WALKING TO WORK
My original 2012 goals included "Bike to work at least 10 times." At the time, my dayjob office was five miles away from my house. I really don't have any excuse for not biking more often, except that mornings are my writing time, so I'd tend to justify driving as a way to have more writing time. BUT! Earlier this year I found out our office was moving at the end of September: right down the street, less than half a mile from my house. So since the move I've been walking to work every day, and also home at lunch several days a week, to walk the dog. It's only a small bit of exercise, but I love seeing more of my hometown, in all sorts of weather and season.
On a related note: since we were going to be moving to a new office, I requested that my desk be raised up (it's in a cubical, so it is adjustable) so that I can work standing up. This has been a great change! I spend 8 hours at my dayjob, and it's practically all on a computer (I develop mapping software), on top of the ~3 hours writing at home in the morning (more on weekends). That's a LOT of sitting, and given how unhealthy sitting seems to be, I really wanted to find a way to change it. I really love standing at work. I do have a bar stool (wooden, with a back) that I lean against probably about half the time. Very occasionally I will actually sit in it -- if I've just come back from a long lunchtime walk or once when I was sick and worn out. I didn't find any bad side-effects, though I do think I am a bit more antsy now at movies or other places where I can't move around or switch positions easily.
I've been wanting to spend more time being creative in non-writing ways, so I got out my sketchpad and pencils, and have done about 20 sketches since July or so. I encourage myself by using clippings from National Geographic magazine, stapling them into the book and then trying to sketch the people or animals in the photo. I've also done some sketches of Charlie (my dog) from life, which was fun and which I am glad to have. I really want to keep this up! I think it's a good way to slow down and really consider what the world looks like, and what defines a face or a posture -- very helpful to writing!
I started knitting this year! I have previously taught myself to crochet but knitting always seemed more complex and intimidating. And it was, at first (and continues to be, when I try some new technique!). But I've really enjoyed the satisfaction of watching my first scarf grow (and grow, and grow-- I made it a little too wide, I think!). I am looking forward to trying some new projects, and learning more. I also joined Ravelry, which is endlessly distracting... If you are a member too, feel free to find me there (devafagan).
I installed RescueTime about two months ago, and it's been fascinating to see how much time I spend on different activities. I'd really like to make a spreadsheet of the time I spend each week in Word, and the actual words I write, to see how it changes over time. My biggest distractions seem to be GoogleReader and Facebook (which is amusing since I don't actually post on FB all that much, but I like catching up on what everyone else is doing). My productivity is above the average user level, but there's definitely room for improvement!
Also in July, I made a pledge to stop reading online reviews, googling myself, checking my Goodreads and Amazon rankings, and looking at Bookscan numbers. I've tried this before, and always ended up giving in and looking at something. But this time I have managed to stay clean for almost 6 months now, and the longer it goes, the easier it is. And it is SO nice to not be obsessing over that stuff. There are some folks who can use that data productively, but I am not one of them. A bad review (or even a negative line in an average review) can drain my energy for days, and it's just not worth it. Of course this also means I don't see good stuff, but the positive reviews usually just flit out of my mind after a few minutes, while I can *still* quote the first horrible review of my debut novel almost word for word. I really hope I can keep this up!
~Six Favorite Experiences~
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL'S TOTEM
Bob and I went down to Boston to see this show (and to visit some of our Bosten-area friends!) this past summer, and had a fantastic time. I think I enjoyed the last Cirque show we saw (Ovo) a tiny bit better, but this was still amazing. Cirque du Soleil is one performing group I am totally willing to shell out the $$ to see live (much as I've enjoyed the videos). There's just such a magical energy from the live show!
HIKING BOURTON-ON-THE-HILL TO SEZINCOTE
Our entire trip to England was a highlight of 2012, but if I had to pick one single experience in the Cotswolds portion of the trip that I loved, it was this short hike through beautiful green meadows, with the adorable village of Bourton-on-the-Hill behind me. And then, emerging through the groves of trees, and finding this:
|From England 2012|
It was overwhelming to wander the enormous halls full of art and artifacts with such historic weight. One of the most incredible was the 13000 year old carved Swimming Reindeer. I am still not sure my brain can really process that.
What's better than seeing a favorite musical theater production (WICKED) live in London? Deciding on the spur of the moment to see a second show (LES MISERABLES) later that night! This gloriously indulgent day was a highlight of the London portion of our trip.
I could have wandered through the twisty, atmospheric, glittering, faintly ominous halls of the Stables Market for another day or two, I think. Though it would have been even better had I enough extra $$ to buy all the fabulous clothing/shoes/jewelry/food on sale!
We saw this Cape Breton fiddler two years ago, when she was 8 months pregnant and still had more energy than five of me, dancing around the stage, bow and fingers flying. So when I discovered she was coming to Maine again for another Christmas concert I bought tickets as soon as I could get to a computer. And it was so worth it. She's just... sparkling. She's one of those performers who gives you energy, so you leave her concert ready to take on the world.
Okay, there aren't six of these. I spent the bulk of this past year doing one thing: revising (and significantly re-writing) my current writing project. I've been in a period of transition with my writing for the past two years. I wrote and sold each of my first three books very quickly (in publishing terms). And all three of those books are fast-paced, humorous adventure stories. Which I love! I am so glad I got to write them, and that they've been able to go out into the world and find readers. But I realized that I wanted to push myself further, to write something that was more complex, a book that was more like my own "Ideal Book": featuring rich, complicated characters who have interesting and conflicted relationships, that makes me think feel strong emotions. I also really wanted to write a love story-- a slow-burn, against-the-odds love story like those I love best. So I started working on a new project, at the beginning of 2011. And I sent the most recent revision off to my agent just before Christmas. It hasn't sold (yet!). And I've definitely struggled with the frustration and fear of spending so long on a project without knowing whether it has a future beyond my laptop. But I firmly believe that it was the best thing for me to work on these past two years. I know I have learned things, and pushed myself, and that it is all part of me now, and will help me with the next book I write, whatever that is.
I just tallied my word counts for the year and discovered I wrote about 115K words this year, many more than I actually expected. About 60K of those were on three different potential new projects (and most of those are going to be trunked -- I tend to write about 20-30K of something to figure out the characters, then end up ditching that and restarting). The rest were words added during my rewrite/revision (to replace some significant cuts).
But that's how writing is. Sometimes, to get a book right, you have to be willing to cut. A lot. And start over. Maybe once, maybe twice. Maybe seven times. Whatever it takes to find the real story you really want to tell. It helped to read posts by other authors I respect talking about the long process of creating a book.
That said, I am definitely excited to start working on something new! But more on that in another post...