Spring Cleaning the Brain

I woke up this morning and didn’t want to get out of bed. The alarm kicked over and started beeping, so I rolled over and kicked Rick to hit the Snooze button. And proceeded to do this for the next 60 minutes. There’s something just awesome about coming out of the doze every 9 minutes to smack your husband and tell him to do something and not have to get out of bed to do it. Normally, I only get to do this an average of 2-3 times a morning, since the alarm’s usually set for 7:30. But because I had a godawfully early appointment on Monday, the alarm was set back an extra 45 minutes and it’s been that way ever since. That’s 5 more times I can smack Rick before I’m even fully awake.

But eventually, all good things must come to an end and when 8:00 rolls around, we simply have to get out of bed. The kids are awake, they need to be dressed, some semblance of nutrition has to be offered them. Beds have to be made, carpets need to be vacuumed, dishes need to be done. Websites need to be looked at and tea/coffee needs to be drank. Pre-K cartoons have to be turned on, because they’re not going to play themselves. Nosiree. The day has to start, whether I want it to or not.

Lately, the beginning of the morning is something I’ve been dreading. Everyone – including me – is getting sick of hearing me say this, but I’m now 40 weeks pregnant, and doing anything after being supine or immobile for long periods of time (like oh, say, 7-8 hours of sleeping) means a bunch of snaps, crackles and pops that wouldn’t go amiss in a bowl of Rice Krispies. The ligaments in my pelvis have been stretched and twisted to hell and back, so movement is actually painful until they loosen up again. Normally, this distracts me away from doing anything but the bare minimum.

But this morning, with the added bonus of an extra 5 instances of Rick-beating, I couldn’t help but notice how goddamn beautiful it is outside today. Yesterday, a light dust of snow fell. This morning, it looks bright and cheerful and warm and hopeful and sunny out my window. It’s enough to make me want to spring clean. Or maybe that’s just the nesting instinct finally kicking in. Sadly, there are too many chemicals I can’t sniff this late in the having-a-kid game, and there’s a weight limit to how much I can lift now. And it’s been nice, watching Rick run around and be my housebitch for the last few months… but on days like today, when I really want to clean something, I either can’t because of inherent risks or will not be allowed to, because I married an overprotective Southerner chock-full of testosterone and the sort of manly scent Old Spice claims to be able to wash away.

So I have to settle for some internal spring cleaning, and with that notion, today’s been set aside for me to winnow out the cobwebs and reorganize the disused and dusty corners of my brainpan.

What Makes A Word Count?

I realized this morning that when I’m tallying up the amount of writing I got done in the run of a week, I don’t count any blog post progress towards it. I don’t count my finished posts, the ones that actually see the light of the Cesspool. I don’t count the half dozen posts-in-progress that I write as the fancy strikes me, that may or may not actually make it to being published via WordPress. I also don’t count character profiles or outlines or handwritten notes about my current WIP. I don’t count jot notes I scribble down for short story ideas and vague, nebulous notions that may turn into seeds for future projects. I don’t count mindmapping or brainstorming or my index cards or anything.

I don’t count Twitter posts, but I think that’s okay to exclude.

But really… Why is this? Are all these things that happen to be other-than-story not words? Is there something inherently wrong with them that I feel I have to exclude them from my progress meters, either public or internal? I don’t know, really. It’s going to take more thought – and more caffeine – than I currently have put into the problem at the moment. But the mere act of coming to this realization has given me another, more powerful epiphany:

I write a whole lot more than I think I do.

It’s this sort of mindset that I have to train myself to follow now. I write more than I think I currently do. So instead of kicking myself because my wordcount meter to the far right over there for Soulbinder remains at 0, I should feel some form of accomplishment for having ten pages of brainstormed notes, or jot notes about the main characters, or very rough flow charts showing the main plot points. I should be happy that I wrote a 1.5-2.0k word blog post and published it.

Progress is progress, and words are words.

Except for tweets. Those don’t count.

The Daily Grind

With two autistic kids, you’d think the word “routine” would be engraved on my fecking eyeballs by now. And to some extent it is… but again, this seems a morning for revelations that really shouldn’t need to be revelations.

My morning routine, that thing I’ve sunk myself into without even realizing it lately, has been helping me out with the writing thing. I get up, I dress and feed the kids, I straighten whatever in the house needs to be straightened, I make myself some tea and grab some toast or yogurt or cereal, and I sit down to read a few blogs while brainfooding. Chuck’s blog in particular has been something of a source of inspiration of late: it’s the first I check in the morning, and since he’s usually blathering on about writing and inciting internet discussions on the topic, it sets the tone for the rest of my creative day.

Mornings are best for me, I’ve come to discover. I can write from about 9am on, when the eldest retreats to his bedroom with his ABA therapist and the youngest settles down with some juice and some Blue’s Clues (or Caillou, or Dora, or Toupie and Binou), to 10:30am, when the morning snack break necessitates my attention being elsewhere for a time. While an hour and a half isn’t exactly a whole lot of time, it’s the quietest time of the morning usually, meaning I can get a fair amount of work done, which will then be continued in fits and spurts when I have five minutes, or half an hour, throughout the rest of the day until the kids go to bed at 8pm. For example, it’s currently 10:20, I’ve been typing this post since about 9:30, and as of this moment, there are well over a thousand words written.

That’s a lot of words for an hour; I’ll have to remember to count them.

So far, I’ve managed to make a routine out of the couple of hours of my day which, given how hectic life can get, is something of an achievement. Much of the rest of the day isn’t so much routine as it is waiting for the milestones to happen, and cram in what can be crammed in between those times. It doesn’t need to be a strict, must-stick-to-this-or-the-world-ends routine, but I really do need to organize my time in a more appropriate and helpful sort of way.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Priori…. Ooh! Shiny Distraction!

The words are over here, folks. Look to your left. Your left. No, that’s the right.

Still the right, dude. Try the left.

Stop staring at the breasts and finish reading, dammit!

Fine. Stare at the boobs. I’ll wait.

Done? Good. Can I continue? Awesome.

Distractions are a pain in the ass, as much fun as they might be to indulge in from time to time. I check my email a handful of times a day, I log into World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online once or twice a day, I turn my instant messengers on a couple of times a day. Currently, my big distraction is Twitter, and allllll the links I see tweeted about. Discussion forums and comment threads on frequented blogs are a distraction, even if they’re making me write.

Talking to my husband is a distraction, when it’s about bullshit things like how Haim died before Feldman.

Watching the TV shows I missed the night before because I was watching Lost is a distraction. (Damn you, NCIS: Los Angeles, for sharing that timeslot.)

After a certain point in the morning, checking other blogs is a distraction.

Hand-in-hand with routine-izing my time, I need to cut down on the amount of distractions I allow myself to indulge in during the course of a day. Or at least set aside some time for Distraction Hour within that routine.

Staying On Target

I’ve run into this one over the last week, as I realized that Soulbinder will likely not be a standalone book – and I realized this when the characters I was setting up as secondary supporting cast started triggering off ideas for subsequent novels. And like I promised myself I would, like I’ve advised others to do, I’ve only written down vague notions for these stories, choosing to focus instead on developing and outlining the first novel, with an eye to hinting at the secondary characters’ future stories.

This also means making smaller, more understandable targets. I’m currently trying to convince myself that 100k words is not at all an insurmountable goal. And I’m doing it by telling myself over and over again that it’s only 20 chapters of 5,000 words each. Breaking it down like that has been helping me stay focussed on my current project: I know I can write 5,000 words. I’ve done it before.  And 5,000 words is a lot less scary than 100,000.

Another method of breaking it down into smaller goals is often used by NaNoWriMo participants. Over the course of 30 days, they write a novel of 50k words. If you’re writing every day, that’s 1,667 words a day. And that’s not so bad, really. I’ve already written more than that for this blog post.

My brain also needs to get used to the idea that writing perfect on the first try is likely not going to happen. In fact, it’s going to take a lot of crap, a lot of weak writing and a lot of plot holes in order to get a story. Retraining my brain, disciplining myself, to avoid self-editing or editing as I’m going, is going to be difficult, but it’s something I need to do in order to stay on target and keep my eye on the goal.

Dealing with Shiny New Project Syndrome is going to be a bitch though.

Spring Cleaning

In the end, spring cleaning is all about clearing out the useless shit you’ve been storing up over the winter. It’s about dragging out the stuff that’s gathered dust, the stuff that’s been shoved under the leak in the ceiling and has gotten moldy. It’s about ridding yourself of the excess baggage you couldn’t get out to the Dumpster to toss earlier. It’s about making every corner of your domain sparkle with lemony-freshness.

Polish up what’s worth keeping. Reorganize the sock drawer. Shuffle the photos into albums instead of having them in boxes. Pinesol the mildew out of the corners.

Throw away the rest.

Which is what I’m going to do.

Right after I finish watching NCIS.

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3 thoughts on “Spring Cleaning the Brain

  1. The desire to clean is usually a sign that said nestee is getting ready to make an appearance. Time to evict the lil sucker. I’m waiting for news!!!

    Kiss the monkeys…and evict the ladybug 🙂

  2. Boobs. Can’t.. look.. away…

    Usually, I just turn to the wife and tell her what I think. Today, two things stood out though.

  3. Effed up your stats. Opened your blog. Power went out. Power came back on. Router went out. Router came back on. Anyway, after 3 hours of attempting to read it-

    I like.

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