It’s getting hot in here
It’s hot. Somewhere above 30°C. Which is hot, especially when considering the fact that it was still necessary to wear socks a few days ago. I’m sitting at the dining room table, with a view out into the garden. At the point of writing this, I still have to write 8351 words to get to the finish line of 50,000 by midnight. I think I can do it. I didn’t think so yesterday morning, but I behaved very well all day yesterday and wrote a lot, despite the fact that it was meltingly hot and humid. Have a look at the stats page. This is a screenshot I did at 23.55 last night:
It’s now 1.40 pm, I have more than eight thousands words to go, I’m listening to a collection of songs from the South Pacific (this one here – it’s wonderful!), and I have the choice between being unbelievably hot (= terrace doors open) or suffocating due to lack of oxygen (= terrace doors closed). So far, I choose to live. If I cannot make the deadline, I might change my mind.
Well, okay, not really. And anyway, by midnight it will be cooler. Hopefully. At least it will if this happens again:
That was two days ago. The lightning was impressive, but although it is my dearest ambition to capture one of those amazing, borderline-kitsch photos of a huge bolt of lighting, I haven’t yet managed to be fast enough.
… where was I? Ah, yes – procrastination. As you now have proof before you, I’m a master. My official title is ‘Queen Procrastinatrix of the Universe’. For you, ‘Majesty’ will be fine. Although I think I will insist on my minions fanning me with huge palm leaves. And regularly bringing ice water for me to put my feet in. Any volunteers?
(… my brain is cooking… where’s the iced tea?…)
… oh no, quick, I gotta go. My youngest sister is back from shopping for our BBQ party tomorrow and she bullies me something awful when she sees me busy at my true calling of putting things off. For some reason, she insists I be productive and finish this story on time.
Any cooling-down-and-staying-on-track tips out there? I’m also open on tips of how to stay sane. But maybe you can tell that for yourselves already.
Camp report no. 5 – Dancing or: The race is on!
I was stuck at 17407 words for five days. Then I progressed to 22463. And that’s where I stayed. I was in a slump. Total disintegration over a period of days, culminating in me staying up till four in the morning to watch random TV series that I wasn’t interested in and feeling sorry for myself. The reason is mainly my job(less) situation. Having nothing constructive to do all day and feeling not wanted… well, it can prey on your mind. The result was a total down. And with regard to writing and my Camp NaNo goal of writing 50,000 words in June – forget it! I pushed it back, thinking I would get back to it tomorrow, catch up then. The next day I didn’t feel up to it. My mind was blank, my thoughts sluggish, I couldn’t concentrate. The next day, it was the same, only possibly even worse. And so on. So yesterday, after several painful days of inaction and thoughts spiralling downwards, I decided to give up.
Well, maybe decided is the wrong word. I acknowledged to myself that I would never be able to catch up now, that I was too far behind. A part of me really wanted to fail, was relieved that I gave in to that little voice. I decided I wouldn’t even get up in the morning. I would just stay in bed and sleep and read and sulk. Maybe I could induce one of my sisters to bring me a cup of tea or something. So you can imagine my joy when early this morning I heard the door to my room open and my youngest sister’s voice softly calling my name. I’d been deeply asleep, but I do wake up when somebody calls my name. I didn’t move though. Then she said my name again and I could hear from her voice that she was very upset. She said: ‘I have a tick in my leg. Can you help me?’
Believe me, it’s been a long time that I went from deep sleep to being fully awake in such a short time. Within seconds I was out of the bed and kneeling in front of her on the floor, examining the ugly insect that had buried itself into her calf. Unfortunately, I was clumsy in my attempt to rid her of it and ripped the damn thing out while leaving the head in the wound. So we ended up driving to the doctor, to sit in the waiting room for almost an hour, because of course we didn’t have an appointment and had to wait till they could squeeze her in. All of that without any tea or coffee! They cut the thing out and sterilized the wound and told her to watch it for any signs of infection and to be alert as to any signs of illness in the next six weeks. Because of course these little nasties can infect you with lyme disease or meningoencephalitis (in our area – they probably do all kinds of other bad stuff elsewhere). On the way back home we treated ourselves to croissants to ease the pain (in her case) and the guilt (in my case).
By now, you will be asking yourself, or, if you’re like me, your computer screen, what this saga about my little sister and a disgusting insect have to do with writing. Or my depressive phase. Or being able to write more than 25 thousand words in less than a week. The answer: nothing. It really has no connection that I can see, and still, when I was back at my computer this morning, at a terribly early hour, I suddenly wanted to write on the story again. I watched fourty words grow to a hundred, a hundred to two hundred, and suddenly I was writing full out again. I spent the whole afternoon (more or less) sitting here and writing on my story, and because I’m terribly slow, I only managed 5135 words in that time, but hey, that’s more than five thousand words more than I had this morning! I’m quite proud of that.
For some reason, I now feel more determined to make it than even at the beginning of the month. Now that the odds have shifted so much against me and I need to write a minimum of 5499 words a day for four days to just make it across the finish line, I suddenly feel more confident that I will be able to do it. It’s now a quarter to two in the morning, and I’ll be back to my story in a moment. But before that, I need to do something else, and that is dance. Yes, finally, that’s where the title of this post comes into play! I dance. The house is asleep and there is no other light anywhere than the one light behind me, lightening up my screen. I don’t care though. I’ll crank up the music on my mp3 player and get up and walk right into the middle of the living room and dance around in the dark for a couple of songs that nobody but myself will be able to hear. Because dancing helps with anything. Except maybe ticks.
Camp report no. 4 – Regular exercise
After doing nothing for my Camp NaNo novel for three days, I have clawed my way back up today. Not to the point where I should be, but close enough to be able to relax again. I went from 11,742 to 16,028 words today, which means that I wrote 4286 words (luckily, the website tells me that, otherwise I would have needed to find a calculator – I’m that bad at numbers). For me, that’s A LOT. My goal was to crack 16k today, and I did, and I feel good about it!
While writing, I asked myself why I don’t write these kind of numbers every day. Or, even more pertinently, why I just don’t write the minimum number of 1667 words every day and be done with it. Why do I lean back and not do anything for three days, and then have to scramble to get back?
When I moved back in with my parents two and a half months ago (a temporary arrangement, quite definitely), one of the things I listed on my internal pro/con list as a point on the positive side, was the fact that my Mum has quite a few gym machines in the cellar. There’s a bike thingy, and a running thingy, and lots of stuff for doing other kinds of exercises. And as I’m not as fit as I should or could be, I made the decision to go running on the machine every day. Every day. Even though I hate running. And I did do it.
Yep, you noticed the tense, didn’t you? You’re right. I started out the first week, running for half an hour every morning, and not hating it. Even feeling rather good and smug about myself. And then the inevitable started – one day, I couldn’t make myself get up on time. Another day, I had a headache. The next day, I just felt too hungry and wanted to have breakfast straight away. So I only went running twice a week, then only once, and then I stopped altogether. Now, I haven’t exercised for several weeks, despite the fact that I tell myself every day that I really need it, that I will feel better afterwards.
Why am I not running? Why am I not writing every day? For me, the answer is, quite sadly, pressure. It’s a very depressing conclusion to come to: that apparently, I do not have enough discipline to do what I want to do, what I know is good for me, on a regular basis without external pressure. Such a very dispiriting thing to have to face about oneself! Especially if one is, as I am, very much against pressure and very much against having to do what others say one has to do.
I’ve started to see the light, however. Knowing this about myself will help me deal with it. I just need to create pressure for myself. Apparently, that’s what I’ve been doing unconsciously already, with letting myself fall back on the writing goal. For writing, I can create pressure by timing myself. I can use the falling-back-and-catching-up-again-technique. I can work with motivators like food (‘you’ll only eat if you get to x words!’). I can ask people to hold me accountable (actually, that’s where the cabin system of the Camp NaNo website does wonders!).
Pressure for exercising regularly? Well, I’ve recently thought that I will put a photo of my younger, slimmer, fitter self on my laptop and use it as a desktop image. Or resurrect my old training pal, who is conveniently totally imaginary, but won’t let that stop her from kicking my butt all the same.
Somehow, I feel more confident about the writing than about the exercising. Help?
P.S. If you need pressure to work as well, please do leave a comment. I won’t feel so lonely. And if you don’t need pressure, could you teach me how to do that as well?
Camp report no. 3 – Sprinting
I’m a lousy runner. Partly because I just don’t like the activity, and partly because I lack the high-level endurance. I hated it when we had to run at school, all those years ago, mindlessly round and round the gym. Even worse was when the gym teacher send us outside to run and all the passers-by and shoppers and people walking their dogs and old people sitting on benches could see us running past, red-faced, sweat-soaked and out of breath. A very humiliating experience.
On the other hand, sometimes when I’m outside – walking the dog, walking myself – I get the sudden urge to run. It comes over me in a shower of joy of life and of being alive and being where I am in the particular moment. It bursts out of me in a wild energy boost and at that moment I will run – I’ll run as hard and fast as I can. It doesn’t last much more than a minute, but that minute makes me feel that I could fly around the world if only I wanted to hard enough!
Yesterday I discovered something similar in my Camp NaNo writing. The days before, I sat down in the morning with the thought: ‘I have to catch up today. I have to write x thousand words today.’ Needless to say, I always fell short. Pressure, remember? What I did yesterday was simple, and came about as the result of me having a bad headache and being tired and grumpy. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to write the almost 5k I needed to ‘catch up’, so I didn’t set out to do it. I made a cup of tea, took a pill for my headache and sat down at the computer and timed myself for fifteen minutes. Fifiteen minutes, I argued, would be perfectly fine, after that I was allowed to get up from the computer again.
Fifteen minutes passed and I had written approximately 300 words. I got up and did some kitchen chores. A while later, I came back to the computer to look at my e-mails and decided my head would allow me a further fifteen minutes. That pattern repeated itself throughout the day and in the evening, I found to my surprise that I had written almost 5k that day. What? It seemed very absurd to me that I couldn’t do it on days when I was perfectly fine and healthy and wanted to write lots, and on a day when I felt my head would explode any minute, I could suddenly do it without meaning to?
And this morning I remembered the running and realized that of course it worked like that! Noone will ever get me to run five kilometers. However, walking five kilometers is perfectly fine and if in between the walking I suddenly get the urge to sprint forwards for a minute or so, that’s just fun and exuberance. The same, apparently, goes for writing. Looking at ‘having to’ catch up five thousand words… puh, that’s rather daunting. But just taking a few sprints, because you know you can, and because you feel good doing it – that’s a whole different thing! If in the end, if you find out that the sprints add up to quite a respectable number, that’s just an added bonus, surely?
I’ll be continuing this sprinting philosophy today. I hope I haven’t ruined it by over-analyzing. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m off to make a cup of tea (peppermint, if you’re curious) and to listen to your experiences: what’s your approach – long-distance endurance running or walking with short bursts of sprinting?
Camp report no. 2 – Hiking
I love hiking. The freedom of just going where you want to go and at your own speed, without being dependent on anything but your own body… it’s glorious. Relying only on yourself and what you can do is the most intense experience of self. Plus, you usually get to see beautiful landscapes and interesting nature, and I’m always up for that.
You may ask yourself why I’m rambling about hiking in a post that is supposed to be about writing. Be patient, it’ll be clear very soon! You see, today is the third day of Camp NaNo. And I’ve had a lousy day. I’ve been in a bad temper, I’ve been sleepy (for me, always a sign of being overwhelmed), I’ve been feeling like curling up in bed and not getting up again until June’s over, I’ve been over-eating and the absolute low point was reached when I started to seriously think about if I have been on the wrong path all these years I dreamed about being an author.
When you go on a hike of several days, the first day will always be great. You’re excited. You see new things. You’re well rested and healthy and feel you can do anything and will probably overdo it. On the second day, you will start feeling the strain and maybe some of the enchantment will have worn off, but you still think you can do it, although you go about things more slowly. The third day, however… The third day is when you have to put that backpack on a back that is sore and pulled, when you walk on feet that might have developed blisters, when you will feel either too hot or too cold, when you question your sanity in setting out on this adventure in the first place and cannot imagine ever being able to finish the trek. You’re not able to appreciate the beautiful nature around you, and the first time anyone tries to make you see reason or is kind to you, you feel like throwing something at their heads.
In short, the third day is the day where you loose sight of the bigger picture. The enchantment’s gone, the perks of the adventure can go stuff themselves and you loose all faith in your ability to finish what you set out to do. So how do you deal with it? Very simply by being aware of it. Expect it to happen and treat yourself kindly. Don’t be harsh on yourself. Try your best at staying your course, and if you cannot, then that’s okay as well. Just keep in mind that it’s the third day and that you cannot make a sensible decision at this point. Because you cannot see the whole picture when you are at a low point. You can only see the valley of your own misery or pain or disappointment.
So I’m taking my own advice: I’ll close the computer in a minute and allow myself to feel okay about the only four-hundred-odd words I wrote. I’ll forgive myself for thinking that I should just give up. Deep down, I know I’m good enough, even if my mind is telling me I will never finish anyway. But this is the third day, and I cannot see the whole picture, so I’m trying to be patient. I’ll have a hot shower and tend my wounds and crawl into my tent, and tomorrow will be a new day.
Any other campers suffering from third-day-syndrome today?
Camp report no. 1
So the NaNo fun has started… I went into the game with slightly over 3000 words, none of which I’m particularly pleased with, but they needed to be put on paper. I’ve been doing other things the whole day, hoping to get every urge to procrastinate out of my system by dinner time. I work best at night.
My main character, Meg, has arrived in the village, had an almost-fight with her Mom and has made the acquaintance of some of her future friends. In the middle of writing I changed the sex of one of these friends – I felt there were too many girls. 🙂
Also, I’m so happy to have the support system of my cabin – hurrah for fellow writers!
off to camp!
Over at the Camp NaNo website the countdown clock says two hours and something minutes. Less than three hours and I’ll be starting on my novel. The first draft of my novel. Hm…
Anyway – a minimum of 50.000 words in one month. It’s summer, I don’t have any other work but write applications and a small handful of side projects that don’t require constant attention. I have prepared more than I have ever prepared for any of my stories, I’ve got pages and pages of notes and list of things that I need to keep in mind and that is pinned up next to my desk. I have chocolate and wine in the house. I have awesome cabinmates. I think I’m ready.
I’m also nervous. I’m afraid of becoming discouraged and giving up (again). I’m afraid of not being able to put down the words in a way that makes the story come alive on paper in the same way as it is alive in my head. I’m afraid of being stuck and not knowing how to go on.
But I will only know if I can do it if I do it. I think. Any helpful words of advice to take on the way?
(I’m also VERY much looking forward to it. Just nervous. 🙂 )
Okay, here goes. This is the post in which I allow you to make fun of me. And not only that, I’ll even give you a reason: I’ve signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo, after having miserably failed NaNo in November at a meager 5000 words.
You have no idea what I’m going on about? Well. NaNoWriMo is the somewhat mystic-sounding (really. imagine the vowels drawn out really long, resounding from the steep walls of a rocky valley high up in the mountains… ) short form of National Novel Writing Month, an initiative originally started as a way to get more people writing, which has snowballed into a very popular global online community. So each November, this great event takes place, in which thousands of people around the world try to write a novel of (at least) 50,000 words in one month. Which I took part in last year, and, as mentioned above, gave up at 5000 words.
Since this event is so popular, they have started to introduce the summer camp version of the original November NaNo some years ago, Camp NaNoWriMo. And that’s what I have signed up for. And the reason why I feel slightly ridiculous? The question that’s running through my mind of ‘why the blazes do you imagine you can do it now when you failed miserably before?’.
The answer that I give myself is the following: this time, I’m planning. I’ve never planned a story full out before. I might have planned the characters, and the beginning and, very vaguely, the end. But never the different steps that take the characters from the beginning to the end, with all the obstacles, dangers, tests, wrong turnings and so on in between. But this time, I am. I’ve spent much of the last two weeks doing extensive outlines and brainstorming ideas and developing backgrounds and am now putting down the actual steps that my heroine has to go through to reach the end I have in mind for her.
Phew…. It’s a lot of work, and actually, it’s also a lot of fun, which I never expected. It also takes A LOT of concentration. Even though I’m not nearly done, I’m starting to look forward to writing out my sketches and outlines in full and giving voice to the characters. It’ll start on June 1st and yes, I’ll share some of my experiences here.
This time, I won’t give up. I owe it to myself to see it through. It’s a matter of personal honour. 🙂