Quantity vs. Quality

I’m stealing a few moments to compose this post… Why, you ask? Because I absolutely lost track of the days this week! I know, right? Not that anything in particular has been happening…  Trust me when I say nothing special – absotively, posilutely, N.O.T.H.I.N.G.   S.P.E.C.I.A.L. – has been going on this week; one beige-tinted day bleeding into the next… With that, I’ve just lost track of which boring-blah, “do I really have to do this again?!” day it was, and missed my typical Wednesday evening post…

I am proud to report my son’s face still sports some pretty spiffy stubble, for those with super-sharp vision! He complains about it every other day, as he rubs his hand across his chin. I just chuckle and urge him to carry on the brave fight! I think for his birthday – well, more an early birthday gift – I’ll get him a nice set of blades and a razor handle, from one of those mail order men’s shave vendors. I think he’ll enjoy that; it’ll appear much more “manly” than the, umm, planetary-named blade of blush tone he currently has resting on the sink in his bathroom…

I, on the other hand, have come to the conclusion that attempting to rush from a 40,000-plus word-count, 8-week semester in school that ended in late October right into NaNoWriMo was definitely ill-fated, at minimum. Both the excruciating physical pain in my hand due to arthritis in my lower thumb joint coupled with the emotional stress of pushing – nay, bullying – myself into such an undertaking has left me feeling even more drained, and with that, the fibro flares and tumor headaches have become more frequent instead of the exact opposite – enjoying the idea of not being in school right now, relaxing, taking in all the life has to offer, spending time with friends and family, and foregoing the stress of a rigid non-work-related schedule. It is apparent that I needed more than 10 days to recuperate from the school term, and I didn’t allow myself that time.

On the bright side, I did come up with a new story line, and I will pursue it! If everything works out well, I will actually COMPLETE this project! (I do go to bed every night thinking up both dialog and scene progression, so that’s good!) I just won’t continue to force myself to meet some unattainable – unattainable for me, anyway, and at this particular juncture in my life, extremely unrealistic – timeline for the sake of what, saying “I did it”? I’d rather say “I did it!” when I know saying so will go hand-in-hand with presenting something worth reading, and won’t land my toosh in a hospital bed!

Here’s to growing wise in my old age, and appreciating the difference between quantity and quality.

Anything You Can Do…

So, the Goose Egg has been sufficiently cracked, liberally scrambled and riotously consumed!

What on earth am I referring to?

NaNoWriMo… (see my previous blog post, “November“)

My previous attempts (five or so years ago, and thus far this year) have produced nothing more than flamboyant nullity with regards to word count.

However, I am happy to report, I have finally shaken off the cloak of Anxiety – I still may have a shawl on, just for familiarity and comfort, but I’m definitely not allowing Anxiety and Fear to smother me anymore – and I’ve started this new tale!

I’m only 800 words into it, but I’ve also only had the opportunity to invest about 4 hours, including a smidge of research, so I’m feeling good! Besides, 800 words is better than what I had 5 hours ago!

I want to thank my son for motivating me, even though he’s completely oblivious to the fact that he’s the reason I’m writing again! (Last night, as we drove to the ballot drop box, I told him about the “November” blog post and how he was definitely outpacing me in his November challenge. He asked what the story line was for my latest project, and I explained the bare bones of it; he didn’t tune me out, which I took as a sign that it wasn’t a complete bore.) Because he has so bravely (translation: reluctantly) refrained from excavating his meager whiskers from his chin and upper lip, I felt it only fair that I open my laptop and at least attempt to write a paragraph or two… Hopefully the remainder of the week will see the multiplication of this miniscule word count into an explosion of literary greatness!

 

A tidbit for your entertainment:

Ennie had known nothing but urban living. She was raised in a traditional suburb with its tract homes, four-way stops, carefully manicured front yards, driveways with basketball hoops, and sidewalks dotted with tricycles, skateboards, and discarded baseball mitts, miles from the skyscrapers of the downtown jungle, but near enough that light pollution made wishing on evening stars merely a Hollywood movie set ploy.  She had skipped along those tree-lined avenues with girlfriends on her way to and from elementary and middle school, and learned to drive her father’s old pickup truck in the large parking lot behind the neighborhood shopping mall, early on Saturday mornings before the six-screen theatre opened its doors, flooding the perimeter with the intoxicating aroma of fresh popcorn, ready to tantalize the rush of moviegoers and hold them captive with a lightshow larger than life. Longtime residents watched the pudgy, freckle-faced tomboy graduate from tearing up her mother’s rose garden in search of worms and isopods, holding them captive in glass jars, to a daredevil strapped atop a pair of roller skates, blazing down the east hill with reckless abandon, and absolutely no concern for cross traffic or the consequences of bodily harm. The younger kids in the neighborhood had the pleasure of her company in the absence of their parents, as she swiftly became the neighborhood’s most reliable and trusted babysitter. She introduced different genres of music to the children she had the opportunity to interact with, as she always had some song lifting her spirit, causing her to dance and twirl. She also took the time to teach some of the kids that wanted to learn – and even some who begrudgingly protested but peered over folded arms and past furrowed brows – different skills, including cooking and baking, photography, crocheting and embroidery, and even took the time to write stories with those select families she watched on a regular basis.  Fingernails and toenails were often of differing colors, and she gladly shared her flare for the eclectic with anyone who asked – or asked mom and dad’s permission. Her smile was more of a city trademark than the city’s seal itself, and Ennie made it her personal mission to greet as many individuals a day with a gracious smile and a joyous “hello”.

November

Two note-worthy events happen during the month of November: “Movember” and “NaNoWriMo”. For those that unfamiliar with these events, allow me to introduce you to them.

Movember – when gentlemen forgo the ritual of shaving their facial hair and instead “grow a mo’” – mustache – to both bring awareness to, and, hopefully, commit to raising donations that benefit men’s health (which include prostate and testicular cancer and suicide prevention) by participating as a “walking, talking billboard in honor of men’s health” during the entire month and joining in or hosting fund-raising run/walks or other events.

NaNoWriMo – according to their website (www.nanowrimo.org), this event is for anyone who has ever aspired to writing a novel – which I’m sure is a passion most here have either dealt with , are dealing with, or don’t want to admit to, for fear of awakening a beast too rebellious to contain… The goal of NaNoWriMo (for those not “in the know” stands for National Novel Writing Month) is to complete a 50,000-word novel, written between November 1st and 11:59 PM November 30th.

 

 

Okay, now that we’ve all become properly acquainted, let’s move forward, shall we?

 

 

My young son asked me the other day if I had ever heard of “Movember” or “No Shave November”, to which I informed him I had, indeed, heard of it, and understood it to be in place to help bring awareness to men’s health (as it is, indeed)… We briefly discussed the topic, and I jokingly urged him to participate. Now, of course, I don’t know that he’ll be able to actively raise any funds for the cause; however, I’ve been wanting to see what type of facial carpet he could attain if he would just step away from the razor blade for a little while! He’s still so young – I forget sometimes that he shaves, he’s that young – and most of his facial hair comes in tawny-colored so it blends in with his complexion. However, ever since the first time he put the blade to his face and removed the three or four hairs that took residence between his nose and top lip, he’s been obsessed with the smooth skin feeling – stubble of any sort drives him bonkers!

And then there’s me… (Oh, I could almost hear the collective sigh from the universe…) I’ve wanted to complete a novel for SSSOOOOOOO long, it’s nearly pathetic at this stage – almost like that sweet four-year-old girl who, when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, replies “a mermaid!” and you just don’t have the heart to tell her it’s well, out of this world, never going to happen in a million, billion, trillion years, simply impossible… Well, yeah, that’s me. I want to be a novelist – or for goodness’ sake, simply a writer by trade! – however, it’s beginning to seem like an impossible achievement. Alas, I still (figuratively lay my head down and) dream! I know writing is something I can do, when tasked – I’ve been a student on several occasions, and have therefore been tasked with numerous written requirements. Thousands upon thousands of words, carefully chosen and with the precision of a craftsman, delicately positioned to convey and entertain, educate and persuade the reader while demonstrating a knowledge and understanding, a passion and compassion, not only for the subject matter, but also for the art form of writing itself. I know that I can write… So, why is it that my mermaid’s tail remains an impossibility?

As of the composition of this post, 1/6th of the month has come and gone. Kudos to my son, who has resisted the urge to shave – not that you can tell by looking at him, but he claims there are whiskers there that are driving him mad, and the sheer unevenness of his mustache stubble is simply unruly (ooooookay, if you say so…). As for me, surprisingly, over the past 24 or 36 hours (I don’t know when it all started, truly, and it really doesn’t make that much difference in the long run!) I began crafting a brand new story line, with twists and turns, surprises and secrets I had never envisioned before! Although I have two in-process works that constantly tug at those guilt strings, desperate to inch forward in progress, remorsefully staring at me like malnourished pups begging table-side, I thought a new creative path might stir up the desire for exploration and journey. Thus far, as fate would have it, my word count toward the famed 50k NaNoWriMo word count is sitting at a nice, symmetrical goose egg.

I can’t begin to explain the anxiety! Even writing about writing causes anxiety! Why? The fear of the unknown – what if writing something brilliant actually leads to the fulfillment of a dream? What then?? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself! And would I be able to replicate such a feat? I mean, really, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Hemingway, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling – whomever you fancy! – they were, and are, blessed with abundant talent that surpasses any general conception of talent! And until one can earn enough through writing – which is a feat in itself – there’s the drain on time and energy of the dreaded “day job” (which right now, is my total “Stockholm Syndrome” – but more on that later!)… If I were to tell you that in writing this blog post alone, I’ve stopped and walked away from it on three separate occasions, you’d think me mad! (Okay, so I guess I just admitted to it anyway, and you’re free to think whatever you want – it doesn’t change the facts…) In the interim, I’ve cleaned my kitchen, washed the dishes, made popcorn – because, hey, whole grains, right? – and almost purchased a new desk for my son, all to avoid the thought of finishing this blog post and maybe, possibly being faced with the anxiety-inducing thought of starting my NaNoWriMo manuscript… Agh!

Dang it! If my son can persevere despite the savage tortures of microscopic uneven and unruly mustache stubble, I should be able to boldly face the blinding white of the blank computer screen and toss a few unassuming lines of dialogue and understory much like Bob Ross with his simplistic “even if you’ve never painted before, this one you can do” brush strokes and, voila, just like those famed ‘happy trees’, my story would just miraculously unfold upon the canvas!

Wish me luck!

 

 

“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.” – Bob Ross, from “The Joy of Painting”

“6,810”

Have you ever found yourself feeling both exhilarated and exhausted at the same time? I’m starting to believe those two emotions are conjoined twins – opposite sides of the same coin! The likelihood that you’ve encountered one side of that coin toss, staring face up, almost guarantees that the other is resting itself peacefully against the palm of your hand. And no sooner do you exhale, whether it be the flutter of exuberant delight or a sigh of dilapidated effort, than find that coin flip-flop like a cornered politician.

I have successfully completed my first week of school this semester, and may I just say, I’m ready to raise the white flag and simply walk away … before finding a suitable jumping point. These are the last two classes in my master’s program, so it’s not as if I haven’t endured the pleasure of taking two classes at one time; as a matter of record, this is the fifth time I’ve accomplished such a task. And in the previous ten courses completed, I can’t say that there are any that I recall as being anything above mildly inauspicious; at best, they were all dismal. However, I don’t know that business courses aspire to anything more than that… These courses are holding true to their initial impressions, and have taken quite a substantial chunk (of time, of inspiration, of research, of sacrifice) to complete. Whereas I was able to successfully submit all assignments on time, and even display an ounce of post-‘posting’ jubilation at the fact that I did so with 35 minutes to spare, that’s not to say it did not come without a price.

Several nights last week blurred into early morning before my bunned-up hair and burning corneas found solace far away from the computer screen, even if it was to only rest my head on the pillow for 3 meager hours… Luckily the true fall schedule hadn’t kicked in yet, and I was afforded the luxury of stealing an extra half-hour of shut-eye, not playing slave to the school bus… However, as of tomorrow (well, looking at the clock, technically, it would today), it’s all hands on deck at 6:20 am, and rumps out the door by 6:55 am! No more snooze… And as my youngest child agonized and whimpered over the thought of beginning a new school year, I sneered and snorted, and growled “six thousand, eight hundred and ten” with the sting of venom. A smirk was the response I received. “6,810”.

6,810 is the word count for my first week at school. With a total of seven written assignments due this initial week, the culminating word count was 6,810 words. For a writer, whose typical goal is 500 words per day, I had definitely blown that “average” out of the water! Unfortunately none of what was written is of any interest to anyone who isn’t studying operational management or strategy in global competition (at least I think those are the course titles – I don’t remember; at this point, they’re all blending together). A daily average word count of 973 words! Whew! And that’s not even taking into consideration the 7 chapters of reading in two different (yawn!) textbooks, plus searching, researching, reading and annotating 10 or 12 (peer-reviewed) articles in order to write said words, and a chapter quiz to boot! Oh yes, then there’s the whole “job” thing, and the “parent” thing, and the … well, you get the picture… so, it wasn’t with undue pride that I celebrated my victorious accomplishment – 35 minutes still “on the clock” was a mini-miracle!

Already entrenched in Week Two, I’ve completed two of the four writing assignments; granted, they are the easier ones of the bunch. This week’s word count is already at 935, and I’m anticipating a total by week’s end of nearly 4,200. Five peer-reviewed articles have already been devoured en route to accomplishing the writing assignments completed thus far; the remainder of my reading this week will be all textbook – 5 more chapters (insert a sigh of dilapidated effort). Here’s the flip side, though: as I inhaled, straightening myself in front of the computer keyboard, poised to attack the required assignments of Week Two, a sobering thought turned my exhaustion into exhilaration… Seven more weeks…

That’s it, folks.           Seven. More. Weeks.

It’s hard not to relish in that thought! 45 short days, and this will all be over. So, yes, I may have my sought out a white flag after a grueling first week, and I’m not sure I’m ready to see it dance in the breeze just yet, or am I apt to relinquish my tender grasp on it either. I think for now I shall wrap it around myself like a shawl or sarong, ever so close, but with the playfulness of a summer day.

Until next time…