Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hour of Writing Update

So far so good.

Day 2 and I have written 2 hours.

Last night I powered through and wrote until the alarm rang. I'm feeling the same kind of high I feel after starting back to regular running after an erratic hiatus- relaxed and energized.

I've had this short story playing around in my head for weeks yet I couldn't seem to get anywhere with it because I kept starting and stopping. I would lose the thread of the story and feel it forming a knot. Now I'm deep inside feeling my way through it. I can't wait to finish it and begin editing.

If I am seriously considering continuing towards a MFA I need a stronger portfolio. The only way this is going to happen is if I'm writing everyday. Knowing what I need to do to get from point A to point B isn't complicated. The complication is in giving myself the permission to do it.

I'm elated now but when the schedule starts to become crazy again or illness strikes I'll have to remember this moment. For me, this has to be an everyday occurrence. I can't take one day off or else it becomes too easy to take the next day off.

Monday, March 28, 2011

One Hour A Day

Graham Greene had his 500 words. I'm starting with an hour a day. Given the complexity of my life these days I can spare at least an hour for writing.

My strict criteria is that this hour can only be spent on creative writing. Character development and plot development do not count as part of this hour. Blogging and tweeting don't count, nor does posting a status on Facebook. And... this may be going too far... class assignments don't count. Not even the most creatively spun feature story that makes an audience weep, laugh, and become one with the subject.

See now I've gone and muddied the whole grand idea. I've now tacked up a giant "NO PROCRASTINATING" sign. I will now be forced to be a writer who writes.

With the imposition of these harsh mandates, I might (gasp!) become a published writer and then what will I have to complain about?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

School Tomorrow

Spring break is officially over for me.

I spent my spring break suffering through the worse case of pink eye, a sore throat that left me in tears every time I swallowed, and exhaustion that had me sleeping at least 12 hours every day.

On the surface it was terrible but deep down I needed the mental vacation. I didn't open one text book. I don't even know what's on my agenda this week. Normally this would find me in a state of panic but I'm refreshingly relaxed.

This state of ease probably has something to do with the fact that I've decided to focus on one major. Creative writing has won out. As much as I'd like to continue in journalism, I'm not deeply in love with the major. It probably doesn't help that Journalism Department is in flux and seems to be seeking to define itself in the Age of the Internet. It's a tad bit disconcerting to have your professors wondering why anyone would want a journalism major in this day and age.

I still intend to freelance. I'll write for the school newspaper and online magazine to collect my precious clips but I'll do it outside of classes. As an English major I can still seek out internships at magazines and newspapers (it's actually encouraged by our rather practical English Department).

So I can finally take a deep breath and focus on my first love.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Lately I feel I have become the embodiment of one hand clapping in the universe: here but feckless. I've become the shadow in my own life.

I know writing is a solitary profession. I know there is a need for silence in order to organize thoughts and ideas. But I wasn't planning on having that silence extend into every part of my life.

There was a time I had the best of both worlds. I could descend inside my cocoon, gestate, and then emerge seeking life and companionship. Now I emerge to nothingness. I'm constantly tapping the mike, "Sound check. Sound check. Is this thing on?"

Friends have abandoned me just as I have become a more compelling and substantial being. I accept the natural ebb and flow of relationships but here in this trough there is no flow to balance the ebb. I hold my phone sifting through the mental list of friends to chat with and it's always the same, 0.

I'm in desperate need of new friends but it's a task easier said than done. If I span my resume I have all the requisite skills- articulate, good communicator, sense of humor, well informed, serious but not too much, empathetic, loyal, etc... My quest has been much like the American economy- lots of seekers, very few seeking.

The true writer in me finds meaning. This is meant to be. This is my time to concentrate on the writing and ignore the extraneous. Someday this will make a good story.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Video of the Day- Foo Fighter's "Rope"

Writing Software

I purchased a writing program called "WriteWay" about a year and half ago. At the time I was convinced I just had to have it. I downloaded the program and promptly forgot about it.

Once my mother moved in with us and displaced me from my dreamed of office, I'm like a homeless person wandering around with their possessions in a shopping cart. I don't want to work in my bedroom because I feel too isolated. The living room is out since my mother needs to have the television on ALL the time. And not just on but on at maximum volume. We've considered getting her a television in her bedroom but that would mean enduring the television on high all night just below my bedroom.

I've considered working in the living room but then that was the reason I displaced my children from the third bedroom which was our family room and sent them to the living room. It's like writing in Grand Central Station without the crowds of interesting people.

I've basically been stacking all my notebooks, stories and books on a shelf behind the guniea pigs cages in our living room (oh, the trials and tribulations of the unpublished writer).

I bought the software so I wouldn't have to sort through various notebooks which hold writings, story ideas, journal notes and research. But I'm like an old dog. Once I had the software I ignored it. I actually forgot it was there until I was cleaning out my system and wondered what the hell this program was.

Now I've been using WriteWay to develop my novel. I've been playing around with this story for about six years now (God, has it really been that long?). I would start writing and then lose my steam or interest and start on some other idea (which I've come to accept as my style). A lot of times, I would give up because I couldn't find some notes or ideas I had scribbled on a post-it or the back of an envelope.

Theoretically, I should not have this problem anymore since the program allows me to consolidate. All I need is my computer and one notebook, I keep with me at all times, for those times when I'm on a soccer field for hours and not feeling particularly safe with balls whizzing around.

I created a character template since I realized that often I find myself bemused by my main character. I have been able to get inside her head in a creepy horror movie kind of way. If she were real, she'd probably have a restraining order out on me right now. I tried doing this with my notebook method but I must admit I would get completely distracted and begin writing out plot notes or reflections on other characters. With this program I can still do that but I have separate places to put that material outside of my character template.

I've always imagined myself as the somewhat organized yet chaotic writer with stacks of papers and books piled all over organized in some bizarre fashion known only to me. It's strange thinking in this contained space. I haven't started working on writing yet so the jury is still out on whether I am the software type.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Leave Me Alone and Let Me Write

I'm struggling this morning. I was home with sick kids last week and I'm finding it tough to get myself back into the swing of classes again. I would much rather be writing than going to class.

I returned back to school to get my degree so I could focus on my writing unfortunately I feel too often I'm spending far too much time concentrating on someone else's writing.

Don't get me wrong; I love the classes I'm taking. I have felt inspired, energized and my writing is stronger and richer than it's ever been. I'm not sure I would have reached this point in the craft if I toiled away in isolation but I'm not writing as much as I would like to be.

Daily I am blessed with ideas for nonfiction books, short stories, novels, poems and essays. I keep a notebook filled with ideas hoping that by writing them down I can maintain their energy. Then I go back to cobbling a few minutes here and there to work on any one project. There are some days I don't write at all between running a household of children and an elderly mother plus classes and deadlines.

Since my mother moved in with us, I don't even have a place to escape to write. My dream-office is now her bedroom. I'm like an addict when it comes to writing. When I don't write, I start craving. I find myself writing in my head, through the middle of conversations and lectures. I can still process what is being said and I can retain an incredible amount of information but this other part of my brain is off in the netherworld. This only gets me so far. I need to get all these words out or else I become one cranky creature.

I cut my schedule down to two classes this semester which gave me two free days off to write while my youngest is in pre-school. I head straight to the study room on campus with my computer and food and I only get up to stretch or for bathroom breaks. But most of that "free" time is spent on assignments for classes- researching, setting up interviews, or meeting with fellow classmates on a project. I enjoy this but my own writing is languishing.

I have class in less than an hour but I'm torn because I know I'll be there but my heart won't. I'll be longing to be elbow deep in my novel. I know when I get home from school the duties of mother and chief cook and bottle washer will take over. Maybe I'll get a run in to keep my sanity but I doubt I'll have that much needed uninterrupted time I crave to write.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Weight of My Weight

I am struggling. I stepped on the scale and I definitely felt a seismic rumble as the digital numbers flashed up (oh horror) then back down (relief) and then back up again; two pounds since Sunday. I cannot plead ignorance, my husband's de facto position. His immediate response is to question the findings, "This, can’t be right. I don’t know how this could have happened", uttered with a righteous indignation that would fill any politician with pride.

No I do not do this. I know exactly how it happened. After all, I was the willing participant- three packed tortillas with an extra helping of Spanish rice along with my usual cooking companion snack. I try to choose healthy and organic snacks.But like most Americans, I can't seem to stop myself and before I know it the entire container is gone.

For most of my childhood and adult life, I could eat whatever I wanted and I remained small. I was never rail thin since I was blessed with curves from both sides of my family but my weight hovered between 115 and 120 pounds. The largest I ever got was 180 pounds when I was pregnant with my son George but then he was almost ten pounds when he was born. I left the hospital weighing 135 pounds.

The trouble started after I had William. I was almost forty and it felt like I just couldn’t shake the added baby weight. Exercising was tough after I gave birth to him since he was a winter baby and the weather was snowy and brutal and my exercise of choice is running. Once spring began, I tried running regularly but then I was sidelined with allergies. By the time the allergies passed, the temperature shot straight to hot and humid. I ran when I could.

I was not obese and the weight was not very noticeable to other people but I didn’t like the way my clothes clung to me. I didn’t like feeling slight aches and pains where I had never had any before. I didn’t like that I was constantly thinking about food, especially during high stress times when the baby was crying, I needed to cook dinner, my other children needed help with school work, and there were the endless cycle of chores to complete. Since I was always getting a bowl for someone else why not for myself also? Some for you; some for me.

Then when William was well into toddlerhood, we were out with some friends who came up from the city to visit. We went for lunch and then stopped for ice cream. As we took a leisurely stroll through town, my pants split. Thank goodness for clean underwear! At the time, I didn’t make any connection between this accident and my weight. In my mind, I was the same lean athlete who ran every day and raced almost every weekend. The pants were defective, case closed.

Thankfully there weren’t any other wardrobe malfunctions on this scale but I did start to notice a lot of my clothes were defective. A perfectly fine pair of jeans wouldn’t go past my knee. The new pair of pants I bought off the rack without trying on, said my size but for some reason they didn’t fit. I’d never shop in that store again. Shirts felt tight in places and ripped with the simplest movement. I consider myself an intelligent analytical problem-solver but in this instance I was too deep in denial. It was cheap manufactured clothing from China, hard water and my crappy dryer were conspiring to shrink my clothing, and my favorite reason, the new lotion I was using on my skin which acted as an anti-lubricant preventing my pants from smoothly moving up my leg.

But then I went to the doctor for a check-up and found I was 154 pounds. I only ever reached 154 pounds when I had a life growing inside of me. Yikes! I was in a state of panic. In a moment of crisis, some people turn to religion in their moment of crisis, as a writer, I naturally turned to books. I read everything at the library but the advice was overwhelming- eat low-fat, eat low calorie, eat based on your blood type, eat based on your body type, count calories, don’t count calories, weigh every day, don’t weigh daily, keep a food journal, create a spread sheet, drink wine, eat chocolate, eliminate sugar, eat only raw foods, cut out all gluten or meat or dairy, use special Chinese herbs, eat an Asian diet or a Mediterranean diet or a French diet, meditate, pray—you get the idea. Is there any wonder Americans are so confused when it comes to nutrition.

Basically I've distilled these millions of pages of information to: eat less, exercise more. Less crap, more substance. Intellectually, I understand what I need to do, but emotionally I’m resisting. I’m resentful that I have entered this stage of life where I have to pay attention to my weight. I hate knowing there are consequences to having the giant Caramel Latte with whipped cream, I hate that I can no longer eat three slices of pizza and still fit into my jeans.

Enough whining and complaining; it’s time to take action and make substantial changes if I have any hopes of reaching my goal weight of 125 pounds by my birthday in July.