Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Day in the Garden: The Worm

The worm is alive.  It wriggles, twists, spins amidst the up-turned soil in single-minded effort to return to the moist underpinnings of my garden.  It is not much of a garden and I am not much of a gardener.  Already, my eye skitters from the unfortunate creature, discomfited by the very idea of its existence.  I have never liked worms, nor ants, nor any manner of thing which inches or oozes or bites.  I tolerate the bees that hover at my citrus, kill the spiders that dare cross the dividing line between the out-of-doors and the in, avoid the unseen gaze of the worm whose home I have thus, with spade in hand, disrupted.

The dirt makes my skin itch and the sun has me mentally calculating the spf protections of my foundation.  I wonder if I still have that old bottle of sunscreen I bought in Kansas.  I wonder if sunscreen expires after a year, after two.  How long has it been since I took that last vacation?  My face feels sticky where sweat and make-up have merged.  I feel sticky all over.  The worm writhes in the dirt in front of me.  I push a plant deep into the hole beside it.

No, it is not much of a garden.  I am not much of a gardener.  But I do like flowers.    

I am planting marigolds today, enchanted since girlhood by the ruffled lollipop tops, their brilliant orange/yellow hue.  This year, I will remember to collect their seeds, save them, spread them for a new year.  The marigolds come easily from their plastic containers, one and then another.  I try to alternate colors, yellow and then orange, then that blistering blend of the two.  Even here, even now, there is order, symmetry.  

Behind me, two new hibiscus stand the place of their brother, dead of frost the winter I moved here.  Around the corner, a dahlia.  I have never grown a dahlia, nor killed one.  Either outcome shall be a new experience.  I have placed petunias in pots with snail bait, replacing the skeletal fronds of a dead fern and the spindled branches of a flowering bush long past flower.  I have placed the pots in the garden in hopes that the automated sprinklers shall offer them the attention I failed to provide their predecessors. 
I am contemplating the corner by the fence, empty save for some green mossy residue.  It is three o'clock and it is shady and cool there, an oddity in my flower bed which otherwise stands ready host to the sun.  The soil shifts beneath my gloved hands as I try to meld marigold with garden.  I have lost track of the worm but I think it is moving still, twining, twisting its way free of my touch, down deep where neither my spade nor my eyes might find it.

I wish it well.

Author's Note:  My gardening day was last Saturday, the writing today inspired by a poet friend's comment regarding the fun of writing present tense and by my own fixation on that worm...twisting, turning in the dirt.  This would be entry #2 to the WOK Blog challenge.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sneezy, wheezy and what am I writing about?

I have been sneezing non-stop for a week.  If ever I doubted the state of my soul, then surely the thousand off-hand blessings have managed to sterilize it.  A relative newcomer to the world of allergies, I have found myself in awe of every sniffly-nosed, red-eyed mutant who has gone before me armed with tissues and the wearying exchange of post-nasal courtesy.   Bad enough, I think, to feel that tell-tale tickle behind the septum, that fuzzy foreknowledge of the involuntary act.  Bad enough to find your fingers twitching for that last bit of tissue, already wadded and used to tattered remnants.  Bad enough the act itself, the violent cessation of thoughtful endeavor as body and brain task themselves to the expulsion  Bad enough all that.

But that's when it starts.  

"Bless you."

The first one is a surprise.  Your head hurts just a little and you're hoping you didn't just slime the paperwork you were proofing.  Nor are you sure just which of your co-workers it was that said it.  Your ears are feeling a little thick, a little full.  

You blink, still snuffling into the least soiled corner of your wadded tissue.  You look up, intending to say "thank you."  But there's another voice and another blessing from over-top the cubicle wall.  The words echo behind you.  Snot is clinging to the tip of your nose and you feel a little bit of spray-over on your knuckle.  "Thank you," you say, or you try to.

Your voice has turned strange and there's a gob your throat.  You try to cough without coughing, swallowing at the wad of what you thought you'd just sneezed out.  You swipe at your nose, that pesky bit of snot, fumble through your purse in hope of a stray napkin or, needs must, a receipt.  "Thank you," you say, pushing the words out to the office-at-large.

You sneeze again.

It doesn't end.  One sneeze, three sneezes, a dayful of sneezes, a week.  There's a blessing behind every sneeze, blessings in triplicate, in quintuplicate even.  Sometimes, they'll change it up on you, a "G'bless" here and a Gesundheit there.  It is, after all, a little awkward to be the fourth "bless you" in a series.  Yes, kindness abounds.  A thousand good wishes when all you really want to do is sniffle into your tissues and be left alone.  

And here I am trying to write something.  I had grand plans for what I would write.  Initially, I thought my first entry for the Writers-of-Kern blog challenge and my whatever-number-this-is for ROW80, would be full of grand writerly thoughts.  But all I could produce was...were sneezes.

Sometimes, the words come.  Sometimes they come easily, like air into and out of my lungs.  I have been consumed at times with poetry, some snippet of sound that needed to find paper.  More often, words come in spurts, intermittent, labored like that same air after another aborted effort at exercise.

Today, you get sneezes.  I get sneezes.  So, God Bless and thank you all.

Row 80 Progress:  Not worth mentioning.  Today, start new.
Revised Row 80 goals:  250 words a day, Reading every day, Exercise...3 times a week.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Row80: Thoughts on the Shell

The Tortoise and the Hare.  One of the earliest stories with which we are gifted as children.  Better slow, we are told, better steady.  We laugh at the hare's misfortunes, his painful comeuppance for his pride.  But secretly, oh how secretly, we want to be that rabbit.  What fun to race ahead, ears streaming behind, legs pumping, to feel the ground fall away beneath us.  Even if breath fails, legs falter, even if the grand prize is lost.  For those minutes, those first few glorious minutes...wouldn't it be grand?

Yes, I speak as the tortoise in this scenario, grating along, lumbering beneath the weight of who I am, a massive shell of excuses from which I cannot escape, can only carry it with me, peering ahead with cautious eyes.  But what can I say?

The words are fighting me.  But I'm writing.  I've missed, I think, one day of writing this week.  This is, for me, a victory.  But I'm not producing the volume I had hoped.  1345 words this week.  I still have tomorrow.  I could still pull it out to the 5K I was aiming for but it seems unlikely.  It would require an infusion of the rabbit spirit, I think.  And I'm not sure I'm capable.  But, I have to try.

That said, I'm reading 1984 by George Orwell.  Again, I think I've only missed a day of reading.  So I'm pleased there.  And enjoying the book much more than I expected to.  Often, classics disappoint.  But, 100 pages in and I'm intrigued, a little creeped out and hoping that there's still a spark of rebellion in this terrifyingly apathetic society.  Not sure why but I suspect that, while at this point the book has great possibilities, the ending will be depressing and dark.  Please tell me otherwise?

Anyhoo, checking in...from behind and making my slow careful way toward the oh so far distant finish line.

To those of you who are racing're awesome and I so wish I were you right now.  For anyone else lumbering along in the back...I'm glad for the company and let's keep trucking!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Row80: Where We Begin

Ah, the first check-in. I'm usually one of the last to post on any given day but my Tuesday night has extended itself into Wednesday morning so I thought I'd take the rare opportunity to be among the first.  Yay me!

I had a dream a couple of weeks ago, a strange dream involving rat-people, man-sized beasts in hooded robes.  I remember little else of the dream and it has absolutely nothing to do with any of my novels-in-progress.  But something about the rat-people brought about a sudden inspiration regarding the next step forward on one of my many novels in progress.  It involves rats (rat-sized rats thank you very much) and magic and a character I thought I'd written completely out of the novel.  That's all I'll say on the specifics (when I'm a rich famous author, you may all dissect and debate this blog as to which scene of my book-to-be I'm referring to).

I kept telling myself to write it down, to capture the thought before it got lost in the absolute disaster that is my brain.  Life interfered.  I interfered.  I distracted myself doing some much needed (but could have waited a little longer) salvage on a dying computer to rescue other sections of that work-in-the-works.

Today, I wrote the first part of that scene.  And I can't quite articulate the sense of relief that came to me as I wrote.  It was like the scene had pressurized inside me and letting it out was...It was...nice.  I would find a bigger word, a better word but sometimes "nice" is exactly that...nice.

Some clarification of my weekly goals.  5K words average per week is fiction...because I don't want to count words for my blog.  Is that laziness?  Maybe.  But it puts the emphasis on my fiction and I think that's a good thing.

As of today?

I have written something every far.  3 days in and I shouldn't be so pleased with myself but I am.

I haven't hit my 5K quota for the week but I've still got the majority of the week in front of me.  I am confident I'll get there by Sunday.

I didn't get to my reading on Monday but I started George Orwell's 1984 today...well, yesterday...Tuesday, whatever.

So...checking in and starting out right...I hope.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Row80 Round 2: Starting Anew

An objective observer, given the all-access pass to my life, my blog and, most importantly, my mind, would have to judge Row80 Round 1 (or at least my participation therein) a failure.  Luckily, and I say this with all sincerity, I am neither objective nor an observer.  I am a participant and my assessments riddled with subjective commentary, a million excuses and a fierce desire to do better.

That said, my Row80 Round 1 was not especially successful..  I wrote very little in the end.  Doubts consumed.  I tried to drown them in the rediscovered joys of reading, but the sense of failure stayed with me.  I was ashamed of my poor performance.  I wanted to blame someone, anyone, other than myself.  I was set to point the finger at a girl in my critique group, the doubts seeded in my mind by her unthinking admonishment to "finish something."

Except...that's why I'm here.  That's why I decided to dive in for Round 1 in the first place.  Because I need to finish something.  Her words, offered in frustration at yet another new beginning, were given in ignorance of the many projects I'd set aside in favor of going back to an older work, a dearer work.  She did not know that this latest new beginning was the start of one of the few finished projects on my shelf in need of edits, one whose parts would fulfill my obligation for pages in the group while allowing me to devote my writing time not to a new beginning for a new story...but to finding an ending for an old one.  She did not know this and, to my shame, I did not explain myself.

And yet I let her words consume me, to expand upon themselves and multiply, fed by my own insecurities and unspoken fears.  Was I doing the right thing?  Was I working on the right project?  The right novel?  Was I going about it the right way?  Should I be outlining?  Should I be writing more?  Less?  Should I be doing a snowflake or a spreadsheet?  What about character sheets and maps?  Should I abandon my haphazard method of letting my fingers find their own way through character, plot and resolution?  Maybe I shouldn't read quite so much?  Maybe I shouldn't blog?  Maybe the challenge itself was an excuse?  A gimmick?  Maybe Row80 was just one more distraction from the real-time work of finishing something.

Consumed by these doubts, I stopped writing, stopped checking in, stopped blogging.

Her fault?  No, not at all.  Mine.  My fault.  My failure.  My little head-games.  I'm sure she'd be horrified to know what my psyche did with her off-hand comment.  I'm horrified.

Row80 Round 1 made me write, at least at the start.  It brought me back to reading.  It kept these things at the forefront of my mind even when I was doing neither.  So, personal weakness aside, I'm counting Row80 Round 1 as something a step removed from failure...maybe not a big step but I'm ready to try again.

So I'm back for Round 2.  If it's a gimmick, I don't care.  If it's a distraction?  It's a welcome one.  Is this the right novel?  Who knows?  Who cares?  After all, the idea is to "finish something."  Maybe I finish Row80.  Maybe that's the first step?

My goals:

1.  Write something every day.
2.  Average 5000 words a week.
3.  Continue reading.  5 nights a week, at least 10 minutes.