Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Bad Day

    What makes a bad day?
    Clearly, death of a loved one makes the list, so let's just go past the major, life-changing bad days and go straight to everyday run-of-the-mill bad days that years later you can look back and laugh about. Ha. Ha. Heh.
    Many years ago, a very famous actor was considering running for governor of California. No, not that one. This was before the word Governator entered my lexicon. (Hint: It was Warren Beatty). It was my first day in a new office and Warren Beatty called looking to talk to a hot shot political reporter and when I went to tell him that there was a call for him, hot shot political reporter waved me away because he was on the phone with someone Very Important. That guy was a bit of a diva. Anyway, I went back to the phone, told Warren Beatty that Hot Shot Reporter couldn’t take his call, then when I went to transfer him to voicemail, I hung up on him.
    I hung up on Warren Beatty. On my first day at a new job.
    That was a bad day.
    I think Warren may have been having a bad day, too, because apparently he had just tried to call the Washington D.C. branch of our organization to talk to a national big deal political reporter, but was put on hold indefinitely, so that’s how he ended up in my incompetent hands.
    More recently, I had a bad birthday, which sucked extra hard. It was one of those birthdays with a zero attached (Hint: I am not saying which one). I had raging PMS, a big deadline at work, I jumped an age category on most surveys to a range that should include my mother, not me. At one point, I walked into the copy room and stepped on a piece of paper and my foot shot out in front of me. My first thought: “Good Lord, don’t break a hip.”
    Then, the kicker. My husband forgot my birthday. So I didn’t get any presents.
    “But you said you didn’t want a birthday party,” my husband said. “I thought that meant you didn’t want presents, either.”
    “Why would you think that? Of course I want presents. Presents make everything better.”
    And that’s how I ended up with a Kindle.
    Wait, how did I get here? Oh, right, bad days.
    This topic came to mind because I’m writing a novella that starts with my heroine having a bad day. As she sits in a holding cell at the county courthouse (never a sign of a good day), she compares this to other bad days:
     This was possibly the worst day of her life, Lindsey thought. Worse than the time she got pulled over on the way to her brother’s wedding and had to do a sobriety test on the side of the road while wearing a bridesmaids dress.
     Worse than the time she accidentally gave her boss a peanut-laced cookie and he swelled up like a parade float and had to be revived by paramedics in the middle of the newsroom.
     Even worse than the time she went out on a date with that lawyer who talked about his job all night, even though she was clearly trying to hear what that sleazy lobbyist was promising the mayor, and then didn’t ever call her again, even though the kissing portion of their date was fairly spectacular. Objectively speaking, she had to admit that it was a terrible date. She probably wouldn’t have called her, if their situations were reversed. Except for that part in the car. That was definitely worth a phone call.
     She didn’t expect to see Ben Gillespie ever again, but especially not under these circumstances. Not locked in a cell, waiting to face an angry judge.    
    I have to say, it was really fun to come up with other people’s bad days. So, have you had a bad day recently? What happened to make it so bad? Fender-bender? Ripped pants? Trip going up stairs? Flat tire? And how long did it take you to laugh about it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Big Awake

    Insomnia is fun, isn’t it? Those of us who cannot shut off our brains get that extra four hours of a day. The house is quiet and dark and peaceful. It would be a perfect time to drift off to sleep, but the insomniac's brain is going full throttle, reliving perceived slights, a mortifying social faux pas, or pondering a Big Question.
    That question is, of course, “Can you give a dog Bean-o?"

Who, me? 
    Well, sometimes that's the question keeping me awake. Other times it’s questions about work (“What was that deadline?” or “Did I sign that before it got filed?”); family (“How is she ever going to get out from under that horrible mortgage?”); or just general worries over things one cannot control (“Ebola!”).
    Sometimes, the things that keep me awake are fun. Recently, it was a title. The title jumped into my mind and I immediately came up with an opening scene and then the next one and then… I got out of bed and wrote a couple thousand words. It’s unusual for me to come up with a title first, because I usually just slap a working title that consists of a character's name on a WIP until something happens to change my mind. I know from seasoned professionals not to get too attached to any title I put on a story because it’s likely to get changed.
    But I do hope that my middle-of-the-night title stays, because it still makes me laugh.In fact, as I wrote the opening scene, I found myself giggling a little. Even after I finally went back to bed, I was still happy and looking forward to discovering what trouble my characters were going to get into next. I don't mind sleepless nights like that, at all.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Got Nothin'

Well, nothing to write about anyway. But thanks to the UPS man, I do have these:

It's love, I tell you. L-O-V-E.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Writing Faster by Slowing Down

I write fast. Well, I write fast when I write. It comes from working on deadline as a reporter for several years, an impatient editor sending me increasingly annoyed instant messages while I organized my paragraphs, added quotes, and lastly, wrote a lede. (Yes, that's spelled l-e-d-e. I don't know why.)
My day job now requires a lot of writing and I still write fast, according to my colleagues, but nowhere near as fast as I used to be able to crank out the wordcount. I think it's more of a steady pace, but not nearly at the speed that used to be required of me.
But when it comes to writing that I do for myself, the fiction writing, I am more likely to write in bursts. Part of this is just my schedule. I usually only have time to write on the weekends, so I try and get as much done as I can. If I write during the week, before or after work, it's most likely to be just a couple hundred words -- if I'm lucky.
So this article, How to write faster, was of great interest to me. In particular, I identified with this passage:
One also finds dreadful confirmation of one's worst habits: "Binge writing—hypomanic, euphoric marathon sessions to meet unrealistic deadlines—is generally counterproductive and potentially a source of depression and blocking," sums up the work of Robert Boice.
Well, hell. That pretty much describes my modus operandi. And explains quite a bit about why I have so many half-finished works-in-progress taunting me from my hard drive. I'm at that last stage, depression and blocking, right now. I took a two week vacation and wrote nearly 30,000 words on two different projects. That's a lot of words. Since I returned to work, though, I've written very little.
The solution, as the article points out, is exactly as I feared -- the literary equivalent of "eat less, exercise more":
Alas, the cognitive literature offers no easy solutions. The same formula appears: "Self-regulation through daily writing, brief work sessions, realistic deadlines, and maintaining low emotional arousal." My old enemy, self-regulation. We meet again.
I started to think about what gets me writing. If I leave the house to write, such as taking my laptop to my favorite coffee shop, I will write. If I read my critique partner's work, I usually get inspired to write. When I get back a critiqued chapter, I'm inspired to write.
Since I just submitted my latest critique to my CP, and I have the day to myself, I am feeling inspired. If you need me, I'll be at the coffee shop with my laptop. And in the back of my mind, I will be thinking about developing a daily writing habit.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Please Allow Myself to Introduce...Myself

I did not abandon my blog only a week after I started it. Honest. I just haven't decided yet what to talk about here. I have thoughts and opinions (oh, do I have opinions). But since I'm basically talking to myself at this point, I haven't yet decided what sort of dialog I'll be having with myself.
So, until I decide, here's a photo from a trip to Mexico several years ago.