Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An Existential Crisis Halloween

I'm celebrating Halloween by writing as much as I possibly can because my mother is coming this weekend and there's a negative correlation between my productivity as a writer and the proximity of people to my desk. Derek and I also sort of already celebrated Halloween this weekend when we went to a progressive dinner with our ski club. The dinner was scheduled early this year, and since it fell so close to Halloween, people were encouraged to dress up. About half of the people did, and we were two of them.

We tied for best costumes in the most spontaneous costume contest ever. I didn't want to participate because I'm shy and as the DD, I hadn't drank anything all evening, and I didn't want to stand up in front of everyone. I tried telling people that I always dress this way and it wasn't a costume, but they didn't buy it. We walked away with a prize bottle of Trader Joe's wine.

I've been writing like crazy the past few days. Thousands of words per day, squashing my outline, but fighting a constant battle against distractions. I read once on Veronica Roth's blog that once her book got published, she had to make peace with the fact that some people were going to be unhappy with her. She could no longer say "yes" to everything. She could no longer be perfectly agreeable.

I'm not even published (or perfectly agreeable) but I feel like I'm there. It's in my nature to be helpful and thoughtful and do lots of favors for people, but frankly, I like writing more than I like how I feel after doing favors. Last night I told Derek that everything other than writing seems like a distraction right now. He said I should think of those things as "obstacles" instead, but what's the difference? They both take me away from what I want to be doing.

I wonder if a degree of selfishness is necessary for a writer. Writing is long, hard work that requires enormous focus. How can you do that if you allow people to make endless demands on your attention? This is kind of an existential crisis for me. I like being a generous person, but I also like writing. Is it possible to merge the two?

If so, how would one do that? Seriously, I'd like to know.

* * *

UPDATE (20 minutes later): 
So I just took my dog for a walk and by the end of it, I feel a bit like an ass. At first I was feeling bitter, like, "if I were published, people would take my writing more seriously and not treat it like it should be my last priority. And if I don't take my own writing seriously, who will?"

But then I remembered that I know a published author who's like this. They're always so busy and self-important that they don't accept invitations from friends or offer to be helpful when their help would be invaluable to the person in need. I don't have much respect for this author, I intentionally don't buy or read their books, and I don't want to be like them.

I realize that in my ramblings above, I was espousing the "live to write" philosophy when I'm more of a "write to live" kind of girl. Honestly, if you have nothing to live for but your writing, that's sad. And most of the time when people say that, I don't believe them anyway. I think they're just being pompous and trying to make their work sound more important.

So screw it. I will be helpful and kind and also write and have it all! as Liz Lemon would say. I expect this attitude will work out as well for me as it does for her on 30 Rock.

Happy Halloween, fair readers :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Inspirational Poem

Watch this video. Not the whole thing, just the first 3 minutes or so. I can't say why, but this poem makes me feel powerful. Here's the original source on TED's website.

Enjoy :-)


Hilarious NASA Parody Video

I know it's a little late, given that the rover launched months ago, but this video is so cool that I have to share it. It's a respectful parody of the Mars Rover project.

Enjoy :-)

P.S. If you don't know why I would post this, read this post from the actual launch.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mood in Writing

Since I've taken such a long break from writing, or least a long break from writing without distraction, I'm trying to re-familiarize myself with my story before I dive into drafting again. To do so, I've been creating scene maps. I'm writing my book in three acts, like a play, with about 20 scenes per act.

Here's the template for my maps:

So far these map have been incredibly useful. Identifying the purpose of each scene has allowed me to see that some of the scenes I've planned weren't necessary. The maps have also allowed me to strategically place bits of exposition so that I'm not dumping too much in one scene. I try to drop exposition one or two scenes before that information becomes an essential part of the plot; that way the reader feels familiar with it by the time it's important.

Another thing that's been very useful is identifying the mood of each scene. This is usually the last piece of the map I complete, after I've written out the plot description. Never before have I actually written down the mood for a scene. Having it right in front of me is a good reminder as I write. Knowing the mood guides my choices for pacing, sentence structure, dialogue frequency, even colors. However, coming up with the right word for a mood can be tricky. I Googled "mood in writing" and found a decent list. I crossed out the moods I thought I'd never use (how do you even write a scene with a mood that's "flirty"?) and I've been adding new moods and organizing them by category. The moods aren't consistent when it comes to tense - I think that just has to do with the fact that "mood" in writing can be hard to define. You sort of just know it when you read it. In my list, just as the color indicates, moods are listed vertically from least to most extreme.

For anybody who might find it useful, here's the list:

Absence and Conference

It has been over a month since I've blogged! I have been using a thesaurus a lot lately (you'll see why in my next post), so I can't decide if I'm shamefaced, sheepish, chagrined, rueful, or plain old embarrassed. Now, why haven't I been blogging?

Derek's Birthday Party
Toward the end of last month I threw my husband an epic 30th birthday party. It was very much like planning and executing a wedding, only this party had twice as many people as our actual wedding! It took me away from my writing for a solid two weeks, but it was a great success :-) There are some photos from the event at the end of this post.

House Hunting
A time-sap if there ever was one.

Big Sur
I am going to the Big Sur Writing Workshop! Let me tell you, getting to the point that I can say that has been a process! The first night I heard about it, I stayed up for hours wondering if I had the courage to go someplace so far away by myself, be around strangers, share my writing with them, take professional criticism. But the more I thought about it and discussed it with Derek, the more I realized it's a great opportunity, and after writing for two years, this seems like the right time to do it.

Once I decided I had the guts to go, I had to register, then submit a query letter and an excerpt of my current WIP to get accepted. Who ever thought you had to be accepted to a conference? I sure didn't. Poppy and my sister helped me tear my letter and excerpt apart and put them back together several times. I emailed my materials to the conference coordinator on Monday and got my response yesterday, right after Derek and I got home from looking at a terrible house.

We were frustrated because the house was a mess, thus the visit a failure. When I glanced away to check my email and saw that I'd gotten in, I burst into tears. I don't think I've ever done that in my life, but yesterday I sat in my husband's lap and cried while he hugged me proudly. I know this sounds dramatic, but in terms of writing, I've known nothing but rejection ever since I began querying, which was about a year ago. The relief of being validated after all that rejection was overwhelming. Now that I'm going to the conference, I'm working on getting my MS into better shape and making a list of things I'll need to pack because nothing is good for procrastinating like making lists :-)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Seafood Watch

I think it's about time I explained the random Seafood Watch button in the right margin of my blog. There are two reasons that button is there:
  1. To put it lightly, I am sensitive when it comes to animals. I will forever be haunted by Michael Vick's atrocities, and by random news stories about people throwing dogs from second-story windows. My heart gets tied up in knots at the mention of someone eating lamb. I know it's common to eat lamb, but to someone who never eats meat, the idea of chewing and swallowing a slaughtered baby animal that didn't even have a chance to live is downright horrifying. I know this is unpleasant - bear with me. I am not writing this to condemn meat-eaters or to make people feel guilty. My view on life is very much live-and-let-live, so if you let me live my life the way I want, I will do you the same courtesy. (Okay, I might make a face if you talk to me about the taste of lamb, but that's the extent of it.)
  2. My favorite place in the entire world is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Derek tells jokes about that aquarium being my church. When I go there, I look at the little tanks, the kelp forest and the jellyfish, the seahorses and sea otters, but the main attraction for me is the open sea tank. This tank is over two stories tall. I like to sit at the base of that tank on the second floor, where the window into the tank goes from the floor to the ceiling. The last time we visited, I got so enchanted with a mola mola that the aquarium closed and a guard had to come tell me to leave. He was kind about it. I think he realized I hadn't ignored the closing announcements on purpose, probably because my eyes were all glazed over with wonder (see below).
"Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."
Seafood Watch is a program started by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The biggest thing they do is give out booklets that tell you how you can eat fish responsibly. By responsibly, I mean in a way that doesn't endanger species or result in the accidental killing of dolphins and whatnot. Even though it doesn't apply to me - I don't think I've eaten a fish stick since I was 8 - I think it's a fabulous program. It protects animals without requiring people to drastically change their lives. Instead of one fish, you choose another. Doesn't seem so hard. So that's why I think this is a fabulous program that people should know about. If you want to know more, just click on the button on the right and you can get much better information than I've provided here.

<End PSA>