Sorry for the lateness of your Monday Jack Attack. He looked sad yesterday, but he’s downright depressed today- his dad’s away this week. Soooo sad.
Sad enough to travel back in time and make you feel better about your own Monday? Perhaps.
Sorry for the lateness of your Monday Jack Attack. He looked sad yesterday, but he’s downright depressed today- his dad’s away this week. Soooo sad.
Sad enough to travel back in time and make you feel better about your own Monday? Perhaps.
No time for a big post today (I know, such a shame, right?). There was no post on Tuesday because we were on our way home from St John’s, where my son had a hospital dentist appointment, but I’m still going to try to stick with a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday posting schedule. We’ll see how that goes next month…
But for today, Halloween! Not really, but I found our decorations yesterday, which was pretty exciting. We don’t decorate a lot, but I like what we’ve got- especially my ponies.
I made Pooka Pie and her baby… Last year? I think? So hard to remember. They don’t live on my shelf like my other customs- it feels more special when you only get to see holiday stuff for part of the year.
I’d show you the rest of the Halloween, but our weather here today is downright spooky, meaning no good light for pictures. This is close enough:
That was yesterday. There’s not much more… Sad, really. No lights, no gravestones, no spider webs (aside from the ones I should really be cleaning up in the basement). Call it a work in progress.
There was a time when all November meant for me was thinking about Christmas shopping and being jealous of American Thanksgiving- not because ours isn’t amazing, but because we spend it too early and have nothing festive to do in November. November is cold. November is grey. November is frigging depressing.
I wish I could remember when I first came across the term NaNoWriMo. I’m sure it sounded mysterious, and that I had no idea what it meant, but that’s all I remember. That, and looking it up and going “OMG I AM SO DOING THIS.”
You see, National (international, really, but I’m not going to nit-pick) Novel Writing Month was exactly what I needed. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a brand spanking new novel in a month. You can have that be the end, though that would be an extremely short novel, or keep going right off of the end of that diving board into what for me turned into 99,000+ words at last count. They don’t have to be 50,000 GOOD words, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. Some people don’t see the point of writing 50,000 words that are just going to need to be re-written in December. I absolutely agree. I see no point in writing 2,000 word descriptions of what’s in a character’s pockets. But let me tell you why it was and is so important for me.
think know I’ve mentioned my perfectionistic tendencies before. I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time–since first grade, actually, when I got a taste of the magic that was in-school publishing. The problem is that perfectionism isn’t a gentle voice whispering in your ear, “you can do better, I know you can! Let’s do this, let’s revise this, let’s make this amazing!”
No, perfectionism is a horrible bitch who sits there filing her nails and laughing at you for trying. She sneers at your efforts and says, “Really? That’s the best you can do? That’s not good enough.” Worse, she adds, “You know, if you can’t do it perfectly the first time, you shouldn’t bother trying. What’s the point?”
This led to a string of abandoned attempts at stories and novels. Even when I liked them, Perfectionism was there laughing at me as she sat there drinking something pink that contained enough alcohol to fell a sperm whale, telling me that it didn’t matter. I wasn’t old enough, experienced enough, or GOOD enough for my work to have value. A smarter person might have realized that you can’t just wait to be good enough, you have to work for it. I, however, decided that my work was worthless because it wasn’t brilliant or awe-inspiring, and I gave up. I never got more than two chapters into a novel before it got tossed for not being good enough, or before my internal editor (not the mortal enemy that Perfectionism is, but she gets in the way a lot) started suggesting that we make some changes before we moved on. And then a few more. Between Perfectionism on one shoulder and The Editor on the other, I was completely stuck.
And then came NaNoWriMo, which gave me permission to tell those two broads to shove off for exactly 30 days.
The goal of NaNowriMo, as I’ve said, is not perfection, so Perfectionism wasn’t allowed to say anything about it. The goal was (and is) to get the damned story out where I could see it. I could promise my internal editor that at the end of the month she could lose her sh*t on 50,000 words and revise to her heart’s content. It wasn’t a no, just a not now. She agreed (if somewhat grudgingly) to bugger off for 30 days. I still don’t know where she went. I know she came back to check up on me a few times, but for most of that month she left me alone.
The word count goal was important, too. 50,000 words. 1,667 words a day for 30 days. It’s a big goal, but it’s a short one. I could give myself permission to do that, or at least to try, and if it wasn’t great or perfect, so what? It was an experiment. An experience. It was fun and crazy, and it was permission to let my imagination go absolutely bonkers without worrying about the end result.
And what was that end result? If I recall correctly, it was 55,000 words, which I lost about a month later in a software-related accident that I’d rather not discuss. But here’s the beauty part: it didn’t matter. Well, it mattered at the time, when I was screaming and cursing and crying, but I’d learned something that helped me move on.
I’d learned that I could do it.
I had the story in my head, and I’d written a good chunk of it once. There was nothing that was going to stop me from doing it again, and it was better the second time. My subconscious chewed at that plot for months, frequently checking in with the conscious mind for opinions, but mainly just churning away at night, when I was out walking, when I was on long drives. My characters fleshed themselves out in my mind, and there were some massive shifts in every aspect of that story. The words flowed more easily the second time, and I got another 20,000 or so words down before Camp NaNo opened in August. And then I gave myself permission to get another 50,000 out that month. And then I finished the story.
And oh my stars, that feeling I got when it was DONE.
Of course, it wasn’t done. It was far from done. I still had to put it aside and let it breathe for about 6 weeks, then let my internal editor have a crack at it (and boy, was she PISSED about how long it had taken). And then… well, all of the ripping apart, the revising, the things that were cut and the parts that were grafted in to make a monster that then needed serious plastic surgery from Ms Editor… that’s another story that you probably have no interest in hearing. But that’s how it goes, and that’s part of the fun. Part of the magic.
NaNoWriMo taught me that you can’t edit what’s not there, that it’s OK to make mistakes, and that I could give myself permission to just write for the joy of it, not because I had to produce perfection. I will never produce perfection. But I made a world, a story, and characters that I’m proud to say are mine.
In two years I’ve gone from someone who could barely write a page without despairing over its deficiencies to someone who wrote a damned novel. Not a published novel; maybe not a great novel. But there’s value in the doing of the thing, in the process of creating and imagining and solving the problems that become visible after every read-through.
So here I go again. I’m letting a few people read the first book (they won’t all finish it, but that’s OK), and I’m ready to continue the story. I will give myself permission to take the time I need to get 2,000+ words out every day, knowing that at the end of the month I’ll be on my way to… more revisions. Yaaay.
BONUS FEATURES (NaNo’s, not mine)
The 50,000 words of not-perfection isn’t all of it. I just didn’t want to drag this thing on for too long. If you’re interested in giving it a shot, there’s also the forums to consider, where thousands of people from all over the world meet to talk about their books, to share their triumphs and commiserate over the hard times. There are places on the forums to find help when you’re stuck, to ask what the airspeed of an unladen European swallow is, or to find a name for that character who just won’t tell you. If you want to find other people who are writing erotic zombie literary fiction kind of like you are, or just to kill some time between bursts of brilliance (or not), the forums are your place. There are people there who want to be your writing buddies, who will give you a good swift kick in the pants when you need it. There are the winner’s goodies: a nifty printable certificate and discounts from various sponsors. And there are the pep talks from authors. I still have the one from Lemony Snickett saved in my e-mail because I loved it so much.
And did I mention it’s free?
For someone else’s reasons why you might want to try it (ie- not my reasons for thinking it’s super duper), here’s a blog post that’s not mine. You’re welcome.
I love words. I particularly love the English language, which seems to have developed by cheerfully pillaging other languages and stealing whatever shiny trinkets struck (and strike) its fancy. You can’t argue with that method.
Along the way, English has picked up or created some gems that I find particularly delightful- not for their meanings, but because they sound good, feel good in my mouth, or just make me happy. Words like:
Best word ever? Onomatopotamus (a water-dwelling mammal that’s spelled like it sounds)**
But then there’s the other list. The words that, when I say them, make me feel like I’m chewing on a piece of cheap sweater yarn (if you don’t know what I mean, think fingernails on a chalkboard, but with synthetic fuzz stuck between your teeth). Some people think I’m nuts for cringing when I say:
Just reading that list makes me squirm. And not in a good way.
Again, it’s not for the meaning; most of these have synonyms that I find perfectly acceptable. Some people think I’m being irrational. They don’t understand how “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” can be one of my favourite Christmas carols and also my least favourite, just because I have to say, “offspring of a virgin’s hrmrnrm.” Ugh. Womb. Woooouuumb. Ack.
You may wonder where I’m going with this. I’m sorry to say that the answer is “nowhere.” I just wanted to get that out there, and to ask whether anyone would like to share favourite words in the comments, or the ones that make you vomit (which is a commonly gagged-on word. Sorry).
Oh, and “virgin?” You’re going on the list, too. I forgot how much I hate you.
“Offspring of a vhrmrn’s hrmrnrm.” It’s going to be a good Christmas.
So let’s have it! Show me the words that make you smile, and the ones you keep locked in a dungeon at the bottom of your vocabulary because you can’t say (or perhaps type) them without gagging.
*which gets bonus points for sounding kind of dirty if you don’t know what it means. Try it: “I defenestrated a cheerleader last weekend.” See? Works both ways.
**May not be a real word. I’m looking into it.
I think I’m going to do this as a regular thing. Why? Because this dog has bad a case of the Mondays permanently etched onto his face. If looking at this doesn’t make you feel better about your own Monday, I’m afraid there’s nothing else I can do to help you.
Happy Monday, everyone!
In the spring, I fall in love with green.
Well, maybe that’s not the right term. I always love green. It’s my favourite colour. But in the spring, what I feel for green borders on lust. I hold my breath waiting for the first tiny leaves to appear on the trees, and when they all open up, I get drunk on the colour. It makes me giddy.
By July, though, I’m like, “Yeah, green. Green’s great.” I still love it, but that thrill’s gone. In August I realize that I’m in the mood for something more autumnal.
In the autumn, my list of favourite trees gets switched around (you all have one of those, right?). Aspens top the list in the summer, just for the way their leaves twinkle in the slightest breeze. Other leaves blow or rustle or flap. Aspen leaves FREAKING TWINKLE. It’s like magic, I swear. Looks like a huge flock of green butterflies are clinging to the branches. Come fall, though, maples top the list. When the first hints of red start lighting up the tips of their branches and the inner leaves are still green, I can’t think of any plant that’s more beautiful. And then they turn that deep crimson, and some of them go to burgundy… Gets me every time.
^Early autumn aspens (and some other trees)
^The only red tree I could find on my walk this morning.
Birches are number two year-round. They’re just so pretty with their black-scarred white trunks and that perfect green on their leaves. In the fall they turn the most incredible shade of yellow, bright and warm and so amazing against a blue sky.
I have no picture of a birch. I’ll have to fix that. (Seriously, where my birches at?)
I choose to believe that my changing preferences aren’t a sign of fickleness, but of an appreciation for the beauty and novelty that nature provides… because otherwise I’m just cheating on my favourite colour, and that’s just not cool.
Hi there. I don’t know who you are. You might be a friend of mine, in which case you already know a lot of what I’m going to say today, at least in the first half. I promise I’m going somewhere current with this, not just rehashing old complaints; stay with me if you’ve heard this one. You might be a complete stranger; if you are, I hope you won’t think I’m a Debbie Downer when this is done. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled random crap ASAP.
Why do I say all of that? Because I care way too much about what people think of me. Even if I haven’t met you, I don’t want you thinking that I’m depressing, stupid, or God forbid, dull. Why does it matter to me? If I knew that and could fix it, I think it would solve a lot of my problems- at least the ones that fall under the bold, capitalized, underlined headline of capital-D DEPRESSION. (No underline? Really, WordPress?)
Depression. An old enemy, but one that’s been a part of me for so long that I don’t know who I am without it. You could say it started about ten years ago, when I went from an incredible academic record (if I may say so) in my first year of university to having to leave in November of my second year because I was forgetting to go to classes, I couldn’t remember a damned thing I learned, I was tired all of the time, and I didn’t know why I was constantly crying over nothing. Because I was failing (except for English and Philosophy… go figure). But it goes back farther than that. It goes back to perfectionist tendencies it seems I was born with. Even when I was a child, I never wanted to try something if I didn’t know I could do it right the first time. I never crawled. I didn’t say my first word until I could say it clearly and be understood (“shadow,” if you’re wondering). I didn’t ride a bike until I was eight because… well, you get the picture.
And I’m hard on myself. All of the self-esteem lessons in the world could never be enough to drown out that recording that plays on a constant loop in the back of my mind: That’s not good enough. You’re not good enough. Why do you even bother trying? If you show that to anyone, they’ll know that you can’t do it. If you try, you will fail, and you will never get another chance. You will feel terrible; you will be rejected. Just forget about it.*
It’s a lot to fight against. Now, whether that voice is what causes depression or whether the chemical imbalance in my brain changes my perceptions just enough to let that in, I don’t know. But I think that most (if not all) of us capital-D Depression sufferers have that voice in our minds, in one form or another. If you’re reading this and you can say, “Well, get over it, ignore the voice, tell yourself something positive,” I envy you, and I hope you never know what I’m talking about.
There’s more to it, of course. SO much more fun stuff! Insomnia for some unlucky folks; something called non-restorative sleep if you’re like me. The experience of knowing what Atreyu and Artax felt in the Swamps of Sadness, having despair sucking at your feet and sticking to your body, fearing that you’ll go under- because some of us do.** Not knowing why any of it’s happening, thinking that you should be able to just throw it off like a moth-eaten mental overcoat and trade it for something a bit snazzier. The shame that still lingers in telling people that you’re on antidepressants, hearing the “happy pill” and Prozac jokes. Those are great.
Yeah, about those happy pills. There’s a reason so many people go off of them, only to crash back to a level lower than they were experiencing before. Those pills that can help so much, especially while you’re learning other ways to deal with the negative thoughts, can cause side effects that are as bad as the disease. I was on one that made me crave carbohydrates to the point where I gained 10 pounds (er… maybe 15). The next one made me fall into an anesthesia-like sleep thirty minutes after I took it, but it helped… until it suddenly stopped helping, and everything fell apart again. The third attempt (because it’s really no better than a trial-and-error process) helped so much that I was on it for a few years. Sure it made me emotionally flat (not great when you’re having babies, but pregnancy made everything worse- a story for another day) and nearly ruined my marriage because I had negative interest in… well, it was bad. The fourth one, though, this seems to be the one that works for me, and I’m trying to get down to a low dose.
Am I happy all of the time? Absolutely not. But I can laugh again, and I can cry when it’s appropriate. My imagination is back, and I can write again- and that’s important. Writing lets me accomplish something, lets me have that thrill that I only get from reading over something that I wrote and actually being able to say, “you know what? That’s good stuff right there.” It took me two years, but there’s a finished novel in this computer (and on a USB drive- I’m not stupid). It’s been written, ripped apart, revised, re-written, re-read, edited and polished until it was ready to show people. The fact that I’ve stuck with it and accomplished a big project based on no motivation but what comes from inside of me makes me more proud of myself than I ever was getting A’s in school. Because that was easy, until it became impossible. This was not easy.
Writing helps fight back the thoughts that ask me why I’m bothering. When I’m lost in my own world, I don’t hear them so clearly. When I’m editing and solving problems all by myself, I can tell them to shove off and let me do my work. … but now it’s done, and making a decision about what to do with it has brought the downer demons screaming back into my head, making up for lost time as they pick at my brain like hideous monkeys searching for positive thoughts to eat. Just letting people read what I created was a huge thing for me; it shouldn’t be so, but letting people judge my work feels like letting them judge me.*** I’ve had a very positive response from the first person who read the whole thing; I don’t expect that they’ll all be like that, but it was a good way to start.
But do I leave it at that, or (when I’m sure that this thing is the best it can be), do I try to take it further? Writing a query letter is proving to be a huge challenge, and the voices keep whispering that it has to be perfect; it’s my only shot. And they’re not entirely wrong, at least for this one book. Agents and editors are insanely busy, and they don’t owe me their time or attention.
The risk of rejection (of my work, not me, but it’s so difficult to remember that) is huge. But if I don’t do it, what happens? Well, I get to go back to my wonderful world to write the next book; I’ll do that no matter what happens. But to stick my baby, this thing that I’ve nurtured and tended and shaped and pruned (oh, the cutting that there has been!) in a drawer isn’t an appealing prospect. Worse is the thought that I’ll never know, that I’ll look back at the end of my life and go, “you know, I wish I’d at least tried. I could have done something great.”
You know, writing this has helped a lot. Remembering the swamps of sadness wasn’t pleasant, especially given the emotional rollercoaster I’m on right now (“This book is awesome! No, it sucks! But somebody loved it! But there’s no way anyone else will…”). I just need to decide whether my fear of rejection is greater than my fear of regret.
And I’m laughing at myself right now. One of the main characters in my story has to decide whether she’s going to take a risk, step out of her comfort zone, and chase her dreams. Maybe I just need to follow her lead.****
*For anyone who’s not familiar with cognitive behavioural therapy, I’ll add that just being able to name those thoughts, to identify them and separate them from the murky waters they swim in is a HUGE thing. You can’t fight what you can’t see; when you see those thoughts for what they are, you can start to argue with them. Best thing I’ve learned from all of this.
**If you’ve never seen The Neverending Story… I don’t even know what to say about that. Go get it. Now. Go.
***I suspect that not feeling this way is part of developing the “thick skin” that people talk about; I’m working on it.
****Footnotes are super fun, aren’t they?
OK, trying out the WordPress app on my phone… We’ll see how this goes.
The combination of late summer and torrential rain left our local forests polka-dotted with mushrooms a few weeks ago. Did I take pictures? You bet I did! I had two kids pointing out every fungal formation we passed on an hour-long walk and asking for a photographic record of these weird little not-critters.
Do I know what any of them are? Nope. I just know we’re not eating them. Mushrooms are nature’s paint chips. It might not hurt you, but why take the risk? Also, it’ll probably taste terrible either way.
To the photos!
This looks oddly like Newfoundland, if Newfoundland was made of pancake:
Purple. Crazy, man:
Nice colour, but is totally going to eat you:
Lichen (because we’re equal opportunity) and some wee ‘shrooms:
How does this NOT have a fairy sitting on it?
Not fungus, just a pretty little spot beside the path. I love finding things like this:
Looks like a candy bowl:
Yeah, I think I’m done with captions for now…
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