Thursday, January 17, 2013

Row 80, Norman Mailer and Other Musings

I'm a little late but I'm here. This week has been an odd one for me. I've been reading...and very little else. This is, in one respect,fantastic!  I used to read for hours as a child, as a teenager, hours upon hours.  I'd read walking to and from school, would have a book cracked the instant I got home, got in trouble for reading in class even (and on more than one occasion).  It was a rare thing indeed to catch me doing anything else.  As an adult, I've found that my time and interest go in fits and starts.  Often, the two terms were interchangeable.  I'd read a book, then go months before picking up another.  Start a book only to leave off halfway through, distracted by something in the periphery, and never go back. 

This year the promise was 10 minutes a night.  I started with The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a book I'd started once and never finished.  It was too dark and too depressing and I had so many other things to do.  But the story always sort of nagged at the back of my brain.  I wanted to know what happened.  Spoiler alert!  Spoiler alert!  As it happens, nothing much happens.  But starting over and starting out at ten minutes a night, I worked through the pages, the hard pages, the dark pages.  No, it is not a happy read.  It's an interesting read.  The language is in places magnificent, the images evoked, the deep and abiding sense of melancholy, despair.  I took interest in the dialogue and the chances Mr. McCarthy took with his narration.  Was it a favorite book?  Hardly.  But there was something about reading, the act of engaging with the written word...

I wanted to read more.

I found my way to  And I signed up to try and read a book published in the year of my birth and another for every year thereafter to the present day.  And I'm supposed to do this in a year.  The idea intrigued me and I was so fired up about reading!  My current book is The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer.  I've never read Norman Mailer before.  I think I've been missing out.  I'm perhaps a quarter or a third of the way through and I'm hooked, hooked in the way I remember from when I was young.  I'm carrying my Nook around with me wherever I go, hoping for the extra moment or two or ten to read.  It's fantastic and a little out of control and I think I need to pull back a little.  Can one overdose on a book?

That said, my writing has not fared as well thus far.  But I'm not giving up.  I got a little sidetracked thinking about outlines and debating the merits of how best to move forward.  But the truth is?  I just need to move forward...250 words at a time!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Row 80: Second Check-In and Only Feeling Half a Failure

I didn't set myself hard goals. In fact, I made a point of choosing what seemed to be easy things. 250 words a day. That's what? Two paragraphs? 10 minutes of reading a night? When I used to devour books by the handfuls? Journaling 4 nights out of every 7? And no length requirement?

I didn't want to set myself up for failure. I didn't want to be that person, the one who fails three days in, undone by the seeming impossibility of the task at hand.

And yet I am. Even as modest as my goals were...I failed them. I missed 2 days of writing entirely. 2 days of Reading. 2 Days of Journals. The only goal I achieved was to spend 3 of my writing days on my stalled novel.

Odd that. Amidst the failure, I worked on my novel, the novel, the one that's sort of nested itself in my heart and which - despite every roadblock and every misstep along the way - I cannot give up on.

And I feel sorta good about this week. Yeah, I missed two days. But of the 5 days between the start of this thing (Tuesday) and now (Sunday), I met the challenge on 3 of those days. And, with today, I plan to make that 4.

Next week will be better. Next week, I'm gonna hit every goal and not just one.

Of note, it's surprising how much reading one can accomplish in ten minutes. If nothing else, I've learned how much time I've been wasting and how foolish I've been to say that I haven't enough.

Ten minutes. Even I can do ten minutes. I plan to catch up on a long overdue reading list this year.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Row80: First Check-In and Still Feeling My Way

Wednesday is edging to a close and I am just now checking in to Row80. This is my first check-in and I'm a little bit nervous. I don't know why. I think it may be because I spent the past hour or so writing. And it's weird. I can't remember the last time I did that without a deadline looming. Okay, okay, Row80 is a deadline of sorts, self-imposed and all that. But you know what I mean. Usually, I'm scrambling to get myself together for a critique group or some similar get-together where I'm expected to have pages.

Today? I just had a promise...made to myself and witnessed by a bunch of strangers who neither know me nor care whether or not I succeed. Who knew what a motivator that would be?

Or how nice it is to just sit and write without that panicked awareness of the time-clock ticking down the hours till I have to be...wherever.

And, yes, it's easy to say this now...just a couple of days in. I'm doing well but I'm just starting. Still, I'm optimistic.

So, my progress. I did not start writing on Monday, made an arbitrary decision that Row 80 for me started the day after I posted my goals. I posted my goals on Tuesday was Day 1 and today is Day 2.


Days of Writing: 2
Words Written: 539
Journals: 0
Days of Reading: 2

All in all? I'm pleased.  If I want to make my journaling goal for the week, I'll need to journal for the next few nights.  But I'm looking forward to it.  Huh.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Goals for Row80: Keeping It Simple

It's amazing. I spent the first half of the day completely enthused at the prospect of writing this blog. I had notes upon notes of all the fantastic goals I would set forth, all the magnificent things I would accomplish in my first Row80 endeavor. There would be words! Words upon words! My stalled novel would take flight, my poetry progress, piles of draft pages coalesce into brilliance. My journal would enjoy a steadier patronage and my life would, for once, resolve itself into the picturesque, my life finally that of a real writer.

By the time work let out, I was tired and hungry and the blogging enthusiasm had waned somewhat.  So I made my dinner and vegged with the TV for a while in the hopes that a good meal and some mental down-time would re-ignite the passion.

Instead, I found myself withdrawing from the thought.  What was I thinking?  A writing challenge?  Who am I kidding?  I can barely muster the ambition to cook after a full day's I'm going to write too?  What's wrong with my usual habit of picking at my journal twice a week and sprinting through a couple pages of my latest novel endeavor for my critique group every odd weekend?

It's sad when I think about much I've allowed life and laziness to shift my writing to the corners of my life, those odd little spaces where nothing else fits. 

I've been stalled on my main novel idea for years, writing at it in fits and starts, troubled by stray plot devices and runaway ideas.  I have started a half dozen new projects partly, I believe, in an effort to avoid having to work out the knots I built into that first unfinished novel.

This is not where I wanted to be as a writer.  My fingers itch.  My mind is full.

So, tired or not, enthused or not, I'm making the pledge to do this.

I want writing to be a part of my life, a regular part of it.

So I'm writing this blog to mark down some goals.  Is it the same list I jotted down this morning on a piece of scrap paper?  Hardly.  I'm not sure I'd survive a week on that least not yet.

Baby steps.

And so, the list, revised, reduced and ready to go:

1.  I will average 250 words per day 7 days a week - Fiction.

2.  At least 3 days of the 7 will focus on my stalled novel.

3.  I will make at least 4 entries into my journal per week.

4.  I will read for at least 10 minutes before bed every night.

This is my pledge.  And, as per the rules of the challenge, I will check back in with you (you being that nebulous term for anyone reading this, for the world at large and for my own conscience) on Wednesdays and Sundays with my progress.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Facing Up to the New Year...

I hate New Year's Resolutions. I don't think I've managed to leave one unbroken. Still, there's something about flipping that page on the calendar...something about the quiet just before Midnight when it seems everyone is standing still...

You start to think. You think about the year already gone, all the things you meant to do, the resolutions you confessed to friends and family, the deeper promises you whispered to yourself in the dark after everyone had gone. And you think about the year to come, the pages in the calendar as yet unmarked and the promises you know you're going to make both to others and to yourself...all of them as yet unbroken.

And, if you're like me at all, you start to make lists. You won't call them resolutions. Why tempt fate? They're lists, silly little lists of things you always meant to do, little things, big things. You write down the name of the little tea shop you've been meaning to stop into, the dress size you'd like to call your own, the 3K run you'd like to complete.

Before long, the list fills one page, maybe two, you have to stop yourself. You are, after all, neither a child nor unrealistic.  A saint would struggle to complete half the tasks you've laid out for yourself.  And you are no saint.

So you put the list away.  You fold it into fourths, then again, and again, tucking it away into a back pocket.

So, what am I thinking with this Row80 thing?  I don't know.  I honestly don't.

An acquaintance of mine posted mention of it on Facebook.  I was curious.  Then I was anxious.  I still have that list in my back pocket.  The funny thing about that list?  Of all the things I wanted to do, thought I should do, all the things my fingers said were important enough to make my yearly list of soon-to-be disappointments...I didn't put down a single item related to my writing.

Being the anxious type and prone to over-analyzing any given situation, I wondered what that meant.

Have I grown out of writing? Have I moved beyond it?  Gotten over it?

I cringe at the thought.

And then I dismiss it.

Because that list, those pages of promises...are all things I probably won't do.  The tea shop?  Maybe.  But the dress size?  The 3K run?  Getting the name of the cute guy from the pest service I've been semi-crushing on in the hopeless never-ever-gonna happen kind of way?  Some things just aren't happening.

And I know that.

So why on earth would I lump my writing ambitions in with that lot?

So I'm tossing the list...and the resolutions.  This year, writing.  Row80. 

Semantics, you say?  Possibly.

As long as it works.