Ways and Means


Since most of us writerly types, yours truly included, do not have the luxury of being full-time writers and have to squeeze writing in between a day job, housework, cooking, shopping, etc., etc. (you know what I’m talking about), finding the time to get a few words down can be, shall we say, tricky.

I’ve tried stealing a few minutes at work (which admittedly is a large part of how I won NaNoWriMo last year) but for some reason I can’t seem to get myself to concentrate on any of the various stories I’m working on while seated at my office desk. I’m paranoid that someone is going to pop into my cube and catch me doing it (this did actually happen once at a different job), and I’ve read about people being fired for doing that. So mostly when I’m not working and have a few spare moments at work, I compulsively-obsessively-frantically surf the Web just to keep the screen changing on my desk. I think it’s part of my ADD. Or maybe I’ve made myself ADD by this behavior. Who knows.

I try to come up with creative ways of getting the words out at least, because we all know they tend to pop into our heads the moment we have no mechanism for recording them: driving in the car, standing in line at the grocery store, anyplace our minds are free to wander. Awhile back, I did pick up an electronic voice recorder to have handy in the car while stuck in traffic since I spend nearly two hours a day in that mode. But that’s dicey, you have to be able to operate the device blindfolded to use one while driving and not keep looking down at it. And then there’s the whole thing of being able to stand the sound of your own voice, and feel comfortable dictating. This is a skill that you have to develop, make no mistake. It’s one thing to listen to the clacking of keys on the keyboard (they’re purposely designed to make a certain sound, did you know?), it’s another entirely to dictate dialog or narrative. You know how the words often come in fits and starts, the recording ends up being something like this:

“he walked into the room… ”

“it was dark… and um…. no wait, he saw a light in …no no no…”

“she came at him, holding the a.. a what? an axe? no, just a candle…erm…”

“dogs were barking…why are there dogs? where did they come from?”

Then I start to channel James Dean: “This is tearing me APAAAARTT!”

Sigh.

At least people think I’m using a cell phone with a hands-free device if they see me talking to myself.

At home, I rotate around with the laptop from bedroom, to living room to dining room…trying to find someplace I can sit that doesn’t annoy me. And then I’m wracked by guilt that I’m not out cleaning up the yard, or mopping the floors, or doing something else responsible. All I need is to win the lottery so I can have a full staff of housekeeper, cook, gardeners, personal shopper, maintenance crew and I’ll be all set.

Somehow I have to relearn how to Plant Butt in Chair and just get to work.

Advertisements

42 thoughts on “Ways and Means

  1. I completely know what you mean. We need that mind to page translator software that has yet to be invented 🙂 I thought about using a taperecorder once, but I do have the “hate my voice” thing. Plus, there would probably be too much background noise from the kids, traffic, life… I have heard it works for some though.

    Like

  2. I used to work for a law firm where we had to dictate our documents onto a little memory chip and give them to the secretaries to transcribe them. I never got the hang of doing it without outlining my stuff first with a pen and paper, and reading it into the little recorder.

    You’ll plant yer butt in that chair again, Didge, but maybe your subconscius wants you to go out wandering and see what’s out there to write about. Why don’t you read your cards and see if destiny is noodging you in that direction?

    Like

  3. I’ve done a lot of tape transcription in the past, but am not used to being on the other end of the process.

    I’ve actually been having some fairly thought-provoking readings lately. I don’t always get around to writing them down, which I should, but there has been sort of a recurring theme the last few days. I think the universe is trying to give me a good swift kick in the patootie, but I am stubborn, and resisting.

    Like

  4. greetings all! i’m starting to fill the pull of NaNo and like my neighborly squirrels i find myself writing down nuggets of ideas in random places. maybe it’s a “nesting” instinct, but it sure ain’t organized. i’m no different: i imagine how focused i’d be if i didn’t have to do any of those mundane activities like working or cleaning, but then i think that’s just a comfortable excuse. i also see omens around me that make me realize i’m just wasting daylight — get and keep that butt in chair!! 🙂

    so glad to hear i’ve got good company, but you’all are so inspiring.

    Like

  5. HIya Rosie 🙂

    Yanno, those squirrels don’t usually remember where they stash those nuts… 😉 I think you’re probably a little more organized than that!

    Honestly, I am still on the fence about NaNo this year. I keep asking myself if I really need to start another project, when I still have so much work to do on the ones I’ve already begun. Is that the best use of my time? I don’t think it is. While I love the whole frantic party atmosphere, and the satisfaction of watching the word count tally up day by day, if I’m going to put that much effort into something I think I should probably put it towards something I’ve already started. I’m starting to feel like I’m never going to finish anything.

    Like

    1. you don’t have to do NaNo every year – why don’t you make a promise to yourself that you’ll spend the same amount of time editing the WIP that you’ve spent on your NaNo project in previous years? That gives you almost a month to rest up and go wandering abroud, physically and mentally, in order to clear out some space in your head.

      Like

      1. It’ll be sort of our project – we could designate November 2010 as DDWriMO at the Filling Spaces All-Night Cafe, but when we say “write” it also applies to rewriting/editing/revision. Your goal, instead of # of words, could be # of pages revised, or just # of hours spent doing so.

        Like

      2. That’s what it’s become, spending time on revisions, trying to get through a set number of pages. I’m also still working on some short stories, so that’s still a word count thing before I start revising them.

        Like

  6. I think that’s the best course of action this year. I was reading a comment on the Portland regional forum the other day by someone who has done NaNo for something like eight years, and never intends to publish any of them. I thought that was a little quirky. Even (dare I say it?) squirrely. 😉

    Like

  7. “he walked into the room… “

    “it was dark… and um…. no wait, he saw a light in …no no no…”

    “she came at him, holding the a.. a what? an axe? no, just a candle…erm…”

    “dogs were barking…why are there dogs? where did they come from?”

    Hee hee! That totally cracked me up and is the reason why I could never use a recording device.

    Like

    1. Don’t forget
      “HEY, get offa there [oh sh!t] !!”
      when pets start hopping up on the furniture looking to be fed, mid-dictation.

      Like

    2. Ha! You have no idea how often that happens. The cats seem to have a thing for walking across the keyboard. I drop-kick Buster into the next zip code when he tries it (just kidding, but I’d like to…), I’ve shut the lid of the laptop on his head (and the stupid cat still didn’t move), luckily Gracie is a little more polite about demanding attention.

      Like

      1. yeah, Kitty is never so interested in being a lap cat, as when my lap’s already occupied w/the computer. Back in the ’90’s I used to have this little tabletop word processor (better than a typewriter, more primitive than a computer. They were handy little devices and I’m kinda sad that they don’t make parts for them anymore.) One day I got up to throw laundry in the dryer, and when I came back she was in my seat, literally pawing at the keyboard, managing to produce a line of 4’s and l’s

        Like

  8. “Somehow I have to relearn how to Plant Butt in Chair and just get to work. ”

    That’s really it, DD.

    I realize I’m very fortunate (and am extremely grateful) to have lots of time to do what I love (write) each day. But none of that available time mattered until I developed the discipline to USE it.
    Use whatever time you have. Even if it’s only half an hour in the evening or whatever. But use it. That’s the key. 🙂

    Like

  9. Do you, or does anyone you know, have a crappy old laptop that you could Franzenize (remember how J. Franzen basically glued the ISB port shut so he couldn’t log onto the Web) and use exclusively for writing?

    Like

    1. I have one that would work if I replaced the motherboard – I opted to buy a new one b/c the m-board cost $300, and I preferred to put that toward a whole new laptop, but if you know anybody who can get parts for an HP more cheaply than that, let me know and you can have mine for the cost of shipping.

      Like

    1. DD,

      Have you tried using a timer? For example, if you wanted to write for 30 minutes, you could set the timer for that. Or, if that would be too long for you to go without becoming distracted, you could do 3 ten minute sessions or whatever works for you.

      Like

      1. You know, I haven’t. I keep meaning to try that, kind of like a word war with myself 😉 I’ll have to write myself a note to grab the timer out of the kitchen when I get home.

        Like

      2. or probably your cell phone has one. I use mine in school all the time, when I don’t want a quiz or an exercise to go on for too long.

        Like

  10. “I’m wracked by guilt that I’m not out cleaning up the yard, or mopping the floors, or doing something else responsible”

    If this is what it takes, I’m declaring myself Pope and absolving you, sister (c’mon, now, in your theology my act is no less believable than that of the other Pope, that guy from Rome w/ the red shoes.)

    Seriously, did anybody ever win a Pulitzer for floor mopping? Will future civilizations judge us by the tidiness of our lawns, or the beauty of our language? Does anybody know, or care, whether Jane Austen or George Bernard Shaw had tidy linen closets? Did a really clean house ever move anyone to tears, or inspire a revolution, or educate a generation?
    Priorities, my dear!!!!

    Like

  11. Yes, you’re right. But I don’t much fancy living in a pig-sty, either 😉 And trust me, this place looks like the wreck of the Hesperis most days anyway, despite my best efforts. But I do have my limits.

    Reminds me of that old poem, “Song for a Fifth Child”:
    Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow,
    For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow
    So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep
    I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.

    Just substitute the word “story” for “baby” and “writing” for “rocking” and there we have it 😉

    Like

    1. I told Fang – he’s releasing white smoke outta the fireplace as we speak. Did you ever hear the comedian Dennis Leary’s bit on the religion he invented? His entire premise was “if you didn’t murder anybody or mistreat a child you’re FORGIVEN!! End of story!” I think I’d be the Pope of a church like that…

      Like

  12. Do you still have a black cat around the house? I think even if I didn’t (Kitty’s a tuxedo, more black than anything else) I’d have to borrow one for the month of October.

    Like

  13. I have Gracie (solid black) and Buster who is Siamese by color, but he’s a bruiser, not the slim elegant type. I think he’s what’s known as an “Apple Head Siamese”. He’s a big boy.

    Like

    1. Ah, so Gracie’s gearing up for her holiday, same as my cat.
      My in-laws had an applehead Siamese for many years, and he, too, was a great big boy, although he was scared of his own shadow, poor thing. I know you don’t buy purebred cats anymore than I do – did Buster’s Siamese butt just show up at your house one day, or was he a rescue?

      Like

  14. Evil Son #1 took him in years ago, during his first attempt at moving out and living on his own. When he boomeranged back home of course he brought him with him. Then when he moved out again, Buster was left with me. :::snarl::: I don’t think Buster’s any kind of purebred, though, his fur is darker brown than most Siamese.

    Like

    1. He looks a LOT like my m-in-l’s cat, the late beloved Koko. I’m not sure what K’s provenance was, as she adopted him after his original owner was the victim of an unsolved murder. I have always thought that the poor cat witnessed the crime, and that’s why he was so easily spooked – it was funny, in a sad way, that he was twice the size of Kitty, and had half the chutzpah and half the voice (a pathetic little squeak of a “mew,” whereas my cat, even in her advanced age, has lungs like a feline Ethel Merman. She doesn’t talk a lot, but when she does, boy does it carry!)

      Like

Comments are closed.