Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Snow day

A little late in posting, but thought you might enjoy this taste of the crazy (for the Portland area) snow earlier this week.

snowy back deck

the 2nd round of 4″ of snow on the back deck

We still have some snow on the ground, but just the barest hint.

Winter arrived at last!

To-Do List overwhelm? Try this

I’ve been feeling twitchy lately—that angsty-I-can’t-sit-still feeling. Just when I start to tackle my To-Do list, darn if I don’t have to get a tea refill, or find the answer to an incredibly important question (“What is the difference between ‘copy that’ and ‘roger’?”*), or check email.

Hours later, I’m kicking myself because I didn’t get to the real things I needed, or worse wanted, to do.

Well, crap.

You’d think it would be easy enough to just call a do-over and start again.

Ha. No.

The guilt. The shame. The additional distractions.

So I tried something new, thanks to Tim Ferriss**:

  1. Write down the 3 To-Do items that are making you twitchy/cranky/angsty.
  2. Ask of each of them:
    1. If I accomplished only this today, would I feel satisfied?
    2. Would accomplishing this render the others on the list moot?
  3. Pick one that you gave a “yes” (better if there are two yeses for the item) .
  4. Spend the next (ideally) 2 hours (more realistically 45 minutes) working on just that.
  5. Do a little dance in celebration.

So I did this exercise, figuring ‘what the heck’, and lo and behold! I realized I needed to change my focus, and dove into the task, and ZOMG I made progress. Legitimate progress. And it felt really good. Like, really supercalifragilistically good.

Huh.

So if you’re anything like me***, give this a shot and see what you think.

<doing a little Snoopy dance>

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*According to one source, “copy that” = an acknowledgement of the information; “roger” = an acknowledgement of the information AND affirmation that you are going to act accordingly on the information.

**Tim Ferriss talks about it in detail:
https://tim.blog/2013/11/03/productivity-hacks/

***Obsessive list maker. As in “I makes lists in my sleep”**** list maker.

****Meta comment: any Rent fans out there?

 

Do what’s in front of you

Today’s quote for those of us who get easily distracted*:

“Concentrate every minute like a Roman – like a man – on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can – if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.”
– Marcus Aurelius**

This was the January 29 quote from The Daily Stoic, which I’m back to reading again, and which pairs quite nicely with Pema Chodron’s Comfortable with Uncertainty.

Even having read this before, this time around it really hit home.

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*Is there anyone among us who doesn’t get easily distracted? Anyone? Bueller?

**I have to admit a crush on Marcus Aurelius. Any Roman emperor-military commander who has to make notes to himself about ‘yes it sucks, but get your ass out of bed’*** has my undying respect and love.

***[meta-comment] My loose Latin translation from his Meditations.

Today’s haiku

my yoga soundtrack:
TLC, Bare Naked Ladies
finally a deep breath

-on relaxing after an oddly adrenaline-fueled day

Today’s haiku

no rain and clear skies
the shortest winter ever
for a Portlander

-on incredibly mild and dry January days
that have me slightly worried for summer

Meditation and the monkey

I sat down to do my pre-writing meditation. It’s nothing special—I just sit and breathe and do a body check-in (start with the tip of the nose, then follow a line over my head, down the neck, over the shoulders, down the back, the legs, soles, up over the top of the foot, shins, legs, torso) just noticing how things are feeling. It’s simple and intended to settle my monkey mind down before I write.

It’s normal to have the mind drift off to random thoughts (‘I really should do laundry’, ‘did I ever reply to that email?’, ‘look at me! I’m meditating’), which in Zen gets referred to as ‘monkey mind’, like a monkey constantly chattering away in your mind.

So today I was meditating and the monkey mind was loud and obnoxious and unending. Screeching and screeching. An image popped into my head and I saw the monkey, and he was jumping up and down, trying to pull me down to the ground. Well, I wasn’t having any of that, so I started pounding my fists into the monkey. Then I grabbed its neck and throttled it, shaking it violently with my white-knuckled hands.

When I realized what I was doing, I dropped the monkey. He fell into a heap on the metaphorical ground, and I had a radical thought.

What if I befriended the monkey?

Another image popped into my head, except this time it was me handing the monkey a banana and inviting him to sit next to me. He peeled the banana, started eating it, and plopped down by my side. With a contented sigh, he leaned his head against my side and quietly ate. The two of us sat there, each doing our own thing in companionable silence.

At last, I was able to settle down and relax.

And let me just say: it felt really good.

Nanowrimo 2018 – Days 29-30

Day 29

So close to reaching 50,000 (4,557 short), and I wanted to get my word count validated before everyone else did and shut down the Nanowrimo servers, so I went for it and got my word count in today.

The story is nearing the end (probably a few chapters to go), so it’s not a finished novel, but I did manage to write 50,000 words during November, which is a vast improvement over previous months. Not to mention that this novel was completely and totally and utterly PANTSED. Horribly uncomfortable, but I am muddling my way through it.

I told a friend about reaching the 50k mark and ‘winning’ Nanowrimo:

Friend: “So you had an idea you’d been thinking about for awhile and wrote that?”

Me:  <laugh> “Nope. I started with nothing — no idea, no character, not even a genre.”

Friend: “But it’s something you would normally write, right?”

Me: <laugh> “This is something I never would have written. I mean, who writes a story with souls, neurochips, talking dogs, a ton of cursing, Astoria, luxury cars, and bacon?”

Friend: <seriously> “Who wouldn’t want to read that?”

Yeah, that’s a good friend.

Overall, I’m feeling pleased about the word count and for pantsing all of it, but I haven’t finished the novel yet, so it has me also feeling unsettled because I’ve still got some work to do to finish the story. But I will finish it. Most likely next week.

20″ 296 words

40″ 1032 words

60″ 590 words

25″ 616 words

45″ 1029 words

15″ 33 words

20″ 333 words

60″ 1203 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 2500″ (41.7 hours) & 50,575 words

 

Day 30

Muse took a vacation, so I went back to my pre-Nanowrimo writing practice of writing off of a prompt for ten minutes. It was a little rough going, but felt good to get back to basics. Going forward, I will probably stick with my previous method of using the story starts that come out of writing practice for developing into complete stories — still pantsing, but with a bit more of a foundation to work from.

Thanks for hanging in there with me! Questions? Let me know in the comments.

 

Nanowrimo 2018 – Days 25-28

Day 25

Rough start. I didn’t know where to begin, so I went back to cleaning chapter 24. Decided it was too easy for our hero — he didn’t suffer nearly enough. He needed to have everything taken away from him, to hit rock bottom. So that meant rewriting the chapter 24 ending, and then wondering WTF he was going to do now, with his best friend and his love interest gone, and with no hope. And then a new character shows up (seriously — there was a reference to him ONCE a long time ago, and I didn’t think anything of it, and now he just strides on to the proverbial stage), and he lights a fire under our hero. I’ve got this image of Hank (one of the group of high school buddies) getting involved — after all, he sort of started this whole mess — but we need to find him, and for some reason this will involve going to our hero’s family cabin back in Colorado.

Nearly broke 40,000 words, which feels good. Now in the homestretch. May need to blow some things up…

30″ 193 words

50″ 1201 words

10″ 405 words

25″ 513 words

20″ 183 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 1980″ & 39,540 words

 

Day 26

Wrote in the car on the commute to work (thankfully my husband does the driving, so there I was in the passenger seat with my laptop). Writing was easy going today. Feeling rather Heinlein-esque with the reparte between characters. The car was rather comfortable and not a bad place to write, other than the occasional road bumps causing jklj (mistypings like that).

45″ 1000 words

25″ 177 words

15″ 142 words

30″ 100 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 2095″ & 41,617 words

 

Day 27

I STILL have no idea where this story is going, other than a potentially explosive ending (literally).

45″ research (Birkenfeld, Oregon; log cabin layouts; ham radio)

55″ 1001 words

45″ 1076 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 2095″ & 43,694 words

 

Day 28

I really need to figure out what the deadline and stakes are (for which I mean this story; I am well aware the writing deadline is Nov. 30). There must be the threat of something catastrophic if our two quasi-villains succeed — but they can’t do it without the hero’s tech? What threat do they hold over the hero? What can they do without the tech? It should come down to FRIENDS MEANING WELL = DISASTER.

Upon rereading the lead-up chapters, I wonder: are all the male characters tall and lanky? Hmmm.

60″ 600 words

25″ 289 words

35″ 860 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 2215″ & 45,443 words

Nanowrimo 2018 – Days 22-24

Day 22

Pre-writing: Woke up at 4:30am thinking about the novel and where the story is heading. I still have no clue, although I may have a hint for the current and next scenes. Still not feeling like I want to write — more like I have to write if I want to meet the deadline. I would much rather be reading Chloe Neill’s latest novel, which is giving me ideas and pointers about what I would like to write (assuming that my fascination with it is indicative of my writing proclivities).

Post-writing: Just chugging along. Still getting used to a slower pace, because dammit I want this to be a CLEAN first draft. It does mean an average of 1000 words per hour, Dean Wesley Smith may be right about it all just being math (the more time spent writing = more words written, and being able to plan for how long a novel with take). Distractions really slow me down (family, TV), but when I can sit in mostly silence (like Bach’s Brandenburg concertos in the background) and no visual distractions (moving TV images), I can move right along. Also helps to have a feeling about a scene — the “oh, this is the big sex scene that leads to a crisis when the soul oozes out of Melissa.” I broke the 30,000 word mark, which is good and got my minimum word count for today (3,000+).

Takeaways:

  • Keep writing the next sentence
  • If stuck, put the character in the setting with their emotions, opinions, senses
  • Remember: it’s all practice
  • And limit distractions. For goodness’ sake.

20″ 519 words

30″ 87 words

15″ 198 words

25″ 508 words

25″ 518 words

45″ 1057 words

10″ 303 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 1470″ & 30,350 words

 

Day 23

And the plot thickens…

With the fallout from the crisis of Melissa seizing, releasing Josie’s soul. Our hero has a fundamental realization that This Shit Will Not Stand, and decides to sabotage the whole reanimation project. Now he’s back at the house with Piper. Got three hours of quiet to just write, which technically ends up being the same amount of time as yesterday and with a similar total word count, but a hell of a lot less frustrating. Feeling good about what I’ve got done. Still not sure where things are going with the story, other than the hero will attempt to thwart/end the whole reanimation gig, and maybe Piper and Sam will help. Now to get up and get physically moving.

50″ 1084 words

50″ 1170 words

20″ 116 words

55″ 1055 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 1645″ & 33,775 words

 

Day 24

I’m not entirely sure about this crisis between the hero and Piper. Seems a little revelatory and maybe too soon. But! Wrote 3700 words, and it was not painful — just fun writing dialogue, especially with conflict and emotions.

Takeaways:

  • Just keep putting the time in
  • BOC (butt on couch)
  • And be surrounded by QUIET

20″ 100 words

50″ 1121 words

50″ 1316 words

30″ 93 words

50″ 1122 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 1845″ & 37,527 words

Nanowrimo 2018 – Days 18-21

Day 18

More cleaning up and more new words. The cleaning up feels good, filling out the story, fixing gaps. The story is moving forward, and conflict definitely makes the writing easy and faster. I’m enjoying the pull-push-tug between characters, and the surprises that pop up, like new characters.

20″ 84 words

25″ 119 words

40″ 1075 words

20″ 675 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 1055″ & 22,438 words

 

Day 19

Wrote lots of dialogue today, which I will need to clean up tomorrow. Note for the Future: “Jeopardy” on the TV in the background is not helpful. Nor is Merlot. Whoops. Still, I managed to get more words down, so yay, but I was kind of spacey. More words tomorrow.

20″ 181 words

30″ 323 words

20″ 536 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 1125″ & 24,042 words

 

Day 20

Gak! Still struggling with no idea of where the story is going, and no momentum. SLOW. I find myself falling back to old tricks (ex/ writing just dialogue). Unfortunately, I’m not sure that is working.

30″ 511 words

20″ 504 words

20″ 439 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 1195″ & 25,476 words

 

Day 21

Note to self: I realized that all the stories I’ve written this year came from writing prompts that I just did as writing practice and then got caught up in, but not every practice got fleshed out as a complete story. It was like the stories had already proven themselves in the practice, so perhaps some of my struggling with this story is due to it not getting that chance or metaphorical pre-soak. Just a thought.

30″ 263 words

20″ 225 words

15″ 97 words

10″ 373 words

30″ 626 words

TOTALS SO FAR: 1300″ & 27,160 words

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