An important part of writing is being alive, and one way to extend my life (and increase the quality of it) is regular exercise. I am not a sporty person, I don’t like taking walks for the sake of the walk, or well, most exercise-y things. Still, I know from past expirience that if I establish a routine that includes working out I will do it, even when I don’t feel like it, and eventually my body will come to crave the exercise. I still won’t like it, but it will feel good as well as bad, so I’ll do it.
That makes me sound a little crazy doesn’t it? It’s true, but more importantly it’s a long way to go to get here: I need an accountability partner to help me set that initial routine.
I had one a while back and things were going great. We’d check in with each other every day and complain about how much our workout hurt (in this case it was The 30-Day Shred) or celebrate that it was getting easier. It was very motivating to me and on several days when I normally would have not exercised (and justified it to myself somehow) I forced myself to suck it up and just do it, because I knew my partner would be working out even though she didn’t want to.
Sadly my partner had an (unrelated) accident and a couple new developments that meant she has to take some time off working out like we were. Without her there to help motivate me, my working out also collapsed.
Jo is going to be my new accountability partner, but I thought I’d also put this out to the universe in case anyone else is interested in getting in on the ‘action’ 🙂 I’ll be beginning to workout again on October 1st which gives you a little bit to talk yourself into doing this with me and dropping me a line (on either blog or email 🙂 ). The more the merrier!
Also, there are only two more days left to enter the Goodreads contest to win a copy of Shades of Green:
Last weekend was spent at my parent’s in southern Alberta. It’s often rather tricky to find something for all of us to do and enjoy, but my mom hit on a wonderful idea when she suggested we go to the Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale. I will totally be going back, but in the meantime some of the pictures I took on that trip will decorate this post.
So far I’m doing very well at my goal to write more consistently. I’ve not been allowing myself to play World of Warcraft unless I’ve written that day. Occasionally I’m not very good at the whole self-denial thing, but so far I’m pulling it off. That means less naps, and a more regimented daily routine in order to get everything I need to do and some of the things I want to do done, and I really like it. I’ve mentioned that I do very well if I have a routine? Well, that one resolution is helping me establish one.
I’ve been using a couple aps to help me stick to this. The first is called ‘Streaks’ and is really just a calendar where I can tap any day I’ve written on and it puts an X on the day. It keeps track of my streaks and if I miss a day that ends the streak and I have to start again. If you’ve got a brain like mine it’s surprisingly movitating to be able to make that little X appear on the screen, as well as not wanting to miss any days LOL The other ap just came out last night and I love it already. It’s called ‘Epic Win!’ and basically it lets you add your chores into a list and then as you do them you gain expirience points so your little avatar dude gets to level up and get gear. It’s like the ultimate nerd to-do list. I love it already.
So, yeah — so far so good. I’m getting a fair amount of writing done. I’ve written, revised and re-revised Chapter Eight of Lost and Found, for example. It’s done — I’ve sent it to Bill to work his magic on, that means no more changes for it. Chapter Nine has also been written and revised and is just waiting for me to send it to my critique group for their feedback before polishing it and calling it done.
Chapter Ten on the other hand…oh, chapter ten.
Happily my aps and my new routine will help me write it, and if it’s really bad, write it again, and again until I get it right. After all, I really need to get Lost and Found finished up, and then move on to Shadows. I’d been hoping to have the first draft of it finished and resting by November so I could work on something else for NaNo. I don’t think that’s going to happen now, but maybe. And either way, like the tortoise I’m making my way to the finish line. Slow and steady — because that’s how you win the race.
P.S. I got 50 expirience points for writing this blog post 😉
This weekend we went to Fort Edmonton Park. We arrived on Saturday, stayed the night at the hotel there and then left on Sunday. A large motivation for the trip was just to have fun at the park as a family, but staying at the Selkirk Hotel was one of those things on my ‘Edmonton Bucket List’ (for lack of a better phrase) and I also wanted to turn it into a photo safari. The idea of being able to shoot things in the park without the crowds (between closing and opening) was too much to resist.
It was very nice. We had a lovely dinner and had fun hanging out with each other, meandering around the streets, petting horses and riding trains.
However, as a photo safari it did not meet my (ridiculously high) expectations. The problem wasn’t the setting, it was the photographer. That’s right, me.
I made a series of minor mistakes that piled up to mean several shots that could have been great were lost, or ruined, or just didn’t work. That being said, I’m still counting the trip as a success — even in regard to photography. Why? Well, because while I made a whack of mistakes, I also learned from them and I’m optimistic I won’t make them again — at least not in succession like I did this weekend.
I am still learning to apply that attitude toward my writing. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s true. While photography is a hobby that I am really enjoying right now, writing is my job, it’s what I do. Being a writer is who I am. So I put more pressure on myself for it than I do photography…but little by little I’m becoming more forgiving of my own imperfections, even in regard to writing.
I finished up a new chapter on Friday and within minutes sent it off to my critique group. That is not something I could have ever forced myself to do a year ago. No way. Now, granted, I sent it off that quickly because it’s part of Lost and Found which had deadlines of the looming kind and I wasn’t going to have time to let it set and revise before sending, but it’s still progress. And progress, often, is good.
So I’ll keep working on that, being forgiving toward myself and in the meantime I’ll share some of my Fort Edmonton photos here as I find time to process them because Arnold, at least, told me to keep sharing photos here and no one screamed ‘Oh God No!’
I took this picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in 2009. I like it very much, though if we get back to San Francisco I intend to retake this shot with a polarizing filter on my lens to darken up the sky 😉
So, I just got back from a writing retreat at the Strawberry Creek Lodge. It was an interesting expirience, one I’m still processing. I’m not sure what the take home message is yet. I think it will either be ‘I need to ease up on myself a bit’ or else ‘I am not really a retreat person’. It might even be a combination of those two things.
This picture? I took it while I was there, as well as all the other pictures included in this post. The retreat was good for pictures, it was also good for birds. I love watching birds, listening to birds, photographing them, and I got to do all those things on the retreat as well. The pictures didn’t turn out so well for the most part, but like I told a friend what I expirience trumps what I capture on film. So yes, the birds were good.
The writing? Less good.
Well, perhaps that’s not fair. It wasn’t what I’d wanted though.
The retreat ran from Wednesday afternoon through to Sunday afternoon. That gave me three full days and two half days of writing. There is no television, no internet, no distractions. I thought this would be the perfect chance to pen the new first draft of SHADOWS. My plan was 5k words on the two half days and 10k words on each of the three full days. That’s a lot of writing but, I told myself, I know the story so it’s not like I will get blocked or anything. I’m mostly transcribing from my brain more than writing in any sort of creative way…
Um. Yeah. It’s funny the lies I can convince myself are true.
So I arrived at the cabin, all ready to go. Sure I was going to get the first 40,000 words on this draft done and then be able to finish writing the story in no time when I got home. I’m hoping for about 90,000 words on this draft, so in essence I was hoping to get half of it done while I was writing. Oh yes! A few days of intense writing and I’d be good to go!
The problems with this, as I’m sure you see even though I didn’t until I was right in the middle of everything, are many. One of the biggest ones I ran into right off the bat was that apparently some switch got flipped in my brain, and I suspect it came directly from the ‘I’m transcribing more than writing’ thought process. You see, pretty much everything I wrote while I was on retreat is remarkably dry and lacking any sort of personality or emotion. The current draft of Shadows (the one written pre-retreat) has loads and loads of personality, it needs to be re-drafted to fix plot problems and because if I just revised it to fix them I feel like the whole thing would begin to feel over-revised. Now, the draft I’m in the midst of has a stronger plot but lacks personality.
This is going to be a freaking nightmare to revise. I’m going to have to sort of try to merge the two drafts first and then revise. Wheee! Fun fun. In order to save my own sanity I am sorely tempted to start pulling descriptive passages from the pre-retreat draft and write them out in my new first draft. It will no longer be a ‘fresh’ draft if I do that, but it will have some flavor and since it seems that’s something I’ll end up doing in the first round of revision/merging, might be a timesaver. We’ll see, I guess.
Sadly, that problem wasn’t the biggest one I encountered on retreat. The biggest problem was my own brain.
As I write a novel I go through lots of stages, and I know I’m not alone. In fact, Jim Hines summed it up pretty much perfectly here. Usually while difficult it’s not impossible to work through those things, largely because they are spread out over time. However, I learned last weekend that if you compress the time you are taking to write the novel you also compress all the emotions that go with it. They don’t get weakened either, quite the contrary. By Friday night I was pretty sure I was wasting my time and money by going on retreat to write and by Saturday I was paralyzed. Certain I was a hack who didn’t have an original idea in her head and couldn’t write her way out of…well, take that cliche where ever you want. The point is, I was not writing. I was laying in my room staring at the ceiling, or calling home on the cell phone with the dying battery (no charger, whee!) just to hear Jo and Danica’s voice.
I relaxed my writing goals on Friday morning because I am writing this draft long hand and I didn’t want to cripple my hand. Plus, I was beginning to see the emotional price I was going to be paying for my ‘intensive writing’. Maybe I shouldn’t have, then I might have been able to push through the slump and start climbing back in love with the book, but maybe I also would have made myself feel even worse.
The end result is that I’m at about 20,000 words and I haven’t written a single word of fiction on that draft or anything else since I got home on Sunday. I’ve not even looked at it…though I have considered pros and cons of beginning the merge sooner rather than later. That has to count for something and I’ll take my victories where I can find them.
Despite how bad I made it sound, it wasn’t all bad, certainly. I met some new people, got some pretty nice photographs, ate a lot of fantastic food and had some wonderful non-writing expiriences. I listened to some great audio-stories (The Classic Tales Podcast) because though I made a point of not bringing any books with me in the midst of my writing paralysis I remembered I had some unlistened to ones on my ipod. I got 20,000 words done on my new first draft, and even if I think they are going to need a ridiculous amount of revision, those are 20,000 words I didn’t have before. So it wasn’t all bad and perhaps with this improved insight into myself future retreats would be better, but right now I’m left wondering if I’m really a retreat kind of person. I guess only time will tell…
I think this is my first successful use of HDR photography. I took this picture to use in a project Jo and I working on together and I’m remarkably fond of it. Partly because I learned a lot in creating it, partly just because it’s neat 🙂