Tag Archives: life

The Year of Wordsmithing

            Success depends on more than just acknowledging a goal with a glass of champagne in one’s hand at 11:59 p.m. on December 31st.  Resolutions—shed some pounds, kick the cigarettes, drink less caffeine, avoid speeding tickets, go 365 days without being arrested, etc.—are easily made and even easier to cast aside.  One can’t just spit out a resolution; one must also have the ambition and obsession to achieve.

            Let’s define these:

 

            Resolution:  the act determining upon an action or course of action, often made at the beginning of a new year and abandoned two weeks later.

            Ambition:  an earnest desire for achievement and the willingness to strive for its attainment, an element often missing from New Year’s resolutions.

            Obsession:  the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea or desire, the presence of which elevates resolution to ambition and gives one a chance at success.

 

            Okay, I might have tweaked those definitions but they’re still solid.  2014 is probably not the year I’m going to give up nicotine or caffeine, although I do plan on maintaining my “never been arrested” status and keeping a sharper eye out for radar-running cops than I did during 2013.  I do, however, have plans for myself.

            Not resolutions.  Plans.  Ambition + obsession > resolutions.

            All word-based.  Words require attention, sometimes hyper focus.  Words are beautiful, the love of my life, but they don’t come easily.  One must keep ambition foremost and feed the obsession that leads to success.

            So here are my writing, reading, and word-focused goals for 2014…

 

1. Read 80 Books.
            GoodReads promotes a yearly reading challenge, where members set their own “I’m going to read [#] of books in 2014” goals.  Setting the bar too high would be doomed to failure—I have the real life, adult world responsibilities like everybody else.  But setting the bar too low would be shameful because books are awesome and I have a massive stack of unread books waiting their turn.  So in 2014 I will read 80 books.

 

2a. Complete My Work-in-Progress.
            I began writing The O’Shaughnessy Reputation:  Put on Your War Paint as part of National Novel Writing Month.  I finished about half by the end of November and have kept putting fingers to keyboard since then (occasionally for frustrated keyboard-mashing).  When I wrote the first part in this series (You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid), I started in 2011 and didn’t finish until early 2013, and I won’t allow that to happen again:  I will finish this WIP at all costs.

 

2b. Complete an Edit of My Soon-to-be-Finished WIP.
            I will not only finish this novel, I will do at least a first pass, rough edit on it before November 1st.  I can’t start Kiss the Ring, part three of this series, for NaNoWriMo ‘14 until the events in part two have been smoothed into something resembling a coherent story.

 

Speaking of NaNoWriMo…

3.  Participate in National Novel Writing Months, including Original Flavor NaNoWriMo (November) and both Camp NaNoWriMo sessions (April & July).
            Providing concrete goals, a fast-approaching deadline, an active community of writers, and a nifty progress graph, NaNoWriMo has been one of the best things to ever happen to my writing life.  It’s a kick in the ass, a kick so hard I’ll put said ass in a chair to avoid the hit.  And half of writing is, after all, simply sitting your ass down to do it.

 

4.  Begin Work on Charm of the Pavement.
            The idea for this novel has been haunting me, bouncing around in my head for at least six months but doing little more than mocking my attempts to wrangle it into a coherent story.  No more avoiding the pen, you brat; the time has come. 

 

5.  Increase My Writer Circle
            The most successful writers seem to be those with a solid, expansive community of writers they consider friends.  The interaction acts like an injection of word-adrenaline, promoting creativity and keeping a writer focused.  I know several writers, a couple of whom are quite serious about it, and I’m determined to welcome more into my life.  Because writers are awesome…and other writers are the only ones who share my special brand of ‘not quite right’.

 

I have my pen.

I have my vices—coffee, booze, cigarettes.

I have my ‘Write Drunk, Edit Sober’ mug.

I’m ready.  Let’s fucking do this.

 

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NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Week Two

Week Two, widely known as the most difficult stretch:  the adrenaline high has worn off, initial bursts of inspiration are spent, and nagging little story issues are making themselves known, like that rattling noise in your car that you can hear quite clearly but can never quite pinpoint where it’s coming from.  This week sees a sharp decline in numbers as participants drop out and word counts lag even as the quota increases; there is a corresponding rise in hair pulling and caffeine consumption.  Things start getting weird right about now as story arcs do very un-arc-like things such as make sharp turns and characters do things like wander off without so much as a ‘by your leave’, chapters start popping up between other chapters where they don’t belong in the outline, and your brain goes a bit squiggly every time you think about 50,000 and how it seems forever and ever away, all the words away.  Yeah.  It’s like that.

A dear friend and fellow WriMo has hit upon an approach that works for him:  the boxed wine and words and more boxed wine system.  It shames me to admit that I lack his hardy constitution and, having no wish to dance on my own table in an inebriated manner (although anyone else’s table is a-okay), I’ve been simply plodding along, puttering and poking at the keyboard and mumbling to myself, occasionally cursing in a way to make sailors blush.  Allow me to present unto you, my dear friends, week two:

week2a

I do my research like a good little girl, only to twist it, warp it, and cover it in dirt for story purposes. Facts: I use them to make shit up.

week2b

Beware the Writer’s New Groove.

week2c

One of Jesse O’Shaughnessy’s Rules to Live By.

week2d

Edit reminders: because no one gets it right on the first try, not even someone as awesome as me.

week2e

Real life interferes and makes story time difficult. My god awful memory doesn’t help much, either. (But seriously: YAY! No cavities!)

week2f

One incident of ‘nearly forgetting the laptop on the way to the write-in’, a free food extravaganza distraction, and a strange, seconds-long interaction with a bum. An interesting evening, all in all.

week2g

Unfortunately, some days you really are just too sad (for no apparent reason) to write. Even more unfortunate is when those days happen during NaNoWriMo, when ass in chair writing words every day is the only way to make the Graph of Progress happy.

week2h

A little story snippet, because it frames Jesse’s state of mind quite well. (Of note: he was enraged that I had the nerve to shoot him. I pointed out that another character whom he happened to be trying to kill at that time was actually the one to shoot him, but my logic stood no chance against his anger. What a wuss.)

week2i

An actual bit of dialogue from the book. Jesse’s vocabulary is not for the faint of heart, easily offended, or those of delicate sensibilities.

week2j

Jesse’s line of work lands him in the ER quite a bit, and Polly is the nurse/administrator who oversees his many, many trips. Both are stubborn, both are caustic, and both are now engaged in a decade-long battle of wills. (This is one battle where Jesse’s chances of victory aren’t good.)

And lo, the end of Week Two!  I’m still in the game, word count is exactly where it should be, and although all might not be going amazingly, things are at least going.  Up and running, even.  *goes back to scribbling*


Now for a Little Something Depressing

Allow me to bring the room down for a second:

My grandmother passed away on October 19th.  83 years old, she would’ve been 84 on the 22nd, and she was one of the sweetest, most amazing woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing—the nicest person I’ve ever met.

No, seriously, the nicest.  The worst thing I ever heard her say about anyone was, and I quote, “Hitler was not a nice man.”

Understatement, Grandma.  Serious understatement.

One of the most important people in my life, she influenced me in the best possible way.  Cardinal sin of the family:  upsetting Grandma.  One simply didn’t do so, and if one did upset her, the guilt springing for her disappointment was a far worse punishment than anything handed down by my mother.  She unwittingly acted as a sort of behavioral barometer:  if we didn’t want Grandma to know about it, then we probably shouldn’t do it in the first place.  As we became adults, this general rule was later paired with another:  if said activity was generally acceptable but not actually Grandma-approved, as a family we simply made sure she didn’t know about it.  (Hello, getting shitfaced/having a sex life/taking the Lord’s name in vain/getting in a fight/wearing revealing clothing/indulging one’s road rage/any number of other enjoyable past times!)  My grandmother was a focal point, a sort of lynchpin, the (sometimes uninformed and rose-colored glasses wearing) matriarch.

Hers was not a sudden passing; hospice care started in early September.  I started mourning then as I watched this vibrant woman slowly fade away, and every visit she was a little bit worse, until eventually every visit I found her to be a lot worse.  No surprise when the call came that she was unresponsive and didn’t have long left.

A couple years ago my family faced the sudden death of my father.  I’ve yet to find any experience more jarring than the county sheriff knocking on the door in the wee hours of the morning, and one of the most painful aspects was not being able to say goodbye.   This time, at least, I was blessed with that chance.

And I’m grateful.  The call came around 5 p.m. on Friday, and I was at the nursing home by 7:30.  I stayed roughly three hours, keeping my grandfather company, discussing matters with my uncle, and in general keeping vigil.  We didn’t leave until my mother (who had driven back from a camping trip) and my sister (who had been working) arrived.  When I left, I had the opportunity to do what I hadn’t been able to do before:

I held her hand.  I told her that it was okay for her to go.  I told her I loved her.

I then cried the entire 35 minute drive home, and she passed away early the next morning.

Whether or not she knew I was there, whether or not she heard me, is debatable.  We have no way of knowing, of course, since it’s not like we can tap her on the shoulder and ask.  (Although how interesting would that be?  Tap, tap—hand her a glass of wine.  So Grandma, did you know I was there?  How’s the other side?  Is God as snarky as I’ve always imagined?)  But let’s be honest here:  when someone is that far gone, keeping watch over her is more for us than for her, more to make us feel better than to truly ease her way.  Who it’s for doesn’t really matter, though, because she’s now at peace and, because I had those final few moments, I’m more at peace, too.

Of course I’m sad.  I’m upset and I’m hurting and I miss my Grandma, but I know she lived long, she lived well, and she knew before this that I love her.  She didn’t need me to tell her at the end.


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