Writing discipline and winter woes

It’s amazing how much of a difference discipline makes. If I write every day, I feel like I can write. If I skip a couple of days, I feel irritated and discouraged and completely depressed. It doesn’t have to be a lot of daily writing. In fact, I realized a sad fact about myself that I cannot produce pages upon pages of words a day. I write what is essentially the near-perfect draft, but it wrings me dry.

I have these lofty aspirations of sitting down and really banging out some story in one sitting, or making like fifty drawings in one stretch, but the truth is that the end result is probably going to be me making a sketch of something vague or writing 500 words and then feeling like my brain has been emptied.

Lofty aspirations are way too lofty, it seems.

I’ve always thought of myself as a morning person, but these days I can barely get out of bed. The idea of having some kind of work schedule is irritating because it is largely guided by other concerns rather than my own self. I am planning on taking a few days after Christmas off no matter what my traveling plans end up being. I need to not do what I do every day for at least a week.

This has not been about books so far, so for the sake of everyone who reads this blog because of books, let me mention a couple of latest YA reads: Sara Jaffe’s Dryland and Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’. Both are pretty good, although Dryland did not quite stay with me as much as Dumplin’ did. Jaffe made an interesting choice of not using quotes for any of the dialogue, and while it seems like a purely stylistic issue, it does give the narrative a more personal, diary-like feel. Dryland might be just one of many coming out stories, but the thing with coming out stories is that one cannot really have too many. Coming out still happens and is still important and is largely uncomfortable and painful for a lot of people.

Funny how I spent more time talking about the book that didn’t stay with me than about the one that did. Let me just say that everyone should go read Dumplin’. That book is everything that is right with YA these days.

I’ve spent the last few days listening to first opera and then Renaissance (William Byrd etc.) music. I think it did something to my brain. I’m going to go read some near-future thriller to bring me into the present time.

Readings: Theodora Goss and the wonderfully strange

Here in our nation’s capital we are heading into that time of the year when it’s already dark at 4:30, the evenings are interminable, and one can barely get out of bed in the mornings. We don’t get a lot of snow, so winter is essentially a bleak parade of cold and disgusting days. They aren’t cold enough for fur hats and multiple layers, but they are too cold for anything more vigorous than drinking wine and reading under blankets.

It’s also the time of the year when I feel like reading something weird and strange. The problem with weird is that it is a spectrum, and it’s not always clear where on it the exact weird you need lies. Do I feel like Jeff VanDermeer-style weird? John M. Harrison? Catherynne M. Valente?

Occasionally one feels like finding something that could be described as ‘wonderfully strange’. I guess that’s what I needed, and I eventually found it in a book I bought a year ago on a whim. It’s a collection of stories by Theodora Goss called In the Forest of Forgetting.

DNOA4910The first story in the collection is a retelling of The Sleeping Beauty, and while I am normally not very much into fairy tale retellings (I like them when they are well-done, but I do not seek them out), this one was great. The second story pretty much hit the ‘weird’ I had been seeking, and so I by the time I read the incredibly beautiful third story, I was thoroughly in love with Theodora Goss and her wonderfully strange tales.

Short stories are my wavelength right now, mostly because I’m writing my own and I need to read other people’s to learn from and be inspired. I am trying to write every day, and I am hacking my brain by using Habitica to do this, because apparently doing tasks for fake gold works. The next step is to also draw every day. I don’t think it’s possible to have a more than full-time job, write, draw, read, and also get enough sleep, so something has to give. I’d like to hope it’s not sleep.

Incidentally, my next read on the ‘weird’ stack is John M. Harrison’s Light. I know a couple of people in my blog feed have been reading Harrison’s stuff, so let me join the collective subconscious that is obviously hungering for something truly odd this time.

Non-readings: podcasts, writing, assorted internet stuff

There’s been some writing happening here. I started a short story, and then a day later found the ending, but now I seem to be missing the last quarter of it. The search continues.

I might be doing NaNoWriMo this year, but in a non-conventional way. I don’t really want to write a novel. I mostly want to write a whole bunch of short stories and maybe some essays and posts. This means I’ll mostly be using their word count goal as a way to put some words on screen every day.

Couch to moon asked me a while ago what podcasts I listen to. The list is not particularly extensive, but here they are in no particular order:

  1. About Race. Intelligent, important, a must. Baratunde Thurston started it.
  2. All the Books and Get Booked. Both are Book Riot podcasts, and both are really good if you’re into bookish things. All the Books helps me remember what is out this week, and Get Booked is essentially handselling in podcast form, so both are also useful if you are bookish professionally.
  3. New York Times Book Review: more books.
  4. Drunk Booksellers: run by booksellers who interview other booksellers while sipping drinks. My people. (Plus, my friend and co-bookseller Hannah Depp got interviewed in episode 4).
  5. Midnight In Karachi: interviews with various speculative fiction authors. The interview podcasts get listened to when I’m interested in the interviewee. This rule also applies to The Nerdist and WTF with Marc Maron.
  6. A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment: Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter read whatever they are working on, talk about writing and life, and interview various artists and writers.

If you don’t feel like listening to podcasts or music, this might do: Online Noise Machines. It’s actually pretty neat. Warren Ellis linked to it a couple of weeks ago in his newsletter (if you only want to read one newsletter, his is great).

And finally, I leave you with another random internet thing I discovered while doing some research: Chernobyl New Safe Confinement construction livestream.