‘Twas a Night Before Christmas When I was a Deranged Writing Freak

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So far, no jinxing in sight since I announced my return to writing: Whoop!

Dressed in jeans and long-sleeved top, I go into my Settling Down to Write Mode. Laptop warming up. Hot tea in mug on desk. Desk a dusty, cluttered mess, but I’m going to ignore it for now (an ability that comes in handy) Purple fleece throw on my chair. Purple pillow against my lumbar vertebrae. Dog happy. Husband busy. I should be all set.

But I’m cold. Dang.

My office is still too chilly, even after our builder fixed things post-move in. Near the middle-end of the first winter here (2012), I finally convinced them that the room was Truly Frigid and that is wasn’t “just me.” (after all, women without estrogen do not get cold easily)

I showed them the thermometer I’d hung from a shelf: never, ever did it get above – or at – sixty degrees. In a nice, energy-efficient new stucco house that, in most areas, stayed around 68 to 72 degrees.

They did call in a furnace-guy, who shot his laser temp-thingy at the ceiling:

“Hey, that’s reading 56 degrees!” he said. “And that one’s a chilly 58,” he said of the wall by my desk.

“Not surprised,” I said. “So why do you think that is?”

“I’ll bet you anything they forgot to insulate the roof over this room,” he said, and disappeared up a ladder to investigate.

How right he was – 50% at least. They’d missed half of the ceiling.

Thus me staying frigid, excuse me – and staying out of my office alot. If I’d have known about “fingerless gloves” last year I would’ve donned them.

Yes, the builder fixed it. Sort of (the three windows on the north side could be contributing) The room is bearable now, IF I wear socks, keep a fleece throw nearby – and wear my Ratty Writing Sweater.

The rattier, the better.

 I take the twelve or so steps from office to bedroom closet, muttering to myself.

“Old sweater…Hello. I need my Hemingway sweater…ah. There it is.”

It’s made of a cheap acrylic yarn that pills way too easily; it’s quickly donned. And does the job of making me feel ready to write and cozy and everything writer-ly. Doesn’t every writer need an old sweater, one that the public never sees, but for the FedEx man?

Hemingway wore sweaters and wore them well, by gosh. (My writing isn’t even close to his in skillful brevity, as you can tell, but people think you’re Literary and Cool to refer to ol’ Ernest, so I’m capitalizing on it.)

I settle in to work. The new manuscript, for some reason, seems to want First-Person for the two main POV characters. What a pain. 

First-Person is a tense-form that doesn’t come naturally to me, but for this story I am ignoring that and learning how to use it. I’m even practicing it in this blog post. But, sigh, I keep slipping back into my ‘natural’ writing tense of Third-Person. So it’s kind of a chore at times to stop correcting myself as I go – a sure way to squelch the Flow.

Note to new writers: Do NOT squelch the flow by editing as you go! 

Unless you’re an exception and it works for you.

Truth:  the ‘new’ novel is based on an old idea but had only been “summarized” until now. Now it’s coming alive… I’ve been typing up the long-hand material today and it’s fun, fun.

It’s occurred to me that what happened was this: I tricked my brain into producing words again.  Unintentionally done, but it worked.

Those of you with constipated creativity and no literary Bisacodyl on-hand may be curious as to know, pray tell, how?

* Did you know that jumbling around your routine can re-start your creative spark? Or doing ANYTHING DIFFERENT. Well, almost anything…

Exhibit A: Writing the old-fashioned way, pen and paper.

  • This was birthed from my desire to ride in the car with my non-chatty husband and not have diarrhea of the mouth; on a long ride, believe me, things can get ugly between us. Meaning me and my imaginary chatting-partner, also me.
  • It was birthed from not wanting to haul my laptop out of the house to write.  I wanted SIMPLE for a change. Even PRIMITIVE.
  • And it was birthed out of my distractability, which is endless when the Google Chrome icon is open.

Exhibit X: For some of us, including the Geniuses among us (self excluded), sticking to a routine does work better…even if it’s a weird one. *See article in side bar Writing Craft*

Exhibit B: But I’ve never been one for routines. I hate them, and don’t know why. More accurately, it may be that I detest “schedules” more than routines (I do ascribe to a few, such a tooth-brushing and taking my meds).

Never have been diagnosed with ADD, though at times I do wonder. Most of our children have some form of it, and hey, the spouse does, so I’ve always felt somewhat smug-ish at not having that issue.  Or I’m just a person with the attention-span of a hummingbird od’ed on sugar water mixed with Red Bull. Personality tests label me an intuitive, creative, non-linear, basically extroverted type who…let’s see…doesn’t like repetition or routine. Duh.

Fortunately, there are others like me whose example I cherish, such as the amazing Deb Stover. *see side bar Blogroll for her blog link*

However, this makes for an equation similar to: “If A (daily routine) is to X (becoming genius author), can C (hating routines) ever relate to X??”

(One of the reasons I detested Algebra, if that’s what that was.)

Onwards to the Story suggested by the Title of the Day, and aren’t you glad?

It was several years ago, early December. I was working on a contemporary romance novel, or trying hard to. Family responsibilities and angst weighed heavily on me in the very real sense. Lest you think I am merely a complaining wimp, let me give you some of the facts:

  • Hubby was on the second of two years of deployment (he was home about two months out of those two years)
  • We had a home crowded with older “kids” (some teens, some young-adult)  – some I birthed and one “foster son” very dear to us.
  • I carted two of them to school every day in a forty-mile drive, plus sports.
  • I was battling chronic fatigue and pain.
  • Being a military spouse, I was in charge of everything – but not in a good way, like being Queen or something.

Christmas was coming. Things were expected of me – like doing the tree, buying gifts, decorating the house, baking, other Holiday crap, er, tasks.

As December began, the one family member having trouble with the Law became our very first Jailbird. With hubby gone, and the Holidays ahead…I decided to become what I imagined a Hemingway-type writer would be, sans the tragic demise.

So I took my laptop to the table. I opened a bottle of white wine and set it next to my elbow.

I donned my ratty ol’ sweater.

I kept a supply of chocolate next to the wine.

Occasionally, I ate food.

I ignored Christmas altogether, and I wrote. Quite a bit.  And drank…or tried to. Now, I have never been drunk in all my life (hard to believe, I realize) – but I tried.

What the heck, I said to myself and anyone coming close enough to hear my ranting – I’m going to become a drunken, self-absorbed writer! I’ll join the Geniuses! I’m going to be like my alcoholic relative – why not? I’m going down that slippery slope, I vow to. I really will do it! To heck with Christmas!!

 So I wrote, and sipped wine, and ate chocolate, and ignored everyone. The younger two kids, with brows raised, asked me when we were putting up the tree?

“One of the family’s in jail, Dad’s gone ‘til next March, and I don’t care – Merry Freakin’ Christmas!” I said maniacally, and toasted them with the bottle. And kept writing.

They tiptoed around my table and whispered amongst themselves. I heard the Lord whispering to me (because in spite of this low-point, yes, I am a Christian) that He wanted me to stop this silly madness, but like everything else that made sense, I ignored Him.

Real smart.

Did I become a drunk? Um, no. Fortunately, I discovered that I am physiologically unable to get inebriated, and repeat said behavior to the point of getting an Addiction: I simply become nauseated, dizzy…and I go to sleep.

All thanks be to God.

After a few of nights of this, I decided to lose the booze, wear my old sweater and keep writing. Oh, and keep the chocolate close – and maintain my lousy attitude.

At least for a few more days. (Yes, I finally pulled out of it – especially when the kids put the tree up by themselves, and the Guilt set in. It did turn out okay in the end)

These December days, I just sip my tea and get too many cookies from the jar. Turn on the sparkling tree in the front room, and my new space heater in the office. And on days like these blustery ones, I stay warmer, if ratty-looking, in my ol’ writing sweater. I’ve also decided to name it.

It’s a he. And yep, he’s Ernest.Ernest lookin' good.

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