Posts Tagged ‘writer’s block’

The lap of luxury

November 25, 2012

Through no accomplishment of my own, I am spending tonight at the PGA National Resort and Spa free of charge.

I’ve just completed a sunset walk around the pool and club house area and strolled over to the spa area, which I decided to locate since I’ll be heading over at 10 in the morning for a “neck and shoulder massage; $90 gratuity included.”

Should you be wondering how in the world I got so unbelievably lucky, let me answer by saying that people are SO NICE.

I was slated to dog sit for a one-night gig so that the owners of a sweet little chihuahua could use their soon-to-expire coupon for a complimentary night at PGA (yes, home to the Honda Classic.) The client called the day before and announced she had good news and bad news. The bad news was that 14-year-old Tabby had a cough, and though she seemed OK, Tabby had just started taking medication and Mom didn’t feel right leaving her when she wasn’t feeling perky. The good news was that if I chose, I was welcome to use the certificate!

Well, I am on a mad deadline to deliver Kiss and Tell‘s revised manuscript to our book designer by Dec. 5, but I figured, ‘Hey, I can work in serene, posh surroundings just as easily as I can beside the construction zone that Southern Boulevard (30 yards from my front door) has turned into lately. Why not?’

Brief digression to point out that dog people are THE BEST. My dog sitting clients are so kind, so welcoming, so sweet and so treasured by me. And then to receive a generous offer like this confirms it once again.

So this morning as I’m packing up to drive the 6 or 7 miles over here, I email book partner Maureen about something else and I happen to mention my plans. “Hold on,” she replies. “When are you going? I have a gift card for spa services there that’s about to expire. You could use it.”

That much good karma coming together at one time is astonishing, let’s face it. Over the top, right? But it all worked out. Maureen donned her motorcycle gear and rode her Harley (yes) over to my condo this morning to hand off said gift card. She headed across the bridge for a beautiful ride on Palm Beach; I finished loading my car and arrived here at PGA by 12:15.

Everyone on staff here is super nice, and even though check-in isn’t till 4, if rooms are ready they are happy to assign you one. I was settled in and headed to the pool in no time—but not before I called the spa to check out their services and decide which exotic treatment I was going to use my gift card for!

After just a few short hours, I feel like a different person. The quiet, the green of the golf course and this evening’s cheerful twinkling Christmas lights out front—combined with the sun absorbed poolside this afternoon—have combined to lull me out of the noisy, chaotic jumble I’d accumulated in my head.

I’ve been ridiculously stressed about this upcoming deadline, alternating between a deer-in-headlights inability to decide what to do next and panicked stabs at completing the revisions that the three “fat” chapters are desperately crying for. One of my beta readers provided so much amazing, insightful input that it’s taken me days to go through her notes chapter by chapter and clarify areas she found confusing, add sources, rethink construction, etc, etc. With that phase complete, I’m heading back into those fat chapters (the very long 40s, 50s and 60s decades) for judicious trimming and more.

Something had been niggling about me about those chapters, and my astute beta reader helped me identify what it was. Because there are more women included and because I gave them free rein to share their stories, readers can get lost in the wilderness so to speak. My friend suggested I make more frequent use of my narrator’s voice to paraphrase and then assist the reader to know what’s important about these decades, what the take-away is. It’s a matter of guiding my readers and helping them stay on the path through these more complicated chapters.

Which is hard work. Anyone who writes knows how difficult it is to make sweeping changes when you’re too close to the material, and I’m definitely close to this material after more than 2 years of steady research and writing. But I realized if I just go day by day, and concentrate on each chapter separately until I am satisfied with it, I can maybe, just maybe, hit the deadline.

I was supposed to have everything to our designer by this Friday, but THAT wasn’t going to fly, so I pushed it back, to my chagrin. Even so, I know it won’t be perfect. I console myself with the knowledge that if I worked on it for another month, or even another year, Kiss and Tell wouldn’t be perfect.

Instead it’s going to be the best book I can write right now.

It’s still early and I’m feeling refreshed, so guess what I’m going to do now that I’ve posted a blog?

Yep. I’m going to go back to writing about sex!

Plus, I promise to blog again in a couple days about the process of honing the book’s subtitle, which required massive polling, much democratic input and then a final executive flourish of a decision.

It’s all good.

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A matter of motivation

September 25, 2012

Whenever I get like this, blogging is the last thing I want to do.

I hate fessing up to my drag-ass spells and it doesn’t matter at all that I realize they are part of the process for any big project—especially one that expects to have a book pop out at the end. I just want to be above them, okay? I want to be such a skilled, motivated, energetic and passionate craftsman that such mundane matters are powerless to trip me up. Is that too much to ask?

Actually, this was worse than just an ordinary drag-ass spell. It was two weeks of nasty self-doubt and an unbidden journey into the whole “what does this all mean?” territory. Since the timeline correlated pretty closely to the completion of my first draft, it was interesting that a girlfriend married to a successful biographer told me he always experiences a dark couple of weeks after he’s done with a book—and before editing and revisions. She likened it to post-partum depression.

Perhaps that’s what I experienced, and I use the past tense because one day last week I woke up and I just felt better. For no good reason. Things just kind of shifted back into a glass-half-full mentality, and I’ve maintained an upswing ever since.

Isn’t it weird how being in that negative spin cycle just feeds on itself? And it’s so crippling. When I’m in the midst of such a spell, I know I should reach out and call a friend or make a run to the grocery store or attend a yoga class, but I’m unable to locate a single molecule of energy to make it happen. I’m lucky to go check the mailbox, much less fix a good, healthy meal. The routines of my normal life suddenly appear impossible to sustain.

Not surprisingly, feeling inadequate in my simple daily routines makes me insecure, and that in turn complicates all the relationships in my life. If a friend forgets to call back, I obsess over all our recent exchanges to discern what I said to make her angry. If an editor doesn’t return an email, I decide I’m the worst freelancer they’ve ever had to deal with. Every event is reflected through this ridiculous prism of negativity. And though my rational mind sees the absurdity of what I’m doing, I can’t figure out how to get back to a better frame of mind. I have no tools to help me crawl out of the abyss—perhaps partly because I don’t often fall in.

Anyway, as I said, my trip to Crap Land is thankfully past. I’m gradually regaining my enthusiasm for various activities, from exercise and cooking to writing and maintaining friendships. I told one friend that perhaps two weeks is my limit for focusing on my shallow, first-world problems and feeling sorry for myself.

This week I’ve completed a package of stories for my former newspaper about women’s friendships that begin in mid-life and I’ve also done all the phone interviews for another piece that will run in October. Today I spent an hour going over editor Tiffany’s notes on the Kiss and Tell manuscript, and that was good medicine. I can see I need to get together with Dr. Mo for a session so we can discuss some of Tiffany’s recommendations and how to best incorporate them into the book.

I’m still trudging to the gym twice a week; I managed to do that even while depressed. But now I’m back in yoga and also actively trying to get back in a regular riding pattern with my biking pals. South Florida’s weather pattern is ridiculously wet right now, however. Multiple rain-outs have occurred and it’s getting annoying. My tires are aired up, the headlight battery is charged and I’m ready to go.

Or not.

Good news and bad news

July 29, 2012

The good news is that my surge to finish the book and deliver the manuscript to the editor by Aug. 13 is on track. I allowed myself a bit of padding when I chose the deadline, hoping I wouldn’t panic too much (which I did anyway for a couple days).

The bad news is that I’m using up a lot of the padding with a complete rewrite of the chapter on the 70s ladies. Up until this chapter, the editing process has been a matter of reading along and feeling pretty OK about the work. I occasionally find bumps and even places where I think, “what the heck happened here?” Which means I stop and rewrite, fix the transitions and modify whatever requires it.

But the 70s chapter was the fifth chapter I wrote and I’ve realized my form changed right after that. This was the final chapter where I told the women’s stories more individually, allowing their voice to proceed more or less uninterrupted as they discussed desire throughout their lifetime. The latter chapters, which I like better, interweave the women’s observations and feature several subjects commenting on the same topic, rather than being isolated in their own life story.

I’m editing the book in order, even though I didn’t write it in order. I figure it’s imperative to read the book sequentially at least once. The fact that I made it to the 70s without any chapter screaming for a rewrite constitutes additional good news. And since the 80s chapter was included in my book proposal as “sample pages,” I know it’s going to require very little editing. The 90s chapter is short, so while it may need sprucing up, the work will be mercifully brief.

Meanwhile, I remain bogged in the 70s. The intro to the column wasn’t engaging at all; just dry statistics and overall percentages of what women told us in the general survey. So I went back and read my raw notes for the chapter and found these women imparted surprising and even shocking things about their sex lives.

One woman said she experienced so much pain with sex (right from the start) that it took two years before she and her boyfriend got all the way to full penetration. She delivered this information with no sign of how dismaying a listener might find this. Another 70s lady had several trysts with a 27-year-old lover just weeks after she was widowed and then began a tempestuous affair with a man three decades her junior. During her 48-year marriage, she took an unknown number of affairs or lovers, likely between 75-100. This information was also delivered absent dramatics; the speaker showed no expectation of her words creating surprise.

Another woman in her 70s had gone for marital counseling in her 50s and was able to speak very eloquently to the things which keep intimacy alive in a relationship when sex is no longer possible. (Her husband’s health issues are the culprit.) Yet another subject says, “I guess I got holy,” when describing how her attendance at a new church has made her disinclined to engage in the affairs of her youth. But the thrice-married woman still struggles with her sexuality: She doesn’t understand why she still has passion if she’s not supposed to do something about it. And she feels trapped by the church’s admonition against sex before marriage, since she has no desire to remarry after her third husband’s death.

Given the exceedingly rich material the 70s ladies shared with me, my chapter just didn’t do them justice. Yesterday I wrote 6 new pages of juicier stuff as a fresh introduction. Then I went through the interviews once more with my trusty colored highlighters, using them to mark comments on common topics. This afternoon it’s back to the grindstone, with the goal of more integration of the women’s stories. I’ll still let them speak at length in places, but the group as a whole needs cohesion. I can see that now.

The clunkiness of this unedited 70s chapter is reassuring in one other way: It means my skills and expertise sharpened as I worked my way further into the book, and I can now bring them to bear on my less polished work. My voice naturally became more sure as I increased my familiarity with the material and came to rely less on recitations of numbers and more on the truths I’ve found at the core of women’s desire.

This was exciting to realize—and it’s what made me sure I had to rewrite the chapter. Before I turn the manuscript over to editor Tiffany, I’m determined it will be the best I can offer.

But dang. Having to redo a whole chapter is the pits. Mumble, mumble, grumble, grumble.

And now I shall STOP procrastinating and get back to it.

A dash to the deadline

July 13, 2012

Exactly one month from today, on Aug. 13, my book’s manuscript is due to the editor.

This is NOT an editor hired by a publishing house; we didn’t get a book deal for Kiss and Tell. It’s an editor Dr. Whelihan and I hired privately, although she also works for all the big New York publishing houses. I mentioned her in an earlier blog, and was impressed with the sample edit she did on the intro to my chapter on the 80s Ladies. (Plus I met her in Austin when I was in Texas for two weeks enjoying an annual girls’ weekend and celebrating my mom’s 84th birthday. Her name is Tiffany Yates Martin; she’s 6 feet tall, gorgeous and extraordinarily charismatic. Yes, you’re detecting a bit of a girl crush.)

Kiss and Tell‘s book proposal has now been officially turned down by seven publishers. It’s a little bit discouraging, sure. But the reason they are saying no to the book still strikes Dr. Mo and I as just being off. They seem to think readers will only care about the sexuality of women their own age; that our focus is too broad and no one’s interested in the passion of women in other age groups.

I realize everyone is super savvy up there in New York, of course, but I think the suits in the city maybe don’t know as much as they think they do about women’s sexuality. I mean, did they completely miss the uproar over Fifty Shades of Grey? Why don’t they see that women—of ALL ages—who read about desire in the form of fiction will also read about it in non-fiction form?

And believe me, the book is going to be erotic.

I know this because our agent told me after reading the sample chapters that I needed to mention the material’s steaminess in the proposal. “You’re missing the turn-on factor,” she said. I hadn’t really planned that effect, but I was quick to follow through on her suggestion.

And it makes sense that when women talk about what stimulates their desire, and those scenarios are faithfully transferred to words—reading them might indeed stimulate desire.

I digress!

The breaking news to share here is that I have committed to finishing the book’s first draft in one month. I was terrified into paralysis at first. I spent two days assuring myself this was impossible. For so long I’ve been saying, “I’m writing a book.” I still can’t quite grasp what it will mean to say, “I’ve written a book,” since the process itself has defined me for so long.

But then the soldier mentality took over, and I just started marching. I’m digging in every day; I figure it’s a six-day-a-week proposition from now till the deadline. I have to read every single word I’ve written so far and try to drag them all under the umbrella of one voice. As the project unfolded, the narrative shifted, and now it’s time to solidify the chapters under a unifying voice.

I’m also having to finish up certain chapters, which I left undone purposely, waiting for closure on other decades in order to come back and wrap up earlier chapters with more expertise and authority. The overview chapter, which explains what trends we found and sets the stage for the whole book, is proving to be a gigantic time suck. I’m wrestling with whether or not to break it into several chapters, because some of the (juicy) stories that accompany the overarching trends are lengthy.

But big picture problems like that aren’t enough. I’m also doing meticulous copy editing as I go, since there’s no point in ignoring it as I do a final read. Tiffany was kind enough to provide me with some style tips, which is a good thing since it turns out that journalism’s AP style isn’t at all what book editors are looking for. Oh joy. Live and learn.

This final push toward the deadline is a microcosm of what the entire book process has been. If I look up and survey the landscape of what still has to be completed, I become overwhelmed and frightened. If I keep my head down, and put one foot in front of the other, one paragraph after another, I can hold on to the hope of finishing.

Here goes!

Slowest. Chapter. Ever

October 4, 2011

I am ecstatic to report that I completed the chapter on how women in their 30s view their sexual desire.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If — like me — you thought I would never finish, you are excused. You certainly had justification for doubting my ability to git ‘er done.

But finish I did, and I was extremely gratified to hear from my book partner that she considers it perhaps her favorite decade so far. As painful as it became for me to overcome all the hurdles (a friend’s death, my broken rib) and write that chapter, it was truly a relief to hear my partner say she couldn’t detect any of my angst in the finished work.

So. Giant, satisfied exhalation of breath after that Sunday morning work session with the doc. But the celebration didn’t last long. That afternoon I got on the phone to begin setting up interviews for the 40somethings. With only 6 in-depth interviews for the 30s, I decided I wanted 8 for the 40s. And thank goodness I wasted no time. I have made at least three phone calls for every one that has been returned, a percentage I remember being higher when I was able to say, “I’m calling from The Palm Beach Post.”

Yes. Officialdom certainly had its perks. A first-time author just doesn’t have the gravitas once accorded to newspaper reporters.

Nonetheless, I have soldiered through and completed six interviews, with a seventh scheduled Friday. I’m hoping now that one of the 11 (!!) women I’ve contacted in my zeal to find one more interviewee will call back.

Despite the difficulty in wrangling interviews with women in this decade, 40somethings pay off with fascinating life stories. I’ve spoken to a former call girl who estimates she was with 500 johns during her two to three years in the business, as well as a happily married woman who’s never experienced an orgasm. I talked with a 49-year-old beauty who dates a much-younger man and has participated in threesomes in order to keep him interested, even though group sex isn’t among her fantasies. I’ve also met a woman who was molested by her father at age 9, which, not surprisingly, has had a pronounced and negative affect on her sexual desire to this day.

But getting back to our call girl for a moment. Long-term readers of this blog will recall that 75-year-old Veronica previously held the distinction of ‘most lovers’ among our interviewees: She stopped counting at about number 50 when she was in her mid-40s, but continued her sexually active lifestyle for two more decades. She is now surpassed by Heather, who in addition to her days as a working girl, says she’s been “in the lifestyle” since her 30s. That phrase refers to a sexually open society inhabited by swingers, and Heather shared some revealing stories about her years in Los Angeles at swingers’ clubs and private house parties. She estimates that she’s been with several hundred lovers in her personal life, apart from her working days.

So Heather steals the title from Veronica — for now. Keep in mind we still have two decades yet to go: the 50s and 60s. Who knows what sexy stories lie ahead?

Book? What book?

July 28, 2011

Yes, I realize it’s been some time since I blogged. Believe me, if I had amazing progress to report, I would have, you know, reported it.

Instead it’s been an unsettling, unproductive, nay depressing 4 weeks. Not to put too fine a point on it.

However! In the good news column: I finally got on the phone earlier this week and set up interviews for the chapter on 30 year olds. You just know the 30something ladies are going to have fascinating stories about desire and how the process of having a family figures into things. I feel eager to reengage with the book — and that’s a huge relief after my month of inertia.

Plus, I have a meeting with my book partner this Sunday, where I have pledged to have a revamped book proposal ready to show her. With Mo’s sign-off, I’ll send it to an agent (yes!) in New York who expressed interest in reading a full proposal.

This agent thing is quite an exciting little side story, actually.

I found this (well-known!) agent’s bio in a post about ThrillerFest, a summertime New York event which had an agent fest component. I showed it to Mo and she agreed the woman was a great fit with our book and suggested we consider flying up just to meet her. Because of the cost involved, I emailed the agent to ask if she was going to be appearing at any events closer to Florida or ones that were more up our alley than a gathering of thriller writers. (Not that our book won’t be thrilling, of course.) In that email to the agent, I included 3 or 4 sentences sketching the premise of our book.

Well, the agent emailed back quickly to say we shouldn’t make the trip solely to meet her, but that she’s interested in taking a look at our proposal online!

Awesome, yes? Very exciting.

Unfortunately my proposal needed massive revising and all this occurred just three days before my trip to Texas for Mom’s birthday, girls’ group gathering and a special memorial event I’d been planning for a while. Also, it happened about two hours before I got the phone call letting me know my friend Clarence was in the hospital with a stroke.

And that’s pretty much when things went off the track.

Dealing with my friend’s unexpected death was truly bad enough, but layered on top was Dental Nightmare No. 718: the dreaded cross-angled rubber band configuration the dentist delayed on my previous visit. At least I was prepared with a few days worth of pain reliever prescribed by my migraine doctor. (Guess what he ordered? Oxycodone. Yikes!)

Nevertheless, the pain was still so bad from the sharp hooks (which serve to “catch” the rubber bands), that I was pretty much unable to function for five days. By function I mean I couldn’t eat, couldn’t talk, couldn’t swallow — because all those movements require you to move your tongue, and each time I did that, it felt like a wasp was stinging my tongue. Truly awful. I finally returned to the dentist for an emergency visit, told the sweet young assistant on duty that something was terribly amiss, no one could possibly intend for me to be in this much pain and to please HELP ME.

She carefully studied my situation, restored the offending hooks to their neutral position and instead pulled out a different hook from the opposite side of the tooth, and then angled it downward in such a way that it didn’t pierce my tongue with each movement. I quit taking the oxycodone the next day (which had not alleviated the pain anyway) and began to feel like life was worth living again.

And those cross-bands on the back teeth weren’t the only bad news; I was assigned bands on my front teeth as well, encompassing two teeth on the top and two on the bottom on each side of my mouth. The rubber bands I wore at night on these teeth were so unyielding that I was almost unable to open my mouth while wearing them. Daytime bands were lax enough to allow speech. For this I assume I was to be grateful.

For anyone who’s counting (I was!), this all meant that a total of 12 of my teeth were constantly being adjusted by rubber bands for an interminable 4 weeks. I was not a happy camper.

Fortunately, that particular era of torture ended yesterday; I am now back to two fairly standard rubber bands in a new configuration. Even so, I feel marked by the previous miserable month, perhaps because I was simultaneously experiencing grief over my friend’s death. I feel like a soldier who’s too wrung out to offer any further resistance. My last impulse to fight has drained away. I can’t win against these braces and nothing I do seems to make it easier. I just want it over with.

From here, six months feels like a long time, ya’ll.

Life gets in the way

May 13, 2011

Good grief.

I would like to right now go back to being the innocent, trusting person I was when I last posted a blog in this space. There I was — on April 21st according to blog records — rocking along, happy in my ignorance, actually believing that people who rent a house from you feel obligated to, you know, pay rent.

But I am not that person anymore. My eyes are open. I have heard all the excuses, swallowed all the lies and granted all the extensions and exceptions I can stand.

So. Yes, I descended into the darkness of middle-of-the-night panic and recriminations of ‘if only’ and ‘why didn’t I do such and such,’ but …. that’s all over now.

I’m back! Fortunately for the book and all its fans (yes, the number of fans is growing!) I was in an interview phase rather than a writing phase when these financial worries beset me. So I was able to (heroically in my humble opinion) carry on, despite the many and necessary outpourings of my grievances.

To recap, I’m working on the chapter dealing with the decade of women in their 20s. History with younger interviewees has taught me I’ll likely have to arrange two appointments, since the first is often cancelled. This held true for my 20somethings, but I did manage to get 5 personal interviews (out of 9 initial, promising contacts). I don’t mean to complain; it’s just worth noting that young women have jobs, school, enticing social lives, etc., and aren’t actually thrilled to sit down with some research lady to answer a bunch of personal questions.

Fortunately, I confounded their expectations. Several of the charming 20somethings ended our interview by saying, ‘This was really fun,’ or ‘Wow. I had a good time.’ We’ll ignore the fact that they sounded incredulous and focus instead on how happy I was not to be equated with a college essay.

Now. What fun tidbit did I learn from the 20somethings that I can share with you? Here it is: The majority of the women, when asked, ‘When in your life do you feel like you learned the most about your sexuality?’ said that it wasn’t during their experimental period, but rather during the time of their deepest, most long-term relationship to that point.

“When I was dating around, I think I thought I learned a lot, because of the ‘practice,’ ” said a 26-year-old woman. “But I learned more when I was with guys for a long time, and the guy I’m with now, I’ve learned the most from. We’ve been having sex for a while (2 years), and we trust each other, so I’m open to trying new things. I’m not afraid to tell him what I want and he tells me what he wants and if it’s totally crazy we’ll laugh, but we’ll try it.”

She candidly admits she wanted to experiment with multiple partners, and said during that period she might learn new things like, “that feels good in that position,” but she found she “didn’t get to the bottom of it until I dated just one guy. I’d learn things on the surface … (but) until I found that connection with somebody, I didn’t learn as much as now.”

It’s not unusual to hear a woman say this, but it was surprising to me that almost all those in this age group echoed her sentiments to one degree or another. In fact, one woman called back and said she decided against an interview because the longer she was with her husband, the more distant her former sexual self seemed to her. It wasn’t “what she was about” anymore, and she didn’t want to dwell on it.

I told her not to think twice, that I completely understood and wished her the best.

See? I’m still having fun!

Tenants from hell will NOT keep me down!

And, to preview my next blog, let me just say that last night Dr. Whelihan and I had our first joint public appearance to talk about the upcoming book. Was I excited? What do you think?

Details will be coming soon, but the television beckons. Friday Night Lights won’t wait.

Procrastination prevails

December 11, 2010

It’s hard for me to blog when I don’t feel proud of myself. My vanity compels me to wait until I’m on an upswing of energy and confidence, at which time I enjoy enthusiastically posting my achievements and plans.

Not so today. I’ve had an icky, unproductive two weeks with very little book progress to report. Instead I have been doing everything but: cleaning the condo, trying to get a new screen door, buying and wrapping and mailing Christmas presents, catching up with friends I haven’t talked to in a while, addressing Christmas cards, working out, meeting with my financial adviser, celebrating Hanukkah with friends, reading, doing the crossword, you name it.

Ugh. I’m so annoyed with myself. Everyday I say it’s going to be different and every day I get up and find a million things to do that are NOT writing. At least I did a long-awaited interview with an intriguing 82-year-old woman at my condo for four hours last weekend — she’d been waiting a long time for someone to ask about her sexual history and it took perhaps more time than it needed to for her to share. But check that off.

And I had a productive one-on-one session with my computer teacher to make heads and tails of the survey statistics which are now in the computer. Plus, I have another session scheduled in two days. So check that off as well.

But the writing — ugh. I’ve been working on one chapter forever, alternately making progress and bogging down. After thrashing it out with a writer friend two nights ago, I decided to give it up for now and move on. I need certain interviews to be able to complete it, and I’m just not getting them, so I’m going to let it go and move on to chapters dedicated to each decade in women’s lives. I’m going to trust that in the interviews for those segments, the women I need to complete the troublesome chapter will surface.

Tomorrow I have a session with my book-writing partner, and that will help too. She is hugely inspiring and always makes me feel competent — which I could use a dose of right about now. It would be such a boost to have a week of enervating productivity before I head to Texas for the Christmas vacation.

Because guess what? It’s highly unlikely I’ll get anything done on the book during the two weeks I’m out of town. It’s nice to tell myself I’ll find some quiet pockets of time to write and be creative, but come on. How likely is that? If I discover a solitary hour when I’m in Austin with all my family and pals and distractions, I’m way more likely to log on to Facebook than devote myself to the difficult task of writing.

OK., I’ve done it. Posted a blog about my weakness of character and pathetic procrastination. Turns out it feels every bit as demoralizing as I expected. Perhaps I will be galvanized to write just to avoid such humiliating posts in the future.

The good news I can share is that my migraines are still in retreat — which is HUGE as anyone who knows me can attest. I’ve had one bad spell, around Thanksgiving, with two headaches in five days. Since I’ve been headache free ever since, I’m wondering if perhaps that episode was the result of an inflamed ulcer that pretty much took over my mouth for a week after new bands were added to my braces the Monday before Thanksgiving. The wires on one of the bands were so sharp they tore up my cheek in moments, so of course I used wax to cover the offending band. But when I removed the wax to eat meals, my mouth would get dug up again. After three days, I just began leaving the wax in while I ate. Only twice did I end up swallowing it; a small price to pay because the ulcer finally healed.

Have I mentioned that braces are a giant pain? I feel the need to point that out, because if I’ve only said it a thousand times, it’s NOT ENOUGH.

The saving grace? The movement of my top front teeth means they no longer are shoving my jaw back. And that’s a good thing for migraine control. But have you noticed? It’s all this bizarre circle where the reason for the braces is to banish migraines and maybe they do but they also cause mouth trauma which in turn can cause migraines which negates the effect in the first place!

It takes someone smarter than me to figure out the sum of all the totals.

Meanwhile, I’ll be here. Slogging through this unproductive period and anticipating an upswing. When it arrives, I’ll share my achievements via blog and release you from the task of a) feeling sorry for me or b) wondering why I don’t quit whining and get my ass in gear.

Me, I’m in the ‘b’ camp.

Progress on all fronts

September 21, 2010

As the dog days of this Florida summer draw to a close, I’m moving into a whole new phase of my book project. Yes! Data entry is finally complete and chapter writing begins.

But first: An interruption for dental news of the most exciting level. The turbos are already off!

It’s true. The nasty metallic spikes glued to the back of my two front teeth — which were installed to keep my top teeth from scraping the braces off my bottom teeth — are gone. I had thought the turbos and I would be intimate pals for 6 months, but a blessed reprieve occurred. Last week, on a quick trip to the dentist to reattach a loose bracket, Iris asked if I’d like to get the full adjustment the we had scheduled for the following week. A no brainer for me. Anything to speed up the process.

So when the dentist wheeled over, I of course wanted to know exactly when the turbos were coming off, because I had a big-time party to plan for the day those intruders were removed. I might have also indicated that I was not amused by said turbos’ unpleasant influence during the previous six weeks.

To answer my question, the dentist told Iris to check my back teeth with that tracing-paper-like stuff they use to get ink on your teeth — you know what I’m talking about, right? And she does the test on both sides and tells the dentist it looks like my teeth are OK and the turbos can come off. “You’re not just saying that so she’ll quit whining, are you?” asked my jovial dentist.

“Let me assure you,” I broke in, “I have not yet BEGUN to whine to the extent that I’m capable of when it comes to these turbos. I have saved that particular joy for my family and friends — and those intrepid readers who follow my blog.”

Despite my surly attitude, a closer examination by Mr. Dentist revealed that my front teeth have actually moved forward enough ALREADY to avoid the lower teeth, although little rubber “bumpers” were fastened to four bottom teeth for good measure. (The clearance is still too close for comfort; thus the friendly bumpers, which are actually kind of fun to moosh my top teeth against cause they’re bouncy.)

Needless to say, my life took an immediate turn for the better. Iris said the turbos would come off in 30 seconds, but that getting the glue off the back of my teeth would take much longer. She was right; that glue was more like cement. But so what? Turbos were off! I left the dentist elated.

The fretfulness I felt from the awkwardly placed spikes disappeared, the constant soreness of my tongue was gone in 24 hours and the necessity of disentangling food from the turbos after every single bite of food was over. Hallelujah indeed.

Thus, I was able to turn my attention to much more rewarding pursuits and wrapped up the data entry phase. Only a dozen surveys remain to be added to the spreadsheet, and they await missing information from my book partner, Mo. Meanwhile, I’ve gone back into my book proposal to update it with solid information about what we learned from the surveys, replacing the speculative statements I wrote before the numbers were in.

But I don’t want to spend too much time there. I’m itching to get into chapter writing, and interviewing the 6 or 7 women from each decade who will “represent” for their age group. Because we have the largest representation from women in their 40s and 50s, I’m considering doing more interviews from those decades, and perhaps only 3 or 4 from the teens and 90s. There seems to be so much to learn from mid-life women about what does and doesn’t stimulate desire.

More to come about these fascinating women. But first, a short trip to Texas — because I seem to have this thing for states where the summer drags on forever.

Deadlines: Who needs them?

May 24, 2010

Since my working life was spent as a journalist, I have no experience living a deadline-free existence.

Always, when I was awake, I carried a detailed, internal list of which story was due when, what needed to be done to complete each story and in what sequence they needed to be completed. Attached to this psychic list was the requisite guilt, which—while painful—was a good thing, in that it enabled me to actually finish stories (frequently on time) for publication in the newspaper.

I mention this to illustrate my complete and ongoing delight at NOT having said list lurking in my psyche any longer. It’s a revelation and a constant source of joy.

However, I DO have guilt about not working more hours daily on my book, but I’m learning that without deadlines, it’s hard to develop the knack for when to finish what. And a book is so unformed compared to a newspaper article. Giant swaths of research time are required; statistics have to be corralled; outlines must be created; agents wooed; publishers contacted. It’s a far cry from interviewing sources and sharing their stories.

Still, I love what I’m doing. The research has turned me into a semi-expert, the interviews are engaging and I’m getting a good feel for the shape of one of the first chapters I’ve dug into. However, I still need to create a more detailed outline for the book, and now that I’ve seriously studied the 1100 surveys we’ve collected so far, I think that’s feasible. But WHEN will I do that? And how will I hold myself to getting it done? That’s what I struggle with.

It’s not like I can’t set deadlines for myself. I can. But I’d know they were fake deadlines and I’d know I could push them. After a lifetime, I can tell the difference.

And it’s not like I’m undisciplined in general. Dishes never sit in the sink overnight, bills don’t go unpaid, friends’ birthdays are acknowledged. I’m able to harness my productive energy for small stuff pretty consistently. It’s the big tasks that I tend to put off, in favor of those more manageable ones.

Also to consider: I’m much better about keeping a commitment to another than one to myself. This is why having a trainer works so well for me. Without an appointment, I can find 17 good reasons why today isn’t a good day to go to the gym, and 11 reasons why exercising tomorrow actually makes more sense. And, naturally, I can do the same thing the next day. That inked commitment on my calendar to trainer Chris is another matter entirely. I work around it, guard it, keep it. Result: I’ve been at my optimum weight for almost 4 years now. Not a bad result at all.

So. How to transfer that knowledge about myself to the book project?

I’ve been giving this some thought. I have no shortage of smart, editor-type friends I could ask to play the role of deadline-enforcer for me. I could create a calendar of “due dates” for chapters and commit to having it done for “my editor” by those times. And it may come to that. But with my work history, I find it’s such a relief to not have looming deadlines that I am unwilling to take that step.

Instead, I’ve earmarked the next two weeks as a time to dig in and see what I can get done outline-wise without an external boss. I’m dog sitting for some friends in my former neighborhood, which means I’ll be spending lots of hours in a comfortable setting with an elderly dog—an ideal environment for concentration, methinks. I visited their house yesterday for orientation and found a spot in their nice den to hook up my computer. I’m thinking it’s going to be a friendly little work retreat. Bonus: Comforting presence of sweet pup in the same room!

So. That’s my deadline solution—for the moment. We’ll see if it works. And I’ll try to be accountable to you blog readers at least, and let you know how it’s going a week from now.

So check back! And please send good thoughts.

Thank you, thank you.