30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 23: Writing Fighting

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.23.14Where I Wrote: Pelham Bay Park. It was a much nicer day than I expected, so I decided to forego another indoor lounge and go for a public park instead. Nice, but the temperature didn’t hold up.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Good. As I said yesterday, I was expecting to finish my addition today and get to editing tomorrow. However, today wound up being as careful and pensive as yesterday was–I was a bit too eager to finish this fight and wound up adding and deleting repeatedly. In the end, I got out a solid bit of work and crested what’s probably just the first of many hurdles in this fight scene. Now, after having stopped early on the last day of Week 3, I’m fully aware that my deadline for NaNoWriMo is officially tight. But I’ve always been fine with tight deadlines.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Fine. Much better than yesterday although I pressed the same boundaries I did then.

The Experience: I woke up to emails from friends. Immediately, this made today better than yesterday.

I read those emails, had breakfast, played some games, and, once again, didn’t worry about where I was going. I let the excitement for writing my scene simmer a bit and then headed out when I heard (a little belatedly) that it was almost 50 degrees outside. Mental note made: check the daily forecasts. And although being relaxed is fine, waking up earlier affords more flexibility and more choices for the day, making things even more relaxed… The first hint of something I wasn’t realizing about my mood.

The early-start point was driven home by getting to Pelham Bay Park a bit late.

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It was beautiful and I got to write there for a while, facing the angel monument. But I Definitely would’ve liked more time–would’ve preferred idling and taking even more pictures and exploring the park more thoroughly. The day was about writing, of course, not exploring, and write I did, but still… The second hint of something I wasn’t realizing about my mood.

I started my fight scene a little too eagerly and a little clumsy, making sure to take my time when I found myself rushing. Actually fighting myself to make sure I put the right words down. I’m wasn’t sure why this fight scene was so much more difficult than the first one. I knew, definitely, that I was tired–that the physical fatigue from earlier in the week turned into mental fatigue.

But it wasn’t just that. Pushing myself out again near nightfall, forcing myself to be okay with things I’m not usually okay with, I somehow wasn’t getting that those things were wearing me out. That those things were making me fight my writing. Some part of me has been silently protesting the changes; I want to be okay with going out later. I want to be okay with writing around loud, rowdy idiots. But the fact is, I’m not. Maybe its my associating the night with drinking and partying that makes it harder for me to write after sunset. Or maybe it’s the promise that getting home will be a pain in the ass on public transportation. But no matter what it is, pushing myself to accept these later writing sessions and a handful of changes meant I pushed in a different direction–I got home and just gamed when I should’ve been working and doing other things.

Essentially, I started sabotaging myself without realizing it. I’m not an expert on my own psyche, but when I packed up to use the park’s restrooms and get out of the cold, the thought, “You can always just write tomorrow,” came too easily. I was rounding back to being sedentary. Which meant I was rounding back to the idea of giving up on NaNoWriMo. Back to staying in and choosing to game instead of write. In the same flash, I thought, “Even if you don’t finish it by December, you’ve got time.”

No. No, fuck you.

When I got home, I threw down my tablet in one of my favorite rooms and continued my scene until I had to break for the night–in direct opposition to the reflex to just stop, post, watch videos online, and essentially give up.

I will not give up.

Tonight was the last night of pushing for extra challenges–the last night of trying to make myself deal with a new set of uncomfortable changes to my life while also doing NaNoWriMo. Because I will not sabotage this. I will not heap a ton of other objectives on top of finishing this one book. On Day 12, I talked about how I dropped photography and design and other hobbies to write.

Well, I’m officially dropping my sudden need to go out later and write under waterfalls or whatever the hell else I think up. No diners. No returns to places where people interrupted me. No uncertainty. No trying to change myself now, of all times, when there are 11 other months I can work on my neurosis.

For the rest of NaNoWriMo, there will only be NaNoWriMo.

For the rest of NaNoWriMo, there will just be me, a book, and a deadline.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 22: Reinforced Calm

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.22.14Where I Wrote: Sony Plaza on Madison, between 55th and 56th.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: It was a bit tough and I realized after a while that I was in danger of being completely generic, something I avoided very well with my characters’ first encounter. I realized that before actually getting generic, thankfully, which resulted in an early stop and very determined brainstorming on the train (I didn’t even read Clariel, so you know I meant business). The result: I now know exactly how to handle the rest of my mid-book addition.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Reinforced calm.

The Experience: I did not wake up late today. I woke up pretty early.

And then relaxed. For hours.

Relaxed without really knowing where I was headed. I have said time and again that I’m not out of places to go in the city, but late November weekends are a bit of a mess for 30 Days. Going somewhere like the Museum of Natural History–really going to any popular attraction–is out. Any of the outdoor spots I had planned are now out because of the cold (although I might take a chance on one more this Monday [or maybe Tuesday] when it’s supposed to be warmer). Unless they’re the worst of the worst, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are likely full on the weekends as well.

I knew all this and still just played Rebirth for a while. A long while. The sun was seriously on its way down when I finally stopped, got ready, and looked for a list of public spaces. I found one easily, took a few screen grabs from Google Maps, and headed out without really deciding on which one to go to. Without knowing if they would be closed by the time I got there.

And the entire way, I pushed down a weird and constant discomfort. I wasn’t sure the places I picked would work out. I’m always headed back home when the sun’s setting. I’m always inside again by the time it’s dark. In particular, I’m always out of the city on a Saturday night, aware that, although they’re not violent, drunk and/or rowdy assholes will be all over public transportation. For the past 21 days, I’ve been home preparing posts by 6 at the latest.

I wanted to challenge all of that. Especially because it put me in a shitty mood. There are daily modifiers to which I’ve been extremely susceptible: late starts, not enough brainstorming, the need to be home at a certain time for work even though I make my own hours. I wanted to defy those boundaries.

The result, however, was that I was in an oddly bad state-of-mind. It shouldn’t be surprising–I was forcing myself to do a bunch of things I hated. I was asking for a bad experience. Standing on the train, I found myself thinking of people I hate and haven’t seen for years, strangely imagining that they would be at whatever place I chose. I know–completely unrealistic and bizarre. But I’m writing it here because it’s true–a strangely self-damaging survival tactic, I guess.

I did not go back home though. I got off my train, headed in the vague direction of the spot I chose moments before getting to my stop, found that there wasn’t an obvious entrance for it, and then changed course the instant I spotted Sony Plaza across the street, with its sign promoting it as a public lounge–exactly what I needed.

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It was indoors. It was quiet. It was pretty. It was a little dim. Most importantly, despite it being Saturday evening, there was no trouble finding a seat and no one got loud or blasted music. The presence of security may have had something to do with that last bit. With public restrooms and a Starbucks adjacent to the Plaza, I was glad I accidentally chose it. It is instantly a place I will come back to–especially on a weekday morning when I assume I’d be almost completely alone.

I sat down and rode my satisfaction with the locale into my writing–threw it repeatedly in the face of doubts. I worked remembering yesterday’s mantras, pushing nearly-typical elements far enough away that I could stare at them–consider them like individual pieces of my story’s puzzle. There was a lot of writing, deleting, and readjusting tonight, but I finally felt good by the time I ended early. As I packed up, I was confident about the work I’d done and about stopping when I had–trusting that I knew when not to force myself to produce more content. A second fight scene was about to start and I wasn’t going to manufacture any part of it without properly loving it first, something that sounds really bizarre, but it’s the best way to put it. I had, I realized now, spent the entire day reinforcing my calm. But that was a good first step towards actually believing it. Especially because I want to believe in that calm instead of manufacturing it.

On the train ride home, I obsessed (in the best way) over the rest of my mid-novel addition. I have but one detail to research after publishing this post. Once I have it, the addition is fully plotted. It will take a day to write it all, another day (at most) to edit and adjust the rest of my work, and then I’m caught up again–at the endgame that I’ve been slowly refining this whole time. It was a really good commute back. I felt centered again. Glad to have my story to focus on. Glad, grudgingly, that I’d pushed myself.

Because, from the beginning, NaNoWriMo wasn’t just about writing another novel for me–it was about getting back in touch with outside. There’s only so much I can do; the overwhelming majority of my closest friends still moved away a few years ago, so there’s still a strange distance to these outings–I’m still a lone wolf out there.

But it’s nice to contest my reflex to confine myself.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 21: The Bizarre Act of Writing in the Past

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.21.14Where I Wrote: TKettle on St. Mark’s Place.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Good enough that it kind of worried me. I felt like today’s session should’ve been harder because it’s not something I’ve pulled off before. However, it went well.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Good. It was another day completely lacking in bullshit and mistakes. I did have a really, really weird dream that might become another story, but ultimately, good.

The Experience: TKettle is a weird little place. They specialize in bubble tea, something I enjoy every so often. That isn’t what makes them weird though.

What makes them weird are all of the small things that make me gravitate back there, repeatedly. There’s the general… disrepair of the place. The graffiti on the bathroom mirror. The dirty window in the back, two curtains trying and failing to cover it up, creating a stark contrast to the locale’s general brightness.

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There’s also this long hallway that completely splits its two seating areas. There’s the one in front, where social people almost automatically sit down and chat. And then there’s the one in back (pictured above), still colorful and inviting but… tucked down a long hallway.

Easily the thing I love the most about this place is how rarely anyone uses that backroom. Maybe I’ve only come at weird times, but regardless, I’ve never come at a time when TKettle was jam packed. That absolutely makes me question their food, but as their bubble tea is made right in front of you at the very front of the shop, it at least feels like a safe choice for the writer in need of a pit stop. A pit stop that has a 90% chance of being solitary and relatively quiet.

Thus why I abandoned plans to go to the coffee shop I’ve been meaning to try, and decided to go to TKettle instead the moment I remembered it. I walked by said coffee place and it looked awesome.

But today was not a day for random variables. After Day 20’s nonstop nonsense, today was a day for getting work done.

I got a red bean bubble tea–the strangely lasting meal of the bubble teas–and got to work.

Work writing completely in the past–something I’ve never done successfully because I’ve never written a project as quickly as I’ve written Memory. I have tried–with the first version of War of Exiles–and have, repeatedly, butchered the tone and pacing.

But, as seems to consistently be the case with NaNoWriMo, the old writing hurdle that I used to struggle with just wasn’t there today. Instead of hastily rereading a scene I wrote months previous and trying to remember every tiny nuance and emotion my characters sported at that moment in the plot, I just… remembered, clearly, how my protagonists felt in Memory. Because I believe that today I picked up… where I left off on Day 13, just barely over a week ago.

Picking up from there was smooth. Too smooth. Easy enough that it definitely kind of worried me. Easy enough that I was on red alert for padding–a good thing as I stopped the moment I stopped being inspired to started filling out my scenes with nonsense to hit the NaNoWriMo quota. I packed up instead. Got home so early–after getting the morning start I promised myself–that it was strange.

And, of course, there were the usual expectations–I thought that I would hit a hurdle–maybe hate an old scene. I especially thought that I would not be able to find more plot to keep working with.

But it’s 21 days in–absolutely time to start putting some fears to bed and picking up personal mantras.

Even if things go really poorly for one or two or eighteen writing sessions, they will pan out. If they don’t–if you can’t figure the story out–then you didn’t love the story enough anyway. Because figuring it out just takes obsessing over it, which you will do naturally if you love it.

Many of the problems you’ve experienced with writing novels has come from procrastination. You’ve sat on ideas so long that you forgot critical parts of them or completely let them slip. You’ve waited so long between writing sessions that you completely lost the mood of the story and were incapable of getting it back. You’ve waited so long between edits that you’ve forgotten important twists and subtle nuances, making your manuscript a mess of conflicting ideas. Absolutely no more. You write every day because even if other writers don’t, this is how it works for you. This is how it works best. Writing every day almost makes it too easy.

The amount of words you hit for a day of NaNoWriMo does not matter. All that matters is that you put down any words. Actually, even if you don’t, trying to figure out a scene or plot point or character is enough.

Stop expecting your work to be horrible. Whether you look back and it is or you look back and it isn’t, you’re going to worry regardless. Just don’t worry. If it is bad, you’ll know and you’ll fix it. If it isn’t, you believe it isn’t. Own that.

And most importantly, find more places with guaranteed seclusion to write. The dingier the better.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 20: All of the Curve Balls and Every Last Wrench

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.20.14Where I Barely Wrote: My local library. I feel like this means that I’ve ultimately lost the expert planning challenge for this week, but so be it; something I didn’t plan for at all made me think I had to stay in the Bronx. The funny thing about it? I later found that I definitely didn’t need to stay in the area after all.

How I Feel About What I Typed, Slowly, Letter by Letter, with My Index Fingers: Okay? All obvious bitterness aside, what I put down was a good start. A good start for an addition I decided to make at about… 1AM last night?

The Experience:

“Hi!”

I looked down at a small child staring up at me in front of my building. I was just getting back after my first visit to my local library.

A visit that began with me realizing I hadn’t eaten anything or even drunk anything before deciding that writing in my library was better than waiting until 4PM to go somewhere else and write; I didn’t want to rock my schedule–didn’t want to get back home and rush out a post only to put in time at work in a desperate, inefficient haze. But the library, it turned out, was a theater in which two middle-aged white men made jokes about viagra and prattled on about conspiracy theories (involving pedophiles [because of course]). I was there for maybe ten minutes before leaving and getting breakfast.

And being confronted by a kid in front of my building.

“Hi!”

“Hello,” I said, staring down at him, trying my best to not be a Snape about it. Probably failing. Ronald… Weasely…

“Do you live here?”

The fuck? “Yes. I do.”

The child said something that I classify as ‘kid inaudible.’ I just repeated that yes, I live in my building.

“Oh. Which side?”

“That side,” I pointed. I had to do it twice.

For a split second, I thought that maybe this kid was actually lost–that he was asking for help getting into his place. For a split second, I was ready to drop everything and help him get into his building and find his apartment or maybe a neighbor who could help him.

But then he said, “Okay. You can go ahead,” and waved me along like a police officer.

I… despise police officers, I wanted to say in my best Alan Rickman. I didn’t, although not because I was adverse to confusing this child–I just don’t dislike police officers.

Instead, I said, “Thanks,” letting the humor in the moment coax out a smile before heading inside. I still had to reach for that smile; the encounter was cute, but I just wasn’t in the mood. That wasn’t this weird kid’s fault though. If anything, I hope I didn’t dissuade him from being a weird Building Monitor to anyone else.  I’m a fan of strange random encounters. At least in settings where I’m guaranteed an easy exit.

But, regardless, all I was in the mood for was getting upstairs, having a meal, and waiting for a package or for someone else to get home so I could try the library again. I took the time to play a bit of Rebirth and consider a detail that I’d be writing in Memory the moment I got back to the library.

A detail that was part of an addition I decided to make the previous night, when I realized that my suspicions about the gravity of the endgame were probably right; the events I had planned were probably more epic for me because I love my characters but those events wouldn’t be as epic for readers because the book was too short. It needed at least one more event–one more bit of adventure–to really seal the deal and strengthen my protagonists’ relationship, an idea that I would’ve been unsure about if there wasn’t already a place in the plot where that extra point fit perfectly. Not a problem at all–but an addition that actually makes NaNoWriMo significantly tighter for me (I will actually have to start hitting their quota now to be sure I finish Memory in the next ten days).

I had about an hour to play and plan before someone got home, the delivery never having made it in the first place. But whatever. Down to the library. Back to writing.

“Hello!”

… No. It… can not be.

Sitting in one of four adjoining chairs at the library, glad to see the middle-aged men gone, I turned to see that indeed it wasn’t; I expected the same kid and instead got a new one. Apparently, my neighborhood is full of way too friendly and social Hispanic kids.

I said hello back.

And then said hello to Kid B, one of Kid A’s jealous friends.

Then said hello to Kid A again.

Then said hello to Kid C.

To which Kid C said, “Is that a Galaxy Tab III?”

Ohhhh my God, I thought. It was lyrical, my brain singing it. “Yes.”

“Where’d you get that case?”

“Online.”

“Oh.”

Internal sigh. I didn’t want to be a total bastard to this kid. “On Amazon. I just… ordered it.”

“Oh. Is the original case white?”

“I don’t know.”

“You didn’t get it?”

“No. I actually didn’t even really use this thing until I got the keyboard.”

“Oh that keyboard is linked to it?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s pretty cool… Do you go to church?”

What? “I haven’t been in a while, but yeah, I have.”

“Oh… Do you have a Bible?”

WHAT? The walls were crumbling down. It was sinking in that writing was a bust. This kid was not going to stop talking to me. I was not okay with this. The only thing that could save the moment was if his mom came around the corner and happened to be Eva Longoria; if I just so happened to walk into a romcom with Eva Longoria today, I’d be fine.

But there was no Eva Longoria.

“Yes. I have one at my house,” I answered.

“Oh. God bless you!”

“Thanks,” I said, enjoying for just another flash the cute weirdness of the moment.

But it was only a flash. At this point, Kids A and B actually started running circles around me and almost hitting me. This, I realize, was an intentionally ridiculous joke I’d made in my post for Day 10 at Loreto Playground. Ten days later, it had actually come true. Kid C was no longer engaging me, but I just sat there, holding my tablet, staring off into space.

“Do you play games on that thing?” It was Kid C again. I heard this and thought, How did I not know that that’s where he was going with this?

“No,” I answered honestly. I don’t; I actually despise mobile gaming. “I don’t have any on here.”

I expected an immediate question about whether I game–perhaps an observation that Link was on my t-shirt, riding a bear.

Instead, they broke away, chasing each other somewhere. And I realized that today… was just not the day for NaNoWriMoing. Before the day even began, I’d thrown a wrench in my own plans. And then the Local Brigade of Inquisitive Children followed up.

Tomorrow, I will wake up as early as I can and get down to the city. I will hit my NaNoWriMo quota. I will, once again, make progress.

But tonight, I work. I brainstorm. I finally reply to emails from friends I’ve been meaning to get to. I will, perhaps, read followers’ and likers’ blogs, something I’m impatiently saving for December.

But no matter what I do, I let today go and prepare for tomorrow, taking into account the possibility that there are other wrenches waiting.

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.

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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.

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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 18: All the Fun of Writing in Circles

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.18.14Where I Wrote: The Dining Concourse at Grand Central Terminal.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Laughably bad. I should be horribly depressed and defeated, but there’s something hilarious about being stuck in a writing loop, trying one scene over and over again to no avail… and then finding a ridiculously simple solution.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Absolutely expecting to jump into the beginning of the endgame of the novel but totally stymied by my gut; I followed it to a semi-random spot at the last minute… and then followed it right into what I thought would be a quick reread of yesterday’s work.

The Experience: Today was all about the gut feelings.

When I woke up, I was pretty sure I’d be launching into the next chapter of Memory, having ended yesterday’s scene with a solid cliffhanger. I took my shower, planned my destination for the day–a coffee shop I’ve heard about repeatedly and thought I’d try. A random variable (something I want to start including in my outings regularly).

But then, the gut reaction. It’s already almost 12. You’re going to try a coffee shop at lunch? There might not be seats and it is… stupidly cold outside. Right… No. Whatever. Blazing ahead anyway. That one coffee shop, here I come.

And then I was on the train, reading, when I heard “Grand Central Terminal,” and, again, the gut reaction. That coffee shop will SUCK if you go now. Remember how insane the City Bakery was? Besides, you wanted a random variable–you haven’t been to the Dining Concourse in a million years. You might still find failure there if that’s what you really want.

And somehow, that swayed me. I jumped off the train, oddly… not excited, now that I remember it. It’s almost like I knew what was coming–hinted at by my suddenly runny nose.

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I got to the Dining Concourse, grabbed coffee, and found a small table under one of its weird, low archways. I popped out the tablet.

And… the gut reaction. You don’t know how to start the next chapter. Maaaaaaybe… you should reread yesterday’s scene?

I’m glad to say that in Day 17 Louis’ defense, the scene wasn’t bad. Ultimately, it only had one hiccup that made it… awkward. Not confusing, but loose in a way that I hate; have you ever watched a movie or show and noticed a major–but totally silent–jump in a character’s logic? Their knowing something that they shouldn’t? It was that kind of hiccup–a subtle error and easy to miss.

So easy to miss that I absolutely missed it yesterday… and today. My session started with me reworking the entire scene, changing everything else to fit that one logic error instead of just… fixing the one logic error. About halfway through, I realized that the reworked scene was worse, stopped, and stared at my tablet for a long while.

It’s at this point that I finally realized the culprit was a single logic error. It was also this point, sitting and staring and unable to focus, that I realized my runny nose had a hand in this mess–I just could not keep a clear head. But I was not about to give up.

Probably a horrible idea though, because not giving up meant groggily trying to fix everything but the one logic error again. I’m not sure if I forgot or genuinely thought it would be better to change the rest of the scene (I think I had a good few additions that I desperately wanted to work in, but I’m not sure because, at this point, hours later, I am significantly more disoriented).

After running my second circle around the one scene though, I was done. I packed up, determined to do no more damage to the scene by poking at it clumsily.

Only to figure out how to fix it with one sentence on my way back home.

Not willing to just let the day go as a total failure, I got home and fixed the scene in maybe… ten seconds? And then went on to add (apparently) 400 words that I’m worried will be absolutely horrible when I look at them tomorrow.

But, right now, from the bottom of my heart, I can honestly say… whatever. I will take those 400 words. And I will turn in ridiculously early and hope for the best tomorrow.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 17: Dirty Carpet and Gemstones

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.17.14Where I Wrote: The Guggenheim Hall of Minerals in the Museum of Natural History.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good. After reorganizing what I wrote yesterday, the rest of the scene I’d been struggling with came with relatively little trouble. There were a few hurdles to get over (it was an active parlor scene, so writing it was a new experience for me), but I think I hit every beat that I needed to (and every one that I could hit without making the dialogue incredibly artificial and overly convenient).

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Ready. After yesterday’s post, I was so ready to accept the balance challenge for this week and kick its ass. This was rounded out by excitement for returning to the Hall of Minerals, my favorite exhibit in the Museum of Natural history since my days as a littlen.

The Experience: Today was a really strong, straight forward bout of writing–a fantastic first step for this week of schedule-honing. I had to be up early today if I was going to get to the museum. And I was. I had to be out of the house quickly, so no Rebirth. Thus, I didn’t play it.

The reward for those small sacrifices was experiencing none of the vague bullshit that will often rise up to oppose plans. I wasn’t rushing, so there was no, “Shit! I forgot to go to the bank!” There was no frantic packing and hustling out the door late, so I didn’t forget to visit the museum’s site and make sure donation rules for admission hadn’t changed. At worst, there was the moment when I got lost in the museum and thought they’d gotten rid of the Hall of Minerals. But then I just took out my map and realized/remembered that the Roosevelt entrance off of Central Park West leaves you on the 2nd floor, not the 1st.

And then I got there. The Hall of Minerals in all of its old, dark, strangely dirty glory.

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I don’t know why I love it so much. There is, of course, my general affection for Earth Science; in an alternate reality, there is absolutely the version of me who studies minerals–who’s extremely happy with and vocal about his totally lame love of all rocks.

There is also my fascination with worlds we don’t see–chemical reactions and ancient processes in places we’ll never know. Atoms forming into unit cells. It’s terrifying and beautiful to think that something like rutilated quartz just… happens. A slow, deliberate, silent process.

… But there’s a really good chance I just love it because it’s the least popular part of the Museum of Natural History with the most seating. It’s dark. It’s really plain. The floor is rugs; in fact, nearly everything, with the exception of the minerals and their cases, is rugs. The (poorly depicted above) amphitheater where I set up shop? Also rugs. Rugs that are as strangely dirty as the display cases featuring softer minerals–the ones wilting into powder and wafting down into unseemly deposits.

I love it. It’s so dysfunctional. How could I not love it?

I entered, took in the nostalgia, sat down to write but found myself distracted by the extremely nerdy audio prompts explaining the displays in the amphitheater, and wound up taking some time to view the rest of the exhibit and read. It did not come close to the near-total failure of Day 12 in the Botanical Gardens, but that’s probably because–again–I wasn’t pressed for time. I believe I had four guaranteed hours of freedom and relative quiet in the Hall of Minerals.

And there I worked on the scene I’ve been struggling with… and managed to work it out–managed to tame it into a full, provocative gateway to the novel’s endgame. The beginning of its Conclusion. It took a few hours, but with water fountains and restrooms just a short walk away, I could’ve pressed myself to write more. I didn’t, however, having just fixed the total mess that came from forcing yesterday’s session.

Instead, I packed up, decided against viewing the rest of the museum in favor of coming home, brainstorming (successfully) on the train, writing this post, and getting to work. I still had a bit of time before the museum closed, but today, like the rest of the month, was not about idle browsing. It wasn’t about taking time for simple entertainment.

Today was the start of the end. The acceptance of the schedule and the wherewithal to handle its many conflicting parts. Today was the beginning of making this writing thing work. The beginning of a slow, deliberate, silent process.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 16: A Great Imbalance

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.16.14Where I Wrote: Pelham Parkway, just off of White Plains Rd. in the Bronx.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Strange. Exhausted. The bad news: Today was the very first time I wrote something super hurriedly and then got stuck because it came out completely wrong. The good news: I know exactly how to fix it and I fully intend to actually cheat a little tonight (I didn’t last night) and at least get what I wrote in order (literally–I very quickly wrote a few segments of a single event in a bizarre order and need to adjust it). All of that said, I’m genuinely surprised that I met my quota for the day.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Anxious and reluctant, unfortunately. I’ve had my days when I needed extra time for work, but today was probably the most intense. I really didn’t want to stay in the Bronx today or, at the very least, I wanted to visit a slightly more interesting part of it (although Pelham Parkway turned out to be pleasant), but I just couldn’t take a chance on work hours tonight (and I’m glad I didn’t).

The Experience: Today was a stern lesson on balancing my time.

I’ve always known it was a struggle to juggle work and writing. It’s probably the primary struggle of writing–at the very least, it’s in the same pantheon of Writer Struggles as Motivational Problems and Writer’s Block. Typically, you go to work, come home, and you’re too tired to write. I was all about this problem for years.

Of course, now I have a way more flexible job. So, why the trouble? NaNoWriMo. I don’t want to antagonize the challenge at all, so I’ll specify that the trouble has been my inability to balance NaNoWriMo with work. In the Work VS Writing power struggle, NaNoWriMo has clearly won in a totally backwards way; now I go out every day, put in a surprisingly constant amount of hours at my tablet, punch out when my brain tells me I’ve put in enough work, and then come home too tired to work work. At least too tired to work well (my job is really, really intense about performance evaluation).

Today was the tipping point for that problem. It’s been too easy to think, “I’ll put in more/some hours tomorrow,” every day until I reach days like today, when I get up, look at the time, and realize, Fuck… I seriously can’t go to Manhattan again.

Particularly bad because, in truth, I didn’t even want to go to Pelham Parkway, a place where I have truly ancient memories and little else.

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It’s not that it isn’t nice; it’s actually pleasant–maybe even pretty for an expanse of greenery lined with roads. It’s not that there aren’t places to purchase coffee, but it is one of those strange places between places; I’ve rode through countless times on my way to different schools, hospitals, shopping centers. Probably any other mundane location I could possibly think of. And, like Loreto Playground from Day 10, it’s surrounded by residential areas, meaning there are no public restrooms there. It is, I suppose I could say, totally unremarkable. A last ditch choice on a day when I wish I had more time for anywhere else.

Somehow, I managed to knock out my quota at these benches and another a block or two away, where two lone tables caught every cold breeze that came off of the cars driving past. In summer, perhaps, this place would be fantastic. But today, it was cold and distracting. I was able to get a lot of words down, but they were massively flawed and demand instant attention or I’m in danger of forgetting a small, pivotal details of their fix.

All of this because I had to rush. Because I didn’t balance writing and work. I don’t want to go on about this, but I give it so much weight here because I officially can’t say, “I’ll go somewhere in the Bronx then!” ever again. I have not run out of locations in Manhattan, but the only three options I have left in the Bronx are wildly time-based; I will need to be up early and spend a full day at all three (likely), and of those three, I only actually want to write at one of them.

That means I absolutely must balance things out. I have to get into the groove of the Everwork, an uncomfortable, video game-less place where I constantly remind myself, “Bills are coming.”

Which means that next week is going to be all about the balance–another facet of the challenge tacked on. I don’t know if it’s writing about it here or the fact that I’m working this out for NaNoWriMo and Memory’s sake, but no matter what it is…

… I’m feeling preeeetty sure I can kick this challenge’s ass.

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 14: The Diner Challenge

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.14.14Where I Wrote: The worst diner in my neighborhood.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Not bad. There was a bit of pressure today; I had a lot I had to take care of (thus my taking a personal challenge I’d never even considered for NaNoWriMo), so I was a little rushed, but that didn’t translate into tearing through 1667 words in the short time I had. Instead, I made sure that what I got down worked and I stopped the moment I hit a set piece I’d missed with my brainstorming. At that point, I was anxious to get to other responsibilities I had today anyway.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Almost the instant yesterday’s session was over, I knew where to take today’s session. It was one of the rare cases when only a moment of brainstorming yielded the next plot point. I sat down super ready to go.

The Experience: I have a serious fear of making people uncomfortable.

It’s tied directly to how uneasy it makes me to ask for favors. The reason’s pretty personal, but I grew up with a special hate for feeling like a burden.

So there are certain things that I hate doing to people in public. For one, there’s taking pictures that people happen to be in; I’ve briefly mentioned not taking pictures of writing spots because there were too many people there. At the Pine Tree Cafe in the Botanical Gardens, I tried to take a few pictures from my seat, but in the very first one, I caught a guy just as he was slurping up some soup, eyes directly on me with a look that dripped, “Seriously?” I must’ve chanted, “Nope nope nope,” for a good ten seconds as I deleted it, put my tablet down, and honestly tried to convince myself that I hadn’t been taking pictures–really.

So, what does this have to do with today? Well, I woke up at a good hour, but, more than any other day of NaNoWriMo, today was just… jam-packed with time-devouring responsibilities. First, there was NaNoWriMo, usually a block of about six hours on my daily schedule. Then, there was a need to put in more hours at work, a task requiring, in my mind, literally all the time that I could possibly devote to it (I’m working as I write this). But, on top of all of that, there was also the modifier of a planned gaming session that I really wish I’d known would fall through (although I got back the hours I thought I’d lose to that, so I can’t really complain, I suppose).

So, knowing all of this–waking up needing a solution–I tried to think of where I could write that would save me at least three hours. That meant Manhattan was out, which didn’t help because other spots I considered in the Bronx were far enough away that picking them still wouldn’t free up enough time.

The solution finally came when I thought of a spot I actually wanted to go to that also wasn’t far away; a diner that recently opened here in the Bronx. It was enticing, but then I thought, maybe that would be really awkward and unproductive? I mean, the wait staff would see me writing and want me out of their section. I’d feel like such a burden. Gah. Could I do that? Could I even write in a diner?

Ohhhhhhh… Yep. Yep, that’s it.

The Diner Challenge is what I named it. The noise, the wait staff that’s either so pleasant that they don’t stop talking or so stand-off-ish that you can tell they’re trying to psychically will you to leave. There was also the matter of possible televisions, the guaranteed jabber of radios, the need to order and the distracting food directly in your face. By the time I left my apartment, I was oddly excited, even though I chose the worst diner in my neighborhood (to save more time and because it felt more appropriate for the challenge somehow).

When I got there, the awkwardness, though slow to arrive, was very constant once it did. It was not the television or the radio. Not the wait staff’s outdoor-voice rapport with the kitchen staff. Somehow, loud talking and noise are old distractions, easily defeated now unless they’re truly obnoxious.

No, the awkwardness arrived when I realized that they thought I was a food critic–or possibly a health inspector. I don’t know if it’s because I was alone or because of the tablet. There’s a good chance it was just because of the clear, accent-less enunciation that confuses everyone (“Are you Paki, my friend?” I’ve gotten. Also, “You from the Islands, man?” No. No, I probably don’t even know what islands you’re talking about).

Regardless, they were way, way more attentive than they ever have been at that diner. This I did not expect, making it way more awkward than I’d expected.

But I still persevered–still ordered my food and eventually got over the reflex to just keep watching them watch me watch my tablet screen. Eventually, I shifted my coffee to the side and started working.

And then jumped when my waitress told me, literally, “Okay! Time to stop working!” as she brought my food over. And then asked, “Is that work? Are you working?”

“No,” I said. And then, with what I’m sure wasn’t a convincingly innocent fear in my eyes, I added, “I’m just writing.” The moment I said it, I realized it wouldn’t help matters at all.

Still, I went back to my story. Slowly worked through my need to just eat the french fries right in front of me (they were so good), and got back to working on my story. I did, in fact, change the description of yesterday’s set piece and then went on to write a few pages that felt extremely natural. So natural that they changed the course of the plot very slightly and led to the next set piece a little earlier than intend–

“Do you need wi-fi?” It was the owner.

I almost asked a confused, “What?” in reply, but I rallied. “No, thank you. I’m good.”

The owner went on to explain that they had wi-fi, me sitting there, nodding and cringing inside. I wanted to say, “I promise I’m not here to rate your amenities.” Instead I wound up confessing, “No, I’m just writing a novel,” with enough manufactured calm that it only made me sound like slightly less of a douche bag.

But, at that point, the danger was gone. The owner added a convincing, “You can stay as long as you like, buddy,” but my waitress never again asked if I needed anything. It allowed me to finish up–to get to a point when I was sure it was better to stop for quality and responsibility’s sakes (some time after my waitress idly wiped down a part of my table while I was still sitting there).

The verdict: diners, at least for me, will probably always be too awkward to write in. Maybe I’ll try again after NaNoWriMo–I’ve definitely been determined to challenge my defeats when it comes to writing lately. But I’m… pretty sure diners will remain as spots that are only good for hammering out quick emails.

Unless there’s some kind of… writer… friendly diner?

Excuse me. I must google a thing.