135 prewrite


because of the long stretch of off-site contract work, i became seriously tired of writing the fiction AND as soon as I did it, i’m glad I did. haven’t missed a day yet. I think back to the (false) dream that i had, the one with the neat and tidy bow, where i finished the first draft in 100 days and could celebrate on christmas day. yeah, right. first, i hadn’t calculated how long a fiction book is supposed to be. i didn’t take a word count and divide it by 100 days. i didn’t have any backup plan for writing through this work thing. which i have managed to do, though not always with glee and joy.

until i read it over.

and then i CAN’T TELL the days that i hated it versus the days that came easily, as it all reads the same. which means that even when i hate it, it’s still working. and even when i’m not feeling it, the output is fine. and even when i think it’s not working, it is.

and how i feel about it has (almost) nothing to do with its success.

Note to self: keep doing the thing that you know is right, that will make you feel proud of yourself, because how you feel about it is NOT a good barometer of how it’s working, because feelings change wildly from day to day. depending on so many things, but for me it’s mostly sleep.

113 prewrite

a word about days now that i’m 13 days past day 100.

here’s what happened. i focussed so hard on getting to day 100, couldn’t wait to get there, felt like pushing a truck uphill.

then the day comes, and i get my treats.

on day 101, what do i do? i could stop like i’d planned, or i could keep going. i kept going, i had enough planned for 2 more days.

then i did the classic (and i mean classic) boozer thing of looking too far ahead to find a reason why i shouldn’t continue NOW.

example: i won’t be able to write when i’m xx or xx, so i might as well quit now. (how will i not drink whenever i go to france next, i might as well drink now.)

in my case, i have a work thing that starts on monday that will change my schedule around (day becomes night, and so on), that i knew was coming up. so back when i planned to do 100 days of continuous writing, i made sure it was finished before the thing that starts on monday.

except now the book is longer, and i’m not ‘done’ yet. (just like sobriety has momentum and it’s not time to be done yet.)

so on day 100 i had a decision to make. keep going UNTIL the new work thing, and see what it’s like THEN. or make a decision, in advance, that i won’t be able to do something in the future.

when really. oh my god. the only time we can do something is now. and i have no idea how next week will go. and maybe i’ll write on monday but only 50 words instead of 500.

but to decide on day 100, however many days in advance, that i won’t be able to do something in the future? sounds familiar, right? how will i be sober at my son’s wedding (better drink now). how will i be sober for our cruise in july (better drink now).

here’s the thing.

we don’t know how we’ll feel when we get there and the decision is in front of us.

but i think, what i’m learning, is that we make completely different decisions than we think, ESPECIALLY if we have momentum. even 4 days is momentum.

I got to my day 100, and i thought “just one more day” – which i did. and now it’s day 113?

13 extra days of writing that i was sure i couldn’t do. and as i go on, three things have happened:

  1. i’ve extended my momentum, writing the sober book (like extending your sobriety, writing and living your new your sober life)
  2. i’ve stopped counting the days until it’s over, now i just get up and do the thing (less focussed on day-counting after day 100)
  3. i have started, just yesterday on day 112, to think that maybe next week i’ll still write and it’ll be fine.

this is not just about ‘being in the moment’, it’s about (my) definition of anxiety:

anxiety is looking ahead, seeing something coming up, ASSUMING that we won’t be able to deal with it when it happens, and panicking now.

when really. we can deal with all kinds of things. and we learn resilience every day. and we don’t know WHO WE’LL BE when we get there, in the future.

With our new learnings, and new momentum, and new resilience.


111 prewrite

ha. i’ve just made a writing mistake that parallels early sobriety.

i just reread the previous 20 installments in one go, from the beginning of the snowstorm, through the food prep, the stuff with mel/laz, the champagne, getting the money from don, walking out into the snow, the homeless guy, the snowplough.

i thought it’d give me momentum to write the next section, or that i’d see some convenient hole to fill in today.

instead it did this.

in looking back i see all the small flaws, the repetition of the word ‘pompom’, i see the overuse of a certain kind of sentence and not enough of what she physically FEELS (i say a lot about what she sees when out walking in the snow, but not what she feels).

in looking back i feel tired. i’ve already done so much. AND there’s lots back there to fix.

now that i’ve done all this re-reading, it feels like i’ve done my writing for today. and i haven’t. overwhelm. i hate learning lessons like this the hard way.

what i usually do when i sit down is i read only the entry from the day before. what i’ve been doing up to now is to forge onwards, without too much backwards reflection (YET) so that i don’t lose the point in moving forward.

because too much excavation, too early, makes things seem overwhelming.

duh. how often do i say that to you, on day 18, when you say “it’ll never get done” and i say “just do today.” or when you say “i’m on day 60 and i need to figure out why i overdrank in the first place,” and i say “there’s lots of time for excavation, you’re going to be sober for a long time, you don’t have to do that now. keep going forward.”

keep going forward. the time for reflection is post day 200 in sober terms. maybe that’s the same in writing terms! (i just did the math, and i’d be on day 200 writing on april 2nd, not that i think there are 90 more installments to write – god i hope not! well, i hope it’s over AND i hope the story never ends, at the same time).

note to self (to you): keep doing what you’re doing, if you’re sober, then it’s working. there’s lots of time for rewriting. if you’re doing the first early parts, then just focus on that for now. forward. travelling. do today’s part. do today. onwards.

109 prewrite

today i’m proud of myself. it’s silent, early morning, up before most of the locals. the upstairs neighbours are away. quiet. i can actually hear birds, it’s like the shortest day of the year has really passed, and we’re into something new.

it’s raining. it’s warmer than seasonal which is a gift. my husband who has been sick for days and is still in bed, still sick. man flu + coughing so much you throw out your back. yes, that’s him. but right now, he’s quiet too, and asleep. when i tell him he doesn’t cough when sleeping, he doesn’t find this curious. i do.

my emotions are in charge of everything i do. if i feel frisky, i make bread and do the dishes. if i feel slighted, i sulk and listen to business podcasts with both earphones in, sorry, can’t hear you. when i like my life, i make dinner. when i’m a slug, we have frozen meals from the frozen-meal-store, which is actually quite good, compared to north american standards. it’s not lean cuisine. it’s actual food. just frozen.

and as this new year unfolds, unspools, like a roll of film in front of me, i get to pick where i walk. i decide how many days i go outside. how many times i make dinner. how many times i drink juice. i get to decide whether i want to write a sober fiction book. i get to decide if i learn new things. if i play video games. if i sit in the bathtub.

i’m the writer of this new film, the one called Me 2018. i’m also the actor, the stage director, and the costumer. i get to decide what i wear, today here in my plaid pj bottoms and my sober fuzzy socks. i get to choose between all-butter croissants or ‘croissants ordinaires‘ (always pick the former).

i get to reach out for tools and supports that make me feel better about my life. i remember that how i think about things changes them. the rainy sidewalk becomes shiny with reflected light when i’m in the right mood, and can also be sludgy black and dark on another day. i pick the shiny. i pick the 80% that’s good. there’s something going on right now in your life, in mine, that sucks anus rocks. I’m not discounting my shittiness. i’m focussing on the good parts. and on the parts that i can control. starting with how i feel about me.

and when i don’t drink, i feel better about me. so i’m going to continue doing that. ?

[i didn’t intend to write this much! it was supposed to be a prewrite to get warmed up for the writing project today. ok, might use this later on the general blog … hugs to you everything list. you inspire me :)]

95 prewrite

i limp to the finish line. i had ideas when i started this, of writing 2-3 days at a time, and then posting. didn’t happen. i had ideas of writing in advance for the london trip or for thanksgiving catering. didn’t happen. i have 3 times in 94 days been able to do the outline the night before, even though it works better that way.

i can see, literally, what works better, and i can’t make myself do it. i resist all things that would make my life easier. like setting a timer 4 times a day to do a couple of minutes at a time (like you emailing 4 times a day, just set a timer and do it).

i haven’t gotten the flowers i promised myself for day 70 (or 80 or 90). in fact, i got flowers 2.5 times. the urge to ‘just push through’ is my predominant mentality.

if you were emailing me on day 95 and saying “wolfie is getting jiggy about what i’m going to do on day 100” i’d say: plan your treat now, renew your pledge for 180 days, and have a big sleep.

now, granted, writing at year 5 sober isn’t the thing as being in early sobriety. it isn’t. there are parallels but it is not the same.

but momentum is a thing. and it builds. and then the desire to not break the momentum can carry through some of the awkward times. and stopping and starting is harder than keeping going. (because in stopping and starting, you have to repeatedly do the hard part of starting …)

it’s starting that’s harder than keeping going.

i know that if i stop, it’ll be brutal to start again.

and right behind that i know that if i have a vacation, it’ll be easier to approach it again with fresh eyes.

and right behind that i think that people who call themselves sober don’t drink. and people who call themselves writers, write.

i’m trying to talk myself into keeping going. it’s not really working.

i’d be happier if i was finishing the draft in the 100 days as i originally intended. this unfinished thing does mess with one’s sense of completion.

oh yeah. there is no complete. this book becomes another one. this one needs editing while the second one starts. writers write. they have projects in various states of completion all the time.

how are we, boozers, with the idea of ambiguity, with things ‘not finished off in a tidy bow’ – we suck at it.

le suck.

i had a great weekend, clean house, made dinner one of two nights, showered both days. wrote in the evenings both nights (2 of the 3 nights that this has happened). i also spent 3hrs each day playing a video game with my husband (we’ve found one we can play against each other). then i watched a ridiculous movie on netflix which was compelling and terrible at the same time.

the thing i want, the sense of completion, i’d better learn to find it in daily increments. i’d better get used to the process and not always be hurtling myself along to the finish line ? i’d better get better at treats. i should own more than one pair of jeans.

and then

then i realize, just now, writing this

that i can change the next 5 days. i can get a writing treat each day. i can go out for sober lunch each day. i can get flowers and then a new spatula and new jeans this week. i can build up to day 100 and then see how it feels. build up, not wind down.

maybe that’s it.

maybe that’s it.

93 prewrite

from me: isn’t it 100 days yet? I said I’d do 100 days continuously writing, is it almost over? ha. i know.

yes, i like the story too. and i feel like i’m pushing a truck uphill, even though i’m more than halfway through the length of the book. still unsure what i’ll do after day 100. Rayna apparently has a few ideas, and has been informing me. as weird as that sounds, you can probably relate when i say that rayna seems like a real person, even to me ? some of the others, like jack, aren’t fully formed yet. i’ll have to go back and make him more “Jack” on a future draft.

Writing (being sober) is like watching a polaroid develop. some things are clearer to begin than others. then we wait and see what happens as time goes by.

i have a whole laz/mel subplot in mind, but right now, today, i don’t want to do it because it’ll take too long (!) and rayna won’t like it (!). so i’ll write restaurant stuff instead. still moving forward.

(most writers, of course — shall i say ALL writers — would write things more out of order, and then rearrange later. this idea of mine of writing the next page in the book each day is a bit daunting, because if i introduce something now, then i have to follow through with it (versus deciding tomorrow it doesn’t work after i’ve written a couple of thousand words)).

so sometimes then, the current scene (or situation, or dialogue) will run a bit long, as i try to write enough that i can clean it up later, but also while i figure out where the story is naturally going to go next. the red peppers that jack was grilling become part of the zucchini salad, that kind of thing. mel’s bunny scarf becomes a talk about resurrection.

so, while i know what happens in big blocks going forward, i don’t know all of the connecting parts. and since i’m writing this in order, the connecting parts are important. when i don’t know what the next connecting part is, i tread water.

and later, when i read it over, i can’t even notice the treading water parts.

88 prewrite

you know how moods change, right? how yesterday i was relieved to be on day 87. and then this morning when my alarm rang, i turned it off, slept another hour and a half, and thought upon waking “don’t want to keep doing this writing thing.”

You see, my writing is in the morning. so it’s the reverse of early sober problems. In the evening i love the idea of writing this book. in the morning i think it’s a bad idea and don’t want to do it.

but here’s what just happened minutes ago. and this is a good reason for you to have a sober penpal, to document your story, knowing someone will read it and have insights (just like i’m writing this to you for the same reasons). what just happened is i re-read yesterday’s installment to get ready for today’s. and i thought (no kidding): “i want to keep reading, i wonder what happens to her?” like, in a third-person-kind-of-way.

me, the writer, thought about rayna, the character: “I hope i can keep reading this.”

so while i maybe never hope i get to keep WRITING it, i do want to READ it.

and while you might not love every moment of LIVING SOBER on this day, you will like REVIEWING that you’ve done it. we never regret not drinking. we never wake in the morning wishing we’d drank the night before.

same with writing. always glad i’ve done it.

and now, it seems, i’m engaged ‘as a reader’ in what happens to her. not sure how i get to be both people in this scenario (the writer, the reader). but maybe you’re the same. you want a cool life, and you’re the one writing your story of what happens today and THEN you get to live it and THEN you get to review how it’s going, wondering what happens next.

we are creating today. you and me both!

78 prewrite

when i started this fiction project, i thought it’d be as long as the how-to-be-sober book (40,000). so i started to write this one, 40,000 words in 100 days, seems easy enough.

as i go along, i realize that it’s not easy.

but i keep going.

then i get to about the halfway mark (20,000 words) and realize it’s not long enough. Extend the 40,000 to 55,000.

sounds like being sober. started for 30 days, extended to 90, then ‘just a bit longer’ and today i’m on day 1,980.

ok, then i did some research on the length of fiction books? gulp. unless it’s a novella, regular length is 70,000 to 100,000. yeah, no shit. good thing i didn’t know that when i started or i wouldn’t have started. (if i think i’m quitting drinking FOREVER then i’ll never start, too large, won’t finish, too much.)

but if i start off heading towards 40,000, then extend it a bit, and now here i am realizing that there’s a big chunk of book left, that is still EASIER than any of the other options.

just begin. move the deadline. go a bit further. then you can SEE further out, and it’s not so scary.

ok, so that means i will not have a first draft of the novel finished in 100 days after all. i’ll have a big part of it done, though, 22 days from now.

don’t know how i’ll write it after the 100 days, i may keep going for a bit, or take some time off (a couple of days?). i know how that sounds though, even to me. it sounds like “if you have momentum, then keep going. it’s easier to keep going than to stop and start. yes, even if it’s christmas day. yes, even if travelling. yes even if it’s your birthday, yes, even if.”

and as tempting as it might be to say “i’ll just pause for a few minutes and then start again when I FEEL LIKE IT, you and i both know that ‘feeling like it’ is generated by ALREADY BEING IN MOTION. you don’t feel like it before you start. you feel like it once you’re underway, and you’re making progress, and you’re solving problems, and you’re celebrating milestones.

you know.

how everything is like everything.

76 prewrite

it took until day 74 for me to change the schedule. for 73 days, i got up and wrote first thing. afraid that it wouldn’t happen otherwise. and didn’t want it on my to-do list all day in case something else happened to hijack my time.

then on day 74 i changed things. it didn’t seem like a big deal (it was only 3 days ago) but now i realize – duh, of course – it takes time for the new thing to feel reliably possible, to not feel like you’re pushing a truck uphill.

i might have thought it would be around 60 days, but – well, in this case, it’s 73.

last week i had very busy catering, and still wrote every morning, first thing. one night i was in bed, writing out my plan for the next day, i thought: what if i ran first, then wrote. what if i got up, no headphones, no podcasts, no distractions, no email. just get up, run and then write.

did that sunday and monday and again today. and the difference is subtle, but impactful.

and you might say, well no shit sherlock, everyone feels better after 10 minutes of exercise.

and i would say, yes, but to begin, i could only do one thing at a time. i could only write. i couldn’t vary or alter the schedule. I wrote first, then ran.

Now i can run first, then write.

i had something that was working (writing, sobriety), and i was too nervous to fuck with it. when you don’t allow yourself even one failed day, then you HAVE to come up with coping strategies, and this was mine: don’t change anything.

get one successful day and repeat.

repeat for how long? until you know that it’s ok to move the schedule around a bit.

how long does that take? in my case, this time, 73 days.

day 76 of continuous fiction writing today. never been here before.

68 prewrite (the tunnel)

yesterday i moved my laptop from my desk to the dining room table, which seemed to open up some ‘mental’ space. also the dining room table is cleaner than my desk, so i don’t feel so hemmed in.

also, last night, husband was out (as he often is), but instead of hiding in my office corner facing the wall, i was out here, at the table, and the apartment was dark around me, and it was just me, and i put on the fairy lights around the mirror, and i started to write.

no kidding. i found the portal/tunnel back into the story in the evening, 8-9:30 pm ish.

thus far, i’ve been writing mornings. first thing. get it done. but also writing to a deadline every day.

last night, just went into the tunnel and stayed there until it spit me out.

this is only significant because i USED to write at night, when i was single, when i was in grad school, and i used to get into the tunnel by drinking one beer on an empty stomach and sitting in the dark and waiting.

and last night, that wormhole opened up again. sans alcohol. sans husband. lights off (husband always has the lights on, i turn them off as soon as he leaves, he watches tv with the lights on, which for me ruins the ‘effect’).

and it only took 67 days to find this wormhole. that’s a long time. too easy to get discouraged in that time. too easy to decide that it’s not worth it, that it’s not working, that it’s working but not well, that it’s good but not great, that i could be doing something else (sleeping).

but to write at night means i can skip the 6:15 a.m. alarm. it also means i might start sleeping through the night again (last night, awake twice, once about rayna, once about catering this week, don’t forget the lemon and sugar ‘sand’ on the cake says my head, in bed, at night).

from DG yesterday about my ‘tense’ samples:

My input, while still just an opinion, is: “snarky narrator tense” sounds too much like your blogging. You must know that I love your blogging. Your writing style drew me in from the first day I found your blog. I identified with your experience and vernacular. This idea coalesced for me when I finished reading the last snarky tense sample and moved on to your prewrite. The snarky paragraph transitioned into the prewrite and I felt no distinction in form. By the way, I really enjoy the prewrite. Anyway. Just my 2¢. 

and my reply: perhaps snarky narrator (sample #6) is the closest to my real voice, if it sounds like my blogging. perhaps that’s my true voice.

of course, that does NOT mean i should write a novel using my blogging voice. but it might be a place to start for a first draft, and then flip things later.

tired. cautiously optimistic.