Excuses, WFC wrap-up and finding my tribe

I know I haven’t updated in a while. I meant to. There were lots of things I wanted to blog about. Finally finishing the WFC report. How my writing is going. Review of 2012 and thoughts on 2013. And I’m sure there are others that I can’t think of right now. But several factors threw off my blogging “schedule” (and yes, I do use that term loosely).

The first is the topic of my last post: Sandy Hook. Right now, almost a month later, I still get a little gasping sensation just from writing those words. When the tragedy occurred, I actually had about half of the WFC wrap-up post written. And I just couldn’t bring myself to go back to it for quite a while. Up until pretty much now, actually.

Then, of course, there were the holidays. Kid A was home for two weeks which cuts down on my “me” time drastically. That meant that whenever I did have time to devote to my various projects, I put it towards writing and editing rather than blogging. On top of that, we really left the holiday stuff until the last minute this year, so there wasn’t much time for writing or editing either.

Then there was the writing and editing itself. I had been hoping to get a short story finished for submitting by mid-Jan. I had given up on the assumed deadline of Dec 31, but then found I had until Jan 15 so I decided to try to push it. Bad idea. This story really needs a week or two in “the drawer” and I was poking at it so much I can’t be certain that I was actually improving anything. And it was driving me crazy because it is *almost* there. But not quite. And the more I thought about those few parts that needed work, the more frustrated I got that they weren’t just sorting themselves into beautiful lines of prose in my head. During this time, I also re-read my novel manuscript to re-familiarize myself with it before I pull it out of its drawer. A couple of days ago I took a bit of pressure off – the short story is going into the drawer and I can submit it to the next issue in the spring. Which means that during the babynap today, I can actually update my blog.

(another win is that I can listen to David Usher while I blog; I try to stick with instrumental music when I’m writing but especially when I’m editing).

So that brings me to the updates. I’m not going to try to cover everything here because that will lead to a 5000 word blog post and no one will bother reading to the end. One thing at a time, right? (RIGHT?) Okay. WFC days 3 and 4. Here goes…

When we left off, all those weeks ago, I’d just spent an amazing afternoon and evening with Carol Berg and her friends and wandered about getting autographs from some of my other favourites like Charles de Lint. But the next day my shyness started to get the better of me again, at first. I saw Carol right away, surrounded by the people I’d met and some others besides and I realized that I still felt a bit like an imposter. And so I took myself into the dealer room and texted my friend L about it. L’s response: “Well when you get home I won’t ask about any cool “hanging out with Carol” stories since you won’t HAVE ANY.” Which was not exactly fair, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Duly chastised, I first went and introduced myself to horror writer Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who happens to know my husband and whom I hadn’t introduced myself to at the autograph session because of the shyness. We had a chat (he’s very friendly!) and then it was nearly time to go to my first reading. I went over to Carol, ensured she was going to stay put and headed off to see That Author do a reading.

That Author is the one I mentioned in previous posts – where I have tried to read his books but they have just never jived with me. Anyhow, I found him to be a very smart speaker so I decided to go see his reading. If I hated it, fine. But I thought it might be a good way to see if I’d like to give his books another try.

And I do. He was brilliant. He’s back on the list. It’s a long list, but before that reading he wasn’t even on it.

Then I hurried off the Charles de Lint presentation, which I really enjoyed. He had his wife and artist speaking with him. (Yeah, you read that right. He has an artist. Why don’t I have an artist?) At the end he and his wife pulled out some instruments and began to play. And they were incredible! De Lint mentioned that they had played until 1am the night before and that was not the first time I started kicking myself for not staying at the hotel. Fortunately, he said that they would play again that night. After the presentation I had a chance to chat with him a bit and got a photo with him.

Then I ran back upstairs to find Carol right where I left her. She said hello, pulled out a chair right her. I sat down and she stood up. “I’m just going to go have a drink with Bob.” That was the last I saw of her until that evening.

And that was how Carol Berg forced me out of my shyness. And thank god. The group “adopted” me, as they put it – they adopt one or two at WFC every year apparently. I spent the afternoon in the lounge, chatting with people about books, kids, writing, politics, pretty much everything and met a bunch of new people including last year’s adoptee, Krista. We all headed out for dinner and then back for an evening of readings.

First Krista invited me to a reading of the “worst book ever written”. (and I won’t give you the actual title, but that accolade is well deserved). Then I attended the “flash readings” by the Broad Universe group (that I intend to join) where I heard some brilliant stuff. Carol also had her long reading that evening and all I can say to that is “What do you mean I have to wait until 2014? What the hell?”. Then back to more of the Broad Universe flash readings. After all that, I met my husband up in the lounge and about fifteen minutes later we were joined by Carol and the rest of the group and we all had drinks and continued the night.

Sometime around midnight I realized that I still hadn’t gone to see de Lint and no matter how late I stayed my kids were still going to get me up early so we said our goodbyes. My husband and I wandered over to where de Lint and his wife were playing and hung out there for a while – I wound up buying both his and his wife’s CDs. When we got back into the car I was completely blissed out. Even more so than I had been the night before. I texted my friend M and said “I found my tribe.”

I texted M about this because a while ago M wrote a blog post about “finding one’s tribe”, a concept she had been reading about and was pretty sure she had managed at the time. (note: I may be remembering this completely wrong. Maybe she just told me about it. Maybe she read it in a magazine. This was a couple of years ago). Anyhow, the point is that people are often searching for their “tribes”, a group of people where you all share a thread that ties you together (M, correct me if I’m wrong here). Anyhow, this tribe can include some friends and family but it doesn’t have to, and it will generally never include all of your friends and family. But you still feel a part of this group even with those that you don’t know very well because you all have this connection. And that was how I felt going home that night. R (husband) and I started discussing when I could go to another con (probably not until 2014 with the limited funds 😦  ) but I truly believe that I’ve found my tribe.

The next morning was quick – there was a banquet that I didn’t pay the extra for and then an award ceremony. I didn’t know most of the writers up for the awards (well, I had heard of a lot of them, but hadn’t met them), so instead I met Carol and those of her group who hadn’t already flown out, and I brought the kids in to meet her as well. The last time Carol and I met, R and I were just dating (possibly engaged). Now I have a five year old and a baby and I love that she got to meet them. We chatted some more over coffee and then she headed off for the banquet and we headed out.

And that was it. There, I managed to cover WFC and it only took me three months. Since then, I’ve started reading an unpublished proof one of the aspiring authors gave me (it’s very good) and I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of the people that I met there. Hoping I can make it to another one soon – need to get back with my tribe.

Cheers!

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The only constant is change…

I know some time has passed since I last updated but, once again, that whole life thing.  Kid 1 got sick again (reason 847 why I hate winter) and Baby 2 continues to cause me to pass out at random intervals, while somehow also managing to get in the way of any sleep I might get, you know, at night.

Anyhow, after last week’s post about my fear that writing was becoming too much of a ‘chore’, I found the perfect way to reawaken my passion for it: keep me away from it for three days.  Between Kid 1 being sick, having a crazy amount of things to do over the weekend and Kid 1 starting to be home with me part-time, I didn’t get any writing done between Thursday morning and Tuesday morning.  Tuesday, I was in my chair the moment everyone was out the door and put in probably about seven solid hours of writing.

As I suspected, having Kid 1 being home during the day is going to change the whole dynamic.  Perhaps it will change again, once the novelty wears off for him, but we’ll see.  Monday was a write-off  (no pun intended), as he vied for my attention pretty much non-stop.  Yesterday I did manage to get some work done but it was painful, with interruptions every five minutes (generally to tell me such compelling news as what his transformers were doing now).  Had it not been a rather mundane little connecting-section, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it at all.  As it was, it took at least three times longer than it might have otherwise.  R. insists that once he’s used to being home he’ll occasionally do his own thing and I can claim that time for writing.  I think that the best scenario would probably be if I could start getting up earlier and finishing my writing work before anyone else wakes up.  And, if I weren’t pregnant, I might even do that.  As it is, these days I have trouble staying awake for twelve consecutive hours during the day.

The book itself is going well.  It’s going to be long, as I suspected, but that’s what the intensive editing stage is for.  I’m trying to be selective about what parts I tell, but my need to share every single detail of what happens means that the wordcount is already quite high.  I’ve also made some detail changes in my mind so I’m now going slowly back through to do a light edit and writing down notes so I don’t wind up doing things like changing someone’s eye colour halfway through.

To add slightly to the pressure, I got an email from my writing teacher today – he wants me to submit a piece for class review by the end of February.  So I’d better have something chosen and polished up by then!

And for those of you keeping track at home, baby 2 is due in 6.5 weeks.  Just to add a bit of weight to that ‘slight pressure’.

PS: found notes for a short I’d planned on tackling last fall and never got around to.  And I’m pleased to say I still love the idea.  If I can figure out a solid enough ending (my trouble with ending short stories is why I’m a novelist) I might give it a shot soon and see what comes of it.

And breathe…

It’s time to knock off some of the pressure, I think.

Lately I’ve been finding it very hard to relax…hard to sleep, hard to concentrate on things.  Things that I find fun are too tied up in anticipation, too tied up in what they might be taking time away from.  Obviously, none of this is healthy.

Last night I received some sage advice: “You’re doing great with your writing.  But I hate your wordcounts.  Why are you putting so much pressure on yourself?”

And it’s true.  It’s entirely true.  If I look back to when I was writing ALL the time (let’s go with university and right after), did I ever have wordcount quotas?  No.  I sometimes did a wordcount for interest’s sake if I felt like I had had a particularly productive day but I never had a quota around it.  And why should I have?  I had no idea how long the finished product was going to be. I just wrote for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Writing has always been one of my favourite things to do, one of the best ways for me to relax.  But over the past little while it hasn’t felt that way at all.  The process has become a “chug out as much as possible in every single spare second”.  And even on days when I have extraordinarily high word counts (yesterday: goal of 2000, wrote over 5000) it’s not enough because the book isn’t done.  And apparently there is some voice in the back of my mind that if this doesn’t get 100% done by the time baby 2 arrives, it will never get done.

And maybe that’s where this pressure is coming from.  When Kid 1 was born, I wrote while he was an infant…but once he started napping less and needing my attention more, I very much fell away from it.  Now that Kid 1 is older, I’m not always going to be able to sit down at my computer while Baby 2 is napping.  And maybe, in the back of my mind, I feel like if I don’t finish this now, I just won’t.

But at what price?  Writing has become more of a pressure/stress thing for me these days than a pleasure.  And that, to me, is even worse than the thought of never getting this manuscript done.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to try (TRY) to eliminate some of the pressure.  No more wordcount quotas.  Or, if there are some, they will be very low.  Instead I am simply going to ‘write’ every day.  I’d rather spin off a brilliant short vignette of 500 words than kill myself trying to dredge up 3000 on a day when I’m not feeling into it.  I don’t know how successful I’ll be: today I tried that method and was still all proud of myself for blowing the original wordcount away.

But I clearly do need to re-centre.  And I need to put writing back into the middle of that as something I turn to for relaxation – not something that has become a huge stress-factor in my life that I need to find some relief from.

PS – One of my favourite websites, Zen Habits has in-depth discussions about how living without goals can be a path towards happiness and meaning.  After last night’s conversation, I went and re-read some of the posts on it…it seems so hard to imagine living that way but also doable and well worth it.  We’ll see how this goes.