I am writing.
My mother-in-law is watching the twins and I am writing.
I’m writing out of my house. Out of my pajamas. And without one eye on the baby monitor.
I know this is a little bit a so what? How is that a big deal? Except it is for me. It’s the first time I’ve done this in the fourteen months they’ve been mine.
Recently I commented on a handful of writer friends’ New Years blog posts about my goal for the year: Focus, I said.
Which inspires a little bit of a *gigglefit* because Focus and I have never been friends. Just ask my parents or twelve years of teachers. Or the legions of Distraction Fairies who are always willing to pluck my attention away from the task at hand and lead me on a wild goose hunt—let’s make cookies, organize the spice rack, is the mail here?, I should write a letter to my great aunt, did I finish Christmas thank you notes, oh! I meant to put the boys’ photos in a new photo book. Let’s Google ideas for formats. Let’s Google character names. Let’s open the WIP. Is there any coffee left?
What was I saying again?
Oh, yes, Focus!
I’ve long since accepted that I’m a Distraction Fairy magnet and I’m never going to rewire my brain to think in a linear fashion. But, what I can do is Focus on a task while doing it. While reading books with The Schmidtlets, I’m not going to worry about laundry or my word count. While spending time with Saint Matt, I’m not going to obsess about the length of our to-do list. When sitting at my computer during precious naptime, I will stay off the Interwebs and make the most of that time with my WIP. While on the phone with friends, I’m going to be less multi-tasky. The toys can stay on the floor for another few minutes and I can give all my energy over to listening.
And now, while sitting in this coffee shop, I will appreciate the baby-free writing time, stop calling to check-in every few minutes, and FOCUS on the words on the page in front of me.
There’s someone I’d like you to meet. I can thank my good buddies at tech support, faux-James and faux-Jordan, for her appearance in my life. If they hadn’t terrified me about another impending computer- pocalypse, I probably wouldn’t have spent the next week waking up in a cold sweat and running down two flights of stairs to check on Huey.
It was time to get a Mac.
So I’d like to introduce you to my birthday MacBook.*
So, meet Dulcinea.
St.Matt pronounces it: Dull-sin-neigh-ah
I say: Dull-sin-knee-ah
Both are correct.
We’ll call her Lucie for short.
And Lucie is fabulous! Besides being adorably decked out in a pink&green skin that I designed myself (I am far too proud about this), she WORKS!
Unlike Huey, Lucie will communicate with our wireless printer. I’ve been printing things Just Because. So… if you want some puggle pictures, let me know. Lucie also has a “SuperDrive.” On Huey it’s just a CD/DVD drive, but on Lucie, it’s SUPER.
Did I mention she comes with a remote control? I love remote controls! St.Matt’s first Mp3 player had one and I was ridiculously jealous. Never mind that he repeatedly pointed out mine was waterproof a much more practical feature, and that he didn’t need a remote because the Mp3 player was strapped to his arm. I still wanted one.
And Lucie has one! I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but still… I have one.
If I disappear into a cloud of Laptop-Love full of unicorns and rainbows, I know you’ll understand. (Yes, I’m quite sure that Lucie will be a new Distraction Fairy).
… Or maybe because I’m so infatuated with Lucie, my blog explode with posts…. Er, and they won’t all be about lame-o things like how I learned to print and my so-far-just-fun-to-look-at remote control.
*Whenever I say MacBook, I want to sing Mack the Knife. Does this happen to everyone, or just me?
There’s a scene in Alice in Wonderland where the White Rabbit oversees the playing cards as they frantically paint tulips. Yes, paint them. Because they’re supposed to be RED, not white, and the Queen of Hearts will holler: “off with their heads” if any white flowers besmirch her garden.
It’s possible the White Rabbit has visited my garden lately.
My other theory is that I’ve been Evermore’d, because when I arrived home from my weekend in Boston, this is what I saw:
I’m not naturally an unhappy person. Naturally I’m a please-keep-her-away-from-sugar-because-she’s-already-overly-effusive person. But I don’t compartmentalize well and I wear my heart on my sleeve (even when I’m wearing strapless). My puh-puh-puh-poker face? It’s a mythical creature more elusive than the unicorn. If something exciting happens, I radiate; if something scary happens, I tremble; if something upsetting happens, I bawl. And when something devastating happens, I shut down.
Luckily, while I may not compartmentalize, I am very easily distracted.
I needed something to distract me right now. (Distraction Fairy, where art thou?!) There is no better way to distract myself than doing something good for others – especially when it involves books!
Enter Operation Teen Book Drop! (See http://www.readergirlz.com/ for more information). As soon as I hit ‘post’ on this blog, St. Matt and I are off to purchase and drop books. I’ve got my bookplates and glue sticks ready to go and a list of potential drop sites color-coded and annotated. I’m so excited to buy books for others and have spent far too much time thinking about which titles I want to share.
I’ve already got tomorrow’s Distraction Fairy lined up too. TIARA DAY! This is a Susan Adrian suggestion that I may have taken a little too literally. I know people will post tiara’d avatars on Twitter, but do other people actually wear their tiaras? Because I am. Not only will I be wearing a tiara, but my kiddos will be as well.
It has been decreed, tomorrow will be Tiara Day in room 202! We voted, and even the boys decided ‘Tiara Day’ sounds far better than any gender-neutral version. Royal Headwear Day? Please. Besides, many of my boys plan on borrowing their sisters’ tiaras and rockin’ some rhinestones. This may have been influenced by my (male) vice-principal’s announcement that he would join us in our tiara endeavors. We will also listen to ♫Punk Rock Princess♫ a frightening number of times. Can’t wait!
Know this now, when I tweet, blog, or otherwise visit the cyber-world tomorrow, I will be doing it bejeweled, with a magnanimous royal wave, and while keeping my chin up and my Distraction Fairy occupied.
Were you good at maintaining a post-break-up cooling off period? If you had a spat with a friend and she hung up on you, did you wait for her to calm down and call you back?
I failed at both of those things: over-anxious to go from kissers to companions, I’d want to call and hang out while battle-scarred heart tissue was still exposed; I’ve never handled tension well either, I want things resolved and reassured before the fight’s begun.
Mostly, when I love someone, I want him/her near me.
Granted TBALMCSAP is not a best friend, boyfriend, or even human – but the two weeks of self-imposed separation have been hard on me.
I’ve missed my WIP; missed the characters, had songs I wanted to share with Gyver (we’ve got similar taste in music), and comfort I wanted to offer to my conflicted MC. My finger’s twitched on the mouse, itching to click the ‘open’ icon; I’ve wandered into the spare bedroom and stared longingly at my storyboards, written in color-coded marker on whiteboard walls. In a show of impressive self-restraint, I’ve steered my mouse away and refrained from paging through print-outs.
It’s not permanent, I’ve told myself. It’s better in the long run. I need distance to gain perspective and clarity. I’m not ready. Strangely enough, these words would apply to post-break-up scenarios as well – is that why they’re familiar?
Two weeks – they’ve passed in a blur of insomnia, Jace-flavored Distraction Fairy’ness, caffeinated mornings, midnight workouts, and catching up on grading.
I’ve got big plans for tomorrow. Plans that include not changing out of my pajamas or eating anything that requires cooking. Plans that include turning the ringer off on my cell phone and selectively answering e-mail (so if you’re curious about if I really love you, tomorrow’s a good day to drop me an e-mail).
Before you write this off as a self-indulgent waste-away day, let me correct you; It’s a self-indulgent day of all-consuming revisions.
It’s rare that I can find a whole day without commitments, interruptions, or company – and this one’s timing is fortuitous. It’s been two weeks since I finished the first draft of TBALMCSAP, I’ve suffered through my forced separation from the MS, and now I’m ready and able to belly flop in – purple pen at ready.
My first revisions are brutal – they’re comprised of amputations, reconstructions, and -dectomys of all sorts. There’s a reason I don’t use red pen – I can feel my WIP’s non-anesthetized pain – I don’t need a bloody visual.
So while St. Matt’s at work, while the puggles are snuggled in sunbeams (*please, please, puggles – feel like sunbeam snuggling tomorrow*), I’ll be pajama’d and purple-pen-prepared to tear down and build up.
Let me at TBALMCSAP – I’m ready. I’ve missed you.
On Twitter today I noticed this acronym: IRL. At first I thought it was a typo for URL, and then using my best teacherly context clues, I decoded it: In Real Life.
But as writers, don’t we have a different definition of real life than others do?
It’s not always my house in Pennsylvania, my mischievous puggles, or my saintly husband that seem the most real to me. I’ll go for a writing-run and come home not knowing which Doylestown roads I paced down, but with images of fictitious East Lake blurring past my footsteps.
There are days I’ll shave the same leg twice and emerge from the shower with my head still sudsy but full of conversation between my protagonist and her love.
Yesterday I looked up from writing – and just a blog, not even TBALMCSAP – and turned to St.Matt and said, “Hey, if you want to go for a run, you should go before it gets dark and then we’ll do dinner.”
“Tiffany, it is dark. I already ran and I cooked dinner. I ate sitting right next to you, don’t you remember?”
I didn’t. But should I admit that?
Should I confess that sometimes the settings, people, and stories in my head seem more realistic than the ones playing around me in 3-dimensions? That chasing Distraction-Fairy-Jace to Idris taints my dreams and re-directs my thoughts until I find myself surprised not to find runes carved on my own skin? Or that my kiddos’ discussions about the characters in Angie Sage’s Magyk infiltrates their math class, recess talk, and casual conversation until we’re all wishing for a cat/duck or a messenger rat? That I broke my heart and sobbed early morning tears for my main character but rolled my eyes at the co-worker drama that unfolded a few hours later?
I’ve always struggled with this – the real versus the envisioned. My imaginary friends required places at the dinner table and had an alarming habit of ducking out of the way so my dad had to make at least three attempts before he could nail them with goodnight kisses. I caused a minor scandal at the grocery store when my five-year-old self started bawling and screaming at the shopper who’d hit Harvey with her cart.
The bewildered woman looked around, “But I didn’t feel anything. Where is he?”
“He’s around the corner crying and bleeding,” I bawled and the woman went wide-eyed and white faced.
My mother, frantic at the sound of my howls, then embarrassed as she tried to reassure the terrified, apologetic shopper she hadn’t run-over my younger brother, lashed out: “Tiffany Allison, Harvey is NOT REAL. He’s imaginary. You MADE HIM UP.”
If I’d been the recipient of the cart collision, it couldn’t have hurt more than those words.
But it didn’t stop me from making things up – from creating, imagining, and living dual lives: one corporal, one mental.
It’s possible I’m alone in this. Doubtful, but possible. Even if I were,, however, I wouldn’t feel lonely. How could I? There are stories to live and create, both IRL and IMH.
When I pictured the Distraction Fairy – which I frequently do while being distracted – I always pictured a her. And she had a pointy chin and ears, blonde hair, wings, wand, the whole sparkly shebang. Come to think of it, she looked remarkably similar to Tinkerbell, only she wore pink instead of green and obviously she has a tiara.
That’s not how I picture the fairy anymore. If you read yesterday’s blog you know that my Distraction Fairy is currently named Jace. And even though he is a blond, Jace would not don pink ruffled chiffon or a tiara for anyone. He’ll sulk, he’ll pout, he’ll be all-around angsty, but he’s not putting on a skirt.
At least he didn’t in Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones…
I don’t know about City of Ashes or Glass yet because I don’t have them YET! Despite having finished book one in The Mortal Instruments Trilogy before going to bed, I don’t yet have numbers two and three.
Frustrating, I know! I turned the last page, looked around and noticed that it was dark out. I looked at the clock: 2:30 AM. Was my first thought: ‘oh geez, it’s really late and I should get to bed’? Nope. It was: ‘aw man, it’s hours before the bookstores open and I can call around to see who has the second and third books in stock.’
It’s quite possible that at this point I became a Distraction Fairy and peppered poor Emily Hainsworth with endless questions, predictions, and what-if’s about the rest of The Mortal Instruments Trilogy.
I take this to be evidence for why I need a Kindle or Sony e-book reader. With a few simple buttons I could have been blissfully re-engaged in Distraction Fairy indulgence.
I presented this argument to St.Matt when I woke him up at 3:30 AM. He disagreed. He thinks this is evidence for why I shouldn’t get a Kindle or Sony e-book reader. Let’s quote him, shall we? “You don’t need anything that’s going to make you sleep even less than you do now.”
But doesn’t he realize the Distraction Fairy flew away as soon as I ran out of pages to read? And then what was left? An overwhelming, itching desire to dig into TBALMCSAP revisions and not emerge for days, which isn’t an option right now.
I can do this.
It’s only an hour ‘til I go pick up doses two and three of the Jace-version of the Distraction Fairy and only two days ‘til I can bleed purple ink on TBALMCSAP.
As for St. Matt’s suggestion that Distraction Fairy take the form of culinary masterpieces or a spring cleaning binge, doesn’t he know the fairy can’t hold a wand and cook/clean at the same time? (And I seriously can’t picture Jace in a French maid’s uniform… guess I’ll have to wait and read).
I’m strict about few teacher-ly things. One of these is an orderly line in the hallways. In fact, I’m very particular about my lines – they’re to be quiet, non-running, and the students should greet any adult they pass with a “Good morning.”
Shortly after arriving at the bookstore –to remove myself from the temptation of buying more books — I wandered into the back area where the signing would be held and began checking out the artwork. I challenged the-other-Tiffany to an identifying contest, then picked out prints I’d like to have in my house and explained where I’d hang them. Basically, I prattled on while St. Matt and the-other-Tiffany nodded tolerantly and watched the store clerks set up tables and name cards.
“What?” I turned. There was, in fact, a line that began behind me and reached back almost to the bookshelves. “Weird.”
I informed the girls behind us that we weren’t in-line for anything and continued to amuse myself by blathering and checking Twitter on Petunia, commenting on how – since the authors were sequestered in a room closed off by velvet drapes – they were quite literally the (wo)men behind the curtain.
The-other-Tiffany poked me: “It’s really a long line now.”
I turned again – the line was past the bookshelves and snaking back through the store. It was a good line. A great line really. Mostly single file, not too loud, people were respectful of each other’s space, no shoving, shouting or other tomfoolery was occurring. It was a line that would make any teacher proud.
No one moved. Apparently my teacher line-up superpower overwhelmed them. The line now reached through the store and to the door. It was causing problems, blocking traffic. I was being capital-T-is-for-Tiffany-and-Trouble without meaning to. (Not that I ever really mean to cause trouble, but I have a talent for it just happening).
After each author had done her introduction, they opened the floor to audience questions. They promised a Hershey Kiss to each brave asker, but I’m sorry to say that they frequently forgot to toss them. (I think this was due to a woeful lack of accurate throwing ability). Not that the askers minded – it wasn’t the smidgen of chocolate that motivated any asking. Some memorable questions: When did you know you wanted to be an author? Do you write or read fan fiction or read reviews? Lisa told a sweet story about meeting Madeline L’Engle when she worked in a bookstore. Cassie talked about how her interest in history influenced her writing and also mentioned possible graphic novel/side stories that may be forthcoming. Elizabeth spoke about how Living Dead Girl was inspired by a dream she’d had four nights in a row and Beth shared how adopting her daughters motivated her to write Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. They were all charming and engaging; I could’ve sat and listened for at least another 30 minutes before my whole bottom half fell asleep. Alas/ at last, it was time to move on to the signing portion. An announcement was made: And what did the crowd do? Did they go mingle and chat while waiting? No. They lined up. They lined up to get in line. There was the line of numbers 1-15… and then the line of people waiting to get in line when their numbers were called. I was tempted to ask the bookstore crowd if they’d like to come back to my school and do a demonstration of advanced-hallway-behavior. Seeing that I was older than most of the audience, I tried to keep my impatient I’m-waiting-in-line-to-meet-Lisa-McMann dancing to a subtle shuffle-in-place. I must’ve been successful because no one asked me if I needed to use the restroom. Finally it was MY turn. (I might have cut the-other-Tiffany and seen Cassandra Clare first). I hadn’t read her books before meeting her, but yesterday’s fan enthusiasm pushed City of Bones to the top of my towering tower of TBR and I’m now almost done. (The next two are on order at the bookstore – Distraction Fairy, thy new name is Jace). P.S. There were some superstars in the audience too. Among them: Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld and BEDA-Queen, Maureen Johnson. I was quite tempted to go ask Maureen how it felt to control the free time of 400+ fans for the month of April…but decided she might not want to spend her non-computer hours discussing interwebby things. The fact that I am now mentioning this in my blog, however, is absolutely acceptable. And is in no way, shape, or form a shameless bid to have my site chosen as BEDA blog of the day…
Lisa: 4th grade
Beth: After 40
Elizabeth & Cassandra: I fell into writing after trying everything else
Universally, the authors distance themselves from fan fiction (although, Lisa did allude to some mysterious, pseudonymous Survivor play-by-plays). They also agreed reading reviews ends up being more confusing than helpful for them as writers – they’re more for other readers.
Those of you with numbers 1-15 please line up for signatures. Everyone else, please make yourselves comfortable, we’ll call you up in groups by your numbers.
She is lovely! She was kind, gracious, and willing to chat about spoons, Twitter, Cappy the kitten, touring, school… I forgot about the line toe-tapping behind me. It was like slipping into a conversation with an old acquaintance, and even though I AM a major fan, I didn’t walk away feeling like I’d been a blathering incoherent fangirl. I walked away feeling like I’d met a kindred spirit and thinking another perk of fulfilling my author-dreams would be meeting more people like her.
After each author had done her introduction, they opened the floor to audience questions. They promised a Hershey Kiss to each brave asker, but I’m sorry to say that they frequently forgot to toss them. (I think this was due to a woeful lack of accurate throwing ability). Not that the askers minded – it wasn’t the smidgen of chocolate that motivated any asking.
Some memorable questions: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Do you write or read fan fiction or read reviews?
Lisa told a sweet story about meeting Madeline L’Engle when she worked in a bookstore. Cassie talked about how her interest in history influenced her writing and also mentioned possible graphic novel/side stories that may be forthcoming. Elizabeth spoke about how Living Dead Girl was inspired by a dream she’d had four nights in a row and Beth shared how adopting her daughters motivated her to write Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. They were all charming and engaging; I could’ve sat and listened for at least another 30 minutes before my whole bottom half fell asleep. Alas/ at last, it was time to move on to the signing portion.
An announcement was made:
And what did the crowd do? Did they go mingle and chat while waiting? No. They lined up. They lined up to get in line. There was the line of numbers 1-15… and then the line of people waiting to get in line when their numbers were called. I was tempted to ask the bookstore crowd if they’d like to come back to my school and do a demonstration of advanced-hallway-behavior.
Seeing that I was older than most of the audience, I tried to keep my impatient I’m-waiting-in-line-to-meet-Lisa-McMann dancing to a subtle shuffle-in-place. I must’ve been successful because no one asked me if I needed to use the restroom.
Finally it was MY turn. (I might have cut the-other-Tiffany and seen Cassandra Clare first). I hadn’t read her books before meeting her, but yesterday’s fan enthusiasm pushed City of Bones to the top of my towering tower of TBR and I’m now almost done. (The next two are on order at the bookstore – Distraction Fairy, thy new name is Jace).
P.S. There were some superstars in the audience too. Among them: Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld and BEDA-Queen, Maureen Johnson. I was quite tempted to go ask Maureen how it felt to control the free time of 400+ fans for the month of April…but decided she might not want to spend her non-computer hours discussing interwebby things. The fact that I am now mentioning this in my blog, however, is absolutely acceptable. And is in no way, shape, or form a shameless bid to have my site chosen as BEDA blog of the day…
I have RMS. It’s a second-cousin of Restless Legs Syndrome. This one is Restless ME Syndrome and it has one cause: forced separation from my WIP.
Last Sunday I finished my first draft of TBALMCSAP. ~*Hooray*~!
But then comes the waiting… I like to think waiting two weeks between writing the last word on a draft and beginning revisions gives me a bit of detachment and objectivity.
Or, I like to think that when I’m NOT in the two week waiting period. Waiting stinks. Stinks like sixth graders post-recess in May.
I’m itching to crack open the file. I’m craving the feeling of my purple editing pen against still-warm-from-the-printer pages.
And I’m telling myself: no. wait. be patient. (Apparently I don’t know myself very well)
So what do I do in the meantime? There are still 7 more days ‘til I’ll let myself play with TBALMCSAP again; I need something to fill up the hours that normally would have been spent defining the W in WIP.
I signed up for BEDA. I stocked up on books. I made the haircut appointment I’ve been forgetting to schedule since October. I’m attacking piles of grading. I’m in negotiations with my ankle about running without pain. I’m heading to NYC tomorrow to see an A-squad of writers (which, let’s be honest, is only going to make me more anxious to tackle TBALMCSAP). I’m filling hours and counting them down.
But mostly, I’m driving St. Matt nuts because the only real cure for RMS is writing.
Suggestions/ Distraction Fairies welcome.