NaNoWriMo09

I bet someone's post topic will be, "Um, how about you just don't WRITE when you can't think of anything to write?" And then I'll have to be, "Hmm. Point taken."

I am trying to think of something I haven't told you before and I can't think of a single thing. Okay, well, a single BLOGGABLE thing. This is sort of bumming me out and making me think I should shut down the blog. "Sorry friends! Nothing left to say!"

On the other hand:

Via an angst-filled email exchange with Blogless Charlotte Pants and then a conversation this morning with Liz (or more like a Vomiting Of Things In My Head While Liz Listened Patiently, God Bless Her) I figured out what to do with that sad heap of words in my computer labeled NaNoWriMo. Charlotte helped me realize that I pretty much need to rewrite the entire thing (this is GOOD if not exactly HEARTENING) and while talking to (at?) Liz this morning I realized that I needed to quit drama-fying the rewrite (because DUDE there are a LOT of WORDS) and just, you know, start

So I came home this afternoon and hauled my laptop to a completely different part of the house and turned on my favorite Pandora station and closed my eyes. And then I rewrote the beginning. It's not fabulous. It's not awesome. But it's better than my other beginnings - more believable, more real, more true to who I think these characters are - and I needed that beginning to launch me into the rest. I have a hard time just jumping into a scene. I need to write them to know them, so I have to start as far back as makes sense. 

ANYWAY. BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Gosh, I really wish I could tell you something you didn't know. I don't know why I'm so stuck on this right now. I think I have it in my head that "Something You Don't Already Know!" would make a really excellent blog post at this point, in the same way that many annoying people think it makes an excellent ice breaker. (Have I told you how much I hate ice breakers? Probably.) 

*drums fingers on the table*

*sings a few bars of the Wiggles' rocket ship song: "BLAHSTing off to Mahws! ZOOMing through the stawhs! Watch the world go by in my rocket!"*

*looks around kitchen, wishes for Hershey bars*

Okay, so, this is a pointless exercise, isn't it? I sort of feel like I did this morning, when every time I tried to tell Liz about a movie or a book or something with a Name I had to sit there like I was eighty-seven years old and conjure it up from the depths of my furrowed-in-intense-concentration brow. And then I STILL couldn't think of the name! So I have an idea. I think YOU should tell me something about YOU. Oooh! Idea! Because when I got all "Like me on Facebook!" on you I saw that a bunch of you LIKED me but I didn't think I had MET you before. "Met" in this case meaning "read a comment you had written". HMMM. You Facebookers are a big bunch of LURKERS. 

But I confess. I lurk too. Which is why I think I will leave a comment on every single blog I read tomorrow. The famous and not-so-famous. (I stole this idea from Elizabeth. The running theme of this post is: I have none of my own ideas.) (Either I will leave comment after scintillating comment, or I will be too intimidated to open my feed reader at all!)

Okay people. SAY HELLO. If you happen to leave me a Post Topic you get brownie points. I will say hello BACK. It will be a grand day of Ice Breaking. But I'm going to write my other stuff now, and maybe sneak into the bag of chocolate chip cookies my mother-in-law made for her grandchildren. WHAT?


When you think you've got something worth holding on to

When my in-laws came over this afternoon I went upstairs and crashed on my bed. Usually I am speeding out the door to Target or a coffee shop, but last night was rough and I seriously could hardly keep my eyes open. But I'm never able to fall asleep during the day and it was so sunny out that my whole bedroom was glowing and I kept thinking: oh, go put on your stupid shoes and go for a run. So I did. 

And I was damn proud of myself, because I don't run that often these days. Between the broken treadmill and the rain and the fact that I 1) do not own a double jogging stroller and 2) would not go for runs with a double jogging stroller if I had one, I now run maybe one to two times a week. Ah well. I do a bit of Exercise TV yoga, a Shred here and there and I finally bought a Wii Fit and I play around with that every once in a while. I justify my marked decrease in exercise with the fact that I am maintaining my weight/fitness just fine (as evidence I give you my Wii Fit age: 31 - WOOT! Validation from a video game!) and I just don't give myself a hard time about it. Whatever. I still fit into my pants. 

What I AM missing are the jolts of creativity I have while running. I don't know if this happens for anyone else (although Jen's mention of it one day is what made me realize it in the first place) but I THINK better after I've gone running. And not necessarily for a long or fast run. It seems just the action of going outside, moving my body in a mindless way and giving my thoughts some free space offers up some excellent writing material. I mean, I've been all househousehousityhouse lately (I'M SORRY) and partly because I can't think of anything else to write about. But a half hour of huffing and puffing and I've got ninety-seven posts brewing. 

And it's not just blog posts. I finally busted out that sorry excuse for a first draft the other day and read through my first chapter. And then I cried. You guys, I will never be a Real Writer. I was so disappointed with myself and my poor writing and my embarrassing style and how I was TELLING and not SHOWING and oh God why am I even trying. But a half hour of huffing and puffing and I feel like I want to try again. Like at least one of those paragraphs might be salvageable. 

When I'm running I think about writing. I don't know what other people think about, I don't know if that's weird. But I think about high school and the high schoolers in my first draft. I think about what I want to say on the Catholic blog. I think about first person vs. third. I think about all the bits and pieces of my life and how I would narrate them. I listen to music - the only time I get to listen to music I like - and let the lyrics filter through my narratives, shaping them, emphasizing them. 

And then I make it to my last block and I realize that even though I hate running I made it through another neighborhood jog and go me and thank goodness the in-laws are still here so I bring the laptop upstairs and write undisturbed. 


Giving myself a good talking to

I went out with friends tonight - we were celebrating a birthday, a birthday that happened in EARLY DECEMBER, GAH - and we had our usual "I feel guilty about working!" and "I feel guilty about NOT working!" mommy angst discussions. Actually, we're all quite happy doing what we're doing, but we still have to TALK about it, you know. Make sure that we actually ARE still happy. 

I AM happy, I'll have you know. But for some reason it's been a very hard month. Like, I am just not FEELING 2010. I am lazy, unmotivated, cranky, misanthropic. I have a lot going on - things to write, things to plan - and I either have five thousand ideas and only time for one of them, or I've got nothing at all, and I panic over how I'm going to produce all the things I'm committed to producing.

And when my friends talk about liking their work and finding fulfillment in it, I translate what they say into my stay-at-home-mom world. What is MY work? I would say (as pathetic as this sounds) my blog, my other blogs, my "novel", the stack of Important Papers On My Desk That I Need To Do Something About and the party we're planning for February. I am FULLY aware that my "work" is what a lot of working mothers do when they get HOME, but whatever, for now we're just going to say it's MY work. 

I take care of my kids first and foremost. But I will blog before I clean up the kitchen or fold the clothes. I will do other writing before I pick up the toys when the kids go to bed. I will forget to make dinner on time because I got on a big revision roll with my story. I think figuring out where we're going to stay in Hawaii and all the logistics of that trip are worth a nicely formatted spreadsheet or two, plus and the fact that my husband won't have to think about it at all. I like having all the numbers entered into my Budget of Awesomeness spreadsheet, and I make invitations to parties because I think people like getting fun mail, and I have Post It notes all over my desk for when I have an idea but can't type it up, and maybe I have spent more than a few hours trying to figure out if there's an equivalent of Scrivener for a PC. Okay? THIS IS WHAT I DO. And I like it. It makes me feel like me.

But I don't think I've done very much of it since the holidays. I think I've mostly laid around my living room, despondent for various or no reasons. The weather is horrid - the kind of weather everyone thinks Seattle has year round, but really only shows up for a week or so to get everyone good and depressed. Exercising during nap time, routine as of a month or two ago, now requires massive mental effort. Most of the time I fail on this front, and the sad thing is how easily I shrug it off. And remember, I am not exercising to lose weight, I am exercising to MAINTAIN MY SANITY. 

I am not doing a very good job. 

Phillip is back in school. My weekend plans fell through. And even though everything worked out and we had a good time anyway and I've had enough time to myself - hello, I just got back from sushi and Red Mango with friends - I didn't do very much of what I DO. And I feel... at loose ends. Frustrated. Stifled, even. I came home and marched into the office where my poor husband is doing homework and snitted, "I need to WRITE. I am going upstairs to WRITE. DON'T TALK TO ME."

This, after leaving my him with the boy who didn't nap for a second day in a row, thereby turning himself into Actual Demon Spawn. I went out for sushi (which I don't even really LIKE, which my husband wants to MARRY) and Phillip put one child and one demon spawn to bed by himself. And is now doing homework. 

I think... I don't know. I kind of feel like the month of November was this crazy eye-opening experiment for me, where I went full blast on something I wasn't sure about, and then, at the end: SO VERY SURE. But you know, life takes over, and there were weddings and holidays and families to attend to and then back to the doldrums of January and... wait. So how do I get back to that again? How did I make that happen? How did I arrange all the pieces of my life so I could DO what I DO? 

First: I need to do my stupid at-least-twenty-minutes of stupid exercise. It's not even an option, Self. GET WITH IT. And second, I need to do what I do. More, and every day. 


A real writer

I met a friend at a snooty Capitol Hill cafe yesterday, the kind of cafe where the baristas go to special barista camp and enter fancy espresso shot pulling contests and blah blah Seattle coffee snobbishness. Anyway, the coffee was pretty good, and my friend was late and I sat in a corner spying on the other coffee drinkers, all of whom sat staring down their Apple laptops. I thought, "If I were 1) not a mom and 2) not married and 3) lived in this hipster part of town I would 4) totally hang out here all day with my brand-appropriate laptop listening to 5) the right kind of music and 6) pounding out my various masterpieces." 

Then my friend showed up and made a semi-snarky comment about all the hipster kids and their laptops. I would have taken offense if I resembled anything CLOSE to a hipster kid with a Mac, but instead I mumbled something about how I thought it was kind of awesome and, you know, I have spent entire mornings and afternoons with my Dell laptop in the mall Panera, which is not the same thing, but CLOSE. 

The kids stayed overnight with their grandparents last night (AGAIN) (SPOILED!) and Phillip and I had a marvelous day. This has to do, mainly, with the sun being out for the first time since, oh, SEPTEMBER and how I went for actual honest-to-goodness run and in the afternoon we saw Sherlock Holmes, which I loved, because I have loved Robert Downey Jr. since he was in the movie with the ghosts and singing 'Walk Like A Man' in the bathroom. 

But it was also marvelous because I sat on the couch all morning - in precisely the same spot I'm sitting in right now - rewriting the beginning of my "novel". I don't need no hipster cafe! 

It's sort of weird to get such a rush, such an alive-ness feeling, from doing something that may, ultimately, have no point. On the way to the movie I was telling Phillip how accomplished I felt - I figured out a few awkward moments, cleaned up a lot of extraneous stuff, moved some scenes around. I got stuff done! I had this renewed vigor for my Project and Phillip was awesome and on board and then that sneaking less-than feeling crept in, as it does, because what am I doing? What is this for? I'm not even good at it.

It's almost as bad as blogging, you know. I'm sure you've read Amalah's post - I hate that question too. What DO you do? I write, but I never tell people that I write. I mean, I am not A Writer. Writers are, like, REAL writers. They write a million different things, they write all the time, they get PAID. And it's true, I am paid here and there, but oh God, I am not a WRITER. I am merely a desperately-hoping-to-be-so-one-day-wannabe-writer. And I am not telling anyone THAT. 

(And I did not just write all that so you, The Lovely Internet, will write back to say, "YES YOU ARE!" Oh, I am on to you, Internet!)

So anyway. I am not telling anyone. (Well, except for you, of course.) But that's what I want to do. And be. And mornings like this morning make me realize that YES. I have found my place. It is just very poor, has bad lighting, gives you carpal tunnel and requires a diet of chocolate chips and wine.


Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo

At 11:20 pm on November 30 I clocked in at over 62,000 words, 113 pages. And I typed: THE END. 

I'm under no illusion that I wrote anything good. Trust me. And so many of you were so nice, all "Oh, I'm SURE it's better than you think it is!" and "You are your own worst critic!" and that may be the case, but TRUST ME. Let me even give you an example or two. How about:

  1. I have a character who is a Big Time Character in the first 15,000 words of my story. Then I kick her to the curb, until we reach, oh, 55,000 words. Then she shows up again, when it's convenient. I have absolutely no clue what she is doing in the meantime. NO CLUE.
  2. I have a transition or two consisting of: "And then some time passed." Because that's all I could think of to move me to the next scene. No really.
  3. I am pretty sure the word "had" accounts for at least a third of my word count. 

I think what I have is more a skeleton of a story, maybe "a plowing through of an idea to find out what I really want to say", other than a STORY. Maybe a pre-draft before a first draft. And I'm not entirely sure I figured out what I want to say. It wasn't until Sunday, when I was thinking about my novel during Mass (I KNOW) (at least I wasn't thinking about selling my kids on eBay) when I finally felt like I knew what my main character's motivation is (and I'm choosing to believe this came to me via Divine Revelation.) And there is no plot. HA! What is this PLOT thing I hear everyone talking about? However. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It is longish. It is finished. That's more than I can say about any writing project I've taken on since, oh, HIGH SCHOOL. 

I learned a thing or two over the last thirty days. I have to say, I learned most of these things after the first WEEK of NaNoWriMo. And I should include the following disclaimer: I used a story premise I'd been thinking about since early spring, so it's not like I was starting super fresh and intimidated by the word count requirement. I knew I had things to say. But still. I learned that

1. I have a book in me. I suspected I did, but I wasn't sure. I have a really hard time coming up with IDEAS. I think I've had four or five half decent novel ideas, ideas I started working on only to get mired in the "I can't do this! What was I thinking!" swamp, promptly shelving that idea forevermore. And I can't come up with an exciting plot to save my life. I'm more a "ooh, what if this character hung out with this character and maybe they, uh, walk down the street or something, but their conversation is just so SCINTILLATING!" kind of idiot. So yeah. But during NaNoWriMo I just kept asking myself, "What happens next?" And I would allow myself a few minutes to think (or pour more wine, or rifle through the potty training candy) and usually the first or second thing I'd think up, I'd just go with it. Which is why my story is so BAD, but at least it WENT somewhere. And I had no idea it COULD go somewhere. I even finished the stupid thing. 

2. I might have another book in me. More surprising than the fact that I finished - I've been thinking of OTHER ideas. I started thinking up other ideas during week two and three. They ALSO have no plot or no real ending in sight, but neither did my first idea. I managed to finish my first one, right? I bet I could do this again. And I bet I'd write something better the second time. It'd HAVE to be better. I've heard so many people say that you have to get your first book out and written and done. And then you move on to your second book and THAT'S the one worth reading. Who knows if this applies to everyone, but since my first story is AWFUL and my second story is still an IDEA, I rather like the sound of it.  

3. I can write every day. I made time to do this, namely during naptime and after the kids went to bed while Phillip did his hour or two of schoolwork. I also spent two Saturdays and one Monday camped out on my parents' couch and my in-laws' Panera respectively, writing for hours and hours while grandparents watched my kids. That's how I reached 62,000 words, but I don't need to pound out 10,000+ words a week. My hour or two a day is perfectly doable, and most days I even WANTED to spend that time writing. 

4. But I can't write every day and do everything else too. For the first time in my life I had to choose how I spent my time. Even with the kids, I fudge things here and there so I'm checking my email and updating the blog and still getting everything done. I even found a way to EXERCISE most days and still get everything done. But not writing. I need more time, and longer chunks of time, to be productive, and that means I don't do the dishes. Or I don't do baths. Or I don't exercise. Or I eat whatever is within reach. Or I don't update my website or return emails although, granted, those are extreme measures. I gained a couple pounds, my floors look awful, I take my children out of the house looking like urchins. 

5. And it's okay to let that stuff go. Well, maybe I didn't let it go so much as I didn't give myself such a hard time when it didn't get done. I was working on MY project and I was doing well (if we're judging by word count, which we are for NOW) and I was getting somewhere. And Phillip even said to me that he was happier knowing that I was happy working on something. 

And since I love reading acknowledgments in novels...

Acknowledgments

My parents and in-laws, for making it possible for me to spend entire afternoons on the couch, computer perched on my lap, my Taylor Swift Pandora station drowning everything else out.

My partner in novel writing angst, Charlotte Pants, who wrote hers in LONGHAND on LEGAL PADS, OMG.

Elizabeth, who reassured me that not all YA novels must include sex, although they must include large amounts of LONGING. (Check.)

A handful of IRL friends who, though they are not at all interested in Writing, be it on the internet or in a Word document, instantly responded to my every NaNoWriMo-related Tales of Woe with the email equivalent of spirit fingers. 

The internet friends who kept saying they wanted to read it (NO WAY JOSE) because I actually believed them and that made me feel like I should keep going.  

My kids, who are constant reminders of how much better my life is than I ever pictured in high school.

My husband, who consistently encourages me to take up non-paying and time consuming projects, simply because he wants me to find and do what I love doing.  


Blah blah self revelation time

It seems like everyone I know is training to run a half-marathon. It's entirely possible that most of these people are online and maybe Rebecca from The Biggest Loser talked about it during the obligatory drop-the-giant-pants-in-front-of-my-new-body at-home interview and maybe people are wanting to incorporate a race into the next Blathering which, YES, I am already thinking about, HAVE YOU MET ME, but there are also all these real life runners I know who are doing all this real life running and then even my DAD was telling me about something he read where there aren't enough organized 5k races etc. to fill the demand to run them AND WELL. It's enough to make a somewhat competitive amateur runner the teensiest bit INSECURE.

I have been "running" for a little over a year now. That is a little over a year longer than I thought I would ever keep this up. I don't get out as often as I should, or even as often I would like, and my treadmill is still broken. I still allow Jillian Michaels to bust my ass at least once a week. No one is more shocked by this than me, trust me.

As you might know if you are a somewhat regular reader of this website, and as you most definitely know if you kept up with Hot By Thirty, running has literally changed my life. No accomplishment feels as wild as the day I ran one mile without stopping, to say nothing of the day I ran two miles without stopping, and then three. I wrote more than my share of blog entries about wondering how far I could go. If I can run a full cross country course without stopping - something I could not do when I was ON THE CROSS COUNTRY TEAM - what else can I do? No really! WHAT ELSE?!

This tapered off, though. For a while I felt guilty about that, and when I had that deluge of people telling me a while back that weight loss should no longer be The Goal, I really didn't know what to do with myself. I had spent almost an entire year utterly and totally focused on The Goal. I made it a priority, just like all the Fitness Professionals tell you to do, and I found the time because I made the time. But if I'm being honest, after losing the baby weight plus another thirteen pounds, it was starting to feel like an empty pointless sort of goal.

I like running (well, I should say, the benefits of running), but I don't think of myself as a runner. I honestly have no interest in running a half marathon. I've often thought I would run a 5k if I could find one that raises money for ovarian cancer, a disease that has been particularly brutal to my family, but it doesn't seem to be a popular cause and I'm happy running my mind-clearing two-and-a-half-mile route around my neighborhood. That's pretty much exactly the amount of time I want to spend running and/or thinking about running. I've decided to be okay with this, that my lack of Running Ambition is perfectly fine.

And then I started this NaNoWriMo thing. (You knew it was coming around to this, didn't you? SORRY.) My success in the diet and exercise departments has dropped big time since committing to write 50,000 words in one month (WHICH I'VE DONE, BTW, SHALL NOW WAIT FOR THE APPLAUSE.) And sometimes, when I'm sitting here assuring myself that I have written the worst 50,000 words in the history of words, I think about what I've given up. I had to make time for this, exactly the same way I did for exercise. Many days I trade exercise for writing. Many days I trade reading or internet surfing or chatting or shopping or friends (or, let's face it, child rearing and household tasks) for writing. Nearly every night I trade at least an hour of time with Phillip to sit in front of my computer and bemoan the day I ever dreamed up this stupid idea for a novel.

AND YET I LOVE IT.

It brings me back to springtime, when I conquered my biggest running fear and ran around the stupid lake with all the other Seattle Fitness Freaks in their fancy running clothes and time warp speeds. ONLY BETTER. I never wanted to be able to run around the lake, but I've always wanted to write a novel.

I hit 50,000 words Friday night, which makes me a NaNoWriMo "winner". Yes I will be buying the t-shirt. But I figure I have at least 15 to 20,000 more words till I get to the end of my story. My goal is to keep speed-noveling until I get there, as it's the only tactic I've ever tried that's moved me past the first ten or twenty pages. God knows how ugly the next months will be, when I move in and decide I have to CUT 50,000 words. But quite honestly, I'll be shocked that I get to do that in the first place. Again with the shocking!

I'm not sure I would be doing this if I hadn't started running. One of the most basic things I learned over this last year is that I COULD sacrifice time. I could sacrifice TELEVISION! When I was thinking about what it would take to commit to NaNoWriMo I would tell myself, "Self? If you could take a half hour of naptime to run on your stupid treadmill every day, you can CERTAINLY take another half hour to WRITE." And Phillip was nervous. Phillip said, "Are you sure? Because when you commit to something you... well... you..." and I knew he was trying to think of a nice way to reference my OCD re: commitments. In other words, it could get scary.

But it's not. It's been... if I may get all Protestant youth-grouper on you for a minute, it's been life-giving. It's the thrill of accomplishment you get from a challenging run, plus the weird-yet-amazing back-of-your-mind feeling you get when you're doing what you kind of sort of think you were made to be doing. Even the days when I sit here stone-faced, hating my characters, hating their interactions, hating the fact I got myself into this mess, hating THE WORLD, I still have this lingering feeling that I'm a participant in some age-old writer paranoia which is its own kind of elation. That I am only experiencing the full brunt of what this is, which is good, because it shows I mean it. It shows I am DOING IT.

Does anyone want to barf yet? Did anyone even make it this far? I feel like such a tool for saying most of this, because what proof do I have? What do I have to show for "what I was made to do"? Nothing. And I'm almost positive that if and when I do finish this NaNoWriMo project I will most likely have to junk it and start over on something else. But even that doesn't discourage me, because I will have done it before. I ran one mile, I could probably run two.


On writing

I'm slowing down on my novel. It's okay because I'm way (WAY) ahead for word count and I know I still have some things to say. This afternoon I couldn't focus on what came next, so I tore some Post Its in half and timelined my story, the Post It notes rising and falling with what's going on emotionally with my character. I came up with one or two more ideas, so that's good. I'm definitely slowing down, though. The middle is hard. Conveniently (and on purpose, I'm sure) the pep talk (the powers that be at NaNoWriMo send one out to everyone registered) this week was about The Middle. It was written by Maureen Johnson, whose thoughts on writing, I've noted before on this website, really inspire me. Anyway, it was all about how the middle is the long hard part, the slog, the section where you spend the most time staring out the window behind your computer. (If you're at all interested in reading it and aren't on the NaNoWriMo list, let me know and I'll forward it to you.) 

It makes me think of a really amazing book - The Corner Of The Universe, by Ann M. Martin (yes, the Babysitter's Club author!). The beginning of that book is awesome. And then I spent a few hours wondering why my dad (my dad is pretty much the only other person I know who reads children's literature) had been hounding me to read it (you can just guess the look on his face when I told him it was written by THE BABYSITTER'S CLUB LADY). And then I get to the end and holy wow is the end of that book powerful. I just reread it a few weeks ago in preparation for NaNoWriMo and it struck me again - the beginning and ending are gripping, but the middle is... a lot of impatient wanting to know how this possibly going to pan out. I skipped a lot, I'm ashamed to say. And yet, I love that book. 

I don't know why I told you all that. Ummm... it gives me hope? I think? Because my middle is QUITE the slog. I'm not ENTIRELY sure what happens at the end, but I have a good idea. I know a couple of specific scenes that need to happen in the middle and I generally know what my characters should be learning/thinking/feeling in the middle, but dude. Figuring out how to SHOW that instead of TELL it? Hard. And sort of neurotic-making. I am so thankful I read Bird By Bird a while back because the neuroses I've developed in the last two weeks are sort of... well, intense even for me. I chuckled through Bird By Bird. "Oh Anne," I said to myself, "you are so SILLY." And now I'm all, that's not silly, that's ME.

And then there are books like... well, I just left a comment on Lindsay's blog the other day saying this is the one book I can read over and over and over and over and over: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. That book is thin and so tightly plotted I can't figure out how she thought it up. There are no extraneous words in that book. The kind of book that makes you despair of ever coming close to writing something someone else might actually want to read. 

I've also started reading a couple Donna Leon mysteries (set in Venice, sob) (no YA or children's lit during NaNo! I'm ALREADY a mess, thank you!) and she packs all this... PHILOSOPHY into her murder mysteries. Which is intimidating, you know? I am writing Teen Girl Fiction, but I don't want it to just be about The Boy Who Doesn't Know I Exist and Who Will Eat Lunch With Me? and Woe, No One Is Going To Ask Me To The Dance. Sometimes I think I'm just writing a romance for 15-year-olds and I think OH GOD MY DAD WILL DIE OF SHAME.

On the other hand, I have never written so much. Well, not so much for ONE project. That I am, as of yet, not bored with, not wanting to chuck out the window (not all the time), not thinking I should delete every word because they are THAT BAD. I mean, it might be that bad, but I'm not there yet. You know? I still want to see where it goes. 

And I've written something every day, even the last few days I've managed to cough up a few hundred words. Making time to write was easier than I thought - Phillip does schoolwork instead of watching TV with me in the evenings (WE ARE SO EXCITING), so I sit at my computer too. My TV commitments have really suffered as a result, but I'm not as miserable about that as I thought I'd be. Besides, Phillip and I have big TV watching plans for Thanksgiving (he has a WEEK OFF, THANK YOU GOD.) I STILL haven't seen The Office wedding episode!

I had a pretty rotten week, one of those weeks where absolutely everything is making you angry but you're not sure why. And then you think you're over it, because it was just a stupid little thing, but then ANOTHER thing happens and it's just compounded by the PREVIOUS thing and BAH. Not good. I feel, in a lot of ways, that I'm back at that point when Jack was four or five months old and I felt powerless, pointless, out of control. So much is happening in our lives, but Phillip is the one providing the forward motion. I'm just there to manage the details, you know? It's how we deal with finances down to Phillip needing the car next week. I want to be making big decisions, I want to be the one who has something really important to do that everyone else has to plan around. And I feel really shameful for even thinking those things because HELLO I am my husband's biggest fan, I WANT THIS FOR HIM. I'm being selfish and immature and silly. Get over yourself, Self! So I'm working on it. I am. And in the meantime I have this semi-ridiculous teen girl fiction thing I'm working on and it makes me feel like I am doing something important too, even if no one else knows it. 


More than the usual amount of melodrama

The only good thing I can say about today is that I worked out. THAT IS IT. 

(Oh, I also saw Carrie and Liz and their respective kiddos and that was ALSO a good thing lest they read this and think: WTF, Maggie Cheung, didn't you just spend your morning with your Fave Local Bloggy Ladies, does that not count as GOOD? When it should actually count as FABULOUS, HARRUMPH.)

So. There was that. 

There was also hour after hour after hour of telling Jackson to stop doing one thing so he could start doing YET ANOTHER thing I did not want him to do. Hour after hour of throwing toys, bothering his sister, going over there when I wanted him to come here, refusing to do what I asked, joyously doing what I specifically told him NOT to do - mere seconds after I TOLD HIM SO, my mean mommy face all up in his. 

Molly was either screeching because Jack was taking her things, screeching because I wasn't holding her, or screeching because THAT IS WHAT SHE DOES. 

(Two nights ago I was a friend's house and her husband came home from work and he was all, "Hey Maggie, wassup!" and I was all, "My children are beasts." And he thought I was joking. And later on Molly screamed one of her trademark Everyone Is Going To Die Unless I Get My Way screams and he remarked from the kitchen, "They ARE beasts!")

Also, neither of them ate. I'm used to Jack not eating. Molly, however, is a machine. (Well, a machine that fuels itself on processed carbohydrates and dairy products, but that's more than I can say for Jack.) But today, today was some sort of coordinated attack. Nothing for breakfast. Nothing for lunch until I broke down and threw the little Ritz cracker sandwiches with the peanut butter filling at their plates because HOLY HECK, CHILDREN you cannot subsist on milk alone! And now: nothing for dinner. And I am giving them the Holy Trinity of Toddler Food, people: mac & cheese, hot dogs and grapes. Three things they reluctantly agree to eat at least 99% of the time, which is as good as it gets around here. What else am I supposed to do? It's not like I'm trying to feed them VEGETABLES - I already made THAT idiotic mistake at lunchtime. I am almost positive I could feed a third world nation on the food I throw in the trash every single stupid day.

Not being able to get my kids to eat, and not just eat GOOD for you food but eat AT ALL, is one of the most frustrating downer things in my LIFE. 

I sat down to write this afternoon and instead of pounding out another 1000+ words like I've been doing every other day this month, all I wanted to do was delete half (if not ALL) of everything I've already written. Every idea I had for moving forward felt wrong. Every potential scenario was based on some previous scenario that I wanted to erase. It's not writer's block so much as wondering whether I have anything left to say. My characters are the most boring insipid people ever dreamed up. They live in the dullest town. They go to the most unrealistic high school on the planet. Their parents are morons, their teachers are caricatures, the things they say would never ever come out of the mouths of Actual Teenagers. Perhaps I will just recreate The Flood and have it done with. 

Phillip is really busy with school and work, focusing on some pretty big Life Decision type things in terms of career and what he wants to be when he grows up, and I am sitting here saying Sure, honey, whatever you want to do! I'll just hang out here and get the kids dinner they won't eat! And REALLY, that is REALLY OKAY WITH ME, but last night I was feeling left out and unimportant and lame and forgotten and have I mentioned my "novel" sucks? IT SUCKS SO MUCH. 

And for 10 days I was thinking: yes! This is the Thing I Will Do With Myself. I love this! It makes me feel like I am being who I'm supposed to be! HAR HAR.

I would also like to say that I'm bummed not to be having a Christmas party this year. Of COURSE I am very (maybe more than very) excited about my sister's wedding and SUPER stoked to wear the froofy dress and the shoes and stand up at the altar and eat the food and dance and help plan the big PARTAY. (Additional note to my sister who probably isn't reading this but if she IS: WAAAAAY EXCITED! PROMISE! WOO!) But we've had a Christmas party every year since we've been married, I spend WEEKS making cookies and buying stuff and plotting the white elephant exchange and dreaming up the Signature Cocktails. We invite absolutely everyone we know, knowing that there is no possible way all those people will fit in our house, but every year we see Old and Comfortable Friends and New and Exciting Friends and I, at least, have a blast. I'm going to have to have a replacement party in February, I think.  

In short - motherhood: FAIL. Novel: SUCKS. Career: NONEXISTENT. Christmas: CANCELLED. Blog: Well, I have that I guess. Except, oh wait, I am missing out on some pretty awesome local blogger perks in the upcoming weeks so BOO ON THAT TOO. 

So, uh, now that I've alienated absolutely everyone, AS YOU WERE. HAPPY WEEKEND. I will be writing another couple thousand words if it kills me. TAKE THAT, NANOWRIMO.

[From the email my Partner In NaNoWriMo Angst just sent me: I feel like we both need some sort of waifish self help coach in Lululemon yoga pants to tell us to write affirmations of self value on our mirrors in lipstick. On this end, I have started taking out my frustrations (literary and otherwise) on caramel popcorn and giant cookies. I wonder how Virginia Woolf, or the V-dub as I have taken to calling her, fought the fatness. Oh, yeah, that whole "lying in bed for months at a time due to the bipolar disorder that would eventually claim her life" thing. Scoff. Back to square one.]

To think I forgot to mention The Fatness. WAH.


What might have been

One side effect of writing 27,000 words about teenagers in 9 days (SO FAR!) is that you spend an awful lot of time thinking about being a teenager. Not just any teenager, mind you, but the teenager you once were. I don't think I have to explain why this is not always a fun place to be.

In addition! One side effect of being a rabid Mad Men fan is understanding that you have no choice but to stay up late to watch the season finale in real time, a privilege not afforded to any other show. (How people manage to watch The Biggest Loser in real time is BEYOND ME.) Which meant I was up another hour after THAT decreeing [SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!] that I shall NEVER get divorced EVER EVER EVER and WOE and SNIFF and WAH and can we have Season 4 now please?

Actually, Phillip and I stayed up talking about What Ifs. I'm not sure we've ever had that conversation before. Who we might be married to if we weren't married to each other. What we might be doing, how we might see life differently. Kind of a scary dangerous place to go, right? But it was actually kind of fun, which I think means that we are fairly confident in each other and our relationship. Whew!

It was just a strange and swirly combination of all the things I've been thinking about over the last week. I've been living in Teenage Girl Brain where you think you're going to marry your high school boyfriend, or sometimes you get a whiff of Reality and resign yourself to visualizing who you WILL marry and of course he will be all these THINGS. And you will go certain places and do certain things and live with these goals in mind and PEOPLE. Phillip is NOT what I pictured when I was fifteen! Or even twenty, for that matter, when I was sitting around waiting for him to realize I existed.

I think I've written before about sitting up one night, mere months away from my wedding, and having the slightest of panic attacks because it had only then occurred to me that Phillip was missing a few of the Required Attributes. Basically I was sitting there wringing the sheets over the fact that Phillip did not (and does not, alas) read novels. How could I marry someone who DOESN'T READ BOOKS?!?!?!

In the end (which was only an hour or two later, THANK GOD, we all know I can let these sorts of things DRAG ON) I realized that even if I found a nice guy who read books and measured up in all the other designated areas, I would still want Phillip. Problem solved. Bring on the marriage!

But until last night I'd never heard Phillip's take on the exact same subject. VERRRRY INTERESTING! Apparently, and SURPRISE!, I am not exactly who he imagined EITHER! Shocker! He had always imagined for himself a career-oriented Asian-American girl. My thoughts immediately flew to the more, ah, successful couples we know: people who have important or at least importantish jobs and disposable income, the female half of whom would not be happy as a full time stay at home mother. Maybe this is weird but I can totally see Phillip living that life. I think, in a lot of ways, he'd have an easier time of it if I were 1) profit-driven and 2) Asian and 3) WAS MORE LIKE HIM.

And since I can't just let something go, I had to share what I'd pictured: an artsier fartsier type of guy, someone who not only read novels but liked to stay up late talking about them, who worked but knew work was only for funding travel and creative pursuits. In other words, someone MORE LIKE ME.

Phillip was pretty adamant about how it was RIGHT that he married me. I am the right person for him. He went on and on about how he's always pretty slow to make big decisions (OH REALLY?) but he'd never been slow about me. (A point we debated due to the aforementioned Waiting For Him To Realize I Existed which he then rebutted with some valid points I won't bore you with, at least not in this post, and now I agree.) While I, of course, was wishier washier and went off on my whole "but I CHOSE you" theory and "soul mates shmole mates!" blah blah blah. The fact is, we don't know what life would be like had we married other people. (IF we had married other people. It's not like I had a throng of suitors banging impatiently on my door.)

That said, I am not sorry I don't know. I feel like it turned out pretty well, don't you?

Teenage Girl Brain doesn't know this, though. Sure, some of us marry our high school sweethearts, but most of us don't. Most of us go out with total boneheads and immature jerks and spend many a night despairing that anyone will ever love us, that anyone will ever really KNOW us. I've been living in that place for nine days, and it made last night's conversation that much sweeter. 

P.S. As we were trying to describe The Person We Thought We'd Marry, Phillip paused, trying to find the right word, and I proffered: "someone with a work ethic?" Because GOD KNOWS I couldn't care less about a career, I'm anti-9 to 5 and completely stymied by people who answer work calls after hours. And Phillip, because he is the best husband in the WORLD even though he thinks the EXACT OPPOSITE of those thigns said, "No, you have a work ethic, just not for PAID work." Which is TOTALLY DIFFERENT, right? Maybe I can stop beating myself up about the lazy? Because: nine days, 27,000 words. Some of you may chalk that up to "obsessive" instead, but I hereby lift the self-imposed lifetime guilt sentence for apparent lack of work ethic. WOO!


EX. HAUSTED.

Just got back from the volleyball team dinner where there were NINE small people running around ONE small house. OMG.

Molly, miraculously and thankfully, was in a splendid mood and didn't do her usual Total Meltdown if anyone other than her mother so much as looked at her. I was even in the kitchen unwrapping my contribution to the dinner (cheesecake with raspberry sauce, there are leftovers, come on over) when the setter on the team yelled, "Maggie! Look!" And I looked around the corner and there was my girl sitting on another teammate's lap. NOT CRYING. I know! Amazing!

And my boy... MAN. That kid, sometimes he is sweetness and light, sometimes he's a pest and sometimes he's this weird mix of Totally Charming Yet Driving Me Crazy. So, for example, he spent a large part of the evening zooming back and forth between the living room and the two (two!) playrooms. (At least our hosts knew what they were getting into, yes?) And sometimes he would bring props, like, say, light sabers. Or plastic golf clubs. Or a BAT. You know, things you use to SWING AROUND and HIT STUFF. But then when it was time go he SHOOK EVERYONE'S HAND and chirped "BYE BYE!" about four frillion times and was basically the cutest most adorable little person IN THE UNIVERSE. And there I am wondering, "Is this one of those times when my kid is The Annoying Kid Whose Parents Are Letting Him Get Away With Murder or one of those times when my kid is obviously The Cutest Kid In The Room." Do you know how many times I have to think about that? What is charming to me is not, I am sure, always charming to everyone else.

I DON'T KNOW. I am just annoyed because my cheesecake was this light fluffy thing and everyone was all, "Oooh, I don't normally LIKE cheesecake, but this one is just so LIGHT and AIRY and how did you get it that way?" and I had to LIE because I HATE LIGHT AND FLUFFY DESSERTS and I RUINED IT that's how I got it that way. No seriously. You want to make me happy? Give me the slice of cheesecake that weighs ten pounds, or the chocolate mousse you have to cut with a knife. BLISS!

Oh my. HELLO RANDOM.

I need to get started on my words for the day - I kicked some major speed-noveling butt yesterday, but I haven't paid much attention to my [lame-o] characters today. By the way, are you guys bored stiff of this NaNoWriMo stuff? I hate to tell you, but there's not much else happening in my head. It's only been one week and I already feel like A New! Person! and the blog would be bursting with Irritating! Over! Enthusiasm! if I wasn't 1) supposed to be speed-noveling and 2) worried I was boring you stiff. There's a lot of despairing going on too, but I tend to save most of that for my emails to my NaNoWriMo partner in angst, Charlotte Pants. Poor Charlotte. I'm thinking, though, that I should republish her responses on the blog, for they are all hilarity. My favorite line is where she said participating in this NaNoWriMo insanity was "compromising my alleged artistic integrity". THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT IT IS.

Anyway. The kids are not cooperating with bedtime and you cannot see the floor and Phillip is feeling anti-schoolwork and I should probably go participate in my LIFE until things are asleep/put away and I can get back to my [lame-o] characters. Kisses!