Learning Paralysis

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At the end of the Writing Excuses cruise, while we all mingled in Dazzles, drinking bellinis and rum punch and quietly envying the top ten attendees who had each written over ten thousand—and in some cases twenty thousand—words during the week, Mary Robinette Kowal got up on stage to talk to us about what was going to happen after the cruise. Don’t be surprised if you don’t write for quite some time after you leave, she said. The majority of people who leave this retreat don’t put hands to keyboard for weeks or months afterward. Writing is suddenly very hard.

The idea behind that was that now that you’ve been introduced to a whole bunch of new techniques and methods of writing and outlining, you’re paralyzed by trying to keep everything in your head at once. It’s like trying to drive for the first time after driver’s ed: your brain is so flooded with trying to remember to adjust the rear-view mirror and the driver’s seat and release the parking brake and put the car in drive and check both side mirrors and on and on that you sit there for a bit, unsure if you’ve remembered everything you need to remember before you can start to drive.

I didn’t think that was going to apply to me because I’m not exactly new to writing. Although the retreat was really helpful and I highly recommend it, I don’t think I heard anything *new* during any of the panels. Yet it’s been a couple weeks since I got back and I haven’t written a single word since the flight home.

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My rockin’ bridesmaid dress from Rent the Runway.

Okay, part of that is because what with my brother’s wedding immediately after the cruise, and then the flood upending my life and forcing me to live out of a suitcase while everything else I own is packed away in trash bags in the garage, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities. But since things have started to settle down, I haven’t been able to write a word. Even the story I started to write on the cruise has come to an abrupt standstill. Nothing feels right to me; every idea seems unoriginal. Every time I try to make myself sit down, my brain rebels against it. In related news, I’ve clocked over 140 hours in Fallout 4, 60 of those in the last couple weeks.

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The rehearsal dinner contained a surprise skeleton.

Am I using this convenient explanation as an excuse for my own laziness? Well, probably. I want to write. I just am having a lot of difficulty putting butt in chair (or whatever the equivalent expression is for a standing desk).

Nanowrimo starts in 12 days. This is going to be my fourteenth year doing it, so I can’t not do it. I need to get my act together in the next two weeks. The first step is probably going to be to take the batteries out of my Xbox controller and hide them, but after that, we’ll see.

Cruise vlog teaser trailer and bonus post-vacation disaster

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The loudest birds in the Caribbean

My dad picked me up at the airport last night, after my flight home from Ft. Lauderdale and the Writing Excuses Retreat cruise to the eastern Caribbean. “I think a mouse died in the wall while you were gone,” he said offhandedly. “There’s a smell.”

Yes, there was a smell. If you’ve ever had a mouse die in your wall before, or if you’ve ever stumbled across a corpse of any kind, you know what that smell is like. When I stepped into my bedroom, the stench went from disgusting to truly horrific. If it was a dead animal, it was a lot bigger than a mouse. I decided I would sleep elsewhere, so I held my breath and ducked into the room to grab my pajamas. Two steps into the room, my foot squished in the rug.

Oh crap, the cat peed on the rug, I thought to myself. Squish. Wow, the cat peed a lot. Squish. …This isn’t cat pee.

At some point while I was away, the hot

water heater sprung a leak. I don’t know how many gallons of hot water drained through the wall and into my bedroom, but it was enough to completely saturate the rug, the bed, the wall, a pile of old comics, some photo albums, a bottom drawer full of clothes, and god knows what else. I’m not sure yet how much is salvageable, but the wall-to-wall carpet definitely has to go. You do not understand how bad it smells in there. That’s what happens when you add hot water to a hundred square feet of carpeting and then let it sit several days.

Now there’s going to be a mess of insurance adjusters, water heater mechanics and flood recovery people swarming the house in the next three days before I have to race out to western Massachusetts for my brother’s wedding this weekend. Yay for post-vacation surprises!

So: my WXR16 cruise post is going to take a bit longer than expected. I have a lot to talk about and many pictures to show you, but until then all you get is this stupid vlog trailer I made on the plane. Oh god, I laugh so hard every time I watch this. iMovie has the best trailer templates. I was tempted by the Bollywood and Teen Movie themes, but in the end I had to go with Horror.

Embedding isn’t working, so click it to go straight to the Instagram page.

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Enjoy, and I’ll talk to you once things settle down.

Decreasing distractions

I just registered for World Con/MidAmeriCon II! The hotel blocks were released Monday, so I registered and got my flight. I’ll be flying out to my friend Aimee Ogden‘s place, then road tripping it the seven hours to Kansas City, MO. We’re going to be driving through a LOT of farm land. I hope we can stop and see the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel or the Gas Station Jesus or something along the way. Aimee is really going to regret letting me road trip with her when she sees my list of kitschy roadside attractions that I want to visit.

 

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Seven straight hours of this

 

This week’s Writing Excuses was about getting in the frame of mind to write. That’s something I’ve been thinking of a lot recently because I have the attention span of a squirrel, and the siren song of my Xbox is strong. Mary said she’s started meditating, which actually sounds like it might work for me. Howard pointed out that it’s easy to keep writing regularly if you write regularly, and very easy to skip writing if you’ve already skipped writing once. Dan suggested ending each day’s writing session in the middle of a chapter so that you can pick it up easily again the next day. I’ve tried that, and it works, but my problem right now is focusing my brain for more than a sentence at a time. Every time I open up a document, I start thinking of all the other things I could be doing. Or I notice that my chair is uncomfortable and I decide to move to a better location. Or I realize that I really want some music right now, so I have to find some headphones. Or maybe I could use a coffee. Is it lunch time yet? What about snack time? Hey, has anyone said anything interesting on Twitter in the last five minutes?

 

Typically what I do when I need to get some writing done is use the app Self Control (It’s Mac only but there are others that do similar things). It turns off my access to the internet, or it blocks specific sites, depending on whether I set a whitelist or a blacklist. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop it until the timer runs out. This is fabulous for me, except that every time I turn it on, I start to think about all the laundry I need to do, or that closet organizing project I abandoned a month or two ago. Plus there’s that Xbox again, over which Self Control has no power.

 

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Then there’s the return trip

I’m getting a new computer soon, since my buggy old laptop has started crashing just about daily now. I’m considering setting up two accounts on the new computer, one for writing and being productive, the other for gaming and slacking off. Perhaps switching between two accounts will help me keep my brain organized. At the very least, it’ll put another road block in the way of me jumping on Tumblr the first time my mind starts to wander.

Anyone have any suggestions?