Posted by: alegra22 | April 6, 2009

Boulders and Chewing Gum

this picture captures my current mood of preparing to launch

this picture captures my current mood of preparing to launch

I apologize in advance that this is going to be one of my less enthusiastic blogs. It had to happen right?

This week has moved past me in a blur of disturbing Weeds episodes, too many gluten-free waffles, long walks and prone moments of silence that presented as the only open doorway to productivity. In terms of my goals, I managed to stay on top of my exercise but my food has been typical stress eating. I intend to change that this week now that the synopsis is somewhat behind me.

Yes, I wrote the synopsis, or half of it. And I sent it in all of its rough glory. The response was that to avoid becoming a series of false starts, I should just begin and write the first 50-100 pages. This came as such a relief to me. Somewhere in the last few weeks of moving words like boulders from one point on the page to the other, I have grown confident in at least the direction of the first third of the novel and that the ending which now exists in a series of images and themes will reveal itself once I begin. 

 And, I feel surrendered.

I think sometimes surrender can be a confusing feeling. It has that Buddhist flavor of inaction in action. During the last few weeks I have come to peace with the reality that I have no idea if I will be able to “write a viable” novel but I am okay with that. I am taking it word by word. My goal is to finish my masters and do well. To write 40,000 words and hopefully more that I can be proud of, regardless of the outcome. I want to be transformed by the end of this process. 

Yesterday, as I was walking and reading – yep, I do that – I had the thought that writing a novel is like growing a baby; everything I do, eat, think, hear, experience, all of it becomes integrated into the developing life inside of me. I can map out my life prior to conception and how I imagine everything will go afterwards but that really has nothing to do with how it will all turn out.

I relayed this ‘deep’ insight to my supervisor for my thesis and he replied:

“Socrates (in Plato’s Theaetetus) discusses creatitivity in terms of the midwife’s duties–claims his own mother was one, and so he now is a midwife of ideas; hence his technique is called maiutics.
I prefer Swift’s version (I think) where he compares creating literature to pulling birdlime (or we would say chewing gum) out of your mind/hair.”

I like Swift’s version too. Another favorite of mine is “writing a novel is like balancing spinning dishes on your fingers and head and trying to hop on one foot.”

All of this deep questioning that has been apart of the synopsis process has left me inspiration drained. I have been wanting to blog but the tank was empty – so this site has been quiet and I did not achieve my goal of writing for Maria Schneider. That should change this week.

My goals this week:

1. Make good food for myself

2. Continue to exercise and up the weights (write out a plan)

3. Write 1500 words a day – or the equivalent of a ‘scene’ in a chapter, edit in the evening and move on (as in don’t get stuck trying to perfect those 1500 words)

4. Annotate my bibliography

5. a blog or two

6. Read one chapter of fiction a day – no more. I am finding if I read a chapter at  a time it serves as inspiration, if I read more, it overwhelms me into thinking, “I can’t do this!”

7. put up a daily chart for me to mark my progress in all of these areas

How’d your week go?



  1. First off:

    YOU CAN DO IT!!! WooHoo! ~Does a little cheer~ 😉

    As for my week: Well, I am in a rut of inactivity and an overall ‘blah’ mood. But it’s Monday…and THIS week, I am going to get out of this funk if it kills me!!!
    The weather is in a rut as well… Spring began beautifully, but now, she’s here with a vengeance! We’ve had storms almost non-stop for a week, and I’ve decided that Spring is just a big tease. ~pout~ 😉

    My boys have started baseball. I love baseball. No, if you asked me to name a famous player, all I would be able to come up with is a couple of dead guys…I should say I love baseball when my kids are playing it. 😉
    I have so much fun watching THEM have fun…and at games, I become one of THOSE mothers. You know the type…that whoops and hollers and makes an overall idiot of herself. Heh, if you can’t embarrass your kids, what fun can a mom have???

    I’ve started reading ‘1984’…after the first few pages, I immediately began to wonder: how come I’m just NOW reading this???

    • Thank you for the vote of confidence – I am gathering them to me like strawberries on ‘make jam’ day. Or something like that…errr

      I totally agree, if we can’t embarrass our children what is the point?

      You aren’t the only one in a rut, I have been feeling really flat this past week. That is what I meant by that odd experience of surrender – it almost feels like being low but it isn’t quite because I still have the ‘go forward’ but at the same hand I feel…I don’t know. Maybe it is that sensation of falling – you know you can’t change the course of gravity so what can you do but surrender?

      But I wouldn’t mind a little zest…I think it might be hormones and the colder weather settling in.

      • ‘Make Jam’ day…heehee…I like that. 🙂 I’ve thought to myself so many times…I need to learn to do things like that; make jam, quilt, crochet, sew on a damn button without it falling off… Our grandmothers know how to do these things, but we certainly live in a different time. In a few generations, who will be left with the know-how? That seems sad to me.

        …but then again, I’ve watched my grandmother quilt… ~has anxiety attack just thinking of the time and effort~ Maybe I’ll just learn to crochet? Anyone need a scarf? 😉

        Ok…enough of my random thoughts… heehee

  2. First, I am seconding Jennifer’s affirmation, that you can absolutely do this. If I had any doubt in my mind, I might pity you a “this will be a great experience for you no matter the outcome,” but no such doubt exists and I am certain you will have mid-wifed, raised, nurtured and cultivated a work that is going to be amazing. I am awed and humbled by how hard you work, how profoundly you conceptualize your craft and what you have crafted, and when such effort and such passion are fused together, there is no other possible outcome except a work of brilliance.

    Remember to focus on your baby steps.

    For me, last week was pretty good. I think I reached most of my goals. I spent about NZ$180 on digital texts – this got me only 3 digital texts on CD’s, ugh. I didn’t start taking notes on digital texts. It’s bizarre but I’m finding I have this aversion to them. I think it’s primarily digital “poems” such as Talan Memmot’s ‘Lexia to Perplexia’ ( where I try to ‘traverse’ or read the text and I’m so bewildered on my first approach that the idea of returning has me nervous and looking for anything to procrastinate having to go back in. Very bizarre. I need to do some investigation on this.

    On the plus side, I’ve been devouring a book called “Digital Poetics” which has been a spectacular introduction to the topic which doing an amazing job of surveying the field up to that point (the book is from 2002). It’s astonishing to me how time-sensitive books are in this field. I have a book from 1996 called “Hypertext” that is virtually useless now. A lot of this I suspect has to do with people trying to conceive of digital literature as having reached it’s peak and thus nothing more can be created. What’s needed is a more fluid conception of the field to permit growth – future-proofed theory. Sorry, tangenting on thoughts.

    Anyways, so goals for this week:

    1) Finish “Digital Poetics” by Loss Pequeno Glazier and Zotero the notes (this is a kind of big goal, but that’s alright)

    2) Mark 5 to 10 tests each evening (I’ll stop working around 3 or so, and hopefully I’ll only be here until about 6 or 7). Depends how much love I put into each of my notes.

    3) Hang up one painting every evening when I get home

    4) Possible find out how to get Dreamweaver on my laptop for my thesis.

    I’m trying to keep it simple because of our belated honeymoon, and that. So we’ll see. Anyways, I should be off but wishing you the best of luck this week. Sending many inspirational, bite-sized, and fear-fended hugsies

    • I loved this because I know you would look awkwardly away or modify your words if you didn’t have faith. I can just hear you saying, “That is nice sweetie…”

      Plus, you have been with me from the ground upwards on this whole wild crazy ride.

      I want to say so much more but I am terribly uninspired right now comment-wise, so please forgive me. I love reading what is going on with you, it makes you not seem so far away… big hugsies

  3. I find the creative process fascinating. Sounds like you certainly got a lot done in a week. And that’s an awesome picture.

    • so good to hear from you Barbara!
      It doesn’t feel like I got a lot done in a week but I measure things by what I can hold in my hand and that underestimates the amount of work that goes on in thinking about things.

  4. If the novel is a baby, then we are the family waiting impatiently around a bulging belly. 1,500 words is a breeze for you. No matter what you think.

    Your #6 is dead on. One chapter seems like “I can do this. It’s just a bunch of little stories that make up one big story,” versus the thought of “Wow. So these chapters actually have to relate to each other. This is harder than I thought.”

    My one goal is to start blogging again, but with much less use of the word I. I guess I mean I actually want to put some logs into the 19whiskeys fire.

    • :o)
      You made me smile and got me writing…thank you for the vote of confidence. And you absolutely ‘got’ what I meant about only reading one chapter at a time – I am taking that approach with the entire thing: I don’t have to worry about whether or not I can write an entire coherent novel, just a scene at a time.

      Let me know when you have some blogs up!

  5. Continuing the growing a baby line of thinking…each step of the way is part of the process of growth. Each page you write adds up to each chapter and each chapter eventually adds up to the novel…uh…baby.

    Little baby steps are always the best way to tackle a large thing that sometimes has a way of waving its arms, tentacles, beaks, claws, and waggling its many eyes at us like the jabberwocky.

    My new approach with things too big to tackle all at once is called, my ‘half-hour.’ Right now it means getting my garden cleaned up and sometimes it’s longer than half an hour. It’s always as long as it needs to be for me every day…and it makes me feel like it’s not really so overwhelming after all. Each little piece I finish leaves me feeling accomplished.

    I know you must feel like that when you finish your ‘1500’ words a day. And, I think it’s definitely a good approach.

    So…that’s part of my goals for the week and onwards…

    1. Take my ‘half-hour’ every day chipping away at the things that seem larger than life.

    2. Quality time with family and friends – no, it isn’t number one this time because I needed to give myself permission first to take my ‘half-hour’ in order to quiet down the wildness in my mind surrounding all the things on my proverbial plate before I could settle and really be in the moment with the most important people in my life. It’s like the emergency air mask in the airplane thing…no good to anyone else if I’ve gone off the deep end!

    3. Finish another scholarship essay.

    4. Catch up on some homework.

    5. Smell some roses.

    Love to You!

    • Yes, Adam is always reminding me ‘baby steps, baby steps’….I think originally from Groundhog Day so I can’t help but think of Bill Murray with his OCD boarding a bus chanting to himself, “Baby steps” (always a great visual to have!)
      And not that I won’t need reminders but I am definitely at a point of understanding myself in this process to realize the only way to do this is one scene, one paragraph at a time. Like growing a baby, there are all kinds of fears and ‘out of your hands’ situations – but that is life in general, yes?
      I love how you always put ‘smell the roses’ or something like that into your list. I need to start doing that too! Only mine will be “Go surfing!”
      Love you big sis

  6. Walking and reading sounds dangerous!

    You can write a viable novel, in fact I’m certain you can write more than one. Having the ability to “vision the endings” is a talent, and key to being a true master of the art.

    As far as these goals, boy, I gotta tell ya…
    My first 3days without sugar was rough. But I had this wild idea of, you know, at least not having any in the house. So there I was at school saying to heck with all and voraciously chomping snickers, aha, but I wasn’t at home! lol Anyway, I stuck to my guns, however, on the shopping, to where, when I shop, I simply do not buy sweets. And when my cart comes rolling up to the pastry section, I think of Alegra’s blog and I say “ah ah ah,” and keep walking.

    See how your maternal influence is having wide-reaching affect across the globe, lol. : )

    I’m so busy, while I intend on sticking with the no sugar routine, my writing goals are to finish a few edits, and this Summer will be productive.

    Don’t over push yourself.

    • Thank you :o)
      It is dangerous to walk and read, luckily I have good peripheral vision and can keep track of the line of the sidewalk as I read.
      Good work on the sugar – you should check out alternatives to make it easier on yourself, it won’t give you the ‘buzz’ but it will satisfy the cravings. I have a sugar-free white chocolate that I eat with almonds and there is also a good ice cream I can have here. I have always found the key to dietary discipline is not total abstaining but finding replacements for your favorite comfort foods.

  7. I really think you hit on it with #6 Alegra. Having written the equivalent of a moderately sized novel while pursuing my masters I realize that, taken individually each piece of work and each essay is a thoughtful document into which I put a great deal of effort. Taken in the entirety, the work is a vast and in depth study of all aspects of business theory.

    If I were to set out from day one to produce this entire body of work, there’s no way it would happen. I’d be so overwhelmed that I’m sure I wouldn’t even get started!

    I think this is a great analogy for the process of writing a novel, and of looking at the complete body of work of other authors; they placed all their efforts into each chapter, one at a time. The end result is the body of work we see, which overwhelms us in its near perfection.

    Consider this: The chapters or parts of the novel are islands connected only by weak & brittle ice bridges. Put all your effort into producing the most interesting islands possible, throwing all of your struggles into each of them in their own turn (oh, you’re God in this analogy), then move back and sure-up the connecting ice bridges; sometimes by eliminating an island or two, or moving a few around, but mostly by building larger concrete expressway bridges which traverse the vast oceans of plot failures.

    In any case, I suppose it depends on perspective and how we attack the tasks. And as is my usual modus operandi, I have offered solutions where none was requested…Wife Prince hates that.

    Well, too much typed out now to delete; so taking the Alegra Clarke example, I’ll just “go ahead and do it!”

    All IMHO,


    • I am actually going to print out this comment and tape it to my ‘work folder’ as a reminder. This was so well said, thank you. I am definitely going to use this perspective.
      A few weeks back or maybe more, I realized that if I approached the research of the novel and the outlining in the same way that I have done essays, that I might just be on to something. So far, it is definitely a method that is working for me – ie: using ideas and information to stimulate my own thought process and then integrate these ideas into the story/characters. In fact, today I am going to cut up some of my notes and place them on a mind map to brainstorm about potential scenes and how to integrate interesting information into the story.

  8. You can totally do it! Just have faith in yourself and look how far you have come… umm…hello Writers Digest winner!! Give yourself space and time if that’s what it takes. Don’t be afraid to step back and breathe.

    Surrender is a good thing, it’s not a giving up, it’s a letting go and ‘allowing’ things to flow. You can only do so much.

    My goals for the week…hmmmm….. write and read more and start two of my papers that are due next week. And probably attend yoga class Friday. : )

    • Believe me, I always try to go back and take inventory of all that I have been given on this journey but it is difficult sometimes with all of the rejections between then and now to continue to feel confident – even though when I reflect back on those submissions I understand why they didn’t manage to find a home…

      I have been really drawn to doing yoga lately but right now I am just trying to get the basics back in order. I think now that i have this daily goal of 1500 words it will make everything else easier – before it felt like I had this massive project ahead of me and now it is broken down into steps. The steps are very calming for me.

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