Camp NaNoWriMo

Have I made an official post about this yet? I can’t remember.

Which I’m sure bodes well for the month ahead.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017

Anyway, I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. The decision just seemed to fit so well with my New Years Resolution to write more… although the resolution was to write at least 2 short stories a month and, for April, I’m currently aiming for 26.

I was thinking the other day about taking on projects that [x amount of time ago] I wouldn’t have thought myself comfortable with. For example, I am stage managing a local family magazine’s summer camp fair performance on Friday. While I don’t have any speaking-into-the-mic duties (knock on wood), I sent the invitations for different groups to perform, scheduled and rescheduled so everyone would be able to come, and will generally be the face of disapproval glaring at anyone who goes over their allotted time. Six years ago this amount of direct responsibility would have made me want to shrivel up and hide. Eight years ago, I actually did that — for a bake sale raffle that wasn’t anywhere near this big.

The scary thing about this commitment is that I don’t write quickly. I write questionable first drafts as quickly as I can manage before I lose the thread. So my biggest concern about not only taking this on but deciding to post short stories regularly throughout the month is publicly not being able to finish.

Okay, correction. I don’t write original stuff quickly. With fanfiction, after a while I could get in a zone where I could churn things out pretty quickly and it would be pretty tight even to start with, because I knew the characters and source materials well enough to get it right in the first few tries.

This is how I’ve decided to approach the problem: I am going to try to write original stories as if they’re fanfiction. I’ll build something in my head and then share a short, free-standing slice of it. They’ll be complete in themselves but with hints that they are only quick glimpses or mere side-stories in the grand scheme of things. But mostly, I will post like I did when I was still into fandoms — often and with pride, not dwelling on them too long because next thing’s next.

Who else is signing up? What sort of mental hoops are you jumping through to get in the right frame of mind?

Wednesday Words of Wisdom #9 —Reality

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.

Shirley Jackson

I keep meaning to read The Haunting of Hill House… That’ll happen eventually.

In the meantime, I just finished re-listening to the audiobook of Going Bovine, by Libba Bray. It’s one of those books where (no spoilers, kinda) you get to the end and wonder how much of it was real and how much was the unreliable narrator imagining things. It’s hard to tell what even he thought was real or not, in the end. But it’s a beautiful book that at its heart has to do with the stories we tell ourselves to make reality bearable, or worthwhile, or at least make some sort of sense.

The vocabulary I use for this idea comes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, particularly Hogfather which I recommend highly for its own merits and for being kind of a Christmas story.

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME… SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

Hogfather

Another source is the incomparable Douglas Adams.

Trin Tragula, for that was his name, was a dreamer, a speculative thinker, or, as his wife would have it, an idiot. And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he would spend staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake. “Have some sense of proportion,” she would say, thirty-eight times a day. And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex – just to show her. And in one end he plugged the whole of reality, as extrapolated from a fairy cake, and in the other end he plugged his wife – so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it. To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock annihilated her brain. But to his satisfaction, he realised he had conclusively proved that if life is going to exist in a universe this size, the one thing it cannot afford to have, is a sense of proportion.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (radio series), Fit the 8th

ZAPHOD:
The universe does that to a guy?

GARGRAVARR:
The whole infinite Universe. The Infinite sums. The Infinite distances between them, and yourself. An invisible dot on an invisible dot. Infinitely small.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (radio series), Fit the 8th

Absolute reality lacks meaning. Absolute reality is the universe before it’s been run through the filter of our perception. From the day we’re born we start hearing and telling stories, starting with nursery rhymes and “when you were a tiny baby” anecdotes and going from there. To be human is to be a storyteller.

I feel like I have written posts about this idea before. It’s something I keep circling back to, like an itch I keep trying to scratch, because it keeps coming up in my writing.

In the second draft of my NaNo novel I’m still thinking through the stories my main character tells himself about who he is, what he wants, whether or not he’s okay with how repetitive his life has become and why, and so on and so forth. People have been telling him stories his whole life about what is and isn’t okay, especially his father, and over the course of the story he needs to question and confront things that have seemed like solid reality but are in truth a lot more subjective. And that’s just the main character! I’m relatively certain of his character growth throughout the novel, but not so much with the love interest. I haven’t even tackled any of his stories yet.

The idea also creeps into a short (ish) story that I’m currently working on, involving dreams. I’m not going to say much more than that because I’m going to be posting it in April.

How do you think ideas about reality and the stories we tell ourselves about the rightness in the universe show up in your writing?

Sunday Gratitudes #46: The Little Red Number

You know that little red number. It signifies unread texts, unread emails, missed calls, voicemails waiting for you to listen to, and other notifications. There are so many demands on our time and attention these days that it’s like omg overload all the time — depending, of course, on how many apps you have, how much friends and family members text, and whether or not you have your work email synched to your phone.

I really do not recommend that last one. I synced my work inbox to my phone once in 2013 and that only lasted a couple days before I undid it because that little red number was staring at me like a little red eyeball from hell.

This doesn’t bother everyone. My officemate has over 1000 unread emails and I just can’t even comprehend that. When I pointed it out, she said she hadn’t even noticed! Now, I’m a millennial and most of my coworkers are… well, if I had to guess, I’d guess they’re Baby Boomers. They are badass women who know what they’re doing and give very few fucks, and I like them all a lot, but there is an undeniable difference in the way we think and the way we approach certain tasks.

Some days I wish I was the kind of person who had one email addresses and didn’t care if it had hundreds of unread emails in it. Instead, I have upwards of ten, including six different work inboxes, and I start to get a little antsy if a double digit number is staring me down anywhere for more than a couple days.

So this Sunday, I am grateful that my personal inboxes (the most relentless red eye on my smartphone) are now down to just one unread email. That means I’ve paid my bills for the month. I’ve caught up on all the blogs I want to read. I’ve even finally remembered to update my FasTrack mailing address and dig through the stack of unopened mail to find three our of four of the W4s or whatever that I’m supposed to have. Despite being so sick yesterday that I threw up and slept nearly all day, since Friday afternoon I’ve also scooped the litter boxes/swept up the litter on the floor twice, neatened up the dining room table, washed some dishes, and voluntarily initiated a phone call with my parents.

And I’d like to thank a friend of mine for emailing me the link to this TED Talk video about stress, which I finally watched today. Did you know that stress isn’t as bad for you as simply believing that stress is bad for you? I knew it was a motivator, but I didn’t know that oxytocin, a stress hormone, helps strengthen your heart. If you stop to think about it, it makes a lot of evolutionary sense. I’ll leave you with the video — please feel free to comment on it and/or about how you feel about the little red numbers.

IWSG Post #07

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March IWSG Day Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Recently, actually. It didn’t work out, but I did end up rereading some short pieces I wrote in 2010 and probably haven’t revisited since. It’s fascinating to read stuff you no longer have any idea where you were going with.

The reason it didn’t work out is because the new idea that had inspired me to look through my old writing didn’t quite fit with the characters I’d been thinking of. Which is kind of irritating, because I miss them and had gotten all excited over the idea that I might be able to get down a new piece of their story… but when I read back over what I had so far, I realized it wasn’t something that would happen to them.

But that’s okay, because I still wrote the new idea. Part one, anyway. The rest is still in progress and was partly spurred on by wanting to find something new to ground the initial concept in.

Maybe I’ll pull the old story out and fiddle with it next, after I’m done with this new project. It’s nice to be reminded of a story that I know I’ll put down on paper some day but don’t feel pressured or rushed to do so. Over the past two years that’s basically what my NaNoWriMo novels have been — big fancy excuses . I haven’t finished them either yet, but that’s okay too. They’ll come together when they’re ready.

(I’m still coasting on the gleeful fact that in the past two years and even just the past few months I’ve done a lot more original creative writing than I have in years. This should last for a while and I’m content with that.)