Friday, September 4, 2009

Slacker Queen

Yes, I am a slacker queen, thank you very much. Although I'm trying to be one not so very much, which is harder than it looks. See, I'm a perfectionist. And slacking off, despite what it looks like, is a perfectionist behavior. It goes like this: I could do it, but I'll just do it wrong, it won't be perfect, so why waste time starting to begin with. See? Slacker Queen.

So, anyway, I decided as my unemployment benefits are running out (sooner than I thought--oh, not by much, but still, sooner) I would dedicate September to be the Month of Doing Something I Have Always Wanted To Do But Never Tried As I Will Just Get It Wrong And Fail, Anyway. Which isn't going to acronym down to anything sensible, so I will just call it my September Project. I actually began September Project on September 1. I've only missed one day, that was yesterday, but I had other issues that took priority, and since I'm trying to get over the perfectionist slacking, I've decided to be kind to myself and say I'm not perfect, occasionally there will be a day off. And that's OK.

So I got back up on my pony today. Yes, it sucked. Yes, I tried to avoid my daily duty by hopping on the intarwebs and checking my bank balance, my savings account, my Ravelry, my email, anything and everything and all that other crap. No, I didn't let myself totally slack off. I did my surfing, beat myself up a little bit for slacking, told myself to take a chill pill, made a pot of tea and got on with what I came here to do. I feel justifyably proud of myself for doing so.

And what is this magical September Project? What is that wacky, kooky, nutty Surly Knitter doing when she should be getting off her arse and getting her freelance writing up to snuff? I'm writing a novel.

Let me 'splain.

I'm da bomb at short fiction--I can write short stories like gang busters (and I have the three--three!!!--thumb drives full to prove it), and I can even do short non-fiction pretty quickly as well, hence the decision to try and earn my living through freelance writing. I mean, I'll never be a millionaire, but I can surely pull down a decent living if I work at it, and if it means I never have to call another human being boss and kiss their butt when what I really want to do is slap them stupid...well. I can work pretty hard when I'm inspired, and that is so inspiring! Plus, Dog is getting accustomed to having me here all day. Yes, it's weak to say I'm trying to work at home for the sake of an elderly dog, but.... In many ways, he's taught me to be a far better human than I was before. I owe him. And he's cute and fuzzy and has a big, squishy nose. He wins.

So, yeah. Well. Ahem. *blushes* Anyway, I have this unreasonable block about long fiction. I've tried, lo so many times over the past ten years to write something longer than 10 pages and failed. Well, not so much failed as 'discovered systems that don't work for me' (heh, how's that for spin?) It's become my Great White Whale, the novel form. Not so much because I believe in my heart of hearts that I am destined to write the next Great American Novel (whatever that is), but just far, it's won. The long fiction? It's beaten me down, brung me low, painted the yellow stripe down my spine and mocked me all the way home.

You see, then, why this situation is intolerable. I will not live at the mercy of a literary format! Did I let an inadequate in-person knitting education stop me from finding great peace in my crafting life? No, I found online videos and tutorials that spoke my language and taught myself how to knit. Did I let the lack of patterns that looked just so block me from creating items that I desired? No, I found reference guides, learned to Love the Swatch and designed my own damn patterns. Will I let some arbitrary word count mock me as an unreachable goal? No. No and yet again NO! This, gentlemen (and ladies) means war!

So I continued my quest to figure out a system that will work for me, enable me to harpoon the magical novel-length fiction. I got a random email this summer (believe me, it was totally random--I didn't even belong to this guy's newsletter list until after the email came) that described a method of using the 'outline' system that, for once, made some sort of sense. I have no idea who this Randy Ingermanson is, but his Snowflake System seems sensible. And just now I have realized why it makes more sense to me: it's based on a mathematical model. Hear me out: I had trouble learning to knit from the woman who taught my class because I have an engineering mind (unfortunate, but yes, it's true), and she was teaching it from a hobbyist's perspective. There's nothing wrong with the hobbyist's perspective on knitting, but I needed to understand the engineering of the thing--how the yarn twists in the stitch, how the loops behave under tension--before the way the yarn is wrapped around the needles and drawn through the loops made any sense. He's using a software designing tool to write long fiction. Beauty! Now I can use my methodical, plodding engineer's mind to shape my words!

Anyway. I'm up to step 6 already (just finished today; it's actually a page longer than he describes, but I'm just going to go with it.) Next week, I plan on getting my in depth character studies and the spreadsheet of scenes done. I'm skipping step 8--waiting for the thing to sell--because that's not the purpose of this activity. This particular novel is most likely going to be crap. And I'm fine with that. I just want it to be longer than ten pages, coherent enough to tell a story and, frankly, just done. It will be crap, but novel-length crap, so who cares if it ever sees the light of day? I'll have done the thing, and that's enough for me. I will know that I have done it, I have conquered my unreasonable fear and percieved inability to write long fiction. And if I can do that, why, dear reader, just imagine what I can go on to do! This month, a novel. Next month, the world!

So. That's what I'm up to nowadays. If I succeed, I succeed, if not, I'll have eliminated one more option from the billions of systems out there for the aspiring writer. And I'll know that much more about myself and how my mind works. All in all, that can't be such a bad thing, can it?

And because people enjoy pretty pictures, here's my random photograph of the day:

Tiffany glass window, ain't it purty? And oh, Blogger, my Blogger, why won't you post my pictures where the cursor is? Why must I drag and drop the darn thing all the way down the page?

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