“Courage means to keep making forward progress while you still feel afraid.”

— Joyce Meyer

It’s slow going, this writing work. I finished plotting the story A YEAR AGO. Every day, or every other day, I sit down at my laptop and I write and add to it. Each time I do this I think that I’ve “just” finished plotting the story and I’m proud of how far I’d come. But it has been a year.

There’s the fear I’ll never finish.

There’s the fear that it will be absolute garbage even if I finish.

There’s the fear that I’ll have put too much of myself into the story.

But I have to keep going.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s been nearly a year since I posted anything here. I’m sorry. It’s another one of those hiatuses that life forces upon us.

I have another baby boy. He is everything I wished for and more. Life on our own in a new city was already somewhat chaotic, so I thought, why not add to it?

But here’s what I have after all that chaos: two lovely little boys who we love more than life itself. They are our joy, our center, our breath. They are everything.

I Did It! (Sort Of)

I finished plotting a whole story, and not just in my head, but on writing. And not just a one page plot summary on the back of a book flap, but a whole chapter-by-chapter plot summary, along with background information on characters and places important to the story.

This may sound boring… but it’s a huge accomplishment for me as I have actually never plotting something out on paper before in almost 20 years of writing stories. This resulted in a lot of energetic false starts to these long ambitious projects that would eventually die off once the newest of world building and getting to know my character wore off. I’d then spend more time trying to perfect the few chapters I was able to punch out without actually expanding on the story and actually trying to move any plot forward. I’d even get to the point of getting the beginning of the “book” all nicely written as if I was polishing a complete piece of work.

Today I have a complete skeleton of a piece of work. I finished it two nights ago after a couple of days of intensively plotting for two hours each morning. Now I keep staring at this skeleton and I’m not sure what to do next. Do I start fleshing it out completely? Or layer by layer? Do I perfect the story chapter by chapter? Or do I write out the whole story completely before trying to fix it? Do I get second opinions on my story plot to see if it makes sense or is even interesting? (I’m actually really worried about doing this, as I fear my dedication to this story hangs on the balance on how others would view it. I worry that at the first sign of criticism, all the motivation I had mustered up to plot out a complete story would evaporate and I’d toss this project aside once and for all).

Or I could give my brain a break and read a book.

“My God, Mae thought. It’s heaven.”

The Circle by Dave Eggers

What a profoundly terrifying book. I feared for Mae’s sanity the moment they decided to add more than 2 screens to her work space. To be honest, I found it a little bit unbelievable that there can be so many people that naive about the world The Circle was proposing. But then when I really think about it, how many of us are always on social media now? Reading this book almost made me deactivate Facebook, that’s how scared I was.

Some of the benefits proposed in this technological dystopian novel are actually available now to a degree, and we’re able to maintain these with signing our souls over to the entities offering these services.

For example, as a Canadian living in Australia, I had my entire immigration processed online. I didn’t have to go down to a run down office building to wait in line or do face to face interviews. I’m sure others with more complicated situations than mine would still have to do so, but I did not.

Same thing with the annual income tax reporting in Australia–it’s all online. I don’t have to use an accountant and I don’t have to go to a tax office (we did have to go visit a run down office to speak with the IRS when we were doing taxes in the States).

And both these services were available to me by simply providing a couple of pieces of basic identity information. I didn’t have to install a chip in myself or wear a camera around my neck 24/7.

Eggers seems to have taken the current obsession with social media, with being heard and seen, to the extreme. His work with The Circle reminds me of A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (for those of you too lazy to read about it, it’s a satirical essay about eating offspring from poor families in order to reduce poverty).

Another book I read from Eggers A Hologram for the King. I also enjoyed the social commentary Eggers was hinting at in that novel. Eggers is definitely an author I want to read more of.

“Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book. “

Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book. People who are fond of books know the feeling of irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment. The temptation to be unreasonable and snappish is one not easy to manage.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

Hodgson Burnett was born in 1849 and published her first novel at age 28.

I don’t very often manage that temptation, as Jamie can testify.

“What would you do if I died?”

What would you do if I died?
If you died I would want to die too.
So you could be with me?
Yes. So I could be with you.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road

McCarthy was born in 1933 and published his first novel at age 33.

This is a piece of dialogue between father and son (a young boy) in a post-apocalyptic world where the two try to outlast cannibals, rapists, and disease.

Yet somehow these lines are absolutely relatable for parents in the modern first-world societies, where the most danger we face daily is being stuck in traffic.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

Charles Darwin

This past Sunday we gained an hour when the clock fell back. I find myself with an extra hour of time each morning with which to do whatever I wanted.

This is of course conditional based on how long our son sleeps in. Case in point: yesterday. There was no “hour of free time” as our son woke the same time as we did. So the extra hour was still Finley time (which, while enjoyable and rewarding, is not free time).

This morning I woke up at 4:30 (body clock 5:30). I spent the usual half hour browsing my phone in bed while boobing Finley (an early morning snack keeps him asleep for longer some days). I fully got up at 5:00 (body clock 6:00) and found myself with 2 hours to spend before I actually needed to get ready for work and get Finley ready for daycare.

I think about how I missed another daily quote for yesterday, so I set out to schedule some daily quotes for upcoming days that I just might not have time. Mondays and Wednesdays are the most difficult as half an hour in the mornings are already deadlocked for a morning jog, and those are also workdays where I must be ready to leave the house at 8:00.

I’m really proud of myself this morning for making proper use of the extra hour. It won’t be long before my body clock aligns with the adjusted time, so I should milk this for as long as I can.

On Writing Projects:

This has been stalled for the past couple of months. I had a burst of inspiration for a project a few months ago, started it, and now it’s stalled. It’s an interesting story (or so I think) with a not-so-popular perspective, which is why I really really want to be able to finish it and get it out there. It’s now become a Lost Work, in the pile with the others that I’ve started and stalled on.

And now I find myself revisiting an old idea yet again. I wrote a short story a long, long time ago about a girl who was different. The story was well-received by a lot of people and I received a lot of praise for it. Back then, I had the idea of turning the short story into a novel. Over the years I’d revisited this idea over and over, only to start and then stall whenever motivation left me.

I’m struggling to find a way to make myself accountable for finishing my Lost Works. I have a whole digital folder of these… the oldest of which dating back more than 12 years. The folder transferred and backed up over the years as I migrated from machine to machine, always looking for the perfect writing Medium.

During my time researching authors from the daily quotes I’m doing, I learn more and more about their Becoming stories. How they got their First Big Break and how they toiled to get there. I have a general idea of how old they were when they finally published their first novel and I know that there is always still time for me. That it’s not a completely lost dream for me just because I am a 33 year old mother of a young child. Some authors took more than ten years to finish their first work.

So I guess the point is that I still have time, as long as I choose to make time.

“But why, why, why can’t people just say what they mean?”

Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project

Simsion was born in 1957 (?) and published his first novel at age 56.

Don Tillman is one of my favorite characters in the fiction world. His love story with Rosie is hilarious and sweet. For me, there is so much about autism that I don’t understand, yet it was easy for me to enjoy reading about Don Tillman because Simsion made him so utterly sympathetic, and oddly relatable. Don Tillman is incredibly honest with himself as well as with everyone else, and that is refreshing.

The Rosie Result has been out on the shelves for a couple of months. I can’t wait to start on that.

Some interesting tidbits I picked up while researching for today’s article:

  • Simsion is an IT specialist turned writer.
  • It’s damned hard to find his date of birth on the internet.
  • He’s done a lot of interesting shit.

“He smiled, and his face was like the sun.”

Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles

Miller was born in 1978. She published her first novel at age 33.

This is a simple and beautiful quote. It conjures an image I’ve stored in my mind for years and years of a single moment. It’s of a golden boy, not much different from the Achilles portrayed in Miller’s work.

This is true artistry, for a novelist to be able to move her readers with a simple line.

The great dividing line between success and failure can be expressed in five words: “I did not have time.”

Franklin Field

So this post was going to be about how I did not have time to post a daily quote every day and how difficult it was to find interesting quotes now that I’ve gone through most of the interesting books I’ve read recently. I had tens of excuses ready.

But then while researching quotes on time management for this post, I come across this line by Franklin Field, and I realised that I had really just failed myself by letting things go. I was letting myself off easy. If it was really that important to me to have quotes ready each day and to post the reviews of books I’d already finished, I would have made time to do it. Instead I allowed myself to be constrained and made excuses.

I had given myself a hard deadline to post the quote by 9 am each day, and as it became more and more difficult to make that daily deadline, I would slip. I’ll do it tomorrow, I told myself. I’ll just change the publish date. What a cheat. That’s not the way to get myself writing again.

So this post is about admitting my failure, and not making excuses. I won’t go into how I “could not find the time” in the last few days to keep up with the daily quote exercise. I’ll just say that I failed.

The importance of admitting failure is so I can look at what went wrong, then start again. I can keep striving to do better. I can’t promise to be completely successful next time. I will fail again, but that’s okay, too. I just have to keep going, despite the failures.

I have two books I’ve finished reading and hadn’t begun reviews for yet. I will catch up. I will return tomorrow with a daily quote of the day, but I won’t give myself a hard deadline anymore. As long as I get in before the end of the day, then all is okay.

Thank you to all those who’ve followed me and liked my posts. I’m sincerely sorry that I haven’t kept up the daily quotes as I should have been.