Still Learning

Babies operate on their own schedules, and good luck trying to dictate anything different!

I learned that more quickly and painfully when my daughter decided to cut what is usually a many hours- or even days-long process of arrival down to two hours. Of course, I knew this about babies years ago, but knowing something in theory is not the same as knowing through experience.

This does not mean I can’t have a writing schedule, but it does mean that my schedule follows no clock.

My little one has something of a routine. She wakes me up for the day most often between 6 and 7 am. Stages of eating might be interspersed with time in her play gym. She can keep herself occupied for up to half an hour or so, which gives me a chance to run around and get things done. As much as I’d like to use that time for writing, I use it for other necessary things like a bathroom break, making coffee, and shoveling food into my mouth before she realizes that mommy is eating when the baby is not.

A couple times, she’s played long enough for me to write a few sentences in the current story or get out a blog post. But I can’t count on that time.

This cycle of eat-burp-play, repeat as necessary, takes an average of two or three hours, often with a few eyelid inspections thrown in for good measure. Eventually, when she judges herself sufficiently full, she will sleep. And sleep and sleep.

So long as I’m holding her. And since this is generally the best time to write, I’ve become rather proficient at one-handed typing.

Afternoons? Well, I’m back at the day job three afternoons a week, for now. (Jury’s still out on whether I’ll have to revise that down.) The rest of the afternoons fill up quickly with visits and errands and attempts at cooking and chores.

Evenings are the crankiest, fussiest time of day, so my only other regular chance to write comes after she goes down for the night. If I can stay awake!

I managed a grand total of three sentences last night before falling asleep over the keyboard.

Yet despite being acutely aware of my limited time, I have more days when I don’t take that morning opportunity to write. Wise time management has ever lost out to my procrastination habit, and the phone now provides me with endless distraction when the baby tethers me to a chair.

Though perhaps – just perhaps – some subconscious part of me knows those are also my only times to sit and stare blankly, as this borderline introvert/extrovert occasionally needs.

Or maybe that’s just another excuse to procrastinate.

In any case, I’m learning how to fit writing with her schedule and it hasn’t entirely backfired. Yay, me!

And yay for a baby easier than I could have imagined.

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Word Count Surprise!

The other day, I woke to an email congratulating me on reaching 10,000 words for NaNo.

The night before, I’d plugged in the day’s word count to the site without looking at or thinking about the month-to-date total, so the email caught me by total surprise. Cue the dance party!

 

100 or 1,000 words doesn’t seem like so much in the great scheme of things. But 10,000? No matter what measure I use, that’s a lot. 10,000 is a couple of short stories.

Actually, by the end of NaNo, I’m hoping to have completed three short stories. Well, their first drafts, at any rate. Though it’s not looking likely I’ll make it. Remember: I am counting blog posts and journal scribbles, so this word count isn’t even mostly story.

Story words or not, knowing I can write that much in a month while mom-ing – and the month isn’t over yet – comes as a giant relief. I can still write! I can make appreciable progress!

Go, me.

So Far . . .

So far, the little one is asleep and I’ve just broken 8000 words with my writing for the month.

How awesome is that?

When I’m updating my word count with 100 or 200 words in a day, it feels like a drop in the ocean. My biggest writing day so far? Something over 600 words. My daily average, according to stats tracking on the NaNo site, currently sits at 434, which seems higher than it should be.

It’s a relief seeing these small amounts add up.

I squeeze writing in where I can – where it’s feasible – but I allow myself not to, as well. Frequently, I have a free hand and I don’t use it for words. Instead, I’m reading a book, or catching up on social media, or reveling in this tiny-but-not-as-tiny life we made.

That last one involves snuggling and photos. Lots of photos. My Instagram is nothing but baby photos, Twitter is often hopefully pithy baby related comments, and my daughter has her own album on my Facebook. It’s the first Facebook album I’ve ever created, and I’ve had an account since 2007. I am most definitely one of Those Parents. And yet you would be amazed at my restraint.

It’s good that I don’t try to cram in words at every spare second because that’s not sustainable. I’d burn myself out in short order. Besides which, the whole point of my revised NaNo challenge is to figure out this new balance.

What I’ve learned so far:

  1. Don’t draft by hand when I’ll have to transcribe it later. This little one just does not allow me that much time, so in the interest of productivity and my mental state, this is no longer an option (after having been my preferred process for more than a decade). And no, I’m not interested in dictation software; composing aloud is a tragedy waiting to happen, I don’t want to use a crap program that will just cause me more work in the long run but can’t justify to myself the expense of a good program, and the times it would be most useful – so far – are times when I least want to risk waking the baby.
  2. Multiple projects at once are my friends. Where before I couldn’t split my focus enough to make this a feasible approach, split focus is now my baseline standard. Can’t make words come on one project? Switch to another. Most recently, I’ve had two short stories in process of rough draft going in Scrivener, plotting of another short story by hand (because plotting just works me through things; I don’t have to type it later), and a novel manuscript on my Kindle for the necessary read-through before tackling revision.
  3. Don’t power through; sleep. When the computer starts sliding off my lap, or the pen starts making feathery blotches on the page, or the Kindle starts slipping from my fingers, it is past time for me to sleep. I need to be functional for the little one, and I need to be functional to make my words coherent.

November is zooming by too fast, but at least it’s not over yet! Next month, I get to refigure this fledgling balance (again) with the addition of working part time.

P. S. The baby has slept through the entirety of me writing this post, and today’s word count sits right around 750. The day is still young! The thought of perhaps reaching the 1000 word mark in a single day makes me giddy.

Of Course

Of course, this is when she sleeps. Now, when we should be out the door within half an hour and it will take at least that long to get her ready. Of course, she sleeps hard. Hard enough that once I put her down, I have time enough to brush my teeth, and pluck my eyebrows (which are remembering the bushy caterpillars of the teenage years), fold laundry, even type this post.

Or start to. It is still uncertain at this point whether or not I’ll be able to push the “Publish” button before she fully wakes.

My NaNo attempt has so far resulted in words! Not nearly as many as I’d hoped for – certainly not as many as I would like – but there have been words.

I’ll take what I can get.

And I’m relearning how to cram a word here and there, in between feedings, and cleanings, and my attempts at self-care (which, let’s face it, are primarily the wonderfully prolonged snuggle sessions with the little one). Occasionally, I’m even able to multi-task and write at the same time.

One hope of NaNo was for me to give myself some outer accountability. But I have discovered that all the accountability in the world will not phase a newborn. We operate on her schedule, no exceptions.

You know what? I’m ok with that.

But managing my own expectations of myself is a never ending process.

#NaNoWriMo17

In a strange turn of events, I’m actually participating in NaNo this year. For the uninitiated, that’s National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as November, when people sacrifice their lives to crank out 50,000 words of novel. In 30 days.

I’m doing a modified challenge and talk about the details over at Anxiety Ink.

The last time I participated, years and years ago, I realized NaNo wasn’t for me. Writing for speed made me break my stories in horrible, often irreparable ways. (At least, they weren’t worth the cost to fix.)

But the writing process, for most of us, is a thing constantly in flux. What we need can change from year to year, project to project, or day to day. I don’t know if that word count demand would still leave me with broken stories.

I won’t find out this year. My fundamental goal in participating this year is to figure out how to write productively with an infant. Right now, she’s asleep on my chest as I type around her, and she doesn’t seem to mind. I’d put her down and save myself the discomfort, but then she’d be awake within five minutes and demanding food within ten.

She has no appreciated today’s attempts to put her down, rather than letting her sleep in my arms. And quite honestly, I don’t want to put her down; she’s growing so quickly and I don’t want to miss a single snuggly baby moment.

November has not helped me out, so far. Then again, November usually ends up being a weird, chaotic, overfull sort of month. Today was the first I could even attempt to experiment with setting her down more frequently.

I’d intended daily prompts. How many have I done? Exactly none. (Though blog posts like this count towards the word count I’m tracking on the NaNo site, and I’ve made a fair dent this evening in getting details out of the way so I’ll be able to sit down and work on some prompts.)

Some novel work might make its way in, but I wanted to allow myself to focus on figuring out the routine – my new process, now that I have a tiny human depending on me for everything.

The first week of November is nearly gone. I have written more today in two hours than the last four days combined, and I’m not done yet.

It’s a good feeling, to combat the creeping sense of failure that has been growing.

Wish me luck!

When Things Don’t Go According To Plan

If you’ve been following along over on Anxiety Ink, you know I tried to do a Thing that didn’t go anywhere near the way I hoped.

I set a date and time for a writing workshop on worldbuilding. I reserved the space at the library. A few people told me they would definitely-for-sure be there.

Then with maybe 48 hours to go, the cancellations came in.

‘Disappointing’ doesn’t begin to cover it. I had been so excited to finally do this thing I’ve thought about and wanted to do for years, only to have it all collapse at the last minute.

But I’m currently in the process of shifting my life to a greater focus on all things creative. My attempts to lead workshops do not end here. This will be a Thing and it will happen.

And in the meantime, I’ll be using the excuse to get familiar with this video equipment we have and turn my workshop plans into short videos.

Do you have any writing topics you’d like to see covered? What is something you’ve always wanted creative writing classes/workshops to do or talk about?

And if you have any favorite YouTubers who talk about writing, I could use some recommendations!

Social Magic of Storytelling

Let me tell you a story. (that’s why you’re here, after all.)

I went to a party. It was a Friday after a long, crazy day at work that joined two weeks’ worth of long, crazy days. I went alone. I went with nerves and doubts.

See, I was afraid I wouldn’t know anyone at the party except the host. Sometimes I hate being right.

Like most of us, I’m not always comfortable in social situations, even with my occasional extroverted tendencies. So it began with the awkward standing, offers to help to make myself useful and give me something to do, feeling brave when I smiled at strangers. Just not quite brave enough to introduce myself.

Then my host introduced me to someone with an auspicious, “You both do theatre!” And the conversation went from there.

In fact, every conversation that night ended up coming back to theatre, or writing, or both. Most often both. And I made new friends!

No, I will never grow out of how awesome it is to make friends.

And that’s a lot of why I went. See, our host was Carrie Jones, who in addition to being an amazing writer is quite possible the kindest and most caring person I have ever met. Her friends were bound to be awesome.

When I came home, I was bouncing off the walls and talking a mile a minute. My poor husband. I tried to blame the punch, but we both knew it was just my extroverted tendencies acting up.

Thanks to those fantastic conversations, I finally read Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, which had been in my to-read pile for years. (Yes, it was every bit as great as the hype.) They also propelled and inspired me to write more, helping to sustain the awesome creative productivity that has so far defined this year.

So my whole long, rambling point: stories are social magic. Also, that was a great party and I’m so glad I went, rather than letting nerves and fears win.