Saturday, November 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo Final Count: 23,800

So... It's official.

I'm bailing out of NaNoWriMo.

I felt good when I started out at the beginning of the month. I was getting my daily word counts (mostly), and even when I fell behind, I was confident that I would catch up shortly.

Then I got sick.

That was my first sign.

I spent four days down-for-the-count with what I would like to call the plague, except the plague would have been merciful and killed me. After that, I should have realized that I was too far behind to make up my lost time and lost wordage. Instead, I forged onward as best I could.
After getting sick, I managed to pull this little chunk of text together:

"Writing when you’re sick is like trying to run a cross country race barefoot. It’s possible... but it sucks, and you’re going to make a lot of stupid little mistakes that you could have avoided if you just kept yourself in order from the get-go. So, when I stumbled into the office one day with sinuses full of tepid molasses and a throatache that led me to believe I had spent my sleeping hours unconsciously mouth-pleasuring a well-hung porcupine, it could only be a sign of a grand day to come. The first phone call of the day was relatively uneventful. A co-worker, thankfully, because I picked up the phone and promptly coughed in her ear. After clearing my throat, I went on to greet her with my best 1920’s -flapper -with -permanent -smoking -damage voice. It went a little something like this: cough hack splutter “Umm... Hello? I mean... Good morning. This is Sunny.” “Oh wow... you sound like crap.” cough “Thanks. I feel like crap.” Wow... Well, I was just calling to say... Umm... I’m not feeling so great.” “Okay.” sniff “So I think I’m gonna stay home today.” “Sounds good. I’ll mark you out. Thanks for calling in.” “You should go home, too. I mean, you’re sick, aren’t you?” throat-clearing “Yeah... I don’t feel so hot. But I can’t just leave. I have to do my job.” “Oh, okay. Well, I guess... take care of yourself.” cough “You too. Feel better.” ... The day didn’t get much better from there. I managed to answer the phone every time it rang. I managed to page the office, and not to terrify the locals when I needed to use the intercom system. Throughout the day, I even started to feel a little better. That was my fatal error. That evening, after I went home, I remember being sad that Boyfriend wasn’t there. I vaguely remember sitting on the couch and watching an episode of MacGyver as the room faded from twilight to darkness. As night fell, I remember looking at the clock and realizing I had an appointment to keep. I think I kept it. After that... It’s a haze. I must have called out sick from work on Thursday and Friday, because there are phone calls on my phone after the time that Boyfriend leaves for work in the morning. Either that, or he stayed home and took care of me. I don’t even remember feeling the typical “Am I really sick enough to warrant using a sick day?” guilt that overcomes me shortly after taking a workday to stay at home in bed. Even if I did... I couldn’t tell you. I must have eaten over the course of those two days, because I was never hungry enough to seek food outside of my nest that I created in bed. I must have found nourishment, or had some brought to me. But I couldn’t tell you. I must have done a number of things over those two days which I simply cannot tell you about. I just don’t remember. After falling into an illness which I was sure would claim my life, I don’t remember anything until Saturday morning. It had been two and a half days since I had fallen into my snot-addled haze, and finally I was starting to feel human again. Boyfriend tells me that he knew my fever was peaking and getting ready to break on Friday afternoon, just after dinner. He made me a special meal of rice with gravy so I could glean some healthy nourishment (after two days of not eating? or maybe after two days of living on Cheezy Poofs and orange juice?) and to get something fatty into my system to give my stomach something to chew on. Although I had felt well enough to dine on the couch in front of the television that evening, I tired out quickly after we had finished eating. After a weak attempt at staying awake (and then arguing that I was far too rested to feel... yawn... sleepy...), it was mutually decided that I would go back to bed. And by mutually... I mean he pointed in the general vicinity of the bedroom, and I tootled off willingly. If my nose would have stood for it, I probably would have whistled on the way. It was two hours later that Boyfriend tells me I stumbled back out of the bedroom and was remarkably distraught. He tells me I made it halfway down the stairs before I simply couldn’t wait any longer, and had to know if brownies would taste okay if I baked them in miniature muffin tins. When that conversation proved fruitless, I moved on to bombard him with my worries about the plight of the grocery store lobster. I would love to tell you the witty, exciting details... But they simply aren’t forthcoming. I blame the fever... and the special spice in the gravy."

This, I'm afraid to say, is the highlight of my novel.
So, after spending the last two days blissfully enjoying time with my family (and not writing - not even a little), I am not entirely unhappy to say that I will be stepping away from my novel for at least the time being. Perhaps, if I have time in upcoming weeks, I'll finish it before the end of the year. I'll find out as time passes and I realize whether or not I've got the resources available to do the homemade holiday I'd like to. If I don't finish it before the end of 2011, I'll finish it in 2012 and be damned proud of myself for all I've done. It's how I roll.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spirit of the Season

Writing while you're part of a national organization can be a little terrifying.

Every day, I worry about the words that I put onto paper.

While the fodder provided within the walls of my little slice of Awfice Heaven is almost as delicious as a cranberry-raisin pie, it's also equally dangerous. While a little indulgence is good... too much can get you into trouble.

(And I don't mean the kind of trouble that comes from over-indulgence in a natural laxative... Although that has ramifications of its own.)

No, I mean the kind of trouble where a writer must be constantly vigilant for cues that she is giving away too many specifics, and is placing herself into danger if her employer ever finds out and confronts her about "That angry admin blog."

For instance, it would be a hoot and a half for me to write about the responses they released regarding the recent employee satisfaction poll. But that would be a release of too many specifics.

It would also be fantastically funny for me to write about being trapped in a basement with a herd of misfiring toilets because of a crummy landlord who doesn't take care of his building, but that is also rife with specifics and could also create a situation of negative ramifications if said landlord ever caught wind of it and then lashed out at me for creating an "online spectacle."

I would love to write about some of the more specific Noms that come across my plate at work, but (you guessed it), they're too specific for public consumption.

Basically, it's pretty hard to write when your hands are tied regarding the material you would most love to put out there for your beloved ReaderFriends.

But then, every once in a while, something wonderful will come along that I don't have to resist sharing because it's so delightfully delicious AND so fabulously vague.

As you know, there's a grand holiday approaching. One where we get to gorge ourselves on pies and delectables all morning, and then on turkey and savorables all afternoon, and then spend the evening in a food-induced coma with our pants unbuttoned and a gluttonous smile upon our greasy lips.

Or, you know, something like that.

Anyway, in preparation for this holiday, I usually get my bake on.

This year I took a break from the typical pie-a-palooza in which I usually indulge and opted instead for something new and different: Gingerbread men.

In the shape of Ninjas.

Yes, boys and girls, you heard right: Ginja-Ninjas.

This is tremendously exciting not only because they are cookies, but also because they are stealthy and because they will kick you in the uvula on their way to assault your stomach with their deliciosity.

I've been looking forward to baking these cookies for almost five weeks, ever since I ordered the cookie cutters. And I've been talking about them with the select few at work I knew were capable of keeping my incredible secret.

One of these individuals is arguably the funniest person in the office.* I told her about my Ginja-Ninjas, and her face lit up.

"My son LOVES ninjas. Do you think you could bring in some for him?"

I, of course, was delighted at the idea. Her son has his own difficulties throughout his life. So the idea of making something that would bring joy to a child AND a smile to a coworker was optimally awesome to me.

And now, it is Sunday evening. The cookies are baked, including one very special one with the child's initial in the middle of it. And I know that my weekend was spent doing something worthwhile.

I hope that your week is short, demands placed upon you are few and that you're able to escape your own office and spend time with your family free from technology and other constraints upon you. I hope that you will give thanks to someone for your gainful employment (if you have it), or for the extra time to devote to what you enjoy (if you don't). I hope you will enjoy good food and the start of a wonderful season.

To Your Health,

* I should give an example. For Instance: When told that someone in our company was packing for a five month trip, she sat silently for a moment before saying "That's a lot of underpants."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NaNoWriMo - 5000 Words

Well, ReaderFriends, I've broken the 5000 word mark. Unfortunately, I've broken it about four days too late... Meaning that I'm approximately 8000 words behind, and only 1/10 of the way to the finish line. But NEVER FEAR! I have the power of the words on my side. Somehow I'll reach my 50,000 word goal.

My daily life became an ongoing search for inspiration. I was desperate for my next successful blog post, and was willing to do almost anything to find fodder for my writing.

One day, on a whim, I decided that I would go for a run to “unlock my creativity.” I wasn’t entirely convinced that exertion of the physical sort was the key to my first Nobel prize, but the Blogger Buddy site was adamant. “Physical activity activates basal centers of the cognitive process,” the website touted. “Many writers find the act of performing simple movements - like washing dishes or going out for a run - will sensitizing synapses through an abrupt shift in focus in order to elevate reception of creative constructs through sub-conscious stimulation of neural receptors.” Blah -blah -go -for -a -run -and -stop -thinking -to -start -thinking -blah.

What Blogger Buddy forgot to tell me was that, unless your body is accustomed to physical exertion on the running level, it’s not exactly a mundane, simple movement.

It’s hell at five miles an hour.

My desperate desire to produce quality verbage had rendered my little frazzled brain incapable of long-term memory retrieval: specifically, the ability to remember high school gym class.

If my neural synapses had been functioning at their highest potential, I might have remembered my last attempt at becoming one of the gym-bunnies that could pound out a six minute mile and move right on to volleyball while the gym teacher regarded them with proud adoration. They could run effortlessly in laps around the gymnasium, quickly passing me - and then lapping me - while chatting in their obnoxious little pep-groups and giggling with that infuriating little high-school-cutesy giggle at their football star boyfriends.

I had the same amazing gym clothes. I had my hair pulled back into the same power-pony. And there - right there - was where the similarities ended.

The first step of that run was driven by pure jealous energy. I was insanely jealous that those skinny little bitches - in all their pep and cuteness - could so effortlessly impress their musclebound boyfriends and glean positive feedback from our drill sargeant gym instructor. That jealousy drove me into a panic that convinced me: if they could do it... so could I.

Less than half a mile in, it became blatantly obvious that sheer jealousy couldn’t propel me to their height. They had more than yoga pants and shiny hair on their side. Perhaps, if I hadn’t been operating in such a blind fury, I would have connected the peppy, cutesy girls to the cheerleading squad I hadn’t made at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, the best thought I could formulate was a gutteral grunt of defeat as my body collapsed, drained completely of energy and will to push forward.

More unfortunately, I had also forgotten the humiliation of being escorted to the nurse’s office by one of the cutesy vomit-inducers and her even more vomit-inducing muscleboy, who dropped me in the waiting room and then stood in the hallway making out, just to mock my pain.

These are all flashes of memory that should have sparked inside my mind before I set off in search of literary inspiration.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo - 3100 Words

I've not forgotten about you, ReaderFriends! I still love you dearly, and am working on something clever and amazing for you...

I've just undertaken the NaNoWriMo challenge (find out more here) and am frantically spurring my creativity along a long and winding trail to the 50,000 word mark. So far, I am just past the 3100 word mark, which means I am 1/17 of the way to my goal. Unfortunately, it took me three days to get here... Not ideal, but you know what they say about a slow start.
My story will be a conglomeration of new material and old blog posts (and some new posts that I don't know about because I haven't written them yet). For now, here's a prologue to keep you smiling:

Sometimes I wonder what it might be like if my office were laid out for what I actually do, instead of what I’m supposed to do. For instance, I would have a comfortable couch. Or maybe even a chaise. Something lounge-able, in any case, where my patients would stretch out and really tell me what was preying on their minds. I would have a soft, calming color on the walls… maybe a nice lavender?... that would set them at ease. I would have a friendly and inviting wood desk with soft curves and geometric features. And my nameplate would proudly declare “Sunny Smith, Psy.D.” That would be epic.

Instead, I sit in a 1980’s flavored mauve playpen sprinkled sparsely with photos of people who actually make me happy. The walls around me are a sterile, boring tan except where the scuff marks lend their own traces of character. And the closest items I have to a couch are these generic, craptastic folding chairs with vinyl seats and flexible backs that make the sitter feel as though they’re going to fall backwards into oblivion. Which aren’t even in my office. So they don’t really count.

Oh yeah... and my coworkers terrify me.

This isn’t some generic sort of fear. Not like some it’s Halloween and some parent with a sadistic sense of humor got really creative and has turned their four year old into the scariest looking Chucky doll that I’ve ever seen in my life and now I’m going to have nightmares for weeks thing. No, nothing like that. This is a more basic fear... The fear that I may become one of them.

Let me explain.

Beyond my playpen is a wall of picture windows. Underneath those windows lies a long, mauve windowsill. (Goodness knows we must be color coordinated.) Under the windowsill is a heater, and behind the windows is the outdoors. This makes the windowsill a perfect perch for one of the most common species of wildlife that traipses through my life:

The EngineerFriend.

From their post, the greatest of the EngineerFriend’s facial orifices will begin to splutter. First a garble will come out, and then a slow trickle, and finally... A full blown avalanche of angry Engineer-isms leaks forth and assaults my senses.

Perhaps they’re whining about their current project:

“First, I had to do this survey and the data points were scattered all to hell, so I had to upload them into that other program just to make heads or tails of it...”

Or sometimes, they complain about their coworkers:

“And then she said ‘Well, his project is more important, so you’ll just have to wait!’ Can you believe that? She told me I had to wait!”

Or even their home lives:

“The car wouldn’t start this morning. Straight up - it just wouldn’t go.”

“The kids were monsters today. My daughter ran around screaming something about her hair, and my son tore past me on his way to the bus with my underwear on his head. Not his - mine.”

“My wife is driving me nuts. I slept in my office again last night because the crazy woman just Will. Not. Shut. Up.”

At first, I listened with interest to each story that they presented. These are my coworkers, I would tell myself. I’m new to the office, and I’ve established myself as trustworthy. I knew that their talkative natures were just a side effect of my pleasant demeanor, and should be taken as compliments. I was certain that, after the newness faded away, I would be bombarded with more pleasant stories about Life in The Real World.

But months went by, and the stories didn’t change. I didn’t hear the positivity I was so certain would be forthcoming. Instead, the stories got just slightly darker:

“The project is crap. I’ve got to tell the client we can’t follow through.”

“I’m so sick of her belittling my work. I filed a formal complaint the other day, and if they don’t ask her to leave, I’m going to quit.”

“I’ve had it with that woman. I’m getting a divorce.”

Darker and darker and darker. I found myself sinking into a pit of unhappiness, surrounded by the negativity of the people around me.

And worse than that, I began to feel detached from them as well.

The passion I had felt at hearing the stories from my coworkers was gone, replaced instead by a swelling emptiness that sent me walking on the brink of depression. I still listened, but only while staring into space. Their words would swirl around me, but I would not allow myself to really listen. I had problems of my own, and couldn’t be bothered to focus on them.

I had decided not to care.