Scheduling Writing, Part 2

Wow. I started trying to schedule my writing and immediately blew it.

Let’s see. I worked on my novel on my lunch hour for one and a half days. I actually wrote the first day. On the second I was about to write and suddenly it hit me that if the people of the island that may well end up with the name Santa Chiara are so eco-conscious, then they’d probably want to be served by electric, rather than gas-powered passenger boats. So I stopped writing to see if that’s possible. And I found a few concept vehicles like that, but nothing in production. I’ve decided that that’s close enough.

Then, on Friday, I used my writing time to figure out what to do about my phone. My phone locks up and reboots for no apparent reason, and since I am one of those unlucky people who had Sprint and are being migrated over to T-Mobile, I’ll need to put a new SIM card in to make it work anyhow, I’ve figured that maybe I should just get a new phone. I asked the phone guy at my store about getting a Galaxy S22 or whatever the newest phone is and found that T-Mobile will need to migrate my plan over by hand so that I can use the T-Mobile version of the phone.

I worked Sunday, but on Sunday, I only get half an hour lunch, so I didn’t have any noveling time then.

So, tonight, I couldn’t sleep because details are backing up in my brain since I haven’t been able to put them into actual writing since Wednesday. I’m not even supposed to be up now (it’s 1 am on Monday, June 6* as I write this). I was going to go to bed early so that I can get up early and get my walking in before the heat hits. Then I lay awake trying to sleep instead of, what’s the meme? About some people being able to sleep instead of plotting seven-book epic fantasy series or broiling in existential dread? I can’t figure out how to post it here, but the author is C.G. Drews, who posts on Instagram under @paperfury.

Yeah. That’s the kind of night I’m having.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! I know I’ve done this one before, but it’s a goody, so I’m posting it again. Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh. So funny and relatable and just amazing. If I didn’t have 400 books in my to-read, I’d probably go back and reread this again.

*I remembered that today is the birthday of one of my childhood friends and then I spent half an hour trying to figure out what he’s up to these days.

Scheduling Writing, Day 1

I took a stab at doing some fiction writing on my lunch hour.

My protagonist (I’ve named her Abby temporarily, after the mom of my cat Velcro) and her dad are still on the hydrofoil out of Naples, and I’m using this time to start to establish the family and the relationships.

Much like me, my protagonist has motion sickness in boats, so she’s bored. She can’t read because she . . . . Actually, her motion sickness is more like Alex’s and Thomas’s. Abby cannot read in a moving vehicle. I can, so long as I’m completely wrapped up in what I’m reading. Neither Alex nor Thomas can do this in most situations.

My motion sickness comes from a mismatch between what I’m seeing and what my inner ear is feeling. I do pretty well with open windows or in the front seat or, again, if I’m distracted.

Anyway she’s bored and her dad’s keeping up a conversation with her, telling her what they’ll experience there and things. Abby wants to be back home helping her mom, who is a jewelry designer, open her first showroom.

I really only know two cities well — Chicago and San Antonio, so I’m setting Abby’s home in Chicago. I figure that it’d be more likely that a diplomat of some sort would have a home base in Chicago than in San Antonio.

Even though it’d be nice to put them in San Antonio. I remember a couple of years ago reading an article about how the city has been trying to encourage “creative class” jobs in San Antonio and how it’s just not working.

Heck, they can’t even keep corporate headquarters here. In the last few years, we’ve lost the headquarters of both the La Quinta hotel chain and AT&T. Both left here for Dallas, because Dallas has better infrastructure for large corporations and also is better connected to the rest of the world.

San Antonio’s airport is better than it was, but it’s no DFW. Additionally, if you look at a map of San Antonio, the perimeter of the city is 330 degrees of not much, and 30 degrees of congestion in the form of US 281, Interstate 35 and Interstate 10. More or less. I’m not going to pull out a protractor. It could be 320 degrees of not much and 40 degrees of congestion.

But if San Antonio wants more “creative class” jobs, having Abby’s mom be a world-class jewelry designer opening her first showroom would help raise awareness there.

I know it might be more realistic to put the family of a diplomat in New York or DC or somewhere like that, but I don’t really *know* those cities like I know San Antonio. It’s likely that this book may be set entirely on the island (I’m toying with calling it Santa Chiara, after St. Clare of Assisi, St. Francis of Assisi’s BFF). But what happens if I finish the book and discover that the story of Abby doesn’t end there and we have to follow her home? That home better be somewhere I know well.

Abby is going to, of course, have friends. One is a young man who is like Snuffleupagus. No one else will see him for a long time, if ever. Is he the missing prince? Is he a ghost? Is he just shy? Or does he just have lousy timing when it comes to everyone else? Her other friend is a young jewelry designer who makes friends with Abby, then realizes that Abby is her mother’s daughter and that her mother is kind of the friend’s hero, but the friend is trying to figure out how to be “Hey, your mom’s my hero” without sounding like that’s the only reason they’re friends.

I’m still working on what happened with the Prince and where he is going and what’s going on and things like that. It’s kind of funny because like nobody reads this blog and so I’ve been like “Let’s talk about plot points of my novel; no one is ever to read that either.” But I’m going to keep plugging away at both novel and blog and hope that someday I’ll be able to make the money I need to pay off my mortgage.

Speaking of money, here’s today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link. Ooh! Palace of Stone, the sequel to Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale! Britta’s wedding is coming up and the other girls from the Princess Academy are coming to the capital to help with the festivities. Miri is particularly excited because she is going to spend a year at the university.

Hm. One of my plot bunnies that I’ve been feeding for the last . . . 10 years? It started out as alternative history, but I would be telling brown people’s stories and aside from a thin line leading me to a Krai of Russia on the border with Mongolia and a rumor that my father’s mother’s family have Rom ancestry, I’m so white I disappear in front of a blank wall. So I’ve been, like, “Fantasy?” But I don’t really have room for magic in this world. But the Princess Academy books are fantasy despite not having spellcasting and things. The magic is that the people of Mount Eskel can communicate through some kind of kinship with Linder, the stone they harvest. I wonder if I can use something along those lines . . . .

Setting A Schedule for Writing

Today’s chapter in Pep Talks for Writers was about setting a schedule for writing. Ha ha.

My current job has a variable schedule. This means that I can start work anywhere from 8:30 AM to 12 noon and I can get off work anywhere between 5 PM to 9 PM.

Figure out how I can come up with the schedule with that, well, schedule.

For the most part, I tend to do my writing 11-ish? But I don’t know if that’s really a schedule.

I guess I could do some writing on my lunch hour, because that gives me a little bit less of a spread. Lunch is basically between 1:00 and 5:00, but that still works out to that four hour spread that I have at the end of the day. At least it’s a normal time for human beings to be working. I guess?

If I were to try to dictate like I’m doing here on my lunch hour, like I said it would be a pretty constrained amount of time. Of course, I would be walking around the store talking into my phone like an idiot, kinda like I am now. But at least, right now I’m alone, nobody there to watch me and wonder what I’m doing.

Additionally, I do have to work eating and going to the bathroom into my lunch hour. So I guess I’m back to 11 o’clock-ish. It’s ten minutes to ten as I’m writing this right now, because I’m walking around my neighborhood. This is something I can’t do every day, though, particularly since I’m usually really tired after I get off at nine, and sometimes I have to be back to work early the next day.

In fact, I’m really tired right now. It’s 12 zillion degrees out here and the evening breeze hasn’t started*. I’ve been walking for almost an hour and I’m really tired and really hot, so let’s try going back to the 11-ish. Of course there’s nothing says I can’t do both. I can write a short blog post on my lunch hour with the about a half an hour I have available on my lunch.

Oh! I could work on my novel on my lunch then blog posts either now during my 9 o’clock walk or my 11 o’clock sit down my computer. I could even do one of each a blog post now a blog post at 11? I like this idea. Of course that’s assuming I can keep with it.

My theme song when I’m when I feel my enthusiasm for whatever it is I’m doing start to flag is the Daft punk song Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Even though it’s like about the hustle and having no work-life balance, which do I need more? A work-life balance or the money to to pay off my mortgage? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Yeah I need the income. My job is not keeping up with inflation. It’s not even keeping up with my first job out of college. I finally reached the purchasing power of my first job out of college and then get this hyperinflation thing starts and now I’m two dollars an hour behind.

I’m thinking I can can stop rambling now and save this to post. I just realized I haven’t gotten my Duolingo in yet. I’m going to copy this to an email, then email it to myself, clean it up, and post it.

*The evening breeze started up just as I was coming back to the house after my walk. Figures.

Being a Beginner

I read Chapter 4 of Pep Talks for Writers yesterday and. Wow.

The advice that Faulkner gives us is. . . kind of unnecessary for me? He advises the reader to let go of what we know and embrace what we don’t know. And I don’t know if the flip side of the Dunning-Kruger effect (a/k/a “Imposter Syndrome”) is at work here. I mean, isn’t the whole point of the Dunning-Kruger effect that you can’t observe yourself accurately?

I’ve gone through my whole life feeling like I don’t understand what’s going on. My brain is a treasure trove of useless trivia (often, at work someone will say, “Olivia, what do you call ____?” and I’ll have the answer right on the tip of my tongue), but as for job skills, erm. No.

I think that’s a big part of why I’ve ended up underemployed for my whole life. I have a hard time sounding like an expert because I don’t believe that I am in job interviews and so interviewers are, “Maybe you know something, but you don’t know enough to actually be useful.”

Every time I sit down to write, I’m terrified. I keep telling Alex just to write like he talks because he’s not a fantastic writer, but he’s really well spoken. I mean, writing seems like the easiest thing in the world and not a skill at all. Certainly not one I’m good at.

So. I guess that feeling like a beginner comes naturally to me. Maybe the concern is that I may some day decide that writing is not the easiest thing ever and that I have an actual skill. Will I begin to fail as a writer then, or will it be just the beginning?

I Used to Travel . . .

I said these words to a patient today. He is going to a major city on a different continent.

I really do miss traveling, but once Alex grew up, I wasn’t getting enough in income tax refunds to pay up front for travel, and I’d rather not travel than put it on a damn credit card.

I’d started saving up $5 here, $5 there. Back in the olden days, they recommended saving up for large purchases by putting a little money in envelopes earmarked for that purpose. I was doing the same thing, but in little savings accounts.

Then the ends of the lives of Phobos and Deimos ended up being very expensive, and cleaned out all of those little envelopes.

Then we had an expensive house repair, which took out a bunch of money from one of my investment accounts (out of four — I hide money from myself so that I won’t ever run out completely), and so I prioritized saving back the money I took out of those accounts.

The original plan for this blog was to earn enough money from it to fund future travel and maybe even to get to the point where I could write off my travel as business expenses. I mean, that’s kind of the dream come true, isn’t it?

Even since I’ve been thinking of making this a book blog, I haven’t even gotten to the place where I can write off book purchases with the income from this blog. Or *a* book purchase.

I’m going to keep posting here, because maybe someday I’ll have enough traffic to attract some advertisers. Or maybe just getting in the habit of writing will get me to the point where I can sell some writing (travel? book reviews? fiction? all of the above?)

Or maybe it’ll just be nice on a psychological level to put these messages in a bottle for someone to find someday.

For today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link, we have Thirty Names of Night, by Zeyn Joukhadar. Thirty Names of Night is about searching. Our nameless protagonist, a Syrian trans boy, is searching for peace, searching for answers to what happened to an artist named Laila Z, and searching for his own identity.

Writing is Its Own Inspiration? Day 2

Welp. I don’t have much to say today, at least I don’t think so. Additionally, a storm is on the way, so I might want to write and post fast.

I’m saddened and angered by the shooting in Uvalde today. I definitely want to write about that once the storm is over and I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I have to be up in 7 hours and 45 minutes for work.

I have always planned to write about my thoughts about romance novels and love songs, and that’s something I definitely plan to do later. This will likely have a Germane Amazon Link.

I also have had something of a breakthrough on one of my fiction works, so I need to go into that.

Do I have a Gratuitous Amazon Link today? Why, I think I do. If memory serves, today’s book is Ruined, by Paula Morris. Ruined is the story of Rebecca, who is sent to live with a family friend in New Orleans, where she attends a snooty private school where she doesn’t fit in. Oh, and she befriends Lisette, the ghost of a slave. We get to learn how Lisette died, how that fits into the life of the family of “mean girl” bully Helena, and what that has to do with Rebecca.

Now I’m going to post this, then shut my computer down. Good night and I’ll see you tomorrow for my rant on what happened in Uvalde today.

What is Inspiration?

Chapter 3 of Pep Talks for Writers deals with inspiration and the idea of a “muse.” I’ve been carried away by inspiration in the past, largely during my fanfiction writing days, when the words just sort of come to me.

I had a dear friend (RIP, Janet) who had a form of aphantasia, I think. She couldn’t imagine characters in her own head, she had to have a physical image of the character. This is why she exclusively wrote fanfiction for television shows. Their faces were right there. She also didn’t understand what a writer means by a muse. She seemed to think that those writers were having hallucinations of an actual person telling them what to write. Several of us explained to her that, for most of us, “muse” is a metaphor for that “groove” you get into when the words just happen.

Not that every one of us have that experience. I’m sure that someone, somewhere, does experience a hallucination telling them what to write. But that’s never happened to me.

In Chapter 3, though, Faulkner tells us that most professional writers just show up and write. That sitting down at the keyboard, or with the pen and paper, or whatever, is inspiration enough.

And that is one thing I need to work on. The showing up part. Putting the words down and making them go by sheer force of my will, rather than by waiting for my “muse” to help me. I’m going to try to do that more often in the future.

How Do I Create?

The second chapter of Pep Talks for Writers (germane Amazon Link!) is about the circumstances that one uses when one writes.

One of the things that Faulkner talks about is planners versus “pantsers.” “Pantsers” are people who line up their characters/subject/whatever and just write and see where it goes. Planners, well, that’s pretty self-explanatory.

I’ve always sort of done both. Back when I could let my mind wander on the job, I used to get a lot of writing done. Sometimes I was at the photocopier or the fax machine or sorting documents to send to shareholders containing the annual report, or waiting for a report to upload to a database or whatever.

I could use that time to say, “Sally’s memory won’t come back until she’s home, but her home burned down 20 years ago. Should I just make her an amnesiac forever? But I really want to restore her relationship with her brother. The graveyard. She sees her parents’ graves and that’s what triggers her memory. Subconsciously, being ‘reunited’ with them is coming home and. Oh, yes, that’s perfect.”

And then I’d go home and write the scene. And, yes, that is a scene I wrote. It was in a Dark Shadows fanfiction that I’ve just realized I might be able to scrape the serial numbers off of and remix. Well, technically, I realized that I could do that when I was thinking about this chapter while unraveling the first blanket* and then I sat down and wrote all this out. But potato-potahto.

So I guess I’m more of a planner, but there are definitely surprises in the process of the planning. I’ll be prewriting something and a new character will pop up where I’m not expecting it and I’ll have to incorporate that new character, things of that nature.

The chapter ends with a challenge to mix it up a bit. And I guess that my experiments with dictation might count for that. I could also maybe get Evelyn to sit down and have a writing day sometime. She has a picture series in her that I’ve been trying to get her to commit to because just maybe that will be the thing that brings her financial success.

At the very least, I want the books (about her Jack Russell mix dog) to be out there in the world.

*I know that a couple of posts ago I said that I was going to make those blankets into a new blanket, but now I’m thinking about knitting a coat out of them. The threads have all seen better days, so it would have to be a casual sort of coat. Also, I definitely plan to work two threads of each color so that it comes out sort of heathered. And also having four strands should mean that if any one (or even two) wear out, the whole thing won’t fall apart. I hope.

Creativity, 4/24/2022

I finished the first “pep talk” of Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo. In it, Faulkner tells us that we don’t need permission to be creators. And I am, of course, already a creator. I knit and I crochet, and (inspired by Micarah Tewers), I’m thinking about getting back into sewing.

And I write. In the back of my head, I’d always planned to become a professional writer pulling down a full-time income. Of course, the way the world fell out, I will need two full-time incomes to have the life I want, but the professional writing thing would certainly work as one of my full-time incomes.

I’ve been toying with several novel ideas and I may put some time in on those as well as the blog. One of them was the gothic novel I talked about earlier this month. I also have a fantasy novel set in a female-dominated world where that is just as out of balance as our more male-oriented one is. The Journey song Wheel in the Sky has long made me think of a different fantasy novel, this one about someone questing for the cure for the illness of the queen of their land.

And then, just yesterday, I had an idea for an inside-out version of Beauty and the Beast, where the prince is cursed and, rather than looking for a way to break the curse, the government just names a regent, locks the prince away, and keeps going. Beauty is the daughter of a foreign dignitary who comes to their country and happens to overhear a conversation in which the regent is hiring someone to kill the prince, who is about to come of age. She decides that she needs to save the prince. Will they fall in love? I guess we’ll see when they finally meet. Will the curse be broken? Maybe. Maybe it’s just that land’s destiny to be ruled by a prince with a curse.

I may continue to massage these in my mind. But for now, I have this blog.

I’m Not Sure What I’m Doing Right Now

I’ve been just. Meh.

I’m cleaning and working on my wardrobe a bit. I’ve bought some books on the creative process that I’m going to start working my way through in hopes that —

Okay. I’m not sure that Alex is going to think of this but here goes. I had an aunt and have a cousin who were both members of the La Leche League, a group dedicated to breastfeeding babies. I didn’t know of any members of the LLL here in San Antonio or anything, but I bought a book called So That’s What They’re For! (Germane Amazon Link!) and would sit there and read it over and over while nursing Alex. It was a bit of work getting established but I successfully nursed him until he was six months old. It wasn’t completely exclusive — we had to supplement with formula for a couple of weeks — but it worked.

And now I’m wondering if I could use these books the same way.

I mean, I can’t literally read while I’m writing. I’m good, but I’m not that good. But I’m wondering if I could open, say, Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo in one window and just flip back and forth whenever I begin to bog down in my writing.

Can’t hurt, right?

Anyway, I have been cleaning a lot. I didn’t really want a house. That was Thomas’s dream. But I have one now and I need to get this place under control. I’m getting rid of a decade worth of old junk mail and preparing a bunch of beautiful stuffed animals for donation. I’m hoping the Children’s Shelter can take them. I’d love for them to find homes with children who love them.

They’re all in like-new condition, but since they’re old, I’m sure there are dust mites and things in them. So, since the CDC says freezing can kill dust mites, I’m putting them in the freezer for 24 hours, then I’m putting them in my trunk, since I have a dark blue car, it will make them hot enough to kill any dust mites still left after freezing. Then I’m going to pop them in the dryer on fluff, which should remove the tiny corpses of the dust mites, put the stuffed animals in a box, and take them to the shelter.

I have three totes of stuffed animals that I’m going to treat this way. I’m not doing this with all of them, but if I can’t remember where the animal came from, it’s going to find a new human who will.

I’ve been downsizing my book collection, as well. I am rereading all of my books and selling the ones I don’t think I’ll read again to Half-Price Books. Hopefully I’ll have them narrowed down to a reasonable number someday. Maybe.