The Best Laid Plans

Ugh.

You know how I was ALL READY to start editing on February 1? I’d done my prep work, my research, I was excited and rarin’ to go? I woke up on Saturday morning, pulled the manuscript together, formatted it to download onto my Kindle so I could read the whole thing in one go. And then I headed off to get my hair cut, with a whole, wide-open evening laid out in front of me, set aside to read.

And then halfway through my hair cut, I got so dizzy and nauseous that I had to interrupt my stylist and tell her, Oh hey, I’m sorry, I know you’re cutting my hair but if I don’t lie down now I’m going to pass out.

Fun!

I managed to drag my ass home, climb into bed and proceed to shiver and sweat and be generally miserable for the next 12 hours. Well, let’s be honest — the next 12 hours were the worst, but it extended in to Sunday as well. And Monday! On Monday afternoon I told Byron, “I’m going to try to take a shower now… I feel like I’m starting to smell.”

“Yeah, you kind of are… what? I didn’t say anything until you mentioned it!”

Thanks, dear.

Tuesday thank goodness I was finally feeling well enough to head back to work. Which I did. And then Wednesday I woke up with pink eye.

PINK EYE.

I AM NOT AMUSED BY THE PRACTICAL JOKE, UNIVERSE.

(The really annoying thing about all this? I was pretty sick two weeks ago, too. And Byron was really sick last week. And now apparently it’s my turn again? I told a co-worker that our house must be infested with the plague, and he said, “Just burn it down.”)

So. Needless to stay I was back on the couch Wednesday, and my sorry ass is here at home today as well.

Maybe also needless to say? I haven’t started editing the book yet. Which makes me feel like a huge failure. I know, I know, I set an arbitrary deadline for myself — a deadline not based on any agent or publisher or job — but it was still my deadline. And I missed that deadline because I could barely lift my head off the couch, let alone read a book or sit at the computer.

I know that “real life” sometimes gets in the way of writing, but… I never let real life get in the way of writing. When I set myself a goal, I get it done. In fact, I specifically set personal deadlines so I do get the work done. I hold myself accountable. “Real life” to me is always just an excuse for not writing. And now here I am, kicking and screaming because life’s drug me down to its level.

So, I don’t know. Do I just re-set the goal? Tell myself that I’ll start revisions this Saturday, that it’s ok, shit happens? I mean, that’s what I HAVE to do at this point. But it still pisses me off. I failed myself, and that’s the worse offense.

Now excuse me while I return myself to the couch.

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Unwilling Early Bird

I have never been a morning person. The sad fact is that it takes my brain a while to start ticking in the morning. Or no — that’s not right. My brain is typically ticking away just fine as soon as I open my eyes. It takes my motor skills a while to catch up. Verbal ability? Hand-eye coordination? They lag a little behind. Ask my poor husband. It took him several years to translate Laura Morning Speech into English.

However, since my brain is pretty functional in the morning, there is one task I can do: write. And this brings me to my sad, sad realization: getting up early is very helpful in Getting Shit Done. With the clock ticking every faster towards the end of the year, I decided I really had to up my game in order to get my first draft done in time. This probably won’t come as a shocker to any of you, but surprise! There are only so many hours in the day. I go to work for 8 of them. I need about 8 for sleep. I need to eat somewhere in there. Interact with other humans. And you know, do laundry and the other things required of a functioning adult.

So what’s a writer to do? The only solution: make more time. Last week I started getting up at 5:30, every weekday, with the purpose of writing.

UGH.

Really — it shouldn’t be that hard. In the summer I routinely got up at 4:55 to go running. BUT. I have a running partner. I am meeting someone at a specific spot at a specific time, and if I fail to show up I am an Asshole. But with writing, it’s just me and my desk. It is so easy to just turn that alarm off and say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like the cats are going to yell at me if I’m not at the desk at 5:30.”

Well, it does matter. It really matters. This is my work, it’s what I’ve chosen, it’s what’s important to me. And unfortunately, I do my best work in the mornings. After my initial wake-up period, my head is clear; there are no distractions. There are no errands to run, nobody to talk to, no other pressing work that has to be done. I can just chug along and rack up that word count.

The crappy thing about this schedule? I’m exhausted. By 9pm, I’m falling asleep. I don’t want to be the person who can’t stay up past 9. I don’t want to be the person who says, “Hey guys, I’d love to go to that party, but…” But what am I going to do? Until I can train myself to get by on less sleep, them’s the cards, I guess. I just finished reading  Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and this quote rang true:

I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.

 

This, right now, is my focus.

I often dream of being able to sleep in until 8, get up, have a run, have my coffee. Then sit and write. But for better or worse, that’s not the life I lead. It’s probably never the life I’ll lead — and that’s ok. It just means I need to be diligent about my time. Which, let’s be honest, is true for all of us.

Wanted: The Cure for Self-Doubt

Confession time: I have been in one grumpy cranky-pants mood this week. There have been moments of awesomeness (like the signed first-edition copy of Oryx and Crake from Byron — HOW AWESOME IS THAT), but then I just go crashing back down into the cranks. For no apparent reason! Really, there is no good reason. Everything is going along a-ok on both the home and work front. Nobody has been horrible to me. The cats have been extra snuggly. All good! And yet there’s been this persistent feeling, aura, mood that I cannot shake. It’s hung over me like that little rain cloud that follows Eeyore.

And then — I think I figured it out. Yesterday afternoon, as I was struggling over a particularly thorny rewrite at work, I realized what’s getting me down.

I’ve lost my writing mojo. Or rather: I’ve lost confidence in my writing mojo. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a good writer. I mean, I make a living at it, so clearly other people think I’m a decent writer, too (IT’S NOT JUST ME, OK). So where did this sudden self-doubt come from? This feeling of nope nope nope, that’s not right, you’re doing it wrong.

I sat down the other night to work on my book, and… it was not good. This face was displayed at pretty much everything that came out of the keyboard:

judgedIt was such a struggle to keep writing when every ounce of my body was telling me that what I was typing was just awful. And not just the writing itself — the plot, the characters, the theme, everything I’d ever thought could and should go into this book was clearly a No Good Very Bad Idea.

Fortunately, I had the good sense that night to STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER and just go to bed. In the morning, it didn’t look so bad. I was able to look at the words and think, “Oh, ok, it’s not my best, but this isn’t terrible.”

And wouldn’t it be great to say that the light of dawn cured my self-doubt — that self-realization began my amazing journey towards being the most confident and majestic writer in all the land. But no, the self-doubt is still there, lurking under my desk and waiting to pounce.

Do you have a solution? What do you do to buck the funk of self-doubt? Because the truth is: this is something that all writers (heck, all people) struggle with at some point in time. But it sucks all the same. We just have to figure out ways to push past it and find that mojo again.

The Word Count Lie

You guys. I feel it is my mission to spread this news. Microsoft Word LIES!

(This is probably only news to me. But it was a shock to my delicate system. AND I’M THINKING OF YOU, DEAR READERS. If I can help you avoid the heartache and suffering, I have done my job.)

You know that handy dandy word count feature on Microsoft Word? One click, it tells you how many words in your document. SO EASY. And how can it be wrong? I mean, it’s counting words. It’s tedious, yes, but not rocket science.

OH BUT WAIT. If you are preparing, say, a manuscript? For submission? This is Microsoft Word’s response:

“BWAH HA HA HA HA!”

You see, Microsoft’s word count is useless when it comes to manuscripts. Why is that, you say? Because publishers don’t care about how many words — actual words — are in your manuscript. They want to know how many words can fit on a page. These two things are not the same.

So instead of just clicking that easy word-count button, we writers have to do this crazy formula (which, ok, not SO crazy. But MATH!). Oh, and the kicker? This word count is HIGHER than Microsoft Word’s. Which… normally? Not an issue! More words typically means that the writer gets paid more. WIN WIN.

Unless you have a strict word-count limit of 1,000.

And unless that damn manuscript word-count formula puts you 400 over that 1,000 limited.

And then, if you are said writer, you go and cry into your knuckle-ring mug.

(This post brought to you by the letter M, for Melodrama, and the number 5, for 5th round of revision’s the charm…)