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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Right now I’m all about WIPs, or works in progress, in writing and other arenas. (Ironically, I started this post days weeks a while ago and then skipped over it to wrap up November with the NaNoMakeMo post. Now we’re back to this post in progress:)

I haven’t wanted to post much here because my day-to-day isn’t necessarily all that interesting, so I like to have something interesting to say. And the middle of anything can feel… well, just average. It can be tough talking about works in progress.

For example, what did you do today? Got up, hit the treadmill, worked on a story, did some research, switched from the treadmill desk to the standing desk and worked on the day job. Periodically took breaks to do things like make a bunch of sous vide egg cups, wash a million plastic bags**, or hit the workshop.

Speaking of the workshop, part of why my writing project is taking longer than I’d like is that I’m dividing my attention. You may remember I put up a post about the “exciting creative synergies inherent in cross-media productivity” or something like that;) Still true, at least for me, but spreading one’s attention does tend to slow things down, at least that’s how it’s working out for me. It’s like doing a dual major instead of just one. The prep takes forever but in the end, it will all be worth it (right? here’s hoping!).

***

In writing:

I’ve been working on a longer-form piece and don’t have much to say about it, honestly, except “Hey, still working on that novella!” and “It’s going to suuuuper great when I get it done but, well, it’s not done yet” “Yep, this is taking freaking forever!” and “I’m past the bit with the donuts but now I’m stuck at the part with the walk-in freezer. Honestly, who has a walk-in freezer in space, anyway?” (answer, me:).

I was going to put up a shot of my writing file, but I don’t want you to see all the highlighting and bold text meaning “this word choice is terrible and/or completely out of place and/or if she was wearing a spacesuit in the last scene, how can she be rubbing her face in this bit?, fix it or else!”*

Here’s a shot of a lake in winter instead. From inside, because it was -29C, people!

***

In wood:

I made a handle for a friend’s fishing pole (you may remember my adventures in deepwater lake trout fishing from a ways back; it involves metal line and requires a sturdy handle, and his wasn’t). Well, I’ve actually made two so far and I’m finishing up a third. Practice is good for skill development, of course, and I want to keep going until I have a product I’m happy with. The proportions of the first version weren’t quite what I wanted (Mr. Man likes it, but I wanted to try again), the second has a potential weak spot (and again), but the third looks just right.

***

Maybe there’s value in sharing the tedium as well as the highs, the work that goes on behind the scenes so that you know it’s not just you. I’m just a regular Jolene, plugging away at something that makes me happy (most of the time, anyway:). If you think a thing is worth doing, and you’re learning and improving and it’s helping you be the person you want to become (unless that person is unpleasant and/or criminal, just saying), go ahead. Make the effort. I’ll do my best to enjoy all the days, average or not.

So let’s rewrite this experience of “in progress” or the “dreaded middle.” I’m not done yet, but I am rounding the corner. What’s my goal? What’s in the way? How can I break it down to make what’s left more manageable?

I love crossing things off a list. So satisfying! To that end, I’ve started listing each project on a piece of paper and break it down into component parts. Like so:

The big stack on the left are completed goals. Everything else is in progress, including “The Secret Life of Henchman #3” and “make a bed of nails.” Because that’s how I roll:)

***

(interjection from the future, which is now, but was later, then)

The space pirate story has a beginning (two, actually, must fix that) and an end, and it’s ready for next steps. No one died.

/ahem

Allow me to rephrase.

No one died who didn’t absolutely deserve it.

 

Here’s hoping your year is starting off well. Or at the very least, better than Henchman #3’s!

 

***

* Still, here’s a bit I find amusing: “The difference between us is that I will actually call you a ride. The fact that they’ll come bearing handcuffs is your own damn fault.”

** I hate washing plastic bags. I like the fact that it keeps waste out of landfills and encourages a reuse mindset, but the process of washing and drying bags is just ridiculous, awkward, messy and inefficient. The whole time I’m chanting to myself, “There has to be a better way.” If you know of one, feel free to share!

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Ahem. It’s not you, it’s me.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted much lately. Part of that is the inevitable press of other work but before November 2016 I managed. The last couple of years have been harder. Too many distractions. Too much uncertainty. Too much crazy.

Something had to give, and you’ve seen the results in my absence here. (Sadly, I’m not alone.)

That said, I’m still working, still thinking, still writing. Still coming up with things I’d like to post, if I could just find the mental space and time.

When it comes to this blog, I’ve realized something important. The more it helps me do my work, the more I’ll write, here and elsewhere.

***

New plan. Let’s see if I can siphon off the ideas and thoughts that are spinning around in my head. If I can put them down here, I may be able to focus more on work to be done, and on new projects for the future.

“I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.”
— Albus Dumbledore

***

Buckle up, it might get weird:)

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So, November.
/vroom!

Yeah. Like that.

November is (of course!) National Novel Writing Month. I’ve taken part for the past however many years, and it has been fun. I laugh, I write, I cry, I win. Then I collapse in a mostly useless heap for the next many weeks. The holidays don’t help post-NaNo productivity, of course, but I don’t know that a draining push to write write write write does either. I’m looking for sustainable output.

I’m also distracted this year. As mentioned, I’ve taken up woodworking and it’s fun. I like the challenge, I like the creativity and idea generation, the inevitable roadblocks, problem-solving, and the triumphant conclusion.

It’s a lot like writing, actually, only with more finished product and results that don’t depend on the vagaries of editorial preference.

So this November, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I opted for NaNoMakeMo.

Me, one month, making stuff, with the definition of “stuff” being flexible. Words, wood, whatever. I’m one of those people who can be well and truly stuck on one project but super productive on another. As long as I’m working on whatever my secret brain wants to pay attention to, much gets done.

I decided to use this quirk to my advantage. It’s a classic productivity trick called structured procrastination. I may have mentioned it here before.

The first rule is there are no rules.

Write, turn, bake, sew, whatever. The goal is what’s important, not how to get there, and for November the goal was simple: Make more stuff.

I pulled on my big girl work clothes and got to it.

/insert 30 days of work work work work work.
/ok, fine, I didn’t work all 30 days
/some days I sat inside by the fire and read, because winter and cold and snow, people!

* * *

So how did the first inaugural NaNoMakeMo go?

My original plan was to post updates (with photos and witty commentary even!) as I went along, sharing each and every project through the twists and turns of the creative process. When that didn’t happen, I decided to make an awesome advent calendar-style image map linking all of the awesome into one aesthetically-pleasing package.

Yeah, that didn’t work out. Images and updates take time. Thinking about how to frame a project takes time. Stepping back from the desk or workbench or computer takes time and also the sort of mental space I don’t always have when I’m mid-stream. And the interweb informs me that image maps have been out of style Like For Ever.

Too bad, I was going to use this fun image. It pretty much sums up my month.

Instead you get this uber post. Also, I made this list.

(Yes, that’s my list handwriting. It is both teeny tiny and impossible to read, or so I’ve been told. I have no trouble with it at all. Let me just get a magnifying glass;)*

* * *

So how did it go? Pretty well, actually.

I got a lot done on a lot of different projects, which I find very satisfying. Rather than feel I’ve ignored much of life in order to focus on one dimension, writing, I’ve made progress on multiple fronts.

For evidence of same, please see Exhibit A (note: some projects have been excluded in the interest of maintaining holiday-related surprises;)

I made things, I broke things, I learned more about what to do and what not. Yay:)

* * *

What would I change? Next time I might plan a bit more. Fifty thousand words is a little nuts but having a target helps your aim, you know? Goals and also alternatives, for when the old attention span is minimal and absolutely everything looks interesting except the work on the desk. Maybe I’ll list the different possibilities on little pieces of paper and keep them in a jar for when I need to pull out a new project.

(Teeny tiny lists on teeny tiny scraps of paper, in a Swedish glass jar. Because that’s how I roll, and if there’s one benefit to the passing years, it’s figuring out new ways to work around my own crazy:)

In sum: NaNoMakeMo may be a less dramatic way to approach creativity than NaNoWriMo but it’s also, at least for me, more sustainable. And in the end, a productive, constructive life is the true goal.

And so I declare the inaugural NaNoMakeMo a pretty not-bad success. Here’s hoping you enjoyed your month too!

* * *

* The point usually isn’t the reading. It’s about thinking, and the process of sketching out an idea or problem helps me think it through. I find that works best when I’m scribbling on the back of some envelope, or a scrap bit of paper or the corner of a random flyer. Who says no one uses the mail anymore?

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Hooray, it’s voting day! Time to rip open that mild-mannered dress shirt,* toss aside those oh-so-effective-as-a-disguise glasses, and be the superhero you were born to be.

*Figuratively speaking, of course. But hey, if you planned ahead and are wearing your Wonder Woman Underoos, you do you.

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”
― David Foster Wallace

Have questions? These links can help:

https://votinginfoproject.org/projects/get-to-the-polls/
Voter Guide: How, When and Where to Vote on Tuesday

Here, I even made you a little something…

And here’s a little something from some other superheroes:)

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”
― Larry J. Sabato

 

 

Image credits:
Vote, democracy, stars and stripe and voting HD photo by Element5 Digital (@element5digital) on Unsplash
We Can Be Heroes photo by Jessica Podraza (@birdiesnapdragon) on Unsplash
Statue Of Liberty photo by tom coe (@tomcoe) on Unsplash
Protest, message board, text and protester HD photo by Heather Mount (@heathermount) on Unsplash
Sticker, message, finger and hand HD photo by Parker Johnson (@pkrippermachine) on Unsplash

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>> Today’s Lesson, or, tl;dr: If a bird strikes your window, it’s probably* in trouble. Help if you can. <<

A bird hit my window today. The thunk echoed through the house and into my office, and of course I went to investigate. Two juncos scattered as I approached the back door, but a third wasn’t going anywhere. It lay on its side on top of a big plastic storage bin that holds bird seed and miscellaneous gardening equipment. It’s not the kind of place a bird normally hangs out. Too exposed. Smells too much like cat. But there it was, tilted over on one side and twitching.

I waited, because this has happened before. Sometimes they fly away.

Ten minutes later, the bird was still there, but it had rolled over to perch on a coil of garden hose tucked behind the bin. I propped one half of a shoe box on the bin to keep it from looking too much like dinner to some passing hawk, hoped the cat stayed asleep, and did some research.

We have some wonderful bird organizations in Ottawa.** The Wild Bird Care Centre rescues all kinds of birds and also has a lot of useful information online. Pick it up, they said. Put it in a bag or a box and bring it in, it probably needs help. Won’t cost you a thing, we’re just that awesome (and they are!)

Bonus: birds can be adorable!

We’ve had bird strikes before and while a couple picked themselves up and went on their way, one most decidedly did not. It was a mourning dove, a beautiful grey bird that decided the yard looked like a fine spot to lie down in, and that was that. We picked it up and took it to the Wild Bird Centre. Later, they reported that it had a broken wing and pelvis so, yeah, not walking away from that one any time soon. (It took months, but the Bird Centre rehabbed it and released it back into the wild with a flock of its fellow doves. How great is that?)

Remembering that dove and flush with new information, I called Safe Wings Ottawa.

“The Centre’s closed for the night but bring the bird to me and I’ll care for it,” said the nice woman at the other end of the line. “It probably needs help. But be quick, flying away doesn’t mean it’s ok.”

I thanked her, grabbed the other half of the shoe box and headed back outside.

The bird flew away.

I called the nice lady back. She was polite but perhaps just a wee bit exasperated when I said, “You know how I called about that little junco? Yeah, it woke up and flew away.” She must hear that a lot.

But next time, she won’t hear it from me.

* * *

Looking for information and/or window stickers to prevent bird strikes? Here, I’ll save you the trouble:
Prevent birds from hitting windows with these products — BirdWatching

I got some of the UV reflective stickers and they seem ok but not great. We still had a strike after I put those up. After that I went old school, and also use gold star stickers that I picked up from a craft or dollar store. They aren’t great for outdoors but will last the season if in a relatively protected place.

Figure out which windows are problematic (do they reflect the great outdoors? the answer may change depending on the season; does interior light make it look like there’s a passage through the house?) and stick away!

* * *

* I’m just guessing here, but if it knocks itself out I’d say definitely in trouble.
** Most relevant today: the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, a charitable organization whose mission is to “assess, treat, and rehabilitate injured, ill, or orphaned wild birds,” and Safe Wings Ottawa, a “program of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club to reduce bird mortality from window collisions.” If you aren’t in this neck of the woods but need help with a bird, OVWBCC recommends you visit www.wildliferehabber.com or call your local vet.

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Politics make me sad.

Baking makes me happy. Being constructive and making things (and countering the negativity inherent in the current public discourse) makes me happy.

And so I give you my latest creation: A rolling pin…

… complete with a flower on the handle. (Or is that a “flour”? 😉

Next stop, Canadian Thanksgiving and (you guessed it!) pie.

Chin up, fellow humans. We’re just one alien invasion away from remembering that we’re all in this together.

 

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Things that could have gone better today (mostly minor, ’tis true, but it’s barely afternoon!):

  • Tracked Hurricane Florence instead of working on my current novella.
  • Walked instead of running. Because really, I can’t run. It hurts, like everything else good for you (not really, but some days that’s how it feels). Ouch ouch ouch!
  • Forgot to take my vitamins with breakfast.
  • Haven’t cleaned today. Even odds on whether I’ll get to it at all, really. Wynonna Earp is just as awesome through a thin film of dust, right?
  • Ignored the hummingbird feeder and other oddities to wash in the laundry sink. Again.
  • I still don’t know how to get rid of the efflorescence by the laundry room drain. Or is it mold? Or some similar-looking precursor to an alien invasion that just happens to be starting in my basement? Maybe leaving it there is actually me doing a noble service to SETI-hunters everywhere?
  • There is a crack in this seemingly perfect pen blank. You can’t see it. Half the time I can’t see it. But it is there, and now all I can do is use it as a reminder that not everything works out the way you’d like, but sometimes even mistakes can be beautiful.

Enjoy your day, imperfect or otherwise!

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