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.

11.16.14-WhereIWrote

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 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.

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?