Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Big Plan For 2016

I'm too tired to talk about 2015. I was too tired to do half the things I wanted to do this year, including blog more. *eyes archive shamefully* When all is said and done, though, things were pretty okay, and somehow I was able to make a good amount of progress on the writing front.

I've been planning for 2016 for most of 2015, but I've spent the past few days working out a firmer timeline of what I want to do from month to month. Theoretically, this will be enough to dodge the curse of the New Year's Resolution. This is more concrete than "Gee, it sure would be great if I..." sort of pseudo-goals we often set for ourselves this time of year.

2016 is going to be year I begin the querying process. I got a little twist in my stomach when I typed that and I'm pretty sure it wasn't because of the chili I had for lunch. A couple of things need to happen before I start the agent hunt in earnest though.

Mid-January should be enough time to finish the draft I'm working on. There are only about 6 chapters left to look over, and most of them are at the polishing stage, unlike some chapters that I've had to gut/cut/rearrange. (It's been a violent process this time around.) From where I'm sitting it's hard to tell if I'm actually, finally getting this project to match what I first envisioned 4 years ago, or if I'm just getting sick of the thing and my standards are lowering. It's probably a bit of both. This might not be the magnum opus I initially dreamed of, but I won't feel like a shark charging people money for the privilege of reading it.

Then its off to betas. I will resist the urge to eat my own hands while rocking in the corner until I hear from them, and instead revise a short story I've left alone for about 2 months. Between that and getting the synopsis ready (query is good to go), that should keep me occupied until March.

Barring any glaring issues, I'll only need a month to work through beta feedback. We're entering the slow months at work, but historically February-May are the worst for my brain. Here's hoping most of my energy can go toward attacking the manuscript instead of using it all up on basic things like feeding myself and showering.

April is when I'll start sending queries. From here the timeline gets a little wobblier, but I'm anticipating a lot of waiting, followed by my first rejections. It's a real milestone in a writer's career. Maybe I'll frame them. Once again, it becomes about staying busy to stay sane, so I plan to bounce between drafting Book Two, outlining Three, and putting together at least two more short stories before the end of the year.

I'd love to have a handful of stories in various magazines before Book One is on the shelves. Long term goal is to have enough shorts plus a novelette to one day package as a collection once the rights revert back to me. All of them are set in the same world as the novel series, with an even mix of familiar characters, locations, and conflicts, plus some entirely new stuff. This is a big world with a lot going on. I can cover my eyes and point to a spot on the map, and odds are there's a story lurking there.

As exhausting as 2015 was, I feel like I've really solidified what I want to accomplish writing-wise. It's feeling more and more like an actual plan, instead of a faraway future I daydream about over tea.

Let's do this.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Observation #4

Observation #4:

One of the worst things about long-term depression, especially when compounded by anxiety, is how hard it makes it to be a decent friend, relative, and spouse. When so many internal resources are used up simply by getting out of bed and trying to get through what needs to be done for the day, very little is left for being emotionally available to people.

I hate how infrequently I reach out to the ones I care about. How much effort it takes to respond to an email or a Facebook message, maintain a phone conversation, or even ask someone, in all sincerity, how they're really feeling that day. I count on people to initiate contact, because it probably won't happen otherwise, and I wonder how much longer they'll put up with always being the one to make the first move. How much longer before they're tired of it.

I'm not sure about this God business, but my faith in the existence of the soul remains strong, and I feel I have a moral obligation to be a point of light in a dark world -- to step outside myself and wade through the necessary garbage it takes to make lasting, meaningful connections with humanity. When that seems like too much work, I worry about the spiritual damage I'm inflicting on myself by remaining so detached.

It makes me wonder if I'm just self-absorbed and lazy, and depression is the crutch I use to avoid taking responsibility for these flaws. After all, I haven't been officially diagnosed, because paradoxically, that requires more resources than I'm currently able and willing to set aside. This is just one of many insidious half-truths that feed the beast, keep the cycle going. Of course I'm self-absorbed and lazy. It's inherent to the human condition. Life is harsh and unfair, and as we fight to cope with that, we're all at risk of getting lost in our own subjective reality bubbles.

But I know myself. I've researched enough and experienced enough and spoken with others enough to know that what keeps me in a self-destructive war between restlessness and lethargy, all-consuming worry and crippling indifference, is outside the perimeters of typical human experience.

Regardless of this, how long can I afford to remain self-aware of my shortcomings without making any real progress on them? At what point does withdrawal for the sake of self-care become selfishness?

Friday, May 1, 2015

End of April Report

I just about have our apartment how I'd like it. Functionally, we have nearly everything we need. Years of luggage from Christmases and birthdays have come in handy; we've been storing our clothes that way for the last month. Once we shake off the stupor the last few big purchases induced, we'll get a couple of dressers.

Next will probably be a dining set, for board games with company and probably not much dining. Someday I'll have my bookshelf back from my in-law's house, along with the books themselves. Once I have those and something comfy to sit in while reading, I think all will be well domestically.

Being a stay-at-home wife was something of a necessity while we were still getting settled. It's not a position I ever imagined myself being in, and I have ambivalent feelings about it. On the one hand, it's a relaxed, quiet life. It doesn't take much to maintain a tiny domicile for two. I can get everything done and still have time to read and write as much as I want. On the other hand, I don't think it's a healthy long-term option for me.

Anxiety has made my world very small. I haven't driven farther than the Wal-Mart down the road, because the thought of exploring the biggest city I've ever lived in, alone, scares the heck out of me. On top of that, my 2005 Nissan seems to be feeling every one of its 179k miles lately. I don't have anyone to call if it breaks down in the middle of a six-lane road. This means I haven't worked up the nerve to turn in any applications anywhere.

I think I've reasoned myself out of the worst of it though. When I didn't zip through the self-checkout, and instead went to the manned registers, just so I could interact with another human being, I realized I'd let myself become too much of a shut-in. I shouldn't be doing that until I'm 95-year-old widow and all my friends are dead. Besides, if I want to afford dance classes and economically worthless but fascinating courses at the local colleges, not to mention support myself financially if Matt dies in a tragic accident, I need to make my own money.

Finally, in addition to make a huge life transition, I was also able to meet my Camp NaNoWriMo goal. I wanted to get the first 30k of Draft Three revised. While I pretty much flopped over the finish line at 30,010 words, I'm still proud of myself for accomplishing so much in the midst of upheaval. Some scenes just needed line edits, others needed more work, others still needed to be scrapped. It actually felt amazing after adding so much to the beginning to then "You know what? All of this needs to go!" I was starting to get concerned this was going to end up way too long.

I truly think the worst bits are gone now, and I have high hopes for getting the whole draft done by early July. Overall, April was a good month, and as long as I take it hour by hour, I think I can make May even better.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Observation #3

Buying in bulk is super cost effective...

...just make sure that you have the space for it.

I don't really use the dishwasher anyway.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Observation #2

After nearly 5 years of marriage and 8 years of being together, there's "playing doctor", and then there's the just as common "playing actual doctor" :

"Make sure to cover your hair with a towel or something, so the peroxide doesn't bleach it. Although that would look pretty funny..."

"Right, yeah...okay, I'm supposed to use a cap-full of peroxide."

"Nothing else?"

"All the article says is peroxide." *lays on side, thinks* Hey, can you do this? I'll probably spill it everywhere."

"If I must...what's the bowl for?"

"It says to drain it into a bowl."

"A paper towel would work just fine."

"But it says to use a bowl."

"Whatever. Here we go."


"Stop squirming!"

"It's the fizzing! And popping! It makes my back spasm! Doesn't that happen to you when you have stuff in your ears?"

"I can't look at your face right now." *puts towel over beloved wife's face, walks away*

*twitching and cringing* "Let me know when it's been 20 minutes."

"You're gonna go the full 20?"

"I don't want to have to do this twice!"



"It's been 20 minutes."

"...Can you get me a paper towel? I don't want to dump peroxide on my face because I don't understand physics."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Movin' On Up: A Life Update

After five years of working and saving while we waited for life to deal us a decent hand, Matt and I got dealt a whole lot of change in the space of a month. We've dealt with a store closing, which led to a job relocation, which led to a demotion, a small promotion, and then a BIG promotion, which necessitated a hasty move from the upstairs to an apartment two hours away. The universe was kind enough to wait until I'd shaken off a particularly nasty depressive phase before setting all this in motion. 

We visited the first place that answered the phone and had an available suite within the needed time frame, and before the viewing was over the decision was made. A few days of paperwork and phone tag and we were ready to uproot.

I discovered my little Nissan has a Trunk of Holding, and thus we were able to move almost everything between two vehicles in one trip. 

I now have big windows overlooking a river and mountain view. 

I have red chrome small kitchen appliances, a cupboard dedicated entirely to tea, and a rubber ducky bathroom.

I brought my dance shoes. There's a studio nearby.

I'm flexing my thrift muscles and testing my practical skills as I try to set my castle to order. I hand-mixed and grated my own bulk batch of laundry detergent, made a package of chicken last through 3 dinners and as many lunches, made several Very Important Phone Calls like a grown-up, and set up our internet.

I also somehow mistook an electric stove for a gas stove, which immediately endeared me to maintenance when I had them look at it because, "Why no fire?" 

(My first fridge poem, inspired by the encounter. I boldly pushed the limits of the medium with a direct quote at the end.)

The good news is, my stove is dated but perfectly functional. I just need to remember to not only switch off the temperature dial, but also turn the function dial from BAKE to OFF, otherwise it'll stay on for about 14 hours. Luckily, the place was merely toasty for a day. Burning it down would have meant another embarrassing call to the office.

We're still working on the whole furniture thing. My "desk" is a strategically placed plastic bin, a document box, and a stack of board games. Our mattress is on the floor in the living room, because we're still puzzling over how to construct our second-hand bed frame with nothing more than some pencil marks, a tool box, and our own wits to guide us. 

I know how to get to Wal-Mart and that's basically it. My former district manager offered to pull some strings to get me an assistant manager position at a store location 10 minutes away, which flatters and terrifies me. It'll be twice as busy as my old store. I don't know the people or the work atmosphere. I'm not sure I have the mental resources to adapt to the increase in expectations and responsibility right now. Not when I'm still trying to get a household up and running, not to mention I've just started a new round of revisions on the novel that's turning out to be far more ambitious than I ever anticipated.

I'm both absurdly proud and painfully ashamed of myself, which I suppose is par for the course for a 22-year-old moving into her first place. 

This winter was something of a Dark Night of The Soul. I started and abandoned 4 different posts about it before I realized it was more suited to private journaling than public airing-out. Now that my life is more dynamic than it used to be, I should be able to post here more frequently with more interesting content. I'll share some of my process as I work through Draft Three, a job hunt, some amateur furniture construction, and (hopefully) re-acquaintance with the ballet barre.