Goals, goals, goals

Monday, May 23, 2005

I’m sitting here, wandering the web instead of pushing words. I’ve begun to ask what is wrong with me. This is a rhetorical question—I don’t want to know what you think is wrong with me. I was asking myself the question during my pre-writing period. As an early warning (I’ve been told to drop these warnings and get right to it—but this is a necessary one), this is going to be a strangely long musing. I’m trying to get back into these long, everyday writing thing. What follows is my reasoning and random thoughts I’ve used to build enough words to call this a successful day.

The caffeine seethes through my veins, and I’m feeling better about myself. I don’t know what it is I will write (if I end up writing anything), but I wanted to start pushing the words onto the paper and seeing if any of them will cooperate. I like that phrase, “pushing words.” It’s like I’m a drug dealer. I wonder who the user is in this scenario.

There’s a fruit can on the table. The tab broke off without the can opening. Nobody wants to drink it now. There was a week where every orange juice can in the refrigerator wouldn’t open. The tabs would rip off before they’d break the open the can. It was a frustrating week and I had to drink cranberry juice to get my vitamin C requirements. I would bend the tabs vertical and leave it in the refrigerator in the hopes that the juice man would see the cans with the broken tabs and replace them. He did, eventually. Either that, or I lifted up the tabs on all the broken ones.

Why write? What’s the purpose of it? I know I keep asking these inane questions; it’s just that when I sit here, and I think about these things, I begin to question writing’s worth. I throw out three paragraph vignettes and I wonder what they’re worth. Here goes another.

Experimental, shemerimental. I’m so sick of this bullshit. Just sit down and write a stupid story about something stupid and be done with it. I want to be done with it. I’m so sick of this shit. Of this shitty way of starting. This is good. You’re writing something, which is something you haven’t done in a while. Keep putting words on the paper and use this as your warm-up exercise. I don’t understand why you don’t consternate more often. Maybe once you finish consternating, something will come out. Yeah, sure this is a painful way to start, but who cares? Seriously? Get over yourself. You don’t have to post this shit. The only thing bad about this part is that you’re wasting part of your writing energies on bullshit like this. If you can get past this, then you’re golden. Golden!

Write a story about something simple with simple language and having no idea where you’re going with it. Why not? Why keep searching for the special nothing? Why not accept what you have and go with it. And for the record, this not-writing-everyday was a bad, bad idea. You need to keep at it, you need to keep writing every day for at least an hour otherwise bad things happen.

Wow. Taking off time from writing was not a good idea. Fuck the recharging of batteries. Fuck the organizing my thoughts and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with this thing. All of that was bullshit. What it turns out is that taking breaks is not what I’m good at. I had this same problem when I stopped my morning exercises (I’ve since restarted them to build somewhat less-chickeny arms): when I don’t do something almost every day, I end up doing it fewer times every week. By the second week, my day of rest turns into two days of rest. By the fourth week, I’m up to five days of rest. And after that I’m left with nothing. A steaming hulk of what I used to be.

That’s where I ended up with my writing. After taking time off, I’m finding it hard to get back into it. Sure, I write occasionally, and while some of it is decent, most of it is too little effort to come up with too few words. I’ve always said this is about effort. Talent has nothing to do with it since I don’t have any control over that variable. What I can provide is the perspiration, and my towel is dry, dry, dry. Sitting here and bitching isn’t helping things, but it is helping me put words on paper, something I’ve forgotten how to do. Nano taught me to put words on paper, and I’ve forgotten all the lessons of that time.

It’s not like I haven’t said all of this before. I’ve talked about how I need to stop worrying about quality and start worrying about quantity. I’ve talked about finding my voice and trying to get over my obstacles: conflict (or lack thereof), pathetic-ness, and resolution (the no-blue-balls rule). I’ve become so worried about these obstacles that I forgot to write. I forgot to put words on the paper and say something. Anything. And keep saying it.

There were times where I wrote stories every day. Sure, most of the stories sucked, but at least I was trying to say something. I need to return to those times. (I also, similar to some people who will remain nameless—get it? Nameless!—need to go back and actually edit what I’ve written, turn it into a story, and not give up on editing after rewriting half of it.)

And I need to start counting words again. I hate counting words. I hate working toward that elusive goal. But without goals, I’m left with little writing. I end up trying to write for fifteen minutes, and spending the next two hours surfing the web and ignoring my nobler pursuits.

What I’m telling myself, even as I write these addendums to NEQID, is that I’ve been trying to do that, I’ve been trying to tell a story, but I keep banging into a slick wall. I’ve tried warm-up exercises, I’ve tried barreling headfirst toward a story, I’ve tried planning, I’ve tried all the bullshit that I’ve spoken about and have little to show for it. What I forget, though, is that trying while preparing for failing is not the same as doing. What is it Yoda said? “Do or do not, there is no try.” Sure, he’s a puppet. And, yeah, he’s green. But so was Kermit, and we all know that it’s not easy being green thanks to him. Where am I going with this? I have no fucking idea, but that’s the beauty of working toward a word goal. It’s not the quality of words or thoughts, it’s the quantity. Damn. I hate that cliché: quality and quantity. There must be a better way to say it, something with count and some other word that means quality. The thesaurus was little help there.

My sister Randy arrived yesterday for a visit to the Castle. She was unimpressed with the neighborhood—like me, she enjoys more city-ish neighborhoods with lots of places to walk to—but the Castle has grown on her, and its peaceful ambiance has won her over, that and my modern but simple furniture. Where did I acquire such great style?

I’m counting now. It’s strange to try to write so many words again. I know I will have to reedit the first part of this piece. And I also know that I’m going to have to transition this musing/consternation/NEQID style into story writing one of these days, but for now, I’m just happy to get words back on paper. This is how I did pre-Nano, what I still consider my most productive writing time: I started with lots of long musings, keeping tracking of my word count. I then changed to story writing, still trying to get the 2k words (or at least get close with the clever asides) before I threw myself into the Nano contest. I’m many months away from the next one, but I need to get back into this writing thing. I’m sick of looking at my front page and seeing the same shit because I was too lazy to post newer shit.

I have been rather lax in posting everything I write. I’ve grown more selective on some of my shorter, more embarrassing writings. Many times during my funk, I would write a few paragraphs and give up. I wouldn’t post those until I could put more words before them (see below for an example). I hoped that my readers wouldn’t read it, or at least read it after seeing the long and beautifully edited and written post that followed it; thus giving me credit and not thinking any less of me. I do that too often: worry about what other people think. I like to pretend that I’m Mr. Cool, that I don’t worry about what others are thinking of me or my writing, but we all know that’s bullshit. I worry very much what other people think of me, which is, to a large extent, where my shyness derives from. When I’m in a group of people that I don’t know, I fear under-impressing people, and to avoid that, I keep my mouth closed unless spoken to. It’s a weakness, but the circuitry in my brain that worries about what other people think overloads in those situations. This is the opposite of a colleague who talks too much and doesn’t think of what others think, even in large groups. So many people to write about and so little time (or energy, more exactly).

I’m impressed if you’ve read this far. (As you can tell, I’m stretching for words now. I’m at around 1,500 before editing, which might involve cutting large swaths out of the first part.) This is the first step in my acceptance that I need to write words. I have a feeling that there will be days where my words will be like these—consternations or explanations or defenses for consternations. But so what? Words are words are words. If I have nothing to say, I’ll keep saying nothing until that fills up all two-thousand spots in my document.

Returning to visitors, this week will be rather busy. My mother is flying in on Friday, and Doolies arrives Saturday. (Finally! I haven’t seen Doolies in a long, long time and I miss her terribly.) This might be the first time I have four people sitting at my dining room table. I’m excited about that. (I won’t actually have any food to serve them, but I’m excited to have more than two people sit at my metal table.)

I finally called the gardener today. Over the next two months, my garden should return to the condition it was in when I bought the house. With no tending, my garden remained rather nice for the first six or so months I lived here. When the rains hit in the spring—and they’ve hit hard lately—the weeds sprouted up at amazing speed. My garden, which used to be a minimalist Asian-esque garden, has turned into a jungle. The gardener says it’ll be back to its original form in only a few months. I forgot how nice it is to delegate.

I’m closing in on the last three-hundred words of this entry. I know it’s not well organized, and it’s not terribly interesting. But I don’t care. It’s an inferior entry that I’m using as a warm-up to get me back into this writing thing. It’s late at night, I’m laying in bed, and I’m stretching the words out to meet my goal. I still have problems with laying, lying, laid, lay. My brain refuses to understand the difference, no matter how often I look up the word.

Okay. I’ll stop the torture here. I expect to improve on this torture tomorrow. My hope is that by next Monday, I’ll have settled back into my routine and start pounding out some real low-quality (which is better than this no-quality entry) but excessively long words. Now, I’m off to edit these words into a semblance of interesting work (heh) and go to sleep. I have an early day of conference meetings. There’s nothing like being lectured at for an entire day to put one in a terrible mood.

Words before editing (and adding this aside to increase the word count): 1887 words; caffeine: tall mocha; writing time: not sure (I should really start recording this). I’m thinking of automating this word count thingy. That way I can create graphs and all sorts of other things—like charts and other stuff. Wow, this bad writing is a great way to increase word count, by the way. Final word count, including this final word count: 2,161.