Pulling From Experience

I’m finally thinking it’s time to stop wussing out of doing my third draft and start working on it again. This is one passage at the beginning of my story that pretty much encapsulates the life of the protagonist. She’s overworked and unfulfilled.

The entire night should have been peaceful, but instead I dreamt of work. The sky was grey as I looked out the windows and I could almost hear the wind howling outside. My desk was as I always remembered it, but my email was waiting for me when I arrived to my office. As I sat down at my desk, the first email was in all caps, asking me about overtime. HOW MANY HOURS CAN YOU WORK THIS WEEKEND?

It felt like the world was starting to cave in on me, and it did. I pressed my hands to my forehead as the room around me began to close in on me. I opened my mouth and screamed, “I wish you would just burn to the ground!” The flames erupted around me and I felt their warmth engulf me.

It’s a bit that I have marked for expansion (and I have a habit of being short on words), but that’s okay since we’re still in draft mode.

I’m pulling from feelings that I’ve had in the past. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to remember emotions, situations, and reactions to things that have happened in your own life and putting them into other character’s lives. There are billions of people on this planet, I’m sure at least one other person has experienced the same thing.

Anyway, it’s a holiday for us in the States, so I hope you all have an awesome Friday!

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For Something New: On Squats

I’ve spent the last couple weeks out of it when it comes to writing, editing, and pretty much anything else. Between the heat (107 degrees, really Mother Nature?) and being busy with work, I’ve had very little willpower to do anything outside of sleeping. So, I have little to say about how excited I was to finish my second draft and start on my third (and the third is goin’ nowhere).

Instead, I’m going to talk about squats.

I wish that I had more time to spend working out. Movement is sort of my thing. I learned from a fairly young age that just moving from point A to point B made me feel good. I distantly remember enjoying running when I was in 5th grade, but I hated sports. I’m uncoordinated, mostly because of lack of practice, and my glasses are a great target for basketballs, baseballs, and soccer balls. I even ended up with one of those bouncy red balls used in dodgeball in my throat. My teacher laughed at me when it happened, but it still freaks me out.

Before my freshman year of high school, I took summer school PE. There was this “college advanced” class that my parents were dying for me to take, so we had to open up a slot in our classes for it. To do so, I had to take PE during the summer. It’s the middle of the desert in June, averages 105 degrees during the midday and it rarely drops below 75 degrees at night (so you’re looking at 80-90 degrees at 9 AM). And that’s where I first met the weight room.

We did not learn how to lift weights and it never came up again.

Fast forward to a little over a year ago and the weight room came up yet again. This time, in the form of a woman who did lift weights. I expressed interest. Lifting weights is sort of “a thing” where I work and many of my coworkers do so. I’d also heard that lifting weights was good for the bones, which was great because I was the epitome of weak. She took me to the gym and taught me the basics.

I’m going to spare the details, but I started out by curling 10 lb weights… and it was hard. I started shoulder presses with 5 lb weights… and it was hard. I could not squat with the bar on my back.

So we’re back at the point. Squats. There are a lot of exercises that are hard for me, but squats take the cake. They take the cake for various different reasons than other exercises. Most exercises are hard because they require strength, balance, or stability that I don’t have. For example, the Crow Pose in yoga is hard for me because I don’t have the arm strength to support my entire body. Squats are hard for two reasons: my ankles and my frustration.

Did you know your ankles have some level of flexibility? That should be obvious, but it’s difficult to keep my heels on the ground when I go down low for squats. Turns out, I’m lacking in flexibility so I started doing the Third World Squat. Oh yes. I don’t have much to say about it, other than I never realized what I would be doing in my 20s when I was in my teens.

The other thing is frustration. Squats piss me off. If I’m doing them right, I’m okay, but when I start failing in form, I get mad. I get mad at myself. How could I have let my body fail to such a point? How could I not feed myself properly? How could I have *fill in the blank*? I’m not for certain why squats, of all exercises, bring out those feelings in me when the others don’t.

Of course, I’m not doing regular good ol’ squats in the phase of the workout I’m doing. Instead, I’m doing split squats, which brings out all sorts of things (mostly exhaustion). I’ve never had such a problem keeping balance… ever!

Achievement Unlocked – Second Draft Completed

While I’ve been suffering through the good ol’ “I can’t”s, I have successfully managed to complete the second draft of my novel! I am weeks behind my original set schedule, as I was hoping to complete and publish in August. At the rate I am going, this is very unlikely! However, the fact that I’ve come this far after so many failed attempts is amazing.

To try and get rid of my own anxieties on putting my work out there on my own, here is the first page, second draft of my novel!

The air was crisp as I walked into my apartment after a long day at work. It was about time that the seasons were beginning to change and soon the days would start to become increasingly shorter. Unfortunately for me, that meant that I was going to be missing the sunlight.

“You know,” I told Prince, my orange cat, when I walked into the living room. “I wish I had your life. All you do is lie around all day and snooze. You have quite the life.”

Prince responded with a meow, looking up momentarily from his feet-in-the-air pose. He blinked his eyes slowly at me.

I responded in kind before dumping my arm load of items onto the floor. “I need a lifetime long vacation,” I muttered mostly to myself as I kicked my shoes off.

I picked up the mail from the floor and, after stepping over my purse and coat, plopped down on the couch next to my purring cat. As soon as my behind hit the couch, he was on my lap, pushing his way through the mail and returning them to the floor to get attention.

“Thanks a lot,” I told him, snagging the final piece of mail that hadn’t quite managed to end up near my feet. Engaging the man with one hand, I tore open the vanilla colored envelope and peeked inside. The letter paper inside matched the envelope it came in.

Dear Thea,’ the letter began. I recognized the writing immediately. My best friend Lilly and I had met our first year in college and had grown close throughout our college years. Once we had graduated, we decided to keep in touch by writing. This was mostly because Lilly decided to spend most of her time overseas, traveling to various countries. Even 7 years after college, she was still traveling the world.

“How can you afford to travel so much?” I’d asked her the last time I’d seen her.

“Because I don’t travel to sightsee,” she’d responded with a smile on her face. “I’m traveling to teach.”

‘If anything I’ve been feeling is correct, then you haven’t been enjoying your corner office. I’ll be in the States again next week, why don’t you come visit me?

She was right, of course. Lilly had a sixth sense and with it, she was able to tell exactly how people were feeling. She had been telling me to quit my job for years, especially after I was promoted. All I wanted was a job where I could be a worker bee and someone else could do the managing, but with my promotion came planning, financial issues, and keeping track of people.

It was not how I expected my working life to turn out. I had grown up in some sort of fantasy land where I figured that the people around me would steer me in the right direction and things would just fall in to place. In a way, I was correct. I got a good education and a good job. In another way, I was completely incorrect. Somewhere, at some point in time, someone had forgotten to tell me that I’d end up managing.

Little Green Notebook

Out of every place available in the world, I think if I could have a choice in a place to be right now it would be in the shower. Alone.

I’m a homebody. I would never deny that fact. I’m not overly adventurous, I don’t care for traveling, and I’d rather have a staycation over a vacation.

staycation is a period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance, sleeping in their own beds at night. They might make day trips to local tourist sites, swimming venues, or engage in fun activities such as horseback riding, paintball, hiking or visiting museums. Most of the time it involves dining out more frequently than usual.

via Wikipedia

I get a lot of “what’s wrong with you?” and “why don’y you go see the world?” from friends and family. A lot of my family members did a lot of traveling when they were my age; I know my maternal grandparents often went on trips in their little RV and my the other side of my family moved around a lot because they were military. I just never found the excitement in going places.

First, I always get sick. In the last 4 years, I’ve only been able to go places twice without getting sick (and that’s out of about seven times). I’m not sure if it’s a lack of immune system, if it’s nerves, or if I just have the worst luck imaginable.

Second, I am more stressed while traveling than I am in the office. Making sure I make flights, meeting new people, not being able to sleep in my bed, or not being around to take care of my cat? Especially dealing with the crowds – I’ve got too much social anxiety when encountering large groups of people. It makes fun things not fun.

I especially hate busy vacations. Every time I would go with my parents as a child, my day would be lined up with so many things to do my feet were sore for days afterward. My first trip to Washington DC ended the same way: I eventually got sick of the sights because we were so busy. Something that a lot of people would go “awesome!” became a chore for me.

Bringing things back, the shower.

Over the last couple days I’ve brainstormed a couple stories I’d love to write. If I know how the human mind works, however, you think of a great idea and by the next day it’s gone. Our brains are not meant to hold on to every single idea and thought that crosses our mind. My particular ideas come to me at about three times of the day: when I’m showering, as I’m trying to fall asleep, and when I’m t work trying to focus. The shower especially is important to me because it’s the place that I work things out. I’ve sketched out ideas, figured out solutions to problems, and just generally feel better afterward.

Like most people, it’s one of those times where I also get very motivated to do things. I’ve generally heard about this when someone is going to sleep. “I’m going to do it! I’m going to get my life together, write that novel, clean the car, ask the girl out, clean the house…!” and then the next morning you’re back to square one without any motivation to do anything that you had planned to do the night before. I don’t have an exact solution to this problem, but I have set up a green notebook (because there were two options when I bought it: green or blue) in whcih I write down my thoughts immediately after I get them. That idea of a conspiracy story about a group of people conspiring against the free world? Wrote it down. That awesome dialogue between two characters? Wrote that down. The plan to get my life together? I didn’t write that down, but I usually think about doing so.

It’s a shame the ideas come faster than the doing does. Too many ideas, too little time.

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Considering “Good Enough”

One of my lifetime goals has been to write a novel. The problem with this goal, as is with many of my goals, is that I’m simply not good enough for myself. My standards for me are just too high. Unfortunately, this leads to two things: procrastination and a lot of hiding.

I have approximately 10 novels in a folder right now that I’ve written in the past. This is not even including the ones I’ve trashed or lost (thank you, cloud storage). Back when I was younger and didn’t have my own computer, I wrote on paper. Most of those are gone now, too. Throughout all of this, this is how many I’ve completed: zero. How many have other people read? Two; and the first one didn’t go over well.

The fear of failure, of not being good enough, is enough to hold me back from even putting a pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Even the things that I do write, I fear sharing with anyone because it’s absolutely crap in my eyes.

So, what is “good enough?” I don’t know. Perhaps I will be happy if I could send my novel to someone I would consider a professional (a professional editor? a publishing company?) and they don’t rip it a new one. The chances are even that won’t make me feel satisfied with my work. Perfection is an ideal that no one can obtain.

In honor of my high standards, here is a small bit of my novel that I’ve cut, but that I still enjoyed writing. Only second draft worthy, definitely not final draft:

I managed to pull back a couple steps, one of my arms still captured, and envisioned the bright blue barbed wire materializing around me. There was a moment of pause as Amon reached out to me with his other arm, but stopped short of grabbing me. I used the time to put as much energy as I could into the barbed wire, imagining how densely packed it was around me and how nothing could get through.

I wanted it to be able to take off skin if people got too close.

The moment ended and Amon grabbed my other arm. As soon as he wrapped his hand around my wrist, the look on his face changed from a predatory stare into a look of confusion. He immediately released me and pulled back, bringing his hands up toward his face. I fell backwards onto the floor, landing hard on my tail bone.

Amon was staring at his hands, his face twisted in confusion and a resemblance of horror. As I watched, a few drops of blood pooled at his wrists and dropped off, landing on the hardwood floor at his feet.

“How did you do that?” he whispered. “How is this possible?”

He turned the palms of his hands to face me and I recoiled slightly at the sight. The palms of his hands and his fingers were red with blood, all coming from cuts that were formed into his hands. As we stared at each other in silence, I realized that what I wanted had happened. I had caused physical harm to another being. With my mind.

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