Last week I posted on FB to let people there know that I will be shutting down my account next weekend. This decision has been roughly a year in the making, but the slow drip of news about the company’s terrible practices finally outweighed the convenience of the site.
What’s weird is that this feels so momentous. It’s not as if I’m going off-grid, achieving some state in which I can only be contacted by magic spell. I’m ceasing to use one particular web site out of the millions in existence. I still have a blog (several blogs), email, a phone, an address. I look forward to writing more letters. I look forward to having one fewer direct line from my mind to someone else’s hand, pulling at my attention.
I came of age in the 90s. I’m not an early adopter, but I’ve spent my entire adult life on the internet, much of it in digital communities going back to Usenet. Maybe I’m just getting old, but those felt different from what we have now. Even when I was using it more enthusiastically, I’ve never entirely gotten the hang of “social” media. I don’t like how I feel while I’m using these sites, and I don’t like what the companies are doing to anyone.
I’m never sure what to write about here, so I tend to put off working on posts. Then the end of the week comes, and I still don’t have any ideas, and that’s how you get skipped weeks, like last week. The writing process is hilariously slow, and a lot of days just doesn’t seem like it would be interesting to anyone who isn’t in the throes of doing it themselves (and you already know what it’s like, so).
I’m 11k words into the new draft of Fairy Hills. The first bit went quickly enough, but now I’m into the part where everything needs to change, and it’s going to be slow going from here, I’m afraid — hopefully not eight years this time! I just need to keep chipping away at it, and eventually a book-shaped object will emerge.
Work has been exhausting, looking for a new job even more so, and the weather has been less than helpful. We’ve had endless rain, colder than usual temperatures, and very little sun.
I will try to think of something interesting to say for next time.
A very late post this week, and I’m afraid there isn’t much to say. I haven’t gotten any writing at all done for a solid week, but the the conference is finally done with (you can see the fruits of my downtime during the final days at the right). Spring has arrived, and will hopefully bring with it a change of energies. I am hoping to get some time to think and plan during the course of this week.
Did I mention that Captain Marvel is fantastic? You should go see it at least twice; I liked it even better the second time.
I got the first set of beta comments on Fairy Hills earlier this week. Being a mature and experienced writer, I scanned them, nodded, wrote an appreciative note to my reader, and then went in the bathroom and cried. When I was younger, I would have done it the other way around, see.
The comments are perceptive, and do an excellent job of pointing out every place where that book is a mess. This is a perfectly normal and necessary part of the writing process. At the same time, being told by someone whose opinions you respect that your best bet is the equivalent of gutting this project down to the studs is disheartening, and the perfectly normal reaction is to plunge into gloom and vow to never touch a keyboard again, perhaps go live off-grid in Wyoming and raise alpacas.
There are a number of hard things about writing. One of them is navigating the line between writing for your own enjoyment, and writing with an eye toward other people reading it someday, and maybe even giving you money. If you write purely toward the second goal, you’ll be miserable (Samuel Johnson’s famous snark aside), not to mention that there are far more efficient ways to make money doing things you don’t enjoy. If you write purely toward the first goal, though, you won’t have any readers.
A further wrinkle comes from the fact that it takes so goddamn long to write a book at all. At least in the early phases of a project, you have little choice but to write for your own enjoyment, because no one else is going to read it for a long while, let alone pay you. But at some point you will have to navigate the hilly transition between “I wrote this for me, and it’s perfect,” and “I want to give this to someone else, and it could use some work.”
You don’t have to do that, of course. You can keep it for yourself and love it just the way it is. Only you know if the rewards of getting over those hills are worth your effort (since you are not actually guaranteed any tangible rewards at all, I find it’s best to stay focused on the Accomplished a Difficult Thing merit badge).
Now what? A new draft of Fairy Hills is going to be a major undertaking; the issues are not “fix this scene” or “fix this bit of dialog,” but “fix this character” and “fix this plot arc.” Meanwhile, I’m 35k words into a new book, don’t particularly want to stop, and dropping it would run counter to my “finish stuff for godssakes” goal. (Which means navigating back into “writing for myself” territory for a while! This business can get confusing.) If I can keep up the current pace, I’ll finish this draft some time in May. By then I will have a plan for Hills. I can spend the summer on that; after eight years, a few more months of work won’t kill me.
The nice thing about writing as opposed to, say, masonry, is that any problem you created with words can be fixed with different words.
So… back to work, I guess.
* Photo is mine, from the 2018 Sandwich Fair. I believe this beauty is named Tupelo Honey.
The other day I was walking between buildings at my day job, still musing on the ideas of spaciousness and making room for the things we want to grow, and the image of a weed-choked garden sprang to mind.
The Internet isn’t bad per se; it’s just full of weeds. I’m fond of quite a few plants that are classified as weeds. Most of them mean “summer” to me, or recall rambles through the Pennsylvanian scrub woodlands that were my refuge in childhood. But you wouldn’t want a landscape composed of nothing but milkweed and Queen Anne’s Lace, probably, and if I want to make space in my life for things to grow, I need to clear away some weeds, or at the very least stop watering them.
So far, my experiment with a more attentive 2019 is going well. I’m not going to give a project status report here — that’s for the end of the month — but reframing things as “what do I want to allow into this time?” instead of “how many things do I have to do?” has led me feel a bit more relaxed than has sometimes been my habit. The days are a little more open, but things are still getting done. I’m getting a little better about checking in with myself when I reach for my phone — am I actually doing a purposeful thing, or just filling up time? Is there something else I should be attending to? What am I distracting myself from?
I am the kind of person who likes to make ambitious New Years goals. A whole year is enough time to do almost anything, right? On the other hand, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 45 years on this planet, it’s that making detailed plans too far in advance can be entertaining but is rarely useful.
Since this is my writing blog, I will stick to goals in that area. (I also have a cooking blog, indifferently updated. And a Goodreads. And a Ravelry. And….)
Goal #1: Finish Fairy Hills
This has been top of my list for years now, but I am finally making headway on the book again, and I just need to keep plugging. It has been way too long since I finished a project, and there are literally only a couple of weeks of determined work left between me and the end of this draft.
Goal #2: Keep Blogging
I have not, historically, been very good at maintaining a blog over the long term. I will strive to put out at least a brief weekly update of some kind. If nothing else, it should help me keep track of inputs and outputs. Less tangibly, it may help me get to grips with that perennial question: what am I trying to say, anyway, and why?
Goal #3: TBD
I had a hard time coming up with a third goal, though I gave it several days of thought. “Write another book” is obvious. Workshops and classes are out of reach right now. I could set myself the goal of writing something new and different–a short story? a personal essay?–but that felt off somehow. I don’t want to write something for purely abstract reasons, just because I said that I would.
So maybe what I need to do, per last week’s thoughts, is just… hold this space open, and see what happens in it. Something will come up.
Happy New Year! May we all find more of the things we need.
Here we are on the darkest day! I believe these posts are mandatory, at least the writing of; I won’t be offended if you skip this one. It has certainly been an exciting year, and one that often seems to have lasted three times as long as it ought to have.
Obviously the big one is that I self-published a novel. This was a stressful but interesting process, and I feel like I learned a lot. So far I’ve sold 28 copies and made $54. Kindle Unlimited page counts suggest that between five and ten people have read it that way as well.
I did NaNoWriMo (again).
After uncounted fits and starts, I went back to Fairy Hills with the goal of ending the year with a ready-to-query draft. 17k words to go!
I started this blog! All writers ought to have one, or so I have been solemnly informed. I have managed to keep to a weekly posting schedule since setting it up.
2 baby blankets
I read 11 books, most of which were very interesting.
I lost three pounds, meaning that the upward creep of the past two years has been arrested.
I volunteered at a conference related to my day job, which was a big endeavor and one from which I learned a lot. I’m doing it again for next year.
According to my FitBit, I have walked the length of Italy since I got the thing in June.
Husband and I celebrated 25 years since we first got together, which I have to admit blows my mind just a little.
I’ve kept up with my bullet journal.
Earlier this month I participated in a “personal retrospective” exercise focused on the idea of “holding space.” We spent time thinking about the things we are passionate about and how to make space for those things in our lives, what needs to happen in order to realize that passion. So in addition to celebrating the accomplishments of the past year, I have been trying to think about what hasn’t happened, and how to clear the way for some things I still want to do.