Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When the rice starts to burn

Six more weeks until I'm done with the 2nd-most stressful summer of my life.

The most stressful summer was the one in which I studied for the California bar. There's nothing that can compare to the misery I experienced doing my two months of mostly sleeping through Bar-bri lectures and coming home to endlessly shove useless bits of information into my short-term memory. My roommates somehow got a hold of a Kirlian photography camera (an aura camera); normally my aura showed up as anything from orange or yellow to blue or white, but all that summer it was a sickly shit-brown.

Now, although I'm not at all unhappy, this is my first summer as a single mother (last summer I had already left Brazil, but we stayed with my parents) and I'm frazzled as heck. I'm unwilling to give up any of my writing goals and so I've been staying up until 2 or 3am and then my kids start bothering me at about 7 every day. My younger son has picked up this phrase from my older one and so he's been running around crying, "I don't know what I can do! I don't know what I can do!" which aggravates me on so many levels because I know what I can do, I haven't got a fraction of the hours that I need to do it though! What wouldn't I give to have back just a few of the hours of childhood boredom...the summers I wasted lying in bed reading piles of trashy romances...

I can always tell when I'm overwhelmed because I put rice on and forget about it and have to pay dearly with hours of burned-rice smell permeating my hair and clothes and every room in the house. Fortunately, I can open the windows really sucked when I did it in the wintertime.

Anyway, I burned the rice yesterday. I've been yelling at my kids. I've been drinking coffee and eating sugar. In one and a half weeks I have a 16-year-old French student coming to stay with me for three weeks and I have this growing panic about what I'm going to feed her. My kids are easy because they don't like variety. But what do I cook for a French girl!? I can't really just cook more of what I eat myself--many of my meals consist of a raw egg or two mixed with water and coconut oil.

I should probably ease up on the writing goals, but honestly, it's the only thing that makes me feel good about myself on a daily basis. A couple people have asked me recently if I make a living off of writing. No fucking way--not even close--and I feel a surge of a multi-layered self-judgment--because I've given myself the luxury of spending all my spare time satisfying this burning need to express, which is perhaps an act of utter self-indulgence, especially since I do it at the cost of my own health and of energy and attention I should be spending on my children. And I can't justify it as being worth my time since I don't make a living off of it.

So, when the rice starts to burn, what to give up? Or should I keep clinging to trying to have everything, but knowing things will fall by the wayside?

Addition: I was just out walking my dog and I remembered my dream:
My childhood friend Gloria accompanied me as my guide into her high school--which was my high school's "rival" high school. Her school was academically far superior. Anyway, she took me to a classroom where I had to take a math test for something. The room was extremely air conditioned, uncomfortably cold--I estimated about five degrees colder than my school. I passed, but I was horrified at my score, which was something like 205 out of 220 or 230--I'd been half expecting to get every question correct.
The message I get from this is that the perfectionism is the biggest problem. Because I don't actually have any problems. I passed, didn't I?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer goals

The summer is halfway over! I've started allowing myself to fantasize about September 4, when both my kids will start school full-time and I'll have the most time alone I've had in nearly eight years. I can't express how excited I am about this!!!!! I'm also hoping that this constant fog that dominates my brain while my kids are around will dissipate then and I'll become a blazing torpedo of efficient creativity.

In the meantime, here are my writing goals for the rest of the summer:
  • Finish draft of novel-in-progress. It's been stuck at the same point for a very long time. To get unstuck from current place, the plan is to map out the characters involved in the stuck scene and to think of real life people that each of these characters resembles. Then imagine how all of those people would interact in this scene. Brainstorm longhand until I build up enough enthusiasm that the scene writes itself, or at least, isn't so painful it keeps making me procrastinate.
  • Write some scenes of writing partner Karen's novella on which we are collaborating. 
  • Finish draft of novella with working title "Flatpeople."
  • Pending critique, submit story entitled "Cock Pic." 
  • Plan skeleton of Regency novella for collaboration with Karen.
  • Reviews/critiques: complete review of Weaver, beta read of critique partner's hard SF novel
  • Think about writing an erotic story that takes place in a cafe
  • Write 15k words per week for remainder of summer
  • Read Michel Faber's Under the Skin, which a friend gave to me because he said my novel reminds him of it, and Gilbert Childs' Steiner Education in Theory and Practice

Monday, July 7, 2014

Orphan novel has been adopted!

So my novel, formerly known as A Tale of a Schizophrenic Kingdom, with a new name as yet to be determined, has gone through a rather long journey since its conception in early 2012. I was just talking with another writer friend tonight and it seems that two years is pretty standard, two years burgeoning with rejection and cold shoulders and feeling like my novel might possibly be shit despite a stubborn whiny part of me insisting that it's not...but anyway. The journey felt longer after the novel's first publisher-to-be went defunct and the list of possible other good homes for it was getting really short. I was glumly contemplating the work I'd have to put in to self-publishing. 

I am overjoyed to share that my novel has found a new home with the Montag Press Collective! The motto of this press is "Books worth burning," and from the suggestions I've received even at this early stage for changes that need to be made in the story, the collective (I keep thinking The Borg) is indeed a progressive, open-minded (okay, not like The Borg) group of people with an understanding of character psychology that kind of blows my mind.

Astonishingly enough (considering that I haven't had anything accepted in over a year until this week), I also learned a few days ago that my short story, "Sunlight and Water," is going to be published in Greenwoman Publishing's first anthology, Fifty Shades of Green--a collection of "sexy gardening-themed stories."

So now part of me is totally excited to delve back in to writing and finish some stuff. But most of the rest of me is fairly dysfunctional because I'm just too happy to work!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

An e-mail exchange

Me: Hey Nick--what was that thing you told me about being on a ship in China and something with the shit in the latrines? Can you refresh my memory?
Nick: That’s an interesting thing to “plop” into your head. If you get famous on this story, I want credit.

It’s not that exciting: I was on a boat going down the Yangtze, looking at the scenery that was going to be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam in a few years’ time, when the urge to go came over me. I braved a trip to the toilet, where, to my horror, there was  a line of “stalls” with a trench in the floor about 8 inches deep and wide. The stalls had no doors, and the side walls were about 2 feet tall. So: you hunker down to do your thing, and if you look to the side, you see your neighbor doing the same thing, and if he looks, well, that’s an awkward moment in my book. An additional bonus was that the trench went the length of the room (you squatted on two little “bridges” in your stall), with everything from you and your neighbors sloshing back and forth with the ship if it didn’t manage to go down the hole at one of the ends.

Me: That story makes me laugh so hard. I'm glad you "reflushed" my memory! I was actually just doing a chat yesterday and I was thinking about the associations I have with travel to different countries. It went like this:
all African countries: flesh-eating disease
Mexico: beheadings
Sweden: depressed men with enormous testicles (not from first-hand knowledge)
India: diarrhea
And then I got to China and my association with it was shit rolling around on a ship, which is the most vivid memory of anything you've told me about your experience there, but I knew there was more to the story than that.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Overachiever disease

This is my monthly post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Amazingly, I've survived nearly four weeks with my kids at home and I'm still mentally mostly intact. I have, however, gotten very little writing done. I've additionally been taking a break from doing any writing at all for the past few days while I've gone on a reading spree.

The problem with this is that my unfinished projects nag at me. I notice that a sense of success at the end of the every day is connected with a certain amount of headway made on these projects--the line that denotes success to my body seems to be about 3000 new words written, or a chapter or a complete story revised. If I don't cross that weird invisible line of achievement, I go to bed with this feeling of incompletion, of failure/guilt/nagging anxiety that's sometimes tinged with panic. I feel like my fatigue and my worse self got the better of me that day. I don't really get it--it's not like I have a deadline for any of these.

I've noticed several times in the last couple months that people mention doing things with me and I've told them that I see no point in doing them. How will they improve me? what will I learn? how is that going to expand my universe? how will it trigger my self-growth? I ask. And their reply has been, more or less, that the point is just to have fun. And I've sat there and scratched my head and pondered that because I don't really do anything at all for pure and pointless fun. If I ever have, it's been rare. I think whenever I've tried, if there's no purpose beyond that that I can identify or rationalize, I can't help but feel that it's a waste of time.

It's likely something conditioned from childhood, when I had to play furtively, since my mom got upset when my sisters and I played too much--she would want us to be productive, and she would look at us disapprovingly and say, "Stop playing! Study! Exercise! Practice piano!" And I developed a sense that play was something to be paid for with adequate achievement. And maybe now, I hold myself to some standard of production that never gets fulfilled, and thus I never deserve to play.

Overachievement as a state of mind is a disease, I think.

Anyway, the good thing about this all is now that I've identified this problem, I can put it on my list of goals to work on. And I can consciously try to work on playing without guilt. Ha! It would probably be my biggest achievement ever to get myself to relax and do nothing and actually enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summertime stasis

My kids have been out of school for a couple weeks now, and although it's not as unbearable as I imagined it might be having them home all the time, I do find myself frustrated with my inability to devote much time to my writing. I have now six unfinished projects that I'm working on--but on any given day I've been putting in about two hours max on one project. I've started putting all six projects on one line of my "to do" list in acknowledgment of the impossibility of making any decent headway on any of them. Today after I made breakfast for the kids, washed up, cleaned the house, mowed the lawn, and assured my neighbor that I would take steps to get our giant cottonwood tree cut down, I got on the phone with my counselor and cried because I didn't want to be doing manual labor, domestic work, or child care--all I wanted to be doing was writing. And I went into a victim space and felt terribly sorry for myself.

But here are some quotes and things I've collected over the past couple weeks that I really like:
  • Enjoy the sensation of creating reality. (from The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent: Living the Art of Allowing, which is a book on the law of attraction that is less about creating material success and more about changing your beliefs so you can practically and gently bridge the distance between what you want and what you are capable of having)
and from my last "School Sunday" at Spirit United:
  • If you're really listening, it means you're willing to be changed by what you hear.
  • If you define yourself, you can't know yourself.
  • Soul is an activity--a verb, not a outward flowering, an exploration...
  • Love is the primal value in learning, because it teaches giving.
  • The known self is a box that you have defined. The felt self is what your being reveals to you. It can't be supervised by what you know...the felt self is a surrender to the whole.
  • If you are depressed, ask yourself: when did you stop dancing? when did you stop singing? when did you stop being enchanted by storytelling? when did you stop appreciating silence?
The victim space and the frustration are born of ideas of the known self--my expectations of what I should be doing and how quickly. Happiness lies in letting go of the effort I'm using to hold myself in from the natural outward flowering of the soul. The only right way is to acknowledge that there is no right way. Letting go of outcomes and seeing how the universe solves problems with ecstatic ease...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Getting the words out

This is my monthly post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Thank goodness for this group because without it, sometimes I might not even post once a month!

So last month was very weird for me. I did some ghostwriting of erotic fiction, four stories in all, each 20K words. Although the pay was very low, I did it in order to train myself to churn out the words--because that's the major block I have with regard to my own work, is just getting my butt in front of my computer and getting the words out. I was writing about six hours a day nearly every single day. I think I succeeded in riding roughshod over a few of my blocks, and I also showed myself that I need a lot less sleep than I thought previously. I averaged probably 5-6 hours a night over the last five weeks, and except for the nights when I got 2 or 3 and had to add a couple power-naps to function, I've felt pretty energetic.

Three of the stories were about cuckolding. The last one I did was a sequel to the first one, and because I didn't know I was going to do the sequel, in that first one I'd pretty much escalated the story to the highest point I could think of. Then when I had to do the sequel, I had to destroy some things and escalate it some more, and all with characters that I really disliked. It's good to be given limits to challenge oneself to be creative, though, and I found myself googling things like "what does it feel like to be kicked in the balls" and researching various devices that couples use in bdsm "punishment." Now that I'm finished, it all seems quite fun in retrospect, and the stories have turned out actually somewhat entertaining and, if I may say so myself, they have a little depth along with the sex too.

I am pretty burned out now from doing that, so I'm either going to slow down or stop. But I'm feeling encouraged that I beat some of my own personal daily word count records, that I managed to create decent stories in genres I can't relate to at all, with characters I dislike, and that I even managed to get paid a little for writing it all. It's such a labor of love, but it's nice to have someone validate your efforts with cash too.

Anyway. Life is weird and wonderful. I'll try to think of how I'm going to organize my blog this summer in a way that doesn't have me just spewing randomly.