Organizing for Creativity

With a baby around, it probably won’t come as a huge shock when I say that I haven’t been creating very much lately. However, this is about to change! Last week, I returned to work, and my handsomer half has taken up the taxing job of being lead parent. I’m happy to be back having discussions with other adults and drinking my coffee while it’s still hot, and he’s happy to be away from the day job for a while. It’s an interesting reversal of roles, but I think it’s going well.

Now that I’m back at work I’ve got about 1.5 hours a day commuting time. I take public transit, so this could, theoretically, amount to creative time! There’s also, theoretically, a few hours a day after KRH goes to sleep. So, I needed to get myself organized.

Over the last eight months (I can’t believe KRH is eight months old already!), life has felt complicated, hectic, and disorganized. My husband and I recently agreed to work on changing that. My new motto for life is “Joyfully Simple” and I’ve spent the last month or so organizing and purging our home to get rid of the possessions that we no longer use and to make sure that everything had a home so that there were no more piles of things by the front door or all over the kitchen counters. As part of this, I finally completed the longstanding goal of turning an unused room in our basement into a sweet little playroom for KRH (and the cats).

That work is now done, and our house already feels so much more open, clean, and welcoming! There’s still work to do, here and there, and the never-ending chores of home ownership, but I feel so much more at peace in our house. Getting rid of some of the things that we no longer use has opened up room for our family to play and grow and be. Another upshot? I’ve found several uncompleted projects that I’ve started to complete – look for those to come up on the blog soon.

Now we just have to keep the house this way! We’ve agreed to spend a few minutes at the end of each day tidying up and putting everything back where it belongs, which is sometimes a feat with a busy little boy. Next on the list: sort out a routine and some habits to simplify our life and make sure that the important things get done while still leaving us time to raise our son, spend time as a couple, and create!

A Different Kind of Creativity

I need to find new ways to be creative, and that’s stretching me a bit.

Let me sum up:

 

We are now three (five if you count the cats), and have been for almost four months now. The time has absolutely flown by in a whirlwind of figuring out this small person (who shall be known as KRH) who has stolen our hearts.

As noted by the title of this post, this requires a certain amount of creativity, but a kind of creativity I’ve not used before. There’s the usual ‘try everything until we figure out why the baby’s crying’ creativity, but also a certain amount of flexibility is required to make our new family work, to give my husband and myself time to do the things that keep us sane and healthy, while making sure that KRH has everything that he needs to grow. Fortunately, we are really lucky that we have a supportive family and community backing us up.

It hasn’t always been easy, but we are slowly starting to find our balance there. It helps that KRH is (*knocks on wood*) approaching something resembling a nap schedule, which leaves me freer during the day to do the day to day stuff of life, rather than relying on my husband for everything (often literally spoon-feeding me in the early days). This, in turn, is starting to free him up to focus on his health and writing.

My creativity is being stretched in other ways, too, to figure out how to entertain this small person for an entire day by myself. KRH isn’t a huge fan of lying down on his play mat for long periods anymore, but can’t quite sit up or crawl yet, so he’s not able to entertain himself very well and there’s only so many times I can make funny noises or faces at him before I get tired. Still, we’re getting out of the house to activities and appointments and, once the weather gets better, I’d like to go for more regular walks and have some outside time.

I don’t intend to talk about KRH much on this blog, but I figured he deserved at least one post, so there you go. It’s not the same as knitting or writing, but he’s certainly stretching my creative muscles!

He’s also growing. A lot. (This picture is already a month old).

Welcome to the world, little guy! I look forward to writing you many stories. <3!

A Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Normally, I’m pretty good at computer shortcuts.  I use them all the time, both for writing and for work.  It’s one of the reason my more… ‘senior’ coworkers think I’m so fast on the computer.  I’m pretty good at realizing when I’ve made a mistake and fixing it.  Control-Z is my friend.

 

Sometimes, I admit, I do struggle to switch from my work (Windows) machine to my home (Macbook) one.  Usually I try to hit control instead of command (or alt instead of control, depending on where I am and how hard I’ve been working).  It usually doesn’t work but doesn’t screw anything up, so I laugh and move on.

 

This weekend, I screwed up.

 

It wasn’t funny.

 

I had just spent two hours working through the plot summary (step 6 of the Snowflake method, if you’re curious) for my novel’s potential sequel.  It was brilliant, it was witty, it was even charming.  And I promptly accidentally deleted it (I won’t go into cutting versus copying and why I should have done one and not the other).  And my trusty command-Z apparently doesn’t work on Scrivener.

 

I was crushed.  Just ask poor Mark.  Weirdly, I was more angry with myself than sad, which is a nice change over crying in the corner for a few hours, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant.  It was hard to admit that I’d made that kind of a boneheaded mistake.  But I did.  And now I know that cutting in Scrivener (at least my version) can’t be undone.  So LEARN FROM ME PEOPLE!  DON’T FOLLOW IN MY TRAGIC FOOTSTEPS!

 

All it will do is keep you up to 2 am re-writing what you lost.

 

[Which, oddly, only took about 25 minutes.  Apparently there’s something to re-writing it right away.  It lost some of the sparkle, but the function is all still there.]

 

What’s the silliest computer mistake you’ve ever made?

Why I Didn’t Write This Weekend

Internet, I swear… I have a really good reason.

 

His name is Saffron.

 

Let me ‘splain.

 

Saturday was “annual kitty torturing day” at my house.  For those of you new to the party, that’s how my cats view their annual checkup.  It’s nothing horrendous: the usual listen to heart and lungs, palpitate abdomen, check eyes, ears, and teeth, stick thermometer up butt, and stab with a needle or two (vaccine SCIENCE!).  But, apparently, this is a really big deal when you’re a 14 pound cat.

 

I mean, I don’t enjoy my doctor’s visits either, but I have to shut up when he does most of the above (though the thermometer goes in my mouth because I’m a big girl).  I also have the benefit of understanding the importance of the visit; a bit of trivia I have not succeeded in imparting onto the cats.  So for them, this time of year is a REALLY BIG DEAL.

 

In fact, my boy kitty hates it so much that last year we had to drug him just to get through unscathed.

 

Fortunately, last year, it worked.  This year… not so much.

 

It looked promising, he took the meds easily and tolerated the wonderful tech weighing him to see if he’d lost weight like he was supposed to (he hadn’t).  He explored the exam room like a champ with slightly wobbly legs.  He even jumped onto my lap for a snuggle and attempted to get up on the exam table.

 

Then he saw his sister, who was hiding behind the black laptop like she does every year, trying to blend in and hope that, this once, we forget to examine her.  Apparently, this was a traumatic thing for Saffron, and he started to growl and hiss (the working theory is that he didn’t recognize her.  Or that he was being a jerk).  I thought it was still going to be manageable, if difficult.  The vet came in, did her essential oil magic (the cats smelled really good) and gave Saffron some (dried and fresh) catnip, which calmed him enough that he didn’t mind us being there, examining Socks, whom he was still growling at.

 

He started to get antsy so we ended up taking Socks to the back room (surgery) to give him a break with the lights out, and finished her exam there.  For various disgusting reasons involving glands needing to be expressed, it turned out to be a good thing that we’d moved.  Then we put Socks in her carrier in the hallway and went back to get Saffron.

 

Who had spent the whole time prowling and stalking and generally pretending to be a wild jungle cat.  We (the vet and I) had come in to get his vaccines to prep in the back room in preparation for the usual brief exam, stabby, and put kitty back in carrier when we made the unforgivable mistake of trying to leave the room without him getting out.

 

Internet… my cat bit the vet.  He ran into the hallway, clawed onto her leg, and bit her knee.  And when she tried to close the other exam room door (which was open to the front, where he could escape, he metaphorically lost his sh*t.  When I tried to help the vet, he attacked me.

 

I have to say, that having a cat claw in your bottom lip while simultaneously having your index finger bitten is not pleasant.  Nor is having a cat claw stuck in your forearm with said cat growling and hissing while you’re trying to contain the copious amounts of blood gushing from your lip.  My utmost support to the vet tech trainee who did what neither the vet nor I could do and caught Saffron underneath a quilt and held him there without getting a scratch.  At this point, he also literally lost his sh*t.

 

At this point, I decided that Saffron had enough and needed to take a nice, long nap.  So we put him in a box.

 

photo-4

 

And then we filled that box with gas (kitty nitrous oxide) and waited until he fell asleep.  Then we pulled him out and got on with many things we couldn’t when he was awake.

 

photo-3

 

It was a more thorough exam than I usually get, and included blood and urine panels (and faeces, fresh from the floor) because why not?  He’s the cat version of middle aged and he’s probably due for a good workup.  And it wouldn’t hurt to check his blood work since he’s overweight.

 

We plopped his doped up body into the cat carrier (he barely fit all splayed out like that), I nursed my wounds, hung around until he was more or less awake, paid up, and headed home.

 

Where I had a VERY snuggly Saffron.

 

photo

 

They warned me that he would be snuggly, but I was unprepared for how vocal he would be.  He spent most of Saturday sitting and crying, even when asleep.  It was kind of heartbreaking.

 

He also spent about two hours carrying a yellow toy mouse around in his mouth like it was his baby.  He barely put it down to eat.  And yes, my big macho cat cuddled with it.

 

photo-2

 

Even on Sunday, he was still pretty snuggly, which made it hard to get any work done.

 

But Internet?  With something this cute, I find it hard to justify doing anything else but cuddle all day.

 

photo-1

 

I’m sure you understand.

On Creativity

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Breathing out Birds by Roni Amin

 

I’ve been fighting with my muse lately.

 

It’s not that he/she/it hasn’t been talking to me, which is usually my problem.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I actually want to write lately, which has been a feeling that’s been hard to come by lately.  No, lately my problem has been to find the energy.

 

And the self-confidence.

 

The first is a lot easier to control: it means getting enough sleep and eating right and exercising, and making sure that I’m being nice to myself.  I’m still recovering from a very difficult time in my life and, if anything, have a bad habit of over-extending myself, especially on days when I feel well (like yesterday, where I helped my fiance clean his old room at his parents’ house – he was still storing stuff there – and then went shopping for house stuff, food, and new fish for the aquarium, and then went to a NaNoWriMo monthly meet).  That leads to days like Friday and Saturday, where I basically lay on the couch watching TV all day.  Neither of these days are particularly conducive to being productive in a writing sense, but there you have it…

 

No, that part is easy.  The self-confidence thing is a heck of a lot harder.  For example, this week, my wonderful, amazing fiance posted to social media that he had nine (NINE!) novel ideas lying in wait for when he only had the time. A lot of my writing friends claim to have the same problem – more ideas than time.  I have the opposite.  It’s rare for me to have a novel idea pop into my head.  I find that I really have to work at it to make them show up, which makes me worry that they might actually be not all that good.  Because it seems to be so easy for everyone else…

 

So I had a crisis of confidence this week, because I’m clearly doing this writing thing wrong if I don’t have nine or ten more ideas than I could ever write (which is funny, in retrospect, since all I’ve been able to think about has been the sequels to the book I’m currently writing, and how awesome the series is).  And it sucked, because I had finally, after nearly two years of forcing myself, felt like I was starting to re-discover the passion I had for writing.  And spending hours trapped in the conviction that I was absolutely no good at it was frustrating and maybe a little damaging.  Fortunately, I have a partner who’s well used to my confidence issues and knew all the right things to say to make me feel better.  Sometimes it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re trapped in negativity. I’m glad I have him around to be positive on occasion.

 

So I’m being nice to myself this week.  I’m not pushing the writing (there will be time enough for that in July).  Instead, I’m catching up on sleep and trying to feel better physically (because the last few months have been bad for that).  I’m also trying to focus on positive thoughts and reminding myself that I’m not doing anything wrong, I just need to learn how to look at everyday situations in a different light.  Of course, I think that requires me to be a little less exhausted…

 

How do you react when you realize you’re doing something “wrong”?

Phone The Media

I’ve been writing again.

 

Newspaper of New Zealand

 Photo from here

 

Slowly, to be sure, and not terribly effectively, but I’m writing again.

 

I haven’t talked about it much here, but I’ve actually been really struggling to write lately.  I haven’t had the mental and physical energy that I’ve needed to really devote myself to the task.  In part, I think it’s because of the day job, which has some really unusual hours right now, and often gets me home well after 7:00 three days of the week.  After then, by the time I eat and settle in, it’s bedtime.  So those days aren’t writing days.

 

But I’ve also found it hard to settle into a good sleep on those days (only having two hours at home isn’t what I’m used to).  Since the long days are usually Monday and Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday and rarely Thursdays, that means I’m exhausted by the end of the week and I need Thursday/Friday to catch up.  Then comes the weekend, which will be very busy now that it’s summer.

 

I’m probably not struggling with anything that’s terribly unusual to most of my colleagues out there, but I’m finding it difficult right now.  I’m also training for a 5K run at the end of June, trying to lose a little of the weight that I put on over the last few years (the side effect of some medication that I really needed), and attempting, however ineffectively, to spend some time with friends.  Writing time is at a premium these days.

 

Which is par for the course for summer, really.  I should be used to it by now, but this year it seems to be more of a struggle than usual.  All the same, I did a little bit of writing/editing this weekend.  It was mostly planning, since my motivation was stronger for that, and getting back into working again on something that I was motivated to do seemed logical, but at least I did it.  Now I just need to sustain it.  I should be good at this, since squeezing in bits of writing is all I preach during November, but I’m finding it harder to just edit for fifteen minutes like I could if I were writing.  What I’m working on needs a bit of conscious thought and sustained effort.  So I’m just going to have to experiment, I guess!

 

What are your tricks for writing when you don’t have much time?

 

 

 

 

Winner… Again!

So…

I’ve been working a series of rather long hours at the day job (the price one pays for having clients 16 time zones ahead) so this will be a short update by necessity.  But guess what?!?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

Did you guess?

You didn’t, did you?

 

 

 

I’m disappointed in you all.

Seriously, though, I’m pleased to report that I finished and WON the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo on Sunday April 28.  I celebrated with my fellow Wrimotaurs at our usual restaurant haunt by purchasing and subsequently eating the entirety of a caramel brownie bacon sundae.  It was delicious: although one wouldn’t think that those flavours go together, they totally do!

 

In typical me fashion, I have done absolutely no writing since that night.  Mostly because of the aforementioned long hours.  And my weekend was completely full of social-type events.  But things are slowly growing manageable at work as I get used to 45-50 hour weeks again, along with the hour commute each way.

 

And, as fun as gaming, cleaning the entire house, shopping and prepping for a party, watching Iron Man 3, and entertaining at said party were, I’ll be glad for some quiet time.  Which is kind of the exact opposite of summer, but there you go.

 

But now that Mark and I got the spring cleaning done in advance of entertaining last night… well, there’s going to be some more time for writing in my future!

 

After I mow the lawn and get the gardens in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

Chicken WHAT?!?!

Chicken WHAT?!?!

 Photo by Riverseal (flickr)

 

So, last week I shared how I participated in the Camp Marathon for NaNoWriMo (the NaNoThon).  Well, today I had two great pieces of news related to the NaNoThon that really made up for a long, tiring Monday.

 

Not that my day was bad or anything.  Far from it.  It was just a 10 hour day, from start to leaving work, including a 4:00 pm meeting that went until just before 6:00.  Then there was work to finish after that.  This is my normal Monday, and is the curse of working with a client that’s 15-16 hours ahead of us (4:00 our time is currently 9:00 am their time).  I’m still enjoying it and learning a lot, and hey: overtime’s alright.

 

But!  It was long and I was tired by the end of it.  So just imagine my excitement when I got home and checked the mail to find my Camp NaNo donor goodies awaiting me!  A brand new patch to add to my NaNoWriMo hoodie (that I’ll have to show you sometime).

 

Then, I checked my e-mail to learn that I was one of the lucky people that won a NaNoThon Donor Bonus prize!  So I have a Chris Baty Studios poster coming my way (which are beautiful and completely writer-themed.  It will likely be donated to my local NaNoWriMo group if it’s one I already have), along with a subscription to The Writer and an album download from Debs and Errol (which I have been listening to while writing this blog post).

 

So there you go: a rather uninspired Monday that ended up with me feeling pretty excited about NaNoWriMo stuff (we got some more good news about this year’s NaNo plans with our new partner, which I am saving for just the right moment to reveal) and life in general (a health insurance rebate cheque?  Yes please!)

 

What was the best thing that happened to you today?

 

 

 

 

 

Well… I’m back!

Hello friends!  I’m back!!

Yes, I was gone for a rather long time.  And I do apologize for that absence.  I have plenty of excuses, but that’s all that they are, so we’ll just leave them unsaid, shall we?

 

For the last half of February, I devoted myself to finishing the re-write of Fighter One.  Of course, I failed somewhat spectacularly in getting it done before we left for vacation on March 2.  I feel a little bad about it, but life exploded right before I left (when the client is visiting from Australia, you work late, because he’s only there for a limited time and there’s lots to do).  In fact, thus far I’m 3/3 on clients visiting the week before I go on holiday.  So clearly, if we need the client to come at a specific time, I should book a trip for the week after.

 

Vacation was a wonderful break, although it had some challenges of it’s own.  Not, as I expected, to do with hoteling right between mom and dad, and my sister and her boyfriend: traveling with the whole family actually went surprisingly well and was a lot of fun.  No, the challenges had to do with wi-fi being slow (which in itself was okay, as I got a nice break being forced to disconnect), a fire at the resort, and the cold Mark and I both caught right before we left to come home.

 

Yes, we caught a cold.  And there was an electrical fire at the resort, which  was just an adventure for us, but ended up shutting off power to half the rooms.  The worst part for us was that the pool bar had no blender, so we could only get drinks on the rocks there.  Sad.  Seriously, though, everyone was okay, although a few people had to go to the hospital for observation, and several people were displaced for a night or two.  My sister and her boyfriend bunked with us so that a family with two young girls could have their room rather than having to leave.  And our new friend from Calgary (we met him at Carribean night!) and his wife got to live in their ‘bat cave’ (what they termed their powerless hotel room) for a few nights.

 

I will say this: the resort and the staff were wonderful, the food was amazing, and everyone handled the fire with good humour and maturity.  Although it made things hard for people, it also pulled some people together, and I think we made better friends of our resort mates because of it than we would have otherwise.  I can’t wait to go back!

 

Now that I am home, I’ve spent the last week recovering from the Mexico cold that still hasn’t left me (fortunately it was only a cold and nothing worse) and I think I might be on the mend.  Writing will be slow for the rest of the month as I catch up with house chores and other things that got put off for the frantic novel finishing spree, and then by the cold.  So hopefully I will be back in the saddle come April, for Camp NaNo.  Who knows?

Writing is…

…rewriting is rewriting is rewriting.

 

I have no idea who first said that, although I probably should know.  That’s a familiar cycle, though, that I’ve been stuck in for the last year or so on “Fighter One”.  It’s all for a good cause, of course, as it’s making the story better and better (and better).  But it doesn’t make the actual work any easier.

 

Let me back up.  Over the summer, I spent a significant amount of time reorganizing the novel, making it more streamlined, more believable, and generally less shitty.  It was good work, and I was pleased with it.  I finished the actual edits just before the end of the year, and it sat in a digital drawer, until the beginning of February, when I re-read it.

 

That was an adventure all on it’s own.  For the most part, I actually enjoyed reading the story, and had honestly forgotten parts of it.  Of course, there were parts that I absolutely loved, and some that I loathed.  Most of it was solid, plot wise, but not as strong as I might have liked and there was a definite mushy middle.  But I did manage to “close” the book with the smug sense of satisfaction that I only get after finishing a really good read.  Admittedly, part of that might have been because this particular read was drafted by yours truly, but nonetheless, I thought there was some potential to the novel.

 

There’s also a lot of truly boring parts.  And that’s what I’m trying to fix right now: the incredibly boring parts, especially the mushy middle that needs to be propped up with a tent pole.

 

I have a deadline of the end of the month, so that my fabulous beta reader (also known as my almost-husband) can read it over our vacation.  That’s put me under the gun to fix quite a few things in the next two weeks, and the final result definitely won’t be polished, but I hope it’ll be ready for his plot-related review.  I got 8 chapters edited this weekend (out of 29 total), and some of them definitely needed a lot of work.  I’m confident that, outside of the middle, the rest of the book won’t need quite so much effort, so I might even make my end of the month goal.

 

I wouldn’t be a project manager if I didn’t tell you that I had it all plotted out on a calendar on my wall and I’m crossing each chapter off on a list as I complete them. So I will tell you that.  Only under duress of course.

 

And now, I have a few other things to do before I retire, and tomorrow I have work and then a birthday party, so I think I’ll be off!  Until next week!