The next eight days or so are going to be very compressed for me. I have word that the first edit for BLISS HOUSE should land in my inbox on or about December 18th, and after it arrives I will need to hide myself away for about a month to work in those changes. I'll also be working in a lot of changes of my own that will tie it into the next Bliss House novel in the series. But for some reason, the people in my life don't think it's a great idea to put Christmas off until I'm all done with the edit. Go figure. So I'm playing Santa, 8th grade room mother, cookie maker, and gift wrapper and shipper until the book gets here. Anything that doesn't get done before then...won't.
Today I did a reasonable job adhering to a semblance of a schedule: getting the boy off to school, dropping off a car to be serviced, working out, writing, kid pick-up, errands, piano (another blog!), making/serving dinner, walking the dogs. I even snuck in a ten minute power nap. You'll note there wasn't a lot of Christmas-themed activity there--no cookie-making, no Santa. Somehow I meant to do those things. I knew I wanted to do a blog, too, to be consistent. So instead of checking things off my to-do list tonight, I started writing a very complex blog about Twitter (a subject I've covered here before), figured out how to save a screen shot (No, it's not 2002. I know.), realized I didn't have all the numbers I needed, and had to stop because there was no way I'd get the piece done before I passed out from exhaustion.
I'm time-challenged. Seriously, I have no concept of the passage of time or how long it actually takes me to do things. Sure, I know how long it takes me to drive into town and back. And I know it takes me 40 minutes to get dressed and out the door from the moment I step into the shower. (But I almost always figure I can get it done in 20, which means I'm late for pretty much everything.) I can poach salmon in 8 minutes, and bake a pizza in 13. Don't ask me what time dinner will be, though, because unless I'm cooking something that comes in a box (which I almost never do), it is sure to be almost exactly 15 minutes later than I tell you it will be.
The time thing is another part of the ADHD life package. It's a wonder I get anything completed at all. So you can see why I have to be serious about getting Christmas done a week before Christmas day arrives. And already I'm a day behind!
This was my plan: put up a short, sweet little blog about something silly I did earlier this year when I went to buy a gift for my beloved, then spend the rest of the evening checking off my to-do list. Because I'm stubborn, and want to keep my plan even after I've blown it up (I do this all the time--drives the people around me crazy.), here's my little story.
Beloved Husband and I don't make a big fuss for Valentine's Day. We've always celebrated it at home, with the kids, having decided long ago that crowded restaurants do not a pleasant evening make. We don't exchange big gifts. Just small, fun things.
One of the things I bought for Beloved Husband was a custom coffee mug from the delightful Zazzle people. They'll let you put pretty much anything you want on any surface, but a mug seemed safe. I ran across a sample that said, "In Love With...[insert name here]" I thought it was an adorable idea. So I ordered him one.
You can see that it says, "in love with Pinckney." And I am.
I confess I had a moment's pause when I ordered it. Should it say "in love with Laura?" Or "in love with Pinckney?" I chose "Pinckney" because, well, I didn't want to be presumptuous. Of course, I assume he's in love with me. He tells me so all the time. But it just seemed pushy to me, to give a man a coffee mug that proclaims that he loves me. We've been married 23 years, but I still like to keep a little mystery, make sure I don't take too much for granted. So I gave him the one that proclaimed my love for him.
Reader, he was astonished! And unwilling to take it into the office. Though we did get rather a laugh over the notion that some of his students might not be too surprised to see he actually does have a high opinion of himself.
The mug did get used often, but always accompanied by amused comment. I was careful not to give it to the kids or guests. That would really be weird, yes? It began to bother me a bit, seeing it there in the cabinet. So plain in black and white, and yet so...complicated.
Finally, I decided to take the pressure off of myself and get him a proper mug for Father's Day. (No worries, he does not think I'm presumptuous.)
They make a pretty cute pair, yes?
Oh, and if you've never read O.Henry's classic tale, The Gift of the Magi, it's here, in its entirety.
(Fiction words written: 364)
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
If I don't do it, who will?
If you're walking down an empty street far away from the nearest fire station, and come upon a burning house, you're going to have to ask yourself this question if you suspect someone inside needs rescuing. The question is also going to come up if you're the only adult in the house and a (relatively) giant spider needs to be removed from the bathroom wall. There are times when we as individuals have to act--or the job just doesn't get done.
But when it comes to writing, the question hardly ever needs to be asked. There are plenty of people capable of writing novels, essays, news stories, video games, treatises, poems, etc. And there's only one meaningful difference between a writer who has a book, or books, on the shelf, and the people who only imagine that they might: the writer has given himself or herself permission. (This also applies to any artist or craftsperson.)
Permission is a funny thing. We first look for it from our parents, then try to elicit it from our peers as we try to validate our first timid choices. As adults, we sometimes continue to look for permission and validation from other people, even though we are supposed to be the authority in our own lives. I'm talking about giving other people the power to decide if we should be allowed to act. And I'm not talking about permission to do something dangerous--climb a mountain, jump out of a plane or race motorcycles. I'm talking about asking for permission to use our creativity. Permission to sit around and MAKE STUFF UP. Do mental fingerpainting. Amuse or edify ourselves and others. How messed up is that?
The worst part is that there isn't really anyone there for us to ask. Seriously, has anyone ever said to you, as an adult: "You want to draw a picture/compose a song/make up a dance/make stories up and write them down on paper? No way! That's stupid. No one will like it. No one will want to see it, or hear it, or read it. What are you thinking?" If they have, my advice would be to get away from that person very, very quickly. Chances are though that there is no one telling you this stuff except the voices in your head. (The secret is that they're all your voice, disguised as other people. Weird, huh?)
I battle those voices every day. Every day is a new opportunity to shut them up and give myself permission. Okay, opportunity is a bullshit way of saying it's a really big challenge that I come up against every time I sit down at the computer or open a notebook. The writer who says he or she has never had that experience is either a freak of nature (in a good way) or a sociopath who is incapable of self-doubt and introspection. It's a huge deal. It's that moment when I have to take a deep breath and say, "All that matters right now is that I get the words down on the page." It happened the first time for me when I was 22 and sitting at a banged-up, used desk in a St. Louis studio apartment that I couldn't afford without my parents' help. It was only a handful of words, and I was scared to death that someone might see them. And scared to death that no one would ever see them. I was alone, but I felt like every person I had ever known was watching, and judging. Finally, the pencil met the paper. Nonsense ensued, but no one stopped me. I was stunned and giddy.
The act of creating is reliving that moment every day. If you're of a certain age, you'll remember that shampoo instructions always read, "Lather. Rinse. Repeat." (Eventually we learned that just one lather and rinse per shampooing was necessary--the repetition was to sell more shampoo.) The act of creating is new every time you sit down to do it. It only starts to feel natural if you make it a habit.
Some days I give myself permission readily. Some days I screw up and find myself divided, withholding permission from myself as though I were my own rotten parent. But if I want to keep getting those books on the shelf, I have to be the adult who gives herself permission every time.
But if you just can't do it, if you absolutely cannot give yourself permission to create whatever the hell good stuff you want to put out there today, I have something for you: You can borrow my permission until yours is ready. Here it is. Take it. It's free, and it's real. You don't really need it from me, but you can have it until your own is ready. Think of it as a head start.
(Fiction words written: 350)
Saturday, December 7, 2013
The snow was so deep that I had to put on my rain wellies to keep my socks dry when I went outside to feed the birds Friday evening. Thursday, I had added a big scoop of sunflower seed to the main feeder and jerry-rigged a broken suet feeder so the more adventuresome woodpeckers (we get many down woodpeckers at the feeders) could stop pecking at the treated post and eat suet, instead. I have a third feeder that holds thistle for the smallest birds, clingers, like wrens and finches. But by Friday afternoon, the sunflower seed was nearly gone and the ground-feeders were on the hunt.
Juncos are ground-feeders who adore thistle. They stray from the feeders and come hang out on the porch, looking for seed. So, of course I put a little out there for the pleasure of both the birds and our (indoor) cat.
Here's a junco. They're pretty cute. (From Ohio-Nature.com--I couldn't get a good shot through the window.)
The masses of birds (cardinals, juncos, woodpeckers, pigeons, tufted titmice, plus one squirrel) were the first thing I noticed when I looked out of the window at 6:45 a.m. Sure, there was plenty of snow. But substantial snow cover means ground feeders can't find food easily. I feed birds all year round, though winter and nest-building season in early spring are the busiest times. I used to stress out about feeding too many squirrels. Honestly, we don't have that many that hang around the feeders. With 12 acres of woods, and plenty of forest around us, we get only the lazy few near the house. What I do mind are the chipmunks and moles who tunnel all around our house and yard (and in my garden!), drawn by the grubs that feed on whatever the birds leave behind. A few years back we had a professional mole trapper come, but after he charged us $250 for catching 10 or so, he gave up, saying that he could never make them all go away because of the huge population. I deal with them tunnel by tunnel when they show up in the spring.
I was glad I'd banked up the feeders Thursday since I didn't care much for going outside on Friday. My obsessive driveway scraping rather wore me out so that I started dreaming where I was sitting Thursday night around 10:30. At one point Friday afternoon I was trying to remember where I'd seen lines of men in gray overcoats carrying giant, yellow, symbol-covered, triangular traffic signs in their arms as they paraded up and down a city street. Then I remembered that brief dream.
I wrote some fiction, finishing up a chapter that will be in a book that will eventually be another BLISS HOUSE novel. (BLISS HOUSE is a fictional, haunted Virginia house built after the Civil War. It is stuffed full of stories, and I'm not sure how many novels it will take to tell them all.) I've been struggling all week to get a good solid block of writing time in, and I finally did. In order to do it, I had to turn off my phone for 3 hours. I thought it might kill me, but I did it! And it was definitely worth it.
So, the birds are fed and the pages are written. For now. It was a good day.
Below is a gratuitous pic of Miss Nina, our cat, as she looks out for birds in the snow. I posted it on Facebook, but I like it so much, I wanted to share it here, too. Plus, it looks like she's balancing a tree on her nose, which is all kinds of awesome.
(Fiction words written today: 1296)