“Whatever you like doing, do it!”

“Whatever you like doing, do it!” – Pete Docter, Pixar, via Letters of Note

This weekend was exhausting. That’s the single word I have for it. Saturday morning we got up earlier than we usually do on a weekend; Carter to take Beast to the beach, me to clean up the house for our party. That done, we had a rushed lunch of frozen ravioli and burritos and bundled into the car for his first flying lesson in Hayward.

Rude owner aside, the lesson was one of those uncommon experiences that I’ll always remember. I sat in the back of the Cessna while Carter flew the plane under the auspices of his instructor, an aging but affable man named Bob. Flying in a small plane is nothing at all like being in a commercial jet; for one thing, we didn’t go so high–not over 2,000 feet. Also, everything shakes, and little drops feel like the earth falling out beneath you. I think I enjoyed it…I think?

We headed straight home afterwards to start baking. I remember being so tired that I could hardly concentrate on the cleaning and baking, but it all got done somehow. I had a spare dinner of dumplings and Carter had ravioli (white man dumplings), and our party began a little while after 7. It was relaxed and cozy: just nine people total, and Apples to Apples and the Olympics. And a boatload of fresh cookies and whole milk (and meatballs, for protein). Our last guest left after midnight and we crashed into bed soon after.

Sunday morning, everyone was sluggish. I went with Carter and Beast to the beach, where Beast made a half hearted attempt to roll on the dead seagull he found on the sand, but I chased him off in time and buried the corpse under the wet sand. We didn’t spend much time at the beach, on account of Carter’s birthday gift to me: tickets to the San Francisco Symphony’s concert of music from Pixar films! It was chock full of children but they were well behaved (not to mention: dolled out in the Sunday bests! The little girls were the most adorable in their princess gowns). Pete Docter (quoted above!) introduced the segments, and Sarah Hicks conducted. It was interesting to watch her prompter. I teared up at the Carl & Ellie prologue from Up! as usual.

We spent the rest of the day in a slow, bovine haze. We shopped at the Asian market, watched the Olympics, and I made chili shrimp noodles for dinner.

Tomorrow begins Nano part 2. I didn’t do any planning this time as I had hoped to do, but am still going to attempt it. Everything will be disconnected and God only knows how much useful writing will result, but even a 1,000 words out of 50,000 would be worth it. And I like it, so I’m going to keep doing it.

“What the French call a certain…I don’t know what.”

“What the French call a certain…I don’t know what.” -Dr. Evil, Austin Powers

The official birthday came and went. This Saturday is the actual celebration: a cookies and milk party with all the trimmings. We’ll have corn cookies, chocolate chip, and homemade oreos; for milk, we’ll have the standard whole milk, raw cow’s milk, and goat’s milk. Carter has his flying lesson in the morning so we’ll start baking tonight and finish up in the evening before the party begins. The next day he and I will attend the San Francisco Symphony’s Pixar concert, which was a brilliant birthday gift on his part.

I’m at once glad to be back from vacation and back to my old routine and still a little discombobulated from it. No matter: the nano planning begins anon. This time, I don’t think it’s going to be a complete or consistent piece. I think I want it to be piecey this time: I want to write a bunch of assorted scenes, character profiles, and events, and that’s going to be 50,000 words. Wow, I’ll have written 100,000 words of fiction by the time it’s over. That’s quite heady!

It’s going to take another few days before I sort myself out completely. Glad to be back in the land of fog, though.

“Tomorrow will be nothing like today.”

“Tomorrow will be nothing like today.” -ad for an investment bank at the airport

*written yesterday, July 22.

Here I sit typing, suspended 36,212 feet in the air!

There are only 1,652 miles yet to go before we land in San Francisco. We’ve spent the last four days in New York, which was my first vacation since I started my job. We spent a day in the Hudson River Valley, but the main object was to attend C’s wedding in the Catskills.

Thursday we staggered up at 4:30AM to ready ourselves for taxi and plane. After a bleary breakfast at Lark Creek Grill at the terminal—pretty good stuff for an airport; bagel and lox, and a Greek omelette for me—we flew Virgin America direct to John F. Kennedy airport and landed in the early afternoon. Virgin is a wonderful airline to fly: free satellite TV, on-demand TV and movies, games, and comfortable seats (even in coach!). Dave tells me this is because Virgin does not have unions, and therefore the airline runs differently, not having to bow to the demands of a union, especially in regards to termination of employment. I respect the importance of unions, but it must be admitted that United, Delta, and AA are miserable airlines to fly in comparison.

After the worst meal I’ve eaten this year, we got in our alarmingly wiggly rental car and drove through the late afternoon to upstate New York. We had dinner at Ca’mea in downtown Hudson in the restaurant’s charming patio. I (perhaps imprudently) ordered an apple gin fizz at Carter’s encouragement and the rest of the dinner is dim, although I do have a photograph of the housemade fettucine that I (apparently) ate.

looks like there’s some shrimp here.

Continue reading ““Tomorrow will be nothing like today.””

“Tell him to be a fool every so often.”

Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
-Carl Sandberg, excerpted from poem What Shall He Tell That Son? 

Carter and I had gone to bed, but my stomach hurt so I got up to sit by myself with the computer and the lamp until I feel well enough to sleep. There’s nothing worse than trying to go to sleep and knowing that you can’t, so here I am, parked on the couch with laptop, propped up with a cushion, with a throw tossed over my legs.

And, having been thus prepared for a long stretch of awakedness, am now sleepy and the stomach has quieted down a bit. To bed. I think my body is trolling me.

 

“Don’t forget to bring a towel.”

Don’t forget to bring a towel. -Towelie, South Park

I admit that I went on mental vacation after finishing Nano. I stumbled into the local library a few days afterwards and picked up the New Yorker’s Science Fiction edition, a N. K. Jemisin novel (rec’d by Miss Marian Halcombe), and a few graphic novels. I haven’t finished them yet, although July’s almost half over; I’m not sure where the time went, except that every time I tried to read for an extended period of time I got restless and had to go do something else. The focus was just not there.

In an attempt to remember what I did with all that time, here’s a list of what I do remember about the last two weeks:

  • Carter and I have been taking Beast to Fort Funston every weekend, where there are sand dunes and succulents and the ocean and much wind. We love it there, although an excessive amount of our time there is eaten up by chasing Beast as he tries to eat every dead crab, jellyfish, and clump of kelp that’s washed up on the beach. It’s important to bring a towel or two, as Beast inevitably ends up drenched in saltwater and dusted over with sand.
  • Art projects for the house. We bought stretcher bars and midweight decorative fabric from Ikea and made some massive wall art for the bedrooms. In a testament to how out of shape we both are, Carter and I were left for three days after we put them together. Yes.
  • Exercising and healthfulish eating. I’ve been on a health kick through Nano, which worked out to about a five pound weight loss over the last six weeks or so.  Not sure why I timed two relatively challenging routines together like that, but it worked. I counted my words, I counted my calorie intake, I counted my calorie burn (via Fitbit). It’s nice to feel brighter and more energetic on a daily basis. I don’t have a huge frame and am of average height so the weight loss really showed, esp. in my pant size. It will be weird getting accustomed to this body. I wondered if I wouldn’t get exhausted by all of the counting and logging (since Nano required so much counting!), but I didn’t. Nice.
  • By healthfulish, I did end up eating a lot of cake, ice cream, cookies, and pizza. There’s no way to get away from this stuff considering where I work, and Carter’s sweet tooth. I did log everything, though. Logging is key.
  • Through many conversations with people my age, I have parsed out that I am in fact a square. I don’t drink, I don’t party (although I do love to dance),  I don’t like staying out past midnight, I don’t like discussing my ladyaffairs in public. I am very okay with this and am grateful that I’ve reached a point in my life when I can be this person and not feel weird for it. A decade ago, this was a somewhat different proposition. I think I have another post coming about my confirmed squarishness soon.
  • Took mom and stepdad out to Rodeo beach in Marin. A nice, relaxed day.
  • Realization: there are a lot of stupid people in the world.

I’ve made the commitment to do Camp Nano again in August. What to write this time? I’ve got a few ideas…more to come! Tomorrow Carter and I are going rafting in Sonoma with Beast, so it’ll wait till after that. Lots of time to relax on the river and reflect.

The Year of Lost Gadgets

Lost, or ruined.

  1. iPod nano, red. Beast ran into a swamp thicket in a pond and wrapped himself around a thorny tree branch. I had to get on my hands and knees and crawl on my belly through the thicket, ripping up my skin and clothes and submerging my iPod in swamp water. Suffice it to say, it did not survive the day.
  2. Bodymedia fit display, gray. Fell out of my pocket at the dog park.
  3. iPod, black. Water bottle burst in my purse and drowned the poor thing. It’s been mine since about 2006, though, so a 6 year lifespan for an iPod ain’t bad! But still, this year’s grand epiphany: iPods and water do not mix.
  4. Cell phone. May have been stolen as I got off the bus.
  5. Fitbit. Well, I either lost it or left it in my other jacket this morning before I left for work. I’ll find out in about an hour.

Why do I even bother to do anything when I can’t even manage my own junk. Argh.

Update: The Fitbit has turned up. But not before I lost it again (and found it again) in the last 48 hours. I am cautiously optimistic.

“Stepping outside onto the crisp yellow grass and feeling the unfiltered night breeze on the nape of her neck was like waking up after a hundred years’ sleep.”

“Stepping outside onto the crisp yellow grass and feeling the unfiltered night breeze on the nape of her neck was like waking up after a hundred years’ sleep.” -my June 2012 Nanowrimo

Hello, world! It’s July 1, and I’m back (and better than ever?). I completed my first Nanowrimo yesterday. Yes: against all odds, a full time job, a dog, a boyfriend and a house, I finished. My first YA science fiction (ish) novel. The reasons that I think I completed this time and failed the last two times that I attempted Nano are the following, with lessons learned in italics:

  • Extensive advance planning. I started planning this novel about a week and a half before Nano started. The idea had been percolating in my consciousness for awhile; I had tried to write it without planning for Nano 2011, but gave up three or four days in. This time I made it through because I created character sketches, planned out chapter by chapter and scene by scene as much as possible, without doing any extra writing. I used Evernote for my planning notes.The only thing that I did that may have qualified as a slight cheat was that I ended each chapter plan with a “hook”; something interesting or plot-developing to end a chapter on, and on occasion these would be sentences (something dramatic, i.e. “…’and then we will kill him.’ She cackled with incandescent glee.”). In the process of writing, I realized that I stalled the most/struggled the most when I didn’t know what would happen next. This killed the 2-3 hours a day that I had to write. From a pure practical standpoint, for my writing style, I need a plan, and one that goes from the beginning to the end of the story. Alas for not being one of the people who can just wing it, but I can’t do it.  Good to know.
  • Dedicated time to work. I knew that there were hours in the day that I had to write. And if I didn’t get it done by then, then I’d make no progress towards my goals. I’ve read before that you make room (and time) for what’s important, and that’s true of writing. 
  • Detailed word/writing daily goals. I used shareware Focuswriter for writing. It has a great automatic wordcount function, as well as showing percentage of daily writing goal achieved as I wrote. So I could check to see that I’d gotten at least, say, 20% done by a certain hour. It also has a nice distraction free full-screen writing mode, but I hardly used this as I was usually checking against my writing plans in Evernote. Good tools are useful but will not make up for a lack of plain ole gumption.
  • A supportive partner. Carter offered consistent support and encouragement. I think he had more faith in me than I did sometimes, which was  fortifying. He even took on some household tasks so that I would have the time I need to write on days when I was especially behind or needed to get the work done. What a man. Every woman should be so lucky. Never underestimate the value of a cheering section.

Other things I’ve learned:

  • Bad writing is better than no writing. My novel started out really well, and then the quality of the writing decayed over the course of the month. During that first transitional period when my writing was going from “decent! :D” to “unhappy bad grammartimes,” I felt the temptation to quit. There were moments when I’d read what I’d just typed, wince, and try to think of a way to go back and edit it, but then I’d look at my word count, gnash my teeth and realize that I’d just have to plow ahead. The focus of Nano on quantity over quality won over my sense of perfectionism, and I got a novel written in a month. Sure, it’s a questionably plotted, obnoxiously inconsistent novel, but it’s 50,000 words. I’ve never, ever written that much before, and that’s really something for me.
  • Write now, edit later. A corollary of the above; my novel veered drastically from my initial plan, which is what made the second half of the month more difficult. There are lots of terrible dead ends and contradictions and excessive exposition and unnecessary characters. (Also, to get my word count up, I added lots of gratuitous dialogue and adjectives. But considering that I thought dialogue writing was one of my weaknesses before Nano, I’m pretty happy with this development). Upon completion I have a better sense of what I can do with the narrative. I can see a lot of potential for revisions should I decide to go down that path. On the other hand, I also see a lot of reasons to just abandon this draft/story, call it a win for what it was, and move on to something else.
  • Writing is work. Work work work.

I’ve read about much of this before in writing classes and even anecdotally, but there’s nothing quite like actually going through the process to drive all these points through my thick, stubborn skull. Some part of me still thinks brilliance just pours from the hands of some ethereal muse, but that’s been relegated to a pretty small part of my understanding of writing as a craft. All good things.

I’m now trying to decide whether I want to finish this novel in my spare time, or start planning the chick lit novel that I’m hoping to write in August or November.

As a general salute to Nano, here’s the first chapter of my June 2012 novel. Now: before you read it, remember that this was chapter churned out in three days. It’s unedited. So, it’s not perfect. But this is the first chapter of the first long story that I’ve ever attempted, so I have a little bit of maternal pride, even if my child has her flaws. It was grand fun. Thanks for sharing in it, anonymous readers and nonymous friends, and if you have a moment, let me know what you think!

*The photo above: a few weeks ago I noticed a swath of white webbing wrapped around one of the trees at work. I noticed little cocoons tucked in all over it; some were empty and some were still occupied. This picture is of one of the moths that was just emerging. I could see her little antennae flexing. Today, as I was composing this post, it seemed oddly apropos. I also have a photograph of two moths getting frisky on top of my shoe (I guess they copulate as soon as they emerge!), but that seemed a little too R-rated for these here parts. 🙂