Plans of Outstanding Proportions

I just turned in that manuscript. I am DONE.

And, soon, it will be October, and what I’m hoping to be a new outlook on life.

It will take effort to:

  • Be positive.
  • Be focused.
  • Not be a workaholic at work.
  • Write for myself and only myself with only my own self-imposed deadlines.
  • Pick a novel and stick with it.
  • (Get healthy on top of this, another distraction but one that is needed.)
  • Turn down freelance projects though we could really use the money. So far, since making this decision, I have turned down just three, and none of the three were a good fit for me. It will be tough if I am offered something truly tempting. Or if we have trouble paying the rent again.

* * *

Yesterday I had the most wonderful moment of closure. In fact, nothing is closed any longer; new doors have come open. I had the day off from work (a “personal day”; I love the idea of fully paid personal days) and ended up meeting my previous boss for a drink. One drink led to three. I am not a drinker, but I like cider (with ice; thanks to my friends from Scotland for introducing me to that combo).

Saying that I met with my old boss on a weekday off from my new job sort of sounds like I’m cheating on my new job, no? Anyway, I met her downstairs in the lobby. I missed the building—and now MTV is moving in; can’t believe I missed that!—and we talked intensely for a couple hours. We like each other so much, and now that I no longer work for her I think we can have a real friendship. This meeting was a long time in coming. We didn’t talk or email for about three months after I had left. I think, I know, that she felt abandoned at a terrible time when she was understaffed, so I guess I was giving her space and maybe she was giving me space, but a couple of weeks ago she finally hired my replacement, so there is no going back now.

Yesterday, however, was the first time I saw her since my last day at the office. I am happy to report that she’s not mad at me. She seems truly happy that I was able to leave and put my life (and thus my writing) first. It means so much to me to have her support, especially knowing what a tough summer she went through having no one to do my job for over three months.

Leaving that job—such intense, unending pressure—was the first step. But you and I know that I have more work to do to change my life for the better.

Now is the time. It has to be the time. What other time than this?

* * *

But this post was meant to be about my plans. There is so much I want to write, I can hardly contain myself. I am making a list. The thing extends beyond the boundaries of time. It will take years to accomplish everything I set out on this list. I suppose I will have to tackle it one thing at a time. And sometimes I will want to take on things not even on the list, and at those moments I should follow the inspiration.

Also, in October, E and I will be traveling back to Ohio to see the campus of the college where we fell in love, and we might just be there to find out that the college won’t be closing after all. Please think positive for me, for my college, and for yourself. I have drowned in negativity too long. I want to stop being that person, if such a thing is possible.

Can you gut yourself of dire thoughts? I really don’t know. All I know is that I’ll try.

Inspired

I’ve been setting some things aside to inspire me when needed. Now that I’ve reached the end of my deadlines, the time has come.

This beautiful post from my magician friend Lucksmith at Bored Ludic? gets my heart pumping each time I read it. He says (and please forgive me for quoting so liberally):

I wanted to become a magician, because I wanted to see more magic. I wanted to be good enough to sit at the table.

Your art is the same. Whatever it may be.

Start slowly. Be bad.

That is where most people fail. They hate to be bad and expect that they can be good instantly. They sell expensive guitars years later with the thought ‘I just wasn’t very good’.

Forgive yourself. Keep being bad every week.

Meet others, and talk about what is meaningful in your art or theirs. Share, and try to be the worst artist in the room. By this I mean: little fish big pond is better.

You’ll get better. Don’t stop. Show less people maybe, but never stop.

Consider the rejection a magician gets. The disappointment on a child’s face when they see how you hid the coin is timelessly brutal. Your own criticism is permanently echoing in your mind.

Just don’t stop. Don’t stop until you have a seat at the table.

I love that. Maybe I will be bad; maybe I will be good. But that is what I will be trying for, just my seat at the table.

Latest Story Theories

1. First sentence. It all rides on the first sentence, so go all out. Do not start with the long, extended description of the train. Start instead with the sentence that had been on page 2 (the belly shirt, the blowjob bracelets, the gum). This is the sentence that started the story in the first place, that drove you to write it, though no one would know that. Now they do.

2. Thickness. Readers are scared of thickness. If the staple gets bunched on the back, the story is too long.

3. Desperation. Not good. Don’t let the reader know you have it.

4. White space gives air. Air allows readers to breathe. Try not to choke people with your monster paragraphs.

5. Who cares where you put your commas. Who cares if you do not have a question mark at the end of this sentence. No one, that’s who. Punctuation is for work. Inspiration is for now.

6. More stories is better than one story that you send out and wait NINE MONTHS for an answer on. In nine months an entire human being could be gestated, grown, and born. Nine months should be a long enough time to write more than one story.

7. Sometimes all you can do on a Friday afternoon away from work is decide on that first sentence. Paste it up there. Look at it some. Twist your hair. Check your Facebook. No, don’t check your Facebook. Go back to your story. Look at it some more. Think Hmmmm. Look at the rest of the page, realize how much editing you’ll have to do now to make it work. Try not to give up and go home.

8. Don’t give up.

9. Don’t give up.

10. Don’t give up. (It’s worth repeating.)

All Pages and Scenes Accounted For

Can it be? Oh, yes. I reached the end of the manuscript. Easily, swimmingly—actually it went pretty fast and I even did line edits this morning and, turns out, the thing’s not as bad as I thought.

I think.

Seeing as I already asked for, and was granted, an extension until Monday morning I will sleep on it and read it over again this weekend. Also, I’ll get a second opinion. (Thanks, e.)

Then I will turn it in.

And then . . .

What?

Well, anything. Then I am done* with all this freelance and I can do anything.

* Okay, there will be a revision, but let’s not think of that now.

A Little Less Heavy

I am no closer to the imminent end to the endless manuscript that will be holding me hostage through the weekend.

But today was a better day, even still. Yesterday I got my revision notes on my Alice manuscript—one that I thought would surely carry through into October. But the revisions were much simpler than I expected. I finished them last night, emailed them to the editor, and today got the news that we’re done and it’s approved. So sudden! And one less thing to worry about.

Also, these comments from the editor helped:

Hi Nova,

Attached are my comments/questions. You did such a fantastic job on this! I literally could not stop laughing. When you can, please take a look and let me know what you think. (There really are very few changes.) Thanks again for doing this book. I’m glad your schedule worked out for it. It’s great.

And, after my revisions, when it was approved later this afternoon:

I should hire you to write everything for us! It would make my life so much easier…

Thanks again for such a great (and clean) manuscript.

Will I ever hear something like that from an editor about my real writing?

It will soon be time to try.

Today I went out to lunch with two coworkers. For a few minutes there, we were talking about my writing—I may have been agonizing a little too much over the manuscript due Monday and how much work I have to do; I really shouldn’t talk about this with coworkers, I’ll surely drive them away and I have so few friends at work anyway—but one turned to me and asked if I ever thought of writing a novel. I was stunned for a second there. I mean, of course. I mean, I am. I have; I will again; this one will be better. Of course I’ve thought of it. I think of it every single day.

Oh, and the best part of the day: My boss approved a personal day for me on Friday.

A day off! I so need it.

Heavy

This latest deadline is really weighing on me. I have to force the pages out—and then, once out, I’m afraid to look at them again. I’ve never had this much trouble with a project before.

I’m thinking it’s not really about this project at all, is it? It’s about what comes after the project. It’s about my real life that I haven’t had time to think so much about because I’ve been so busy doing these projects. My god, when I sit down and think about it, just for those few minutes I allow myself, it starts to sink in—how I’ve effectively given up and how mad at myself I am, and ashamed, and lost, just completely lost. And if I think about it too long I can barely breathe. That’s why the deadlines. That’s why this new job. It’s easier not to think. This is why we have TV.

It’s easier to hide behind meaningless deadlines than face up to the fact that I don’t like where my life is at the moment—place, time, writing, mostly the writing—and I have no idea what to do about it. I also want to help E reach his own happiness and I have no idea how to do that, either.

For the past few nights, in those minutes in the dark bedroom when I am falling asleep and my brain is cascading through the random anxieties of the day, when I am trying desperately not to think so I can just fall asleep, I get this sense of something on me. A very physical weight. It feels like it’s over my chest, sitting there, bearing down. I don’t know how else to describe it. Just this heaviness. And along with it are the ideas I’ve been neglecting, the novel I reimagined and restarted and then abandoned on the side of the road. They come to me, and just sit there, breathing on me. It’s been taking me a very long time to fall asleep.

But back to reality. I am on page 72 of the project, by the way. It feels like it will never be over, though I know it will be soon. Depending on what sort of mood I’m in, it’s either too soon or not soon enough.

Invasion of the Ice-Cream Song

I am high up on the twelfth floor, banging out these pages at a laborious pace that is killing me slowly on the inside, down in there where it counts the most. And yet for some reason all I can hear, from the street twelve floors below, is the ice-cream truck. It’s blaring its song, the same song it’s always blared, for as long as I can remember. I’m sure you know the tune.

The song spins on repeat, echoing through the streets, carried up here by the wind.

At first, it’s nice. At first my mouth waters for chocolate goodness, cool to the tongue and jimmies on top (are sprinkles always called jimmies, or is that just me?, and why jimmies? why not frankies or louies or agathas?). Then I lose the taste. The song is still going. Those kids down on the street below have obviously not yet had their fill of ice cream. And until they’ve had enough the song will keep going.

Well, all I can do is ignore it. So I keep pounding away. Fact is, I am on page 34 out of 80 and I am never going to finish this on time and I am feeling very fatalistic and depressed and I could go for an ice-cream cone right about now.

But really I am just trying to concentrate here. Page 34. Go.

But the song.

That song!

It’s still playing.

How is it possible that the ice-cream truck is still sitting down there, spinning its song? It must have set up shop. Maybe the truck blew a tire. Maybe the ice-cream man is giving away ice cream for free, throwing cones to people crossing the street, and I am missing out by sitting up here, stonily trying to block out his song.

The song is annoying on repeat. It screeches through my ears. It sounds like it’s playing from a warped record. I think a person could go mad from hearing the endless loop of the ice-cream song. I think a person could tear her eyes out over the ice-cream song. Could scream out the window: Go away, Ice-Cream Man! I am only on page thirty-four! Have a heart! I am trying to write here.

Fact is, I need three more weeks to finish this manuscript, at least.

Either that or a barrel of ice cream with jimmies on top. Lots of them.

What’s in Me

So I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t sick all week. Oh, who am I kidding. I had a cold. And I was so exhausted after not being sick that this week I slept in every day and ended up writing only 2 pages toward the final 80 due in less than a week. So you could say I am s-c-r-e-w-e-d. I don’t want to have to ask for an extension, but I feel like I lost so much time… I’ll see how this weekend goes.

I need to reach deep down inside me and find that motivated, driven person, drag her out, and force her to work like a maniac this weekend.

She’s in there.

I know it.

Somewhere.

Soon, so very soon, this will all be over. I mean, sure, there will be revisions, but you will be proud of me, I am proud of me, that I turned down two freelance writing projects, one just yesterday. It’s time to remember what I wanted from life. I mean, what was the point of this and this and this and this and this, what is the point of anything really, if I am not in this for myself, writing what I want to be writing?

I’ve been scared; that’s what it is. I don’t want to be rejected again, so my defense has been to just stop trying. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but I can see it clearly now.

I want to try to start trying again. I’m so easily crushed—it’s easier than it sounds.