My life in a long ramble

(Started at 5:30 this morning.)

Why am I up?

I could be hungry. If I go to bed hungry I can’t sleep through the night. But I don’t always realize at first that I am hungry, it takes a while for me to be awake enough to recognize that feeling.

It could be anxiety/excitement (which often feel remarkably similar). Today at 7:40 pm I get on a train going south to Seattle. Then tomorrow I go and make sure that I’m not dying of plague, so that I can start my new job as a web developer for Seattle Children’s Hospital.

I always get nervous about stuff like this. In fact, I get a really stupid, obsessive, Twilight Zone, David Lynch movie kind of nervousness. I keep expecting the very rules of the universe to change randomly on me, like suddenly I’m going to forget how to speak or that Thursday will have magically disappeared. (It’s still Thursday, right? Sweet Zombie Jesus, tell me it’s still Thursday!)

This job starts at 60% time, which means that I will be in Seattle for 3 days a week and in Bellingham for 4 days a week, livened by the occasional weekend when Paul comes down to Seattle instead.

(So, at some point before my friends and family tire of me couch-surfing, I will be looking for a cheap rental, probably a room in a shared house.)

Paul and I celebrated our new having-jobs situation by going into ridiculous amounts of debt to acquire a car that works. Yay! We are good Americans now!

Not like we weren’t in debt already. But, you know, car debt is special. It’s loud, for one thing. I mean high. Not as high as it would have been if we bought the brand new Honda Civic. It’s funny, I had all sorts of dreams that when we finally got a new(er) car we’d get a Mini or something really different and exciting, and what do we get? Another 4-door Honda Civic.

Which is actually surprisingly exciting. I get excited every time I don’t hear the engine sputter as we go uphill and worry that it’s going to just die suddenly at freeway speeds.

Cars, that reminds me, P.J. O’Rourke is back. I don’t know, maybe he’s actually been publishing books and going on talk shows and whatnot steadily for the last ten years and I didn’t notice, because he was just being overshadowed by louder and more insane conservatives who wear miniskirts and things. But I certainly got the impression that he was one of those conservatives who hunkered down in a bunker during the entire Bush Era.

(Hmm, we need a catchy name for that. “Bush Era” somehow fails to resonate adequately. Taking nominations below.)

(Hunker in a bunker. I almost edited that out and then I didn’t. I think I’m giddy.)

Anyway, I like P.J. O’Rourke because when he makes jokes they are actually kind of funny, and not just insane statements that he claims are “jokes” in order to not sound quite so much like a psycho. Of all conservative pundits, he seems the most like somebody who I would actually have an interesting argument with, over a beer. Or, in his case, scotch and cigars.

I feel like the Bush Era was hard on that kind of conservative. Their ideology collided with reality in a painful way. They could see that their side was busy being wrong and also insane about nearly everything and yet… they just… couldn’t… quite… bring themselves… to come over to the dark side.

(Well, I guess John Cole jumped ship. And probably a few others.)

Mr. O’Rourke works better as a contrarian when Democrats are in power.

Speaking of arguments over beer, last BSFFC meeting we had a lively argument over the space program. The big arguments seemed to be 1. Moon or Mars, and 2. People or robots. Buzz Aldrin, for example, thinks we should put actual humans on Mars and not focus on the moon so much. Some people think we would be nuts to put actual people anywhere, when that’s so expensive compared to putting clever little robots everywhere.

I have sort of mixed feelings on that. I think we should start with robot probes but that our ultimate goal should be people. I want there to be a moon base. I want us to terraform — or at least viviform – Mars.

(Viviform is my new word that I’m making up just now to refer to modifying a planet so that it will support life. Viviform is apparently already a word that is used in microbiology to describe a particular state of bacteria, but it doesn’t seem used outside of that.)

Forty years ago, on Monday July 20th, was the moon landing. It’s my first really strong memory. I turned three on that day. My birthday is always the anniversary of the moon landing.

I will be in Seattle on Sunday July 19th. I will be making reservations for dinner at Buca di Beppo. Sixish. Please let me know if you want to come to this because otherwise I will be making reservations for two and there will be no place for you to sit.

In other news, I am still doing the Write-a-thon. My goal was to write every day no matter what else was going on. This is one of those things that is harder than it sounds. It’s easy to write *nearly* every day, but absolutely every single day? Not so easy. There was one day on the boat where I missed, and there have been a couple of days where I wrote, like, two sentences. But otherwise, victory is mine!

I have been working on a novel which I started in May. For a while it was going like gangbusters and I thought, “gosh, how quickly can I finish a non Nanowrimo novel?” It reached the magical 50,000 word mark in just three weeks of binge writing.

Binge writing is the most fun kind of writing to do. It only happens when I’m taking rapid dictation from my subconscious.

Which means… okay, this is a little hard to explain, because either you’ll go “oh, yeah, I know that part” or you’ll go “what the hell is she talking about?” Binge writing means that I basically already know, on some level, what the story is. It feels more like I’m discovering it than like I’m making it up. There’s a lot of “oh, right, so *that’s* how it is!”

You know that feeling you get when you play Tetris and work one of the long pieces into the right place and four rows disappear at once? Or when you suddenly get one of the long clues in a New York Times crossword puzzle and the rest of the puzzle falls in place? Or when you figure out the really obvious yet also obscure problem that’s been causing your web script to fail?

It’s like that. That puzzle-solving feeling that human brains like so much.

Binge writing also feels like — well, you know when you get really caught up in a novel? Where it’s like it colonizes your brain and whatever else you’re doing, what you really want to do is get back to that novel? Like, people want to talk to you and you’re all, like, “go away, I’m reading?”

It’s like that, only it’s your own novel. So it’s even better. Because you get a sense of accomplishment. And also, if you’ve ever been really caught up in a novel, but been kind of disappointed with where it ended up going, your own novel doesn’t have that problem. Because if you go somewhere and you find it disappointing you can always go somewhere else.

Anyway, as a neurochemical experience, binge writing is like — well, if you could bottle it and sell it, you would outsell cocaine, heroin, amphetemines, pot, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol combined.

(I assume. Because it’s not like I have actual personal experience with things like cocaine and heroin.)

The catch is twofold. One catch, is that in order to get to the point of being able to experience binge writing regularly, you have to do a lot of non-binge writing. It’s like any other art — if you want to have that sublime moment of, say, figure skating, you have to practice for hours and hours every single day until you’re bloody sick of it. So even if you write nothing but carp, I mean crap, no I guess it could be carp — even if you think everything you write is crap, even if it is in fact crap, you have to keep practicing. Otherwise it will never be anything but crap.

The other catch is that binge writing doesn’t last. By its very nature it cannot be sustained indefinitely. So at some point the — the high, I guess — will fade, and then you’re stuck with this half-finished novel that suddenly seems really stupid and pointless. But if you want an actual finished novel you have to keep hacking away at it.

When the plot goes down a dead end, you just have to suck it up, rewind, and try again.

When you just can’t seem to make a scene work, you have to write the damn thing again and again and again, only to eventually realize that the reason it won’t work is because it’s at the wrong part of the book or between the wrong people or the metaphor has gone all screwy, in other words, it’s the wrong damn scene and now you have to come up with some other way of letting the reader find out that they’re really brother and sister or the magical gem was part of her necklace the whole time or that the map actually makes perfect sense once you realize it’s labeled in Esperanto.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few more of those nice lightning bolts of inspiration along the way. A few more “aha!” problem-solving moments. But you have to work hard for each one of them.

For a while it was like flying, like jumping off a cliff and just gliding blissfully down to the ground. But once you reach the ground and you’re not there yet, you have to start walking. You have to start taking every single step, through the mud, and the blackberry bushes, and the clouds of gnats. And sometimes you forget to pack a lunch.

So, yeah, anyway, that’s where I am. My novel has turned to carp and I’m slogging through the wilderness.


  1. Congrats on new job and new car.

    Why don’t you and Paul just move down here? I like Bellingham too, but you have to be where the work is.

    1. Author

      Paul just got a new job in Bellingham. So we are where the work is.

      1. It’s going to be hard doing the commute / part-time living apart thing. Speaking from experience here.

        1. Author

          Yeah. Well. I’m sure you’re right. But right at the moment not having money seems harder.

  2. Oh, I was under the impression Paul quit to get a job down in Seattle, and that you guys would go away. :( Now I’m much happier about it. I hope it works out as well for you guys as it will for me ^__^

    Also, this is why you’re a good writer (one of the many reasons): when you write anything, I can hear your voice and even see your facial expressions and gestures, and I suspect that people who’ve never met you might also be able to do this. It’s really amazing.

    1. Author

      Because of course it is all about you!

      Actually, no. It’s about the cats. We can’t really move out of this house all the way until the alley cats go to cat heaven. Which is, incidentally, mouse hell.

      1. Mouse hell sounds awesome. I would pay for tickets. (Because rodent theology is all about me as well!)

  3. oh, hurrah for new jobs! And there will probably be some cool things about spending more time in Seattle. And money is excellent. So way to go! :)

    1. Author

      Yeah, spending more time in Seattle is definitely on the plus side of the equation.

      And for me money = more conventions!

      1. Be honest. The same number of conventions; more books and beers while at them.

  4. Congrats on the new job. Hope it doesn’t get to you what with the commute and all

  5. Congratulations! Ha! I do the exact same thing! Mine started at 3:30 am, but mostly because Derek woke me up. Then I couldn’t go back to sleep because I’m kind of hungry, but mostly I’m anxious about work. So I called my developer in Indiana (8-9 am his time?) and we had a nice chat. Except he gave me more anxiety and more work to do. So now I really can’t sleep. But I can catch up on LJ!

  6. The hospital also might want to get you caught up on your immunizations, if you’re already caught up you might want to go find your records because mine was pretty insistant that I get poked again.

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