Friday, August 26, 2011

Not Writing--Cooking

You knew this one was coming. I just wasn't sure when I would post it. But it was the evanescent Natalie Whipple over at Between Fact and Fiction who brought it up, with her delicious-sounding recipe for lime cupcakes. Yum. I can taste them now, and I don't even need to bake them to do so.

Despite being a staunch pescatarian (vegetarian with fishy leanings), I really enjoy cooking. It isn't nearly as time-consuming as grading papers, but it also has some pretty fantastic advantages:

1. People get to eat what I cook, and tell me it tastes good.
2. I get to eat what I cook.
3. It's one more lovely thing to do to keep from writing.
4. Did I mention that I get to eat it?

Since Natalie already handled dessert, I'll take care of the main course:

Kid-Friendly Potato Chip Fish


several fish fillets, any kind, thawed
2-3 cups salt & vinegar kettle style potato chips (they are a bit thicker than regular)

1. Lay the fish flat on a spray oiled cookie sheet.
2. Mix mustard and mayonnaise together in a little bowl, two parts mayo to one part mustard.
3. Salt and pepper the fish filets, then spread the mayo-mustard mixture on the fish. (Oh, look, I even used alliteration!)
4. In a sealed bag, crunch the chips until they are broken into pieces. Then drop the pieces onto the spread mayo-mustard mixture.
5. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until the chips are a little browned.

And that's it. Of course, the whole prep for this, including oven time, is only about a half hour, so I'll have to make those lime cupcakes, too. Anything to avoid dragging out that novel!

What favorite recipes do you use to keep from writing? If you have them posted somewhere, give me the link. And don't worry, if you hate cooking, I have plenty of other ways to keep from writing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not Writing--EDITING

When I taught classes full time--which accounts for most of the last 18 years, even while rearing babies (yes, the term really is "rearing," an appropriate term for at least the first 2-3 years, when caring for the baby's rear is one of one's primary tasks)--I often used grading papers as an excuse to NOT write.

The excuse worked. Really well. Anybody would believe me. All I had to do is show my husband the ream of papers I'd brought home to dissect, and he'd shake his head sympathetically. And grading had to come first, too. After all, I got paid to grade papers. And writing, at least at this point, pays very little.

That knocked writing out all over the place. No way I can possibly do NaNoWriMo with all of this on my plate. Nightly quizzes, rough drafts, final projects, mini-essays. I was an English teacher, after all. Couldn't exactly run my papers through a scan-tron machine. (Any of you students and teachers should know what those are, the machines that read the sheets students fill little dots on. And they read tests zippingly, digesting and scoring 30 of them in a minute.)

I felt just like Cinderella, unable to go to the ball until I could get all my work done, find a suitable dress to wear, etc. So I sat around in my ashes, with my little purple pen out, grading away whole weekends at a time.

It was nice.

Only now I'm not teaching. And my house is pretty much all remodeled. Sure, I have a few excuses, but nothing nearly as good as grading. I've been reaching out, scrambling to find anything to keep from writing. After all, writing is a waste of time, isn't it? Hardly anybody ever sells a book, and even if they do it won't be successful, right?

I had to find some other way to fill the time. And now I have. I'm editing. For pay. This will be the third novel I've edited for money, though I have worked on many a friend's novel free of charge. Editing's a bit different from just being a beta reader. It's more in-depth, for it may be the last time anyone besides the author reads a book before it's published. Important stuff. Wouldn't want to miss a single typo or extra comma. What if characters close a door three times on a single page, but never open it? What if the ending is confusing?

And editing is FUN. No grade to assign at the end, and I know the author is serious enough to hire an editor, so I know my comments will have a positive effect on the final project. Nice. Rewarding. Time-consuming.

So I have finally found something to keep me from writing. I'm just sorry it's a temporary fix. In a few weeks, at the latest, I'll be done with the edit. I'll just have to find some other way to wallow in the ashes a bit more. Any ideas?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Hazards of Not Writing

I was slapped in the face this morning. Not literally, but I'm stinging from it just the same.

And it's all my fault. And it's all because I haven't been writing.

For YEARS, ever since I took freshman composition, I've been in love with the idea of writing a play about Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, whom I suspect wrote Shakespeare's plays. But over the past many years (too many to mention, believe me), I didn't write. I have tons of research for it, a huge collection of books on it, and I'd even made an outline of the major events so that I could someday write it.

Only now I don't have to. The movie is coming out in October, and it's called Anonymous. I've missed my opportunity.

Fiction writing is one thing--sure, J.K. Rowling has made the one and only Harry Potter, and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only happens once, but other fantastic characters can still lead beautiful lives on paper. I noticed, too, that yet ANOTHER production of The Three Musketeers is coming out. (How many versions are we going to get? The book is better than any of them.)

But Oxford's story should only happen once. I just hope it's done beautifully, that it is better than I can wish for, that people can see the irony, the tragedy, the poetry of the whole situation. Either way, whether it sucks or holds audiences spellbound, it's too late for me to write it. I've missed that chance because I haven't written it. Hell, I am probably still a decade away from having the skill to write it.

Then again, I'm not really writing anymore, so what do I have to complain about?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fighting Writer's Block

This post is really for all of you guys, not for me. Since I'm not writing. Not again. Not ever.

Seekerville has a pretty in-depth article on writer's block, and I've realized I have many good reasons to not write--more than I'd thought. Rather than work hard to eradicate the reasons (or get therapy), I've decided to just let my writer's block become permanent. Writing, after all, is just a waste of time, and I don't have the time to waste on creative play when I could be doing the laundry instead. Laundry, after all, is never a waste of time. People need clean clothes.

People need clean dishes, too. What are they supposed to use, paper plates? People need me to clean up after them, too. It's not like they should be bothered with picking up after themselves. Isn't that my job?

And the cat. Who else could possibly fill his bowls with food and water? And who's going to check the mail if I don't? Or sweep, or scrub toilets, or reorganize the storage room? I mean, really, why waste time on a bunch of rubbish that won't ever get published?

I guess it's okay to write, though. IF you get all your work done, and IF you've given all the time you can to your family you can, and IF they don't need you for anything. And IF you've exercised until you're gasping. And then taken a shower so you don't asphyxiate people when you sit near them. And IF you get all the other tasks on your list done first. IF there's nothing on TV. IF you've called all of your parents and friends this week, so they aren't wondering whether you've died. IF you've posted all your recent events on Facebook diligently.

Lots of IFS. It might be a long time before any of us get back to our work in progress. I know it'll be a long time for me. I could probably keep adding to the list, too, if I give it more time.

But I don't have time. I need to dust. Dusting... now THAT'S a worthwhile activity.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Not Writing--TILING

This summer I spent most of my time not writing. I did it really well, too. I hardly wrote at all! The main way I managed it was by filling my life with other projects to keep myself from writing. In other words, every day I listed out things I could do to avoid writing, and I prioritized them, making them more important than writing, so that at the end of the day I might manage to get most of those tasks done, but my writing remained unwritten.

I don't like to brag, but I did a fine job of it. Laundry alone helps, as do the ever-present dishes, sweeping, paying bills, grocery shopping, vacuuming, cleaning out the litter box, and other lovely chores. But I couldn't have done it without the bigger projects. One that took up most of the month of June was TILING. If you're looking for a way to avoid writing, this is one I suggest.

It does have drawbacks. My nails are still horrible, I got grout in my hair, on my clothes, and stuck to my arms, my house was trashed the whole time, and I hated cutting tile, but the finished product is undeniably good.

I was even more fortunate that I had a butler's pantry and hutch area to tile as well. Here's the completed butler's pantry wall, which I coordinated with the kitchen tile.

So there it is! Don't want to write! Tile instead! It'll take forever and make a big mess, and your fingers will be too scraped up and sore to write. It sure worked for me!

I hope to be able to post a bunch of other things I've been doing to avoid writing soon. I'd do this more often, but I'm not supposed to be writing, after all....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not Writing--READING

In my quest to find stuff to do besides write (since all of you know I'm just NOT going to write anymore), I've come across an AMAZING pastime! Really! In fact, it's so great, you all just got to try it!

It's READING. Yup. Picking up an actual published book, opening the cover, and reading it. Amazing stuff, really. Even sometimes brilliant. Take, for instance, the series I've begun lately. It's a middle grade set of adventures, one I've been planning to read for a while. Cressida Cowell's HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. And it's good. Funny, silly, imperfectly illustrated, but I read the first chapter of the first book to my kids, and my son tried to read the rest of it in one night (he's seven, but he reads more at the third grade level). I wouldn't let him, either, not until I was finished with it. I haven't been this possessive with a book since Harry Potter.


I've got a whole list of other books I'm waiting to read, too, including the rest of this series (I'm now halfway through book 2, HOW TO BE A PIRATE). I also want to reread all my SHINOBI LIFE books my sister sent me, along with a whole list of books other people have been recommending to me for years. Anything to keep from writing again!

I know what you're thinking, though. "If I read, I won't have time to write. And writing is the most precious thing in the whole wide world to me." Then again, if you're here, reading this awful blog post, you aren't writing either. And wouldn't you want to read something better?

So many writers don't do it, though, for OH so many reasons:

1. That thing I said before--it will take precious time from their own writing. (And they've already cut out exercise, eating, and sleeping.)

2. Nothing compares to the brilliance of their own writing, so when they read some published book they find themselves repeatedly disappointed in the author's lack of talent.

3. Reading just gets their panties in a wad because such a craptacular book was published, while their manuscript remains unnoticed and rejected, even though it's infinitely better.

4. They fear they might like something in another book and accidently imitate it. And their ideas must be original or they aren't real writers.

5. They've misplaced their Kindle, and nobody reads real paper books anymore. Do they even sell real paper books anymore? Maybe at Goodwill, or something, but that is way too low class for a real writer.

6. They can't afford it. Every spare penny goes to copying and sending manuscripts by snail mail. Or alcohol.

7. Reading might make them forget, even for a moment, how miserable they are as writers, and true writers are never truly happy. Alcoholics, maybe. Happy? Never.

So, I guess I'm not a real writer. I don't even have the alcoholic thing down, dammit. I'd wallow here, of course, and make this blog entry twice as long, but you don't want to read that.

Come to think of it, I don't want to read that.

I'll just comfort myself with a good book instead. And maybe I'll learn how to be a pirate while I'm at it, thanks to Cressida Cowell.