It’s about 7:30am. I got up early for no apparent reason (except possibly the stuffed pizza — one of our Pi Day pies from dinner last night — that’s sitting in my stomach like a rock; curse you, Giordano’s, and your tastilicious product! at least the Lactaid pills seem to be doing their job). The oatmeal is a-cooking, and the coffee is a-brewing, and I think this is going to be my only opportunity to post today.
As I mentioned, I’ve been pretty busy at work these last several weeks, and it has made it almost impossible to write. I’m working late, some at home but also staying late at the office, which I usually try not to do. Even when I’ve gotten home at a decent time, we’ve got some personal stuff going on that requires some discussion (if you read my wife’s blog, she’s been going into considerable detail about it in her recent posts; to the extent I have something to say in public on the subject, I’ll probably do it in the comments there).
But those things aren’t distractions. My life, my job — they aren’t optional. If there are times when my job heats up, well, that’s what they pay me for. If the Siren and I need to talk, I can’t think of any more important way to spend my time.
On Friday, I found myself working on Meet the Larssons for the first time in weeks. Sitting on the train Friday morning, I pulled out the chapters I’ve been carrying around in my briefcase (the last one I revised, for reference, and then the next three), uncapped a pen, and settled in to slog through a few pages before I got downtown.
Instead, I realized that the chapters I had with me — Chapters 18, 19, and 20 in the original manuscript — simply didn’t work where they were. I’d always known the middle of the book (and by middle I mean roughly 50% of the word count) didn’t work, because I had moved one story arc too quickly, one way too slowly, and another not at all. I have finally hit that point in the book in the Manuscript Slog, and it was like running into a brick wall. I can’t “edit” these chapters, I can’t revise them or mark them up and make them into something that works. They’re still part of the novel, I think, but probably not for another 200 pages, and who knows what they’ll need to look like then.
I had a moment of feeling defeated, then I started outlining what the new middle, the new second act, will look like. I worked on it all the way into Union Station, just scribbling ideas on the back of the first page of Chapter 18. On the way home, I outlined the first seven scenes of the new middle, and got so into it I almost missed my stop and had to run through the train car with my open briefcase in one hand and clutching a folder of loose manuscript in the other.
Why was I able to do that on Friday when I haven’t for at least three weeks? Some of it is just being in town and on the train; I’ve been traveling a little more than usual lately, and driving a little more than usual when I am in town, out of laziness. But the main thing is this:
I finished Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve essentially given up television. News during the election, sure, but that’s it. I just don’t have time to watch TV and write. But my brother-in-law hooked me on BSG by lending me the Season 1 DVDs about a year and a half ago. I took forever to watch it, but when I finished, I was completely sucked in. I bought Season 2 from iTunes and started out just watching on my laptop while running on the treadmill, but then I got my iPhone a few weeks ago and was able to carry episodes around with me. That was right around the time when I started busting my ass so much, and felt like writing (or editing) on the train was too much effort.
Plus, the train has gotten more crowded, and it’s harder to find a seat.
Plus… ah, hell. I got lazy, and started watching BSG on the train. It’s a great show, and when I finished the Season 2 finale during my run on Friday morning, I immediately bought Season 3 off iTunes. Our balky internet (screw you and your lousy service, Comcast!) prevented me from downloading even the first episode before I left for work, which meant when I got to the train and even got a seat, I had nothing compelling to do.
So I worked on my novel.
That wasn’t a terribly hard lesson to re-learn. If I’m going to keep going with this little project, hobby, avocation, what have you, I need to cut out the distractions. Not my job, which pays the bills, and which, generally speaking, I enjoy. Not my wife, not my kids — I’ll sacrifice some time with them, but only to a point, and that point moves depending on the other demands on my time (i.e., my job). But the distractions, the optional things I do that are fun but just eat up time — those I have to remember to throw over the side like unnecessary ballast when everything else heats up. Sometimes I forget; I occasionally, as I may have mentioned, have trouble focusing on things. Sometimes I need to cut myself some slack. But it’s good to be reminded how this works. I’ve got a family and a job; those are non-negotiable. Everything else is disposable.
I’ll still watch BSG, but I have a feeling it’s going to take me a while to get through Season 3.
On Writing: Scenes outlined for the rewrite of Meet the Larssons: 7. I’m giving up on the handwritten Manuscript Slog at this point. There’s no way I’m going to handwrite 30,000-50,000 words of new material, so I’m going back to my MacBook and Scrivener. I’m incredibly relieved, which should make me suspicious — am I taking the easy way out? cutting corners? — but really just leaves me, well, relieved. It will probably be a few days, maybe even a week, before I can get anything done, but I’ll do what I can. I may try Write or Die to get some words under my belt; hat tip to Amy for the link.
On Running: Leaving for a run now. I’ll finish when I get back.
Okay, nice short/long run (or a long/short run), 58:38, around 6.25-6.5 miles. My Polar watch, which records the distance, needs a new battery, so it’s hard to be precise. Not too long and not too fast, but god it was great to run outside in the sun. I spent a frantic 5 minutes looking for my running gloves, found them (in the drawer with my cold weather running gear, strangely enough), then decided when I got outside that I didn’t need them. The only downside to the run is that earlier in the week I stepped on my prescription sunglasses and snapped the frame. I think they’re totaled, so it was a little too bright; given the long, dark, dreary winter, I dealt with a little extra sunlight just fine.
Only two weeks until the Shamrock Shuffle. I think it’s safe to say it won’t be a PR.
On the iPod: My iPod Mini bit the dust a few weeks ago, and I bought an iPhone to replace it and my aging Razr. I had originally planned to buy a Shuffle to use for runs, but I found an arm band from Belkin that holds the iPhone and is surprisingly comfortable, so I may just run with the iPhone for a while. The Siren is happy I have a cell phone with me, anyway.
I’ve been listening to the usual suspects, mostly. Escape Pod #190 (“Origin Story,” by Tim Pratt) was a fun superhero story (NB – my idea of fun is not everyone’s); I Should Be Writing #112 (interviews of Mary Jo Pehl and Tobias Buckell); Adventures in SciFi Publishing #75 (interview of Chris Roberson).
Shaun Farrell, the lead host of AISFP, announced this week on Twitter and the AISFP website that the podcast is going on indefinite hiatus until 2010. He asks that listeners stay subscribed, because he can’t say now when he might put new material out on the feed. The final episode, #76 (interview of David Louis Edelman) posted on Thursday. I’m sorry to see AISFP go; Shaun is an engaging interviewer, and the banter between Shaun and his co-host Sam was always fun. I wish Shaun luck in whatever he chooses to do next.
I’m going to close the way Steve Eley closed Escape Pod this week in honor of “Origin Story,” with Unfocused Girl’s favorite Jonathan Coulton song, “Skullcrusher Mountain”:
Eleminating those distractions seems to be a timeless struggle for writers. I go back and forth. And right now, I need to cut them out and doing ok, except for the fact my social life has picked up.
Though it seems you were put in a position where you had no choice but to write. Sometimes it gets like that for me which is awesome.
Oh, how I feel your pain, brother. :) Only my addictions-plural can at least be banished to the barren wastelands of weekend television via my DVR. I can wait until then to watch my shows.
Alas, schoolwork takes up the rest of most of my freetime. That and spending time with the fambly, as you note.
Glad you got some time in on the writing, though. Makes you feel a little better, doesn’t it? :)
Good luck with the rewrites. I think I’d get more writing done if I had a public transportation commute. I can’t seem to accomplish much while driving my car. And believe me, I’ve tried. Here’s to some modicum of publishing success in ’09!