Last Sunday, I reportedthat I had not added 1,000 words to my Work in Progress, and that, as a consequence, I would “have to add 1,333.3333333 words per week to meet my goal” of 4,000 new words by March 26, the end of #ROW80.
Well. On Monday, my powers were under a cloud, so I didn’t add anything to the WIP. On Tuesday, the cloud thickened into pea soup, and I didn’t add anything to anything. My body was slightly improved on Wednesday, but my brain was still mush, so the WIP remained unaltered.
Yesterday, however, I added 1,188 words.
They’re bad words, slapped down off the top of my head, thrown at the page, forming one big, glutinous lump as mushy as my brain. The literary equivalent of oatmeal.
That isn’t my usual process. I write slowly and usually get it almost right the first time. This thousand words will have to be kneaded and turned and completely transformed. Into oatmeal cookies, as it were.
I hate that.
But the WIP is longer than it was two days ago. Can’t complain about that.
For years, I’ve beaten myself up because I don’t step into a car like Audrey Hepburn. You know what I mean–Sabrina getting into Linus’ little sports car–sitting down, swinging to her left, bringing torso and legs, knee touching knee, and stiletto-heeled feet, around, until she faces the windshield and her whole body relaxes on leather upholstery, and all in one continuous motion. And she steps of the car by reversing the process, turning, placing her feet lightly but firmly on the ground, and rising, perfectly balanced, a model of grace, like Aphrodite rising from the sea. And you can tell by her expression that she doesn’t even have to concentrate to get it right.
I don’t do cars like Audrey. I know I should, but no matter how I try–and I’ve tried forever–grace and I just don’t fit into the same sentence. So I’ve gone through years of self-battery.
But the dream, although postponed, never died. In January, I set a target date and place: August 20, 2017, at the La Quinta in Blue Springs, Missouri. About 5:30 p.m.
The best laid plans, however.
Sunday, August 20, 2017, we left for the Austin airport about 8:30 a.m. for a 2:00 p.m. flight. We arrived at La Quinta in Blue Springs after 10:00 that night.
Well, things happened.
When the plane you’re supposed to take out of Dallas develops medical problems and doesn’t respond to treatment, you don’t complain. You’re just grateful they found the problem before you boarded instead of when you were hanging in the air with the Red River 35,000 feet below.
But when you finally get to Blue Springs and roll up in front of La Quinta, and all your muscles are cramped, and all your joints feel like they’re welded in place, you tell Audrey to go fly a kite.
We parked. I tumbled out of the car, staggered into the lobby, fell onto the nearest couch, and, while David checked us in, watched a movie on the SyFy channel. A lobsterish-crabbish-scorpionish thing was throwing something that looked like a cross between Batman and Conan the Barbarian all over the screen while both yelled and moaned and grunted.
I knew exactly how they felt.
And that was that.
That is that for this post, too. Because we left the Blue Springs La Quinta this morning about 8:30 for a 12:30 p.m. flight and got home at exactly 3:29 p.m., and although the trip was uneventful, I nonetheless tumbled out of the car, etc.
So. That’s what happened Sunday and Tuesday. For an account of Monday’s goings-on, check back tomorrow. Or maybe Thursday.
Because it’s after midnight, and I’m tired of sitting around waiting, and of flying all scrunched up in those little bitty seats, and of writing this post, and of Audrey Hepburn. And I’m going to bed.
If you’ve already heard about the award, my apologies. I’ve spread it all over Facebook. That’s called BSP–Blatant Self-Promotion–but self, in this case, refers to everyone involved in the anthology’s production. We’re surprised–we didn’t know we’d been nominated until three days before the awards ceremony–and honored and excited, so we’ve announced it at every opportunity.
I like to think that someday I’ll develop the air of dignified detachment that is the hallmark of the professional writer. Maybe I will. Maybe.
(In case the word falchion isn’t familiar–Wikipedia says it’s a “one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin, whose design is reminiscent of the Persian shamshir, the Chinese dadao, and modern machete.” The Silver Falchion seal, above, displays crossed falchions.)
Third on the list: I’ve completed five days of radiation treatments. That’s five of a projected twenty–25%. I learned today that I’m doing in twenty days what is normally done in thirty. I don’t know why, and I didn’t ask. This is another area requiring detachment, and I’ve found that detachment and too much information don’t play well together. The doctor kept using the word if –“If you do well with this, then we’ll…”–and upset the balance between optimism and uncertainty I try to maintain. If is too much information. So I pronounce the situation good and move on.
(Before I move on, and I really shouldn’t publicize this, but while I’m being unprofessional–since the first of June, I’ve lost twenty-nine pounds. Disclaimer: twenty-nine pounds equals the nineteen I had gained from taking steroids during chemo, and the ten I lost from having no appetite during chemo. The doctor doesn’t like it, and I understand why. It’s a hell of a way to lose weight, but with a net loss of ten pounds, I’m happy, and I’m taking credit for every one of them. I like being able to take my jeans off without unbuttoning and unzipping them.)
Boycotted refined sugar and starches, including starchy vegetables, longer than necessary before the PET scan. Blood sugar was normal. There was no reason to think it wouldn’t be, but still…
Critiqued and returned AMW stories I had at the time.
Wrote and posted on AMW blog, but not exactly on time. I traded post dates with another member, then realized I hadn’t traded. It’s complicated. I posted on the 20th instead of the 15th, but got it in before the Silver Falchion winner was announced.
Have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.
Might as well face facts. I’ll dust the piano if I dust it, organize books if I organize books, and shred if I shred. They’re more likely to get done if I don’t write them down.
I dood it was “one of Red Skelton’s radio catchphrases” of the 1930s and ’40s. It was also the title of a song written by Jack Owens for Skelton in 1942, titled “I Dood It! (If I Do, I Get a Whippin’),” and the title of a movie released the next year.
a young boy full of mischief, who typically did things he was told not to do. “Junior” would say things like, “If I dood it, I gets a whipping.”, followed moments later by the statement, “I dood it!”
My mother told me about Skelton’s I dood it line when I was a child. She thought it was funny; I thought it was funny; I still think it’s funny. I never heard him say it–until today, when I watched the movie trailer on Youtube. The first part is devoted to introducing the cast, so it takes a little time to get to Skelton.
Wikipedia refers to the movie’s rather ungrammatical title. I agree: it is, rather.
Before airing tonight’s Inspector Lewis mystery, PBS issued the usual disclaimer, something like, This program contains material that some viewers might consider objectionable. Viewer discretion is advised.
Now. Every program contains something potentially objectionable. Objection is a matter of choice. (Why doesn’t the same disclaimer run before afternoon soap operas and tacky prime time reality shows? I choose to object to their content.)
It’s reasonable to warn parents about content they might not want their children to see, I suppose. Some PBS programming does fall into the PG range. Some people might not want their children to see as many murder victims as Robbie Lewis does.At times, I wish a firm hand had turned off the television before I saw the bisected woman in the first episode of The Tunnel.
But the same disclaimer ran when Masterpiece Theatre presented a series of adaptations of Jane Austen novels. What could be considered objectionable about Jane Austen novels?
Well, anyway, that’s one of the questions bouncing around my brain, taking up space that would be better occupied by more pressing concerns. Anyone who has an answer is welcome to leave a comment.
But first take note: They’re boring is not an answer. It’s not even accurate. Jane Austen is not boring. Attempts to change my mind are futile.
Now for #ROW80. The past couple of weeks haven’t been conducive to doing anything, productive or not. I didn’t dust, organize, or shred. But the most important item is behind me.
The July 27 Buffet
♫♫♫ Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) last major critique I reversed the tampering, re-edited the story. When Kaye George sent her critique, excellent as usual, she added, “OK, stop fiddling with it, OK?” OK. After the other critiques are in. Next stop, the independent editor.
♪Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique I wrote several hundred words in a doctor’s waiting room, then two days later realized that I’ve left no place for the incident that gave me the idea for the story in the first place. I can insert it–I hope. But if I can’t make it work, I’ll have to leave it out, which comes under the heading of Kill Your Darlings. I would prefer not to.
‼Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays. I’ve already dropped Sundays. This is the Wednesday report, late. The upside: If I’d reported on Wednesday, I’d have had nothing to say about #2.
Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
?Take three naps a week I napped. Don’t know when or how often, but I napped. The question: Is it acceptable to count naps I took because I couldn’t stay awake?
Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m. / 9. Cook at least one decent meal for David / 10. Dust the piano. / 11. Get rid of ten things a day / 12. Collect and organize books / 13. Shred
August 7 Buffet
Eat no refined sugar. Eat a minimum of carbohydrates, including starchy vegetables and fruit. (I ate an ungodly amount of sugar over the weekend; had a reason but let things get out of hand; in other words, went crazy). A PET scan is scheduled for Wednesday, and, for the most accurate results, I need to be as sugar-free as possible. Bottom line, I hope I didn’t run up my blood sugar. Shouldn’t have but you never know. Cancer cells like sugar.
Finish critiques of remaining AMW stories and return to writers
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” ~ Robert Browning, Andrea del Sarto
My reach last week exceeded my grasp.
I followed Tuesday’s stellar 1000 Molly words (or 921, depending on who’s counting) with 0 Molly words for the rest of the week. But I was so pleased with the 1000 that the 0 hasn’t worried me.
Anyway, I’m not going to use them. I realized, after the scene had symboled* for a couple of days, that it should be seen but not heard. Instead of setting the altercation (among three jealous thespians) inside the cafe, I’ll put it on the patio, where Molly and her cohorts can watch through the picture window.
Establishing distance between the two groups of characters creates detachment. Molly, who has already been yelled at once this morning, merely observes the battle. She doesn’t get involved, as she would be required to do if the brouhaha took place in her presence. She’s free to comment on the behavior of the egomaniacs on the other side of the glass. And comment she does. A generally restrained person, Molly is having more and more trouble curbing her tongue.
So that’s what I accomplished week: 1000 words I will not use.
Does this bother me? No. I wrote; I learned. I demonstrated to myself that less can be more.
I didn’t do so well at keeping records. I brought them up to date this evening, but they’re not complete. A daily log would have shown more writing time than the one I cobbled together from memory.
Regarding goal #3: I did not join or volunteer for anything this week. I did promise David I would dismantle the bulwark of books and papers surrounding my chair. We were having friends over tonight, and he thought we would appear more welcoming if we didn’t make them climb over my library to get to the tacos. Having spent more than two years working in tort litigation, I agreed. But picking up toys doesn’t constitute joining or volunteering.
Lest it be thought I wrote 1000 words and stopped cold, I’ll add that I put out another newsletter, approximately 6600 words, most of which were not written by me. But I did wrestle them into place. That’s worth a couple of brownie points. At least by my estimation. And since I award my own points, the say-so is mine.
*One of my freshman literature professors had a cook who claimed that soup tasted better if it was allowed to symbol for a while. The professor said she thought writing, too, was better when it was given time to symbol. I don’t remember a great deal about Beowulf, but the lesson on symboling has stayed with me for—a long time.
Another round of ROW80 begins today, and I’ve signed on. I would like to say I’m doing it because I was so successful the first time, but that would be overstatement bordering on a lie. In fact, it would be a lie. I became so tired of reporting that I couldn’t even remember my goals that I stopped reporting and just wrote whatever came to mind.
(Oh, joy. The Internet is down again and I must reboot the router. It’s okay. I get a lot of exercise walking across the room and toggling a little switch.)
Back to ROW80.
One of my CPs came across the following post on the blog Letters of Note. It’s a copy of a letter in which Pixar animator Austin Madison tells aspiring artists how to handle times of “creative drought.”
“In a word,” he writes, “PERSIST.”
So I dive into ROW80 once more because I’m persisting.
And because I want to. I discovered some interesting/entertaining/informative blogs during the first round, and I hope to discover more.
It’s also good to write in the company of others. Not to be accountable to them, but to share their energy. We’re all working toward the same thing.
Part of the ROW80 contract is a statement of goals. I’ll keep it simple.
During the next 80 days, I will spend a portion of every day WRITING. Not answering e-mails, not composing blog posts, not commenting on blogs. Not playing Bejeweled (I’m getting pretty good at it). I will WRITE (which includes revising, editing, organizing) something intended for submission, and not for self-publication. Five hundred words a day is a nice round number, and something to shoot for.
During the next 80 days, I will submit chapters to my critique groups. The other members haven’t threatened to kick me out if I don’t get back to writing, but they are beginning to look at me with a different expression. Sort of like the Aggies look at Reveille. As if they’re going to start giving me little head pats and perhaps a dog biscuit if sit quietly while they’re discussing their manuscripts.
My third goal is to eschew perfectionism, but I’ve been eschewing so competently that I don’t need to put it in writing.
I hope everyone reading this post will click over to Austin Madison’s letter. His ideas aren’t new, but they’re often forgotten. Sometimes we need to read them in new words, from new people, and we need to read them again and again.
Image of Reveille by Patrick Boyd (cropped from ) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Last week CP and I made a pact to write at least 100 words a day.
When I began this manuscript, I wrote at least 500 words a day. But with one thing and another, over the months, production slipped. So, although 100 seemed paltry compared to what I used to do, or what I could or should do, I thought it a reasonable minimum, small enough not to feel threatening or to spark the dreaded Writer’s Block.
If I’d known I was going to rejoin Curves today, however, I would have held out for only fifty.
I made one Curves circuit, fifteen minutes of pushing and pulling against hydraulic resistance. Twice would have possible but stupid. In the first place, I have no sense of proportion. No shades of gray. It’s all or nothing. If I’d stayed, I would have ended up putting every scrap of energy I possessed into doing battle with those machines. And at the end of the day, I’d have felt worse than I do now.
In the second place, …I’ve forgotten what’s in the second place.
That’s an indication of how fit I am to add 100 words to Molly’s story before I crater.