Sunday, July 27, 2014

Summer Break At Last! Let's Start With a Nap.

I finished summer school on Friday afternoon, not one minute too soon. I hadn't realized how tired out I was until I tried to run a nine-miler yesterday morning. To say the least, it didn't go well. I got about 2.5 miles in and just knew something was wrong. I was nauseated, dizzy, and more fatigued than I was at the end of last week's 8-mile run. My legs felt leaden. And to top it off, I was 2.5 miles from my parents' house, where I'd dropped my dog and started my run. So I turned around and trudged back. I don't normally nap much because it messes up my sleep pattern, but after I sat for a while, catching my breath and cooling down, I felt like I'd been drugged, so I went and lay down. Almost two hours later, I awake from one of the deepest, longest naps I've ever had. It was one of those naps you used to have as a kid where you wake up and aren't sure where you are or even whether it's the next day or not. The kind where you sit up and you're bleary eyed for five minutes. The kind I probably haven't had since I was in my early thirties and I'm fifty. 

As I said, the reason I don't nap is that I usually can't sleep that night. Well, that wasn't the case last night. I went to the grocery store (because I had to), then home and tried to do some stuff around my house, but still, even after an extreme nap, felt like I was walking through waist-deep mud. I couldn't even gather the energy to read for very long because I kept nodding off, so I gave up and decided to crash in front of the TV for the evening. I barely moved other than to do what I had to--feed my dog Baili and take her out, go to the bathroom, get something to eat or drink--until bedtime. I figured I wouldn't be able to sleep well, but I went to bed a little after ten anyway because I was just still so tired.

Flash forward to a little after eight this morning. Almost a two hour nap, almost nine hours of sleep overnight, and yet I still feel tired and even a little achy. Tired enough that I decided not to go to church, something I just don't like to miss. In all seriousness, if I don't feel better by tomorrow, I may need to see a doctor. But what I hope is true is that, between getting up early every morning since spring break ended in March and exercising (running and lifting weights) more than I have in a long, long time in the hopes of being ready to run in the half marathon in August, I've just been burning the candle at both ends. Add to that my church softball team, which seems to chronically have just barely enough people to play and the fact that it's rained more than any summer in a long time, causing my yard to continue to grow well into the summer when it's usually brown and dry by now, and I have just overextended myself.

So I'm turning off my alarm for a few days. I'm going to bed at night and sleeping until I wake up. And if I want to nap, I'm going to. I'll go for walks, but I'm also taking a week off from the running and lifting. As big as I am, my knees and back just need a break. I'll still do some work around the house, but, for this first week of my almost-three-week break, I'm keeping it light. I'll catch up on the reading I've wanted to do (books I want to read, not need to read) and do some writing, but I'm not going to put myself on a word schedule like I usually do. Next week, it's back to normal, but this week is stay-cation time.

If you'll excuse me, I think I'll have some lunch and maybe take a little nap.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When My Characters Hurt, I Hurt

I haven't written anything since Saturday. This is Wednesday. I took Sunday off because I just usually take Sundays off. But then I read and fiddled on the interwebs Monday and yesterday during the time when I wasn't opening and grading assignments for summer school kids. I had plenty of time and nearly opened my writing program several times, but just couldn't do it. Was it because I was lazy? No. I mean, I do have a tendency toward laziness, but not when it comes to writing. Was it because I had nothing to write about? Absolutely not. I have the big picture of the entire book put together. I know who the bad guys are and who did what to whom and what's going to happen all the way to the ending. As is generally true at this point in the writing, I know who dies, who goes on, who's sad, and who's happy at the end.

The problem is that I'm starting down a path that I dread. Something unthinkably terrible is about to happen to Harry and Dee, my main characters. More specifically, the physical part will happen to Dee, but it will affect both of them in ways that will change each of them individually forever and also alter their relationship in substantive and nearly disastrous ways. I've dropped some hints about it, but things start toward an inevitable conclusion at the end of the chapter I'm working on right now. In the long run, they'll be a stronger couple, but this whole book is going to be nightmarish for them.

I could change the storyline, I suppose, but that just doesn't work. In my mind, this thing is already happening. I could no sooner change this event than a real person could go to the doctor, find out he/she has cancer, and say, "Oh, shoot, better rewrite this and get rid of the cancer storyline." Maybe other authors feel this way--I don't know. These people are real to me and their world, though it's only in my head and, eventually, in the book, is as complete and real to me as if it were physically tangible. So when I decided that this awful thing had happened to Dee, I simply couldn't go back. It was already true.

So I've done the next best thing, the thing I tend to do in real life when facing something negative. I put it off, I do other things, I pretend for a little while that it's not really happening. But, just like in real life, reality will eventually catch up to me and I will have to face the truth. How long will that be? I'm not sure. Maybe soon. I'm teetering toward the conclusion that it's time to get it over with so I can sleep.

I have no idea if any of this makes sense to anyone but me. Maybe other writers have faced this? If you're a writer and can relate, please let me know. If you're not a writer, but understand, let me know that too.

I think I'll do some reading...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I Love a Rainy Day

If you know me well enough, you know I'm a runner. Yes, I'm fat, but not as fat as I would be if I didn't run. Because I run, I try to control what I eat so that the benefits of running won't go to waste. I'm struggling mightily at the moment to train for the News and Sentinel Half Marathon, the highlight of the running calendar in these parts. My long runs are usually Saturday mornings. But I'm not one of those bada** runners who are out on the road no matter the weather. To those who say I should be, I have four words: fat people chafe easily. So this morning, I'm snuggled up in my office, enjoying the cool, damp air wafting through a window I can't believe I get to have open in the middle of July. I'm reading, writing, puttering around, and waiting for the weather to break.

I love rainy days in summer. I especially love rainy Saturdays. Because my job-I-do-so-I-can-afford-to-be-a-writer is Monday through Friday, Saturday is my day to get work done around the house, like mowing, repairing, weeding, etc. In other words, stuff I really don't prefer doing but do as my part in the social contract. I live in a decent neighborhood and if I expect my neighbors' houses not to look like trash, then I have to allow them to expect the same from me.

But when it rains, I see myself as exempt from all that outside work. I don't want to chafe and ruin my running shoes, so I can't go running until it stops. It's just too soggy to mow or get in the garden, so I can't do that. So what does that leave me? What I really wanted to do anyway.

So here I am, listening to many sounds that nourish my soul: the patter of rain dripping off my roof, birds singing quietly as they shelter from in the trees, soft contemplative music, the clacking of my keyboard, and the occasional sizzle of a car as it drives through the wet street outside my open window. From my seat, I can see Van Gogh's Starry Night (not the real thing, of course, though I have had the privilege of seeing that, but that's another post for another day). On the table beside me are my trusty water bottle and Khaled Hosseini's And The Mountains Echoed for when my fingers grow tired. So, to sum it all up, I'm deeply thankful for this gift from God of a cool, rainy Saturday.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I Can't Smart Today Because I Have the Dumb

One of the reasons I chose to teach (and by teach, I mean proctor since it's just a bunch of kids working independently on computers in a lab) summer school was that it would give me plenty of time to read and write. The other reason was that it's easy money and I needed to get some bills paid off, but that's another post. I have a pile of books I planned to plow through and I had a general plotline for my third book put together, so I had plenty of work to do while the little kiddies toiled away trying to recapture the credit they'd lost.

Problem is that I am starting to think that I've caught the dumb. Or, more accurately, I think I've caught the lazy. As I sit here watching these kids fiddle and mess and stare and decide what music they're going to play on Pandora and pretty much do anything but the work their parents paid good money to give them the chance to do, I am starting to feel like I'm doing the same thing. I have checked my email some eleventy billion times today. And I've spend entirely too much time on MyFitnessPal, the website I use to track my eating habits and exercise. Yesterday (promise not to tell), I bought a pair of shoes online. In other words, I've done lots of stuff that's not what I'm supposed to be doing. In just short of four weeks, I've written a grand total of about 1500 words on my new manuscript. Granted, I have also done some outlining, so it's not as bad as it seems, but awfully close. Oh, and all those books? I'm almost finished with one. That's right. One. Single. Book.

So today, I declare that I will no longer allow myself to be victim to laziness and apathy. I will finish this book today and start a new one. I will get 1000 words written today if I have to hire someone to hold a gun to my head to do it. I can't blame these kids for my lack of work ethic. It's all on me.

Okay, I have to go now. I have work to do.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Freedom Versus Liberty

I'm a law and order kind of guy. I mean I write novels in which a guy catches bad guys and protects the weak from the scary. But I'm also a liberty guy. Notice I didn't say freedom. I'm not a political writer--I think the last place that it's helpful to get political is with a bunch of strangers on the interwebs. And I'm also not prone to deep discussions of philosophy in this venue. I mean I guess I do wax philosophical from time to time, but that's light-weight stuff compared to discussion of the nuanced differences between freedom and liberty.

Depending on who you ask and what definition you read, freedom--true freedom--is totally without constraints. It's doing and saying whatever you want whenever you want without worrying about the consequences. I'm not a fan of that. What I'm a huge fan of is liberty. Liberty is freedom within reasonable limits. With liberty, I'm free to do and say whatever I want right up until I do real harm to your person or liberty. That's what our country is supposed to be about.

The reason I bring this up is the boneheads who live across the street from me. They don't understand the concept of freedom versus liberty. Yeah, it's against the law to set off fireworks in the middle of town. But my sense of liberty is that as long as they're not hurting me or anyone but themselves, that's pretty much none of my business. If they blow themselves up, they are free to be idiots. When that liberty became freedom, however, therefore meaning I needed to intercede was when they decided that, rather than fire their bottle rockets straight up, it would be more fun to use passing cars for target practice. And that not being enough, they decided that they needed to pull out the heavy artillery. I don't know exactly what they were lobbing out into the streets, but after what sounded like the second bomb went off just outside my house, I ran to the front door to discover that whatever had just exploded had been thrown in front of a passing car, making it slam on its brakes and probably causing its driver to wet him/herself.

That, my friends, is the difference between freedom and liberty. Their right to celebrate the Fourth of July ends when they start actually causing harm to the liberty and safety of others. I'm not trying to be a buzzkill here. You want to blow your entire hand off with an M80 and don't mind being called Ol' Stumpy the rest of your life, more power to you. I'll never call the cops on you for letting off some fireworks, especially on Independence Day. But you don't have the right to inflict that fun onto innocent bystanders or passers by. If we could all just keep that in mind as we live our lives, our country would be a lot nicer place.