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Journal Entry

Monday, November 17, 2008


As you can see, the last month was pretty much a dead zone as far as progress on Resilience is concerned. After a post-Worldcon inspired writing tear (from 8/22 through 10/9, the wordcount leapt up from 49,072 to 60,542 -- I know, for some of you that would be a very slow month indeed, but for me it's a tear) I hit a wall on 10/9 and wordcount was frozen until the other day, when I began haltingly crawling forward again.

I use two projected completion dates in that spreadsheet, mostly for motivational purposes. The first is based on the average progress over the whole stretch since I moved to Switzerland, and its psychological purpose is mainly calming: the sense that, even if it looks bleak at the moment, over the long haul it is predictable that I will someday finish the first draft's projected 90,000 words. That date, with a lot of inertia behind it, doesn't move much: on 9/24, in the midst of the month of extreme productivitly, the calmer, more conservative voice of my spreadsheet told me I'd have a first draft done on August 24, 2009 (just after turning 40); now, after a month of languishing, that same calm voice predicts October 1, 2009: more or less the same ballpark.

Then there is the 14-day moving average. The psychological purpose of this date is to project how I'm doing lately, to give me a sense of how things will be if this go on. Rather than a calming effect, it is invigorating or excoriating, depending on the previous two weeks. It is the wild-eyed, emotionally mercurial counterpart to the total average's calm sobriety. On 9/24. mid-sprint, this voice, whipped into a frenzy of enthusiasm, promised me a finished draft by the end of this year; now, thrown down into a pit of abject, desperate despair, it moans that I will type "The End" on February 17th, 2010 (back in June, it was claiming 2015).

The nice thing about having these two numbers is I can pick the one I like better. So naturally, last month I fully believed the 14-day moving average's grandiose claims that we'd be done soon; this month, I dismiss its moaning as an absurd overreaction, and console myself with its sober sibling's predictions of next summer.

Anyway, a lot of things conspired this past month to throw me off-course:

  • Esther was sick, on and off, for a couple of weeks; the result of which is that I am some 30 or so chores ahead. It's like banking writing time!
  • I went to Villa Diodati. For this I wrote a new story, or, more properly, resurrected and finished an old false start, "Ralph and Billy", a vampire farce I started in 1999 or so. I also, of course, read and critiqued all the stories of the other folks who were going.
  • At Villa Diodati I got excellent critiques on three children's book projects -- "The Way to Go", "Bad Days in KidLand", and an abecedary -- which have been languishing. Upon returning from the workshop I therefore had to quick do another draft of each of these.
  • Lots of sleep lost obsessing over the elections and their aftermath.
  • And last but not least... Ethan Ham and I have a new art project (cf. Anthroptic, our last one), which we will be rolling out on the first of December. It essentially takes, on one level, the form of an anthology of short stories -- at least, the work I've been doing on it, especially this last month, is essentially the work of editing an original anthology. On another level, it is a conceptual artwork, kind of a ubiquitous web installation... well, you'll see.

    It is called "Tumbarumba: a frolic of intrusions". More here soon on that topic.

  • Oh, and a bunch of Migwan business.

So you would think that that would all be sufficient excuse for a month off, right? Still, I'm half-regretting it. It's so incredibly grueling to start writing a novel again when the ashes are cold in the fireplace. I always ask: why the hell do you do this to yourself?

Posted by benrosen at November 17, 2008 11:13 AM | Up to blog

Very sufficient excuse, I'd say... of course it's a bit ironic that it coincides with NANOWRIMO.

Posted by: Ethan at November 18, 2008 03:53 PM

Perhaps there is some sort of conservation of novel progress such that since so many people on the planet are furiously trying to complete a novel this month - those who have been doing this all along get their momentum sapped to fuel others?

Oh.. and I think the answer to "why the hell do you do this to yourself?" is that you cannot not do it.

Posted by: Jeanne at November 18, 2008 07:50 PM

Sadly, that probably is the reason, though it's worth noting that the "this" in question was not writing, but stopping writing in the middle of something...

Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at November 18, 2008 08:37 PM

Ah.. so the full question is "why the hell do I ever stop writing in the middle of something?" - I get it :)

Posted by: Jeanne at November 19, 2008 10:35 PM
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