So I’m reading John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, which is kind of like Ender’s Game meets Cocoon meets, I dunno, The Matrix. In a good way. Anyway, I just came across this line:

“…there was talk of naming the colony Eden, but it was suggested that such a name was karmically tantamount to asking for trouble.”

I often find my name used as metaphor in stories, but this is my favorite.

New-fangled time management skills

So I’ve been trying this new thing called “time management” recently. It’s kind of a new idea so I don’t know if any of you have heard of it. It involves scheduling the things you want and/or need to do, and then doing those things within an allotted time slot. This is complicated, I know, so here’s an example. I go into work at 11:45am every day (I know, lucky me, right?), so I have my mornings free to write, piddle around, make coffee, what have you. Previous to my “time management” plan, I would sort of vaguely assert that I wanted to “write” in the mornings, but what this usually entailed was opening a file at 9am, staring at it for 5 minutes, going to make coffee, staring at the file and/or writing 2 sentences, piddling around on the internet, watching cars get towed on my street, tending to my plants, making gluten-free frozen waffles… you get the idea.

NOW, however, I am a model of efficiency. I have decided that from 10-11, I will write, and that is all I will do. The compromise is that from 9-10 and from 11 until I bike to work, I can fritter away the precious moments of my life however I choose. This technique works surprisingly well. Now, two-plus hours is not a terribly long period of time to manage, and I have a whole day off coming up soon, which I usually spend roaming around the city, drinking too much coffee and “trying to write.” Can I manage a whole day? Can I actually save some of that day for doing OTHER things I enjoy? I shiver with excitement at the prospect.

Here’s an unrelated question (does anybody actually read this thing, or am I just talking to myself?) I was thinking of documenting the weird things that happen at the sex shop, both for my own enjoyment and possible future mining of ideas… but y’know, if there’s an audience to consider, I’m happy to consider their preferences.  The stories are funny, usually, but can involve some naughty language and salacious content.

Also, today is the last day of Clarion West. I can’t quite believe it, and I’m not even there this year.

Story successes and a short lecture about money.

I haven’t been writing here because I’ve been really trucking along in my novella — over 10,000 words in the rough draft! Technically, that’s about halfway, though this draft might be longer than that. I’m trying to be okay with the fact that I’ll have to go back and change a bunch of stuff to make the story work. All part of the revision process, right? I think my fear is that I’ll die or become a vegetable before I’m able to fix the mistakes I’ve made… but that’s something I should probably take up with a therapist.

In any case, I didn’t come here to be a sourpuss again. I came to talk about one of my most favorite things about writing — which is when stories surprise you by taking a different turn than you originally intended. I don’t know how this happens, because it means that someone who is not me (me = conscious me) is running the show and coming up with the good ideas.  This makes me feel slightly inadequate, as the not-me clearly thinks it has better ideas, and usually it is right. Nevertheless, there is something magical about sitting down to write with a relatively clear idea of what you want to say and where the story is going to go, and then having this whole other concept bubble up out of your subconscious swamp, lashing all your loose ends together and creating some awesome origami crane out of the whole thing (to mix about a million metaphors). This just happened to me, and I’m so excited to keep writing, even though it means I’ll have to go back and fix all those mistakes from earlier in the story. Barring death and/or a vegetative state.

Funny how just yesterday I was stuck in a seemingly endless rut of a scene. How does this happen? These ideas can’t come from nothing, and yet as far as my conscious thoughts go, they just didn’t exist as of a half hour ago.  How can you write a story and have no idea what it’s about… until, suddenly, it all becomes clear?  It almost makes me feel like a hack — that what I would define as “skill” has little to do with the quality of the product, since so much of it is unintentional. Or maybe I just need to redefine what this skill means.  Unless I’m the only one out here who’s just doddering around, poking at a story until it gets fed up with me and decides to make something of itself, at which point I say “Lookit what I did!” and take all the credit.

On an unrelated note, another thing I love is riding my bike to the garden and picking vegetables to use that same evening for dinner. Squash and beets were on the menu two nights ago… last night was rainbow chard. The tomatoes are starting to come in, and soon I’ll be drowning in grapes! Pictures of the garden soon, I promise. I want to be just like Pam.

Oh, so I guess the upshot of this is that I’ve been meeting my Write-a-Thon goals. This week is the last week of Clarion West and the last week of the Write-a-Thon, so if you have some pocket change to spare, go ahead and sponsor my ass. Or sponsor the rest of me, whichever you prefer. Or someone else, if you like their picture better.

And one last thing — the Brain Harvest Mega Challenge is open for submissions until August 31st! You should enter. It’s a really fun contest, and it has cash money prizes and a celebrity judge. Plus, it’s a fundraiser for Brain Harvest so we can continue to pay writers pro-rates. All of the reading fee money goes toward that and paying the prizes.  This is not a sinister plot wherein we BH editors are going to run off to Mexico with your five bucks. It’s a worthy cause, so quit your bitching, all of you that are whining about “money flowing toward the writer.” The long view is that if you want money to flow toward you, you have to make a small initial investment. How else do you think we pay for this damn magazine? Our trust funds? Hardly. So invest in your community and have a little fun doing it.

Super-quick and unimportantish

Yes yes, I’ve been remiss about posting. My humblest apologies. I will get back on that horse very soon, especially since, as of now, I have my finished fancy new site, courtesy of the most awesome 4emphasis team, my dear friends Caren Gussoff-Sumption and Chris Sumption. Lookit how cute the robot monkeys are!

Secondly, I’m well-entrenched in the first draft of a second novella for the lovely and talented Rose O’Keefe of Eraserhead Press, which portends to be a lot of fun to write.

Thirdly, those of you who live in temperate climates probably don’t understand that summer in Chicago is incredibly hectic.   It is a narrow three-ish month window in which the weather is nice enough to actually leave the house and enjoy oneself… so there is an insane amount of pressure to be happily buzzing around doing stuff, such as beach parties, biking along the lakeshore path at night (my fave), barbecues, gardening (we have squash! And sugar snap peas!) and the most aggressive fun-having you can stand. Because by mid-September, all bets are off. We’ve had snow as early as October, for crying out loud. Is hectic fun as much fun as non-hectic fun? Probably not. But I’ll think about that come December.

Fourthly, the First Annual Brain Harvest Mega Challenge has begun! Should be a hoot.  If you haven’t submitted yet, you still have awhile, but don’t put it off ’til the very end, or you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

More thought-provoking and interesting posts to come, promise.

Today’s word count: 1913

2009 Clarion West Write-a-thon