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?

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 12: Too Perfect–Must Take Picture

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.12.14Where I Seriously Barely Wrote: The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Honestly, kinda meh. I will get it out there right off the bat that I’m not upset about how little I wrote. I am sure though that what I did write needs to be cut down a bit; it was the product of me not having prepared enough, getting to the day’s writing spot, and then being way, way too distracted to work out what came next in the plot.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Now that I think about it (and laugh), I was actually just excited to go to the Botanical Gardens. Little preview of how today’s session went, right there.

The Experience: Turns out some writing spots… are too goddamn good to be writing spots.

In case you don’t know, photography is one of my hobbies. Thanks to a friend from a few years back, I got into it a bit more than the average person–there are tripods involved. Tripods balanced by the fact that my camera absolutely requires tripods to get anything decent (it’s definitely old and falling apart).

I recessed from photography though; pulling away from it was part of a kind of hobby purge I performed earlier in the year when I realized that my desire to be really good at a handful of things was actually detracting from the one talent I was best at. It’s something I still stand behind–I don’t take pictures or do design work on Photoshop or devote my time to online multiplayer in a variety of FPS’s because those aren’t the things I want to be the best at. I’m not a logo designer–I could be, but it’s not what I already am. I’m not a pro gamer although I might hit that distinction if I dropped way too much time into gaming. I’m also not a photographer even though I really like taking pictures.

I’m a writer. I always have been. And, earlier in the year, I realized it was silly and self-defeating to try to be everything but.

That said, I learned a really, really valuable lesson today. My need to take pictures of things can absolutely outweigh my need to write.

When I rolled out of bed today, I was excited to visit the Botanical Gardens because, having been there recently, I knew it would be an awesome place to write. Not a mistake–it definitely is. If you’ve never been, there are benches everywhere here–in a place designed to be quiet, relaxing, and beautiful. And, although I’m sure it’s busier in the summer, it is the one place in New York that never feels crowded–there are only other patrons here to relax or employees who are almost strangely nice. No, coming to the Botanical Gardens to write could never possibly be a mistake.

The mistake was thinking, “I’ll bring my actual camera so I can take nice pictures for once instead of shaky, quick snapshots on my tablet.”

When I got to the Botanical Gardens, it was overcast. I thought it was going to rain, meaning that I went straight for the spot I remembered from my last visit–a handful of canopied benches in the Native Plant Garden, not too far from the Visitor Center. I got there, whipped out my camera, set up my tripod, got a few simple, kind of ugly, overcast shots to post here.

Only, No–there are better shots here, I found myself thinking. I looked for them, lining up the Native Plant Garden’s small river and waterfall with its benches and paths. I tried several spots, knowing there was a decent angle somewhere, getting a few pics that I were just alright.

And then it sank in–time had passed. A lot of time. At least a half hour, sunk directly into trying to find a good shot to use for this site. Alright. Alright. Time to write now, I told myself. I got out a portion of a scene, remembered that it wasn’t where Chapter 4 was supposed to start, backpedaled and started the scene I forgot because I was so distracted.

And then a strong breeze came through and blew leaves off of the trees around me in a large, perfect wave.

11.12.14-WhereIWrote6

Well, it certainly sucks that I missed that first wave of leaves. That was the shot, but at least I got a few that were dramatic. Should probably leave my camera out just in case. I went back to writing.

And then the sky opened up.

11.12.14-WhereIWrote1

11.12.14-WhereIWrote2

Well, I mean, come on. I couldn’t not take these pictures. The lighting is too perfect. I sat down again, trying to focus on where I was in the story.

And then, another breeze. I wound up sitting with my tablet on my lap and hand on my camera–standing next to me–staring at the trees, repeatedly turning the camera to different angles, and taking way too many pictures.

It got to the point that I realized I had to find some place less photogenic or I wouldn’t get any writing done. I packed up by sheer will (I seriously, honestly had to push myself to leave), and wound up back at the Visitor Center, just inside of the Conservatory Gate.

Even if the Botanical Gardens was just the Visitor Center, it would still be a haven for writers; there’s a lot of outdoor seating, rest rooms, a small cafe that sells obnoxiously-priced coffee and not-so-obnoxiously-priced hot chocolate (maybe I’m biased, but it was $2.50–far, far better than City Bakery’s $7.00). In that cafe (I think it was called the Pine Tree Cafe), I finished up the scene I’d been working on, trying and failing to keep it concise.

Failing because I realized I hadn’t even brainstormed this morning–I’d just charged my camera and commuted to the Botanical Gardens, only thinking of taking pictures of everything. In my last moments of writing, I let the scene run on because… “It’s better than nothing?” I stood at my table in the cafe, stared at my tablet, arms crossed… and then finally shrugged. “Yep. Got nothing.”

In contrast to the last time I barely got any words out though, I wasn’t upset; I laughed about it here. Because it was such a lesson. Dropping those other hobbies doesn’t mean they won’t nag at you. The obvious example is the way I will definitely consider playing whatever multiplayer game if I’m home. The need to pull myself out of that environment isn’t key, but it’s wound up making writing so much easier during NaNoWriMo that it’s insane. When I’m writing outside, I don’t drop what I’m writing to play Slayer or Skirmish because I can’t.

But, other hobbies can totally, obviously encroach on writing if you unwittingly choose a spot that has everything to do with them. Am I saying not to try the Botanical Gardens? Of course not; it’s amazing. And it’s free on Wednesdays.

But if you’re also a photographer, visiting in the Fall–of all times–maybe don’t bring your camera.

Or maybe do–for a preliminary visit–to try to get it all out of your system. And to pick a nice spot for next time.

11.12.14-WhereIWrote3

11.12.14-WhereIWrote4

11.12.14-WhereIWrote5

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 11: My Best Writing Session… Ever?

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.11.14Where I Wrote: Had a brief start at 135 East 57th and Lexington, in the atrium of the building that I still think of as Oscorp. After a short while, I migrated to my actual choice for the day, the Atrium Shops & Cafes at 54th and 3rd.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: So good. I’ve had writing sessions where I put in a lot of work or a little work that I felt really good about. This was just a smooth sprint of writing what is probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever written. At the very least, the coolest thing that I didn’t have to fight to convey properly… So good.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Good. Ready. Excited.

The Experience: Today was all about time for me. I woke up really late–dysfunctional-late–after a night of work. That meant the spot I had planned for today would have to wait. It also meant that I needed to get back to the Bronx in time for comic book TV shows with my mother, one of the things I look forward to every week (and the reason I’m getting this post out so late).

What all of that ultimately meant was that I would have to go for a solid, extremely reliable writing spot. A place that I knew would have seating and be comfortable (like yesterday’s Loreto). That meant I’d be returning to the Atrium Shops and Cafes.

But before getting there, I stumbled onto Oscorp. Or… well, the building that they used as Oscorp in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. So, really, a building that hasn’t been Oscorp for what? Ten years? Whatever.

 

LS-11.11.14-WhereIWrote1

The point is, I stopped there–the atrium itself has seating at its center and around its two fountains. Not the most comfortable seating in the world and I have no idea if there are easily accessible rest rooms.

So why stop there? Honestly… I nerded out. I was writing a fight scene with a flying villain. I know it’s cheesy, but, somehow, I couldn’t resist starting that scene at Oscorp. Forgive the fan rant here, but Sony has proven that they are absolutely determined to never put a good Green Goblin on film. For whatever reason, they clearly love their Harry Goblins–it’s soul crushingly obvious that at least one of the producers has an obsession.

So sitting here was like an odd, completely backwards and nonsensical challenge. I’ll do right by you, Norman, I thought as I sat down to write a fight scene with a villain who’s nothing like the Green Goblin (aside from the flying) in a place only tenuously linked to Norman Osborn.

Now, I have a cycle for my NaNoWriMo sessions, starting with Day 1. On Day 1, I sat down with an idea and–a complete first scene (the excerpt for Memory of the Black Sun on my NaNoWriMo page). So, I sit down with a solid idea for what I’m going to add, write as much of it as I can, and then, when I’m reaching the limits of the idea, I pack up and head home and brainstorm the next part of the story on the way. Sometimes, that next part is still vague by the time I sit down for my next writing session on the following day.

But that was not today. Today, I sat at Oscorp and rolled right into the first few pages of a fight scene I plotted out on yesterdays commute back from Loreto. It was easy, fun, and it flowed like I was watching it happen and taking minutes.

When I had to migrate for comfort, I walked and worked out any kinks in the rest of the fight scene.

LS-11.11.14-WhereIWrote2

And when I got to the Atrium, with its Barnes & Noble and sea of public seating and wi-fi and comfort, I went straight through the rest of the fight and a few scenes afterward.

I’ve known a few visual artists and one of the problems I’ve heard from them with their work is that they envision a piece, try to draw it, and then produce something that doesn’t… quite look like what they had in mind. One friend from high school would pinpoint specific parts of her work, saying how the hair or the nose was slightly off in a portrait. But that phenomenon isn’t specific to people who draw or paint. I’ve kind of always known that it could be applied to writing.

But not until today did I understand the insane magic of writing something exactly as I’d imagined it. I’m not sure how I haven’t done this perfectly before–maybe I’ve just waited too long on an idea, forgetting important nuances. Or, likely, I’ve just let characters do or say what they wanted, which often disagreed with what I assumed would happen (something that I will always, absolutely stand behind).

But today–with its dysfunctional-late start and its time limits and necessity for easy–today my characters and I wanted exactly the same things. All of those mutual wants–all of the action and all of the dialogue–were awesome and charming. All of the right words came in a flash for every detail. It was beautiful.

I want every writing session… to be this writing session.

I want every day to be this day.

30 Days of NaNowriMo – Day 10: A Stark Contrast

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.10.14Where I Wrote: Loreto Playground in the Bronx, a tiny park that’s tucked into the suburbs and not easily accessible from any train.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really, really good. I did not make quota today, but, after Day 9’s lesson, I immediately made the changes to the sneaking segment I mentioned yesterday without waiting to get back around to it in an edit. The result was a clean, efficient editing session with a bit of progress thrown in, ending right at a fight scene.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Optimistic. I hadn’t planned for a session that was largely editing, but then, I didn’t have much of a plan to begin with. After yesterday, I realize I don’t really need one.

The Experience: I woke up refreshed today. Well, in a writing sense; physically, my back was killing me, but that was only for a short while–an ache that a few runs of Isaac and the rest of my easy-going morning routine sorted out.

By the time I headed out, it was much later than usual. But that was intentional; I’d already decided that today would be low impact on my wallet, meaning I was sticking to the Bronx.
Thus, the choice of my writing location, Loreto Playground. It immediately sounds like a much weirder choice of writing spot than it is; I was not sitting in a playground meant just for kids, stupidly trying to ignore all of them screaming and (in my imagination) throwing things at each other and hitting me instead–constantly. No, Loreto is actually a park here in the Bronx, small and sequestered in the Van Nest area. In my youth, I walked by this park a ton on my way to a nearby Blockbuster (dating myself). It wasn’t until recently that I actually sat down here, in a part of the park with a large ski ball track (I… think?) and chess/checker tables where I’ve only ever seen seniors.

11.10.14-WhereIWrote

When I got here, the same bench and checkered table where I sat the first time was unoccupied, making for an easy, comfortable writing session. The only problem was needing a bathroom; the entire area is residential, so I wound up walking to Einstein Hospital, a solid 15 minutes away. Somehow, I expected to have to argue about using the bathroom (the kind of weird assumption that would’ve driven me home months ago).

But, of course, I didn’t have to argue. Why did I think I’d have to point out, “A potty emergency is still an emergency!” when I got to their ER entrance? I wound up thinking about this on my way back to Loreto (the first time this month that I’ve actually migrated back to the place I started).

To be honest, that was the majority of the day, actually. When I sat down at Loreto, I wound up thinking about how I felt the first time I sat there, months previous. I’d been nervous and awkward. And really unhappy. Back then, I had the very tablet I used today and I’d set it up on the same table, deciding to punch out a quick poem or two to kill the time. Without researching word processing apps or having an idea what I would even write about. In essence, not really sure what I was doing at all. It’s such a strange, stark contrast to how I feel now. Back then, I even had the idea for Memory–roughly the same collection of plot points that I brought to November 1st.

I hate hearing people say, “All you need to do is start!” because I’ve never felt that’s fair. It assumes that everyone’s lives are similar; that people are stupid cows who would just be able to be happy or lose weight or do anything else if they just decide to stop being stupid cows and clumsily paw that light switch on. No–it takes more than that. Pretending that there isn’t is no different from telling a poor person, “Well just… invest, stupid!” It’s never that simple. For me, there was a ton of emotional baggage that weighed me down. It took a wealth of experience–good, healthy experience–between then and now to bridge the motivation gap.

And that’s what I can say without regret. That you won’t find that bridge–won’t find a way to be motivated to write or lose weight or do anything–until you work on making the elements of your life better. If I had to make up a term for it, I’d call it Happiness Base Zero (not unlike Beauty Base Zero), a foundation that you boil yourself down to, secure enough that you can actually build on top of it.

I’m no psychologist (I am actually laughing at the thought right now), but if you’re in a rut, consider finding Happiness Base Zero. Consider cutting removing the elements in your life that stress you out and upset you. Try to accept those things that you can’t get rid of. Make yourself happy.

And then, maybe, when you’re ready, make yourself write.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 9: The Art of the Quick Recovery

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.9.14Where I Wrote: I started in City Hall Park, but, when I needed to search for a restroom, I wound up walking back to South Street Seaport, where I found Cannon’s Walk.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good, although, more than any other day, I was aware that what I wrote needs a good edit for consistency. I breezed through a short… sneaking segment (I guess you could call it) that I want to round out. I then introduced another villain with, in contrast, an extremely detailed description. Didn’t really feel fair to the sneaking segment.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: After yesterday, incredibly reluctant and expecting failure.

The Experience: If there’s one thing I’m weary of doing on here, it’s being really depressing. I definitely don’t want to bring anyone’s mood down with what I write, so I apologize for bringing the funk yesterday. But I definitely wasn’t going to lie about how I felt; I don’t want to fabricate any of these posts–create drama and manufacture good vibes–because I’m not writing a story for you here. I’m just being honest and open for once, with total strangers because that’s something that kind of scares me–something I never would have done even just a few months back.

So, believe me when I say that I did not want to head out today. My morning was slow and rife with minor maintenance–the completion of small goals that meant putting off going outside and writing. Today, more than any other day, I wanted to succumb to that tired voice that pleaded, “You can just write here. You can play some more Binding of Isaac and then get to writing later. Your one friend is going to be on at some point and you can finish the Nightfall in Destiny. And even if you don’t get around to writing today, you can write tomorrow.”

At which point I started throwing on my clothes. It was too tempting. I wanted to do the silent wallow–fall into that same void I fell into when I got my first rejection letter. A week–at least–of not writing because I’d just been defeated by something.

So heading outside anyway and jumping on the train regardless was more of an experiment than anything else. Did I need that week to recover? Would I fail to find a new writing spot and go home defeated again, or possibly find a spot and just not be able to write?

I had absolutely no plan for a location. The morning saw me second-guessing every possible spot I could think of. When I was finally on the train, I just rode past transfer points for a number of different spots I thought I’d try.

In the end, I opted for City Hall Park.

11.9.14-WhereIWrote

Simple and inviting, the above fountain had benches around it, loosely occupied. I took a seat, took out my tablet, decided to give it a shot.

And the words came. Despite the uncertainty, they came easily and comfortably. Actually, not just comfortably–comforting; the more I wrote, the better my mood got. Pretty soon I was smiling, probably looking just… super weird to the families that walked by, but eh.

Of course, the usual problems arose. Not the cold; I was determined to just deal with that because I’m tired of migrating for it. However, after about an hour, I needed a bathroom. There are no public restrooms nearby (although I didn’t look in the park itself, so maybe I’m wrong). Instead, I tried a Starbucks across the street and then a nearby Dunkin Donuts, determined to just come right back.

Instead, I migrated to one spot that I knew had public restrooms–South Street Seaport. It was not a long walk, and after the rest room, I thought, “Maybe Pier 15 again?”

But that’s when I saw a sign for the Cannon Walk.

“The Cannon’s Walk.” My eyes narrowed. I’d seen the same signs on Day 3. Was it a Chelsea Market kind of deal? Maybe they’d have seats? I shrugged. Walked in. Checked it out.

11.9.14-WhereIWrote3

And found this. Accessible by a door on Fulton St. (between Water St. and Front St.), the Cannon’s Walk was an… enclosed, public… alleyway? There was a bench, a few tables, doors that led into stores and (likely) the Seaport Museum, and absolutely no one around. Well, there were people from the stores and Museum walking around, moving stuff, but those who saw me never told me I had to leave or put back the table I’d dragged over to the one bench. I suppose the best way to sum it up was there were very, very few people, and those who stumbled through didn’t care to stop and take a breather. Or let their kids loose on the one bench. Or feed the squirrels. It was calm, enclosed enough that it wasn’t cold (at least until night fell) and, most of all, comfortable.

So I wrote, getting over quota for the first time in days.

And all after fighting myself to go out at all.

And so, I had my answer–clear and indisputable data from my experiment. I didn’t need the recovery time. I didn’t need to wallow. I never have. In fact, that recovery time, in which I’d put off writing–the one, sure fire thing that makes me happy–only made those ruts worse. And, really, of course they did. It’s so easy to miss something so simple, but, of course.

All I actually needed to do to recover from those failures was to just get right back up.

 

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 8: Admitting Defeat

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.8.14Where I Tried to Write: First I stopped by the NaNoWriMo write-in at Paragraph. Then it was on to a handful of places around Union Square before I gave up and went home.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: I feel like I wrote exactly 20 words today.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: A lot worse than I thought. Or maybe I started off alright but getting repeatedly stymied made my mood worse.

The Experience:

LS-WhereIWrote-11.8.14

I smiled when I saw this. Not sarcastically–I have a running joke with a close friend that can be summed up with a single line: “This is a disaster.” When I got to the NaNoWriMo write-in, my big, terrifyingly social move for the day, I found this note and immediately heard her say, “This is a disaster!” in my mind. Not our usual caliber of disaster (the surprise parade was my favorite), but still enjoyable.

As the note suggested, I went upstairs to add my name to a waiting list. I want to go into details about Paragraph, but I took up the offer to come back for a trial day, so I’ll reserve comment for when I’ve actually utilized the space. For today, it was just a walk up three sets of stairs and a short wait to put my name on that waiting list. The space did look comfortable and cozy and I wish I’d arrived earlier to nab a seat (in my defense, I genuinely did not imagine that the space would be filled [I imagined an auditorium but got a room roughly the size of my own living room]). I suppose that if you’re planning to attend any NaNoWriMo write-ins, expect a crowd and aim to be at it’s head.

From there, I took a moment to stand on 14th Street and genuinely wonder, “What do I even… do now?” There were a few, very vague possibilities in the area, but none were tested–I’d really banked on a simple, heart attack-inducingly social day and a triumphant ride back home.

Instead, I tried Forbidden Planet first, not sure if their new location had a gaming area with a free seat. No dice.

I moved on to the Strand, which, in all the years since I’ve been there, seemed to only grow more crowded.

Union Square was next, even though it seemed like the worst idea possible right from the get go as, once again, it was cold outside. Oddly, this is where I got my 20 words out and intended to do more.

But then a lady started walking by my spot, chittering and throwing nuts everywhere. I don’t mean that she was insane, over-hand tossing peanuts at people (I clarify because New York). She was, however, feeding the squirrels in the park. Cute for exactly 10 seconds, at which point squirrels started running around everywhere, under my feet, onto the back of my bench, stopping, squirrel-glaring at me as if I was supposed to have nuts too.

And that’s when I was done. Because seriously. I like all manners of cute, furry things, but I’ve seen enough squirrel-on-human violence happen at the Bronx Zoo, when tourists, more amazed of the mythical black squirrel than the elephants directly behind them, proceeded to hand-feed said squirrels and then always–always–get bitten. No thanks. I actually watched Madame Squirrel jump and laugh as one snapped at her foot for another nut. No. No, I’m good.

From there, I made my last stop the Barnes & Noble on 17th. The idea was to just give up and repeat a location–something I really didn’t want to do–but I was already at a loss for other options. Of course, it was a weekend in Manhattan though, so Barnes & Noble was a mess, its cafe crowded, its floors lined with people who weren’t supposed to be sitting but were anyway.

And I just gave up. I gave up and I kind of hate myself for it. There was one more option that I had planned for another day, but it was already 5 by that point and I was sure said location would be swamped. So, weighing my options between something else falling through or just throwing in the towel, I actually, finally threw in the towel today. Not, I specify, on NaNoWriMo overall–there’s no way I’m quitting on finishing a new novel.

But, staying taut with my weird, personal NaNoWriMo Challenge (with the finding spots and writing outside), I gave up on writing for the rest of the day. Because the easiest thing in the world would’ve been coming home and just writing here instead (as I am right now).

But that isn’t what I need. I’ve already finished books at home. It has definitely taken longer before NaNoWriMo, but only challenging myself to finish another one faster wouldn’t have helped me as much as going outside–meeting people. Chatting. Networking. I know I’ve made it a joke before that sedentary life can change a man.

But it isn’t a joke. I need outside because I’m terrified of not needing outside anymore.

So it rankles a bit to only get 20 words down for the day–it was pretty depressing to update my “progress”–but I’m going to do this challenge my way.

Because I don’t want to go back to being the comfortable person who wouldn’t even accept it. The man who wouldn’t even put himself in a position to feel this particular kind of defeat.

I don’t want to go back to being the Louis who’s afraid of making mistakes and sometimes losing.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 7: Nearly Perfect

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.7.14Where I Wrote: Another crawl (these are becoming the norm). I tried the City Bakery first but they were full. From there, I found a few spots on the High Line and then ended in Chelsea Market (that is, not in one of the restaurants in Chelsea Market, but a spot in the market’s main strip).

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Good. Today was a bit of filler, but not bad filler; I cleaned up and then finished a time transition that could’ve been awkward. I also made a few decisions that led me to a solid, weird idea for Chapter 4, which I’m really excited to start tomorrow.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Pleased. I was glad to be out again. I was particularly excited to try the City Bakery and the High Line.

The Experience: Cold. So cold.

So, the only bad part about NaNoWriMo is that it’s in November. I didn’t realize this was a draw back until earlier today. Not when I went out and found that it was a bit chilly; that was fine because it meant I could finally justify a long-drooled-over return to the City Bakery (not really though, because their amazing hot chocolate is seriously $7 [I don’t know how I forgot that, but one thing’s for sure–I still bought that hot chocolate and enjoyed the hell out of it]). So, no, the slight chill was fine, I thought.

But then, after finding the City Bakery jam packed, I decided to try the High Line. And, holy shit. I’ve been to the High Line before, but never to look for writing spots. What did I find?

The High Line…

11.7.14-WhereIWrote1

… is lousy…

11.7.14-WhereIWrote5

… with writing spots.

The problem is, these spots are obviously opened to the air, and, today, that meant they were pretty frigid. My first spot was not so bad:

11.7.14-WhereIWrote2

The theater on 17th is recessed enough that there was no wind. Sitting down at the foot of the very bottom step, the view out of those large windows was also pretty awesome:

11.7.14-WhereIWrote4

It was very–very–nearly perfect.

But then the rain started. I don’t want to make that sound like a disaster because it did not kill the session. It did mean I had to migrate south on the High Line until I reached an underpass where vendors are usually set up. There are two levels on that underpass, and near the southern end of the bottom level, there’s this ridiculous, scenic seating area that would have been amazing.

11.7.14-WhereIWrote6

Would have been if it wasn’t freezing. That’s why I wish NaNoWriMo wasn’t in November. To immediately clarify, I don’t blame NaNoWriMo–I think the challenge is amazing and I’m really glad I’m a part of it. More to the point, my decision to find writing spots outside for NaNoWriMo was my decision alone, not theirs, so I really am not criticizing.

In fact, I’m completely acknowledging how unrealistic my need was to write on that insane balcony, with the clouds and the sun shining behind them. And an almost comically dramatic American flag waving in the background. I mean, come on… Man do I wish I could’ve written there. But that’s what Summer ’15 is for, I suppose.

Still, the session was not over and at no point did I consider just giving up; I’ve thrown in the towel on other days because I didn’t want to burn straight through a handful of potential spots in a row to no avail. But today, having seriously spent more time taking pictures than writing at this point, I had to head indoors to Chelsea Market.

I didn’t take any pictures there (it was way too crowded and would’ve been crazy awkward), but Chelsea Market was today’s winning spot. There are public bathrooms there and restaurants all around for when the inevitable thirst and hunger crop up. But, most importantly for writers, there was free seating. Everywhere. Somehow I hadn’t realized it before, but there’s free seating in front of many of the Market’s shops. And it’s oddly easy to nab one of those seats; the milling crowds paid way less attention to them than I expected.

I passed through once and easily nabbed a seat in front of a clothing shop. And there, I wrote until I felt I had to stop again, the endless murmuring of the crowds a comfortable background noise.

Somewhere, I’m pleased at finding such a good spot in a place that I wasn’t expecting; Chelsea Market was absolutely an after thought when I headed out earlier–a place I would head to if I needed coffee maybe. And yet, I did nearly all of my work there. There’s a part of me that sees that irony and understands it and determines to be more open and accepting of what I perceive as lesser writing spots–to not play up and deify places I know will be awesome.

But at the same time, seriously with that American flag already! Are you kidding me!?

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 6: Breaking the Ritual

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.6.14Where I Wrote: The laundromat down the street. And then, home. I immediately feel bad for not hitting somewhere interesting today, but I’ll explain.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Fantastic. Today saw the moment where the last piece of the plot fell into place; I now have a full plot for Memory. And, thankfully, it all fit together smoothly (there was only one loose element from an older version of the plot that had to be cut).

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Restless, but ultimately accepting; I wanted to reclaim the West side of Manhattan after yesterday’s fiasco, but there was no denying that I needed to take care of a few things today.

The Experience: I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, but I didn’t plan to do any of this. I know that in my first post, I mentioned how I was considering trying daily posts, but I have to reiterate that, until the end of last month, that was only the vaguest of ideas. On October 30th, I found out about NaNoWriMo. On October 31st, I decided to take the challenge. On November 1st, I decided to post about it daily.

So I hope that it’s not surprising to hear that I woke up today, looked at my selection of clothing and realized,

“I don’t… There’s nothing here for me to wear.” And then I stare for a moment and, “Huh.” And I mean “huh” like “weird.” As if my clothes are just supposed to be clean for weeks and weeks (again, the sedentary, stay-at-home lifestyle, folks).

Still, I’m all, “I’ll just go out today, then get up early tomorrow and go out tomorrow too–no big.”

And then I looked out the window. Saw the rain. Sighed. “Fine. You win,” I told… the world, I guess?

Even so, that definitely did not mean I wasn’t writing. But I absolutely was not going to return to Bronx Park or the Barnes & Noble Cafe from Day 1 because Bronx Park would’ve been a total nightmare in the rain and Barnes & Noble didn’t feel worth it.

So where do I write? How do I take care of laundry and not just write at home–definitely the most uninspired possible place. I was not writing at the laundromat–that was for sure. That place is a loud nightmare–they show kids’ shows and music videos at the same time. It’s obnoxiously loud, and if there’s one place I can’t write, it’s somewhere with noi–ohhhhh. Wait. There it is. That’s where I’ll write–somewhere I’ve never written before.

In a loud nightmare, with kids’ shows and music videos playing at the same time. The way I immediately thought of it, I was going to “break the ritual,” as my friend Justine Manzano put it in a guest post on Scarlett Van Dijk’s blog back in September.

The thing is… I wish I could ham up the experience more for you. I wish I could tell you of the pure strife I had to endure to belt out the pages that I wrote there.

But the only difficult thing about it was how quickly my clothes were done. There was a fair bit of me saying, “Really?” incredulously and too loud–at laundry machines–because I couldn’t believe my clothes were already washed and then dried. I do not know if the last five days were enough to change me, but what was once impossible was now so easy that it made me shout at laundry machines. I managed to write a scene introducing my villain before coming home and determinedly finishing up a second scene that I knew I could finish (instead of reflexively putting it off for tomorrow).

I absolutely will get to go out tomorrow–to actually go somewhere and (hopefully) find some place new and amazing for writing; I’ve been restless enough for another win that I have a short list of potential candidates in mind.

But, in some really weird way, today was amazing and empowering for me. I used to be the kind of writer who threw up his hands if he wasn’t writing in total silence.

Now I’m the kind who finds his own silence, even when it seems impossible.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 5: Not According to Plan

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.5.14Where I Wrote: Just a crawl of bad writing spots (not intentionally, of course). I began on the Central Park side of the water fountain on the northeast corner of 59th and Central Park West. Then Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: I did make the tough writing decision from the end of yesterday’s session, but I didn’t get far beyond that. I am honestly bummed by how little I got done today and the honest fact that Memory definitely isn’t going to be 50,000 words (I always planned for it to be a roughly 100 page novella, written as a break between bigger projects) isn’t much comfort. I really want to be up to par on my daily words–even if it means finishing Memory before NaNoWriMo ends.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Victorious; before leaving my place, I settled a nagging financial issue and I came up with an awesome answer to the above-mentioned plot question.

And yet…

The Experience:

???: “Hi there.” <sits down directly across the table from Louis>

Louis: <if his eyes aren’t wide with surprise on the outside, they absolutely are on the inside. across from him sits a completely normal person, who whips out a tablet and chats amiably and comfortably about it. and about how he’s a writer and blogger. he works in a joke that genuinely makes Louis laugh. and Louis, being Louis, struggles not to wail a Lemongrab-esque, “UNCOMFORTABLEEEEE!!” in his face, out of nowhere>

Confession–I am really, really bad at talking. Very, very bad at it. Not bad enough that I completely ignored this fellow blogger when he approached, but bad enough that I could not, for the life of me, think of anything to say to him. In case I haven’t made it clear yet, it was not the stranger’s fault–he really seemed like a nice guy. But being sociable is not on my set of skills. Not with strangers, at least; with my friends, of course, I’m least likely to stop talking. Maybe there are situations when I go public-mute because I’m trying to figure out an uncertain social element, but during hang outs with friends, the jokes come easy. Maybe even too easy.

But the thing is those public-mute moments; I require an observation period to figure out if I like someone/something or not (I’m weird–have I ever clarified that I’m really weird?). Otherwise, I’ll just assume someone’s a great person, an assumption that’s burned me enough times that there’s no comfortable side of a random “Hi there.”

To make matters worse, my entire day was oddly… weighted, I suppose you could say. Scripted, maybe? I woke up trying desperately to fix a financial issue and come up with a major plot choice, which meant instant pressure all morning. Those issues were resolved before I even left the apartment, thankfully.

But then I headed to Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center, my original choice for the day’s writing session (the entire intent to be coming somewhere familiar and easy so I wouldn’t have to look for a place to write). Only… I’ve worked in the Time Warner Center, which made going there to write feel exactly like going to a job that used to really stress me out. Bouchon was also packed when I got there, so I walked out to the fountain on the southwestern side of Central Park (not the Columbus Circle fountain–the one across the street, to the northeast of it). Only it turns out, the spot on the fountain where I used to have lunch wasn’t any better on my old man back than the rough rock steps in Bronx Park. I stood at the fountain just long enough to implement that big writing decision I’d made earlier.

But then I had to stretch my legs and move inside to another old lunch spot–the cafeteria in Whole Foods, the bowels of the Time Warner Center. And that’s when Paul sat down–after maybe a half hour more of writing.

I was determined to not be completely anti-social. Really I was. I tried to chat back because he genuinely didn’t seem like a bad person. But, in the end, clamming up won the day; I eventually drifted off into a silent stare at my tablet, determined, at least, to actually keep writing (“Be comfortable, damn you!”). I only succeeded in getting out another line or two.

Again, I don’t want to make it sound like it was his fault (even now, hours later, I don’t want to be the dick who’s all, “I can’t write with you being all friendly, bro.”). I honestly also hit the end of my initial outline, meaning I had to actually plan what was coming up, something that I was incredibly reluctant to just free write.

So I waited until I was at least in the mindset to write again and certain that, no, I’m not just leaving because I’m afraid of talking to someone (serious progress, for me). When I was sure that I couldn’t write more because I just didn’t want to force the next few pages (which always goes poorly for me), I packed up, bid Paul farewell, and walked outside.

And determined, instantly, to try and be better about my plans. Obviously, that meant planning my story more actively (I already have my idea for the next plot point and I’m going to continue polishing it up for tomorrow). But, more acutely for me, it meant being able to deal with a break in my personal plans; I could never possibly have planned for someone to just sit down and talk to me. In all honesty, I’m weird enough that I forget I’m in public when I’m in public–that people can engage me (a solid year of sedentary work-from-home can change a man). But I want to be able, specifically, to deal with random social engagements when they happen. To invite them, even.

The next time someone engages me, I will–probably very awkwardly–engage them right back. I swear I will.

And the next time I know I’m reaching the end of what I have planned for a book, I’ll make sure to plot out the next part of it ahead of time.

And, of course, never again will I choose a writing spot associated with “stress” and “work.” I’m sure I could’ve prevailed anyway… but why? I’ve already chosen to be a writer; why make my life harder?

Why not make the first step of every writing session, “Find a comfortable seat in a place you love?”

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 4: Maintenance

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.4.14Where I Wrote: Bronx Park, just a short walk from one of the entrances to the Bronx Zoo.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good. I was actually confused by how much I got out and how quickly it happened (from just before sunset to just after). It’s enough to balance the fact that I was a bit below quota.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Eager.

The Experience: It was around 4PM when the electrician got here.

I’ll explain, but, before I do, I wanted to throw that time out there to show how late of a start I got; it’s Fall here in New York, which means sunset is around 5PM. Not actually late, but about… 5 or 6 hours after I usually like to head out.

But it was necessary; I’ve tweeted about the spooky wiring in my room, the light turning on and off on its own. That was only pretend-enjoyable until November 1st; at exactly 12AM, it wasn’t festive anymore.

A little annoying to have to wait that long after my Anxious Hearts moment yesterday; I wanted to get out and find anywhere new.

But it just wasn’t in the cards; not if I wanted to get any writing done, get back home to post this, and get a good amount of work done.

So I settled for Bronx Park, a place I’m familiar with. And a place that’s pretty horrible for writing. In direct contrast to the miracle that was Pier 15, Bronx Park only has rough, public benches–not the worst offense…

… unless you’re a writer who gets there, looks around, and immediately goes wide-eyed as they wonder, possibly aloud, “Where the hell are the picnic tables?” I wound up sitting on a set of rough rock steps just off the main path. That lasted until nightfall, at which point my back started protesting. From there, it was on to a small set of bleachers. I had to sit on them backwards, using one of the lower foot rests as a seat, the actual bench above it serving as a makeshift table.

Improvisational. Utilitarian. A no frills arrangement engaged just to get some work done before going home and getting more work done.

And man did the pages fly there. I left around 4PM and, when I hit a point where I felt I had to stop (Chapter 2 ends in a plot choice I refused to make willy nilly), I was certain the time on my tablet was wrong. 5 and change? Seriously? I’d only been writing for about an hour?… What?

I don’t know how that works. Maybe it’s because there were no distractions–only people playing sports I don’t care about and, when night fell, only a small handful idling around.

Or maybe it was watching the electrician when he got to my apartment, taking about twenty minutes to fix three problems that I assumed would take hours.

Either way, I’ll take days like today. Straight forward. Fast and devoid of glamour.  Maintenance, done in hours less than I expected.