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My New Writing Desk

Moving sucks.

We haven’t moved in so long, and we’ve never done it with kids, and there is so much to do, and we’ve entered the “I know it’s here somewhere” phase. Ug. And while getting ready to move, I’m trying to get our current house ready to go on the market. I weeded and planted the garden, re-seeded the parts of the grass that had gone brown, and called in a handy man to fix a couple things inside the house.

But there are some fun chores on our list. We went furniture shopping this weekend. The new house is bigger than our current house, not by much, but enough that we decided we wanted a couple book shelves, a table for the entryway, and (drumroll) a desk for my new office!

That’s right. Two weeks from now I will be writing from my very own home office. I used to have a home office here, but when my mom moved in, mid-2012, it became her room, and then when she moved out, my daughter pushed for it to be her room, so she wouldn’t have to share a room with her little brother any more.

These days I write on the couch, or at the kitchen table. It’s okay. I don’t mind, but after a long day my neck starts to ache. Ergonomic it is not. Also, I have nowhere to put anything.

I am so excited to have a home office again. And check out the desk we found:

Hemingway Desk

It’s called the Hemingway Safari Writing Desk. How perfect is that? I love it for so many reasons, not the least of which is that we got it for a total steal from a furniture store that lost its lease and is selling all their floor models for 50% off. (I love me a bargain.)

It will be delivered, along with the other items we bought at the perfectly-time fire sale, late next week.

Just a couple more weeks of total chaos.

We are never moving again.

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Spiderman on the Scene

This is a tough time of year for writing. In the past couple weeks, both my husband and my little guy have had birthdays. Mixed in between them was Thanksgiving, and with only two weeks until Christmas I feel like every day brings a new note from the school alerting us that our child needs a white shirt and blue pants for the winter sing, or asking us to please send ten dollars in this envelope so someone can buy the teacher a gift card, or something…

Yesterday was my son’s fifth birthday party. He has been insisting on a super hero theme since July, so I was feeling pretty proud of myself that I got Spiderman himself to come to the party (which actually isn’t all that great a feat, given that we live in LA and you can pay people to play act just about anything). But when Spidey finally did appear, Sebastian took one look at him, turned, and bolted.

He ran for the nearest play structure and hid in there for a solid ten minutes while Spidey took over the party with games and “super hero training.” Eventually Sebastian snuck out of hiding and, standing next to his big sister, warmed to idea of his favorite super hero come to life.

Spiderman birthday party

By the end, he and Spidey were good buddies. We gave all the kids silly string and there was an epic web-slinging fight. It was super fun (and a total nightmare to clean up afterwards).

So yeah, I’ve been a little distracted. But I’m excited to report that I’m enrolling in a UCLA extension class that starts in January. It’s an advanced novel writing workshop, ten Tuesday nights in a row starting in January. I haven’t taken a class since I graduated in 2010, and I find that I’m really looking forward to it.

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Storytelling 101

Okay, so I had a slightly more elaborate post in store for today, but I’m just swamped with last minute preparations for my sister’s wedding, so instead I will simply share this little gem, made by a certain kindergartener two years ago. It’s such a perfect summary of what story is:

storytelling 101

image

Somebody wanted, but, so, then, finally.

Wish someone had taught ME that 33 years ago.

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Ruthless Me

I had a nightmare the other night that I had shaved my head. It wasn’t the baldness that upset me so much, in fact, in the dream it felt like a great burden had been lifted.

The thing that bothered me was that I botched the job. I missed whole sections. Weird bits of hair were sticking out, some of it was really long and it kept falling in my face as the dream continued on.

It was an oddly upsetting dream.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to understand it as a metaphor for my botched attempts to simplify my life. I keep saying I need to do it, and then I keep taking on new projects.

So I’ve decided to get a little ruthless. I’m cutting, delegating, and even (gasp) asking for help. However, there are a few things that cannot go. I will not give up my fiction (5am to 6:30am is ME time). I can’t quit my job. And my family is just effing awesome, so they get to stay. With all those things accounted for, I have an hour or two left each week.

Historically, that time has gone to social media and my blog, but as it turns out, there are other things that also need to get done. Grocery shopping, folding laundry, packing lunches. My guy and I have a pretty fair split of the chores, but there’s a lot to be done, and I’m just feeling completely worn out.

So the blog is getting the boot, at least temporarily. The dream is to some day have time to do it all, but until that time comes I have to prioritize. So please head on over to my Facebook page and “Like” it. I post a weekly nerd word and the occasional, writer related snippet, and when the time comes to get the blog up and running again, my Facebook friends will be the first to know.

I really appreciate all the support I get from my blog readers. Thank you so much.

Until we meet again…

Love, April

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Writing Through the Holidays

Every year the holidays seem to come faster. That is, the days zip past a little quicker, and it’s harder to find time for all the important things like building gingerbread houses, visiting Santa, and yes, continuing to work on the novel. The whole getting-up-at-5am thing is also a little harder, as I tend to drink more. For instance, we had our company holiday party last night. It was fun, and I overslept this morning.

I’m still managing to get up about 4 mornings a week, so I’m still drafting about 2,000 words a week. It’s progress, but it’s slow. I’m really looking forward to January when things calm down a bit. I’ve also set aside the first weekend on January to do another of my own little personal writing retreats. I’m booking a cheap hotel room for Friday and Saturday nights out in the desert. The last time I did this I was able to finish a draft, and since I’m pretty close to finishing the draft I’m working on now, I’m hoping I can use the time to do it again.

I am also saving up my days off just on the off chance that I am accepted to the Hedgebrook Residency program for 2014. We’re supposed to find out before the end of this month. If I’m going I will need two weeks vacation time. I only get the 25th off, and Christmas falls on a damn Wednesday, so it doesn’t feel like much of a holiday, but I don’t want to take any days off, because I might need them. I’m a little conflicted about it. I hope we find out soon – if I’m not going, I likely will take the 24th off, as I would really like to spend it with my kiddos.

Anyhow – that’s the haps. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from Hedgebrook.

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Happy Birthday to my Blog!

My blog turned 4 this last weekend.

four candles

It’s been four years since I first hit “Publish” back on my modest little MobileMe site (remember MobileMe? No? Neither does anyone else). Since then I’ve written 274 posts – just over a post a week. I also earned my masters degree, had a baby, finished a few short stories, wrote a travel book, did some actual traveling, took a full time job and well, lived life. A lot has happened.

Looking back, my first post was about trying to hit a deadline. I was writing the first draft of my novel to turn in as the thesis project for my masters. I wrote 45 pages in three days!

Whaaa?

These days I write about 200 words a week. Granted, I only manage to squeeze in a few hours of writing over the course of seven days, but still. Did I suffer a serious blow to the head or something?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. The 45 pages I wrote in that crazy long weekend were not good. But are the two hundreds words that I spend a week on now-a-days THAT much better?

I think I need to lighten up a bit. I so over think every word I write lately that it’s becoming paralyzing.

Actually, that’s not true. At work I pour words out all day long. I have to. I have deadlines. And come to think of it, I wrote those 45 pages on a deadline too. So maybe what I need to do is set deadlines for myself. Just bust out some words because that’s what I’m sitting there to do. At work I don’t second guess every word. I write them, then I review them to make sure they say what I meant them to say, edit a little as needed and move on. My fiction-writing self needs to take a hint from my corporate writing self.

So resolution for my fifth blog year: just keep writing and stop over-thinking.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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Updates on Ambitious Goals

I’ve opted for yoga, talk therapy, and wine. It’s nice to know I have the prescription if I need it, but I really think it’s jumping the gun a bit. (If my posts start to get too dour, please tell me, and I’ll revisit the idea of medication.)

While I’m updating, I feel compelled to admit that 1) I have not been writing every day like I swore I would and 2) I have not hit my 1000 words a week goal (since the second week).

I did however have one week recently where I managed to get up early EVERY DAY, which I’ve never actually done before. Usually I wuss out on Friday, if not Thursday too. But I still didn’t hit my word count goal. I needed to take some time to work out the plotting of my story, and I’ve been dabbling with a new idea, so some mornings I just write in my journal to see where that takes me. I’m pretty sure it’s the next novel, but I’m also trying to not over-think it just yet. I already have one project I’m over-thinking. This new one is just a story I’m interested in. I play with ideas, do research on Google. It’s a shiny new toy.

I’ve reached a strange place with the novel where I’ve been working on the story for so long that I’m actually growing less attached. This draft is bringing some radical changes to the storyline. The whole tone of the story is shifting. It’s better, but it’s definitely different. At least, I’m hoping it’s better. I’ve decided to just keep writing, which sometimes feels good, like I’m hiking up a hill and will eventually get there, and sometimes feels futile, like I’m walking in circles.

Anyhow, that’s all the news from this end.

 

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Of Wine and Zoloft

I have a question.

I was at a doctor appointment (my GP) last week and happened to mention that I was feeling tense, stressed. I have a lot shit going on. I worked a 15-hour day yesterday, all in. Between family, and work, and writing, and exercise. Life is busy.

Well the doc whipped out her prescription pad and wrote me  a note for Zoloft. Just like that. I had no idea it was so easy.

The question is – should I take it?

Part of me is thinking why not? If I have the option to take the edge off life, to calm this buzzing that has me always a little tense, why would I not give myself that rest?

On the other hand, since when do I need medication just to get through the day? Isn’t that what alcohol is for? Just kidding. But seriously, if my life has me that stressed out, shouldn’t I try to make some changes that would help feel a little calmer without the meds?

I don’t know. I guess I worry it might crush my creative drive, or kill that basic artistic dissatisfaction that keeps me writing. I really don’t feel depressed, just stressed out.

So should I stick with wine and try to find myself good therapist?

Or should I take the drugs like its 1999?

Decisions, decisions…

 

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Notes on the Northwest

If there’s one thing that can really make LA look like a smoggy pit, it’s 10 days in the Pacific Northwest.

Blast hereThe family and I just got back from vacation. We spent the first five days with my dad in northern Idaho to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday (that’s a picture of him with the cool shirt we got him), and then met up with some great friends we hardly ever get to see to do some camping just east of Mount St. Helens. The air smelled like cedar, and there were so many stars I gave myself a neck ache looking up.

As always, I carried my little notebook with me everywhere to jot down ideas and observations, but the thing is, I’ve realized, I didn’t jot down a single thought. Great details kept catching my attention, but they never made it into the notebook. I kept beating myself up for it, every time I didn’t pull out my notebook, but if guilt actually got things done, there would be a lot fewer to-do lists in the world.

The thing is my kids are still young enough that I have to keep a pretty close eye on them, especially when we’re out in the wilderness, or by a lake, or a road, or well, really anywhere that isn’t our home. The only time I don’t have an eagle eye on them was when they’re strapped into their car seats (but I get really car sick, so even if Daniel is driving that’s not a good time for me). I continue to carry that notebook, but it’s always so buried under diapers, peanut butter sandwiches, and random lego pieces that I just don’t ever bother to dig it out. Instead, I keep telling myself I’ll write it down later, but I never do.

Like everything else in this life, I’m starting to realize that taking notes is a matter of practice. Just like exercise or eating well, you have to keep doing it, or the inclination to do it at all will slowly fade.

It’s not like I need another thing to do, but this is important. It’s those little details that make stories great. Writing them down is a way of not only reminding myself to be a keen observer, but also for remembering them later.

The details are already starting to fade (sadly), but here’s one little gem I will always remember: At one point my step-mom was describing a friend of hers that we were heading out to visit and she said “just wait until you see how she walks.” I thought that was such a funny thing to say about someone, but you know what – her friend actually did have a lovely walk.

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Wrapping up the Crazy Just in Time to Write

Ahh, summer… with the lazy days around the pool, the deepening of my LA tan, and the- wait, what?

Man, I miss summer vacation. I no longer get to lay by the pool, but I do get to figure out how to juggle my hours at work so I can drive two kids to preschool, swim camp, soccer, and music, and that’s all before the first of July.

The first half of July is always a little crazy around here. There’s the 4th, of course, then our anniversary, then our daughter’s birthday, and this year, just to make it all a little more interesting, throw in the wedding of one of our best friends, in Chicago, which meant we had to fly both kids to the Bay Area first to stay with their grandparents, and then just try to fly back to San Francisco a day after a major plane crash. Just try. In fact, try doing it with a raging hangover. That’s even more fun. When we got to the airport Sunday morning our flight (which was scheduled for 11:30) had “5:45” written next to the flight number and I actually turned to my husband and said “what do they mean 5-4-5? Is that code for something?” As it turns out, it was code for canceled.

Anyhow – all this is to say how super busy things have been the last two weeks, but I’m happy to say we are nearing the end of the crazy part.

This Friday I head out for a weekend with my writing group. I’ve been prepping for it (on the few mornings I’ve been able to get myself up early to write). I know what I want to work on. I will have two solid days, and half of Friday, to write, write, write. Historically these types of things go well for me, but I always feel nervous leading up to them. I so desperately want to make good use of the time that I have to remember not to psych myself out.

Just go. Write. Sleep. Write some more.

Wish me luck.

 

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