The last few weeks have been a period of calm accomplishment. I’m trying not to measure the value of my life in “things done,” but when living a life where most days are similar to each other and weekly patterns repeat themselves, sometimes I can lose a sense of progress. At those times it is useful to look back at the state of things six months or a year ago and see how all the small efforts and changes added up over time. So, as I enter a spring and summer that will probably look a great deal like the ones I had last year, now seems like a good time to record some status reports.
I bought Scrivener today. I’ve felt daunted by the thought of learning how to use it, but I was also daunted by the process of organizing thoughts into a novel. My first draft was one giant word document and I longed for the ability to separate out chapters or scenes to view them separately. Then I found my way into a process for brainstorming my novel’s plot that involved 4×6 cards and a file box. This made the organizational portion of my brain very happy. It is tacitlely satisfying to write notes on a card and then drop it into place. However I could already see that the method is not particularly portable and impossible to back up. So when I learned that Scrivener allows me to create scene cards and shuffle them around in the same ways that I would with physical cards, I decided to give it a try.
All of this shuffling of card and learning of digital tools is because I’m taking another run at finishing my middle grade novel. I’m scavenging my first draft for parts as I pull a sub-plot into being the main plot, let go of some of the ideas that don’t fit anymore, and adding additional threads of lore. This discovery phase is being fun. I hope to have the novel re-drafted by July because a friend of mine with experience writing and publishing middle grade has offered to do a critical read of the book and I’m using that offer as a motivational deadline. It feels good to have a specific creative focus and to prioritize writing.
Teaching classes is on hold until July. (Yes this fits nicely with focusing on fiction writing during that same period.) But even though I’m not focused on teaching, I’m still collecting bits and pieces that will go into my next classes. I have some I’m very excited about. I’ve also pitched some of the classes to a writing conference in the fall. Hopefully they’ll pick them up and I’ll get to teach several classes there. I’m also working with a graphic designer to create some logos for myself and for the creative community that I’m trying to foster. I hope to have images to share soon. And, as I posted the other day, I’ve been dressing up my Zoom corner. So “on hold” doesn’t mean “nothing happening.” It just means that I’m letting that portion of my brain simmer while I’m sending most of my energy into other things.
The next big home improvement task is moving the door into the garage. This is a multi-step project that starts by moving food storage shelves out of the way. I’m breaking it down into bite sized pieces and doing a little bit at a time rather than letting the size of the whole thing make me stop. I’m also waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting) for our tax return to come in so I can afford to buy a new door. I’m now on week six of waiting. I don’t like waiting.
Outside the house I managed to accomplish the critical early spring tasks. I cut back our pear tree so it can (hopefully) recover from blight, and I cut back our grape vines so I could build a new structure for them. More structure needs to be built, but at least they are set up for a good growing season. Later this week I hope to tear grass out of an old flower bed and scatter a bag full of Utah-native wildflower seeds. I want to re-wild portions of our yard and make it more wildlife friendly. Mostly that means birds and bugs. My neighborhood doesn’t get wild mammals larger than mice. However if I could convince a family of quail to take up residence, that would make me very happy.
The kids are all in fairly stable configurations. Growth is slow and sometimes in odd directions, but bit by bit they’re beginning to claim adulthood. For the most part my job is to stay out of their way and not make their lives too easy. They need to practice doing some of the small life maintenance things which are so second nature to me now that I’ll often do the things for my kids without thinking about it. So my job is to think, and to leave the small mess, or the small task, for my kid to (eventually) notice and do for themselves.
Howard is still working on creating process for his next comics projects. He keeps running into mental roadblocks, and he keeps being frustrated by his own lack of productivity. Again, my job is to stay out of the way.
In pandemic news, Utah is on a low-level plateau. The removal of the statewide mask mandate didn’t cause even a blip in the plateau. Possibly because I didn’t notice much behavioral change. Most retail stores and schools are still requiring masks. However church gatherings and activities are coming back up to pre-pandemic levels in the next couple of weeks. By “pre-pandemic levels” I mean that there will be as many hours, but masks are still expected and social distancing is the norm. We’ll have to see how that affects the numbers. I think it is a reasonable next experiment as we all try to figure out how much the vaccination effort is helping and what life patterns we can reclaim from the before times. In another ten days everyone in my house will be fully vaccinated. So venturing to church in person is something that we’ll be trying, and possibly retreating from if we discover it to be panic inducing. Slowly life is taking on a new shape yet again. However I’m still not planning on traveling this year and not going to any big conventions.
I have many mixed thoughts about the ways that pandemic have exposed privilege. I can’t help but compare the current crisis in India with the US having piles of open vaccine appointments with no one showing up for them. I have friends in Canada who are locked down and would love to be vaccinated. And I compare that to what I contemplate happening in my life in the next few months. It isn’t fair. I know that life has never been fair, but all the unfairness keeps being in the front and center of my attention. For the most part, I can’t fix it. So I focus on telling stories that help people whether they’re in the form of blog posts, tweets, middle grade novels, picture books, or letters.