Looking back on 2012, my personal journey

1 01 2013

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Yes, I’m back.

2012 was a year of extremes for me.

January: In the middle of an incredibly busy month, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I started Row80, but was unable to keep up with it due to my health problems.

February: A young friend who was working with us from time to time stayed with me, and I loved her company. I learned a lot from her! She continued to stay with me off and on through the beginning of June.

March: I continued to deal with shattering exhaustion from years of sleep problems, calling in sick frequently. However, better sleep finally began to turn my health around, and by the end of the month I was feeling almost normal.

April: So normal that I attempted Row80 again. Call me a glutton for punishment! I hit my stride in April.

May: Work was overwhelmingly busy, but I soldiered on.

June: I was still on-point with my blogging, writing about my novel and the science behind it. I also took an audition with two weeks of preparation. I don’t recommend that to anyone! It was an exhausting experience, and I will not fly American Airlines again, until they are out of bankruptcy.

July: The Black Dog of depression came home again.

August: There was nothing memorable about the first three weeks of August. I wasn’t dealing well with the Black Dog. At the very end of the month I went on a last-minute driving trip to New Mexico and Colorado.

mountain-55499_640

The Red Rocks of New Mexico, from the pixabay folder of user Brigitte Werner

During that trip I ended up in Boulder, CO for the first time ever. That’s significant because my protag spends 6 years there at CU, and although those years aren’t a significant part of the book as currently visualized, it does shape the man he becomes.

September: I was barely home when my former BFF bludgeoned me in a meeting about work. Within two days I spiraled into anxiety, which danced with the Black Dog as I worked out how to deal with both. I went back to Al-Anon, finding a home group that’s full of recovery, and considered going back to church. The 27th of the month another good friend had a ‘cardiac event’. Did I ever mention that my number one fear is a heart attack?

October: Much of my friend’s hospital time happened in October: a double bypass, four Code Blues, pulmonary emboli, and an internal defibrillator. I continued to deal with waves of anxiety and depression. There was no question of doing anything creative… it was one day at a time at this point. I went to a church which had been recommended to me a couple of times, but didn’t connect. (My friend is currently on the mend, thank heavens!)

November: Our symphony season was in full swing, and my other BFF was back in the US from overseas. She was with me part of the time here at home, and I went with her to Boulder for Thanksgiving with her cousins. It wasn’t terribly cold there yet, but I loved spending more time there with her… and I also got my desire to live there out of my system. My anxiety finally began to wane this month.

December: I finally got the Black Dog under control, and we had some time off from work. To my delight, I found that my creative juices were starting to surface again! Playing the Nutcracker got me in the holiday spirit, and the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities spurred me to read it for the first time. I intended to study it (and still will) – though I haven’t finished it yet, because I joined a book club at work, and devoured Yann Martel’s Life of Pi in two days for a book club meet. Christmas was spent with my parents, on some of the coldest days thus far this winter. Back home on the 26th, then on December 30th I found my church! I’ve never considered a downtown church, but the moment I stepped into the sanctuary at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church I knew I was home.

Losing my BFF has spurred a spiritual transformation in my life. I turned 55 in September, and made the decision in August to stop coloring my hair. The transformation of the growing-out process mirrors what’s going on inside of me… I’m coming to terms with my age and station in life, now enthusiastic and full of possibilities for personal growth in this second half of life.

I doubt that I will return to Row80 until later this year, but that doesn’t mean that 2013 is goal-less. More about that later on! It’s enough to say that I will be blogging once a week, starting now.

What was 2012 like for you? How did it change you? Let me know in the comments!





July 8 Row80 Update

8 07 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

I cannot believe that the first week of round three is already over. Let’s see how I did with my goals this time.

They fall into four categories:

Business: Completely redo my business website, including adding a wordpress blog.

Nothing. Nada. I haven’t even plotted out what all I need to do for this. Next week!

Creative: Finish HIS ORIGINAL SIN, and get it to beta readers by the end of August.

I am 99% finished with my synopsis, which I needed to complete in order to organize Steven’s life into three acts. I still don’t know what my opening is, but I have a better idea of that than I did this time last week. I hope to get the synopsis to Ali and Sally for their perusal within 10 days. Hopefully feedback from these amazing writer grrrlfriends will help point me in a positive direction.

I have finally some writing and editing of various scenes in the book. However, I still have some scenes to write, so my first draft is technically not complete at this time.

Creative:  Restart work on my second WIP, last year’s Nanowrimo novel.

Though I have had some idle thoughts about the Umgonnan, this is on hold until I finish my WIP.

Creative:  Get started on my Halloween costume.

Daily life: Finish losing that twenty pounds.

More like “Re-start losing the twenty pounds”. Yeah, I gained back three of the four that I’d lost from June, mostly due to my audition adventures. No worries, I’d fallen off the diet wagon for my food addiction of choice: sweets. I’m now on day three of a quasi-Paleolithic/South Beach-style diet. The sugar/sweets cravings have been horrible, but I know that if I persevere they will lessen, soon.

Daily life: Practice every day.

This is coming along! I’m excited about it, especially Mozart.

Daily life: Continue my Better Life Habits™ from last round (exercising, house cleaning, dog grooming).

Definitely on the right track here. Enough said!

Platform building: Continue blogging three times a week: Row80 update on Sunday, Tuesday Quotes on Tuesday (Duh!), third blogpost later in the week.

I heart blogging. This is not much of a problem for me right now, especially since I have more time in the summer. I have a list of blogposts scheduled, up to August in the case of my Tuesday Quotes series.

One thing on my to-do list is to come up with a blogroll for this blog’s sidebar. I have a handful of must-read blogs in a couple of categories that I want to share with the world.

Platform building: Be on twitter, and comment on at least one blog every day.

Twitter is my nemesis! I’m not enjoying it at all recently, since I haven’t been doing much #wordmongering. I will be getting back to that, especially since I’m almost done with the WIP’s synopsis. I’ll be back to straightforward writing soon. I miss my wordmongering buddies!

Then there’s the blogging community. I have been frustrated by the WordPress reader. I prefer for my subbed blogs to show up in my live.com email feed, and recently when you click ‘follow’ on someone’s WP blog, it sends it to the Reader instead of your email like before. I haven’t found an easy way to get to my subscription lists/options, either.

Platform building: Including platform building for my business.

Nothing happening here. ::rolls eyes:: Next week!

Tomorrow I’m having a face-to-face with the awesome Ginger Calem! She will be the fourth area writer that I’ve connected with in meatspace, and I am so psyched! I met her through Sally Driscoll (her link is above), and we’ve been Facebooking for many weeks. We planned to meet last month, but I had a bit of a detour that kept me busy.

There is noting like sitting down with a cuppa and chatting with another writer. If I thought that writing was fulfilling, the connection with other writers makes writing even more so. Facebooking, blogging, etc is a great way to connect with writers across the globe, but face-to-face is the best. I hope that I’m able to take in some of the area writing conferences in the next couple of years, and look up even more of my internet writer friends.

How was your week? Is your summer going well? Or, for you Southern Hemisphere folks, how’s winter coming along? If you’re interested in what other people are doing for Row80, you can find more Row80 updates here.





In which I Write: Row80 Update

20 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

What. A. Week. Work was absolutely insane this week. We had about 20% more services (that’s orchestra-speak for a rehearsal or a concert), and we’re not done yet – there is a concert this afternoon. At Saturday morning’s rehearsal I experienced something new: sore shoulders from so much playing. It’s not unusual for me to feel pain when playing, it’s a legacy of decades of work as a musician. But most often the pain is in my hands or arms. I suppose this is a good thing, since I’m using my hands so much more for writing… though I need to figure out what to do about getting the Dragon on one of my computers to save my hands.

I was under a tremendous amount of pressure at work on Tuesday, and on Wednesday my writing productivity took off like a rocket. Being a geek, I set up a spreadsheet to keep track of my daily/weekly word count and minutes of exercise back in the last week of January 2012. Given my various health issues, I had a huge slump in Feb/Mar/Apr, which I tried to not beat myself up about. My best week was the first one in which I was keeping records: I wrote 5934 words the last week of Jan, and I never came close to approaching that word count again. Then, last week: BOOM. 6611 words, between the WIP and blogging, and that during a very busy week!

Yesterday I took the day off, or rather, I had to take the day off. Between the morning rehearsal and evening concert I took a nap – because I woke up at 5 am and couldn’t go back to sleep for worrying. That’s really unusual for me, but I got my mojo back by evening. I now have big plans for June. More on that some other time.

As far as my other Row80 goals, it was a mixed bag. My Better Life Habits were both better and worse – I allowed myself to slack off with the kitchen just a bit, and the bathroom is still a science experiment, but I’m shutting off lights and closing cabinets, making the bed, and brushing the dog. I walked almost every day, and spent quality time with the dog.

 

Crafty stuff is off the map, somewhere in “Here Be Dragons” territory – IOW, no time or inclination to do anything with that. I haven’t been practicing that much, either, but with all the writing I’ve been doing I count the Creativity part of my goals as successful.

 

My Social Media goals are coming along really well. I’m closing in on 800 followers on Twitter, and have been #wordmongering with other writer tweeps several times. Not only that, but Ali and Sally and I managed to schedule a get together for tomorrow! We are all so busy that we thought that we might have to skip May, and I’m so glad that we found the time to meet! I also started a new blog series: Tuesday quotes, and have a couple of those in the pipeline, in addition to a third weekly TBD blogpost, and my Sunday Row80 check in.

On the personal side, my Mom and Dad did really well with their respective medical procedures last week. Dad had to have another two stents put in, and Mom’s cancer turned out to be Stage I, and the path report said that the margins were good, so all she needs is a bit of radiation therapy after her (second) lumpectomy. I’m so lucky to still have them!

One other thing: here is an interview with Barry Douglas, done by one or our classical music station’s announcers, John Clare. I thought you might like to hear what he had to say about our concert, our orchestra, and what he’s working on.





In Which I Become Productive: Row80 update

13 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

This has been a week. Well, yes, that’s true. More than that, it’s been a week that went from OMG to YESS!

Last Sunday I finally got on board with the whole Row80/blogging thing, and it solidified my Social Media preferences. That is, I’m a Blogger. Not a Tweeter, or a Facebooker. I went to the Row80 homepage, and took the time to actually read and comment on a good number of blogs, and while that could have deep-sixed my email (I subbed to all the comment threads!), I kept that window open and was diligent with scanning and deleting comment emails. I discovered that the blogging community means the most to me, and is more to my taste than Twitter. As far as Facebook, I’m keeping my personal FB for friends (including my writer friends, yay!), and eventually, when I get to the point of publishing something, I’ll go with an author fan page. Yes, I found Row80 and other writing friends on Twitter, and will still be there from time to time, but for now, I think that blogging is where it’s at for me.

So, on Sunday I was on the computer for hours – FUN hours. Then work started to intervene. Let’s just say that rehearsals this past week were pretty hellish, and though I played well (mostly), it was damned stressful. Beer helped, specifically the new Shiner brew: Wild Hare. I’ve been alcohol-free for months, but this brew made the week go better. Now that the 6-pack is gone, I’ll get back to my teetotaling days. My stomach acid is relieved (but wishes I’d also deep-six the coffee. Oy.)

Then came Friday, and my muse put her feet back on the ground and started running. 1,100 words, in a scene that I may use. Not sure yet. Because yesterday I fired up Scrivener (which I love with a mad, passionate, and completely inappropriate love) and printed out all my chapters and scene headings. While I’m still not convinced that my WIP is one novel (as opposed to, say, THREE), I went to Starbucks with the file, and organized it into three acts (including three intermezzos and two entr’actes). That took over two hours. When I got home I fired up Scrivener on the iMac once again, and re-arranged the file per my earlier work.

With that, I’ve taken my writing to another level. You see, it’s been driving me absolutely crazy that I hadn’t settled on the shape of the story. I’d written scenes from my protag’s entire life, and there was no way that anyone would buy a chronological book of that magnitude. I hadn’t determined where to begin, and how to incorporate some earlier scenes (if at all), and it had me in knots. I knew that I’d eventually figure it out – though I may not have it completely figured out just yet – and you cannot imagine the relief I feel.

Until last night.

I woke up several times, reminded of scenes that I’d intended to write, that seemed to be quite important to the novel, but wouldn’t fit into this structure. Ahem. But I’m not back to square one. Maybe square three. The important thing is that I have a huge smile on my face. This is such FUN!

Onward to my goals.

This week has been a bust in the Better Life Habits department. Too much stress, too little concentration. In addition to my work stress, my Mom had a lumpectomy on Thursday (she’s fine, just waiting on the final pathology report. Looks like Stage 1 and five days of radiation therapy), my Dad is having an angiogram on Monday (he had three stents in ’03, I’m hoping they’ll just put in a couple more, versus bypass surgery). They are 81 and 82, respectively, and in excellent health, except for the above. All this has affected my sleep – I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep. That’s very unusual for me. I’ve walked some, but I live in Texas, and the recent rain and storms put a dent in that (though we really need the rain!). The house is not spotless, and won’t be for a while. Oh. Well.

My Creativity is flourishing, as above. Too much music-making to do any knitting – it’s too hard on my hands. I’ll get back to that soon enough.

Social Media goals are working out well, as above, though I’m not going to meet with my writer friends this month. We are all too busy – or rather, when one of us is free, the other two are busy. June, for sure!

I’m adding a second blogpost series, Tuesdays will be for quotes that spark something in me. I inadvertently started that last week, with my post on the Cambrian Shoreline. I’ve got to get cracking on Tuesdays’ entry in the series, because I’ll be with my parents all day Monday… and Tuesday is full of (stressful) work.

Oh, and here’s a fabulous link for writers. Raelyn Barclay’s current Row80 update has a great link to Jami Gold’s post on Scenes and Sequels that you must read. Oh, and cute pics of Raelyn’s family’s three new members, Sonic, Neptune, and Poseidon. Squee! So cute!





Quit Resisting the Muse!

27 04 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

The past several weeks have been, for all practical purposes, novel-writing free. As you might remember, I received a sleep apnea diagnosis a while back, and have now completed two months of treatment using a CPAP machine. I’m finally feeling mostly better, having more energy. If I wasn’t superstitious I’d say that I’m over the hump.

:::knocks on wood:::

Most weeks I’d barely managed 1,000 words, and that mostly blogposts, some weeks were a big, fat zero. Then on April 22nd I knocked out over 2,100. What happened? I stopped trying to tell my muse what’s what, that’s what!

I have been trying to hog-tie my (now 116,000+ word) novel into something that made three-act sense. I was looking for that opening scene, that inciting incident which would hook the reader into reading something that I hoped would be around 85,000 words. And it wasn’t working. I was blocked up, unable to move until I figured out where the heck to begin.

Then on Sunday morning, in the shower, my muse hit me over the head. (She has a way of jumping me when I least expect it).

“Just write the damned thing! Tell this man’s story! Damn the word count! We’ll figure it out later!”

Um, yeah. By the time I had dried my hair, I had the beginnings of three new scenes begging to be put on paper, and was ENTHUSED about writing again.

Today? I’m all WTH if it turns into a 210,000 word-trilogy. I’m unblocked, and writing better than ever.

And… I found a website with a novel-writing system that really appeals to me: the Snowflake System.

 

I’m going to take that out for a walk today, going through the steps for this particular novel, and fitting in the scenes that I’ve already written as I find them. Then I’m going to finish this novel, and self-publish it.





Row80, once again

6 04 2012

If there’s anything that I learned last time, it was that life was going to intervene, and I wouldn’t finish Round One. I discovered that I had sleep apnea, and dealing with that reality continues to occupy a good amount of my psychic energy. There are going to be more changes in that arena, I’m sure… and I’ll deal with them as they come.

But I’m inspired, seeing all my peeps (and tweeps) lining up for Round two, so I decided to give this another go. My goals fall into a couple of categories: building better life habits, creativity, and social media.

Better life habits:

  1. Housekeeping: Become anal retentive about turning off lights and shutting cabinet doors. Make sure that the kitchen sink is clean and shining every night before bed. Make up the bed every morning (yeah, I’m messy!)
  2. Walk at least 150 minutes/week. That’s 30 minutes/5x/week.
  3. Spend less than 30 minutes/day on Facebook – use a timer. Get out in nature more!
  4. Limit iPhone games to 20 min/day. Use the timer!
Creativity:
  1. Finish plotting out my first draft, and finish it, if possible.
  2. Spend time every day with the How To Think Sideways course.
  3. Practice the flute at least 15 minutes/day (after all, it is my main job!)
  4. Finish the scarf I’m knitting, and start my mask-making project.

Social Media:

  1. Write one new non-row80 blogpost/week.
  2. Check in to Row80 on Sunday (this post, on a Friday, will count for Sunday, as I’ll be celebrating the holiday)
  3. Be on twitter 4 days/week
  4. Get together with local writer tweeps at least once/month.

I’m cutting back on social media, because I don’t see it as practical for me right now. It’s eating into my writing and studying time, and my Facebook time is mostly sharing photos with friends – not the best use of my time, even if it does bond us together. I think that this list is do-able for where I am in my life at this time.

Thanks for reading!





It Builds Character

22 02 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

My initial inspiration for writing was character-based. I invented a man, gave him a name, a profession, and built his character from there. I thought you might be interested in how I did it… and, of course, there are gaping holes in my process that you might be interested in pointing out to me in the comments. How could it be otherwise? I’m a newly-minted writer. I don’t know much. I’m going on instinct.

Oddly enough, for a musician, I am a very visually-oriented person. The first thing I determine about a character is his appearance. What kind of physical impression does he make? How tall? What kind of physique? Is he athletic and muscular, or friendly and pudgy?

 

Superficial things like eye/hair color and hair style. How does he walk? Does she stride, or mince? Does she live in her head most of the time, or is this someone who is completely at home in her body? Yoga, or softball, or websurfing? Or regular surfing? Running? Couch potato? Golfer?

Then style of dress. Does she dress up all the time, fashion forward? Is this someone who pays attention to grooming, or has he given up on all that?

 

Canelli is (obviously) of Italian heritage, and wealthy. Of course he wears Italian leather shoes! How could he not?

And what does it feel like to be in her presence? Does he dominate a room? Or is she a wallflower? What kind of conversationalist? Listener? Does he give you his entire attention, or is this person constantly scanning the room, in case there’s someone else they’d rather be seen with/ needs to talk to/ wants to seduce/ is dying to meet?

Is the individual an optimist or a pessimist? Do they kvetch? Constantly? Frequently? Rarely? Never? A joiner, or a loner? A thinker? A feeler? A sensualist? A judgmental S.O.B. or an airy-fairy ‘all is forgiven’ type? Oooh. I could see this turning into one of those online personality sorter questionnaires! There’s a thought! Go take the MBTI/enneagram tests AS THE CHARACTER!

What is his family history? I found this to be indispensable! In the case of Steven Canelli, he’s the youngest of seven, the only boy. The Canellis are a very wealthy Italian-American family. His father established their highly-successful family-owned ethnic foods company. They are Catholic, and live in Lake Forest, an upper-crust community north of Chicago, IL.

 

I don’t know about you, but when the above came to me, I knew bucketloads about this guy. Adding in that he is the product of his mother’s love affair, and as such his very existence is a constant (unpleasant) reminder to his (also unpleasant) ‘father’ that he’s a cuckold… well, you have the recipe for difficulties later in Steven’s life: addictions, problems with women, overachievement/workaholism, etc… and the story flows from these difficulties.

 

Then there’s history. I already know where he grew up. If he went to college, where did he go? What was his major? What did he like to do for fun back then? What is his work history? What is his relationship history? Did he break someone’ heart? Was his heart broken? And… How has that history molded him into the man he is today?

 

One method I use to construct temperament is to visualize/fantasize being the character. What does it feel like to be in his body? What is her point of view? This works well when I’m stuck, particularly when writing dialogue. I imagine myself as one of the characters, and physically move the way they might, if they were responding to what someone said. Do his eyes harden in response to someone’s comment, or do they soften? Does he glance away? Does she take a deliberate breath, or sigh, or pretend to cough? Is he cocksure, smirking and coming on to her? Does she meet his eyes, then roll hers dismissively?

 

And finally, what is the character’s reaction to the shit that I sling at them? As Chuck Wendig says, ‘Torture your characters! Throw them against the wall! Kill their kittens/puppies! etc…’ That isn’t a direct quote from Chuck, but you get the idea. Yes, I love Steven Canelli… but the dude’s got issues! The whole point is whether or not he can overcome them, and what craziness it takes to eventually get his attention. Hint: it isn’t called ‘hitting bottom’ for nothing! Oh wait! That sounds kinky, and I didn’t mean it that way! Let’s just say that the guy has a lot to lose, and yes, he loses it.

How do imagine your characters? Do you base them on people that you know? Do you interview them, or write their histories (as I have learned to do)? Let me know in the comments. And thank you for reading!








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