Juxtaposition July – some extremes in reading… a wrap-up

Juxtaposition July 01 by Casey Carlisle

Can the world just back to normal please…

I was determined to get back on track with that goal-getting after an abysmal second quarter due to the virus-that-will-not-be-named and lockdowns. Starting the month of July with all the best intentions was soon waylaid with an unseasonal change in the weather that brought out a lot of Australian natives to flower in the bushland surrounding where I live. Bring on thumping headaches, scratchy voice, watery eyes, and a heavy dose of feeling sorry for myself. Given that I wasn’t feeling too flash, I thought I’d get a lot of reading done because that is my comfort space – curled up on the couch with a warm cuppa and a good book.

What eventuated was my best writing month so far for 2020, and my worst for reading…

I grappled with the headaches and blurry vision, along with two of the novels being more intense, or difficult to read, contributing to the low reading count. (Not to mention constantly falling asleep from antihistamines making me drowsy.) But I’m not mad at it. You need to roll with the punches and adapt. My writing was coming to a stall in May and June. Even though I was getting a word count in, when reviewing my drafts, it was missing the tone from the first five chapters. So rather than flog a dead horse, I made the decision to put it aside for a moment and work on something else – nothing worse than letting frustration colour your mood in a creative endeavor. My strategy worked. Even though I lost a week of work with family visiting (yay, I love catching up with the fam,) and a little more than another week with hay fever symptoms (at-choo, sniffle, sniffle,) in the remaining week and a bit I managed to pen out three chapters on a novel in development.

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That’s really all that I’ve been able to accomplish this month. Though we are not on tight lockdowns, the state is still closed to half of the continent. I have friends in Victoria restricted to their homes. We’ve seen a few cases of Covid-19 pop up locally. People getting arrested and jailed/fined for shirking border crossing restrictions. Teens throwing parties with more than 10 people have seen attendee fined up to $26,000 each. And nightclubs are being closed because no-one is obeying the 1.5 metre social distancing rule. It’s disappointing really, a few people I know have passed away from complications after contracting the virus. It just takes a little common sense and precaution to help us get past this and let things get back to normal. My flat-mate has only just been able to get back to work after 6 months where he was unable to earn an income. We are lucky, but there are so many of my friends who are still trying to secure full time employment and are in fear of losing their houses from defaulting on homeloans. But despite all of the pressure, most everyone remains optimistic. We are all here to help each other get through this.

The highlight of July has to be getting to play Canasta with my family… I know that sounds lame, but it’s an activity we enjoy because we get to sit around the dining room table on the balcony, take in the view of the coast, the ocean, soft breezes with a glass of bubbly, and cackle as we catch up on life. It’s about connecting with each other, spending time together rather than the card game. We used to do it over the Christmas holidays when I was a kid, so it invokes those memories as well. Feeling free and visiting new and exciting places as we caravanned around Australia.

Back to my reading: I really enjoyed ‘The Princess and the Fangirl,’ and ‘Wayward Son,’ though ‘Too Late’ was hard to digest. It dealt with themes of abuse, rape, drug dealing, and explicit sex scenes… a bit confronting and not the usual fare form Colleen Hoover. Plus I started reading Magda Szubanski’s memoir ‘Reckoning’ which deals with her family immigrating from Poland (via England) after surviving the war… the writing is beautiful, but it also deals with heavy topics that I need to let sit before I can read on. It’s not a book you can plough through. But I love the historical elements. I’m currently half way through and hope to complete in in August. So, those last two novels really slowed down my reading productivity. (Reviews for all the books I’ve read to come in the next month or so.)

I’m crossing my fingers that the hay fever won’t persist as bad as it was, because there is a pile of really exciting novels waiting on my coffee table, and the progress I’ve made with me writing has me amped up the keep on firing. So that slight change in direction has got me motivated and celebrating a great witting month. I hope to improve on the numbers in August! Bring it On!

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Oh, and I had to share this puppy dog cuteness – because abovementioned flat-mate has returned to work after so long, my furbabies waited patiently at the door during that first day, snuggled like bunnies, because they missed him. And they are adorable. I needed to distract them with lots of hugs and playing chasey around the house. I wonder how crazy the neighbours think I am, because all they would see through the windows in me running back and forth, waving my arms in the air, screaming and laughing all by myself.

 

How are you handling the impact of Covid-19? What roadblocks have you overcome recently to better your reading or writing goals?

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

WORD COUNT : Are you a numbers fanatic or measure your writing in stages?

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Many of my writer friends measure their daily progress by scribing a certain number of words to deem the day productive… and a few concentrate on finishing a scene or chapter – which one are you?

Personally I hybridize both of these concepts – I have a minimum of what I want to see written each day – 1,000 words (and that’s quality writing), but I aim to try and finish a chapter or scene each day. If you’ve read any of my blog articles on writing before, you’ll know I set ridiculously high goals for myself. Yes, rarely do I achieve the large volume of work I schedule – but when I do, it is a real rush.

But in this manner, I personally, achieve more than I would with lower goals. Smaller, more realistic goals lead to procrastination with me… I can catch up tomorrow, missing just one day is not too bad… and it just snowballs until a month passes and my performance is dismal. So I set huge tasks and take each day as it comes.

Are you a Numbers Fanatic Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifA word count goal works on days of low creativity, or when I’m doing re-writes works well. Mainly because that way I can always count on a certain amount of progress on my manuscript; and in turn keep to a deadline. I feel it is important, so that publishers can have confidence in me delivering a completed book on time.

Plus, sometimes it just takes putting words on paper for inspiration to strike and I push past the creative glut and end up exceeding my goal for the day.

Alternatively, when my writing is really flowing, aiming to complete a scene or chapter works better. It’s a small bite of the novel that has a start, finish, and needs to hit certain plot points somewhere in between. Having that overall view and see it all come together gets me excited and keeps fuelling my enthusiasm. It also leaves me jazzed to tackle the next part in the story.

Are you a Numbers Fanatic Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI try to end my day on a high note too. Leaving excitement about what I’m going to write next. When I first started writing, I’d sit down whenever inspiration strikes; but ended up typing like a maniac for days and emerging out the other end like I’d been drip fed coffee while locked inside a tumble drier to write. And crash. For days.

It taught me the valuable lesson to pace myself. To not disappear for a week or so just because I had an idea. Many of these ‘episodes’ is what lead me to setting daily goals and scheduling my time appropriately. A writing hangover is not fun. I’m like a bear mid-hibernation with hunger pains and PMT. Totally not cute.

Plus, there were times towards the end of the writing sprint that I entered a delirium, and upon re-reading had me questioning my sanity.

The most important thing about having a goal, be it weekly or daily, is the fact that it makes you accountable for your writing – but – and I can’t stress this enough – don’t let it pile on any pressure if you are not getting there. Stress. Anxiety. Pressure. None of these helps in a creative situation (usually). It can kick off a downward spiral of ‘I’m not good enough.’ Or feed the frustration that you are unable to string words together. Not meeting a word count is not going to end your career or doom your novel to Hades. It’s merely a tool for you to measure progress and for publishers to categorize your finished product. A guide. So use it as such and let your mind free. Writing can be an emotional enough journey without adding another layer of expectation to it.

This whole activity is about tricking the brain into flexing its imagination on a daily basis so I can create a lifelong passion and habit of writing novels. And I’m forever learning and training. That attitude has let me handle critique and daily word counts with ease. It’s a concept as fluid and ever-changing as creativity is itself. But once you find that sweet spot, stick to it!

Happy writing 🙂

 

What tools do you use for meeting a word count or writing goal?

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.