So it went well yesterday. I read all the pages of the new middle grade and it’s not only pretty good, it’s also not far from being a complete first draft. I dug into the syllabus and powerpoint for my Austin Community College Writing Children’s Literature class and made notes about next steps. Oddly, the class feels like it needs more big picture thinking and heavy lifting than the manuscript but working on both feels symbiotic.
Now it’s Monday. The beginning of the work week. Get busy. Get going. Go.
Instead, I’m thinking about hiking. Driving to the trail head. Slipping the route map to the peak in my pocket. Heading out, step by step. In a way, there is no magic in hiking. It’s one step after the other. To the top. If it’s a good route, there are panoramas along the way, shady places to breathe (or pant), maybe even some cool water. These are the places to stop and revel in the journey and the progress. And then it’s back to the step by step going. Until the end.
Yeah, I’m thinking about hiking.
I’m driving to the trailhead. I know the route.
*This title is a nod to Arthur Levine’s fine picture book about a child waiting patiently for the weekend when he will be with his parents uninterrupted by the work day.
So I woke up this morning and thought about the things on my to do list, felt the audible “oh fuck” in my stomach and rolled back over. As I drifted off in the predawn light, I thought, “Be gentle with yourself.”
Well, that is some handy kind of permission to duck the work. Be gentle with yourself. It’s a new age dictum. (Or Nu-Age, if you use the commercial, store front spelling, which is funny because if you take out the hyphen in that misspelling, the word is nuage or cloud in french. New age, Nu-Age, Nuage…like the whole notion of New Age is a cloud puff of an idea. Or some cloudy thinking. You choose.)
But I digress.
Here’s what’s on the list:
Continue drafting the MG
Prep ACC class
And then some errand-y stuff, which I could happily put first. Errands are so good for feeling productive while not getting the main stuff done.
No, it’s those first two things causing me the ‘oh fuck’ nausea dread and ‘be gentle’ would not get the work done. Be gentle would lead to more oh fuck nausea. I know this cycle.
So what’s reasonable?
What would give me an ounce of joy?
What could I find a little enthusiasm and curiosity about?
Here it is:
1. Read through the middle grade; reconnect with it (December gets a little busy); find the next step.
2.Read through the ACC power point. Make a list of things you want to change, do, spiff up.
Way to break it down.
Way to lessen the dread
Way to turn the work into bite size pieces that I won’t choke on.
Way to make me a little bit curious.
A little bit hungry.
How nu-age of me.
Some days are less joyful.
Bad night’s sleep.
Fifth rainy day in a row.
Every day is not a green screen of Mary Poppins animation where flowers come to life.
Some days are one minute after the next.
And you get through them
One minute after the next.
And somehow, something like joy returns.
Maybe it’s curiosity
Or that simple wondering
what’s going to happen next
So you’re distracted away from the drudgery
the plodding forward
for a minute
You make friends with these less joyful days
They become familiar
You begin to trust their comings
As you do
This is stupid.
Does the world really need another word
That’s all it is: a thought. one crappy little thought cluster ready to derail the whole operation.
Hello there, crappy little thought.
You are part of the writing deal.
I can’t imagine you not showing up at least once
during any creative endeavor.
I could say, Fuck off.
But what would be the point?
I can’t imagine you not showing up.
So…Hello there, crappy little thought.
Nice to see you are alive and kicking.
I’m going to keep going
Even though you are giving me that practically famous squinty-eyed look:
You better stop
No one cares
Yeah, I’m gonna keep going and see what happens.
Those little tangerines you’re supposed to put in your kids lunches
Who named them?
Some farmer fooling around in the barn.
“Hmm, what would happen if I stuck this branch on this tree?”
When it took, the goat Clementine wandered in and she—farmers can be she’s you know—said, “Hey Clementine, look, I think this is gonna work.” When it did, she named the little orbs after that goat who was the only creature who didn’t abandon her in all of her crazy years of grafting and late night wizardry. Everyone else did. Until she became a gazillionaire and then they all came running. Yeah, that old story. She didn’t know what to do with all that attention. It was discomforting. She told all the people (family, let’s face it, people claim bloodlines when there is money involved) how she was feeling. That made them uncomfortable. SO uncomfortable they called her names and gossiped about how she was crazy and selfish and money deranged. Yup that’s the next plot line isn’t it? Putting away the crazy rich aunt. But it didn’t happen. Why? Because the judge, the one who could have signed the order, he (yes, it was guy judge.) loved goats. He knew that Clementine came from a family of goats on his farm and that family was solid. No goat from that family would ever put their trust in a crazy human.
(Ten minutes. The prompt was ‘orange.’)