Open Mic and Hard Times for Writing

Hello Blog readers.

I am sitting at a desk.

And you are watching me crawl out of a writing slump.

I likely brought it down on myself by being too gosh-darn optimistic the last time I posted about writing. You can read that one here. It’s a good one, and it’s still true. That’s still where I’m at. It’s still time to get to it, and there’s no time for writing lazy.

Still, I haven’t even responded to comments on that post, or really followed any of your blogs in the past few weeks. I haven’t updated the Wanderlust facebook page, or even responded to some facebook messages on my own wall from good friends of mine. What’s that all about? I don’t know, but I’ve always operated in cycles. Sometimes I can be the extraverted person, who not only wants to interact with the world but is capable of doing so. Other times, I fall into to an introverted place where any form of communication or putting myself out there is… not impossible, but really hard. Also, writing slump. I’ve been lazy, and I haven’t had anything to tell you.

I could have told you about singing at an open mic last Friday. Brother was visiting for the weekend and played keyboard with us. It’s been years since I’ve worked with a voice teacher or anything and I could probably use some help polishing those high notes, but overall we didn’t sound too bad. Check it out on the facebook page (because apparently I can’t post videos here without giving wordpress.com more money):

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=374371732642080&notif_t=video_processed

Some big news: on Tuesday, I’m hitting the road. My Aunt and Uncle are packing up their house in Maine and moving all their stuff to North Carolina, and they need an extra driver on the way South (two people + 2 loaded vehicles = no one to trade off with/ keep drivers awake. 3 people + 2 vehicles gives you some more leeway). They’re sending me back on the Greyhound, and of course I’m planning a few more stops on the way North. Of most interest to you folks, you potential Wanderlust fans you, is that I’m hoping to spend a few nights in Washington D.C. Maybe you don’t know, but Wanderlust Chapters 3, 4, 5, and some of 6 all take place in Washington DC—Washington DC in October. I’m excited to get some more reference photos for the illustrations in this section of the book. Also, how much easier will it be to write about a place I’ve just visited, instead of a place I’m remembering from, what, Spring 2010? I’m hoping the trip will help inspire a few scenes in the city that are falling a little flat right now.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted, and I will keep working, and get back to maintaining that regular internet presence as soon as I can.

-Grace out

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Old Stuff, Old Vanya

So I’ve had a bad week, or two. Despite my grandly worded, Lets-Get-To-It! last post, I have fallen into a writing funk. Again, I’m not saying Writers’ Block, I’m saying lazy. Also, the lack of a proper desk. I don’t think working on the couch is doing it for me, now that working requires going back and forth between the printed manuscript and the computer. It’s too many things for one lap! In the next few days, I hope to develop better work habits for this part of the project. There have been other extenuating circumstances that made working difficult, but you don’t care about any of that. My point is I’m sorry for not maintaining this site better in the interim, and thanks for sticking around. I am getting back to doing all those things that I was so fired up about the last time I posted.

One thing I have been doing, in addition to getting back into running and finishing up a free-lance painting job, is cleaning my room and filing everything I’ve ever created from elementary school onward. I won’t be living at home forever, in fact I’d very much like to get out within the year, but I plan to leave my bedroom finished, organized, and well-designed when I go. This way it can be a proper guest room for my parents instead of a disaster area. The problem right now is that everything I’ve owned in my life and everything I acquired in college is trying to co-exist in a room significantly smaller than the one I had in my college apartment. I’m attempting to downsize, but… I’m a writer. Organization skills do not come naturally.

Also, I’m a writer. I’m a paper-person. I’ve been a writer and a paper-person since second grade. I’ve heard that some writers throw out all their old work, but I’ve never been able to do that. To me, all those raw ideas are so valuable. Someday I might want to write a book for third graders, and those stories I wrote in third grade about a girl finding an injured baby pegasus might provide just the starting point I need. And what about the story I started in fifth and sixth grade that was supposed to be my first novel, about the slave-girl-turned-rescuer with twin black unicorns and a glowing sword? I’d like to turn that into a cool little book for a middle-grade audience, someday when I have the time.

So that’s me, saving everything. The problem is I also saved all the binders (and Lisa Frank trapper keepers) going back to third grade, and binders and notebooks take up a lot of space. Now I’m going through and removing all those valuable stories, and tossing the binders and recycling all the rest. I’m saving so much space. It’s a process, though. You’d think I could toss a whole binder full of science notes, except I probably got bored during science class and started writing an epic story. I have to go through everything. Yesterday, I found some fake journal entries of soldiers in trenches during WWII that I wrote in 11th grade, for a combined history and creative writing assignment. They were fairly over-dramatic, but also surpisingly powerful, and showed some growth in my writing voice. I also find tidbits of Vanya everywhere, like this sketch from the back of some Art History flashcards my freshmen year of college: I’d seen some boys in France who pulled off the hair-in-a-high-ponytail look really well, and I was fooling around with whether that would work for Vanya in the second book. (The answer is probably not, since it makes him look even more like a girl, but there’s still something about it I kind of like.) I even found some narrative on the back of the card:

…his hair had grown, of course, and he had taken to wearing it up in a sort of topknot, or messy bun. Strands of the blonde were forever escaping to blow around his face. This did nothing to decrease his femininity, and as a result both boys and girls were always staring…

This is also when Vanya was still the “emo kid,” with his fishnet shirt, although it looks like I was finally on my way to figuring out how to draw his cheekbones and jaw-line. Shows how things change: for the current version of the book, I decided the fishnets weren’t necessary for his character, and I no longer wanted to look at them in every illustration.

Do you keep everything you’ve ever written, or are you more the light-it-all-on-fire every few years type? Feel free to drop a line in the comments below. 🙂

How I Started Writing Again

Some good and some bad today. I did start writing again, more on that below. The bad news is that I have lost most of a notes document containing upwards of twenty pages of Wanderlust material. I had been relying on Microsoft Word’s autosave function, which is not a smart thing to do, especially if you are using a trial version of Word that has run out and will refuse to start up again if you are accidentally forced to restart the computer you have avoided restarting for weeks because the trial can’t run out on you if you never close the program, right? This accidental restarting occurred on my voyage through Canada a few weeks ago, and I’ve only just realized the extent of the damage. I’m feeling a little wobbly about the whole thing. It was all just notes, you understand, and pep-talks, and scenes I pasted there because I was deleting them from the manuscript in order to replace them with something better, but felt insecure about deleting them outright. Most of it was things I was getting rid of anyway, so this is not a disaster… but at the same time I can’t remember everything from the document, so maybe it is a disaster and I just haven’t realized it yet! There is one scene from the very ending of Wanderlust, possibly from the epiloque, that I have quite clear in my head and I know I have typed before, and it must have been in this notes document. It was in looking for this scene that I discovered the extent of the damage, and I feel a sharp sense of loss, for I know I wrote this scene, and I think it was good. It… hurts, to not be able to find it, because what if I can’t write it as good the second time? At the same time, I have all the words for it in my head. I see them so clearly. I will just have to write it up again, is all, and generally scenes do write better the second time, despite our fears. So man up, Grace. This could have been a lot worse. Wipe your eyes, write it again, and keep working.

I did start writing again. Just yesterday I finished a draft of Chapter 11. The most unintelligible, cobbled-together, might-not-contain-actual-words kind of draft, but a draft nonetheless. That means I’m on Chapter 12, the last chapter, and it’s actually going well! I’m very close to breaking 50,000 words on the manuscript. I should have a full draft (the roughest draft) by the end of the week—maybe sooner! Maybe tonight! Here are the two major things that got me writing again after a several-week drought:

1.) Workspace. Did you read all that stuff above about my copy of Microsoft Word being a trial? Well, the free trial ran out, and I didn’t have the money to purchase the actual program. I knew this day was coming, and I had a free substitute called Libre Office installed on my computer, and when Word ran out I just thought, okay. Time to make do. Except I hated Libre Office. Working in it made me cringe. I couldn’t do it, and I was on vacation so I ignored the entire thing as long as possible. Yesterday, sitting on the couch and talking to my brother, I was almost in tears because I still couldn’t afford Word, but I couldn’t imagine being able to function in any other program. Brother came to the rescue, as he has in every tech problem I have had, ever. He purchased Apple Pages from the the App store; Apple’s $20 Word Processing alternative. He needed it to touch up his resumé, and downloaded it to my computer so I could use it too since I was too skeptical to purchase it without a trial. (Yes, I own a mac. I have always owned mac. It’s a family tradition, plus they’re shiny.) Turns out it’s perfect, and, besides not loading images properly or having drop-cap capabilities, exactly what I need. Here’s a screenshot:

Most of the images don’t load, this is an exception, but I can put them back in if I want to. Most importantly, it displays a word-count and page-count at the bottom, has full-screen capabilities that are so helpful with distractions, and has all the necessary editing tools available at the top when I run my mouse over. With this program, I feel like I can finally THINK again.

2.) Inspiration. Saturday night, the first night the four of us have been home as a family in a long time, we watched Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part II,  since my dad had it out on his netflix queue. I’d only seen it once in theaters, so I enjoyed seeing it again. Being the last of the Harry Potter movies, it was all about Ending. The ending of a book, the ending of an epic series, and, for many fans, the ending of an era. I’m not saying that I’m actively trying to emulate anything from this movie (I’m not even one of those rabid Harry Potter fans, really), but I am trying to craft an ending for Wanderlust; an ending that will stick and hold and be worthy of all that has come before. Maybe also one of the swooshy-spell things in the HP movie triggered a visual answer to the mechanics of a spell-thing I’ve been struggling with, but mostly, as I cried for Snape (always), felt awed by the epic moments of the battle, and wrecked by the sacrifices of Harry and all his protectors, what I internalized was how a proper ending should feel. How it should grab you, and where it should squeeze. Suddenly, instead of feeling terrified to write my ending, I felt excited again. Finally.

Lately this blog has been full of words! Stay tuned for my next post, a digital painting. Here’s a preview:

-Lady G

Hello from Massachusetts

So I’ve been having trouble getting my words together. I haven’t posted in over a week, going on two, and that’s exactly the precedent I don’t want to set for this blog. My only excuse is I was on vacation in Marquette, Michigan, (read about that here) and when I’m on vacation it’s so hard to work.

On Sunday, I actually wrote up a whole post. It sort of had a point, and sort of maybe came together by the end, but I never went through and edited it because there were trees to sit under (I have become a sitting-under-trees enthusiast) and beer to drink (Honey Lavender Wheat, mmmm) and friends to be with. That post never got finished, and a lot of it isn’t really topical anymore today. The lesson: always finish posts day-of.

Marquette was lovely, by the way. I swam in the lake and walked all around my town and went to my bar and spent time with my people. It was a really wonderful week, filled with about equal parts relaxing and shenanigans. I’m really glad I went back one last time, and I think maybe this time, I got it out of my system. I’m sure this wasn’t the last time I’ll see Marquette; I left my mug at Blackrocks, and it’s there for me, waiting. I’d like to think I’ll stop in every few years, grab my mug, and say, Hey, old town. I’m back. Let’s jive. But for now? I’m ready to start planning some bigger adventures, and traveling to some farther shores.

Right now I’m curled up in my brother’s apartment in Northampton, Massachusetts. I arrived here at 1 pm today (Thursday) after a Greyhound bus adventure that began at 2 am Wednesday morning. That’s about 36 hours on buses, people, with no layovers longer than 45 minutes. We’re driving up to Maine tomorrow, after Brother gets out of work. I’m glad to be done with the buses for today, but overall I will probably give you a more positive review of Greyhound travel than you’ll hear from most people. If you’ve got time, it’s not a bad way to get around. It certainly qualifies as an adventure (some other time, I will have to tell you about getting through customs at Saulte Ste Marie) and it means you really feel the distance rolling through the ground beneath you as you nod off to sleep and jerk awake when the lights come on at the next stop and slowly nod off again. It’s more intrepid than flying, a little grittier, and definitely more of an ordeal, but for me it was a positive experience overall. If the opportunity arises, I won’t shy away from taking another lengthy bus trip in the future.

One more thing: I have a confession to make. I am terrified to write the last two chapters of my book. I’m not calling it Writers’ Block because I don’t believe in Writers’ Block, per say. Writer’s Block is just another name for lazy. These last few chapters are gonna make or break the book, however, and I’m terrified that I won’t do them justice, that they won’t be good enough, that they’ll render all of my hard work up to this point irrelevant. This is a foolish fear, because the first draft is going to suck anyway. The first draft always sucks. What I need to do now is plow through the fear and get something, anything, written down, so that I’ll have something to work from when I figure out what I need to do to actually make it awesome. But I’ve been on vacation, and there have been so many excuses not to write. Now that I’m coming home, there won’t be any more excuses, and I will wrestle with this demon, and I will write those chapters. Next week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

-Grace out