Spring is coming

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.”

March goals

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. 

Publication news

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.

Reading

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.

January Wrap-Up and Looking at a New Month

Been neglecting my blog a bit so I figured it was time for a new post. I’ve mostly been focusing on reviews. I decided to change up my review plans this year a bit. I will blog all my reviews, even the negative ones, but I am going to write shorter reviews. If I stick with 500 words or less, then perhaps they will feel less like work.

Writing

I wrote one longer short story in January and submitted it, got a rejection in four days. I may look at it again and rewrite it to submit elsewhere, or I might just move on to other ideas. My shorter fiction has languished because I am focusing on longer works this year.

The NaNoWriMo project I started in November, the steampunk WIP, I was still working on until last month, and that clocked in at about 30,700 words. I am not sure I have enough “steam” for it, however; the plot seems stuck. It is still the longest fiction manuscript I have written in years, even if it is incomplete. I have decided to put that aside for awhile to focus on novellas. I think a novella will be a good transition length between short stories and novels.

I started a dystopian novella for a submission call from Black Hare Press, but I’m not really feeling that either. I have about 5,000 words in it so far and I’m not sure that idea has legs. Sometimes you have to write it out to get a feel for it. I am working on another novella which I am more excited about. The theme is “weird gothic” and so far I seem the most committed to this one, so I am waking up early every day and adding my 5 a.m. 1,000 words to it. We will see where that one goes.

So for February I may not write any short stories at all. I may just focus solely on the novella. I just want to finish more projects this year. I’m not concerning myself with quotas. I want to finish projects and I want them to be good. It’s a lot of pressure thinking about what kind of novel or novella you want for your debut; it’s almost like focusing too much on first lines. But that’s okay. Sometimes you have to keep your expectations low. It’s going to be another year of existential dread, I think; just have to see writing as stress relief.

Photography

I am digging my moody nature series so I hope to keep shooting a set every one or two weeks. Getting on Instagram again has motivated me to keep shooting. If people post pictures of themselves socializing with others, I just unfollow or mute them. That’s why I quit the last time. I couldn’t take the visual proof of people’s reckless behavior in a pandemic. It’s like someone shoving ice cream in your face when you’re on a diet, even if they mean well and take safety precautions. Had to clean up house and start all over again.

But now, I have a different mindset about it. It’s just an excuse to keep shooting.

What I’m Reading

I am currently reading “A Memory Called Empire” by Arkady Martine, last year’s Hugo winner, and an ARC from Netgalley, “We Shall Sing a Song Into the Deep” by Andrew Kelly Stewart. I decided with the traditionally published books, other than the ARCs, I will do wrapups of my favorites with short blurbs for reviews. You can also follow my reading progress and reviews I don’t post here on my Goodreads.

Personal goals

I’m proud of myself for staying consistent with my exercise this year. Since December I have worked out at least three times a week. I go on walks on my lunch break, and after work I use my stationary bike and lift weights for about 40 minutes. I use an app on my phone called Strong to record my reps. I also do yoga about one or two times a week, in the early morning before writing or after dinner. I’ve been doing that for about a year and I can definitely see a difference in my flexibility and balance, even just doing it once a week. It’s good cross-training with weight lifting.

When the weather gets warmer I hope to put more energy into running again, but for now I’m sticking with the stationary bike and hiking for my cardio. I want to add in four times a week for weight lifting because I have a tendency to skip leg day.

Other than that I hope to keep up with practicing music and my crafts. Both have languished lately but I need to renew my focus for them on weekends. I decided instead of fixating on what I don’t have and how hard it is to quarantine and how angry I feel about the behavior of others, I would instead focus on non-social activities I can do at home. Knit more, write more, be more creative. It’s not to “be more productive,” it’s to have something positive to focus on, for stress relief and self care. 2020 was all about rage. 2021 is about creative relief and building better habits.

That’s about all. Can’t believe it is February already. January seemed to last a million years…