Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #9

  1. The French Open is messing with my resolution to keep the TV off in the mornings. But my PVR helps. I only have a few shows set to record (Private Eyes is back!), but it means I’m not compulsively flipping the channels, looking for something to watch. I watch a show after work, and then I delete. I watch less TV, but I watch what I want.
  2. This Wednesday, I biked out to Crescent Beach. It was my first bike ride of the year. I wasn’t sure that the weather would hold for the whole day, and it turned out that it didn’t. It was overcast, and later it got windy. But just the chance to spend an afternoon on the beach, in the sun, in the ocean, made my week better.
  3. My new steno notebooks are working out pretty well. I filled the first one in two weeks. The thing I like most about them is the two columns. It means that the daily log I write at the back of my book takes up far fewer pages. The thing I like least about them is the paper. It’s rather thin and gets caught up on the spiral binding a lot.
  4. The inventor of the Hawaiian pizza died today. Hawaiian has always been my favourite pizza. But now that I’m vegetarian, I don’t eat ham. On my way home from work, I stopped at the grocery store and bought a can of pineapple tidbits, pizza mozzarella (on sale!), some mushrooms, and a tomato. When I got home, I made some dough. It wasn’t exactly the pizza Sam Panopoulos invented. But I made it on a whim, and I have leftovers for tomorrow.

It’s been 11 months since Brexit and 6 months since the US election. The world is in a bad place right now, and Canada is caught–literally–in the middle. We are England’s daughter and America’s sister. We are a member of the Commonwealth and a major trade partner. But beyond that, the UK and the US are such large international powers that what happens to them affects the entire world.

I can feel it affecting me.

I published my first novella in 2013. For the next two years, I tried really hard to write full time, but I couldn’t write fast enough to make enough money. So I found a day job and gave up fiction for while. But in 2017, happy endings feel more important than ever. What I’ve been writing so far is short story submissions for anthologies, so I can’t share them yet. But I want to share something. We all need a few more happy endings in our lives right now.

(I wish that phrase didn’t have a sexual connotation, but hey, I write those kinds of happy endings, too.)

Two years ago this month, I started a project to create and publish a zine a week. A year ago this month, I finished, with 50 completed zines behind them. I’ve spent the past year trying to figure out what I want to do next. Sundays worked for me last time, so I’m gonna try it again.

It’s no surprise that I’ve drifted back into fiction this year. This is what I need right now. If you need a happy ending, too, I’m writing a serial inspired by Fleetwood Mac, updated every Sunday, and you can read along.

I literally (and I use that word correctly) said this morning that I was giving up on the vampire story. I’ve been trying to write something short for an anthology submission, and the deadline is today. I thought I would write this weekend; I didn’t. This morning, I finally said, meh. Vampires just aren’t my thing. I shouldn’t feel bad about not writing this story.

But I did feel bad! I felt like I failed. I felt a lot like at the beginning of the month when I did this exact same thing. I didn’t dictate this time around. I just sat on my couch with my laptop and wrote directly into Scrivener. Because there is more than one way to write a story. You have to keep moving to find the way that’s going to work at that moment. Today, it was getting annoyed enough with myself that I wrote the thing out of spite.

I am not complaining. This is story #3 in 30 days, since I decided to try writing fiction again. The next deadline is at the end of the month. I hope to come back and tell you that I didn’t second guess myself again, but I think we all know how this is going to end. But at least I’ll get story #4 out of the struggle.

Yesterday I lamented that I probably wasn’t going to make a deadline today. But I did! I talked about how in this morning’s video. I wrote 2800 words today and submitted the story to an anthology.

But I didn’t actually write all of it; I dictated it. (And then I did a ton of typing and editing after, but the dictation is the new part.) I do a lot with Siri on my phone, mostly using the voice recognition for short messages in Slack or texts or just notes when I’m walking and I can’t write something down. But this was the very first time I had dictated something longer than a blog post.

I’m so happy with how it turned out. I can’t believe how easy it was and why I didn’t try this earlier.  This morning, I wasn’t sure I’d finish the story, and I felt bad about giving up. So I sat down and did it, any way possible. I’m so proud of myself for doing it. I knew that I could write it, and I figured out a way.

I’m going to write a lot more like this. The more I talk, the more I write, the more I shoot, the more ideas I can get out of my head and into the world.

I made a video! As promised yesterday, I’m testing all week. Trying to figure out the best angle in my basement apartment so the light doesn’t wash me out. Unfortunately, it seems that angle is not against my wall of art, but I guess my wall of bookcases is good, too. Now I just have to rearrange all my books so I look smart.

I even tested all three pairs of my glasses to see if one glares less than the others. No luck. I spent extra on one pair for the anti-blue coating, the stuff that’s supposed to help with staring all day at electronic screens, but I didn’t like the way it made the whole world yellow, like I was living in the Mad Max filter or something. I don’t wear those glasses as often as I should.

This video isn’t a vlog. It’s a time lapse of me writing my morning pages at my desk. I’m a piler, so using my desk always means clearing off my desk first. I have got to start using it for writing more regularly. I do everything on my couch. The far left spot is my home base. That’s why I like to get out and write at Starbucks a few times a week. I need to push out of where I’m comfortable to find something new.

This is a tiny video, but it’s out of where I’m comfortable. It’s a first little step towards something new.

A weird feeling when you write a letter on paper in the year 2017: you wonder, a few hours later, with the envelope sitting unsent on your coffee table, why your friend hasn’t responded yet.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #1

  1. I eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. No matter the weather. No matter the time. No matter what else I have in my fridge. It’s a low key routine, easy to maintain, and I’m learning how much I need that in my life. My base recipe is 1/3 cup quick oats, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 tsp salt, and enough boiling water to cover. Ideally, let it stand, covered, for two minutes, but I don’t always. My current recipe is adding a big spoonful of peanut butter, but as we inch closer to summer, I’m looking forward to adding fresh fruit.
  2. I spent a lot of years of my life looking for the perfect pen. I should’ve spent more time writing and less time worrying. I use a pencil now. Currently, a package of Strawberry Shortcake (the original) pencils I found in my Christmas stocking so many years ago that the erasers have dried up. Pencils are cheap. They go well with my preferred notebook: a 9×6 spiral-bound for $1.50.
  3. Speaking of stocking stuffers (Santa always kills it), I’m getting to the bottom of a jar of cranberry body butter from The Body Shop. I have a dozen different lotions all over my house, but I keep this one of my end table. It’s perfect for hands after washing dishes.
  4. I have had a lot of blogs. I’ve tried everything. I started on Blogspot, spent a lot of time on Livejournal, almost stuck with Tumblr, and now I’m here on my own site, powered by WordPress. It’s exactly what I want right now. I love hand-coding and making my own thing, but using WordPress means I’m way more likely to actually blog every day. There are no excuses when it’s this easy.

What I’ve been working on this week is importing 750words.com entries into this blog. If you’re not familiar, 750words is based on Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages idea. Three pages of writing first thing in the morning. I discovered the website in 2010 and kept up the habit (off and on) until 2015. By then I was back to keeping a regular paper notebook, and I realised I didn’t need a half dozen different places to write stuff down. I gave up on 750words and DayOne at the same time. But I still do Morning Pages in my notebook.

As long as stuff is getting written down somewhere, that’s what matters to me. So far, right now, my 750words entries on this blog are private. The beauty of the exercise is that it’s private. The goal is to write whatever is on your mind, and a lot of the time, that’s whining, complaining, moaning, and groaning. That’s a lot easier to write when you know no one will read it. But once you get the whining out of the way,  the good stuff comes out.

There’s a lot of good stuff that started in my 750words entries. This one about Björk. The characters in HOME TEAM/AWAY GAME. I can ramble aloud and work stuff out, with the hope it’ll become something public (maybe even something you can read). That didn’t happen as often as I had anticipated, but as I look back through the entries now, I see how the same ideas come up again and again. How I was refining my voice in private. Now I’m ready to let some of it out for everyone else to see.

Instead of reading the blogs of fellow writers, I read a lot of blogs by software developers. I suppose it has something to do with wanting in your free time the exact opposite of what you do in your work time. My brother is a chef and butcher, and the last thing he wants to do at holidays is cook. My work is all about books, and the last thing I want to do is read book reviews. I have too many unread books on my shelves to even think about buying more.

But I find a lot to learn from software developers, especially those who run their own businesses, usually one person shops. I run a one person shop, too. We both sell digital products. You spend a lot of unpaid time making a thing, but when it’s done, you have a product you can sell without extra labour. You don’t have to build app or ebook again; you only have to copy and paste.

Keep building your catalogue, and keep building your audience. Eventually, the one will find the other.

Six days left in March, and I have a lot of pages to fill in my notebook. So many pages, in fact, that I haven’t even counted them. I usually do that once I get into the last week of a month. Ever since I made the goal to fill a book a month, I’m always aware of how many pages are left.

It’s not about whether or not I can do it. I know I can. It’s about what is it going to take. I wrote my three morning pages. I made a note of the Cubs season opener. (Weird moment seeing the commercial during curling when I wondered how David Ross can be on Dancing with the Stars if baseball season starts next week, and then I was sad when I remembered he’s retired.)

Today is a spring cleaning day rather than a hiking day or a writing day. It’s a shame, because the weather is actually nice, where “nice” means “cold, but not raining.” But my parents are on their way home from vacation, which means I have to clean up their house before I go home. Monday brings the end of spring break and the return of most of my students. Back to the routine, and back to writing at Starbucks. Gotta fill those pages.