Tuesday, April 23, 2013

88th ROW80 Check-In

A Round of Words in 80 Days
Round 2 2013

The writing challenge that
 knows you have a life
My goals are all time investment and are detailed on the  ROW80 page   I keep track of the time invested with a Google Doc spreadsheet linked on the goals page and also in each check-in along with a screenshot of the most recent days.

These check-in posts will contain any commentary I have about encounters with the goals since the previous check-in and any relevant links.

Below the commentary is my current reading list for the READ CRAFT goal.

Last round I finished the edit for Blow Me A Candy Kiss, the short story I'm planning to use as the experiment in self publishing.  This was on my original Goals when I first joined ROW80 last April.  It is now ready for beta readers.   Anyone interested can say so in a comment or email me at the email in the sidebar.  A link to an earlier draft can be found in the ROW80 Goals page linked under the spreadsheet below.

I regained the Ys for READ CRAFT after loosing them along with those for FREEWRITE and FICTION FILES during the 2.5 weeks at the end of March and into April involved in going down to Phoenix OR after another van load of my stuff, bringing it back here to Mom's, making room for it, unpacking the books and clothes and organizing.  Obviously Camp Nano seems to have fallen into the abyss but I hesitate to just let it go as I'd likely get zero word count for the month if I did and I've been feeling some pressure building on a story idea...maybe...

Ed and I April 2nd
5 minutes before leaving
No excuses now for the remaining two time investment goals.  It is now about having lost the habit and making choices that push them aside.  The primary choice?  Mooning like a giddy teenager while conducting a long-distance relationship with my husband of 34 years.

I stopped requiring myself to do the freewrite before using the netbook for anything else because the first thing I want to do is check my email for my 'good morning' from him and then of course reply to it.  Sigh.  And that is just the first of two or three or four emails before I sleep again.  And that doesn't count the chats and the Skyping.  Who knew it could still be this fun to be in love at 55.  And it is especially poignant because we came so close to wreaking it and calling it totaled less than three months ago.

I've written nothing but emails, chats and posts this entire month which makes me feel a bit of a fraud for being in writing challenges.  But I've decided ROW80 anyway isn't about successes only but also about setbacks and working out the kinks.  I've got a lot of kinks right now...

Note:  The following contains lots of carryover from previous check-ins to provide context. New material is mixed in with the old some of which has been reordered or eliminated. And this time I've create themed sections so that adding new and subtracting old will be easier going forward:

The Lifequake
Self Management
Evolution of the workstations

All of the new material is in Self-Management this time.

Because of the read-a-thon Saturday and trip prep Sunday after catching up on sleep, I doubt I'll be able to prepare a check-in post for Sunday.  But I may resubmit this same link and leave a few brief updates where appropriate.


The event I'm calling the lifequake hit me in late January and for the most part of most days I'm accommodating myself to the new realities shaking out from it.  The details are covered in ROW80 #69 check-in. and  this Sunday Serenity so I won't keep reiterating the story in these check-ins.  The most important fact affecting ROW80 goals is that my 5 week visit at my Mom's begun in early January has been extended indefinitely.  It has been a huge disruption in itself not counting all the disruptions of life, thought and emotion behind the whys and wherefores.

Continuing aftershocks abound.  The latest being the notice from our landlord to vacate by May 15 as he needs to sell the trailer.  So my sister and I have made two trips down to Phoenix OR after van loads of my stuff.  We were supposed to bring our cat Merlin back with us last trip but he was sneezing and had goopy eyes so my sister took him to the vet there and discovered he had an infection from rotten teeth and inverted eye lashes.  He had surgery two weeks ago .

The bulk of what came back so far was books, papers, crafts and clothes.  Books being the greater part the first week of April with 8 boxes of them alone.  The work of making room here at Mom's for 22 boxes and then unpacking 11 and organizing it along with the stuff already here ate up at least ten days.  I continue to tweak and fiddle with my two main areas--the wall on my side of the bed in Mom's room and my desk and workout area in the room across the hall.   Some of the story of the evolution of the writing and workout room since February is below.

The date for the next trip has been set for April 29.  But my sister will be returning with the load after a day or two and leaving me behind to spend eight to ten days helping Ed with the final packing up and the deep clean in preparation for his move by the 15th.  We are both ecstatic about the idea of a whole week together even tho it may be bittersweet with the knowledge of my return to Longview and full of some very hard work--both physical labor and relationship.


My reading and crafting corner
on my side of the bed
in Mom's room
A week ago Sunday night I blew the commitment to take meds on time and sleep every night out of the water.  I talk about that and recommit in the next day's post, Penalty Box which I considered a formal 'holding myself accountable' exercise.  And the next day I received some more feedback from my husband during a Skype asking for a similar commitment to time management.  It is related to the sleep issues but still a separate issue.  I agreed to that and then promptly did another belly flop.  Did not keep my hours regular all last week now and had second 24 hour awake before that week was out.

My mood went volatile again and on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings I had major meltdowns.  This was so demoralizing after what had felt like several weeks of steady progress.  The anxiety, which had seemed to bow out after the new med regime was in place, came raging back.  I woke frequently with surges of anxiety and startle reactions.

But as I detailed in last check-in and some more in Sunday's post the whole setback can be attributed to a disruption in my BP med Metoprolol due to a series of communication snafus with the clinic preventing the timely renewal.  In spite of the terrible experience I'm not sorry it happened as it put the Metroprolol on our radar as an important piece of the puzzle.  It definitely must stay in place or be replaced with something that can duplicate its benefits.

Yesterday the med nurse added a low dose of Ritalin to the mix to address the issue with my brain not coming back online for six to twelve hours after I've slept longer than six hours.  This has played a role in my sleep issues.  Often the insomnia is truly involuntary but just as often I'm opting for those 24, 36 and upwards straight hours because I can't bear to let go of the creativity, productivity and the me that I know and like because I can't depend on getting them back again.

Today was the first dose and to limit the variables as much as I could I took it by itself (with food) and also waited an hour before having my first cup of coffee.  I'm not sure yet what to think.  Tho I can say that by this afternoon I was missing the Pseudophed which I'd been using for that purpose and which I can't take in conjunction with the Ritalin.

I didn't start feeling alert or creative or ambitious.  But I did not sit and stare at the wall or out the window either.  I busied myself with mundane, repetitive tasks on the netbook.  But they were tasks that took some focus, mental organization, attention to detail and persistence.  And after about an hour of that I picked up a novel and read over fifty pages in one sitting.  Something which has become rare.

I felt fairly lazy today.  I did not get on the tramp at all.  At least not on my feet.  I actually sat on it most of the time I was on the computer or reading.  But on the other hand I fixed lunch for Mom and on impulse without being asked and without having the menu set and material set out for me.

I'd come out of my 'office' at noon and discovered my sister was outside doing yard work which I knew to be one of her favorite pastimes while the kitchen is her least favorite.  So I decided I would see if I could figure out something without disturbing her and by the time she came in I was already serving Mom's tray--toasted cheese sandwich and tomato soup and corn chips.

It wasn't smooth sailing.  I nearly burned one side of the sandwich.  The soup boiled over in the microwave and I dropped corn chips all over the floor.  The paper plates in the package stuck together and in getting them unstuck I nearly pulled a pile of paper products off the shelf atop the oven.  I knocked an empty water bottle over and a pile of papers off the counter onto the floor and kicked the garbage can several times.  It was frustrating and twice I nearly forgot myself and allowed my 'at home' language out at Mom's in her hearing.  You know THOSE words.

So apparently, at least at low dose on the first day, the Ritalin isn't going to be a magic pill as depicted on TV shows like Desperate Housewives.  There is also the fact that I laid down and hour late and woke too soon. After less than five hours of sleep.  And could not get back to sleep in the too bright room.  I made myself try for an hour but finally got up at ten.  This explains the low tolerance to frustration, some of the lazy and much of the emotional 'low' feeling.  Definitely not as good a day as yesterday or Sunday.

I am still hoping the Ritalin will help bring my brain back online sooner so that my commitment to giving sleep a higher priority than creative work will become less of a  struggle every night when I can stop feeling like I'm saying goodbye to my 'self' not knowing when/if I will pick up again where I left off on whatever I'm forced to set aside.

But I remain committed to the project of getting sleep and mood regulated as essential to both my writing goals and to saving my marriage.  When I confessed to Ed recently that if I believed that how I'm experiencing this now would be the reality going forward I would revert to despair because it is that hard, that I feel like I'm loosing myself, he suggested I see it as growing pains.

We both know we can't go back to the way things were.  That was slow suicide and also crazy-making for both of us.  Not  just the unpredictable sleep cycle but the unpredictable mood and energy levels. It wasn't like I was getting regular, reliable creative or brain intensive work done then either. That is an illusion created by the memories of the occasional--twice a month or so--crazy spurts of work on a project over a two to four day period in which I slept little or not at all, and neglected food and water and hygiene.

Meanwhile, I'm sustained by the memory of those few weeks earlier this month in which regular sleep had gone a long way to regulating my moods, and my anxiety had fallen so low it may actually be what healthy people experience as normal. I'd had more energy and stamina and had been tending to my diet, exercise and hygiene to nearly a normal sustainable level which was paying off in big ways.  I'd lost an inch on my waist between the 1st and 15th and dropped below 200 on the scales for the first time since 1986.

It is going to be difficult in the coming two weeks to stay regulated because there will be so many disruptions in routine.  There is Dewey's Read-a-Thon this weekend.  Which Ed has given his blessing on my full participation--with caveats.  Then I'm leaving for Phoenix OR Monday and won't be back at Mom's until probably May 10th or 11th.  Packing up and deep cleaning a house in preparation to move is not conducive to establishing routines nor is rejoining a spouse after a month apart and four months of not living together.

It continues to frustrate me that I've yet to add fiction writing back into the mix as I feel that would go a long way toward making me feel like me again.  Or do I need to feel like me first?  I hope not.  Ten days ago I thought I was almost there.  Maybe I hesitated too long waiting for something that won't come until after I've reengaged whether I feel like it or not.

Maybe next week after my sister returns to Longview with the van load and during the hours Ed has to work I can give it a try.  I'll have the quiet and privacy of my own home again.  Though we are talking morning hours which have rarely been my creative hours.  But there is no way, no how, I'm going to use the late night hours for writing while I'm there.  Not unless I can do it while staying at the side of my sleeping husband.  Which is how I did it for the ten years we lived with his folks.  But somehow I don't think that will work quite the same this time.  I imagine it will be extremely difficult to switch channels in my brain just because he has fallen asleep.  Much more difficult than after our daily Skype sessions.

The evolution of the writing and workout room:

2nd Workstation and
Indoor Workout Space
In February a few weeks into the lifequake I realized I could no longer wait until I got home to get serious with my fiction writing but to accommodate it I would need a writing station that afforded privacy, quiet, light, and the ability to move about and make moderate noise without fear of disturbing my sleeping mother.  And I would need to designate a time of day in which I could count on no interruptions.

The time best suited was the hours immediately after Mom heads to bed.  The space was trickier.  But the best bet was somewhere in the room that had once been Mom's office and had become a storage room.  So I rearranged some boxes and created a desk in a cubby behind the stairwell.    I was even able to set up the mini-tramp in there. Tho I had to walk across it to get to my desk, I liked having it there until I fell twice inside a week.

 After the first fall on a Sunday I set my mind to being careful but after the second fall the following Friday I realized careful would not cut it.  Not indefinitely.  Not for someone visually impaired and with such a history of scattered thought and impulsive movement.

After a third incident--a close call--my sister set the tramp on end.  But as I feared it seldom got set down for use after that.  I kept wanting to find the time and energy to rearrange the stuff again to make room for the tramp and a path to my desk.  That became one of the goals as I worked to make room for the stuff coming in from the van.

To make room for the tramp I moved my folded clothes into Mom's room and the boxes of Mom's papers under the card table.

Reference Books

The reference books are now on that cabinet above the tramp.  The 1999 World Book set and the Britannica Great Books set I bought from the library in 2005.  And writing related misc.

Desk in cubby
The desk has morphed so many times.  I continue to tweak things but continue to find it a very uninviting place to spend much time. And the chair continues to bite.  I've taken to using it mostly just when I need the printer or scanner and sit on the tramp with netbook on a box for other tasks.  Or stand on or beside the tramp with netbook on a drawer pulled out of that cabinet.

To right of my desk

The family cat, Bradley has been a pill as I rearrange the two rooms.  He mountain climbs the stuff.  He picks up small things and carries them off.  Twice it was my reading glasses that I wear over my prescription glasses for close work.  He sits on top of the very thing I need to pick up.

Saturday he knocked my netbook off the desk.  I had an extreme moment of panic before I got it picked up and checked over.

 I do hope that when we bring Merlin back next trip the two of them can entertain each other.


My Brain on Story
see moar kittehs 
I have selected my 2006 NaNoWriMo novel, The Storyteller's Spouse, to give the bulk of my attention to for the duration of this extended stay at Mom's for the same reasons that I started it in the first place:  Story is the way I think and when I need to process something terribly complex and emotionally overwhelming I often start playing with the what ifs and the people involved and the themes in the same way I do with a novel or short story.  Because of the unusually autobiographical nature of this story I'd never returned to it after NaNo that year but many of the same issues are active in this current lifequake so what better time than now to get this one back out?  It had therapeutic value before and probably will again.

The Storyteller's Spouse is also an exploration of story itself and features a married couple the female lead being a novelist and her husband a raconteur with a rep for tall tales, fish stories and war stories and life of the party yarns.  Neither of them have an especially good grip on reality so their POV scenes are exercises in unreliable narrator.

Synopsis: Lor and Bull Teller, married for over two decades, are about to discover the power of story to either create or destroy when a disturbing accusation lands tall-tale-teller Bull in jail where suddenly he has nothing to say just as Lor, author of evangelical children's stories witnesses something that tangles and then snaps the tether of her faith leaving her afloat on a sea of mystery which often feels like insanity.


Currently Reading

What to Do When There's Too Much to Do by Laura Stack (Part of my attempt to organize my life around my priorities. So part of my ROW80 reading list)  What with the lifequake and all I've had to do a lot of reassessing.  Recently I realized that my todo lists are way overloaded even for someone with a reasonably quakeless life.
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Go by Les Edgerton
Write Good or Die! edited by Scott Nicholson (a collection of essays by inde authors.  many of them self-published)  
The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Muller  Net Galley a NF that purports to answer many puzzles in the Austen novels. Since this discusses writing and techniques of fiction
Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff  In late February I lifted the strikethru I put on this the week I left home in January as I brought it back with me on the 22nd.
Jung and the Tarot: An Archetypal Journey by Sallie Nichols Since I'm reading this for an understanding of character type and the language of symbol understood by our unconscious as well as research for a character who is a Tarot reader
13 Ways of Looking at a Novel by Jane Smiley  This was one of the 24 items I checked out of the Longview library on my sister's card last January and has been the one I've spent the most time with ever since.  Friday's post was a quote post for this one.
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.  Found this while spelunking the stacks looking for the Smiley book.  Who knew.  Dick was a mystic.  I've only read one of his novels and a few short stories but now I've got to try to find and read everything!
Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor  This is a reread for me and has had significant impact on the development of my storyworld in the early months of its inception.  My Friday post was about my current encounter with it after checking it out of the Longview library again for the first time in over a decade.
The Right to Write by Julia Cameron.  Also a Longview library book.
The Fiction Writer's Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf  Review for blog tour  Haven't finished it yet tho so it will remain in the list.

Recently Read:

A Cheap and Easy Guide to Self-publishing eBooks by Tom Hua read this online
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Leher
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg  Just finished this last fall and wrote an overview of it for that check-in along with my musings on how to apply what I learned..  This is where I've been getting the most help with learning how to recognize a habit, determine if it is desirable and if so maximize it but if not change it.

2 tell me a story:

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