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I’m having a bit of a bad morning.

I’ve been really looking forward to Sock Wars III. It’s a silly game where you knit a pair of socks to ‘kill’ your victim with, then they send you their socks and you proceed to knit away and try to kill their victim too, and so on down the list, until someone sends you socks, ending your run.

I did it two years ago and had a blast. I missed the sign ups last year by a day or so and was disappointed, so this year I’ve been stalking the creator and signed up months ago for Sock Wars III.

The site was a bit confusing and I did receive an email saying to go and fill in more information, but I couldn’t find the right place, and then I saw something shiny, and I never remembered to go back.

The creator (or the Generalissimo) planned to send out an email three days before the start to remind people to finish the sign up process, but a death in the family slowed her down (how dare she?) and the emails only went out about 24hrs before the start. Of course, that was the day my email chose to go wonky and I only got the reminder this morning.

There I was, poised with my (expensive) yarn and my needles, waiting for my dossier to arrive, and instead I got this reminder. Eek! Wonder if I was one of those people she mentioned who hadn’t filled in all their information. I popped on over to the site (where I had logged in a mere ten minutes before) only to find that I could no longer log in, and that the site claimed to have never heard of me.

I’d been purged.

I was a casualty of war before the war even began.

It sounds ridiculous but I was SO disappointed. I was in quite the funk.

Oh well, I thought, I have my Mother’s Day Tea at A’s school this morning. That’ll cheer me up.

I had not heard official word about this, somehow, just a mention somewhere, so I had emailed the teacher to ask the time.

I admit I wasn’t as early as I had hoped to be, but I arrived with three minutes to spare…only to find everyone seated and eating and chatting and me feeling uncomfortable. Instead of shaking it off I spent a fair amount of time feeling annoyed at myself for screwing up AGAIN.  (although, as it turns out, the teacher had given me the wrong time.)

Then, there was a note about the upcoming field trip that seemed to imply I was supposed to have made travel arrangements for Angus. Now I know there had been no details about this, so I finally had something other than myself to be annoyed  with. But it didn’t help. 

So I shouted at Angus in the car when he was disobedient (cookie-powered strop) and then he calmed down and cheered up.

I’m trying to be a grown up and do the same. But sometimes it’s hard, you know?

Writing Spurt

I’ve just finished my second book by Tasha Alexander (her first) and after I did, I read her author’s not on writing the book.

It starts:

One day, while I was engrossed in Dorothy L. Sayers’s wonderful Gaudy Night, a sentence leapt off the page at me:

If you are once sure what you do want, you find that everything else goes down before it like grass under a roller — (all other interests, your own and other people’s)


Oo, I thought. Good quote. I like it. I think I know that I want to write. I could use that quote. Then I read on.

At the time, my son was three-and-a-half years old nad had reached the age where he stopped napping. I had to take advantage of every free moment I had…

I like her more and more, she’s proving it can be done. But now comes the kicker.

…and in bursts of fifteen minutes, a half an hour, whatever time I could steal— I spent the next two months writing the first draft…

TWO MONTHS?! It only took her two months to write her first draft? I started writing my thing (and then left it) last spring or was it the spring before, I don’t remember. I have a friend who has been writing the same novel since he left his MFA program about 12 years ago. Two months?!

So I’m knuckling down. Imagine actually finishing something novel-lengthed, at least a first draft. Imagine not having the guilt of the unfinished story hanging over you.

I do get caught up in whether or not my writing is any good and I get tempted to stop. But then I remind myself of Chris Baty’s dictum that a quick and dirty first draft is the only way to go.

So I wrote about 1000 words today, in fits and starts, in between doing other things.

It helped that music features largely in the story, and I was listening to some music last night that inspired me. It also didn’t hurt that K was at home today and I kept thinking “I could do with writing a bestseller and letting him retire early” (because, having worked on the fringes of the publishing industry, I know how likely that is. But hey…)

I had fun.

U is for Unreasonable

Do you ever have the sure and unsupported certainty that someone just doesn’t like you?

A mother of one of the children in Gregor’s class has never been anything but scrupulously polite to me, and I’ve never done anything to offend her. And she seems like someone I might have stuff in common with: she has short hair (so uncommon), carried her baby in a cloth sling, looks vaguely hippyish…but she just doesn’t like me.

The only time her polite smile ever displayed any warmth was one day when I saw here out of context and got a big grin. To her credit, when she placed me she didn’t give me the cold shoulder, but I’ve never seen that smile since.

It’s disconcerting. I’m not used to it. I’m not saying I’m the nicest person in the world, but at worst people seem to be indifferent to me. And a lot of people seem to like me.

I think it’s just one of those instincts where she’s looked at me and gone “nah”. As I get older I’m learning to listen to that instinct more and more, so I can’t fault her.

It had been a no-fault kind of thing.

But then, this morning as we were leaving, her newly-toddling baby was standing in the doorway with a toy push-chair from the classroom as we were about to leave. A, as is his wont, blundered around, walking essentially in circle and took his first step out of the door while his head was still looking into the classroom, or at his feet or forward to the solution of the cold fusion problem, or something. Of course, he stepped on the toy stroller, fell headlong into it, his full 44lbs and the metal handle of the toy knocking the baby flying.

I was already annoyed with him for being distracted and purposely awkward this morning, so he got a real talking to, and then, as the mother caught us up in the corridor Angus apologised.

“It’s OK,” she said. “It happens.”

She said it kindly too.

But I just know she still doesn’t like me.

Floral Therapy

It’s such a rubbish day today (cold, rainy, heavy gray clouds) that I felt I needed to post some pictures I took last week.

Spring has sprung around here. Overnight my cherry tree went from having tiny promising buds, to having not just

Cherry Blossom

a flower, not just

Cherry Blossoms with Sky

SOME flowers, but

Profusion of Cherry Blossoms

a profusion of flowers. It was so beautiful. Until the storm tore through here on Saturday night and made it look a bit sad and droopy. Still pretty profuse, though.

Meanwhile the pear tree’s blossoms have been and gone and were captured this year only in bud form and possibly in the background of some of last weekend’s pictures.

But to make up for it we have:

White Happy Faces Red Tulip Azaleas Are Here

and not least of all, because I like them, even if the neighbours don’t:

I LIKE Dandelions

NaBlo(sortof)PoMo

So, apparently weekends are my downfall when it comes to blogging (or writing) daily. And I think I’m OK with that.

Yesterday was spent shouting at the son and heir, mostly, and playing board games. Today has been…well, very similar. There was an outing and a thwarted plot to go to Strasburg, and some quality napping. And I’m reading another mystery, which I’m enjoying and sneaking in a few pages of here and there. And the mystery contains some letters (the correspondence type) so I feel vindicated in mentioning it during the April/Letters theme here at NaBloPoMo…

But now I should get back to my family…

Three Letters: D.N.A and Creativity

Happy Birthday, DNA Structure!

Today, in 1953, James D. Watson and Francis Crick had a little article called Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid published in the scientific journal Nature.

And the controversy hasn’t stopped since.

Of course, they didn’t pluck this idea from the ether. They built on the work of other people, as do most researchers, and they acknowledged as much in their paper.

Neil Gaiman, talking recently about writing-and-why-he-probably-wouldn’t-have-
taken-that-fan-to-court-the-way-JKRowling-did, said he subscribed to Terry Pratchett’s theory that writing is a stew, you take a little out, you put a little in.

Some of my favourite musical moments come when the composer or musician makes a little joke or pays tribute, by including a theme from something else in the tune they’re playing.

Creativity is a collective enterprise, even if we do most of our work alone. Acknowledging that makes it a lot easier to actually dare to create.

F is for Framework

So I took all my ideas, the ones that have been buzzing around in my head for a year (or is it two?) since I first had the audacious thought that I might have a novel in me after all, and started putting them down today.

Not that I haven’t written a lot of it down before, but this time I have a framework (ripped from that other book, remember?) to keep me focused when things start getting away from me.

There’s quite a lot there already.

I always thought that I would hate to be the kind of write who planned a whole book. I thought it would quash the creativity, take away the excitement, the adventure of finding out what happened, as I wrote.

This romantic ideal of the writing life has so far failed to get me through anything more than a 2000 word story (and if I’m honest, I know where I’m going with those before I start, too. I just don’t have to write it down because it’s small enough to hold in my head).

I also don’t know why I have this idea about fiction because my best work so far, my non-fiction is worked in the utter opposite manner. I start with my topic, do my research, pick out the main points I need to make, and cut out a few based on word-count, then I sit down with a sheet of paper and write something like this:

Intro – 100 words
Point 1 – 600 words
Point 2 – 600 words
Point 3 – 600 words
Conclusion – 100 words

Then I write down the three most important things about Point 1 and try to figure out if I can say them in 200 words each. Same for Points 2 and 3. In the end, one section might borrow a few (or a lot of) words from another, but having this outline makes it much more simple for me to sit down and gather all my knowledge on a subject and funnel it into an essay or article. THAT’s when I can relax and find out how this article wants to be written.

It’s super-structured and it makes me happy.

Why would I think that I was the kind of person who could just sit down and write an 80,000 word book with no map?

Probably because it was the way I wrote my long and often-praised stories at primary school.

But at primary school I was reading all the time, and instinctively copying the form (and language) of the books I loved. And I was still working on the scale of six-pages of a school jotter. And I was working without the handicap of an inner critic (or responsibilities, or interruptions).

Imagine if there was someone making time for my writing the way my parents and teachers made time for my compositions at school.

I guess that someone has to be me, now.

Well, now at least I have the start of a framework on which to hang my writing when I start to steal that time for myself.

And it makes me happy.

W is for Working Out

I read a mystery that I really enjoyed.

I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a novel myself. I think I could do it, even though I tend to think of myself as a short-form writer.

But lately I’ve been thinking that maybe that’s just because I haven’t looked at the pattern. I can knit things from my imagination but honestly, they tend to work out better if I’m following a pattern. I never feel apologetic for following a pattern in knitting, so maybe I should take that to heart with my writing. Instead of trying to wing it and hope I’ve absorbed the structure of novels through reading so many, maybe I should get humble and look at the pattern.

So I’ve spent some time today going through the first half of the book I just read, looking at the structure, the word count, the chapter lengths… It’s fun. But here’s a thing. I’m a lightweight when it comes to work these days.

I just haven’t sat down to do one thing for this long since A was about nine months old and started crawling over to and chewing the wires under my desk. I’ve analysed half of the chapters (12) and I’m wiped out. I’ve probably been working for about an hour, with a few interruptions (thank you, online videos).

At this rate I’m going to have to do some serious brain conditioning before my anticipated free-time three mornings a week starting in September.