And I have explained this to my children endlessly in true Expository Dad Fashion, that as a parent, it is very difficult for me to separate the reality of the child/teenager/adult standing before me with the memories of this same person as a smaller child/toddler/newborn. It's as if all that time is compressed on top of their being, and I am unable to stop the temporal disconnect when I look at them (to wit: "where has the time gone," "I remember your first day of school like it was yesterday," etc.) This mental timehop is the reason that I call the children by the wrong name. That excuse is less believable when I call them by the dog's name.

And so that's changing. Letting go of the oldest one as he does his best to push away and define himself, while I unhelpfully respond by clinging all the harder. Why can't we stuff all those reality-genii back into the bottle? I demand a do-over! We're adapting to this change in our own ways (I choose denial.)

Personally, the bigger change for me is that I am right now between employers. This is a situation I haven't been in since... well, since the older one was starting school, over a decade ago. I've been feeling untethered and buffeted in these weeks, a balloon come undone into a stormy sky. There's more people depending on me, and the world has changed, and my field has changed, and old Mr. Imposter Syndrome comes a-whisperin' in my ear his little hurtful lies, like: the only thing that hasn't changed is me. Tiny stinging lies are the specialty of Mr. I.S., and they are extra sharp when you're already a little raw watching some young adult stride off to college with a small backpack while you're also seeing him skip off to kindergarten with a giant one.

Parents of school-age children, be warned: the school-Feels are deep and poignant. After their twelve-year slumber, they emerge like soppy emotional cicadas right up on your face. #UglyCry

I am not a believer of signs and portents, though numerous found pennies have crossed my path, and inspiring and courageous words are popping up right when I needed them most. Maybe I'm just more attuned now. Like our sleepy cicadas, I also feel that I've been dozing for years, and now I get to shed the skin and start over. It's a messy process, and I have to confess that more than once I've thought about retreating to the same familiar hole I've just come out of. But holes are dark and close and hard to move in. I'm out in the sun now, flexing my limbs and hardening my skin and even singing my own song. There's a new melody to it, one that I didn't realize it had before. It's louder than stinging lies.

And through all this change, I've found support in the likeliest place, though not the first place I would have turned. My son was there, though he's dealing with his own life changes, his own new job, and the scattering of his friends to all points. He was there for me, backing me up, and is seeing me off to my own new adventure.

So thanks, buddy, for everything you did, for everything you do. For the kid you were and the man you've become. And I'm sorry I keep calling you the dog's name.

Some things never change.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Because This Week

I think it might be tragedy fatigue, watching the UK reel from Brexit, and France from the tragedy in Nice, and the ramifications of chaos in Turkey, and America's increasingly violent live-streamed summer. I don't know if creating in the face of destruction is courage or denial, or an appreciation of the relative safety and calm of my own life.

I don't know. But it's been a hell of a week in a hell of a year, and we're only half through 2016. Our national elections are still months away, and the levels of toxicity and division are the highest I can ever remember. As a country, we've gone from memorializing the Civil Rights movement to reliving it. And I hug my kids, and try to breathe, and take the time every morning to be glad of the sun and the sky and even the mundane details of my neighborhood. And I'm still wrestling with a rewrite of a book, because I have few things I can do right now except to create.

In Dreams #garden #succulent #surreal #walkabout #coolneighbors #clickthing

Melody and Counterpoint #blackandwhite #abstract #shadow #fence #industrial #walkabout #lofi #clickthing

Celluloid #colorful #abstract #hypersaturation #architecture #contrast #visualecho #synesthesia #clickthing

"Ethylene" #fordfalcon #martinez #coffee #vintage #van #statescoffee #statescoffeeandmercantile #walkabout #clickthing

#dvc #statue #publicart #blackandwhite #tinted

Set Piece #dvc #blackandwhite #theatre #backstage #foundart #automobile #vintage #contrast #clickthing

Green Gate #sunrise #pleasanthill #cityhall #colorful #bluesky #perfectmorning #clickthing

Sunroom #sunrise #lensflare #suburban #red #adirondackchair #summer #cali #clickthing

Moving Day #blackandwhite #lofi #plastic #horse #wtf #movers #clickthing

Fields of Cotton #sunrise #mtdiablo #lasjuntas #summer #clouds #bamboo #clickthing

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Getting Prepped #worldtypewriterday #smithcorona #corsair #publictyping #june23 #clickthing
Preparations began the night before...

20160623 typecast pt1

20160623 typecast pt2

Typewiter Day 2016 #typewriterday #worldtypewriterday #internationaltypewriterday #june23 #publictyping #typosphere #smithcorona #corsair #analog #mtdiablo #lasjuntas #sunrise #cali #clickthing

As usual, the joy of pulling together a typecast is tempered by the cringing horror at my inability to spell. In my defense: it was early, I had not had coffee yet, and I had just hoofed it up a couple of hills to the pre-selected spot. But what a view! That's Mount Diablo, in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are far worse places to sit and be inspired on a summer morning, even without proper caffeine dosing beforehand.

As Richard rightly points out, this invented celebration has taken on a life of its own. I never expected that well into the 21st century we'd be fetishizing typewriters with wirelessly-connected pocket computers. It's a funny old world. But of course QWERTY and its cousins live on strong in our pockets. We're all carrying a piece of Sholes with us, and I don't think anyone's ready to say farewell to their keyboards just yet, physical or virtual. It's hard to get attached to a poem that's been "swiped."

Typed on a Smith-Corona Corsair Deluxe
First String #typewriterday #smithcorona #corsair #typewriter #vintage #publictyping #sunrise #clickthing

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Rule of Thirds #blackandwhite #abstract #industrial #clickthing

Just got back from a week's "staycation" to celebrate my eldest child's graduation, mark a milestone wedding anniversary, and spend many days loafing, swimming, and not shaving. I highly recommend all of these activities whenever summer comes your way.

Aloha #outdoors #toys #aqua #colorful #hulahoop #sunshine #clickthing

Editing continues, with only a day or two off now and again to scribble in a notebook or blog post to keep up the wave of daily writings. Things are about to get bad -- and then better -- for my characters, and at the moment they're struggling their way across the plains of the U.S., a long flat land and a high mountain range between them and their goals.

Personal Space #blackandwhite #macro #abstract #lofi #walkabout #outdoors #weathered #clickthing

Last year at this time, I pledged I'd be rewriting, and I was. I took up AlphaSmart and pen and headphones and hid in the bedroom every evening and finally, finally typed the damnable thing in. I've been running through all that re-typing since February, even powering through in the evenings when I was too tired from celebrating or swimming, even when I should have been working instead of loafing (but loafing is key, too.)

What Once Was #walkabout #oak #outdoors #abstract #shadow #lasjuntas #clickthing

Now I'm free again, free to enjoy my early summer mornings with a brisk walk before the heat, and before I go to work and simply dream of swimming and loafing. The book is about to get into a whole, weird, not-real sort of place, and as I've been taking and posting photos taken during these walks, the tone is getting more abstract and askew and orthogonal to reality. It's the state of mind I'm in right now. Charged up and heading places, looking for the mountains and to get to the other side.

North Star #negative #blackandwhite #gazebo #pleasanthill #symmetry #clickthing