30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 19: Today in Writing Memory, My Memory Totally Sucked

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.19.14Where I Wrote: The Dancing Crane Cafe at the Bronx Zoo.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Awesome. After the last few days of struggle, I feel amazing about putting out new words–genuine progress.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Fine. Ultimately. Woke up unsure if I actually wanted to go out today, but by the time I got to my spot, I was fine.

The Experience: If I had to characterize my mind, I’d give it a cup of coffee. Not a mug–a disposable, paper cup. With a “java sleeve.” My mind would always hold this cup of coffee and take comically long, loud sips from it after saying douchey things–that way you know he’s definitely a douche.

“Sure you wanna get up today?” my brain asked as I rolled over and checked the time. And then, “slurrrrp.”

“So you think you got out of that writing loop you were stuck in? You’re probably right… slurrrrp,” as I walked to the Bronx Zoo.

The douchebaggery stopped for a while when I got to the zoo, another place where I used to work–although, unlike the Time Warner Center, I worked at the Bronx Zoo so long ago–and enjoyed it so much both before and after working there–that old experiences never skew my love of it.

At worst, I’m guilty of making it too familiar in my mind and then being surprised when I visit again and get a reminder of its beauty and size. Particularly today though, I was surprised to rediscover a bunch of potential writing spots inside of it. Much like the Botanical Gardens’, those spots–mostly outdoor benches–are unusable for the winter, but there are still benches to be had in the zoo’s exhibits.

11.19.14-WhereIWrote2

Tiger Mountain’s Pavilion B, for example, has benches tucked far enough out of the wind that it’s oddly hospitable even on a cold day like today. The Zoo Center is (thankfully) an exhibit again and features a bench people probably don’t use. Another location that I’m actually going to selfishly withhold, is particularly amazing and secluded.

11.19.14-WhereIWrote

But the most accessible and writer friendly location is the Dancing Crane Cafe, where I, in all-business mode, went first, determined to have a solid writing session before going into distracted photographer mode. I got there quickly, bought a coffee and a pretzel, sat down, and…

“Oh hey. Seems you forgot to save a copy of your work from last night to your tablet. Didn’t you remind yourself to do that? I remember you reminding yourself to do that… *slurp*.”

Oh… Well…

Do I just… walk around the zoo now? Do I rush home and write there? Do I go home, write a post about how I failed and just… wait til tomorrow? Also, is, perhaps, a table flip in order?

“You could just <sigh> write or something… *slurp* I mean, do you need that file?”

I… didn’t. I knew that yesterday’s fix was fine. The only question was whether a decision I made in my last 400 words was a good idea or a bad one. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t write–I could just create a new file here. I knew what scene came next and how to start it. I just had to employ safety strats; that last-400-word-decision was a simple change that has a huge tonal impact on the story but a super tiny, easy to alter footprint, so I could just write the safer version of the next scene and decide later if I should switch it to the unsafe version.

What all of this equated to was a super liberating, “Fuck it.” I sat there and made actual progress and enjoyed writing Memory for the first time in a few days. And, when I reached the end of my session and the transition for the tomorrow’s session came effortlessly, I was ecstatic.

With an hour to spare. I walked around the zoo, checking out largely empty exhibits and brainstorming. Being genuinely crazy-person-weird by saying dialogue aloud when I thought I was alone (I wasn’t alone).

And, somehow, that was it. After struggling for the past few days, with the same scene, I was expecting the hammer to drop–to get home and find that the scene was a total disaster somehow. Or, failing that, to find that my computer–and only my computer–had burst into flames while I was gone. But that never happened–I reread the scene and it was fine. I considered last night’s addition and decided in favor of the unsafe version (because, of course–why the hell would I ever go safe?).

And that was that. Today’s disaster was weak sauce, easily–almost abscent-mindedly avoided. A bullet effortlessly dodged. Writing done. Victory had.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 15: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.15.14Where I Wrote: The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good. It’s not perfect (as I was packing up my tablet, I thought of an addition I had to make). I honestly might cheat a bit tonight and add a handful of tweaks to the major dialogue exchange in today’s scene, but, overall, that scene achieved a few things I was hoping it would (and a few others I wasn’t expecting). It was a really emotional day for my characters and, although it was a struggle to realize that at first, I eventually got it to shine through naturally.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: It being an emotional day for them made it extra weird that I was insanely exhausted today. I do not know why; I woke up tired, rallied for Isaac (because, ya know, a man needs energy to fail a few Rebirth runs, I guess) and then passed on coffee I didn’t think I actually needed on the way to my spot. Turns out, yes. Yes, I really actually needed that coffee.

The Experience: I did not take pictures of the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. There were many people there, but I probably should’ve gone for it regardless–snapped a picture of the exterior at least. I probably should have bothered.

But today… was not the day for bothering.

I had no trouble getting out of the house. I had no problem hopping on my train. I had no issue landing a seat on said train and enjoying more Clariel for most of my ride.

No, the problem began near the end of my commute, when I genuinely started to nod off while reading.

Empirical Fact #1: It was not Clariel.

Empirical Fact #2: Today was one of those weird days when I woke up to find that the bags under my eyes actually black. I know other people must experience this too, but my first bout of life this morning was a trip to the bathroom, a distracted observation at the mirror that I looked like a raccoon, and a prompt return to sleep.

Empirical Fact #3: When I got outside, I found that my left leg hurt. Weird. My left leg never hurts–it’s my right leg that sucks. I believe I actually thought, Huh. It’s almost I’m over-exerting myself or something, but that’s silly.

Empirical Fact #4: I had coffee before leaving. So… why even with the exhaustion?

I convinced myself I didn’t need coffee because of that final fact and proceeded to ignore the second and third… And the fact that I’d slept maybe five or so hours in total after last night’s work marathon. Five hours. Not bad when you’re sedentary.

Horrible when you get outside every day.

I wish my brain had not been an unfocused blob today. I wish that I wasn’t so wasted that I actually turned on wi-fi and checked Kotaku for a few minutes in the middle of my writing session.

I wish especially that I’d had the energy to explore more of the Performing Arts Library, which I’d only been to once, years ago–so many years ago that it seemed like a completely different place. I wound up heading right up to the second floor–which I think I saw the first time (please forgive–still tired)–but where I expected to find generic library cubicles, I instead found a sleek, glass encased sitting room with massive tables and chairs that were so comfortable that they definitely didn’t help with the exhaustion. I’m absolutely sure there are other great spots in that library (and as it’s absolutely free in a beautiful location with outdoor seating and coffee shops galore, I’ll absolutely be back to find them).

But today, I just clung to the one reading room for dear life–satisfied that it was literally the first thing I saw after riding an elevator up to the second floor. Particularly unwilling to migrate when I found bathrooms directly next to the elevator I’d just stepped off of. I found the chair farthest from everyone else, sat down, started writing.

And hit a block. I honestly wasn’t falling asleep (it wasn’t that bad), but it was insanely hard to work out any details for any part of my story. Everything I clumsily smacked onto my keyboard was vague and simplistic. I knew that today would be a little tough–I knew I hadn’t plotted out every detail, leaving myself some decisions to make this session–but making those decisions was like pulling teeth. I was checking my progress after 300 words. And then I was online, actually reading articles and other blog posts. I was contemplating having another sub-1000 day.

But then I actually got a little annoyed at myself. You can do it. You’re just not doing it, I actually told myself. I took a deep breath and sighed a sigh that was dangerously close to being a whiney “Fine-uh!” sigh.

But it was an, “Alright. Let’s kick this pig,” sigh.

I buckled down; reread the last two days’ work; spotted small tweaks that needed to be made; made them; kept reading; discovered that, with today’s exhaustion, I’d missed an emotional beat for my protagonist that really needed some seeding in yesterday’s work. I went back. Added. Ironed. Straightened. Got to new content and rolled right into one of the first scenes I imagined for this story (a year or so ago, when it had a completely different conclusion). By the time I was done, I’d almost hit NaNoWriMo’s quota and definitely surpassed my own (which is hovering around 1000 words these days).

And, more important than anything else, I was up to a huge, emotional payoff that leads right into the conclusion–a fact that feels strange to me even now. Because just last night, I’d blinked and remembered that Memory of the Black Sun is a play off of Shadows of the Black Sun, the title of the very first, insanely generic Fantasy story I made up when I was… God… 13? 12? It was wildly different now–Memory isn’t even comparable to Shadows. The original was supposed to be a multi-part epic. Memory is shaping up to cap around 200 pages–a novella by Fantasy’s standards.

But now, suddenly, after a snap decision made 15 days ago, it’s almost done. On a whim. I easily could’ve pushed this story back another year while postponing my last edit of War of Exiles. But now, Memory’s almost done and, against all reason, I’ve actually started to get excited for the edit of Exiles. Outside, I spot reminders of it and its unwritten sequels and my breath catches because I know I’ll be back in that world soon. I’d been terrified of a focused, straight week of editing, done quick so that I could keep all of the plot threads together instead of procrastinating and losing track. But now, that editing week feels more and more like it’s going to be child’s play; silly to fret over–sillier to silence my world for.

There’s something intimidating in that determination. Something scary because it’s so wildly different. NaNoWriMo’s going to end and I’m not going to be able to stop. And that terrifies me.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 13: Reclaimer – The Time Warner Center

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.13.14Where I Wrote: The Time Warner Center. I know–I was there on Day 5. I actually went back to the exact spot where a wild Blogger appeared. I did not do this because I’m running out of places to write in. I did it specifically to reclaim that spot. If it was any other day, I probably wouldn’t have bothered at all, but after barely getting any writing done yesterday, I was in business-time mode, eager to correct mistakes and take back my story and one of my writing spots.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Alright. I’m glad that I was able to pick up where I basically left off two days ago without issue. Chapter 4 got very easily and fluidly under way when I remembered another, major element that I could use as writing fuel (a location I’d forgotten to implement while brainstorming the upcoming scene because I was too busy getting snappies of trees and leaves). I may have to cut down what I wrote.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Business-timey? Reclaimy? Yes. Yes–reclaimy.

The Experience: As I said above, I was all business today.

I’ll be completely honest–I got another late start; the first DLC for Mario Kart 8 came out today and I took an hour to try out the new tracks and, repeatedly, Link. However, in stark contrast to how I would’ve acted a few years ago, I did not abandon all responsibility and just play Mario Kart for hours. I tried out the tracks, enjoyed an almost dangerous amount of nostalgia, and then said to my sedentary side, “Nah, I’m good. I actually just… really want to get out there. Maybe later though?”All business.

In no time, I was outside and eager and glad to be both. I was planning on a coffee shop at first–a place I’d never been to–but I decided against it when the Time Warner Center popped into mind with the same strange, challenge-nagging that made me stop at Oscorp (135 East 57th St.) two days ago. Did I really want to just let the Time Warner Center hang there as a bad experience? Did I want the miasma of old work memories to ruin something else for me?

No. No, I definitely didn’t.

I hopped on the train, Garth Nix’s beautiful and charming Clariel keeping me distracted from a commute that would’ve reminded me of work again.

I got to the Time Warner Center and decided on Whole Foods instead of trying Bouchon; maybe another day, after NaNoWriMo, but the cafeteria in Whole Foods was easily the more writer friendly spot, with its seating and rest rooms and water fountain. And besides, that’s where Paul showed up. I would go back there specifically because that’s where things got most awkward for me last time. I managed to nab a table, get out my tablet, immediately turn off wi-fi when I saw that free networks were available, and challenged my memory of Day 5. And my failure to curb my photography addiction yesterday. And, to a smaller degree, the now tiny voice of my sedentary side, which, as I walked off the train on 59th, immediately urged me to walk down the street and check out the new Smash Bros. that was likely demoed at Best Buy.

All of those things honestly did not even occur to me once I sat down. I just sat down and challenged them all and won without realizing it, getting down the scene I’d intended for yesterday and stopping at my next major set piece, knowing I needed to brainstorm its appearance a bit more to make certain it was awesome enough. The weirdest thing that happened was when I got up to leave and realized it was around five, the time I normally pack up and head back home for a night of work. For getting a late start, I’d wound up syncing with my schedule without even trying.

Without even trying.

13 days in and it’s not hard at all to bounce back. To get back into a groove that I would’ve avoided for months. Maybe it would’ve been different if another stranger had appeared.

But if I can handle writing a novel–if it can be this easy–what’s so bad about talking to a stranger?