Settling

Isn’t all bad.  I settled on a house.  It isn’t all said and done, not for a while yet, but I go to sleep debating the writing potential for various rooms.  There is the room with the insane wall-paper.  Has the advantage of being cozy (Realtor speak for small) and I know how to remove wallpaper.  Or the family room with the fireplace.  Lacking the requisite family for a family room, I can use it for whatever I want, right?  The basement is going to require renovation before anyone wants to spend a whole lot of time down there, so that’s not on the list of possibilities.

The most important part is that there will be a place to write.  And a place for my obscene collection of sewing stuff.  And a place for me.  It isn’t huge, it isn’t new, and it doesn’t have granite counter-tops, but it has a giant cherry tree, and azaleas like the ones in front of the house I grew up in, and tulips.  And it feels right.  It certainly doesn’t feel like settling.  It feels like a great deal of luck.

I don’t know who these people are that do great work (of any variety) out of great chaos, but I’m about ready to be done with the chaos.  Settling in.  Settling down.  Sounds good to me.  Really good.

What You Wish For

These grand thoughts seem to happen fairly regularly in the shower…  Seriously, before the invention of the shower, where did people go to have their grand thoughts?  It is entirely foofy, but I want to believe water is some superconductor between a body and the Universe.  I was standing there in the dark and I realized that I am the thing I wanted to be when I grew up.

It doesn’t look like what I thought it would look like.  At sixteen, I saw myself standing on a cliff in a black skirt on a walk with four dogs after a long day writing and teaching.  It doesn’t look like that.  There aren’t many cliffs in DC and I don’t wear black Stevie Nicks skirts to work most days.  My teaching duties are more “other duties as assigned” than they are classroom with chalk.

But I am a writer.  I write books, though that doesn’t pay me nearly enough to survive on.  I write reports – I’m currently up to my eyes in Ebloa, which I will wax eloquently about later.  And I only have one dog.  It isn’t the way I thought it would be – these things never are, but it *is* what I wished for.  After a fashion.  I’m incredibly lucky…  loads of people are still looking for where they belong, or making intolerable compromises.  There are things I don’t like about my work – I don’t like it when the experts come in and muck up the flow and rhythm of my paragraphs.  There is nothing about technical or scientific writing that says it can’t have a flow or that every sentence must start with “the.”  And I get frustrated when I can’t fix it because the expert on Ebola trumps the (more-or-less) expert on words.

So no, it isn’t perfect.  But perfect would be boring – we all need something to squawk about.  Still, it’s kinda sorta what I wished for…

Thinking ‘Bout You

Life has sort of gotten back to normal, more or less.  I’ve consciously moved away from writing about Mom, in part because I don’t want to be macabre blogger obsessed with her own sadness, in part because, let’s face it:  Life is for the living.  That being said, there are a couple of things that are a little bit about her – or a lot.  This house hunting thing.  She would have loved it.  She was big about details, so whereas I can’t keep track of which house has the most square feet, she would have had a notebook with neat columns for comparison.  Me?  This house is the one with that awesome original 1950’s skylight in the bathroom, and that one is the one with the disastrous original kitchen and the radiant heating.  Do I want the skylight or the radiant heating?

The housing, she would have loved.  The tattoo?  Not so much.

I started out with one…  she didn’t like it.  As I’ve gotten older, I ended up not liking it so much either.  It wasn’t really proportionate to my body, it wasn’t that well done.  Of course, she didn’t like it because she didn’t like tattoos at all, so the fix I had done at the Baltimore Tattoo Convention wouldn’t have made her any happier.  It turns out I was too hasty in picking a guy.  It’s a solid tattoo and I like it, but then there was this guy and he was AMAZING.  My roommate got the tattoo of her dreams from him and, had there been time, I think I would have just let him doodle on me.  If I ever do the ink thing again, he’s definitely my man.

Which is a long way around to get to what I’m really trying to say, which is that I’m thinking about the lady.  Just not saying that much.

Favors

I need help.  My birthday is coming up and the thing I want more than anything is to get to 25 reviews on Amazon by 30 June.  I’ll provide the book in the electronic format of your choice, you provide the honest review.  If you love it, yay.  If you hate it, well, that’s okay too.

Any takers?  E-mail me at a.reid.williams(at)gmail.com.

Home Sweet Home

When I have a living situation set up to suit me, all of my books are lined up on my old Ikea bookshelves.  There is an entire section dedicated to domestic architecture.  Sears kit homes from the 1940’s.  Victorian mansions.  I use these books as reference when I want to write about a space that feels real.  But that’s just the after-the-fact excuse.  I love domestic architecture.  I think about becoming a Realtor sometimes just so I’d have the excuse to investigate houses.  Something about the funny little details that I can’t get enough of.  The placement of a closet, the arrangement of a kitchen…  Never ending opportunities to wonder what these people were thinking.

So you’d think house hunting would be my idea of a good time, right?  Yeah.  Me too.  That was until I spent the better part of the last three months obsessing about housing.  What’s my credit rating, how much can I afford, how much do I want to put down, can I get everything into 1000 square feet considering that I’ve got a storage pod, and then this thing that happens when I get into a house, which renders every other practical consideration obsolete…  Does this feel like space I could write in?

And, in re-reading that, I’ve realized I’m a whiny bitch with first world problems and I should be damn grateful that I even have the opportunity in the first place…  I’m going to go be ashamed of myself and my myopically privileged perspective now.

Making it Work

Alternately, surrendering to reality.

There’s this fantasy I have.  In it, I’m sitting in a room with an open window.  There’s a cup of tea that just magically appeared.  I’m at my desk.  The antique desk chair that I inherited from my aunt is more comfortable than it really is …  well, since this is fantasy land, let’s make it one of those egg chairs that suspends from the ceiling.  I’ve got my computer in front of me, and page after page of perfectly crafted, engrossing prose is just pouring from my fingers.  There’s good light, too.  Afternoon light, and hardwood floors that glow when sunshine hits them.

Here’s what my writing life actually looks like:  ooh, a few minutes where I don’t have anything to do.  Let me grab a legal pad and go hide in an unused conference room.  No conference room?  Google docs.

The writing happens ad hoc, when I can, in twenty-minute increments, with weeks between putting one word after the last.  It isn’t ideal.

For a second, though, let me praise Google Docs.  My preferred writing program is Scrivener, but it belongs up there with my fantasy.  It assumes I’m at home writing from my own computer.  Too much of my writing happens in ten minute windows of time and I hate being bogged down with a computer when I’m on mass transit.  Never mind that time my laptop got stolen (along with my divorce papers and all of my photographs from 2010).  I’m still traumatized.  MS Word has made great strides in recent iterations.  The navigation pane pretty much solves the earlier nightmare that was dealing with a long document in Word.  It’s now an acceptable alternative to Scrivener for the way I work.

Then there is Google Docs.  Certainly not as powerful as MS Word, but I can have the whole document with me anywhere I go, and I can work in the cloud.  And I can share with my editor and my story consultant from anywhere and get their comments embedded.  It isn’t perfect.  I want the navigation pane, I want it to function more like Word (or even better, Scrivener) but in the realm of making peace with what is currently available and making it work?

Listen, I love the writing advice books as much as the next writer.  It all sounds so doable when someone else is saying it.  Dedicated writing space, dedicated writing time, waking up at three in the morning to get the next words out, making it a priority…  Well, it is a priority.  So is feeding myself reasonably healthy meals, keeping a job, doing laundry, making sure the bathrooms aren’t disgusting, rubbing the dogs ears every once in a while, getting to the dentist, staying connected to friends, swimming (as soon as my tattoo heals)…  Tell me which of those items on the list can be de-prioritized?  I’m not finding anything.  So my writing life doesn’t include a dedicated writing space with egg chair and teapot.  It doesn’t involve waking up at 3 in the morning to write.  It’s a mess, and I use Google Docs to make it work.

And if you’re Google Docs reading this, please make the word processing part of the tool better.  Thanks.