Help Me with My Vacation Reading List?

Three years at my company and, as a reward, I got an extra week off. So, what to do with the week? Go to an undisclosed location overlooking a notoriously turquoise sea, sit with E on the sand, and read as many books as I can fit in my suitcase. (Note to self: Bring extra sunscreen.)

So far, I have plans to take these books with me:

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder—because I am hopeful I can someday write a screenplay.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino—I hear you, I hear you. Does the story take place on a winter’s night? If so, it will be a nice contrast to the hot and muggy place where I’ll be. E, I want to borrow your copy to take with.

I also want a good, thick novel I could drown in.

A book of short stories.

Maybe an edgy memoir.

And something classic I must read before I die.


E, we may need to bring an extra suitcase.

Forgot to Mention

I finished the YA novel yesterday morning. I lie. I didn’t exactly finish—I just wrote through to the end. It’s about 6,000 words too long and choppy in some places, but now I have the weekend to get it in reading shape for Monday. Also it’s only a first draft, so a revision is a given. I’m always better on revisions.

The last page is my favorite part of the whole book. I guess it took me 190-something pages to get cooking because there I am, last page, in love with the thing at last.

The Day I Said No

I was asked if I wanted to write another one of these series books for next season. (The first draft of the one I’m writing now is due on Monday.)

I considered. I sat there a minute or two, looking at the email, feeling inside myself to see how I should respond.

I wanted to say no, because I’m tired, so tired, and also I want to write other things.

I wanted to say yes, because I do like writing them more than any of the other assignments I’ve had, and because I’m sort of tied to the series. I have real affection for it now.

I said no. I can’t believe I said no. Well, really what I said is that I wanted to, but I needed a break, and maybe I could do one in the future. And you know what happened? They said okay, and that was that.

I feel like I lost out on something. I feel sad.

Also I feel relieved. I feel like the weeks are opening up—once I get through all the deadlines I already said yes to—the free weeks up ahead. That time is far away, but it’s there. I saved it for myself, and for what? I don’t yet know. I hope I don’t regret this decision later.

Lesson Learned from Stopping Before I Was Done Yesterday

That maybe sometimes that’s not so bad? I did the scene I couldn’t complete this morning and I’m extremely happy with it. There was a moment where I moved even myself and was smiling inanely at my Starbucks table, to the confused looks of the people around me. I’m glad I waited. It turned out better this morning than it would have ended up yesterday.

And yet what is the lesson in this? I thought I was supposed to push myself really hard until my fingers are burning (or bleeding, see that post below). I thought I supposed to FORCE MYSELF to finish.

I admit I’m confused.

Sometimes It Happens…

…that you just can’t write another word.

I think it’s happening right now.

Regarding distractions—hence the name of this blog—in the last hour I started thinking up ideas for a YA series I would like to pitch, the novel I would like to write, and a short story I would really like to finish. It’s always easier to think about what you might do next week, next month, next year rather than what you have to do in the here and now. I’m stuck in mud but fantasizing about marshmallow fluff. And even while doing it I can’t make myself stop.

I’m such a spaz.

Stop Means Go

I’ve been quiet for some days. It’s because I’ve been madly trying to reach this writing deadline, now about a week away, and then tackle multiple deadlines after that. I won’t go into detail yet again about how I screwed myself by saying yes to too many things. I’m boring even myself. This is just hard. Writing on assignment is hard in general and then with my day job on top of it, it can feel that much harder. I’m more tired than I’ve ever been, but I can’t be tired, I don’t have the time to be tired, and where is the sense in that? But also, having the day job makes it easier to write. It gives me motivation, perspective. No matter how hard it is to write a paragraph on assignment most days it’s always, always better than the day job, and this is something I didn’t know about myself. Not that I can afford to quit and freelance full-time, but it’s nice to know where your heart lies. Sometimes I can’t find it and then when I am writing I think: Oh, here it is. This is what I want. I like to be reminded.

Now I have something to strive for that’s perhaps more attainable than the fantastical book deal / uber-agent in the sky. I’ve always been a hard worker. I don’t think it’s my fate to get the big windfall and sit around basking in the spotlight for years on end. I hate bright lights. And, besides, I can’t sit still. You should have seen me in the staff meeting at work this week. I fidgeted once every thirty seconds, and I’m supposed to set a good example. I was worse than a five-year-old. So, yes, that means I’m antsy, but it also means I’m raring to go.

Speaking of going, I need to finish this chapter. It’s my self-imposed deadline of the day. All that stands between me and it is one scene. A long scene with quite a few beats, but one scene nonetheless. (Truth be told, I decided to combine two scenes into one.) It’s 3:08 pm, Sunday afternoon. I want to eat lunch. I want to lie on the couch and read a magazine straight through to the end. I want to see what’s on TV.

I want to stop working on this chapter, but I’m not yet allowing myself to do it. Let’s see how long I can hold out. If I fidget one more time in this chair, I might break it. I need to sit still, focus, and GO.

I have this strange philosophy in which I am convinced that all this hard work will be worth it. Someday, I will know why I did it. Someday. Don’t ask me what convinced me. It’s one of those blind beliefs that cause so much trouble in the world. No matter what happens (another rejection in the mail, for example) I just can’t think that it’s over. There’s a connection, I think, some kind of tenuous connection between all this freelance ghostwriting and my real writing, the unpublished pages in the box. I’m working this hard right now for a reason, I tell myself. But what reason? I ask right back. I can’t answer that question yet. I don’t have time.

And So It Goes (it has to… it’s due 10/2)

Write a sentence. Ugh. Write another. Ick. Stop. Scratch mysterious mosquito bite. Open Safari to check messages, no, bad, don’t do that, close Safari. Stare at wall. Stare out window. Return to screen. Start another sentence. It becomes a paragraph, a whole page, you’re on a roll! Oh, um, no you’re not. You just stopped for no reason. Why? Dunno, it’s a mystery. Stare at wall some more. Listen to sirens outside. Crack neck. Fiddle with desk lamp. Crack neck again. Torture self by checking calendar with quickly approaching deadline. Freak for 60 seconds. Then close calendar. Breathe. Return to page. Yes, that’s page 150. Yes, you’re doing so well. Write a word, any word. Look, another sentence came out. This seems to be working. Sentences start with words; therefore you put a word down and it becomes a sentence. Oh, not really. Sentences have to make sense. It is 3:57. Now it is 3:58. Where did that whole minute go? Write a word. Any word. How hard can it be? People write books every day. Or so I’ve heard.

My Dueling Personalities

I had a little battle with myself early this morning about going out to write before work. This took place on the couch in the living room where I stumbled before I was able to focus my eyes and make it to the shower. (That was strike one.)

Bad Me: Let’s stay here and just not get up.

Good Me: We have to get up. We have that chapter to work on and we can’t afford to lose any days.

Bad Me: Forget it. I’m tired.

Good Me: So am I, but you’ll thank me later if you help me get us up.

A minute passes. I don’t move an inch.

Good Me: Hello? Did you fall asleep again?

Bad Me: There is no way I’m moving from this spot before eight o’clock. Bitch all you want, but we’re staying.

Good Me: Please? I’ll get you chocolate.

Bad Me: (silence)

Good Me: Fine, but I’m not taking the blame for this.

Bad Me: Great. Now shut your trap. I’m trying to sleep.

The End

(And, yeah, I’m pissed.)