My high school theatre teacher refused to give anyone a grade of A+ or 100.  His reasoning was that no matter how good you are, there’s always room for improvement.  My supervisor at work is also of this school of thought.

I say they’re right.  Pretty much the only time I would disagree is in math. The only way 2+2 does not equal 4 is if you’re reading 1984.

But for writing?  If you think you’re the best you can possibly be and don’t need to improve, well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

I’m not saying that a writer needs to be like George Lucas and always need to change something.  But always work harder to make the work better each time.  Most of the authors I love to read do this-each book gets better than the previous, both in the writing and in the storytelling.

People always have weaknesses that could be improved.  Me, I’m bad at endings.  So much so that I never really end anything.  They all stop abruptly or just trail off.

When they’re not put aside unfinished, that is.

The plus is that improvement comes with practice.  Kinda like regular time on a treadmill improves stamina and endurance.

Hey look, I brought it back to exercise. And ended abruptly.

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Solitude and Support

Writing is very solitary.   I have to be able to shut out the world if I want to be able to get the words down.

This is quite easy to do at work, during lunch.  The office is pretty quiet, and when people do talk, it’s usually a low murmur.  If I’m writing well, even the loud talkers fade into the background.

At home, I’m lucky.  I have my own room to go to when I write, and I can choose to write in silence or listening to music.  And when the door is closed, I don’t get bothered without a knock first.  Except for the cats.  They see the closed door as a challenge and lean all their weight on it to push it open-which is every time they try because the door doesn’t properly latch.

But at the same time, I don’t try to write much in the bedroom because Rob’s always there.  He doesn’t always realize, but he has a habit of talking over his shoulder.  I don’t know if he’s talking to me or not, and if I try to listen to music and write, I end up pulling out the earbuds often and get little done. (Maybe that’s why I’d stopped trying to write in the evenings.)

Even though I shut myself away for so long to write, I think I’d go a bit crazy without the support system.  Both Rob and his mom leave me alone to write, which is incredibly helpful because it means I have long, uninterrupted stretches of time where I can get so much written.

And any time that I get stuck, or can’t quite figure out what needs to happen, or need any sort of help, I go and talk it through with Rob.

He also has this annoying habit of saying things like “Did you write anything?” and “You’re overthingking it, just write.”  But the one I hear most often is “Finish the book.”

I’m also part of a small writing forum-very small, maybe ten active members-that’s helpful in pushing to get words written.

The downside of being so solitary is that sometimes it’s too easy to get involved in watching TV or movies, or reading books or websites.  There’s no one looking over my shoulder telling me to pick up the pen and write, just my own mind.  Until I go into the bedroom to talk to Rob.

And on occasion, he’s told me “You won’t get anything written, so you might as well play a game.”  Sometimes, I give in.  Other times, though mores with exercise, I can get myself to do what I need to.  Quite often this works better with the exercise than the writing, but I’m working on it.

Baby steps–a little improvement until it builds into a run.

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People (meaning myself at the very least) have all kinds of excuses not to write (and exercise can be substituted for write, too).

One of the biggest-“I don’t have time.” I think Rob’s heard this one more than any other.  But it’s really not even that valid because my daily routine is quite, well, routine.

I wake up at 7:30 to get ready for work-get dressed, check websites and email, brush my teeth, make coffee, eat cereal, drive to work.  I work from 8:30 to 4:30, with an hour for lunch.  Aside from lunch, I have no downtime. When I’m in the office, there’s no reason for me to not be working. Even when there’s no power for a couple hours, like happened Friday morning, I can still do my job without interruption. I do try to use part of my lunchtime to write-half hour to eat and read, and a half hour to write.  Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.  After work, I exercise and then have about a half hour-ish until dinner-usually around 6:30.  Then there’s dishes, shower, and tv until 11.  And sleep.  Rinse, repeat every weekday.

One of the suggestions floating around to make use of time is to wake up earlier to get writing in before work. I flat out refuse to do that for writing or exercise. I’m naturally a night person and have a hard time falling asleep-anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, so I take every minute I can in the morning. Including going back to sleep for 3 minutes between Skittles wanting to come in/go out and my alarm going off. Plus I’m a horrible morning person, and I’m rarely awake enough to even think about writing that early.

So right now, my writing times are about a half hour at lunch and about a half hour before dinner. I can manage around 250 to 500 words in that amount of time, more if I know where I’m going. But if I’ve no clue, I’m lucky if I get a sentence.  More often than not, I have a case of “Oh! Shiny!” And time disappears.

What I end up doing after my shower is clicking around websites, checking Twitter, and watching TV.  What I should be doing is writing.  Especially because, if my mind’s in the right mode, I use shower time to hash out stuff and start mentally writing scenes. I really should get one of those diver slate thingies for the shower.

So the “No time” excuse?  Really doesn’t work.  I’ve made the time to exercise. I have plenty of times I could write. I just have to actually do it.

And I hate it being an excuse, but the reason I don’t write in that time I can’t sleep is that Rob has to be up at 5:15 to go to work. If I stay awake in the bedroom, I’m too loud, and the light bothers him. If I stay in my writing room, I’m too loud and wake him when I open or shut the bedroom door. Really not much that can be done about that.

The other excuse I tend to use-“I have _____ to do”-is trickier.  Usually, it is something that has to be done-exercise, cleaning, dishes, dinner, sleep, etc. Sometimes, it’s more something I feel needs to be done-scanning my photos/negatives, updating my website, and so forth. The reason this gets tricky is because, ideally, these are things I could delegate. In the past, I have. Several times. What happens next is that something gets done, but badly, so I spend time fixing it. Or, nothing gets done, and I spend time doing it. And lately it’s nothing gets done because I don’t have the patience.

In other words, it’s a case of “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” This feeds my unwillingness to ask for help, because when I have asked, I get promises and good intentions. So, until I get actions instead of words, I don’t bother asking for help anymore.

At least, not with the website.  Other stuff, sure. In fact, I want to move a white board to hang beside the bed so that I’ll see my goals before I go to sleep and when I wake up. I hope that’ll be motivation to move past the excuses.

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Writing and Exercise

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that writing is quite like exercise.  Obviously not when it comes to the physical side of things, but what’s required mentally.

Both require a big commitment of  time. And both end up with people making excuses for why they aren’t doing it.

You need support to keep going and be successful, but at the same time, you’re doing the work in solitude.

And the more you do of either, the better you get. But there’s always room for improvement.

I plan on elaborating each of these soon, focusing on writing. Since, ya know, I’m doing decent on the exercise side of things.

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Rob goes back to work Monday.  So far, he’s regained pretty much all his sight, though, like with the cataract surgery, he’ll be recovering for months.  Or closer to a year.  But now he won’t be restricted and stir crazy at home.

The doctor had me stop taking the BP meds she put me on, after halving the dose.  Far as I can tell, they didn’t seem to do much other than give me a fine tremor in my hands.  Moreso than usual.  My blood pressure still seems to hover just below, or on, the prehypertension line, but I also wasn’t all that vigilant about diet and exercise for several months.


My mom visited for Christmas and New Years; it was only her second visit since I moved to Connecticut.  And Rob and his mom got to experience what Christmas was like for me growing up.  Tons of presents under the tree.  It was fun. 😀

Now, not quite a month into the new year, I’ve somewhat settled into a routine.  For New Years resolutions, I had only two.  They should be easy enough to keep.  One-exercise.  Two-write.

Exercise-specifically to exercise regularly.  Yeah, longterm I’d like to lose weight, but right now I’m focusing on regaining my stamina and strengthening my back.  I had both of these before, but in Dec 2009 I had bronchitis.  I never quite managed to recover completely from that.  Or I lacked the drive to exercise like I needed to.  Now that I’ve managed to get 3 weeks consistently on the treadmill, I’m starting to see small improvements.

As for writing, that’s to write more.  Considering how quickly that dropped off with all the wedding stuff, that’ll be pretty easy to manage.  I’m starting small–500 words a day for 5 days, or 2500 a week.  Rob’s suggestion.  I was going to go with 250 a day, but he thought I should up it.  Long term for this one?  Finish the second draft of my novel.  And hopefully polish it.  Other incentives to write more include plans to go to World Fantasy con in Toronto in November.

I’m on the right track; I’ve thrown out most of the rough draft and have a (hopefully) solid synopsis in place.  With lots of ideas for possible sequels.

Now, I just have to get it written.

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