Friday, July 31, 2015

The Chain Unbroken: Feeding the Daily Beast

The way up

So, it's been a month. How's it been going?

The daily writing is definitely a thing that's happening. Like NaNo, the first week was exhilarating, the second was suck-laden, and the third and final weeks have been feeling more downhill-ish. This is probably a good thing. I'm rewriting my 2011 NaNo draft, an effort that I've started and abandoned many times before. I've dug out the draft and have it standing by, but so far have not needed to refer to it. Somewhere along the trail of aborted rewrites, Things Changed Direction, and now the typescript is more of a ghost of Once Was than a skeleton of What Will Be. But it's still comforting to have around, totemic in a way, and of comforting heft.

View from the top

So I'm not exactly at the top yet. In fact, I'm not sure I'm quite halfway. But I'm happy with one of the big decisions -- putting most of the book in first-person present tense -- and have come up with other things that I want to incorporate when this is finally in digital form, for at the moment, it exists on paper, in my head, and in various iterations of Chapters 1-Through-3 sprinkled across my hard drive and my email folders. The Inner Critic is loose, alas, since he only gets chained up during November, so he keeps whispering in my ear that This Is All Boring Tripe and What Gives You The Right and so on. I'm trying to rise above, mainly by putting my main characters through hell and/or making them more mentally unbalanced than originally drafted. I don't know if this is a healthy approach to deafening the self-criticism. It feels a bit sadistic. I'm not sure that I'm supposed to be enjoying that.

At the start of the month, I ran off a simple* 6-month calendar for myself to cross out. For July it looks like this:

     July 2015
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
          X  X  X  X
 X  X  X  X  X  X  X

 X  X  X  X  X  X  X
 X  X  X  X  X  X  X
 X  X  X  X  X 31

The chain remains unbroken, but there's many more links to forge. Time to grab the AlphaSmart and a quiet corner** and hammer on some words.

* Thanks to the excellent cal program built-in to Linux and Mac OS X: cal 2015

** Ha ha three kids ha ha "quiet corner" ha ha ha

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Shortcuts, long cuts, and the unbroken chain

The summertime NaNoWriMo event is going again, "Camp NaNoWriMo" for the uninitiated. The very last thing I want to do in July is sit and write, though. It's hot here in Northern California, and especially hot this week, with rare humidity to up the ante. I'm taking sunrise walks to try to get the step count boosted in our office FitBit competition without actually having to step outside during peak heating hours. I have a physique and temperament much more attuned to cooler autumn days, and feel that summer heat is best experienced from indoors though insulated glass, with a cooling iced coffee at hand.

Morning walks have advantages. Solitude, for one, and lovely views that remind me why I'm glad to live where I live, when the sun and ongoing drought is trying to turn us all into people jerky.

The rewards of getting lost

This view, for example, which greeted me as I headed off in a new-to-me direction, and discovered a park that I'd never visited before. I think I've found the site of next year's Typewriter Day celebration, for sure. I look at a slightly different face of this mountain from my office. It's good to see it in a different context. I also got to be warned on the way out of the park with the possibility of mortal peril. That wakes you up a bit:

Take a little time out

That arrow is pointing in the exact opposite way I intended to travel, of course. And from this vantage, I wasn't entirely sure where I was. So, instead of making a poor choice and taking the short-cut to the right along a busy sidewalk-less street, I veered left, looking for landmarks. Being the suburbs, it didn't take long: the trail crosses the street at a known point, so I set off along it, thinking that eventually it would give me the option to go right again, back to home and breakfast. And yes, after a lot of wandering and one bad turn up a service road, I made it. The long route was worth it in the end, terminating just up the street from the campus where I set up for this year's Typewriter Day.

My pace was easy, and I passed only three people for the hour I was out. I was in no hurry, though shortcuts were plentiful, if not particularly useful.

The shortcut less-traveled

I know I've spent a lot of bytes here alternating talking up NaNoWriMo and bemoaning not having the motivation to sit down and really finish any of the many, many drafts that are stacking up in my life. I've started and stopped multiple times, and spent more time searching for "the one true editing solution" than I have actually revising.

Let's face it, it's a slog. A long, tedious slog, and there's no short-cut for it. Ignore the signs at your peril, and prepare to be run down by criticism if you do. And most importantly, take it a step at a time.

I read Jerry Seinfeld's "Don't Break the Chain" advice for the first time a few weeks ago, and I've been (of course) procrastinating about applying it. But with the news about Camp NaNo starting up again, and a fresh month on the calendar, and the good habits of daily steps under my feet... I think it's time to break out the red marker and set up my own unbroken chain this summer, even if the trail is long and points the wrong way.