Saturday, April 21, 2012

writing and rewriting

My pen flowed across the pages this week, my mind clear of chemicals and rested by a return to sleeping through the night. The pages quickly filled. Then I stopped, intent that I needed to begin typing the paragraphs into my manuscript. But I stopped that, too. Hesitant, self-critical, wondering: Does this thread make sense? Does it move the story along? Does it fit? What is my character's motivation?

Faced with the jarring, hesitating dance my left hand makes back and forth across the keyboard, the dexterity-challenging process of typing the pages and my doubts about whether what I'd just written should even be in the novel made me rethink my endeavor. And my commitment.

This winter I took a writing class on plot. I learned some useful things that I can apply to this and other projects. At the end of the class, a few of us decided to begin meeting weekly (almost) to talk writing. The first week, it was just two of us, but it looks like the group will be a foursome. Just the right size. Our goal is not to critique, nor is it to"workshop" our writing. Our goal is to encourage and support; to share ideas.

At that first meeting, I told Judith about my project and told her I hoped to have my first draft finished in time for the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference, in June. She asked how far I was; how far from the end I was; then she did something very organized: she suggested a page goal. Eight typed pages a week that I could email to her as proof. I was no longer just accountable to myself; now she was counting on me to send my pages. This is why last weekend it was so important to get my pages typed. Now, I'm not so sure.

Our group met last evening at a coffee shop a few blocks from my house. I shared with them my challenge, how I was unsure of character motivation; that I didn't know how to end the story; that I felt I was just filling pages. And filling pages is fine if it's cranked out in just a few minutes, but to type only to strike out pages of text down the road? Ah, Sisyphus! Your crimes were far greater than mine! Typing up the pages I wrote this week is now on hold until I decide where to take the story next. I'll just sit on this rock and ponder for a while.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

small steps

It's been nearly two weeks, so here's a report on life as I know it:

Before I begin, a little about writing. I'm left-handed. Surgery was on the right shoulder; that alone makes writing a bit easier, I suppose. But I've been working on the novel. And I type pretty fast, so most of my writing is on the keyboard. Until now.

I tried typing while writing in order to get my thoughts down, but typing with just one hand is incredibly slow and, frankly, it makes me think too much. So my writing process is now done in two stages: I write everything out longhand, then after a few days, I key it all into the manuscript, editing a bit as I go. If I try just keying in, I have to focus too much on the mechanics of the typing and it pulls me right out of the story. By late last week, I'd covered 15 pages with scrawling script, then took much of Saturday and Sunday to type it up. I had met my weekly 8-page goal and was ready to begin the new week.

Day 6, sparkly clean.

Now, a recap of my last few weeks.
First the surgery. It was Friday, April 6. Nerve block (think novocaine for your entire arm), then the fix, which apparently went well but wasn't exactly what we thought. I'm going to call it rotator cuff, okay? They sent me home with a purse-sized satchel that contained a three-plus-day supply of the nerve block to shield me from much of the worst pain. It seemed to work, because my biggest need for the prescribed pain meds was the day they removed the block, yhe following Monday. I'd down a pill every few hours and remember what the staff had told me: I didn't have to be a hero. Check.

It didn't take more than two days to know I would rather feel a twinge than have a fuzzy brain, so I quit taking the pills during the day and limited myself to aspirin, saving the strong stuff for nighttime.

But, I haven't yet told you about the icing machine. Space-age technology, they say, led to the machine I use. I wear a huge shoulder cuff that has a water and air bladder inserted into it. The bladder is attached by hose to a machine you fill with ice water, which is circulated over the shoulder. I wore the cuff and ran the machine 30 min. on/30 off almost continuously for the first few days to keep the swelling down. Now I run it about half the day and through the night. I especially like it after doing PT.

We began PT on Day One with pendulum swings, which I approached timidly and with some fear. (The swings remind me of an elephant trunk; just lean over, swing your hips and let movement and gravity do the work!) A few pointers from my friend helped, but the first visit to the therapist really got me comfortable. That was four days after surgery, and the day we began passive range-of-motion exercises. Each PT session expands my range, sometimes causing enough fear-tinged pain to make me cry. I guess that's the "no pain; no gain" people keep telling me about. It's challenging, but each day it gets better with greater range of motion and a bit less resultant pain.

Through it all, I've had help and encouragement from friends and from my sister who is here visiting my niece. Most of the help, as expected, has been from Jon. He's taking on more than ever. Adapting to what I need: feeding the ice machine at 4 a.m., helping with bathing, driving me where I need to go, doing dishes and laundry. Then there are things I must do on my own, no matter that they take twice as long as when Jon does them: like making my own latte in the morning, or getting dressed, peeling a tangerine or getting a glass of wine from a wine box.

I'm not the first person to adapt to using one hand, but this is the first time I've felt so restricted. Yet, like one of my favorite birds, the raven, I will find the tools to adapt. It's all another part of the journey and it takes a little learning.

Of course it's easy to sound positive on a sunny day in April, with my roof clear of snow and the piles on the ground shrinking at an increasing rate that seems to pace the increasing daylight. Budding trees are just weeks away and the migrating birds are already filling the flyways as they return to their nesting grounds. People ask when I'll be able to ride and I tell them, maybe in the fall. My words landing in their ears causes reactions of sadness, sympathy. I think fall is optimistic, but don't tell them that. Again, remind them: it is what it is; as long as I'm moving forward it's okay. And I can hike.

I'll get there.

But the other part of me is thinking about mountain bike trails; the flowing new trails at Kincaid; the long climb from my house to Glen Alps. Or just riding my singlespeed downtown to the museum. Getting there will take time and hard work. My goal is to be patient with myself through the process. I like the quote my friend, Gloria, sent me: "Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience." ~Unknown.