Lockdown: The liveness of story

Truth. This is from my stats page at NaNoWriMo.org.

I slept decently Tuesday night. I think I got five solid, uninterrupted hours after a bit of a rough start. So Wednesday’s workday should have been super productive, but it wasn’t.

Darn it. I’m going to have to put in a few hours over the long weekend. As I always do during this long weekend. I did the proofreading on the staff newsletter, which I think came out great this time. Lots of good contributions from different corners of the company. But I did the hard part early in the week, so the proofreading was cake.

Took a nap after work, then watched Pitch Perfect 3 again for reasons I can’t remember.

The NaNoWriMo Skype got going early. I jumped in to chat but not to write. Writing didn’t come until later, and it was a bit of a struggle. I didn’t really get going until everyone else left, and hit 1667 words just past midnight. That’s exactly the daily average you have to hit in order to cross the 50K line on the 30th of the month. Happily, I’m comfortably ahead of that pace, so 1667 was just fine with me.

This is from the 2009 NaNoWriMo pep talk from Robin McKinley. Her novel, The Hero and the Crown, is one of the less-talked-about Newbery winners (1985) but it is quite good. Real fantasy for young adults the way it should be written. This makes the second pep talk from a Newbery laureate I read that one evening. Katherine Paterson was the first, and she’s one of a tiny number of writers to win it twice.

…every writer is different as every human being is different, one from another. (Some writers make their deadlines. Some writers know where they’re going. Some writers don’t mind not knowing where they’re going.) But the chief thing I would like to get over to you, as you look to me to say something inspiring about this maniac—I mean, this energizing and felicitious project to write a first draft of a novel in a month, is the liveness of Story, and therefore the unpredictability inherent in writing any story down.

You need that live, tensile, surprising strength between you and the story you’re trying to write, or it’ll die on the page. But this doesn’t make it easier. It makes it harder. It’s more exciting—more thrilling, more appalling: on good days you’ll fly higher than a peregrine cruising for dinner, on bad days someone will have to scrape you off the floor with a spatula. This is what writing is like. You have to write on through the highs and lows, the careens and the meditations of your stories. And that’s what you’re here for now: to write. Go for it. Good luck.

If I can do these impossible things, you can do the impossible thing of writing the first draft of your novel in a month. It’s a first draft! It does not have to be a thing of beauty! Don’t worry about the spelling (or the consistency)! Just write it. I bet you can even get to the end, and find out what it is.

And may you have an absolutely brilliant time doing it. Writing can be the worst, and often is—but it can also be the best. May you come out of that month knowing what you want to do next, and eager to keep going. Try to remember the peregrine days on the days that your husband/wife/roommate/dog needs steel wool to get you off the floor. And keep writing: the only way you can learn how your stories work is by letting them tell you. By putting live words together.

I really like the first part because I’m learning more, each time I read one of these, that every writer is different. But I also like the “liveness of Story” and the “unpredictability inherent in writing any story down.”

In my NaNo project, a cozy mystery set in a public Honolulu high school, I didn’t know who the killer was until I made my character sing an impromptu song about the people she worked with and why each of these people was the custodian’s murderer. It was silly and spontaneous and fun, and in the middle of writing my character doing it, I knew who the killer was.

I didn’t exactly know why, and as I approach my final few thousand words I still don’t quite know, although I’ve kind of mapped it out in my brain. I’m eager for the characters to figure it out so they can tell me.

I skipped breakfast, mostly because I spent most of the morning trying to decide what I wanted to eat. Then it was sorta too late for even me to call it breakfast. Around 1:30 I settled on pizza delivery. It’s only the second time since lockdown began in mid-March I’ve ordered pizza. It’s kind of strange; you’d think it would be a regular go-to, but I think the price turns me off, even on sale days, which this was. You pay the $5 delivery fee and then you tip the driver some amount expressing your gratitude for contactless delivery and businesses staying open, and it adds up to more than you thought you were paying.

I ate too much, too, which is another pizza problem. So I skipped dinner but by the time I was finished noveling, I was hungry again so I had a couple more slices for a midnight snack. Gave me incredible heartburn. Served me right, I guess.

I also had a late slice of pumpkin-custard pie, not because I was hungry for it (I wasn’t) but because I needed to clear room in my fridge.

I got a text from Sylvia. It was a photo of one of two Muzak control knobs in our office. The office is in the Interstate Building, which used to be the First Interstate Building, the home of First Interstate Bank. Our office is in the basement, and it includes two vaults (one for document storage, one for the server room) and other reminders that it was once a bank. The Muzak dials are others. Sylvia only started working in this main office a few weeks ago so she’d never seen them. She was properly amused. Although why she thought I wouldn’t have seen them is a mystery. They’re not in hiding or anything. Also, they don’t do anything because why would we subscribe to Muzak?

A friend of mine has a fancy cookie business in Texas, even though her day job is as a software engineer, and she posted some cookies related to Crush Girl’s favorite TV program, so I texted Crush Girl the link. She was appropriately impressed. Later, she texted me to tell me this thing she was working on for her Thanksgiving dinner had turned out great. We shared some thoughts about it and it inspired a few ideas in me. Good conversation.

That was it. Slow texting day. Slow writing day. Slow work day. But at least there were the Barden Bellas, I guess. And pizza.

Daily reminder to leave a comment if you need someone to connect with. I’m here for it. DMs, IMs, or texts. Let’s go.

Lockdown: Be a goldfish

I woke up several times Monday night into Tuesday morning. Got rolling a little later than planned but it was fine. Tried to work on two stories concurrently (it works sometimes), then had a couple of short meetings, one on Zoom and one on the phone. One of the Maui newspapers adapted one of my donor stories and ran it Tuesday, and you can see how the priorities of a local newspaper and a development writer are different. The story used some quotes I got from a scholarship recipient, so I emailed the student with the link, to let her know the story out.

I rewatched a few episodes of Ted Lasso, which you should totally see if you haven’t, whether or not you have an Apple TV+ subscription. I ordered a Ted Lasso t-shirt on Amazon and can’t wait to get it in the mail.

The NaNo Skype chat was very chatty for the first hour. Most of us didn’t start writing until ten, and I didn’t really get started until half an hour later. I did somehow put 2120 words together, leaving me slightly more than 5000 words from the goal. I can’t wait until this is over.

This is from Rainbow Rowell’s NaNoWriMo pep talk in 2013. I’d already read this one but I have it bookmarked because it reminds me of a few things about my own writing. As I’ve said, this pep talk actually convinced me to participate in 2013 when I wasn’t feeling it.

I was very skeptical about NaNoWriMo at first.

It seemed like something that amateur writers would do. Or young writers. People who needed to be tricked into finishing their books. I’d already written two books by October 2011, and sold them to publishers, and I couldn’t imagine writing either of them—or anything good—in a month.

That’s not writing, I thought, that’s just piling up words.

But then I thought about how wonderful it would be to have a pile of 50,000 words.

What I noticed right away was how easy it was for me to pick up. One of my challenges as an author is staying inside the fictional world I’m creating. I have to write in blocks (at least four hours at a time, at least four days in a row) to make any progress. During NaNoWriMo, I never left the world of the book long enough to lose momentum.

I stayed immersed in the story all month long, and that made everything come so much smoother than usual. I got a much quicker grasp on the main characters and their voices. The plotlines shot forward…

I mean, I still didn’t know whether what I’d written was any good. (I hadn’t even read it all in one piece!) But I was so excited about the novel, I wanted to write every day. And even when I wasn’t writing, my brain was still working on the story.

So… I didn’t actually finish my book that November. I met the word goal, but was only about halfway done with Fangirl. I continued working on it through January, then did a pretty heavy rewrite the next spring. Here’s something that really shocked me during my revisions: I kept almost every word I wrote during NaNoWriMo.

That 50,000-word pile I made wasn’t a mess at all. It’s some of the bravest writing I’ve ever done, and it includes my all-time favorite character, a guy I think I would’ve second-guessed to death under normal circumstances. NaNoWriMo helped me push past so many of my doubts and insecurities and bad habits. And I think that’s partly why I love Fangirl so much now—because I remember how swept away I felt when I was writing it.

Pretty neat trick.


That pile of 50,000 words is one thing. That flow of thoughts and ideas is another, and that’s what does it for me. Getting them on (figurative) paper so they’re not just a bunch of disjointed ideas among hundreds floating around in my head. Flinging them against the page to see how they look and read and feel so I can get a sense of whether there’s a novel in there or not is the real value for me.

Most of the time they just stay there, and that’s okay. I flung it, it stuck, and I realized it was a good idea but not enough for a novel. That’s going to happen. Better languishing on the page than teasing me in my brain.

I went to Taco Bell for breakfast again. It was the third time in a week, I think, and I’ve enjoyed it more each time. Skipped lunch but ate like a madman at dinner. I made angel hair pasta, dressing half with the remainder of my bagna càuda and half with some leftover jarred sauce (with red pepper flakes, brown sugar, garlic flakes, and tequila). I ate it before the Skype, saving the leftovers for Wednesday, but then I ate the leftovers when I was done writing. Way too much food.

Vicky and I continued our conversation about the products in her MLM line, via text. Jennifer sent me some great photos of a pizza she made. It’s giving me ideas. Crush Girl texted me a few questions about alcohol for some drinks she was making for a thing. Why she thought I’d know the answers is kind of a mystery, but, um. I did know the answers.

Not much of a day, but it’s the Tuesday before a very long weekend so it usually isn’t.

Hit me up in comments if you don’t have enough connectivity in these here times. It’s going to be a long winter.

Lockdown: L & L & L & L & L & L

I actually got nearly four and a half hours of good, hard sleep Sunday night, probably because I was so, so tired when I finally crashed at five in the morning. It wasn’t enough, but ah well. The day had begun and it demanded seizing.

I worked on this info sheet that’s been a lot more difficult than I expected. It took far too large a chunk of my day, and it was late and I was annoyed with myself. Normally I’m good at just making up stuff I don’t know, and then I send it to people and they correct me while leaving my organization and structure intact. It’s not a bad way to work when I’m out of my realm. I just didn’t like my organization and structure most of the day. Ultimately (and by this I mean seven in the evening) I just put the headers I had in mind and sentences like “something in here about honoring loved ones” and “quote from UH president or maybe an endowed professor.”

Then the joint proposal for three funds. This was in second draft stages so it was just a lot of slow, tediuous detail-attending-to. I think it came out okay. I can’t decide if the three different voices (three development officers each wrote a part) is cool or if it’s sloppy editing on my part. I mailed it at nine, just in time for the NaNo Skype.

Without the forced structure my days take in response to waking up for sunrise swims, I find myself shifting into vampire mode again. I just didn’t realize it until sometime Monday. I’m trying to get up and get started at my usual time, but I’m working later and getting to bed much later. Can’t keep this up.

The NaNo Skype session was a struggle for me. While the company was great, I mostly let the others hammer out their words while I struggled to stay awake. I decided I needed a break, needed to do a few chores to get my blood flowing and my brain thinking about other things.

I filled the trash bin, mostly, with a lot of stuff that’s been waiting ages to be tossed. Worked on a few other things and finally sat down to write every one of the other had already signed off. One of them (the one Skyping from Korea) signed back in and we kept each other company as we worked. I wrung 1700 words out of my body and called it a night.

This is from Katherine Paterson’s pep talk for NaNoWriMo participants in 2008. I’m surprised I never read this one because she’s one of my favorite.

I live in Barre, Vermont which calls itself the “Granite Capital of the World.” Outside our town are enormous quarries, so when I speak in local schools every child has a mental picture of a granite quarry. “You know how hard it is to get granite out of the quarry,” I say. “You have to carefully score the rock and put the explosive in to make the great granite block break loose from the face of the stone. Then you have to attach the block to the chains so that the cranes can lift it slowly out of the hole and put it on the waiting truck. That’s the first draft. It’s hard, dangerous work, and when you’ve finished, all you’ve really got is a block of stone. But now you have something now to work on. Now you can take your block down to the shed to carve and polish it and turn it into something of beauty. That’s revision.”

But first you’ve got to get that block of granite out of the earth, friends. You won’t have anything to make beautiful until you do that. Now go back to work. That means you too, Katherine.

I thought it was a nice metaphor, but I imagine a block of granite is much neater and cleaner than the stuff I end each November with. You know that floating garbage patch in the Pacific? My 50,000 words are more like that.

This is Kevin Kwan’s pep talk in 2017. It’s not the most inspiring of the pep talks I looked at but it has a couple of good moments.

This is what I did. I went home and turned on my email auto-responder. The next morning, I got up at 7:00am, made a cup of tea, and sat down at my computer. I did not turn on my phone or load my emails. I told myself I would check my messages and emails only after 4:00pm, and even then I would only respond to emergencies. And then I wrote. Or on some bad days, I at least tried to. I wrote and wrote from morning to late at night and paced around my apartment and screamed and cried and laughed and kept on doing it for thirty days straight. I didn’t shave for a month, I did not bathe sometimes for three days in a row, I did not see any of my friends, and I ordered way too much bad Chinese takeout. But at the end of those thirty days I had somehow, miraculously, finished my novel. And I had written far more than I had even intended to—my final draft came in at a little over 140,000 words, and yes, my agent kept her word, found an amazing publisher, and a year later Crazy Rich Asians was published.

I collapsed without putting myself properly to bed, then got up at about three and did it correctly. I think I got four decent hours of sleep before the alarm went off.

I picked up all three meals from L&L for reasons I can’t remember. I had a loco moco for breakfast, then chicken katsu and rice for lunch and dinner. Too much food. I had leftovers.

Sharon texted me to ask for help with some work stuff I couldn’t help her with. It led to some talk about our weekends. Sylvia and I chatted about one of our new coworkers and how crazy Sylvia’s work schedule is. It’s pretty demanding. Vicky and I talked a little more about the product she sells with her MLM. Ali sent me a photo and we chatted a little. Crush Girl and I texted a little about some takeout she had over the weekend. I’ve actually had some takeout from the same place, so we compared notes. Susannah texted to encourage me in the last week of NaNoWriMo. She’s done it, so she knows what it’s like.

Honestly, I can’t wait until it’s over. I’m pleased about producing this work, and I think I have something I can really turn into a novel. But geez I need that time for, ugh. Probably wasting to be honest. Wasting time is restful. Writing a novel is strenuous.

Don’t go through the pandemic without connections. Leave a comment if you need someone.

Lockdown: Just win, baby

I stayed up too late Saturday night, of course, then woke up a few hours later than has been my Sunday wont, lately. Rolled out at about 9:30, not in a hurry to check the football games but neither in a hurry to get busy on stuff I wanted done.

I did put on the Dolphins-Broncos game as I lazily mapped my day, and it was surprisingly engaging. I think people expected the Dolphins to win in a blowout, but the early part of the game, which is all I saw, was competitive and decently played. Broncos ended up winning but I was gone by then.

Hunger won out, as always, and I got out the door mostly to get a Subway sandwich on my way to the office. Picked up a second sub to consume later.

I got right to work when I hit the office after first inhaling enough of my delicious turkey sandwich take the edge off. Set a goal to leave in two hours, but I needed an extra half hour to finish updating stuff. Still, only two and a half hours of Sunday office time when my usual is closer to five. I’m mostly quite pleased. I won’t care as much when football season’s over, but that won’t be until February. so bringing that number down habitually would be nice.

Got home a few minutes into the second quarter of the Raiders-Chiefs game. Man, that was a stressful game, and the Chiefs won in the final minute. It would have been a great game if it were any two other teams. Kinda sucked from where I was.

I did a couple of crosswords and read the news, then goofed around on my phone and finally took the nap I was trying to resist, at about 8:00. I wasn’t worried it would keep me up late; I had a feelnig I was going to be up late anyway. Plus, it was only going to be an hour — the NaNo Skype group convenes at nine.

It was a good nap, but not satisfying enough. I reeeeeally wan’t feeling it when I sat down to write at 9:30 (yeah, it’s sometimes a half hour commute from the bedroom to the desk), so I spent half an hour reading some of the NaNoWriMo pep talks.

Beginning many years ago, the NaNoWriMo organizers have sent pep talks via email for NaNo participants, from notable published writers, one per week. I almost never read them, although I remember something Rainbow Rowell wrote in 2013 about a pile of words and how it convinced me to give this craziness another go. Wow, seven years ago.

Nine. I read nine pep talks (they’re archived on the website), including the Rowell. Some takeaways:

From Alexis Daria in 2020. I didn’t know who she was, but her profile photo is rather fetching. She’s a romance novelist.

…stories provide another function I didn’t mention above: Stories can heal. And we are in desperate need of healing right now.

When the writing gets hard, or when it all feels like too much, remember why you write, and that there is value in what you’re doing. Stories matter. Your story matters.

It’s time to write it down.

From Dave Eggers in 2010.

Is procrastination a problem for you? Really? You think you have a problem?

Here’s procrastination: The organizers of NaNoWriMo asked me three months ago to write this pep talk, and I’m only writing it now, after blowing three deadlines, after avoiding 10 reminders. I was asked to write a pep talk for NaNoWriMo, and I’m actually writing it after the month started. So whatever procrastination problems you have, I probably have you beat. I’m the worst, and I’m getting worse every day.

It’s a very strange thing, because we all think writing should be fun. That is, when I was temping through most of my twenties, wondering what it would be like to write for a living, hoping for such a life, I thought it might be pretty sweet. I thought if I ever got to write for a living, I would feel pretty lucky, and that I would be so appreciative that I would bound out of bed every day and, like a goddamned adult, I would write as much as I could every day, and get work done in a reasonable amount of time. Again, like an adult.

Instead, I need, on average, eight hours sitting on my writing couch to get one hour of work done. It’s a pathetic ratio. I stall, avoid, put off and generally act like someone’s making me do some terrible job I never wanted to do. I blow pretty much every deadline I’m given.


Knowing there are thousands of others out there trying to do the same, who are using this ridiculous deadline as cattle-prod and shame deterrent, means goddamnit, you better do it now because you know how to write, and you have fingers, and you have this one life, and during this one life, you should put your words down, and make your voice heard, and then let others hear your voice.

And the only way any of that’s going to happen is if you actually do it. People can’t read the thoughts in your head. They can only read the thoughts you put down, carefully and with great love, on the page. So you have to do it, goddamnit. You have to do it, and you can step back and be happy. You can step back and relax. You can step back and feel something like pride.

Then of course you’ll have to revise it 10 or 20 times, but let’s not talk about that yet.

Write your goddamned book now. The world awaits.

From John Green in 2010.

At this point, you’ve probably realized that it’s nearly impossible to write a good book in a month. I’ve been at this a while and have yet to write a book in less than three years. All of us harbor secret hopes that a magnificent novel will tumble out of the sky and appear on our screens, but almost universally, writing is hard, slow, and totally unglamorous. So why finish what you’ve started? Because in two weeks, when you are done, you will be grateful for the experience. Also, you will have learned a lot about writing and humanness and the inestimable value of tilting at windmills.

So here’s the pep part of my pep talk: Go spit in the face of our inevitable obsolescence and finish your @#$&ng novel.

Best wishes, John Green

That’s a lot of positive energy. There’s more, but I think I’ll share it in pieces. Anyway, I avoid these kinds of pep talks because there’s a class of writers who spends more time reading about writing and talking about writing than it does actually writing, and I decided twenty years or so ago that I don’t want to be in this class. The thing that makes you a better writer is writing. Talking about writing, or (worse) passing along writing quotes you see on Tumblr, or retweeting writing advice you see on Twitter: these are not writing. They make you an expert at talking about writing but they don’t make you a writer.

I’ve been feeling a little down, not to mentioned drained and unmotivated. The nine pep talks I looked at Sunday evening before getting started really helped.

It took a while, and I had to keep working even when the other Skype participants signed off, but I hit 2389 words, taking me past the 40K mark. Now it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that I’ll finish November with 50K words. My challenge now is to wrap the story up, as crude a wrapup as it is certain to be, so this ugly pile of decent ideas has a beginning, middle, and end.

Then, although it was nearly one in the morning, I did some work-work. Stuff I hoped to have done before the weekend was up. Stuff people were waiting on. I got good work done and sent emails out at 4:00, and finally crashed into bed at close to 5:00.


Breakfast was the turkey sandwich. A very late lunch was a chicken sandwich. A very, very late dinner was cold pork and beans, not right from the can this time — I poured them into a bowl and dumped room-temperature Vienna sausage on it. Yum.

Not much texting. Ali and I sorta got into it over some COVID -19 issues I don’t really want to drag up. It was not one of those times when we communicate well. Bleah. Sylvia and I chatted a little about exercise and the unfair shortness of the weekend.

I think it was a good weekend but dang. I need more weekend. I need more sleep. I need more time to do work. I need more time for decluttering. I need more time to watch DVDs. I need more time (and better water conditions) to swim. I need more time to vegetate.

I have good connection with friends and coworkers. That’s a big plus for me. If you want in because you aren’t connecting enough, leave a comment. It’s keeping me sane. You might need some of that.

Lockdown: I am an island

My Saturdays of late have been the kind of mellow I almost always wish my Saturdays could be, going back to the beginning of my teaching career. That they are strangely lacking in something I can’t nail is a mystery to me and kind of a disapointment, but I suspect it has something to do with just not enough in-person contact even for my people-shunning self.

Most of the day I’m blissfully alone, free to do whatever I want whenever. Then I get these moments where I realize that if I were to drop dead, it would likely be several days before anyone knew. Part of me wants to embrace the thought. Most of me fears it.

I hate to say this, but it’s important to me to matter. Yes, I know if I suddenly dropped dead it would matter to all kinds of people, but this isn’t quite what I mean. I mean most of what I do in my free time is utterly self-centered, almost by necessity. NaNoWriMo is maybe the ultimate self-centered activity of my every November. These are times when a spouse or some offspring would create instant meaning, instant mattering.

But then I couldn’t write this novel.

I stayed up until two-thirty Friday night finishing Ted Lasso. Amazing program.

I slept okay for some of the night and not okay for the rest. Got myself up at about 9:30, pleased to know I could (and would) take a nap later. Jumped in my car and headed for the Taco Bell drive through again. Two mornings in a row. Woo. I don’t regret it, either.

Did a bit of writing, then the Saturday crossword. Read the news. Did a little more writing, reorganized my Feedly feeds, did the Sunday crossword, and took a nap. It was a decent nap but it felt great just to take it, to roll myself up and spread myself out and just not have to care about getting anything done.

Got up to do the Friday 5 and watch the news. Rewatched parts of Ted Lasso and wrote a recommendation of it to post on FB.

I skipped lunch because breakfast was so substantial. For dinner, I put some fresh tatsoi on a plate and dumped leftover Korean veggies on it. Cucumbers, bean sprouts, choi sum, kim chi, shoyu potatoes. I also cubed some cold tofu and threw on some grape tomatoes. It was pretty tasty, and an enormous plate of veggies. Took me most of the night to get through it all.

The raw tatsoi went really well with these things. I wish my neighborhood supermarket sold it. I had to get it from Foodland Farms after last Sunday’s swim.

The Skype was fun this evening, and I hit 2525 words, although it took me longer than usual. Everyone else signed off by the time I called it a night. I had kalimotxos all evening while I wrote. Good noveling fuel.

I texted briefly with Crush Girl to tell her more about Ted Lasso. Jennifer texted to chat a little about the bagna càuda, which I encouraged her to try.

I’m not fully sure what I’m doing Sunday, ‘though I have some writing for work to finish, so I may hit the office for just a few hours. Raiders have the late game. Ah yeah, I guess I’ll have to get my house stuff done before then so I can do NaNo in the evening and still go to bed at a decent hour.

Weather here is getting windy and rainy. It’s feeling like autumn. It’s going to be a long winter. Don’t go through it disconnected. Leave a comment if you want my contact info, and I’ll be happy to connect with you via text or DM.

Friday 5: High voltage

From here. This week’s questions taken from AC/DC song lyrics in recognition of the band’s new album, which is pretty dang good.

  1. Are you ready for a good time?
    I’m eager to have one, but I don’t think I see one in the near future, at least not until after the new year. I may have a good time on my own January 20, which I am absolutely looking forward to. Sorry Mel.
  2. What do you do for money, honey?
    I’m a writer for a non-profit. It’s good work and I do it with good people. This is all I ask of my career, so I’m pretty happy where I am. I jumped in too late to be called a lifer, but I don’t envision myself leaving.
  3. Who’s your friend and who’s your foe?
    My foes are COVID-19 and government officials who subvert the democratic process, including those government officials who indulge, encourage, or empower other officials toward this subversion. My friends are (to quote a character in Ted Lasso) “good people trying to make a difference.” I’ve worked in a few different career-type jobs these past couple of decades and I’ve made very good friends at them all, good people trying to make a difference. Ross, George, Valerie, and Traci at HBA. Alison, Kerri, Susannah, and Sandi at Assets. Keith and Juli at KCC. Suzanne, Julie, Cindy (especially Cindy), Wendy, and Shellet at the engineering firm. Sylvia, Patty, Sharon, and Ali where I work now.
  4. What do you do that’s guaranteed?
    I am almost guaranteed to find new ways to mess up. Everywhere I’ve worked except the engineering firm and the community college has rules in the books added because of something I did. Mmm maybe not the current place, but it’s only a matter of time.
  5. Do you wanna journey?
    So much. I was already coming down with some wanderlust before this thing started. Wanted to make a few repairs to my car first, then was going to go on a few trips. I even pay for an email subscription to this service that alerts me when there are super low fares somewhere, including mistake fares that the airlines usually honor. I’ve paid for two years and have taken zero trips. I figure when I take one it will pay for the subscription, and when I take a second I’ll come out ahead. However, this is unlikely to happen any time soon! See my answer to number three about foes!

Lockdown: Be a goldfish

Slogging through Friday

Friday wasn’t my best day, production-wise at work. I struggled to focus and made very little progress on any of the documents I had open in front of me. I basically resigned myself to working over the weekend on some of it, something I try not to do. I’ve got enough work-related stuff I try to do on weekends without adding the work I meant to get done Friday, but alas, and here we are.

I did make some progress on my entries for the staff newsletter. I had to go to my already-determined Plan B on the film review. I was collaborating on a list of documentaries with one of our new coworkers, not realizing she’s still on the continent and is moving here Wednesday. Moving sucks, and she doesn’t need the stress of creating content in the middle of her relocating week.

Bring on the darkness

Mostly vegged after work, then got going in the NaNo Skype. The energy was pretty determined. We did multiple word wars in succession, getting me across 2000 words in about ninety minutes, with enough conversation along the way to keep us all encouraged and tapping away. I finished at 2222 words.

There were a few big new releases Friday. I gave the new Dark Tranquility album a spin. Melodic death metal’s not my favorite genre, but some of my favorite metal bands are solidly in it, including Children of Bodom and In Flames. The Dark Tranquility is pretty good; I may have to revisit their earlier work. And maybe more melodeath. My musical tastebuds may be changing. My earbuds?

The new Killer Be Killed album is fantastic. Difficult band to categorize. It’s a supergroup made of members of bands I haven’t listened much to, except for bassist Troy Sanders of Mastodon, whose every album I own. and whom I’ve seen in concert twice. It mostly thrash with a hint of prog metal, but it also leans heavily toward groove metal. I’m biased, so the songs Sanders does lead vocals on are my favorite, and they sound the most like Mastodon.

Reluctant Hero a good, heavy, head-nodding album. There are that I could easily spin for non-metalhead friends without worrying they’d be frightened off. Heavy but not nasty-heavy, not face-melting heavy. Very listenable. A good candidate for my top 20 of 2020. I may have to give Dillinger Escape Plan and Soulfly an extended listen because the band says its sound is sort of a blend of all their primary bands’ sounds.

I got ready for bed and then watched the rest of Ted Lasso. Geez what a good program. Go watch it.

Daily minutiae

Breakfast was from Taco Bell and it was delicious and I didn’t have the faintest twinge of regret. I skipped lunch, then made some angel hair for dinner, topped with most of the rest of my bagna càuda. I had a few crackers with extra-sharp cheddar to snack on while I noveled.

Sylvia texted to ask if Whamageddon is in effect now, because she heard the song this morning while passing someone’s desk. I said I honestly didn’t have a clue, since everything I know about Whamageddon is from her, but it seemed to me it wouldn’t begin until after Thankgiving.

My classmate Tiger texted me to see if I could talk. We haven’t spoken in a year or so, so of course I said yeah. You never know. She called me and of course it was to ask about my feelings about MLMs. I confessed to her something I was planning to tell her anyway: that I had attended one of Vicky’s MLM things via Zoom, so of course I was going to attend one of hers, if she thought it would help her. It was a good conversation. I miss my classmates.

I haven’t spent any money yet, but I’m open to it. Vicky sells Young Living. Tiger sells a number of different MLM lines, including Amway. Bring it on.

Sharon and I discussed a few work-related things. We had a positive test in one of our on-campuses offices, so that whole office was cleaned and everyone stayed home for two weeks. Ali texted, responding to a video I sent her of a man feeding a bunch of raccoons. It led to some other conversation. She seems mostly likely to text me late Friday evenings, when she’s up getting her schoolwork done. I’ll take it.

I also texted Crush Girl to recommend Ted Lasso.

That was Friday. Another in a long line of lockdown Fridays with no end in sight. Don’t go through it alone. If you need someone to connect with, hit me up in comments. We can text or DM or whatever. Here come the holidays like a giant wall of heavy groove metal.

Lockdown: Biscuits with the boss

The last session of the workshop Thursday morning went well. It was kind of a wrap-up with final questions and then each participant shared one takeaway from the workshop. Most of us gave variations of the same answer, including me. The Pixar pitch. Useful stuff.

Then I took a nap because dang I was tired. And then I worked horribly inefficiently on some stories and this proposal thing I’m doing for someone. Then I posted a news release story on our website, and composed the social media copy and wrote an email to my supervisor complaining about the writing.

That took a while and I didn’t sign off for the day until past seven.

I went for a late breakfast, getting takeout from a sandwich shop in my hood. It was an enormous sandwich and super delicious. I can’t wait to go back and try some of the smaller sandwiches on the menu. If they’re made with this kind of care, they’re going to be outstanding and not as sinful.

It was so much food I skipped lunch. Then for dinner I had the leftover stuffed pepper and some leftover Korean veggies. Kim chi, mostly, with a little bit of choi sum and some seaweed mixed in. It was a good dinner.

Good energy in the NaNo Skype. We got a really nice group of writers, and when this happens, the little community that springs up is great for writing. NaNo is a lot easier when you’ve got some community going on, something this lone wolf was surprised to learn many years ago. Writing is a lonely thing, not merely in the social sense but in the existing sense. You’ve got this thing to say and only you can say it. Or you’ve got this dream and only you can make it happen. Or you’re putting these thoughts together only for you and you may be the only person who ever reads them.

I powered through my words, hitting 2198 words with a little bit of effort near the end. That last couple hundred for the night, to push you past 2K, can be tough.

I shouldn’t have done this, but when I was done, I got myself ready for bed, got comfy, and watched the first two episodes of Ted Lasso.

Okay listen. Just listen. It’s a stupid title for a series. The premise doesn’t sound that interesting. I’ve heard people in my media consumption talk about it, and at first I let it swoop past me. It just didn’t sound great. Then more voices chimed in, and the old voices repeated themselves and the sentiment that kept coming up was this show is super, super positive, and super, super sweet. And stuff like “It’s what I needed this month, and I didn’t even know I needed it.”

So two weekends ago, I downloaded all ten episodes to my phone and finally gave the first episode a look last night and cruised right through the second. It’s what everyone says it is. Positive and sweet and exactly what I needed. As I’m writing this I’ve now seen eight episodes, and each one made me laugh aloud and tear up a bit, and sometimes both at once. Go ahead and read a description but don’t let it make your mind up. Just watch the first episode and a half. I’ll be surprised if you don’t stick with it. This series is something special. Oh, it’s on Apple TV+. Sorry. If it’s avaiable to rent or purchase on the other platforms, just rent the first two episodes. Seriously. You’ll want to rent or purchase the rest. And no, you don’t have to care about or love sports.

I was up too late and it was very irresponsible, but I don’t care. This conference has made my life difficult and I needed some self-indulgence. I mean beyond a gigantic $12 deli sandwich.

Thursday I didn’t text much. Recommended Ted Lasso to Penny, then to Crush Girl. Crush Girl and I texted a little about the weather and about swimming. I think the nightly Skypes for NaNo are giving me most of what I need, so the texting has decreased this month.

However. Feel free to reach out if you could use some too. Freaking pandemic and crazy current events. Just, you know. Reach out. Leave a comment.

Lockdown: Starmaker — sleep taker, heartbreaker

Woke up at 2:30 Wednesday morning, slightly later than usual, but since I already knew what I was going to do after the laundry (zip home and get to bed!), I didn’t stress getting off to a bit of a later start.

There were some shady-looking people in the parking lot of the supermarket where I like to get my drinking water. Nobody messed with me, though. I must look badass in my mask or something.

Got a Big Mac combo from the McD’s drive-though and got to work at the laundry. I had an assignment due by six in the morning, so I worked on it while the clothes did their watery somersaults.

I think it came out pretty well. It was a thank-you letter to the donor we wrote our proposal for in the earlier assignment. Since my proposal was an actual work in progress, if we get what we’re going after, I already have a decent thank-you letter for our CEO to sign. Pretty nice. And if not, I have a decent letter to use for some other thing later.

I got home around 5:30 and was back in bed by 6:00. I had a 10:30 one-on-one with my supervisor at 10:30, and I had Jocelyn’s thing to format and edit, so I got up around 9:30 and got that stuff done. Then it was back to bed for a little while longer.

I had to prep a news release for the website. It was pretty low-maintenance, mostly because it went through a lot of hands for approval before it got to me, so even though I would love to have taken a little red pen to some of the sentences, I left it all alone and just focused on formatting.

I almost never get takeout for lunch on workdays lately, but despite a fridge full of groceries and leftovers, I went to the strip mall for Korean takeout. Barbecue chicken plate and a veggie plate. I like loading up on Korean veggies to last me the next several nights.

That was lunch and dinner, and I had a lot of leftovers.

The Skype was chatty but also very productive. I got 2030 words and signed off a little early. Tried to get to bed early-ish because of the 7:00 workshop session Thursday morning.

Suzanne texted to ask how I’m sleeping. I forgot to get back to her so I just did it now. Up late for NaNoWriMo, up early for the workshop. Not good. Crush Girl and I texted very little, but we did have some contact.

And that was Wednesday. I totally appreciate this writers conference my employer is paying to send me to, but I’m so glad it’s over Thursday morning.

If you need someone to connect with, I hope you’ll leave a comment. I’m bleary-eyed and fuzzy-brained, but I’ll try to be there for whatever’s on your mind.

Lockdown: Minutiae Man

Oops. I forgot to write about Monday before I wrote about Tuesday. It’s been this kind of two weeks.

It’s just as well, to be honest. Seriously, the days don’t differ much, one from the other, except for stuff I eat and people I interact with and media I consume. It’s the whole reason this lockdown journal exists, so the days don’t blur together into an objectless blurry photo. I write about the minutiae of daily work and living because the minutiae is all there is.

I stayed up far too late Sunday evening because that’s what I do Sundays when I don’t go to the beach Monday. I don’t even remember what I did, except not go to bed. I hate giving in without a fight to the weekend’s conclusion.

You’d think Monday was a holiday, based on the paltry few emails I got. Three emails from two coworkers. I sent a few more than that, replying to emails from late last week. I mostly spent the day staring at my Maui donor story without really making any progress. I also spent time flipping through my notes from the workshop last week.

I watched Pitch Perfect 3 for the fifth and sixth times in four days, opting to let it play while I worked on my NaNo project. The Skype was pretty subdued, but I kicked out 2322 words.

I think I may have had a slice of pumpkin-custard pie for breakfast. I tripped my way to the fridge for a Diet Pepsi, took the box out, cut out a small(ish) slice, and ate it right over the sink with my hands, the way one eats a slice of pizza. As dining experiences go, it lacked a certain grace. As early-morning sensory stimulation goes, it was just about perfect. I felt like the up-all-night cat devouring the early bird for a late night snack. I also ate some kulolo for a snack. That might have been lunch.

Dinner I remember very well. I boiled some angel hair pasta and tossed in some of that delicous bagna càuda, topping with some canned parmesan. Heavenly.

I texted my sister to give her a little update on my parents. Then Ryan to ask him if he was aware that there were imposter accounts on IG for him and his daughter on the same day. Sharon actually texted me first to tell me about the Ryan account. I saw the daughter account myself. Crush Girl texted me to talk about a new series she’s been watching on Netflix. I hadn’t heard of it but I was pleased to see one of the main characters is an Asian teen.

If was supposed to go to bed early but I’m a doofus and stuck around in the NaNo Skype longer than I meant to — by two hours. I was going to be dragging Tuesday for the workshop but this is the price of creating art. Even crappy art.

Leave a comment if you’re feeling disconnected. Here come the holidays. Like a cat pouncing on a bird, or a bird pouncing on a worm. Don’t get slurped by winter.