Row80 update May 6, 2012

6 05 2012

Cinco de Mayo is behind us, and a great and fun week at the symphony has been put to bed. More on that this next week.

Concerning my Row80 goals – once again, it’s a mixed bag. I had my frequent house guest, and between that fun and work, the beds didn’t get made! The one thing that I’m bitchin’ with is the walking – I walked every day, mostly 30+ minutes, even though the heat is ramping up here in South Texas. The bathroom is still a science experiment. I’m grateful that my guest didn’t mind!

Last Sunday I wrote over 1800 words… then didn’t write another the rest of the week. This is not okay with me… and will change this week! I spent a lot of time on Social Media on Sunday, and continue to read blogposts and comment. I feel good about that.

I was supposed to write a non-row80 blogpost last week. As you can see, I didn’t. However, I have 2 posts in mind for this week, and they will  be accomplished!

I have been practicing, mostly due to necessity. I have some big parts to play in the next two weeks, and would like my stress level to be as low as possible. Right now it’s off the charts. By the time we get to the concerts, all will be well.

I started a new knitting project – a mohair cardigan – and am almost finished with a very generously-sized gauge swatch. I have no idea if I’ve “gotten gauge”, but the fabric is so wonderfully light and airy that I don’t care if I end up knitting another gauge swatch, or two before actually getting to the sweater. The wool scarf that I started a while back is on the back burner for now. As I’ve mentioned before, I have creative ADHD. I have a gorgeous AVL weaving loom that I’ve been trying to sell for some time to no avail. However, the weaving bug may be biting again, so I guess it’s a good thing that I haven’t sold it yet!

I haven’t done anything toward learning mask-making, even with inspiration like this.

I still haven’t managed to schedule a meet up with any local writer tweeps for May – we’re all so busy!





A successful week: Row80 update

29 04 2012

I feel a sense of satisfaction, glancing over my list of Row80 goals. I’m happy with my progress in almost every area under Better Life Habits, so much so that I’m adding a couple of other goals.

While I haven’t been religious about walking every single day, I’m well on my way to establishing the following habits: turning off lights, making my bed, shutting cabinet doors, having a clean kitchen sink, so I’m adding the following: keeping the bathroom clean, and brushing the dog 1x/week. My canine is a miniature poodle, so brushing her is essential… and I’m a bad doggy mom. I let her go, and then it’s a huge chore when I get around to it… which is a task that I’m still putting off. TODAY, Ms. Blossom – I promise! I’m sick of the science experiment that is my bathroom, oy. Enough said, or perhaps too much.

Creatively, I’m now officially unblocked! As I blogged two days ago, I had a major realization, and the ideas (if not the words) are flowing again. Yay! Unfortunately, I haven’t been practicing, knitting, or starting on the mask-making project, because I’ve been rather out of control re: Facebook, Tiny Wings, and Stoneloops of Jurassica. And instead of finishing my scarf, I’m thinking of starting on a sweater. Or a weaving project. I must have creative ADD.

I posted a non-Row80 blogpost (linked above) this week, and have another planned for next week (yay), this is my Sunday check in. I’ve been on Twitter and reading blogs, and did the monthly get-together with local writer tweeps. Come to think of it, we need to schedule one for May.

Next week will be more of a challenge, because my houseguest will be back on Tuesday for 5 days. I hope I can have some boundaries with her, and get some stuff done while she’s here. I know she’ll understand – and she has a couple of projects to work on, too.

Row80 is turning out to be a positive thing for me, this time around. Last time my health issues got the better of me, but that is more or less in the past, and I’m looking forward to the next several months. Except for the temperature part. Summer is tough here in South Texas.

How are you doing, at the end of April? Have you made Row80 or New Years’ Goals that you’re struggling with? What are your success stories?





Quit Resisting the Muse!

27 04 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

The past several weeks have been, for all practical purposes, novel-writing free. As you might remember, I received a sleep apnea diagnosis a while back, and have now completed two months of treatment using a CPAP machine. I’m finally feeling mostly better, having more energy. If I wasn’t superstitious I’d say that I’m over the hump.

:::knocks on wood:::

Most weeks I’d barely managed 1,000 words, and that mostly blogposts, some weeks were a big, fat zero. Then on April 22nd I knocked out over 2,100. What happened? I stopped trying to tell my muse what’s what, that’s what!

I have been trying to hog-tie my (now 116,000+ word) novel into something that made three-act sense. I was looking for that opening scene, that inciting incident which would hook the reader into reading something that I hoped would be around 85,000 words. And it wasn’t working. I was blocked up, unable to move until I figured out where the heck to begin.

Then on Sunday morning, in the shower, my muse hit me over the head. (She has a way of jumping me when I least expect it).

“Just write the damned thing! Tell this man’s story! Damn the word count! We’ll figure it out later!”

Um, yeah. By the time I had dried my hair, I had the beginnings of three new scenes begging to be put on paper, and was ENTHUSED about writing again.

Today? I’m all WTH if it turns into a 210,000 word-trilogy. I’m unblocked, and writing better than ever.

And… I found a website with a novel-writing system that really appeals to me: the Snowflake System.

 

I’m going to take that out for a walk today, going through the steps for this particular novel, and fitting in the scenes that I’ve already written as I find them. Then I’m going to finish this novel, and self-publish it.





Friday blog love

20 04 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

I confess: I’m not much of a blog reader. I have a double handful of writer blogs that I subscribe to, and I read them from my inbox. For someone who got her geek cred when she hackintoshed her Dell Mini netbook with OSX, you’d think I could figure out how to use an RSS feed. But no. They are opaque to me. I rarely comment. I know, horrible HORRIBLE blog etiquette! But I do read the blogs that I subscribe to, and one that I adore is Lani Wendt Young’s blog, Sleepless In Samoa. One of her recent posts is a fav of mine: A Piano Fell On My Head.

It was like a piano had fallen on my head. This is just not good enough.  I know I’m a hermit. I know I’m rather anti-social. I know that I have loser interpersonal skills. But after 52 weeks worth of Sundays with very welcoming, friendly, supportive and fun people – I should be better at this. But I’m not. Because I keep thinking that “I’m going home soon. I’m not going to be here for very long. This is not my REAL church/neighborhood/community. I don’t REALLY belong here. My REAL church/neighborhood/community is at home in Samoa.” So therefore I don’t REALLY need to make an effort. Because why bother?

I’m also a hermit, Lani. I need to put myself out there more, too. I can so identify with this! (and I did try to comment on that post, but the sign in was so frustrating that I gave up.)

Another blog that means a lot to me is Guinevere Gets Sober. Guinevere is in the UK, and her thoughts on addiction and sobriety and recovery are actually applicable to just about everyone, addicted or not, because recovery is about being human. And, as a bonus for me, her thoughts help me flesh out those of my alcoholic, sexually-addicted main character, Steven Canelli. More on him next week. Her post, Running With Athena (her friend, not the Goddess!) let’s everyone in on her insecurities… and how they are being healed.

Imagine, someone thanking me for running with her. Bloody hell.

My life is changing without my even trying.

And, if you want gorgeous pics to salivate over, try A Certain Slant of Light Photography. I have no idea how I found this blog, but I’m ooohing and aaaahing all the time there. Lovely stuff!

What blogs do you subscribe to, and why? What turns your crank?





Early Row80 Check in

14 04 2012

Since I have this afternoon off, I thought I’d go ahead and write Sunday’s Row80 check in. The week has been a mixed bag, in large part due to a house guest, and finishing up my tax return.

Better life habits: Housekeeping: I was much better with the cabinet doors/lights/ and kitchen sink. However, I didn’t make up my bed the entire week. FAIL! I have to laugh at myself. I was getting up too late and rushing around at the last minute.

I didn’t walk much at all – and I’ll blame that on the weather and my schedule. And my house guest. I did limit my Facebook time – that was a success. iPhone games? Not so much.

Creativity: I did not spend any time with my HTTS course, or finish my plotting. I managed to write yesterday, and have been knitting every day during downtime. I didn’t practice every day, but I did think about it. Does that count?

Social Media: I didn’t write a blogpost, but I am managing the Row80 check in. I have been on twitter, and the get-together with local writer tweeps is scheduled for the 22nd.

While I didn’t manage to make these goals a reality this week, I’m not down on myself. Health-wise it was a difficult week. A couple of days I was dealing with heavy fatigue, when simply breathing seemed like work. I also had my friend visiting (she works with me), and some of my creative time was taken up by social time with her… a trade-off that I don’t regret at all.

The one thing that I feel bad about is not making up my bed! Julia! Just get up when the alarm goes off and do it!

I find that my word count takes a nosedive when I don’t take the time to exercise. It’s as though my Muse requires me to get into my body in order for her to speak. Taking a shower works, too, as long as I have the time for a leisurely shower. Holly Lisle talks a lot about getting/letting the Muse speak in her How To Think Sideways course, and I can’t wait until my life evens out more so I can get into the meat of that course. For now, it’s one day at a time.

Oh, and the IRS owes me money: THREE dollars. (applied to next year’s taxes, of course!)





Row80, once again

6 04 2012

If there’s anything that I learned last time, it was that life was going to intervene, and I wouldn’t finish Round One. I discovered that I had sleep apnea, and dealing with that reality continues to occupy a good amount of my psychic energy. There are going to be more changes in that arena, I’m sure… and I’ll deal with them as they come.

But I’m inspired, seeing all my peeps (and tweeps) lining up for Round two, so I decided to give this another go. My goals fall into a couple of categories: building better life habits, creativity, and social media.

Better life habits:

  1. Housekeeping: Become anal retentive about turning off lights and shutting cabinet doors. Make sure that the kitchen sink is clean and shining every night before bed. Make up the bed every morning (yeah, I’m messy!)
  2. Walk at least 150 minutes/week. That’s 30 minutes/5x/week.
  3. Spend less than 30 minutes/day on Facebook – use a timer. Get out in nature more!
  4. Limit iPhone games to 20 min/day. Use the timer!
Creativity:
  1. Finish plotting out my first draft, and finish it, if possible.
  2. Spend time every day with the How To Think Sideways course.
  3. Practice the flute at least 15 minutes/day (after all, it is my main job!)
  4. Finish the scarf I’m knitting, and start my mask-making project.

Social Media:

  1. Write one new non-row80 blogpost/week.
  2. Check in to Row80 on Sunday (this post, on a Friday, will count for Sunday, as I’ll be celebrating the holiday)
  3. Be on twitter 4 days/week
  4. Get together with local writer tweeps at least once/month.

I’m cutting back on social media, because I don’t see it as practical for me right now. It’s eating into my writing and studying time, and my Facebook time is mostly sharing photos with friends – not the best use of my time, even if it does bond us together. I think that this list is do-able for where I am in my life at this time.

Thanks for reading!





Finally feeling better!

11 03 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

I have been on overwhelm, dealing with illness (see below), and have not been writing. At all. It’s times like these that make me doubt my determination to be a writer, at least, until I remember that I’m not a ‘slow and steady’ type. I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner… in every way but literally. I work best in fits and starts, and when I’m going full-out, it’s great.

As I mentioned before, life has caught up with me, and it still has me by the throat. Last August I noticed something odd – I was Reiki-ing myself as lay on my back, and as I relaxed more and more I noticed that the back of my tongue was falling back into my throat. I thought,”That’s odd, and not a good thing!” So I slept on my side from then on. It wasn’t always comfortable, and my shoulders bother me from time to time, but oh well. Some of you know where this is going, and I did, too. Sleep Apnea. Denial is not just a River in Egypt, and I avoided doing anything about it.

This past December I was sleeping sitting up, because I was bothered by reflux. In the middle of the night I woke to a loud “GAAH!”, which erupted from deep in my throat.

Okay, there was no denying this anymore. I had a problem, and I knew it.

I called my doc and made an appointment for after the holidays, which was delayed and delayed. Eventually I had a sleep study,which was jolly. YOU try sleeping in a strange, plank-like bed, hooked up to about 30 electrodes, with some stranger watching you on infrared video, and let me know how well you sleep! I didn’t sleep much, but well enough for them to determine that I have moderate obstructive sleep apnea. I never made it to sleep stage 3 or 4, my REM sleep was 9%. Now I knew why I don’t dream. I averaged 22 ‘episodes’ in an hour, and each of those non-breathing episodes further interrupted my sleep.

The good news? My blood oxygen level never went below 91%. I’m not going to die in my sleep. The bad news? I will be sleeping with a CPAP for the rest of my life. Further good news? It works! I’m feeling better!

I had been shatteringly exhausted for weeks, and finally on March 1st I had a day when I felt almost normal. I’d been using the CPAP for just shy of a week before I could tell any difference in how I felt.

It continues to be an adventure. Fitting the mask so it doesn’t leak is a work in progress, and I get contact dermatitis from the plastic, so I had to buy a mask liner. I still wake up with a red spot on the bridge of my nose some days, but it’s a small price to pay for FEELING BETTER.  I only have had one claustrophobic night, thank heavens. And one morning I took off the mask, then went back to sleep. I woke with a snort… a strong indication that I really do need this thing.

Given what the alternative diagnoses for my fatigue could have been (hypothyroid, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, cancer, heart failure, you name it), living with a CPAP is easy. The hose doesn’t bother me, and the machine is very quiet, so no problems there. One problem: I like to read myself to sleep, and it’s hard to see my kindle with the mask on. I haven’t been reading much in consequence.

Before I got the CPAP I was running on fumes. Exhausted, emotionally strung out, unable to do more than the bare necessities. It was work/food/trying to sleep, and some days I had to call in sick. The work I do is very mentally taxing, quite intense… and I just wasn’t up for it. But now I’m gradually able to add more to my life. Like meeting up with writer friends (Hi, SJ! Hi, Ali!) Getting back on twitter, blogging… and…

Writing.





It Builds Character

22 02 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

My initial inspiration for writing was character-based. I invented a man, gave him a name, a profession, and built his character from there. I thought you might be interested in how I did it… and, of course, there are gaping holes in my process that you might be interested in pointing out to me in the comments. How could it be otherwise? I’m a newly-minted writer. I don’t know much. I’m going on instinct.

Oddly enough, for a musician, I am a very visually-oriented person. The first thing I determine about a character is his appearance. What kind of physical impression does he make? How tall? What kind of physique? Is he athletic and muscular, or friendly and pudgy?

 

Superficial things like eye/hair color and hair style. How does he walk? Does she stride, or mince? Does she live in her head most of the time, or is this someone who is completely at home in her body? Yoga, or softball, or websurfing? Or regular surfing? Running? Couch potato? Golfer?

Then style of dress. Does she dress up all the time, fashion forward? Is this someone who pays attention to grooming, or has he given up on all that?

 

Canelli is (obviously) of Italian heritage, and wealthy. Of course he wears Italian leather shoes! How could he not?

And what does it feel like to be in her presence? Does he dominate a room? Or is she a wallflower? What kind of conversationalist? Listener? Does he give you his entire attention, or is this person constantly scanning the room, in case there’s someone else they’d rather be seen with/ needs to talk to/ wants to seduce/ is dying to meet?

Is the individual an optimist or a pessimist? Do they kvetch? Constantly? Frequently? Rarely? Never? A joiner, or a loner? A thinker? A feeler? A sensualist? A judgmental S.O.B. or an airy-fairy ‘all is forgiven’ type? Oooh. I could see this turning into one of those online personality sorter questionnaires! There’s a thought! Go take the MBTI/enneagram tests AS THE CHARACTER!

What is his family history? I found this to be indispensable! In the case of Steven Canelli, he’s the youngest of seven, the only boy. The Canellis are a very wealthy Italian-American family. His father established their highly-successful family-owned ethnic foods company. They are Catholic, and live in Lake Forest, an upper-crust community north of Chicago, IL.

 

I don’t know about you, but when the above came to me, I knew bucketloads about this guy. Adding in that he is the product of his mother’s love affair, and as such his very existence is a constant (unpleasant) reminder to his (also unpleasant) ‘father’ that he’s a cuckold… well, you have the recipe for difficulties later in Steven’s life: addictions, problems with women, overachievement/workaholism, etc… and the story flows from these difficulties.

 

Then there’s history. I already know where he grew up. If he went to college, where did he go? What was his major? What did he like to do for fun back then? What is his work history? What is his relationship history? Did he break someone’ heart? Was his heart broken? And… How has that history molded him into the man he is today?

 

One method I use to construct temperament is to visualize/fantasize being the character. What does it feel like to be in his body? What is her point of view? This works well when I’m stuck, particularly when writing dialogue. I imagine myself as one of the characters, and physically move the way they might, if they were responding to what someone said. Do his eyes harden in response to someone’s comment, or do they soften? Does he glance away? Does she take a deliberate breath, or sigh, or pretend to cough? Is he cocksure, smirking and coming on to her? Does she meet his eyes, then roll hers dismissively?

 

And finally, what is the character’s reaction to the shit that I sling at them? As Chuck Wendig says, ‘Torture your characters! Throw them against the wall! Kill their kittens/puppies! etc…’ That isn’t a direct quote from Chuck, but you get the idea. Yes, I love Steven Canelli… but the dude’s got issues! The whole point is whether or not he can overcome them, and what craziness it takes to eventually get his attention. Hint: it isn’t called ‘hitting bottom’ for nothing! Oh wait! That sounds kinky, and I didn’t mean it that way! Let’s just say that the guy has a lot to lose, and yes, he loses it.

How do imagine your characters? Do you base them on people that you know? Do you interview them, or write their histories (as I have learned to do)? Let me know in the comments. And thank you for reading!





My First Anniversary: My First WIP

20 02 2012

Today is my First Anniversary… my first writing anniversary! I have been writing for one year.

February has historically been a questionable month for me. After all the darkness of winter I’m left in a deep depression, waiting for spring. I hit my lowest of lows in February 1994, when I had a nervous breakdown of sorts. I still have my struggles with depression, but for the most part, I’m okay now.

So it’s a blessing to put a gold star on February 20th, a star to brighten an otherwise bleak month.

My bestie is a writer, among other wonderful things. Sometime last winter she sent me a few pages of the novel she was writing, and I was blown away. Then it was as if a tiny angel whispered in my ear: you can do this too, Julia. Just give it a try.

I sat down with my laptop and opened up a word processing file, and started to write about Steven. I am character driven, but already had a scene for him. Boom. There it was. I opened up skype and read it to my bestie. She said, “Oh my god, Julia, you’re a writer!” I took on the mantle from that moment.

My life changed in an instant. Today I’m a happier person, more focused, more passionate, devouring everything I can about the craft… and, of course, WRITING.

I plotted out Steven’s life, and wrote out of order. For almost a year I had no idea how this book would end, but I kept on writing in fits and starts, until I had 90k words. Then I put it on the back burner for NaNoWriMo, and only returned to the Story of Steven Canelli in the past three weeks or so. I finally figured out the ending, which brought his life back full circle. Last night I wrote that final chapter, with a short epilogue planned.

But… and it’s a huge but… the book is nowhere near finished. I’ve cut out huge swaths of material (perhaps for a reader freebie in the future), and am seriously considering a complete rewrite to first person.

Even with that, I don’t know if I’ll ever publish this story. It is, after all, my first novel… and I hear that most writers have four or five of their first work in a drawer somewhere. But you have to start somewhere, and I did. I am a writer. One of the Creatives!





Catching up, part deux

19 02 2012

My day job has ‘dark weeks’ – weeks with no work/no pay. This past week was one of those, and it came just in time. I had lunch on Friday with someone who is involved with the company, and he asked how I had survived the previous five weeks – that’s when I realized that it had been a time that was noticeably more stressful than usual.

My November was stressful at work and I added NaNoWriMo to the mix. December was supposed to be relaxing, but my vacation was anything but that. Then came January and the above stressful working conditions… no wonder I was exhausted, when you add in my likely medical condition. Uff da.

Like a lot (most?) people, when I’m in the middle of things I don’t notice what’s going on, or the affect that it’s having on me. I just do what needs to get done, and if I’m having physical symptoms, I push through it. Now, at fifty-four, with a newish medical condition, it’s not working so well.

And what am I going to do about it? It’s times like this when I need a nurturing mother to stand by my side. Yes, my Mom is still alive, but at eighty-one she has her own issues, after a lifetime of being hard on herself (a lesson I learned in SPADES). So I’m going to step up to the plate and be my own nurturing mother.

It’s not that I don’t have resources – I do! – and it’s not that I don’t have ideas of what could be helpful. The first thing is to stop running long enough to breathe, pause, and take stock of my condition. When I do that, I’m not pleased with what I see. The inmates are running the asylum.

I had an interesting experience last night. I recently signed up for Holly Lisle’s “How To Think Sideways” class, and the first exercises were about busting through blocks by seeing, among other things, the false beliefs that one holds about what is the ‘safe’ way to live. It took me three weeks to sit down and actually do the exercise, and when I sat down to do it I was like a fidgety 7-year-old kid with ADHD. And when I actually finished, I realized that the most important thing that I can do is to Be My Own Mother.

And what does Mother think that Little Julia needs? To be present with her own pain.

Ouch. Did I just write that? I guess so, since my first WIP is about the disaster that one man’s life becomes when he is unable to do just that. He’s constantly medicating his pain, running away from it, with work, with cigarettes, with alcohol, with women. Now, I don’t do any of the above… but I can see why someone would do that.

Just be present with my pain, my frustrations, my anger, my disappointments.

Just breathe.








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