Thursday, November 17, 2005

Writing Progress and Quirks

I haven't posted here in a while, but that's actually because I've been writing lately, rather than complaining about not being able to write. Last week was wildly productive -- I managed somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 words last week (this is only an estimate, since I didn't count exactly) and I started to wonder if I should've signed up for NaNoWriMo. But then, I'm writing a lot, and it's possible that imposing a deadline on myself might've sucked up any and all creative energy from me, so maybe it's better that I didn't.

Mostly I work on the incentive plan -- if I manage at least 500 words a day, I treat myself with something. Usually it's something mindless -- like watching a favorite DVD or relaxing with a favorite book. Of course, the inspiration's been flowing, and while I'm way over my "treat myself" quota, I haven't been treating myself, because I've been writing. Too busy to treat myself, I guess?

Either way, I'm up to chapter 9, and the scenes I've been looking forward to writing are finally coming up, and I'm finding out that I've been looking forward to writing these certain scenes for so long that I've managed to psych myself out. I fretted for most of the day yesterday, because I couldn't make the dialogue come on one of these scenes. Then I decided that I would just write, and even if what I wrote was blindingly craptacular, I'd still write, because then I'd have something to revise. As it turned out, I think the scene's dialogue was not "blindingly craptacular," and was marginally better than what I expected to produce, so it's all good (until I take my "every three chapters" break and do heavy editing/revising).

I've also been thinking about the "quirks" meme that Jason did over at Clarity of Night. He invited me to give it a whirl (without the pressure of "tagging" me to do it, thank goodness), and I've been trying to think of what things I do that may be considered "quirky." So here goes:

1. I must match. Must. Shoes, purse, and belt should all either be black leather or brown leather, or something that matches black or brown leather. I avoid buying "novelty" accessories for this very reason. I always, always, always match. Even when no one's looking, or when it's something no one will see -- like pajamas.

2. I hate confrontation, and as a means of gearing myself up for an unpleasant task, I have been known to "practice" (out loud) what I'm going to say. I try not to do this with anyone listening.

3. When presented with a plate of food, I work on one section at a time (ie, veggies first, then starch, then meat). This is seen mostly around the holidays -- Thanksgiving in particular. I tend to work around the plate in a clockwise direction, but I notice myself doing that less and less as I get older.

4. I'm a freak for personal hygiene. For instance, in the morning I'm nauseous until I've brushed my teeth, and the idea of not showering for a day makes my skin crawl. It's not that I feel dirty, or freak out over germs -- it's more that I just really enjoy being clean.

5. As an addendum to #4, I'm also a slave to... hmm, what would it be called? "Cosmetic maintenance," maybe? Come hell or high-water, I will see my hairdresser for a trim every 6 weeks, I keep my nails trimmed (meticulously), and I'm hyperaware of the general state of my hands, feet, eyebrows, etc. Basically I like for things to be smooth -- I hate the feel of split ends, dry hands, or uneven nails, and it drives me to distraction.

6. I bake to conquer writer's block.

7. I can NOT listen to two people at once, no matter how hard I try. If I'm on the phone with someone and my fiance starts talking to me, it's like the other voice turns into Charlie Brown's Teacher, and I can't concentrate. This drives him crazy, because he can listen to two people at once.

8. When I'm a passenger, long car rides put me to sleep inordinately fast. It's a struggle to stay awake during one, and usually I have to consume more caffeine than the driver to do so.

9. I can keep other people's secrets better than I can keep my own.

10. I have what has grown to be an irrational fear of fire. Not so much candles or fires in fireplaces, but the idea of fire, if that makes any sense -- like the idea of electric fires. I blame this on one particularly vivid nightmare I had as a child. We live in a fairly old house at the moment (about 30 yrs old), and I fret what feels like constantly about the wiring.

I'm not sure if some of these count as quirks, but it's all I could come up with. :)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Writers love feedback. It's our crack. It's "The Precious."

That said, not all writers love honest feedback. I like to think of myself as one who does. I, however, prepare myself for honesty by first imagining the worst-case scenario, which usually involves being told my writing is crap. Hard on the heels of "your writing is crap" is the advice that I go back to my day job and do the world a favor -- never again put words to paper. Or, better yet, consign myself to a convent and take a vow of literary silence.

I also think of the single most privately humiliating moment I ever experienced as a writer.

After I finished the first rough draft of my Master's Thesis (oh, and it was rough), I forwarded it to my thesis advisor to keep her apprised of my progress. My advisor forwarded the draft to one of my readers, who had not been apprised of its roughness. The reader then responded to my advisor, who forwarded me her comments. Unfortunately, her comments had been intended for my advisor -- not me.

They were... candid, to put it mildly. (If I wanted to abandon my objectivity regarding the matter, I'd say they were rude, cruel, and unhelpful.) For three days I couldn't look at my draft without crying. I'd never felt so worthless, so stupid. It felt as if the two years I'd spent working up to that point had been completely wasted. Any confidence I'd had up until then was torn down and shredded.

I keep that in mind whenever I request critiques.

That said, I just sent an excerpt off to this gentleman: and I am presently trying to anticipate the absolute worst he can tell me. I imagine I'll be on tenterhooks for the next few weeks. I have already imagined a few scathing remarks provided to me free of charge by the darker side of my psyche.

It's inconsequential, but in the end I did end up revising my thesis (since I really had no other option besides abandoning all hope of earning my M.A. and that wasn't going to happen). The final draft was approved by my committee. It remains the single piece of writing of which I am proudest: sixty-three pages of blood, sweat, and tears -- "The Devil Makes Work for Idle Hands: Boredom in Melmoth the Wanderer."