All I Need is MSWord and a Sharpie

It was yesterday, November 20th, when I realized I probably should have done NaNoWriMo.

On 11/1, it seemed so arbitrary. Why would the simple fact that it’s the month of November motivate me to write more regularly?

But now look at all of you with your word counts and camaraderie and #amwriting hashtags. Meanwhile, I fight against youtube wormholes (The Little Mermaid “Honest Trailer” -> every “Honest Trailer” ever made -> Golden Retriever puppies swimming compilation #12) and wonder if maybe I need one of those fake sunlight lamps.

I guess I could use a little something to keep me on track, even if it is arbitrary. There are a bunch of interesting apps and sites that calculate word count, score you against your peers, award badges, etc. I think it’s great that writers have so many tools available to them and applaud anyone who’s found success this way.

I guess it’s some kind of combination of impatience and paranoia that keeps me from using any of that stuff. I don’t really want to add another step to my writing process. Even if it’s “easy” it’s still another thing to do, another password I’ll forget. And I’ll just never be comfortable writing directly into a web application. I write everything – even these blog posts – in Word first and save them, often emailing myself documents as back-up. And what if an evil hacker gains access to the back end of one of those sites and publishes everyone’s crappy first drafts before they’ve been thoroughly edited and proofread? I know, I know…

Photo Credit: Pandawhale.com

But, why take the risk?

Especially when it takes just 2 minutes and a standard word processing program to create one of these babies:

calendar

Yep, I think the MSWord calendar template/red Sharpie method works best for me. Low tech solutions have their perks (no passwords, available during power outages, exercise hand-eye coordination).  And, honestly, I still really like paper. (I’ll always be that kid who loved shopping for new school supplies even more than new clothes).

I’ll pin this to my corkboard (a.k.a. live action Pinterest) and let you know how it works out.

Question: How do you keep your writing on track?

Advertisements

GOATs Reprised

One of my VERY first posts to this blog over a year and a half ago was about GOATs. (As in the things that “get your goat,” not the cute, prancey, furry kind you meet at the San Diego Zoo…though I’ll go ahead and share this photo again because there is happiness making power in a real live goat. You’ll see that I was hot and sunburned with 2nd grade style scraped knees from surfing lessons. But petting a goat still made me smile.)

CIMG1755I’ve been doing CrossFit since August of 2012 and have made significant progress in so many ways. My endurance is stronger, my form is better. I’ve seen my one-rep maxes climb for pretty much every lift and I’ve improved on skills that once seemed impossible like handstand push-ups, rope climbs and double-unders.

But chin-ups…Ugh. I can’t tell you how frustrating it’s been to hang there and jerk around like some spastic weirdo. Month after month, I got nowhere on my own and had to resort to using one of those big rubber bands to sling-shot me and my chin up over the bar. Then, before and after workouts, I started experimenting with jumping from the ground while gripping the bar. At first I jumped a lot to get my chin up over the bar. Then a little less. And soon I just needed to stand on my toes so I could start with slightly bent arms.

Then, this week, on the eve of my 34th birthday, I just did it. I went off to the far end of the gym and, while no one was looking, I did one. And then I was immediately flooded with “tree falling in an empty forest” brand of self-doubt. Did I actually do that? I called over my coach and had her watch me. She gave me a big hug and told me she was proud of me. I did a freakin’ strict chin-up, dude!

It’s kind of a perfect way to start this next year of life. It’s a reminder of all the things you’d expect: certain things take time and failure is part of the process. Of course, of course. But, also, it’s kinda like “Great! OK…so…now what?” It feels amazing to achieve a goal, but how long can I really rest on the laurels of a single chin-up? Or any other accomplishment, big or small. Maybe I’m a total masochist, but I like to maintain some level of restlessness. Otherwise I start to feel stale and like I’m wasting time (aka life).

So, what’s next?

Book #2. I’m recommitting. I’m reclaiming my writing days. Revised timeline TBD.

Also maybe, like, 2 chin-ups.

Question: What are your freakin’ GOATs?

 

 

 

Read Locally Sourced

I think that even when I signed up for Amazon Prime I knew it was a bad idea. Mostly because of how much it would facilitate impulse shopping. I’ve definitely made more than one late night purchase in a zombied-out computer state only to be surprised two days later with a box waiting for me on my desk. (“Oh, right. Dual electric toothbrushes.”)

 

Plaque is nothing to just brush off.
Plaque is nothing to just brush off. #dentalpuns

And, honestly, I think I’m OK with ordering the toothbrushes through Amazon. For one, my dentist recommended them. Secondly, I don’t feel like I’m taking away business from the local electric toothbrush industry because, as far as I know, there isn’t one. In New York, electric toothbrushes come from big box stores for the most part. They sit alongside other electric things like nose hair trimmers and curling irons and (I’m going to go ahead and make a huge assumption here) are not regarded with much emotion by those who unbox and stock them.

But, what about my other frequently purchased item on Amazon?

Books. Oh, it’s just sooo easy. A friend will recommend a title, or I’ll see it pop up for the third time in my twitter feed and I can have it ordered an on its way in less than a minute because Amazon feeds me cookies and remembers my credit card number and every possible address to which I could ever want books shipped. And then, BOOM. The newest addition to my library is on my desk/doorstep/kitchen table all pristine and ready for its first subway ride. And the price I paid was at least a few bucks cheaper than anywhere else.

What I kind of always knew but chose to ignore was the fact that that kind of pricing, ease of purchase and free expedited shipping comes at a price. And it’s not covered by my annual Prime subscription fee. It comes from book publishers who are forced to lower their prices and pay promotional fees to Amazon, which leaves them less money for everything they need to do, including buying books from authors.

Author Beth Kephart wrote a fantastic blog entry and referenced this New Yorker article by George Packer, which discusses this issue very thoroughly. I recommend you read it, but take breaks. It’s dense with info…and it’s a little sad. For a bunch of reasons. The saddest (for me) is Amazon’s ultimate impact on stories. Essentially, publishers are at the mercy of Amazon. They need them as a distribution channel because Amazon is HUGE. But, because publishers have less book-buying money, that means they have to take fewer chances on books that are risky (but wonderful!) or different (but will change hearts and minds!) or written by new authors (like me!).

And this basically means that Amazon is deciding which books get published. And does Amazon care about well written, groundbreaking literature?

Uh, no. No, they do not. Mostly because “caring” is trait of sentient beings, and Amazon is run by robots, algorithms and a CEO who admittedly does not care what he’s selling you. He just wants your data so he can sell you more books…or toilet paper or electric toothbrushes. It really doesn’t matter as long as he has your credit card.

But, you know who does care about stories? Indie booksellers. They’re not in it for the money, because it’s hard to make any. They actually read books and think about them and plan author reading nights and engage you in a conversation at check-out about how Laurie Halse Anderson has the best book titles (like The Impossible Knife of Memory. What? Who thinks of that! Poetry!). And then you might feel happy because you agree and those little bonds make the world a better place.

Indie booksellers are in it because they love reading and have a vested interest in making sure good books still get sold and we’re not looking at a future filled with the literary equivalent of Real Housewives of Whatever.

That’s why I’ve made this little mid-year resolution to buy books at indie bookstores whenever I can. I know that this kind of resolution won’t work for everyone. There are some people who live nowhere near an actual bookstore or simply don’t have the means to get to one, and they need books too. I don’t fault them for getting them however they can. Luckily, I am of able body and live within a 15 minute walk of one and a subway ride of many others.

I also know that my book habit alone (as large as it is) will not save the publishing industry. But, haven’t we all learned the importance of voting with our dollars? And look at the local food movement? Not a particularly convenient (or cheap) point of view, but it’s gaining traction. Plus, we’re talking about activism in the form of lingering in cozy bookstores. I think I can handle that.

Will shopping indie take a bit more time and planning? Yes. But, really it’s still pretty convenient. My local bookstore, Community Bookstore, is fairly small in size but they will special order most books that they don’t have in stock. You have to wait a day or two, (same as Prime) and then you can either pick it up OR they will hand deliver it to you using their store bike. How lovely is that?

Still, I would recommend picking it up in person for two reasons.

This adorable reading area with stained glass windows and an outdoor patio.

Comfy reading chairs available in small and large.
Comfy reading chairs available in small and large.

And this sassy store cat.

Raspberries all day long.
Raspberries all day long.

OH – and for the kindle/Nook/ipad crowd…

I have to admit, I can’t get into it. I have an e-reader and I sometimes read the newspaper on it, which is nice (no inky fingers, and I don’t accidentally backhand fellow straphangers whilst trying to un/re-fold the darn thing on my commute). But, and perhaps I’m a full-fledged luddite or just too romantic about such things as paper weight, cover stock and book dimensions, but the few times I’ve used the e-reader for novels I’ve had this feel that’s like “But, I’ve already read this one…” I dunno, the sensory experience is a little joyless for me, so I kick it old school.

BUT – if you’re partying like it’s 2007, you can still support indie bookstores via Kobo. And, honestly, that’s all I know about that. Let me know how it goes!

Wow, this turned a bit long and ranty. Not my intention, really. I felt the need to tell you about my little resolution because it will help me keep it. But, then I went to a local book store, petted a cat and got all fired up. You know how it is.

Question: What are your thoughts on Amazon? Please, speak freely. To be honest, I have my eye on a dust buster and some activated charcoal.

 

 

 

 

All is well.

I feel the need to say that since it’s been something like 6 weeks since my last blog post. I won’t offer up too many excuses…But remember that scene in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” where he was driving down a dark highway and the road signs started getting increasingly more complicated and squiggly?

Squiggly roads ahead.
Squiggly roads ahead.

I guess I’ve been in touch with my inner Pee Wee (??) and have had to pay more attention to the road ahead (life metaphor, ICYMI), making it harder to post as often as I like.

More Pee Wee. This scene haunted me as a child.
More Pee Wee. This scene haunted me as a child.

But, I’m here now! So, some general housekeeping…

It is safe to say that I will NOT reach the writing goal I set for myself a while back. Draft 1 of manuscript 2 is definitely not happening by May 1st. Partially due to Pee Wee-inspired roadways, but also because I’m actually working on another project that I’m really excited about. It was an idea I had kicking around my brain for a long time. I tried to back-burner it and be all “wait your turn, damnit!” But, it wouldn’t listen. So, I’m embracing change and trying to be flexible with myself. New multi-project, timeline-specific goal forthcoming.

I think it’s OK to have two different writing projects going at the same time, right? J.D. Salinger served in WWII and allegedly had the first six chapters of Catcher in the Rye on his person on D-Day. There’s a photo of him during the war, literally in the trenches, squatting at a little table and working on his manuscript. (Watch that documentary if you want to see it.) If he can find time to write The Great American Novel in between storming the beaches of Normandy and surviving battle, I think I can probably handle two different word documents competing for my time.

Ok, that’s it for now. There’s more to tell…but not yet.

Question: What’s your philosophy on creative projects? Focus on one at a time? Or are you of the lots-of-spinning-plates persuasion?