Not much to say these days about my creative projects as I haven’t finished as much in February as I had planned, but I’m doing a monthly post to update my progress and check in with my goals anyway.
This last December, January and February were slow creatively. I have gotten a very slow start to my short stories, and find them more difficult to write while also focusing on longer works. It’s harder than I thought to switch between forms; it’s a different mentality, and it takes more stamina to complete a novel. Short stories are harder to write, but they also take less time. Currently, I’m putting all my energy into a novella, my weird Gothic story. It may turn into a novel, but I’ve discovered I have a tendency to overwrite, so it may be a different story after revisions. It’s currently at 11,770 words.
I’m totally pantsing it, and also sketching some ideas and scenes in a handwritten notebook as I go. My idea is just to make it weirder and darker and more nebulous as I go along, so I thought the notebook would help jog more bizarre scene ideas loose. I draw out stream-of-consciousness mind maps and interconnected words and phrases in the notebook, then turn to my screen. I’ve tried different methods for writing novel-length manuscripts and I’m trying to find one that sticks. So far “plantsing” seems to work for me, a combination of plotting and pantsing. Pantsing is when you go in with no outline, no plan, and you just start writing. It comes from the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants.”
So for March, I have decided I will not think about short stories at all except for a new one for my Patreon subscribers, and focus solely on the weird Gothic WIP (work in progress). I think I have a tendency to overwhelm myself with projects and then sabotage myself into not finishing any of them. My brain does not do as well as I think with multi-tasking. And I really want to finish a novella- or novel-length manuscript this year. That is Goal Number One. I will put my other fresh ideas into my Idea Notebook and shelve them for later. My primary March goal is to get to 30,000 words in the weird Gothic story.
I also want to be better at sticking to a writer’s habit – writing regularly throughout the week at appointed times.
Other goals: I want to get back into running again now that it’s getting warmer and lighter, practice guitar 15 minutes a day, and start learning French.
My latest short story is now live for $3/month Patreon subscribers. “Apartment 401B” is a weird, spooky story about what happens when that annoying noisy neighbor is more than they seem. Hope you enjoy it. My Patreon is here: http://www.patreon.com/teawhilewriting I have two stories free to read so you can get a taste of my writing style.
The pandemic, a year later
A little more than a year ago, I was able to start working from home in my day job as a legal assistant. It’s been a year since I have seen my parents or my friends, gone to a gym (though I work out at home) or eaten out at a restaurant. Conservatives would accuse me of living in fear, but I don’t see it like that. In many ways my life is better. I’m saving money, I don’t have the social anxiety of an office, I’m just as productive at home, and instead of leaving at 6:30 a.m. every day to commute for an hour to an office, I wake up at 5 a.m. and write or do yoga instead. It’s interesting how different all our pandemic experiences can be.
It’s also weird to think about how angry I was last March. Trump leaving office was like a pressure valve releasing. No, Biden isn’t perfect, and he shouldn’t be engaging in military action without Congressional review and we should pass a $15 minimum wage, but to make an equivalence between Biden and Trump is ridiculous. 2021 was always going to be dark, but I feel like a different person now. And not just because of politics.
The biggest change I made was that I stopped fixating on the behavior of others, and instead focused on small, positive things I could do for myself to make my life better, like journaling, exercise and routines. My anger taught me I care about others. I call and text my friends and family and have realized the importance of private discourse. I’ve reduced my screen time this year, only tweeting a few times a week. Last year I was relying on Twitter for a social life, and I got addicted, which didn’t help my irritability. Staying intentional with social media is hard because it’s designed to entrap your impulsive attention – you are their only product, after all – but I have learned the importance of boundaries and staying clear with my goals.
Anyway, now that I have settled into a quarantine routine, I find myself sliding back into my old habits of procrastination, and I think that is affecting my current levels of discipline more than anything else. The new “normal,” as it were. But was normal ever really all that great? I don’t think so. But I miss the mundane things. I miss popping over to a coffee shop for a soy latte. I miss browsing in a library and touching the spines of tattered paperbacks.
My goals moving forward are to lose my hypersensitivity to people; for example, when I’m out on a walk, I flinch when I run into other humans. Need to get over that or my anxiety will be off the charts when I feel more comfortable expanding my repertoire of activities when fully vaccinated, whenever that will be. I also hope to find a writing group to join, some kind of social activity I can do remotely to replace social media; and to watch more Zoom lectures, conventions, classes and poetry readings. So much is out there now that I don’t have to travel to; I might as well take advantage of it.
I am currently reading “The Starless Sea” by Erin Morganstern, a lovely, Gaiman-esque story about the magic of books; and my ARC from Netgalley is “We Shall Sing a Song Into the Deep” by Andrew Kelly Stewart.
I just finished “An Artificial Night” by Seanan McGuire, the third outing in her October Daye series, and that character continues to impress me. I also finished “A Rising Man” by Abir Mukherjee, an intriguing historical novel about a Scotland Yard detective who investigates a murder in 1919 India. It was well done, and I think I’ll continue on in the series. Follow me on Goodreads for more reading updates.
That’s about it for February. Same old, same old over here. But the sun is setting later in the day, crocuses, daffodils and trilliums are blooming, and vaccines are on the horizon; you could say spring is coming. So I am feeling hopeful. Now I just need to finish more stories.