Doing the Work

Endurance

One year ago today, Fireside Magazine published The Revolution, Brought To You By Nike. It was a wish, a prayer, my desperate hope for something that might come to pass if all of us just believed in it hard enough. In the few weeks between Fireside agreeing to buy it and the piece actually running, we saw airport protests and record-shattering donations to the ACLU. I had a strange, glorious fear that my wish might come true, and perhaps we’d see a resignation even before the story had a chance to run. That my work would be obsolete on arrival.

Yeah, so that didn’t happen. 

One year on, though, it’s become clear that we’re running a marathon and not a sprint. The adrenaline and raw terror of what America might become have given way to a sort of grim resolve. Like so many of us, I’m still angry, I’m still upset, but I no longer feel like I can’t see a way we’ll make it through as a single functioning nation. It doesn’t feel like the entire world has literally ended and all goodness and light have been extinguished, the way that it truly did a year ago.

That’s not to say that all of us are going to be just fine, because that’s decidedly not true. Great harm is being done every day, particularly by ICE — families are being torn apart, innocents harassed and deported. The great work of our nation is being dismantled, piece by piece: science, public health, civic protections. The most vulnerable among us will be paying the price for years to come.

Actual goddamn Nazis are on the national stage, as if a pair of khakis and a white polo shirt could make anything at all seem sensible. Corruption in government is all but yawn-worthy, something to expect and not to be shocked by.

But now, after a year, we know the shape of the problem we’re up against. Further, we know that the villains running this circus are laughably incompetent and lacking in anything approaching a grand strategy. We know that change can come in elections in places like Missouri, Virginia and Alabama — and if there, then surely everywhere else. We know that the courts are not going to roll over and let every horror come to pass without a fight, and we know that the Department of Justice is investigating the many wrongs of this administration — and has been for at least two years now.

Most important of all, we know — we keep seeing it, time and again — that there are more of us than there are of them. And by “us” I mean: people who think a society should take care of absolutely everybody. People who care about the struggles even of those we have never met and never will. People who think we have a responsibility toward one another.

This is an endurance game, and my friends, the advantage is genuinely ours the longer the clock runs down. We have each other, and we have the resolve to act. That means it’s not going to be like this forever.  And in the meanwhile, there’s so much to do. We have a duty to do any little thing we can and use whatever power we possess to try to make the world kinder, safer, more compassionate — or to be a thorn in the side of power, if that’s more your speed.

None of us has to save the world alone, thank god. But all of us can save the world together. It just takes time, that’s all. 


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Health, Work, Discipline, and Pandemic 2018

Yeah, hi. Hi! Hello there! I am writing to you live from my living room, which is nothing short of a miracle on several fronts: I am not asleep, I am not buried under a pile of tissues, I am upright and dressed in daytime clothes, I’m even well enough that I feel like I have spare brain cycles and words to spare for a blog post, rather than pursuing any of my more pressing interests or obligations. Whew.

We won’t talk about my coughing fits, though. 

You may correctly surmise from this that I have had the flu. This is true! I had the flu, but the cough stuck around, and something-something bronchitis plus nose and throat inflammation, something something secondary infections, no seriously are you SURE you’re not a smoker...? (I am not a smoker. I have never been a smoker. I had to assure them several times. They didn’t seem to want to believe me?) 

This blog post, then, is made possible by no less than six prescription medications because asthma sucks, and so do secondary infections following influenza. Get your flu shots, kids, wash your hands a lot, and this year, if you get a sore throat and cough three times, get to the doctor ASAP for Tamiflu. Be quick about it. Tamiflu doesn’t do much if you don’t start it within a day or so.

So I haven’t done a lot of work over the last *looks at calendar* wow, three weeks. To be sure I’ve done some work — some few thousands of words of novel-writing and light scheduling — but nothing like the volume I’d set for myself as my January goals. I’d hoped to have almost twice as many words written than I have. I’d hoped to be on top of my email. These things have not happened.

Oh, but I’ve been sick. I can’t possibly expect myself to work when I’m sick, can I? Or... can I?  Health fails us all in the end, and if I don’t find a way to work even when my lungs don’t quite work right, even when my head is full of biowaste, even when I’m tired, surely this means I lack the discipline to pursue my craft and I should...

Shh, shh, stop laughing so hard, you’ll make a scene. People will stare.

There are many true facts underpinning this spectacularly flawed logic. One is that you can’t and shouldn’t wait for everything to feel and be right before you embark in your creative work. There will always be another set of dishes to be washed, another errand you should run, another loose end you really need to tie off before you can focus. And you do have to be disciplined to write. Doing the writing inevitably means not doing something else — maybe that something is a video game, but maybe it’s also laundry.

That other thing you are not doing so you can write should not ever be “resting so that your health improves.” 

It’s also true that one of the not-very-joyful joys of age involves an increasing degree of disability for most of us, and we all eventually need to find ways to work within the framework of our capabilities. I mull over this from time to time, wondering if I’m really feeling so poorly, or if I’m just making excuses to be lazy. But this working-through-the-pain should never happen at the cost of meaningful recovery, or if that’s not the hand you’ve been dealt, at the cost of worsening what level of health you have.

I think a lot about how Jim Henson died of pneumonia. It was a secondary infection after the flu. If he had arrived at a hospital eight hours earlier, he might have lived.

Take care of yourself, blossoms, and rest when you need it, and see a doctor if you possibly can. The future needs you much, much more than right now does.

 


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The Mirage of Free Time

I’ve had a pretty intense year, and I’ll be working up my year-in-review post to tell you about it pretty soon. (Probably next week, since I can’t imagine I’ll publish or ship anything new between now and the New Year.) The one thought that’s pulled me through the most trying spells is a vision, like an oasis on the horizon, of what I will do and how I will structure my day when I finally get a pause to catch my breath. 

Surely, the logic goes, at some point the avalanche of deadlines and publicity and appointments will slow down, and I’ll have a few weeks to rejuvenate myself, or a month, or even two. When that happens, I can spend a week reading. I can focus exclusively on my novel. I can fold all of the laundry. I can make healthy dinners and swim three hours a week (and yoga twice!)

I can do all that. I can get everything under control soon. After this week, I’ve got nothing else coming down the pike. I just need to finish these edits, and pull together that draft. It’s happening. It’s going to be glorious. I just need to get through the next week. The next month. It’s only six weeks away, and then—

It’s inevitable. What happens is that a new set of deadlines pops up, and that beautiful, illusory break never arrives. Or it does, but it’s only a few days and then I’m back to the churn as hard as ever. And in that brief time, I’m so tired, so burned out, that I don’t write a word of my novel, I don’t read any books, nothing. Often I find that week consumed by illness or appointments I’ve been putting off. 

This is a high-quality problem, in that it means I’ve built a robust enough pipeline for work that it doesn’t run completely dry even when I really kind of wish it would. But it points to the challenge I’ve wrestled with for as long as I’ve been a freelancer. How do you balance the long-term big-picture stuff against the short-term requirements of your existing commitments?

You’d think a decade would be long enough to solve that problem. 

It’s easy to say “Silly girl, you should be working on your big-picture items little by little, some every day, as you go along.” But that assumes that you have extra time and creative power that you’re squandering right now; and the truth is, sometimes putting energy into spinning a new plate, even slowly, means letting another one fall down. 

And so here I am, staring at a week where I’m somehow planning to get through three distinct sets of edits, two promo pieces, an AMA, a Bookburners draft, three two-hour appointments, and all of my holiday shopping, cleaning, and wrapping.

It’s going to be tough, but I think maybe I can get through it all. And then next week, my plate will be completely clear, and then I can focus on my novel. Or maybe read a book. Or... 


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NaNoWriMo 2016: Day 1

So this is it. The big day. The STARTING POINT. WRITERS, START YOUR ENGINES!

I'm a NaNo rebel because (as previously mentioned) this year I'm working on an already-started manuscript. As of today, the starting word count is: 8,849. Which means a winning wordcount is... 58,849! Yowwwwwwza.

I'm aiming for 2200 every workday and not 1667 every day, partly because I'm just not an every-single-day kind of writer, but also because I cherish my weekend time with my family. This is, I guess, a difference that comes of writing month after month as a job; there are sacrifices I can't justify making on a whim, because for me it's not a four-week fling. Sometimes I have to do that for external deadlines, so I don't want to bring my intensity level that high on something nobody is waiting on. (Except my agent? Hi, Zoe!)

But this is still going to be pretty intense. I have at least five of those precious 2200-word working days lost to holidays and other obligations, so I'll have to find creative ways around those anyhow; that works out to making up 846 words even on the days off, split over all my days off. Oof. 

But as always, I'm not going to destroy myself with guilt if I don't hit that arbitrary 58,849-word target by Nov. 30. I'm absolutely shooting for it, but my real target is to have this book written at the end of the year, not the end of the month. If this helps push me closer to the end, that's fantastic! 

Starting.... NOW. Let's go! Go go go! We can do the thing!

 


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NaNoWriMo 2016

It's that time of year, friends! And by that I mean: NaNoWriMo time. Thirty days. Fifty thousand words. Awwwwwww yeah it's happening!

Almost every year I mean to do National Novel Writing Month, and with uncanny frequency, some big chunk of something-or-other renders it impossible. Houseguests and holidays to Disney World. Conventions and conflicting deadlines. There was that one showstopping year with the hurricane and ensuing two-week power outage. As a rule, June, July, and August make much better novel writing months for me. (I've done the summer version before, Camp NaNoWriMo, with great success.)

But not this year, baby. The stars are aligning, and everything is poised for this to be the best chance I've ever had. I'm already clearing my decks—I'll be turning articles and posts in early, finishing the last couple of episodes of my K-drama in progress, getting proactive with all the little fiddly things I could do but don't have to do yet. I know this can't and won't be the only writing I do in November—I've got some other deadlines to hit—but I'm laying the groundwork to give myself the best possible chance of success. 

Even so, I'll be honest: I'm... kind of cheating. Technically. If you care about rules or whatever.

See, I'll be working on a book I've already started. Right now the manuscript stands at about 9K words, and I've got another 5K that may be rescued from a prior draft. But my goal is to get to 70K in all, not just the 50K NaNoWriMo standard, so I think that's fine.  If I add 50K, that'll be a triumph. Because the secret of NaNoWriMo is that even if you don't finish and "win," you've still won by trying. Even if you write only 20K words, or 5K, or just 500. If it's more than you would have written otherwise, that's a victory!

One of the most delightful things about NaNoWriMo, though, is that you're not in it alone. So if you'd like to work along with me this November, maybe we can be writing buddies? I'm andrhia over there. I'll be happy to cheer you on, and I can take all the cheering I can get, too. Because something always comes up in November. Always. But I bet if we try, we can all pull it off anyway!


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