Good and Tired

Made myself get up early on a Sunday and work on my revision of chapter 8. Completed the first of four new scenes that will appear in the middle of that chapter. After I’m done with those, then it’s on to minor revisions of the chapter’s beginning, then major revisions, including one more new scene, to its conclusion.

Yeah, it was hard to drag my ass out of bed this morning, and there’s something to be said for getting adequate rest. But I can’t be afraid of being tired. The image of the leisurely writer, composing at ease while sipping a cool drink, is a dangerous myth that I’ve too easily fallen for. If the only way to make this career work is to be good and tired, then fire up the coffee maker.

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Experimentation as Experience

Mandibelle16, reblogging a post from Ryan Lanz which reprinted an essay from Meg Dowell recounting the best writing advice Meg have ever received — can I stop with the attribution now? — makes an argument for experimentation, for following even the craziest idea to its end, for no other reason than to see what you encounter along the way.

Most of the stories on this blog start exactly that way, with an idea so compelling that my imagination can’t let it go until it is fully expressed. None of these stories is anything near polished, and most will never be revised; they’ll remain in their underdeveloped state, like the wooden skeleton of a framed house without walls.

I’m not always happy with the end result, but even when an experiment fails, I’ve found value in having gone through the process. Writing these stories not only satisfies the curiosity engaged when an idea comes to me, but also develop my skills in plotting, dialogue, and characterization. I gain valuable experience from each one of these projects, and I hope the day never comes when I stop enjoying the effort they require.

Closing Time

It’s 2018, and it’s time.

Time to follow through on an ambition I’ve held since the time I started my professional career almost thirty years ago: to stop working jobs I have to do, and do the work I want to do.

It won’t be easy, because for all the banality of my current profession, it does have its comforts. Several months ago, I realized that three decades of routine had conditioned me to avoid risk. I was going to need some help in order to make the transition to my new career.

It was around that time when I downloaded Your Guide to Calling It Quits, a short book that can be started and finished in the same evening. The author (Kelly Gurnett, who writes and blogs under the name Cordelia) begins with a brief autobiography, which read much like my own experience: “I woke up every morning absolutely dreading the day ahead of me.”

(Honestly, every morning is a bit of a stretch, but there have been far too many dread-full waking hours of late.)

The book didn’t answer all of my questions, but it contained enough insights to be truly inspirational. I particularly appreciated Cordelia’s statement that quitting has to be a positive action.

You can’t quit because you’re fed up with what you’re doing. A response rooted in despair or frustration is likely to lead to an equally negative situation.

You need to quit in order to do what you want to be doing. In other words, you need something to quit for. As I like to say, you need to run towards where you want to be, not away from where you are now.

Precisely because it is so short, “Your Guide to Calling it Quits” is a wonderful little gift for anyone contemplating a major career change. (Ironically, the author’s blog has not been updated in close to a year; has Cordelia quit quitting?) I’ve enjoyed revisiting the book lately and letting myself be inspired by its pithy advice.

I’m going to need that inspiration in the coming year, because this transition ain’t gonna be easy. Indeed, every new beginning is some other beginning’s end.

Taking Shape

Finished drafting chapter 9 of “Gray Metal Faces” this evening — and that means I’ve reached a significant milestone.

Nearly seven years ago — the exact date was October 16, 2010 — I posted a character study for what would eventually become Coach Dan. This was the start of a novel I’d been contemplating for years, and knew I would never be satisfied unless I actually wrote the damn thing. With tonight’s post, I have completed the initial draft of “Gray Metal Faces.” It’s not finished, and it certainly ain’t pretty, but it now has a sense of completion it lacked before tonight.

It’s like seeing the shape of a bowl emerge on a pottery wheel. You know it requires a lot more work, but it’s no longer a lump of clay. It has a recognizable shape — it’s a bowl, and seeing its shape emerge gives you a burst of inspiration. That’s where I’m at now with “Gray Metal Faces.” I can see its shape, imperfect as it may be, but still, there it is, after seven years of work.

Experience has taught me to take a step back and catch my breath after reaching a milestone with this novel. Not sure when I’ll get back at it (the next milestone will be a revision of the eighth and ninth chapters), but that time will come. For now, I’m going to exhale, and let myself appreciate this accomplishment.

Finish Strong

In a good position with chapter 9 as I head into the next to last weekend of the month. The first eight of the nine scenes have been drafted, leaving just the final scene in the novel’s final chapter. But I’m still climbing up a hill, rather than coasting to a conclusion; in many ways, I’ve been leading up to this last scene through all the years I’ve been working on this project. I can see the finish line, however, and I’m feeling a surge of psychic energy that I hope will allow me to finish strong.

Goal for this last scene is 6000 words (and I’ll say it again — having word count goals has been extemely helpful), a daily average of a little under 700 through next weekend. One last kick…

Getting There

Got a good start on chapter nine this holiday weekend. Eight hundred words or more each day, another five hundred the first day back to work. I’m at around twenty percent so far — still a long way to go, but at least I’m not playing catch up yet.

The pace will slow as the weekday grind sets in. Four hundred words on the days I work, double that on days off — I’ll have to pick up the pace on more than a few days to reach my goal, but I can get there. May have to push myself that final week, but this chapter is going to drafted at the end of September.

And now, chapter nine of Gray Metal Faces

There’s one more chapter of Gray Metal Faces that remains to be drafted, and I plan to cross that task off my to-do list this month.

Like I did with chapter 8 in April, I’ll be drafting the ninth and final chapter on a private site. (I’ll get around to explaining why I’m doing this at some point.) If you leave a comment on this post, I’ll send you an invitation to the private site so you can see the work in progress.

Complete the draft by October 1, and I’ll be ready to update the final two chapters for NaNoWriMo in November. A completed draft of the whole damn thing… not sure what I’ll do when I get to that point, but I’m looking forward to that great unknowing.

What Works

I’m not blogging regularly, and I want to change that fact.

There are reasons for my blogging inactivity, good ones for sure. Been actively revising some the stories I’ve drafted on this blog, such as The Land Without Mosquitos, with an eye towards getting those works edited and published. Also taken a more active role in my wife’s home business; she’s a cake decorator, and I’ve started doing a good portion of the cake baking, which to my surprise has been a wonderfully satisfying experience (I’ll have to expand on that last thought at some point). There have been several big events in my personal life as well — graduations, managing my brother’s finances, college applications, the bittersweet journey of selling my late parents’ house, and planning for a major career change. So yeah, I’ve kept myself busy, and while I’ve kept writing and have enjoyed living my life, I’ve never been able to ignore the niggling regret over not blogging, an activity that brings me great pleasure.

To restart my blogging, I’m going to revisit techniques that have proven effective in the past — reblogging, prompt responses, the occasional movie review and political commentary, and yes, more bad poetry. But let’s start with some good verse, from puttingthedogtosleep, an imaginative rumination about serving breakfast to Death.

Step In

Getting back to writing makes me feel like a kid again

Enough already! After a hiatus that has endured far too long, I’m going to resume posting on a regular basis — perhaps not every day, but certainly most days. I’ll begin by picking up where I left off with The Chosen, and mixing in the occasional prompt response, reblog, and commentary.

Felt good to step away for a while, but feels even better to step in once more.

Taking a Break

So much for not being a stranger

The rough draft of chapter 8 was completed on time (final post was on April 30) and right on budget (just over 20K words). Not entirely happy with the result (that last post was particularly disappointing), but I knew when I started on April 1 that this wasn’t going to end with a finished product. But that’s fine — what matters to me is “winning” the CampNaNoWriMo challenge for April, and more importantly, producing an item that I can craft into a more polished document for this year’s NaNoWriMo event.

As I do at the end of each of these events, I felt satisfied yet enervated at the conclusion. Decided to step away from blogging for a while, until my energy and enthusiasm return. Which it most definitely will, perhaps soon — I’m contemplating a return to The Chosen, the sword and sorcery project I started on a lark and wound up enjoying considerably.

But for now, a little more rest, then get back to indulging my enjoyable obsession.