Friday, February 29, 2008


Wonky day because I overslept and had a headache thanks to it. On the upside, while my brain negotiated with my brain about whether I would go straight to work or whether I would watch last night's Survivor, we reached a compromise. I have to read for school, and if I'm not going to write during my prime working hours, better reading than keeping up with reality TV.

I did watch it later this afternoon over lunch, and I won't lie, when Ozzy carved the fake idol I got really happy.

On non-wonky days, I like to write first thing -- a lot of the time I don't even get out of bed. I got in this habit when my college acting teacher made us do stream-of-consciousness journaling every morning. If I stay in bed, it doesn't feel like work, I'm less likely to censor myself, more likely to follow intuition. It's kind of like I haven't quite quit dreaming. Also, sitting down at a desk or in a coffee shop later in the day feels like a whole new activity, so I might get two sessions in.

When I put off writing, then I think about it in a will-I-won't-I? way for the rest of the day. Things that I would normally view as chores like going to the bank get labeled as procrastination. There's no point to that, because procrastination should at least be fun. Once I get annoyed with myself for feeling guilty, I'm libel to find a fun way to REALLY procrastinate.

I had a ton of options for tonight -- two plays, a poetry reading, a party -- and I somehow managed to mess up or say no to all of them, shut everything off, and write for a while, so I'm pleased. I'll still make the party, and I'll feel better having pushed past my resistance.

So for tonight, I spent a good chunk of time on an exercise, working with point of view and emotion. It kind of warmed me up to face my revision with courage, and I got 787 done on that.

In other news, I had fun watching my friends Kurt and Dina in a play last night, Contraption. They were both faboo, and Kurt makes an excellent mad scientist.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sweet, sweet blog

I feel drawn to this thing. I just want to give it love, and that definitely motivated me today since I put off posting until after work. I tend to get enthused with new things to the point of obsession, and then get to a point where I can take or leave it. So far that hasn't happened with my novel, and I hope that it won't happen here.

I just had a great talk with my advisor, Sharon Darrow. I'm in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. It's a low-residency program, which means that I work with an advisor for a semester at a time, and between semesters, I spend ten days on campus going to lectures and readings, not sleeping, and cramming as much community into that short time as possible. One of my fellow students calls it Evil Genius Writing Camp, and that feels about right. I heart it.

The wonderful and terrifying thing about the program is that you write and study mostly on your own. I have my fellow students for online support, and interaction with my advisor once a month, but the writing itself, the schedule I keep, what I choose to focus on when, is pretty much my own. Some advisors are more prescriptive than others, and so far I've had a lot of freedom in setting my own course. As much as I love having structure imposed on me, this model forces me to take control of my routine and process. I hope that by the time I finish the program, I'll have built a process that I'll be able to hold onto without suffering the giant shock of being thrust back into the real world.

I'm on packet two of my second semester, my first packet consisting of 180 pages of my YA novel in progress (I cut about 100 pages before submitting this 180) and an easy reader. Each packet also includes essays, a reading list, and a letter to the advisor. For my second packet, I'll be focusing on revision with some new material on the novel as well.

Sharon gave me some essays to read with a great point of focus for revision. The work I need to do is daunting, but I feel like I've grown as a writer just today, and I know that growth is going to continue throughout the semester.

I can't quote the essays here, but how about a quote of a quote that caught me? Federico Garcia Lorca:

"Black sounds--behind which there abide, in tenderest intimacy, the volcanoes, the ants, the zephyrs, and the enormous night, straining its waist against the Milky Way."

This is where I need to go in my revision. Wish me luck.

Today's word count: 1,921
Currently reading: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff and John Gardner's The Art of Fiction

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Showing up

This is a personal exercise in journaling and a public exercise in accountability. I'm interested in chronicling my writing process, partly to keep a record for my own future reference, and partly to find meaning in the way I spend my days. My hope is that as a result of doing this in a public space, two things will happen. One, I will be motivated to work hard, like a kid who wants to post a gold star on the Awesome Board, and two, I'll find solidarity with other artists who are working to make the thing they love and the thing they do for money one and the same. If this interests, inspires, or motivates anybody else, sweet! If not, no worries. There are about a billion other blogs you can turn to for anything you like.

I considered calling my blog "Showing Up" after Woody Allen's famous line, "Eighty percent of success is showing up," but success isn't really what I'm concerned with here. If you want to read about success, you can check out my friend Lacy's awesome blog: A Year of Dubious Success. She inspired me to do this, and if I can make my blog one tenth as interesting as hers, I will be a smiley girl.

No, I'm concerned with motivation, why we show up to do the things we do every single freaking day. Did I mention I'm in Chicago, and we've had so little sunlight this winter that I just bought a fake sun to put on my desk? I did. A real, live fake sun from Verilux. It's called a Happy Light, and I'll keep you updated on how happy it makes me. It made this girl so happy, her hair went sideways.

I write, and write, and write, and I hope that I will finish my work in progress. I believe that I will. Most of the time. Until I don't. And that makes it harder to write. And I hate it when people complain about writing, because if you don't want to do it, just don't. And still, some days it's hard. So I'm trying to focus less on product and more on process. If I show up every day, tiny bit by tiny bit, I'll get it done.

And now, in spite of everything I just said about product -- but hey, churning out the words is part of the process -- my word count for the day: 1,401