the writer at rest?

Ideas are elusive, slippery things. Best to keep a pad of paper and a pencil at your bedside, so you can stab them during the night before they get away. -- Earl Nightingale

Oooh, and the book is back.

I wish I could figure out the moods that capture and sway this writing life. For most of May, my poor writing life was right down the drains, lost in the mists surrounding a thousand activities, a thousand emotions, everything urgent or dear. And when I'd have a spare moment, I'd squint at my characters and see strangers instead.

Not a pleasant feeling.

But somehow, the book is creeping up on me again.

I don't know what the trick was: what made the difference? The dogged and difficult Monday I spent all-but-shackled to my computer, clawing my way toward this story? The nights I spent staring at my ceiling wondering about what this next bit of drafting might hold?

Whatever it was, we are now back in full swing, and I feel the unfolding joy of work again. I am so cranky when the work isn't going well... you really don't want to be near me.

Though, come to think of it, perhaps it's not easy to be around me when writing goes well, either? I zone out during conversations, because a character is tugging on my ear. I forget to do things.

And at night I crowd my bed with books to read, and fall asleep on pens... Once I woke up certain I'd broken a rib somehow... nope. Just a ballpoint pen digging into me through the night. And that's if I fall asleep...

When work is good, I'm thinking about the book instead of trying to sleep. I keep snatching at the scraps of paper I have beside the bed, scribbling in the dark. Those are a joy to decipher the next morning--what was I writing in, Sanskrit? One of these days, I'll scrawl some fantastic line on my sheets and never be able to read it again...

But that's me these mornings, stumbling out to breakfast dazed, inkstained, and full of words.


the marathon

Shameless bragging, that's what this is.

(It's a bit blurry because I'm trying not to drop my needles... I didn't.)

On Sunday, I told Mom that I needed a big knitting project: big. Something to sink my needles into. Who's running from her book? Not me.

And so this afghan was born. It's a gift for some friends of ours--we kept them company at the hospital on Wednesday, as their son had a long surgery. (He's doing well.)

Isn't it comforting to watch someone knit? Probably not if she's me, and has this feverish gleam in her eyes. Are you giving yourself carpal tunnel syndrome? they asked. Let's hope not.

So, Sunday night we grabbed the yarn for it, and I've knitted fiendishly since then. I'm about halfway done, and for an afghan (and for me), that's pretty darn good! A knitathon. What a lovely thing.

(Um, have I been writing? Interesting question. Very interesting.)


the first day of the rest of the draft

"Begin at the beginning," the King said gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop." -- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The next stage of drafting: begun!

1667 words down today, spelling out the opening moments of Part Three, in my enormous, ever-continuing novel. 1667. A little over five pages. Not bad. Not great.

We could use more scenery--my poor characters dance around on a blank stage. But then, I always write like that. I get facial expressions and dialogue and protagonist thoughts first, and only later think about what she's looking at, what it smells like there, how the air feels.

Still, the first scene is down, the first hurdle is over, and I remember that I'm not a scene-planner after all, but a writer. How nice.

Though, in the first days of a draft, I always half-expect my characters to roll their eyes at me. "Why should I do that?" I can hear them say.

"Because I said so" doesn't go nearly as far with rebellious characters as I would hope.

What I'm most excited about: my protagonist, E., showed up today. She's sitting in the corner as I write this, throwing out sassy opinions about her lot in the novel's life. But she earned the right to be snarky: she had her first verbal sparring match with the Antagonist today, and poor E didn't exactly win.

But the chocolate-raspberry truffles I had waiting outside her trailer? All gone. So that's a little compensation, at least.

(She's very smug about how the Antagonist only received celery sticks.

... At least, that's what I told E.)

let's make the world better

Everybody has won, and all must have prizes. -- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Here's what I think. Let's all get pots of confetti, all of us, and put them by our desks. And every time we have a good idea--or even a half-way decent one--or just think of something that's not awful, we take a fistful, throw it over our heads, and cry I'm a genius!

(But you have to say it really loud, okay? I have to be able to hear you.)

I think this would make everyone feel better.

It would sure make drafting more fun.


the chicken little of the calendar

I recommend you to take care of the minutes: for hours will take care of themselves. -- Earl of Chesterfield

The Future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is. -- C.S. Lewis

The sky isn't falling. I just checked: it's secure, if a bit overcast.

The passage of time, though: that's another thing entirely. (Though also tending toward the overcast...)

I remember charging through the house as a kid, on the 30th or 31st, telling everyone "It's time to change the calendars! Flip your calendars tonight! New month tomorrow!"

Then I'd change my own, and run my fingers over all the blank boxes that we had yet to cross. It felt like looking at a map, only with far less information... something to cross through that you cannot see.

I've never been completely easy with them, those blank boxes.

I can let a few go past without too much concern, but every fifth day or so, I panic again at what day it is. "Can you believe it's the fifteenth?!" I was shrieking yesterday. "The fifteenth! It's the middle of May!! And 2009, no less! How did it get to be 2009? Wasn't it just 2005?"

No one else looked surprised.

One of my magazines arrived early this week--the June edition. June? I had to sit down and take a few deep breaths.

One day at a time? What on earth does that mean??

Time seems to pull me along kicking and screaming, the kid pressing herself back in her chair, as if she's at some horror movie but can't take her eyes off the screen... Eeeek, another day gone!

It comes out in other ways, too: at my job once, I got the date wrong on something. Month and day were fine, but I was two years off. And it was September. Should've been used to the year by then, eh? (I got a few weird looks.)

Despite this panicking, the sky is falling!! relationship with time, I still make plans, still move forward, somehow.

Which brings us to Monday: time to start drafting again, the third section out of four. Another major rewrite, new scenes, new dialogue. My protagonist should drop by--we can only hope--and the antagonist is sharpening her cruelty. They'll all be there on Monday, and so will I, though I'll be the one blinking astonishment at my computer screen.

The eighteenth? Really?? Can it possibly be the 18th? That's late May, isn't it? I mean, it's practically the twentieth, and once you hit the twenties, you're practically done with the month, so we might as well call it June, and then it's summer, and then--


knit and purl, milk and sugar

Mix knitting and coffee and I am a happy girl.

I've seen knitted coffee sleeves in magazines and shops, and thought I'd try making my own. Success!

The blue/white one and the pink/yellow were both results of our Easter egg yarn dyeing.

And as long as we're talking about knitting and coffee...

This is that mug I'm so smitten with:

Mmmm... my resolve to write today is shrinking. A dark roast and a new blanket pattern are calling instead...

open letter to a protagonist at large

Saints have never flourished in those parts. -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Dear E.,

Clearly, I got the note that you left me. And I know what you're thinking: we've had visitors, and besides, I've been a bit sick lately. So you think you can get away with running out on me?

Never underestimate your author, or her midnight revelations.

Have I got an antagonist for you. And sweetie, you've met your match.

What were you thinking? Goading me into worsening your antagonist, when you know I've been fighting a sinus infection... When I feel savage, it's easier to write characters who act the same way. And let me tell you--this antagonist makes me shiver a bit.

So you'd better hurry back. Come soon, and figure out how to maintain your witty composure in Act Three. ... You're gonna need some sidekicks, I can tell you that right now.

Yours on the other side of the keyboard,

i'd rather be ...

A morning of thorough confusion was to be expected. -- Jane Austen, Persuasion

It's been a wild and wonderful week.

We've had relatives visiting from Australia, and my mom's family in this area has been getting together to spend time with them, show them around Saint Louis. (Including a mini coffee tour of the area... oh, yum. And now I have new tips for scouting out coffee shops--perfect.)

You just need to meet my family to understand how fun and crazy this is.

We've started a million conversations, and left another million unfinished. Stirred up ideas (family reunion? trip to Australia? trip anywhere at all? suddenly I'm craving vacation), ate plenty of good food, snapped some hilarious candid photos. (One of my cousins has mastered the "mosquito face." We're so proud.)

So, it's been fantastic...

And how can I possibly get back to work?

I stare at my computer screen and hear all the laughter and voices from the week. I try to think of new scenes for writing Part Three, but instead wonder about new coffee blends. Self-discipline attempts a feeble comeback, but is quickly squelched by Vacation Mode, which is in full swing.

I don't know which is more dangerous: how unconcerned I am about getting my work done? Or the way I'm eyeing my savings account and thinking of swapping it for plane tickets? I hear rates are dropping...


hooray for these.

The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury. -- Charlie Chaplin

Ten things I'm grateful for, right this very minute. In no particular order...

1. My huge soundtrack library, which makes me feel brilliant and epic, even when my writing sounds miserable...

2. Cilantro + lime

3. Wooden knitting needles, happy sigh

4. Overcast days and rain on the roof

5. Cherry pie (warm from the oven, heaven help us!)

6. A new mug from Starbucks that makes me smile... it looks like a knitted mug. Seriously. Knitting plus coffee. It has my heart written all over it.

7. Homemade Greek food

8. The prospect of being an AUNT before my next birthday

9. ... and on that note, sisters that are best friends

10. Ceiling fans, yes.