Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hiatus continued

I have deeply enjoyed my month of break from my novel. Indulging in self-loathing-free video game time has been a blessing. I’ve forgotten what my novel is even about while at the same time seeing, at a distance, some of its weaknesses and realizing some ways to make it better. Also, I’ve had the beginnings of an entirely new and different idea percolating in my head, which is pretty huge for me, considering.

We had our writers’ group meetup on Sunday. Branden had finished his draft and posted it all in enough time that everyone had read it for the meetup, so it was “the one” for both of us: the meetup that would prove most helpful because the beta readers have finally seen the whole picture and can review based on that. I really, really need to get better about writing down questions in advance for my group, because I always think some up and then forget what they were by the time group rolls around.

In lieu of my own questions that I thought up, I sent out a link to a list of “fifteen questions to ask your beta readers.” It’s better than nothing, but a lot of them were sorta iffy considering that my girls have been reading this draft since January and the beginning is probably a bit hazy at this point. Still, I sent it out and hopefully a couple of them will be able to get back to me with some answers. I also know that at least Rachel is planning on rereading it and giving comprehensive feedback, a service for which I really, really should be paying her, and am intellectually and spiritually indebted to her for insisting on providing it for free. (The same goes for anyone else who would do that for me. Thank you, in advance, so very very much.)

Which brings me to the fraught topic of feedback. I love feedback. Can’t get enough of it. In particular, I love critical feedback; meaning that I really like it when people can tell me what things they didn’t like or that didn’t work for them. That’s because, I know that my book isn’t perfect, that it’s very far from perfect. I’m trying to train myself out of the habit of poisoning the well before a meetup and saying “I’m aware I could be worldbuilding more” because that tells people that they don’t need to mention it—even if they were going to. I want to hear them tell me this, because if I tell them in advance, then I can’t know if it’s something they would have mentioned. And without people telling me what didn’t work for them, I don’t know where to start. Is that thing that really irks me something that my readers really enjoy? Or vice-versa? I have a very hard time working with “everything was great, I loved all of it!” at this stage, when I know it’s not finished.

Happily for me, I did get a fair amount of critical feedback. Not as much as I would have if everyone had read it all of-a-piece before the meetup like they did with Cassidy0, but definitely a starting place.

Thematically similar: I think that it is a reflex, when one finishes a creative work, to immediately believe that it is terrible. I don’t think it’s something you can control. You’ve been spending a massive amount of time and internal energy on a thing, and suddenly it’s gone—it’s almost like you’ve broken up with someone. Things rush in to fill that gap. There’s emotional backlash. It’s normal. It’s also very important to realize that it’s a physical reaction, not a truth. You will probably never believe that your work is as good as it could be; as good as it looked on the shelf of your brain. Your readers never saw it in its original packaging. They will never know how far short you fell. They will also never look as closely at it as you have. Don’t make their minds up for them in advance. Can you imagine how bleak the world would be if a story was only told when the writer was 100% satisfied with it? Beowulf wouldn’t exist.

You will probably be able to read your book with a glow of pride some years after you’ve pushed it out of the nest. You’ll like the nicks and dents. In the end, that’s part of what makes it what it is. But even if you hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns, you should still push it out of the nest. Someone will love it.

Next Monday, I will be dusting off Cassidy1: rereading, making notes, etc. I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to start making changes. I’ve never gotten to a real second draft before. I’m nervous. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

MuckFest revisited

I wanted to blog about this on Sunday (or even Saturday), while it was fresh in my mind, but I didn’t. And then I didn’t on Monday. Or Tuesday. I really wish I had, because things have gone a little fuzzy at this point. I’ll try to do it justice, though.

The forecast for the day was high of 54°, 80% chance of rain. The obstacle course involves getting extremely muddy, and often wet. I was sublimating my stress about the possibility of hypothermia as well as I could, and everyone who talked to me about it made sure to tell me that they “may be skipping all the mud this year,” to which I replied, “feel free; I know I will be.” However, when we actually got to the course, it was a lot warmer than I’d expected and rain seemed unlikely. Everyone was arriving in plenty of time and everyone was happy to be there—what could possibly be better?

I’ll tell you!

The last group of people trickled in, and I could see at a distance that they were wearing bright green t-shirts. To myself, I thought, “Aha!!!” I had hope burgeoning in my breast. Perhaps, someone had come up with a way for us to see each other at a distance. Squinting, I could see that there was some kind of printing on them, at which point, I thought, “uh oh…” because my snails art has historically been legen… wait for it… dary. I felt a stab of jealousy that someone had usurped my throne. However, when they came within viewing range I saw that the art was faithful in its rendition, but just different enough that it was a clear homage, not an original Conley. I squealed and greedily grabbed my shirt, but then, from the depths of a duffel, emerged the true headliner of the day: heavy-duty, unbelievably pro-looking eyestalks.

How could this be.

My friends, who are amazing, had all been working overtime to produce team t-shirts and eyestalks, because they knew I hadn’t mustered the will to make anything this year. I was (and am) incredibly touched, for reals. It’s an amazing feeling to know that if you drop the ball, someone is there to pick it up. So, Steph, Carlie, Shad, Chris, Dan, and anyone else who helped that I don’t know about, thank you so much, it really means the world to me, sincerely. *big wet sloppy kisses*

Though I could gush more, I think I’ll move on to try to describe the race.

This year has been very rainy, so they delivered on their promise of mud better than they have in other years past. There was a long “mud river” on an extended downhill stretch that I found to be delightful, and I kept making references to Artax and the Swamp of Sadness (in case you didn’t catch it, Racing Snails is from The Neverending Story, too). There was a later part in which the mud came up to the upper thigh (and the water, above the waist) that was more Swamp of Sadness-y, but why take the risk? Anytime you can reference Artax, do so, sez I. I thought that this year’s obstacles were more fun and challenging and less focused on getting wet than it has been in the past, so that was really nice, considering the temperature of the day.

Which is not to say that there weren’t “get wet” obstacles. Most of us skipped the one that was just “jump off a high place into a deep pool of freezing-ass water” with no regrets at all. That’s the only one I skipped, though, and kudos to me, because rope ladders freak me out for no good reason.

As we neared the finish line, the clouds started rolling in and the temperature started dropping. There was an obstacle that required riding a zip line to the end and then plunging into water for the last few feet—there was no way to avoid it. Sadly, we hit that obstacle just as the sun went behind the clouds, so those of us who participated spent the rest of the race several degrees colder than we’d been up to that point. After that, there were three more obstacles in quick succession, then the merciful finish line.

Sadly, the tribulations didn’t end there. The worst part of the course came after the race was over, this year, and it was brutal.

We were already wet and cold, and covered in mud from head to toe. Our only option for getting clean was this communal shower area that consisted of hoses with spray nozzles hooked up to the Devil’s ice machine. I tried stripping down to my sports bra to rinse off, but at that point I realized that I’d left my towel over in the base camp, and the wind had started blowing. When I got back to the base for my towel, I had given up on the idea of getting clean and was focusing on not freezing solid.

I managed to change clothes somewhat successfully in the changing tent. I somehow managed to lose my sports bra, but I think I’ll live. When I took my clothes off, you pretty much couldn’t tell; I was a uniform brown color. I hated putting clothes on over that. Plus, I was still cold. We stayed a bit longer for the free lunch and getting swag, but my teeth didn’t stop chattering until I was back in the car with the heater blasting.

When Branden and I got home, I rinsed our mucky clothes on the driveway with my garden hose. Then, we stripped directly into the washing machine. We showered, soaping and shampooing twice, until finally we felt un-mud-golemed, if somewhat exfoliated. We washed our clothes twice, too—and unfortunately, it looks like the stains are never coming out of the beautiful shirts. Sad, but it was so great to have them anyway.

I was surprised by how human I felt. In previous years, all I had wanted to do post-MuckFest is watch TV until I fell asleep (moments later), but this time, I felt… pretty fine. It wasn’t until about 6:30 that my eyes started to feel tired. We hit the sack pretty early and slept like rocks.

Sunday, I was sore. My right elbow felt overextended and both my forearms were complaining. I was comparing bruises and scrapes with my brothers at Sam’s #3 and plotting next year’s shirt and fundraising incentives in my head. Okay, MuckFest 2016, bring it on!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Muck Festival

The time has come once again for the annual recognition of my MS. I try not to do it more often than that, because why would I? It’s kind of a bummer. Of course, this year’s festival is happening a mere eight months after last year’s, so… there’s that. But you see, this skullduggery caused me to short-circuit on the fundraising front, and the shirt-design front, and the team-building front… basically on all fronts except for the actual signing-up-for-it front. Much to my surprise, my team, the Racing Snails, has still raised over one thousand dollars, no thanks to me. Great job, team!

If it weren’t for climate change, having the MuckFest in May would probably be a good idea. However, those of you in Colorado will know that this year has been… a bit schizophrenic, weather-wise. Eighty degree days in February, snow in May, eighty degrees again, and then this Saturday in Larkspur (when/where the event is held) will be fifty-four degrees and raining (eighty percent likelihood). So, hilariously cold. But we Snails shall prevail! We are mighty! We are… crazy! And we will probably be popsicles! So… pray for us!

For anyone reading this who doesn’t already know, the MuckFest is a mud obstacle course that raises money for the National MS Society, and I’ve participated three times so far. Every year, it’s fun and challenging and epic. Last year, we raised enough money to win the use of a GoPro camera (in addition to the GoPro camera my teammate already owns, so two GoPro cameras, ah ah ah). We made an excellent video chronicling the various obstacles, which is certainly boring to everyone but us. I hope that they don’t decide to schedule the next MuckFest to be in four months or two months or two days or yesterday, because I’d very much like to make shirts for next time, as well as actually fundraise.

Prepping for the race is always stressful. It’s that thing where no matter how prepared I am, I always am sure that I’m forgetting something. I am the one who organizes where we meet. I am the one who sends out the email reminding people of what they need to bring and when they need to get there. And I end up feeling responsible if not everyone has as much fun as I would like—but, because I’m crazy, I don’t get to take the credit if they do have as much fun as I would like. The last few days have been exhausting, completely unrelated to the MuckFest, and I’m nervous about tomorrow. I just hope that everything goes smoothly and no one freezes to death.

So, dear readers, please support my team by visiting my page and clicking “Donate Now”, near the top right corner. Any size donation is wildly appreciated! And feel free to come spectate and cheer us on! Our wave begins at 9:30am. Hope to see some of you there!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mondays are the absolute worst

You know why? I’m guessing you probably do, but let me tell you anyway.

For me, Mondays are the worst because I haven’t been online at all over the weekend. I have all my comics, deviantArt, and all of Tumblr to catch up on. So, even though I technically have time for all of that since I’m on hiatus, it takes fucking forever. I have to leave here in an hour and I haven’t even had lunch yet. (It’s 4:22.)

Balls on that.

So, May On Hiatus is going well so far. I’m coveting my free time and rolling it up into balls and then baking those balls into cookies and loving it. I’m not having literary thoughts, for which I apologize. I’m drinking lots of Starbucks. I just wish I had anything entertaining to blog about. I suppose I could talk about my kittens, but if I were going to do that I should have started back in April when I got them. Now I’m all talked out.

My teacher, Mr. Byrne, died recently. I’m so thankful that I got to say goodbye to him, and I am pretty confident that by the time he went, he knew what a huge impact he’d had on the eager young minds he had educated over his life. Buonviaggio, caro mio.

Snow and rain are finally making room for nice weather, but that may not save my tomato plants. Stay tuned on that.

I’ve been trying to “be good” about getting to the gym during my hiatus month. So far I went three times last week and twice this week, but my goal is four times per week… but it’s very hard to motivate to do that, since all I really want to do is play video games with the TV on in the background and eat Doritos. (Resisting the Doritos. So far, anyway.)

My brothers had a nice mothers’ day with my mom and “forgot” to tell me about it, so now I’m the bad kid. Thanks, guys!

Uhhhh. Got nothing. Come back Wednesday for more drivel!

Monday, May 4, 2015

And on the sixth month, I rested

Yes, yes, yes, I did it. I finished my second draft, also known as Cassidy1, on April 30 at 9:00pm, having written 5,767 words that day in order to finish. I’m not 100% happy with the end, but so what‽ that’ll be a Third Draft Problem. And now, I put it in a drawer for a month, to be reread and revisited on June 1.

In the meantime, what will I do?

Branden and I made a date yesterday to write with some of the Writers’ Group girls. I forgot, when I made the date, that by the time it happened, I wouldn’t have anything I was working on anymore. I still planned to write something, if only just to develop a few of the ideas I’ve had for other NaNo projects, or maybe 1-page short stories, but instead I caught up on Tumblr. And really, that was fine. I think I want to take this month to give my creative plumbing a small break. It has been a solidly long time since I was able to play Don’t Starve—especially without guilt.

Now I’m looking down the barrel of my actual-second-draft, let’s call it Cassidy2, and I’m quite nervous. I’ve never done an edit like this before. On the one hand, it’s much smaller scale than Cassidy1, but on the other hand… I know how to rewrite. I’ve never tried to restructure what I’ve already got. I expect it’ll take a much shorter time, because it won’t have the agonizing hair-pulling angst of creating something from nothing, but on the other hand, I am in the habit of looking at my work as “right the first time.” It’s not that I’m necessarily convinced that it couldn’t possibly be better, it’s just that once I’ve written/drawn/designed a thing, it’s very hard for me to imagine it being any other way than exactly how I made it. So, I have a tendency to resist even very helpful suggestions, and coming up with them myself is practically impossible.

But learning how to do this is part of being a responsible artist. I feel that anyone participating in art will get better unless they are actively resisting it—and even if they are, it will probably happen anyway. But something like editing is a thing you can fail to ever learn to do, because it is a defined activity that is separate from creating. It is by no means a requisite to writing. But it is a requisite to writing things you want other people to read and enjoy. Recognizing your own imperfections and being willing to revisit and refine your work… well, I don’t really have to tell you why it’s a good thing. You already know. Even if you’re like me and you always do everything right the first time.

Final word count: 56,603 (�)