Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

I’m not sure if I’m going to continue doing this novel-writing month thingie.

It isn’t that the first week isn’t going well–in fact it has been good to get in the habit of setting aside time to just write, and not just a couple pages but a substantial amount (even though it’s all crap that I’m writing down, but that’s not the point of why I’m doing this, is it?)–but I am starting to see that there are other things I could be doing with my time on certain days. This may just mean doing a lower word count on busy days and a higher one on days off, but as the month gets into swing, I start to find all kinds of reasons not to write 1,667 words per day.

For example, I like doing this blog, even though I’m not sure what it’s for exactly–but it helps me in some strange way. I have never tried to promote this blog outside of my own circle of family and friends, because I have always just used blogs to keep those people who care updated about what’s going on in my life, starting with the blog about living for a year in Mexico eight years ago. I don’t necessarily want it to get a big readership or anything, because then I’ll just feel pressured to produce something really good every time I write, and that proves disastrous for me. Instead, I use it to focus my thoughts on what I want to do to make a living and to try to notice what I like and don’t like and work that all out. It’s also something that keeps me a little more accountable, because even though I only have a few people who read it, I have committed to trying to post once a week so that I do think about my career (or lack of one, more like) and communicate that to people who either worry about me or just want to make sure I’m still alive.

My tumblr is another thing I want to spend time on, only because I love birding and photography now. Which leads to a bunch of other things I want to do, but primarily: Learn how to take better photos. First, it does mean getting a stronger zoom lens, which I’m hoping I’ll do once I get a job with an income…. Second, learn how to process the photos I do take with Photoshop.

I saw a posting for a communications assistant for the New York Philharmonic the other day, helping with press releases and PR but also managing photography and video for the orchestra, and I’d have applied except for that whole thing about not trying to get a full-time job while I’m committed to a part-time internship, but also because I don’t know how to use Photoshop yet, even though my friend Ruth lent me a book months ago to help me start with learning. So that’s another thing I’d like to spend some time doing. And while I’m not thrilled about doing communications work (having to contact lots of people for shit isn’t my idea of fun), I’d do it for an organization like the NY Philharmonic, of course, hello! The freakin’ Philharmonic!

Other things to do with my time:

Read. I start the six-week writing workshop on Monday, and I just got the workshop leader’s novel in the mail yesterday! Also, Junot Diaz is going to be at the United Palace in Washington Heights on Nov. 15, and I am getting This Is How You Lose Her in the mail today so I can be prepared to listen to him talk about it.

Yoga. I used to have this daily morning practice back in Ohio, but it fizzled out while I was in Mexico and I’ve never really gotten back into a routine since. By now it’s nonexistent, so I have to start taking classes to get going again. It was so good for me back then to do it–good for my body but mainly good for my low-grade depression because it was a discipline that I did even when I didn’t want to, and it made me feel better in the long run (plus I hate all other forms of exercise). That’s the problem when you’re depressed, not doing things because you don’t feel any motivation or energy at all, ignoring the fact that it will make you feel better at the end of the day, not caring what’s good for you anyway because, well, you don’t feel self worth in the first place, right? 

Therapy. That segues nicely from the depression thing, because honestly I need to deal with some of these issues that have been problems for most of my life. Also, I don’t want to be medicated anymore. Time to find a counselor.

Look for jobs. Of course–what else? I have to find some way of making money to fund one of my favorite all-time hobbies: shopping.

In the end, I’m still going to try to continue NaNoWriMo for at least another week. They say it takes two weeks of doing something daily to make it a habit. We’ll see about that!

Course overload

Back from a Labor Day weekend in Cold Spring to spend time with friends, and finally done with the draft of the article on Episcopal churches, I was going to use the day to get homework done for my online classes through Mediabistro, “HTML” and “InDesign for Writers and Editors.” Of course, halfway through my first video lesson of the day, I couldn’t see the video anymore, and it turns out that there’s something wrong with the YouTube server.

So much for work!

Earlier today I went and had an eye exam, resulting in a new pair of glasses (these old frames were from the start of my year in Mexico, fall 2005) as well as some contacts. I have never really liked the way I look in glasses, but when I finally started trying to wear contacts a few years ago, while teaching, I noticed that my students would stop wearing their glasses if I didn’t have mine on. I thought, that’s no good, so I stopped wearing contacts at school, and, finally, ever.

While I was waiting forever for the eye exam, and after all my Candy Crush lives got used up, I happened to see the Tuesday shoe trivia question on DSW’s Facebook page, so I ended up looking up the shoes they posted and submitted the answer.

And I won a $50 certificate! SHOES!!!!!!!!!!

I am seriously in need of self control these days with my shopping. I’m confessing here so that I feel accountable to someone. I am not to buy any shoes beyond that $50, because I actually just got three beautiful pairs last week.

I should be doing more constructive things, like building a website. After all, I need one if I’m going to freelance, along with business cards, invoices, etc. This HTML course is kind of fun, being my very first experience coding, but it’s also showing me how very little I know. My website looks like it came from the early ’90s. Yuck.

Here’s to hoping that the class discussion tonight teaches me a little more so I can make it pretty.

After family reunions, job search resumes

The month of August was eventful in terms of family visits. One weekend was devoted to the in-laws in the environs of Rochester, N.Y., with the following weekend to my own family in Tucson. In between the two, I spent a few days relaxing at the New Hampshire farm of my best friend’s family. I needed the break to recover from the one reunion and to prepare for the next.

There were lots of children.

I was lucky to have had work to do while in western New York; I still have to write the article on the Episcopal churches for the old paper, so on my second day there, I holed myself up in my husband’s old bedroom (now a storage area for toys and clothes for the grandchildren) with some noise-cancelling headphones and transcribed some old interviews.

(Transcription is another area where I could make some money freelancing. It’s tedious, but I can do it, and my friend Tom says there’s money to be made there, because most people hate it.)

There’s nothing like spending your days with nieces and nephews to make a childless person not want to have children. Of course they’re adorable and I love them and all that, but when you put four of them together, aged 6 through 1, even in a big house, it’s enough to make one swear off procreation. It becomes harder when you’re known as the fun childless aunt or uncle who plays with kids, when those same kids expect you to play with them every minute you’re around. I am therefore developing and grooming my un-fun persona, boring childless aunt who doesn’t want to play right now. My husband probably needs to do the same, but he really enjoys playing with toys, so I’m sure he’s feeling conflicted.

The thing I love the most about going to western New York is thrift-store shopping (without kids). The goods are often high-quality, bountiful and cheap. I have perfected the art — only look at clothes your size with the tag color that’s 50 percent off, unless something really catches your eye; else you could be there all day. I wanted to be at the Volunteers of America all day, when in addition to the normal 50 percent off color, they had another color that was 75 percent off, and all tanks, shorts and capris were half off. That quadrupled the amount of clothing I would normally look at, so my husband and mother-in-law had to wait for me, having valuable one-on-one time on a sofa, while I tried on a hundred things. You can’t make them wait forever, though, so I made myself leave the store after only seeing a fraction of it.

When I got to New Hampshire, there was more quality time with children to be had. My friend’s son is a cute 2-year-old with a train obsession (“Play choo-choo, play choo-choo, play choo-choo!” is his usual mantra with his adult playmates — I, the sucker that I am, being one of them), and her 3-year-old nephew Jack is a doll. So I didn’t mind too much when I ended up being the child-minder for a bit one day, when we picked what was left of the glorious blueberries in the yard and wandered down the freshly cleared nature path through the woods on the property. It did get tiring, however, to make sure they didn’t kill each other with the paint-rollers that were doubling as lawn mowers. Boys are hard to manage in a way that is alien to me; I never had brothers so I’m unaccustomed to their brutish ways.

There are a lot of best things about going to the farm in New Hampshire — my friend, of course, is at the top of the list, but the blueberries and the clear, brisk water of the lake are close behind. Even though that week was chilly, I still went in for a couple swims.

Then, Arizona, land of so much personal baggage, because that’s where the family’s at. We did successfully celebrate my father’s 80th birthday and my mother’s lunar birthday, with two giant meals. Of course, all of us (three sisters, their significant others, and two nieces) besides my parents, who are divorced, got to gorge ourselves silly almost every day of the trip, since we had to go from one parent to the other, to be “fair.” Though it was hectic and stressful at times to coordinate, I was glad to be able to spend time with both my sisters at once, since the last time we’d been together was at my grandmother’s funeral about five years ago.

My two nieces are lovely, and since they’re older, they aren’t quite as noisy. They’re going to grow up to be great women, I can tell. The last evening, though, one of them was feverish and grumpy, so they argued rather too loudly for many of our tastes. Being a parent mediator would be a difficult job.

On the flights to and from Tucson, I read my friend Patrick O’Keeffe’s book, The Hill Road, which was superb. It contains four novellas, all of them set in neighboring farming villages in County Limerick, Ireland, where Patrick’s from. I highly recommend it, and if you aren’t convinced simply by my saying so, you can even read the first 35 pages on Google’s e-book preview. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did have a long period of time to start the whole first 20 pages or so, I couldn’t put it down. I cried on both plane trips reading the first and second stories.

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It’s inspiring to read an excellent book by someone you know, but it’s also a bit daunting if think of yourself as an aspiring writer and start making comparisons, so I’m trying to focus more on the encouraging and slightly cocky voice of our friend Tom — “Just do it!”

I did, the other day, reread something I had written — the start of what could be a personal essay or memoir or novel — but the problem with it, I think, besides the fact that it needs tons of revision and editing, is that I don’t know what it is yet. Do I want to write an essay or a whole book of memoirs? A novel, a short story, creative nonfiction? I guess I don’t have to worry about it now. I’m supposed to just write, and when I’ve got enough written down, I can decide later what it really is. The problem, however, is making myself “just write.”

The goal for today is at least to start that article on my old town’s Episcopal churches, so that it can be done and out of the way. I may have to force myself to go to the neighborhood cafe to do it, since all I do around here is putz around the internet in my pajamas. I do apply to a few jobs every day, now that I’m back, but I could probably be a bit more proactive and send things to publications without waiting for job postings. It’s hard for me not to be overwhelmed by all the things I “ought” to do. Which is why I often find myself playing mind-numbing Facebook games, probably.

In other news, I started the InDesign course online this week, to make myself learn the program, because some employers prefer their copy editors and editorial assistants know how to use it. Next week I start a short online course on HTML.

Keep self busy.