16 November 2013

Duck Soup, or Writing your Way Through the Holidays

It's been one of those days...every single day since Dragon Con. 

First the car needed a new gas line. And two rear tires. And a patch in the left front tire where there was a nail sticking out. The mechanic fixed the problems. I paid, went for a drive, and hit a curb too soon on my way home, exploding the right front tire.

The irony was not lost on the mechanic. He nearly strangled himself trying not to laugh when the tow truck drove my poor abused vehicle back to the service station.

In addition, I caught a cold before Capclave, my local SF/fantasy/horror convention. Whoever heard of getting the crud before the con? I felt like I was channeling Typhoid Mary. I followed it up with a series of minor health issues. Nothing required a prescription, but I was spending way too much time in my local drug store. Then there was a little misunderstanding with my insurance company, the service people who didn't show up when they were supposed to... Can you say "nibbled to death by ducks"?

Meanwhile, I'm facing deadlines on two stories, and the holiday season begins in less than two weeks. Guess who's NOT participating in NANOWRIMO this year.

Listening to this litany, you probably guessed I'm not one of those people who thinks writing always trumps real life. Sometimes, life gives you ducks--mean, nasty, carnivorous ducks--and no quackers... Er, I mean, crackers.

But that doesn't mean I've given up on my deadlines. I value my rep--and the prospect of payment--too much for that. I'm just not worrying overmuch about word counts.

It goes back to an epiphany I had one day at the old office job. It was summer, hot (Duh!), and for some reason I decided to buy twenty pounds of something at a store roughly a mile from the office. Did I mention it was ninety degrees plus HOT? And humid. As I walked back from the store, my stride grew slower and slower and slower, until I couldn't take another step. I just stopped.

My office was still two blocks away. I stared down the street. I'd never get there at this rate.

But I'd never get to the office--and its air conditioning--at all if I didn't move.  There weren't any cabs in view, and people weren't exactly lining up to offer aid. It was all on me. So I took a step, then another, and slowly made it back to my office.

Writing is a lot like that walk back to the office. It's long. It's hard, and the going can be a lot slower than you planned. But you'll never arrive if you stop moving.

Which finally brings us to this month's theme: my strategy for writing through the holidays. It's simple; I'll just keep at it. The units of my progress don't matter. So what if all I can accomplish today is open the document file for my Steampunk Vs. Aliens story. Tomorrow I'll open the document and write a word, or two, or fifteen. I'll research my story about the 1814 Burning of Washington, DC, when I'm stuck on the Metro or waiting for the duct cleaners to arrive. As long as I keep moving toward my goals, I'll get there.

With a small detour to cook up a pot of duck soup. When it comes to those feathered pests, I'm not above nursing a grudge.

Jean Marie Ward
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