Month: February 2012

May the force (of love) be with you

Photo on 2012-02-14 at 00.03

Me and Riley wishing everyone a very happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t get caught up in the couple-y stuff. Just spread love. After all, it’s the most wonderful and powerful force there is. :)

Further introspection on juggling and life

One of the nuances of my juggling analogy that I didn’t really explain is the cyclical nature of it. We tend to juggle the same items over and over. We re-learn the same lessons.

Or at least I do.

“Think before you speak.” “Don’t judge.” “Have patience.” “Exercise discipline.” Every time I think I’ve got one of those under control, I realize one of the others has slipped.

That can be frustrating at times. Won’t I ever break my bad habits? Won’t these good qualities ever become second nature? But I think that’s just how life goes. We are constant works-in-progress. Like manuscripts, there is always something that could be better.

Related, here’s a quote I recently read and really liked:

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. “

– Alfred D’Souza (taken from “Life Is Not Like a Novel, Except When It Is”)

Bearing the hard parts of life

A few nights ago, I was out to dinner with a friend who is going through a hard time, and he said something very simple but wise:

“No matter how much I want to, I can’t fast forward through this.”

We all have things we want to fast forward through. The slog of climbing the corporate ladder. The search for Mr./Mrs. Right. The pain of a breakup. The grief of mourning. Whatever they might be, we can’t hurry up and skip the hard parts of life. And I think knowing that makes them more bearable, in a way. There’s a sort of freedom and relief in acceptance. We can’t fast forward, but we’ll still get to the other side, or wherever we’re going, one day at a time.

Last thoughts on Indy (and traveling alone)

I’ll be honest, Indianapolis is not a city I gave much thought to, growing up in Texas. But it has been strangely relevant in my world recently. Hosted the Super Bowl. Home of YA rockstar John Green. And the last place I visited on my own.

A lot of people don’t like to travel alone, but I do. There’s a freedom in going places by yourself, not having to take anyone else into account, not knowing exactly what’s on your agenda or what to expect. When I set out for Indianapolis, it was a cool but sunny autumn morning. I drove with music blaring, my window showcasing endless green fields spotted with cows. This wasn’t going to be a grand adventure like my summer in Spain, but still, it was mine.

When I arrived at the hotel I had booked, I learned that I would be staying in a separate guest house, not the main inn. The building was small, old, and charming; the room basic but clean. The door required an actual key instead of a plastic card. It was like stepping back into another time, and I almost wished for no television or internet, too. But later, when I realized I was the ONLY person staying there, I would feel grateful for the bright screens keeping me company in the cricket-filled dark.

There were plenty of restaurants nearby. First I visited a small Vietnamese noodle shop, owned and run by a brother-sister duo who had been separated as children in Saigon and reunited 20 years later in the States. Their story was as satisfying as their soup. Over the next couple days, I bought peach tea and Hershey’s bars to keep me going through the long nights. I tried a mediocre Korean restaurant, and an awful but earnest bakery. I soaked up the sun and syrup at a new café down the street from my guest house.

Though my goal was to finish my first draft, I think part of me always knew it was a longshot. Plus, it’s hard to sit still and stare at a screen for so many hours on end. So I gave myself permission to take breaks. To take advantage of the beautiful state park around me. My room came with free admission, so I took my camera on a tour of the woods. We shared the trails with hikers, bicyclists, families, and their dogs. I snapped pictures, scribbled thoughts, just sat and watched the sun play through the leaves. Like I said, there’s freedom in going places by yourself.

And sometimes there’s magic in that freedom.

Indianapolis and faucets

So, Indianapolis. I think the best way to explain is this: Indianapolis was my attempt to be a turn-faucet.

(Note: I have no idea if these are actually referred to turn-faucets and push-faucets, but that’s what I’m calling them, okay?)

On one hand, you have turn-faucets. They offer a wide range of control. Temperature, volume, duration. With a turn-faucet, you can decide all of those factors and more. Turn-faucets are versatile and accommodating.

(Although the one in that picture is not particularly stylish.)

(But it IS the kind we have in our condo.)

On the other hand, you have push-faucets. One press does it all, and one press is all it does. You get about twenty seconds of water that you can only hope is neither frigid nor searing. (Usually it’s frigid.) Push-faucets are easy but limited.

You can see where this is going, right?

Some writers trickle out a few words one day, then pour whole chapters the next. Other writers produce a steady stream of paragraphs each time they sit down to work. The question was, which kind of writer was I going to be?

Now, I can type (conservatively) 60 words per minute, which means I should be able to write 3,600 words per hour. And yet, when I have to craft those words into sentences, shape them into story, my rate goes waaaay down.

Maybe it’s because I sit facing a wall.* Or because I work at home instead of going out to coffee shops and libraries. Or because I use Scrivener. Or Chrome. Or a Mac. Or…

Yeah, I know.

Anyway, back in October when I was getting really frustrated about my progress (or lack thereof), the We Heart YA girls suggested I go on a writing retreat. To eliminate distractions. To get rid of any and all (stupid) excuses. To make the final push and Finnish my book.

Or as I saw it: To prove once and for all that I could be a turn-faucet.

As Barney Stinson would say: Challenge accepted.

After doing some research, I settled on Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis. It was relatively close and inexpensive, and it seemed like a nice place. (Definitely was.) I went alone, worked furiously from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening, and was really looking forward to blogging about my lovely, triumphant getaway on Monday morning.

But as you all know, I didn’t finish my manuscript that weekend. I didn’t even finish it later that week. No, it took me another 3 months to finish. Why?

Because I am a push-faucet.

For a while, I felt like a failure. The further I got from the weekend, the more it seemed like I was NEVER going to finish. Like I was a fool for thinking I ever could. Then one day, I got SO far away that it didn’t even matter. And that was when I finally had enough emotional distance to realize the truth.

That weekend was a huge success.

(In a way.)

That weekend in Indy taught me that no matter how perfect the circumstances, I really can’t write more than 2 hours at a time, and in those 2 hours, I average about 500-700 words. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, or how bad I want it, I simply am not a turn-faucet. That’s not a tragedy; that’s just a reality. And as long as I accept it, I can make it work for me.

Which is exactly what I’ve been teaching myself to do these past 3 months. But that’s another story for another day.

So whether you’ve got 360º flexibility, or one-push consistency, embrace it. There’s no right or wrong way to get the words out. Water is water.

*Note: I no longer sit facing a wall. But that too is another story for another day.

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