The Writing

13 March, 2017


Look at that pollen. Just look.

I've been binge watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. I don't generally like reality TV, but I do like baking, and I love learning things. (I have learned that I will never try to bake a Swedish Princess Cake, for example. Or baklava from a hand-made phyllo dough. ) I have seen half a dozen baking catastrophes, and learned how to avoid or even repair them. And of course, people get emotional--weeping over a curdled custard or a failed biscuit or brutal feedback from the judges. I sometimes shout at the judges, especially Male Judge, who seems to revel in being scary.

One thing I've learned is that the judges prefer risk to safety. Try big, fail big--and get more points than timidity, safety, and perfect execution. The contestants freak out about that, like the spectacular failure will somehow be worse than the mundane one. And I think, while sometimes simple is just better when one is eating for oneself, in the context of the show, simple isn't better. You're assumed to have mastered simple a long time ago. All the simples come together to make an amazing! Or, if not an amazing, at least a this is a really great idea, but.

The thing to avoid is not trying.

Let's see. How might I make that connect with writing? I sense a lesson.

I am worrying and fretting on WIP (which is not, oh fistful of On the Bones of Gods fans, the third installment. That one's in the proving drawer, waiting for its rise. I write other things in the meantime because, well, I write.). This time, I've got a stage beta-reader. The Rat is reading, chapter by chapter. The idea here is she will catch any horrific failures before they metastasize into 93K words of unsalvageable. This practice also helps me hold onto plot threads myself. But still, you know. I worry. I am teetering on the verge of throwing out a whole chapter, which is really not a big deal (4k? Pff.) but the reason I'm teetering is not that the prose sucks, but that I don't know if I'm doing it right.

Let's ponder that. I don't know if I'm writing my own freakin' story right, with a world that comes out of my head. Who else would know? My problem isn't that I can't write, but that I'm on the edge of having to commit to this world-build. I think, oh jeez, this is boring, this is safe, but it will makes sense.  Then I think, I should try X instead, because it is NOT safe, but it could crash and burn spectacularly.

Then I retreated to Netflix and spinning thread and watching people freak out about patisserie.

There are probably biochemical reasons for this. Like, oh, losing an hour of sleep. Or the coating of yellow pollen (fucking palm trees) all over EVERYTHING.

So today--or tomorrow, if office hours run late or suck my brain out--I will try again. Not the simple option, either. Because I've mastered simple, and I need to try for awesome.

20 February, 2017

war bandage

So, friend M. is a talented fiber person (tm). She doesn't just knit, people, she processes the wool from its stinky raw state into things of beauty. She dyes. She spins. She weaves. And knits. And crochets. I suspect she also sews, but I can't prove it. Let us say simply,

She does All The Things.

Sometimes, however, the Things do not turn out the way she intended. While she was dyeing for a show last year, she created a colorway she didn't much like. She brought it to our yoga class (this is a frequent thing, that we bring fiber to yoga. It's like show-and-tell. Sometimes we bring fibery things to the pub, too.) M. frequently brings me scraps of fiber, dyed or undyed, so I can practice my spinning. That day, she brought me a big hank of yellow/blue/cream/red.

"This is awful," she said. "I can't sell this. Do you want it? You can practice with it. Then you can throw it out."

"It's not that bad," I told her. "I don't think it's as ugly as you think it is."

"It looks like someone bled all over it," she said. "Like it's a war bandage, or something."

War Bandage. WAR BANDAGE.

How could I not make something with WAR BANDAGE?

Nous had gotten me a kick-spindle for my birthday, and I reckoned I could learn to use it and try to spin something thicker than the spider-silk fine thread-yarn I seem to produce on the drop-spindle. So I spun the fiber (not quite a thick as I'd intended; evidently I have a predisposition to fine spinning). Then I plied two strands and ended up with a mostly-even DK-sportish weight. Then I wound the result into two balls. WB1, top left, favors its reddish roots. WB2, bottom right, looks like a refugee from Sweden (though you can see the red peeking out at the bottom).

I have a set of felted coasters in mind--

--OK, let me explain that. Years ago, we were in some tourist-trap beachside gift shop and we found a set of undyed plain old knit-and-felted coasters and they were something like $20 each and I was mortally offended. Like, seriously. How f-ing hard could it BE?

(I have acquired many skills over the years by saying Oh, I can do that. Notable exception: pie pastry. For that, we have Trader Joe's.)

--anyway, felted coasters, WAR BANDAGE, we're on.

15 January, 2017

blood in the eye

I woke up today to a burst blood vessel in my right eye. I thought at first, oh shit! Conjunctivitis! But then no, upon examination, that redness had a definite origin-point.

I am not a huge fan of baring personal weakness. (I was going to say in public. But really: at all.) But I'm gonna cop to this one, right now: blood in eyeballs. Bloody eyeballs. EYEBALL BLOOD.

So first thing, no coffee, barely any sentience, and I'm looking at blood in my own eye. I try to look closer, because I'm curious, and I know the eye is not bleeding, not really, and I am not going to die, and I can see fine, and there's no reason to freak.

Reason, however, has little place in my physiological reactions. Almost immediately, I feel nauseous. Two deep breaths later, and I realize the whole breathing thing's getting tough, and also the balance thing, and also there's a freight train in my head.

I am the person who can look at open heart surgery, at my own wounds, at Peter Watts' photo-chronicle of his flesh eating fucking bacteria, no problem. I can gut myself through damn near anything that happens to me, too.

But it's becoming rapidly clear to me that I'm losing this round. All the steady breathing in the galaxy isn't helping. My vision's going all tunnely. I weigh the wisdom of fainting in the bathroom and cracking my skull open on the sink or the toilet  (and scaring my husband to death), or trying to get somewhere softer. I know I should sit down. But on the off-chance this is an actual stroke or a heartattack or something lethal, damned if I'd die sitting on the toilet. Besides. The spouse won't wake up for a while. If I collapse on or near him, he would. So.

I'm sitting there on the edge of the bed next to a snoring husband, all over cold sweat, like soaked, with two hungry and thus very attentive cats circling, head between my knees, hands on the ground, breathing as deep and slow as I can, thinking, what the actual fuck, body! Stop it!

I am also thinking: remember how this feels. This is writing material. 

And so: I have made little flirtatious passes at the mirror all morning. Is it getting better? Is it spreading? Is it worse? Each time, I am forced to retreat and breathe. Now that the spouse IS awake, I can't take refuge where he is. I must slink out here, put my head down, and breathe. (Because while he has sympathy, having experienced vasovagal shock himself once before, he'll say 'why are you doing a thing that makes you want to fall down? Stop it.) He is probably right.

Sometimes I need to remember: however formidable my will, however much control I can exert over my body, I am still a big bag of chemicals, and there are some things I don't get to control. Sometimes the body wins.

Look for all of this in a future novel.