Month: December 2009

Ringing in the New Year

Well last year I vowed to stop cracking my knuckles and while I, of course, have not stopped, I definitely don’t crack them as often as I used to, so for that I think I deserve some kudos. I also wanted to lose some weight, while this did not happen either, I did get into way better shape and added a mile to my daily jog. This deserves a high five. In fact, 2009 was the first year of many that I actually did what I set out to do.

For 2010 I hope to cut down on the cursing. There are days when I curse like a sailor and I’m a teacher and this is a bad habit. Although I think it’s important to point out that I don’t curse in front of my students because that is not right.  I’m also educated and educated people shouldn’t curse; at least that’s what my dad has always said. My very cute boyfriend once asked me if my parents ever cursed and I thought about it, and you know what? They don’t. I’ve only heard my dad curse maybe four times in my whole life and he wasn’t cursing because he was mad, he was actually repeating something someone had said. My mom is notorious for saying things like, “oh fudgsicle sticks” and I think I too should try to be more like my parents who have enough self-control not to curse.

My second resolution is to do way more writing. I’ve already started working on this resolution. I’m not waiting for the new year to start writing. What’s the point of waiting for the new year to write? You either are going to write or your not there is no point in waiting. This movement to “Write Everyday or Else” is really helping me get focused on my career as a writer, and while I admit I haven’t been writing everyday, I have been writing way more than ever in my whole career as a student and writer, so I think it’s working.

Once I have  job I’m hoping that I’ll develop a more structured schedule not just for writing but for reading and exercise. Right now it’s all over the place. I try to wake up early and at the same time daily but knowing that there is nowhere for me to be kind of makes a 6:30 AM wake up call seem silly, but I do set my alarm for that time regardless. I’m trying.

Last year I also wrote about the stress of New Years Eve plans and this year I’ve avoided them completely. This year the boyfriend and I will go out to dinner and head for the bowling alley. It’s not complicated, it’s not too crowded and its good clean fun. We’re taking a cab so we can wasted. I’m looking forward to this New Years Eve because for once there is no pressure to have plans and be dressed up, it’s become what it should have always been about, having fun and being with the people you love.

Effective Use of Time

Here is the thing: I am a time waster. I am so good at it, I should consider employment in wasting time, running the clock, loafing. I don’t know how it happens but I’ll be in the middle of nothing important and I’ll look at the clock and the afternoon or morning has passed. I set my alarm extra early this morning so I could take my time waking up. I wanted to have a half hour to facebook, check out the news, and write this post. Once I post this I’ll begin the hardcore writing that I should have been doing all winter break, but now that the deadline is getting closer and closer I see that I really need to buckle down.

But once I start the hardcore writing I wonder how efficient the time use will be. I plan on writing for about two hours, take an hour-long Ikea trip break, return and get back to it for another two-hopefully-three hours. My goal is to not get distracted and feel I need to reorganize something or make a list or whatever else I do that enables procrastination. This should probably be some kind of resolution but I’ve never been successful with resolutions. I think it’s more important to make the decision to change and actually change regardless of the day the calendar claims it is.

Let the marathon begin.

Week Four: Write Everyday or Else

This experiment so far has taught me a lot about myself. The main thing I’ve learned is that I work best when the deadline gets closer. I have a little over two weeks to really write, and knowing that the time is getting cut short I’m starting to really focus. I’m getting a bit nervous because even though I’m not at home with my crazy family I’m still distracted. I live so close to Ikea and it’s killing me that I’m not done furnishing my apartment.

Today though is my first day on my schedule. Since I’m still unemployed I’m trying my best to find a job and write. Although I’m thinking after today, which was a long day of pounding the pavement and cooking, I’m going to hold off on the job hunt until this thesis is finished. I know money is important and all to survive, but I need to graduate. This student status has gotten old.

I’m at the home stretch and frankly, while a job is really important, as is furniture, I really just want to get this thing done so I can stop worrying about it. I have a substitute teaching orientation in three weeks and while that is a ways away it still falls in the time slot of after my thesis is due. I deliberately saved money for a situation like this and so Tuesday-Saturday will be all day writing sessions. There will be paper and coffee everywhere.

The way I’m looking at this next two weeks is like this: I can see the finish line and I’m a bit behind so I need to sprint. Let’s just hope I don’t get bitten by the turf monster, fall on my face, and have to postpone graduation.

Merry Christmas!

After a traditional Italian Christmas Eve meal, I’m pretty much ready for bed. Since my mom was exhausted from cooking (that’s right my mom who is undergoing chemo cooked and entire Christmas Eve meal because she is such a busy body) my sisters and I cleaned up the house. She went to bed after we opened presents and I hope when she wakes up in the morning she is so glad the house looks like a party never happened. The only indications that Christmas Eve occurred are the leftovers.

I hope all of you have a very merry Christmas tomorrow. I’m looking forward to enjoying some more delicious traditional Italian Christmas food at my aunt’s house. I’m also looking forward to returning to my new apartment where I get to sleep in my brand new bed.

Merry Christmas!

A Talk Out/Write Out Session: Issues with the Novel

Yesterday’s warm up post felt really good. I ended up writing an hour more than I had planned because I was so focused. I figured I’d give it a try today. 

Since, I’m about to dive back into my thesis work I figured I’d try to write out/talk out some of the obstacles I’ve come across this past week. I don’t mean the challenges of writing at home and dealing a family in crisis. I’m talking about the literal issues with the novel.

First of all, I find myself  kind of bored with my characters. My professor and thesis chair has a philosophy that if you’re not sure what to do with a scene or character or story add a character. My concern with this is that if I add a character here and there the novel is going to go on forever. Though for todays’ section it is vital that I add the character that I’ve created.  While I don’t want this novel to be five hundred pages long, I do want readers to follow these characters for about fifty or sixty years. Also, my professor/thesis chair  constantly enforces the idea that all characters must be employed. I too feel strongly about this, though I don’t really practice it. I am mostly working on banging out the rough draft. I’ll employ all my characters during the revision.

The story centers around three characters who are related. The first character is, for lack of a better word, the protagonist. While the novel does center around this character, the other two characters that follow are important as well. The other two characters are primarily being utilized to reinforce themes and motifs that I feel are vital to the depth of the novel.

The biggest problem I’m having, and have always had as a writer is knowing when to show  moments in scene and when to show them in exposition. While I’m fully aware of the overused, “show not tell” rule when dealing with a large number of years I don’t see how exposition can be avoided.

I also think that I may have over outlined my novel. I’m considering revising my outline since it’s way too detailed and I’ve decided to move away from a good portion of it. I love having a reference document that can keep me focused, but what I’ve noticed is happening is that my writing as turned into a very detailed outline that has scenes.

So maybe my biggest problem isn’t knowing when to show scenes but developing a voice for my narrator. The novel is told in the third person, which is a bit uncomfortable for me since I love writing in the first person.  The thing is, I tried writing the novel in the first person and it didn’t feel right, so I changed it.  I think I need to really think about who is telling the story. Maybe if I understood my narrator at a deeper level I’d be able to give him/her a voice.

Just writing “him/her” is a problem. Shouldn’t I at least know the sex of my narrator? I do know the narrator isn’t in the novel, but an observer.  I haven’t (was going to write can’t but can’t isn’t in my vernacular these days) decided if the narrator lives in the town the novel takes place, or if the narrator is like an all-seeing eye, the way I teach my students the omniscient third person voice looks. The thing is, the narrator is a pinch complicated because while I know the narrator knows everyone’s thoughts and actions, I have chosen for the narrator to only disclose the thoughts of very specific characters, consistently of course.

So that’s that. I feel like I have a stronger handle on the issues that I’ve been battling. I’m about 120 pages in, and I think I have about 200 left to write, maybe even less. I had a girlfriend who also wrote a novel for her thesis, who told me that it’s the first 150 pages that are the worst, once you know where it’s going and how to end it, writing those last 100-200 pages is like rolling downhill. I believe her. She’s given me sound advice the entire time I’ve been in grad school, and is currently enrolled in a prestigious  program for a PhD in Creative Writing.

I will do some steady climbing today. Thanks for listening.

Week Three: Write Everyday or Else…

As is always the case I have over-estimated my ability to focus. These past two weeks have not been very productive, as far as the thesis writing is concerned.  While I have written more than I usually do, it hasn’t been enough.  With moving and driving back and forth between my old address and new address it’s been quite chaotic.

I came home for Christmas, although I did  almost regret the decision when I came home to major drama. Still, Christmas is about family and seeing through differences to be together, oh and Jesus’s birthday and I think Jesus should come before my thesis.

The problem is when I’m home all I want to do is help my parents with the house and helping them get things in order, especially since we’re hosting Christmas Eve and the house is still quite messy because of the renovations.

As is with most crazy times, things seem to get crazy just when you think it can’t get any worse. Well on Saturday I sprained my ankle, had to go to the doctor and I can’t seem to stop walking on it.

Since, I can’t help with too much around the house now that my ankle and foot are really bruised and swollen, I’ve decided this is the PERFECT excuse to get some writing done. I did, however vacuum the house this morning though; I also went up into the attic to get some things down to do some minor decorating for Christmas.

I’m not going to do too much physical work though because I’m a runner and not being able to run is killing me. I never realized how much I love to be running around, standing up, and doing stuff until I couldn’t. Yesterday I tried to play the piano but that was a bust because of course I sprained my right ankle which is the foot for the pedal. LAME. At least I have an excuse to write. Maybe that’s what I needed all along.

Well, I’m off to write until my fingers fall off.

Family + Holidays =Explosives

So like most people, I have a crazy family. I love them to death, but there are times when I want to die of embarrassment. Times when I question my biology. Tonight at dinner was one of those nights.

Some background::

I have two sisters. One of my sisters is nine years younger than me and is the funniest person on the planet. She is still in high school and on occasion her boyfriend joins us for dinner. Tonight was one of those nights.

My other sister is 21 months younger than me and we hate each other. She is the blacksheep in our family, and often all of us wonder how she ended up in our family. Her life is a chaotic mess and she is often times immature and blames other for her life and current living situation. She refuses to take responsiblity for her actions and this annoys me to no end. If you don’t like your life situation, stop bitching and DO something about.  When I’m around her for too long I feel like she has a toxic hold over me.  Her negative energy is able to suck the life  and light out of any space.

Tonight at dinner she started rambling about something completely inappropriate and even started telling racist jokes. She proceeded to tell my mother suffering from cancer that she wanted to make her pot brownies because it would help cure the cancer (I warned you, she is crazy). My mother, who is super conservative and opposed to the over use of Tylenol, opposed the idea of any kind of marijuana consumption.

My sister than went on some rant about inappropriate behavior of a doctor that she encountered. All the while my other sister’s boyfriend sat at the dinner table staring at his food. When (let’s call her blacksheep) Blacksheep started to tell racist jokes I removed myself from table.

I don’t think my sister is a racist; I believe she just wanted to repeat some joke she heard. Her disclaimer was that it wasn’t that funny. We were all unsure why she wanted to repeat it. I asked her repeatedly not to even say the joke, begging someone to help me change the subject. She said the joke, which was not funny. 

I sat there as she continued to defend herself and her friend who she heard the joke from. I then got up from the table, having heard enough. 

I went outside for brisk walk in the cold weather. It made me wonder why I drove twelve hours to come home for the holidays. I could have had a peaceful week of getting work done and relaxing. Instead, I enter this pit of chaos.

A week ago I was freaking out about moving so far away from my family, but after this evening, after the yelling, the not being able to sleep in a bed, and my sister’s erratic behavior, I’m relieved that on December 26th I get to leave.

I can’t stay here. 

What makes me sad is that my mother, who is ill, has to stay here. She deserves better. She deserves a clean comfortable house where she can rest and relax instead of constantly wonder what crazy ass thing Blacksheep is going to do or say.

It will be a Christmas miracle if I don’t tell Blacksheep off before the holiday weekend comes to an end.

Christmas miracles? They do happen, right?