Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Family Christmas

Our Beautiful Tree
Okay, I know you're expecting my usual Christmas rant. But instead, I'm going to write about the joys of our Christmas celebration, and share a few photos.

We had a really fun Christmas this year. We were very happy that two of my brothers and my son travelled to our Island home to spend Christmas with us. We also had the chance to spend lots of time with my two grandsons, their mom (my daughter) and our son-in-law. We got together with friends, and participated in several holiday community activities (one of which involved cooking a community dinner for 60 people!).

I did a lot of cooking (and eating) this Christmas. Somehow, I forgot to take pictures of the food -- how did that happen? We balanced all the time around the dinner table by going hiking several times, skiing twice, and skating once. There were also some very competitive games of cribbage, jenga, otrio, and battleships. We saw the new Star Wars movie together, as well as a new Christmas movie, and some of us watched quite a few hockey games.

The first ski day, we had beautiful sunshine, but hardly any snow. We scratched our the bases of our skis badly on rocks that were poking through. But Rob and my brother Tony are talented ski techies and they fixed up our skis the next day. 
Rob and My Son
Look How My Little Boy has Grown Up

One afternoon, we went to a community skating party -- my daughter, son-in-law, son, two grandsons, and me.
Grandson with Hockey Moose
My Son, Older Grandson, and Me

On Christmas Eve, we managed to fit in a pub dinner.
Brother, Brother, and Son at English Style Pub
And then on the big day, there was much merriment. We cut back quite a bit on the consumeristic aspects of Christmas this year. But there was still joyful giving of gifts, along with sipping of wine, board games, walks, visiting, and cooking and eating a traditional Christmas dinner. (Where's my photo of the turkey? I thought I took one...)

Of course, one of the best parts is watching the kids get excited about giving and opening their gifts.
The Bag Of Gifts
Harry Potter Lego!
My Own Camera!

The adults had fun too.
The Velvet Devil??
Awesome Album!

Rob installed a new cartridge on his turntable so Tony could listen to his new album. A few nights later, we had friends over and spent half the evening in the basement man cave listening to LPs from 50 years ago (re-mastered ones).

And, yes, we had to sample quite a few of those yummy wines, craft beers, and a few of us got into the scotch (not me). 

Gallivanting Around Europe
"We interrupt this important moment of putting the hot food on the table to take a Christmas dinner photo..." My seven year old grandson took this dinner photo! The younger one, age four, also took a few hundred photos with his new camera, which were then deleted so he could take more photos.

Of course, one of the sad things about Christmas is missing the family members who are celebrating elsewhere. We phoned my other daughter and her significant other who are spending Christmas in Europe. She's sent lots of cool photos of her trip.

We also talked with Rob's daughter's family, and shared photos. We're excited to see that set of grandkids soon, because we're going on a trip together in January.

We had dinner at my daughter's house on Boxing Day. It was a chance to learn a really cool new board game called Otrio, which is a bit like tic-tac-toe but more complex and strategic.
A Serious Game of Otrio
The best thing about Christmas this year was spending time with each other. When the holiday is less about "stuff" and impossible decorating standards, there seems to be more time to just hang out and do thing things together. I feel so grateful to have these wonderful people in my life. Relationships are the true meaning of Christmas, I believe.

But even a wonderful Christmas like this wasn't all rosy. There are always little negative things, like moments when the kids get over-tired and full of sugar, or me having insomnia Christmas Eve and being really tired all day on Christmas, or the fact that the kids' new skis and bindings weren't set up properly and we didn't discover it until we got to the ski hill. The usual worries (like about a loved one's health or financial woes) don't go away just because it's Christmas. And Christmas is also a time when we especially miss people we have lost, like my dear Mom who passed away more than a year ago.

The joys of Christmas seem all the more poignant set against the bittersweet aspects. As we transition to the new year, I want to remember the lessons of Christmas -- being together is what matters; we're doing our best and that's good enough; let everyone contribute in their own way.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Month of Writing

Down by the Oyster Farm in November

About November

November is National Novel Writing Month. This year, even though I haven't yet completed the revisions on my novel, The Age of Grandchildren, I decided to commit to signing up for NaNoWriMo this November.

The objective of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Of course, no novel of mine is ever likely to be as short as 50,000 words. The Age of Grandchildren, in its current state of revision, is 116,000 words. But, nevertheless, 50,000 words is a good start on a novel.

Hitting the goal of 50,000 words meant writing, on average, 1,667 words every single day of November. 

A Few Words About My Writing Process

One thing to keep in mind is that writing is time-consuming. And I am a very slow writer. Although some writers like to pour the words out onto the page to generate a first draft without worrying much about vocabulary, sentence structure, sequence, and so on and then go back and revise later, I like to compose carefully and revise and edit as I go along. Therefore, in order to get 1,667 words down on the page, I needed to spend five or six hours at my computer each day in November.

I didn't achieve the goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. But I did write 43,700 words, and I am very pleased with that. Since the end of November, I have continued to write (despite the distractions of Christmas in all its glory), and my novel is now 46,583 words long. That is eleven and a half chapters, and 172 manuscript pages.

Before sitting down to write on November 1st, I had written some notes, including a plot overview, some character sketches, and some notes on subplots. I had also written a couple of pages setting the opening scene. But that was all. Those 172 pages came out of my head during November.

Five to six hours hunching over the keyboard every day has left me with a sore back and tennis elbow (from the mouse). I didn't keep up my usual level of exercise. It reminds me of my pre-retirement life!

My New Novel

The working title of this novel is The Time Before Time Zero. It is a prequel to The Age of Grandchildren, and there will eventually be a third novel in the sequence. It is set in the greater Vancouver area in the near future. It tells the story of how twenty women ended up hiding underground in a shelter beneath a university. It is told from the perspective of four different characters. Time Zero is the moment in time when everything changes for the characters.

Excerpt From the Novel

The Woman on the Platform
“Breeder! Breeder!”
Beulah was hurrying along the sidewalk, her eyes on her feet and her mind turning over a problem they’d discussed at the meeting, but now she looked up and saw a knot of protestors clustered around the transit entrance. There were twenty-five or thirty of them, several waving placards.
“Shame, shame, you’re to blame!” They started up a chant, waving signs to punctuate their message.
“End-of-Timers,” Beulah muttered to herself and began elbowing her way through the crowd toward the gate. A fat man with a shaved head blocked her way forward with his hand-written sign scrawled on corrugated cardboard: The End is Nie! Reppent Before You Die!
Beulah pushed past the misspelled sign. At the front of the group, two teens wearing rainbow clothes, their faces painted with teardrops and down-turned clown mouths, held a banner printed with you have destroyed our future. Around the border of their banner, they’d drawn pictures of an oil refinery, a ship, a transport truck, and an airplane, all spewing clouds of black smoke. Their eyes rimmed with black eyeliner were as tragic as their mouths.
 As Beulah placed her forearm under the scanner at the gate, she looked into the entrance lobby to see who the protestors’ target was. Ah, there she was, a pregnant woman just stepping onto the escalator. It was getting so it was no longer safe to travel the streets anymore. Every day there was another riot, mugging, or car bombing by one faction or another -- the Climate Warriors, Heteros for God, Queer Love, or the End-of-Timers.
Beulah ran up the escalator and arrived on the platform at the same time as the woman. Now that she was beside her, Beulah could see she was probably in her early thirties, with a slim athletic build, coffee and cream skin, and close-cropped tight curls.
“You okay?” Beulah asked.
“Yes. Thanks.” The woman lowered her eyes.
Then she looked up, right at Beulah, and burst out, “It’s my own damn fault! I should have worn a loose jacket or something to cover it.” She waved her hand at her stomach, the bulge visible under a clingy top.
“Not at all,” said Beulah. “There’s nothing wrong with bearing a child. Don’t let those idiots get to you.”
On the street below, they could still hear the chanting. “Shame, shame, you’re to blame!”
“How far along are you?” Beulah asked. “Sorry, I shouldn’t be so nosy.”
“It’s okay. Just three months. But unluckily for me, I’ve shown almost since day one.”
“I’m Beulah, by the way,” Beulah said, sticking out her hand.
“Olivia.” They clasped hands briefly. There was an awkward silence, as if they’d both suddenly recognized how odd it was to be shaking hands with a stranger on the jelly platform.
“Pardon me, I have to go.”
Olivia turned away and tapped her forearm against the control panel of a MePod. The door slid open silently and Olivia got in. There was a sucking sound as the pod moved into the valve chamber, and a swoosh as the pod entered the plastic vacuum tube and sped away.


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Where Were You a Year Ago?

I can remember exactly where I was a year ago. Can you?

Last October, Rob and I spent a few lovely weeks in Portugal. I wrote about it here, here, and here. But what I never wrote about on the blog was where we went after we left Portugal.

This is where we were last Halloween. Can you guess where it is?

A Fabulous Way to Spend Halloween
 Yes, we went to London, England! This photo shows us in front of the Palace Theatre in London. The day we arrived in London, the cab driver drove us right past this theatre on our way to our hotel.

Now, I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I read them aloud to my children as the books came out one by one. As they became independent readers, I confess we used to squabble over who got to read each new book first. I saved the set of books, and now my daughter is reading the series with my oldest grandson.

Of course, we also raced out see each movie as it was released. My teenage son and I went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, as we travelled across Canada in our antique RV in 2007.

So when I saw that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was playing in London while we were there, I became obsessed with attending the play. I went online and found out the tickets had been sold out for months. But I also read that it was sometimes possible to purchase tickets that someone else had returned the morning of the play.

So we walked over to the Palace Theatre on the morning of October 31, arriving at the ticket wicket a little after it opened. No one had returned any tickets yet, but the salesperson directed us to stand on the sidewalk and wait. We were second in line! We waited for over an hour. The person in front of us got tickets. Finally we were called over to the wicket and offered a pair of very expensive tickets just a couple of rows back from the stage. We bought them! They were the most expensive event tickets I've ever purchased.

Inside the Palace Theatre
Watching the play was an all-day affair. Part 1 started at 2:00 PM and lasted over 3 hours. We had a break for dinner, then had to be back at the theatre at 7 PM for Part 2, which lasted about 3 1/2 hours. It was fabulous!

Altogether, we stayed five days in London before flying home.  Both Rob and I had been there decades previously, so we spent a lot of time walking around to the famous sights to see what had changed. One of the highlights for me was visiting the National Gallery, especially the Turner paintings and the Impressionist Show.

Detail of Floor Mosaic in the National Gallery
Vincent Van Gogh

We also loved the Museum of London, one which neither of us had ever been to. It was recommended to us by someone we met on the port cellar tour in Porto.

A Section of the Original City Wall, Close to the Museum of London

Detail of Trafalgar Square
London Phone Booth
I leave you with a few photos from our visit. I have so many, it's hard to choose. To conclude, here's a photo from Halloween, this year. I went our Trick or Treating with my grandsons, their parents, and their friends.
Halloween 2019
One final note: I've signed up for NaNoWriMo this November. If you're curious about what it is, I've written about it before here and here. So, I'm going to be spending a lot of time at my keyboard this month, but you'll probably not be hearing very much from me in the blogging world for a bit.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

A Tour of Vancouver Island

I am finally writing a long-promised post about our beautiful summer vacation. We have now lived on Vancouver Island for more than two years. We decided that this summer, it was time to get to know our new home a little better.

We live along the east coast of the Island in an area that is considered to be the central part of the Island (even though it's quite close to the southern end). In late July, we set off in our truck and camper rig to explore the less-travelled roads of southern Vancouver Island.

Cowichan Valley

Our first destination was the Cowichan Valley. We camped for three nights along the south shore of beautiful Lake Cowichan.

View of Lake Cowichan from our Back Door
Rob's Waders
There were two small islands in the lake not far from where we camped. We went out in our belly boats and spent several hours fishing around and between the two islands. We didn't get a single bite. The people camping next to us caught some fish, though. They said the fish were out in the middle of the lake and very deep.

Most of the time we were at Lake Cowichan, it was quite windy. So we did some short hikes and read books on the beach and enjoyed camper cuisine.

Hiking a Section of the Trans Canada Trail

On our last day, we drove into the community of Cowichan Lake, and explored some of the rail trails -- old railway lines that have been turned into hiking trails -- that wind through the area. We hiked a section of the Trans Canada Trail.

The Trans Canada Trail is a network of trails that stretches all across Canada, with many parts still under development. Over the years, I have hiked or cycled on several segments of this trail, especially in the Greater Vancouver area, Nanaimo, and in the Kettle Valley.

The section we were on runs between Cowichan Lake and Shawnigan Lake, about 20 kilometers. (We only went about 5 km, then doubled back).

Lizard Lake

Old Growth Stump
 Leaving Cowichan Lake, we followed the Pacific Marine Highway southwest toward Port Renfrew on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Along the way, we stopped and camped at a beautiful little campground at Lizard Lake. The lake got its name because of the salamanders that live in the lake. I sat quietly beside the water peering in and was rewarded by seeing a couple of the salamanders swimming in the lake water.

There is a nice hiking trail all around the lake. We saw evidence of past logging activity in the form of giant stumps. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, and we enjoyed fishing in our belly boats. As well, there is a swimming beach.

Lush Vegetation Along the Trail
Port Renfrew, Botanical Beach, and Botany Bay

Our next stop was Port Refrew. This campground brought on nostalgia, as we camped beside the Gordon River, exactly where I camped nearly 40 years ago when I was setting off to hike the West Coast Trail. The West Coast Trail is a 5-7 day backpacking route through the Pacific Rim Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Is is famous as a world destination for backpacking.

Rob and I spent an afternoon hiking a section of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail starting at Botanical Beach, which is its most westerly trail head. This was a real highlight of the holiday for me. I loved the rock formations, the tidal pools, and the wild beaches. Botanical Beach is reported to be one of the richest areas of marine tide pool life on the west coast of the Island.


Botanical Beach
Kelp Tangles

Here are two pictures of Rob.
He is hiking over the layers of rock to the tide pools. In the other photo, if you look past the pile of kelp, you will see him sitting on the rocks.

We enjoyed our lunch sitting on the rocks, basking in the sun, and absorbing the sounds and sights of the shore.
Rock Formations

Exploring the Beach
Rock Stack, Log, and Tidal Pools
This was an excellent afternoon. It was the first time that I have hiked any part of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. I would like to hike the whole 47 kilometers of the trail someday, maybe section by section.

We finished our hike by doubling back to where we started, and then hiking the Botanical Beach to Botany Bay 2.8 km loop.

After that, it was time for some refreshments. So off we went to the Port Refrew Hotel for a pint and some delicious west coast seafood.

 Jordan River and Mystic Beach

We spent the last few days of the trip at Jordan River, camped right along the beach looking south over the Juan de Fuca Strait at the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Jordan River is a surfer's paradise in the fall and winter when the waves are big. But at the beginning of August, there were no surfers to be seen -- just a lot of seagulls.

We spent an afternoon hiking into Mystic Beach, another famous destination along the Juan de Fuca Strait.
Mystic Beach
The Trail is Badly Eroded

Unfortunately, the hike has become too popular. The trail has been severely eroded, and there were a lot of people along the trail and at the beach. It is a beautiful beach, however. Also, we got to cross a suspension bridge along the trail.

We really loved our beach campsite at Jordan River. There was a quaint coffee shop up the road, and a Little Free Library. That was a good thing because I had read all the books I brought and was in need of more reading material!

Last Night at Jordan River
After more than a week on the road, we headed for home. We bypassed Victoria, not in the mood for an urban experience after the peacefulness of the wilderness. But, our holiday wasn't finished yet! We spent a few days at home gardening and doing laundry, then we headed off on another adventure. So, dare I say, there's more to come?

Monday, September 30, 2019

How Could I Have Been So Blind?

Photo of Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016 from CBC
 A Book About Oil

I am happy to report that I have finished Project X and sent it in. In the process, I did a lot of reading on topics related to the paper. One topic area that I read quite a bit about was global warming, and the climate change that is a consequence of global warming. This issue is something that I have been educating myself about for the past year.

I read the following book, Oil's Deep State: How the Petroleum Industry Undermines Democracy and Stops Action on Global Warming  -- In Alberta, and in Ottawa, by Kevin Taft, written in 2017. Taft was an elected MLA of the Province of Alberta from 2001-2012, so he had an inside view of the impact of oil companies on government. He has a PhD in Business and is an expert in public policy.

Although he is writing about a heavy topic, the book was fascinating to me because I lived in Alberta during part of the period he writes about. He describes how the big oil companies in Alberta, which are extremely wealthy, strategically used their money and power to influence politicians, researchers, and the public in order to bring in a national energy policy that favoured the fossil fuel industries and also to suppress information about the effects of fossil fuels on global warming.

I was shocked. I know that sounds naive. I knew the big transnational petroleum companies were bad actors, but I hadn't really understood the range of tactics they have used to protect their right to amass wealth from oil (even though they knew about global warming) and to undermine democratic processes. Right in my own country. (Really naive, right? Ongoing wars in the middle east over oil, etc.)

 I asked myself: How could I have been so blind about global warming? As a person who cares about the environment, how did I not know about global warming and its terrible consequences a long time ago? Rephrasing Greta Thunberg’s anguished question – why didn’t I personally start taking action a lot sooner?

Taft says that scientists made the public aware of the risks of global warming and the relationship of global warming to the burning of fossil fuels as early as 1965, confirming fears that had been voiced more than a century ago. I myself heard of global warming decades ago (but not as early as 1965 – I was just a little kid then). So here’s a list in which I have tried to reconstruct my thought processes, excuses, and misunderstandings:  

A List

1. Ever since I was born, there have been a series of terrible things going on in the world; like the cold war and the threat of a nuclear holocaust that could wipe out humanity; the threat of overpopulation that would strain our planet beyond its capacity to support us all; terrifying diseases like AIDS, Mad Cow Disease, Ebola, and necrotizing fasciitis; and awful wars. In spite of it all, my own life has been good, and life for many people around the world has gotten better (overall poverty has decreased; international agreements have been made about weapons proliferation, population is still increasing but at a much slower rate than in the 1980s, etc.). Somehow, each of these possible doomsdays has turned out better than predicted, so far. So, the problem is that I have become COMPLACENT. A news stream of constant crises made me numb to them. Global warming seemed like just one of many crises.

2. “They” will look after it. Like a child looking to my parents to take care of the things that were too big for me to manage, I looked to powerful others – the government, the scientists, the United Nations, and so on to fix the big problems of the world. For the most part, I believe that our democratic system has worked quite well, and great progress has been made in lots of areas. But I have gradually come to understand that THERE IS NO THEY; THERE IS ONLY WE. That is to say, our elected officials, our scientists, our diplomats, and so on are just regular people like you and me. Yes, they might have specialized skills and be extraordinarily talented. But they can’t make the big changes needed to change course on global warming alone. All of us need to contribute.

3. What’s so bad about the climate warming up, I remember asking myself. After all, Canada’s winters are awfully cold, and the summers can be quite short and cool. Maybe we’ll have nicer summers, and the winters won’t be so bitter. Maybe we’ll have a longer growing season. Wouldn’t that be good for agriculture? WRONG! I was thinking about it in a too narrow way, about how it might affect me in the small region where I lived. I didn’t think about people dying from heat waves in areas further south, or realize that the rapidity of the change in climate would make it hard for plants and animals to adapt, or recognize that altering the Earth’s temperature would result in extreme weather events like wildfires and floods. In fact, over the last 30 years, throughout northern parts of Canada where I used to live, the forests have been devastated by the spruce budworm and the pine beetle, forest diseases that have been caused by big corporations planting a forest monoculture in combination with the climate having changed to warmer summers and warmer winters.
Photo of the City of Calgary Flood of 2013 from The Calgary Herald
4. When I first heard about sea levels rising, I didn’t take it seriously. How could a few inches cause a problem for anyone? Surely no one built their houses that close to sea level? See number 1 above – another example of COMPLACENCY, combined with ignorance. But now we know that whole island countries will be lost to the rising oceans, and that many of the great cities of the world are built on river deltas and are threatened by flooding.

5. Lack of, or distorted, information. Throughout my lifetime, I have witnessed environmentalists being looked down upon, scientists being muzzled, and media giving a lot of airtime to people who have no credibility and who state ideological positions for which they have no evidence as if they were facts. It is hard to know what to believe when scientific evidence is scorned, and lies are touted as facts. One example from Alberta when I lived there was that the petroleum industry re-labelled itself as “the energy sector” and oil and gas as “clean energy” even though there was nothing clean about it. So, on global warming, I took a “wait-and-see” approach. I have research skills and I had access to a university library. I could have gone and done my own research. WHY DIDN’T I EDUCATE MYSELF?
Image of the 2013 flood in High River Alberta from The Calgary Herald
6. Another factor is that I worked within a system where a culture of overwork was normal. Eleven and twelve hour workdays were normal. I didn’t have much time or energy left to focus on anything much except my family and the basics of life in the hours when I wasn’t working.

7. Too many problems and too little time. This relates back to #5 and #6. There are so many things to educate oneself on. Is this fair trade coffee? Does this water bottle have BPA in it? Is gluten bad for you? Was this clothing made in a factory that condones human rights abuses? What are the main recommendations of the reconciliation report? Did these eggs come from a factory farm where the hens were confined in cages? Is this detergent phosphate free and is phosphate the only problem with detergent? Is gasoline with ethanol added better or worse for the environment? How much exercise a day does a person need to maintain a healthy heart? Is one glass of wine a day good, or is it better to drink more, or less, and what about alcohol other than wine? Is it worse for the environment to use cloth rags that you launder or to use paper towels? Are genetically modified foods dangerous or not and are they safe for the environment? Is high fructose corn syrup worse for you than other sugars? What is Canada’s policy on refugees seeking asylum? And I could keep on listing questions like this for pages and pages. It is easy to see how global warming could get lost when there are so many important things to care about. A person is tempted to pick one or two causes and forget about the rest. The sense of overwhelm leads to a kind of learned helplessness. BUT IF WE DON’T HALT GLOBAL WARMING, NONE OF THE OTHER ISSUES WILL MATTER.  

8. I have always voted, and educated myself about my voting choices. But I always thought of myself as a not very political person. I felt distaste for the name-calling and empty talking points of politics. It seemed that whatever politicians promised on the campaign trail, they went and governed in the same old way after they were elected. I became cynical about politics. But now I am beginning to see that engaging in our democratic system is one of our best ways of making a difference on global warming. The big transnational corporations certainly aren’t going to change their ways on their own; they are too busy lining their pockets to the detriment of the rest of us. VOTING FOR A POLITICAL PARTY WITH A STRONG ENVIRONMENTAL PLATFORM IS IMPORTANT. And along with voting, it’s also important to be fully engaged in the political process – to donate to parties that have a strong environmental platform, to volunteer to work for those parties during campaigns, to write to elected officials, and to consider running for office oneself.

 Looking to the Future

I could kick myself around the block a dozen times for being so slow to start learning about the threat that global warming and climate change pose to our planet and the survival of our civilization. It brings me to tears whenever I think of the overheated world that my grandchildren, and everyone’s grandchildren, are going to have to live in. But there’s no point in looking backwards and blaming myself. The best thing I can to is to take responsibility for my choices now and throw my efforts into practical actions that will make a difference on climate change. We have a narrow window of time of about ten years to shift the possible outcome of global warming to something bad that we can live through from something really bad that humans might not survive. FOR THE SAKE OF OUR GRANDCHILDREN, AND EVERYBODY'S GRANDCHILDREN, LET'S TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE NOW. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Project X Ate My Brain

Project X ate my brain, err, rather, it is still in the process of eating my brain because it is still in progress.

Project X

I am deep into an academic writing project that I have dubbed "Project X." It has totally taken over my thoughts and my time.

In it, I am pulling together disparate threads of ideas that come from my lived experience during my 25-year career in higher education, my research focus over the last few years on ethics in research and researchers' public responsibility, and my recent immersion in learning about global warming and the climate emergency. My voracious reading for the project has taken me into new (to me) research fields, such as corporate social responsibility, and back to rereading and thinking about ideas from the ancient history of my intellectual development, such as John Dewey's writings on democracy and education, and Karl Marx's concepts of capitalism and surplus value.

I am trying to craft an coherent and compelling argument that knits several disparate ideas together.

I have written more than the requested number of pages, but am still refining the argument. The task that faces me in the hours and days ahead is to read, read, read; write, write, write; and then cut, cut, cut. Project X is overdue, and I have nobody to blame but myself and my own procrastination. But, my goodness, is it ever a fascinating ride!

So, I know I promised a blog post on my excellent summer vacation. But I have to defer that post for now, and so many other things until Project X is all wrapped up and delivered with a bow.

Some of the things that have been put off to the side are: my daily exercise, revising my novel, working on the prequel novel, my art, reading and writing blogs, any new time commitments (I am still trying to keep commitments that I previously made, although some of those are going to be late, too). I sure do hate saying "no" to new fun things.

But lest you are tempted to feel sorry for me, thinking that my life hasn't been very fun lately, I have to put you straight right now. For me, academic research and writing is fun (if unremunerated).

As well, there have been a number of very fun events in my life in September, all planned and committed to many months ago when I still optimistically believed that I would have been finished with Project X by now. 

Birthday Bash

We hosted a big birthday bash at our place to celebrate Rob's and my September birthdays. Friends and family came to the party from far and wide. We had a band!

Dancing to Beatlemania Tunes

133 Years of Wisdom

 Friends and Family Come to Visit

We had a wonderful time visiting with friends and family, some of whom travelled 1,000s of kilometers to celebrate with us. We also enjoyed some excellent grandkid time.

Blogger Meet-Up

I also had the chance this weekend to participate in another blogger meetup! This time I got to spend time with Natalie from Natalie the Explorer, Donna from Retirement Reflections, and Ann from The Unretired.Life.

Natalie, me, Donna, Ann
We ate, drank, walked in the rain, and generally made merry.
A Lovely Rainy Day
Oops, I think I am procrastinating again.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Self-Sabotaging Writing Habits

Sunset at Lake Cowichan
 If you have been following my blog for awhile, you know that I am a writer. I haven't updated you recently on what's happening in my writing world, so, first the good news!

How the Novel is Coming Along

For the last few years, I have been working on a novel. Last November, I announced that I had completed a first draft of it. But then I changed my mind and re-wrote the ending. Then I read the whole manuscript through and made minor corrections. Then I was finally ready to send the manuscript out to beta readers.

What is it about, you ask?

It is a dystopian tale that takes place in the near future. A small group of survivors, all female, have survived cataclysmic events that have destroyed their city, and for all they know, most people on earth. Years later, two best friends in the shelter come of age and begin to wonder what is outside of their protected enclave. The ecosystem of their little world is beginning to collapse. Each of the two has to make a choice whether to listen to her conscience or follow her heart.

Over the spring, I received feedback from my five beta readers. All of them were very positive about the story: plot, characters, the futuristic setting, the social commentary, and the writing. Two of them recommended changing the ending (again), and I agree. I left things up in the air too much, and that was unsatisfying. My amazing beta readers also gave me lots of pointers about specific changes to make.

I have also read out many snippets to members of my writing group, and their advice is always constructive, gentle, and to the point.

So, the good news is that I've written a novel and I'm really happy with it.

The Revision Process

I spread out all the notes from the beta readers around my computer and began to work through the revisions. That has worked well, as long as I sit down in that room and at that computer. I have found that it is important to not leave too long a time period between each revision session, because then I forget all the details I was trying to hold in mind about what to change, and have to read through all the notes again. Successful revising, for me, appears to be dependent on how I organize my time, space, and written notes.

Before I wrote this novel, I wrote two other novels that I never finished. With the first, I got about 3/4 through a first draft. With the second, I finished a first draft and sent it to beta readers who made excellent suggestions. And then I became so overwhelmed about how to tackle the extensive revisions that I couldn't bring myself to do them.

I am happy to report that I am not struggling with my motivation to do the revisions on this novel. I am enjoying the revision process, and I love sitting down at the computer to work on it. And I really want to finish these revisions and get on with the next phase because this novel is timely right now and because...

It's Going to be a Series!

Yes, it's not going to end with the novel that I have just written. It's going to be a series of three books, and the completed one is the one in the middle. Right now the prequel novel is burning a hole in my brain. I have written copious notes for it, and the opening scene.


So where does the self-sabotage come in? Why am I not finishing the revisions?

I have no desire to avoid working on the revisions. I am eager to sit down at the computer and mentally jump back into the world of my story. I kind of dread the next step of seeking publication, but that is not why I haven't been working on the revisions.

I have always been a person who takes on way too much. They are all things that I want to do, like travelling to Crete, or going on an excellent 3-week vacation, or spending time with family or friends, or participating in art shows, or agreeing to do other writing projects. Or they are things that I have committed to do for others, such as volunteer work for my service group.

I am very disciplined about making myself follow through and actually do the things that I have promised that I will do. But the downside is that all those other things have specific more urgent timelines, so my writing time gets pushed into the background.

In the case of the revisions, my summer travels meant that I have had hardly any time to sit down at the particular computer where my revision notes are laid out. I was afraid to take the revision notes with me for fear they would get lost, and also because it takes long stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the head-space and work on revising.

In contrast, I was able to write background notes for my new prequel novel anywhere in any little fragment of time that I had. All I needed was a laptop or pad of paper.

There is a little executive manager in my brain who tells me how to allocate my time. The sabotage equation goes something like this: "I want to work on my revisions, but I've promised to do project X which is due [insert date coming up very soon] so I can't do my revisions until I have finished project X. But I don't really feel like doing project X right now, so first I'll [insert alternative activity such as do the laundry/go for a walk] to get myself into the mood to do project X, and at least [the laundry will be done/I'll get my 10,000 steps]. Oh no, the whole day has gone by and I haven't worked on my revisions or on project X!"

Or I'll be talking to a friend and the next thing I know, I'm meeting them for lunch or dinner, or to go on a bike ride, or X, Y, or Z.  

So that's how I have been sabotaging my revision process. I've been avoiding project X (which is actually a very interesting project and I'm sure I'll enjoy it once I'm actually working on it again), and not allowing myself to work on my revisions until project X is finished. 
Floaters on the River

Never to Old to Ride on a Swing
The other thing is, I've been too busy having fun! I have inserted a couple of photos from my excellent summer vacation to whet your appetite for my next blog post.