The Culture of Sleep and Holden Caulfield

It’s been a good morning for errant thought.

It all started with Anne Rice’s Facebook page, where she posted an article from the New York Times about our society’s view on sleep habits. Since sleep is something I tend to talk a lot about, I found it an interesting way to wake up.

Most of my co-workers assume I’m a victim of insomnia. I’m always at work. I get here at about 10:30am everyday, and will be here until almost midnight. But, that still leaves plenty of time for sleep. From about 1am to 9am, the perfect eight hours.

But, according to the article, before the advent of electricity, people would fall asleep just after the sun set. They’d sleep, until around midnight, and then get up for a few hours to do random stuff. Read, write, eat. Have sex.

Interrupted sleep is actually the norm in most of the world, especially in cultures where families share rooms. Now, sharing a blanket with my brothers does not sound like my idea of a good night’s sleep, in fact, I know it isn’t from previous experience.

But, interrupted sleep has its perks. For instance, when you’re in REM sleep you’re dreaming like mad. The closer the dreams are to periods of wakefulness the more likely they are to be remembered. I remember at least one dream a day, because Trevor’s alarm goes off at 7am. I wake up to hand him his phone, and then promptly fall back asleep. When I wake up around 9, I’ve got a couple dreams to consider.

It’s fun.

If longer periods of sleep were more interrupted, dreams, and the analysis of them, would still be a large part of our culture. I think that would be better than this sort of utilitarian approach we have toward sleep now.

We see sleep as a tool. A biological need that most of us are too exhausted to actually appreciate. How many nights do you collapse to the sheets, completely wiped from the day’s activities, only to pass out so hard that the morning comes much too soon?

In our society we crave that 8 hour mark. We have to get eight hours of sleep. Why? Anything less is considered deprivation, but anything more and you’re lazy. Why are we so judgmental about something as simple as sleep?

Trevor would sleep 12 hours a day, every day, if I’d let him. He has no problem sleeping most of his day away, and it’s something I’ve struggled with for the entire course of our relationship.

Me? I rarely sleep more than eight hours. My body wakes up at the eight hour mark, almost exactly, on its own. I wake up before my alarm almost every day, no matter when that alarm is set for. Even that dreaded 3:20am alarm.

I wake up at 3:18am.

But, I’m learning to let Trevor sleep, and use those extra hours of solitude to read, or post here, or maybe even get some work done. I’ll admit, it’s not usually the latter, and a lot of times I end up watching a House Hunters marathon or Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix.

But, these are the rare occasions where my hour fidgeting in bed as I try and convince myself to sleep longer doesn’t wake Trevor up. Usually, after I’ve tossed and turned, checked Facebook and WordPress, and then rolled around a bit more, Trevor wakes up and we start our day together.

So, there was the sleep thing. That was cool to think about while my brain was still muddy with the stuff.

There was another thing I read… And now I can’t remember what it was. It was interesting, and thought provoking. I was going to talk about it here, but apparently those thoughts have left the building.

I did read a BuzzFeed list of uber-critical amazon reviews of Classic Literature. Some of them made me laugh, because at the heart they’re true. If you have no sense of the craft of writing, and you’re just reading Hemingway for giggles… You’re gonna have a bad time.

But, there was one review that set my brain twitching, and I may have yelled at my phone in the solitude of my car.

The review was for ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. Now, let me say that I first read Salinger’s novel when I was 16 for an Honors English class. I loved it. I LOVED it. I loved it so much that I told my school library I lost it, and paid for it, because I couldn’t imagine parting with the sensible little red hardback.

I still have it to this day.

Years later I had the chance to read it again, this time for a Banned Books class in college. I was so heartbroken. What had happened to Holden Caulfield? He had been funny, and so right about so much! He was the boy of my inner monologue.

And then, at 22 I read his story and he was a spoiled, whiny brat. And a liar. He was afraid of failure, and so he never tried anything, and ended up truly failing, even though he had the potential to be brilliant. And, what I had once thought funny, was mostly just cruel.

But, the book didn’t change. My perspective did. Yes, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is a coming of age story, possibly the quintessential coming of age story, but once you’ve come of age, and you’ve put on a few more years, you see him not as a peer, but a child.

Because that’s what he is.

So, this person’s review was short. Direct and to the point. Although they missed the point entirely.

The man who wrote this should be in an asylum.

This book was a complete waste of paper. It had some interesting points but, it had no plot. It also turned out to be a major dissappointment because it ended so poorly. It should have been some elaborate lie that he had thought up while telling his sister. His parents should have played a bigger role in the book. The one part I did like was him talking to his brother. ”

So, obviously, this person comprehended nothing from the book. I emboldened the bit about the parents, because that’s sort of an underlying theme of the book. Absentee parents have created intelligent, mostly self-sufficient children, who aren’t entirely socially adjusted.

Another point missed in this review was that most of the story is a fabrication on Holden’s part. We watch him lie to everyone, why would you think he isn’t lying to us? Call it middle child syndrome, or boredom, or whatever. But know that he’s lying to us.

And his brother? I’m not convinced the guy even exists. I really think it’s the person Holden wants to be. So, the letters to his brother could really just have been a weird little inner monologue while he sat in a psych ward somewhere.

Glad that was their favorite part.

So, that irked me. But, it did get the old noggin pumping, so there’s that.

Yesterday was a very productive day. Emailed the Pops, shot some inquiries at caterers, finished Chapter 15, had my first dress fitting, mailed Thank You cards for the Bridal Shower, and then wrote another 700 words for chapter 16.

So, hoping to do more of the same today. If the writing flows today I’ll probably finish chapter 16. If not, it’ll get done tomorrow for sure.

Anyway, I’m gonna order some breakfast and get to work. Thanks for making it this far.

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Adapting and Taking the Plunge

It’s noon and I’m just getting started. Two weeks ago that would have been normal. A refreshing and languishing start to my day. Let the juices sort of work up to a simmer, until come three I’d be writing at a full boil.

But, that’s not my method anymore.

Today I opened. So, alarm goes off at 3:20a, I dress and brush my teeth a la zombie, and I go to work. I was supposed to be off at 9a today, but due to scheduling shenanigans I ended up staying until 11. Then I emailed a potential caterer and took a survey for the guy who runs Write About Dragons.

And here I am.

It’s harder this way. There’s no ramp up, and after an 8 hour day that started before the sun rose, it’s even harder to convince myself to sit at work for an additional 3-5 hours and pump out chapters.

But, I’m here. And I’m sure as hell going to try.

I wrote just over 1,000 words yesterday which was surprising. It came easier than expected and I liked it. So, I’m hoping today will be more of the same and I can finish the chapter.

If I do I have a reward in mind.

Since all my books are packed away in cardboard, I’m going to visit the library today. I want to take a moment here to talk about how awesome the Salem Library is. It’s huge! And full of every kind of book you could imagine. It puts the Chandler Library to shame. Anyway, I decided that I’m going to start reading Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower.’ It’s something I’ve been wanting to read for ages, but have talked myself out of because it’s such an undertaking.

I did the same thing with The Way of Kings. We all saw how much I regretted that.

So, that’s the plan. Write. Read. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I think blog posts might be a bit on the sparse side for a while, at least until I get used to this new schedule. It’s just so hard to get my brain functioning, even with the caffeine.

Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow blogland. Maybe you could suggest something you want to read about? Since my brain seems short on subject matter. Let me know in the comments.

Catch ya later,

BZ

Goals-ish, and Metaphorical Acrobatics

Oh, Mondays. Usually a day off, the last couple have been busy. Today is no different. Today we have another shift meeting, and then I’m closing.

Really, let me be honest with myself. I am just busy.

In order of events:

Tomorrow- getting a tattoo, plan first dress fitting, purchase wedding invites
Sunday- Bridal Shower
the 29th- catering appointment
May 17th- final payment/pick up wedding rings, manicure appt., engagement photography
May 31st- have to be out of our current apartment

So, my every waking minute is filled with a torrent of wedding ideas, moving plans, and somewhere in there I’ve carved out space for writing and editing, and then within that is my personal time.

In short, I need a vacation.

So, last week’s goals. I wanted to finish chapter 12, and edit chapter 5. I finished chapter 12 on Monday, which worked out nicely, because I was a busy bee most of the week. I made a halfhearted attempt to edit chapter 5, but didn’t get very far.

So, this week I want to write chapter 13, and finish the edits on chapter 5, and maybe even edit chapter 6 while I’m at it.

But, the closer we get to July, the less time I’m going to have.

What’s left you ask?

I still have to solidify catering, though I think we’ve got it nailed down. Have to purchase invites, and then send them out. Need to make appointments for the dress fittings. Need to taste and decide on cake. We still need to book every aspect of our honeymoon(s).

I can’t think about it too much or it sort of downward spirals.

And the wedding isn’t the only stress in our lives. Trevor should hear something about the 911 job later this week, and we’re moving. There’s a lot of money heading out, but not quite enough coming in. But, I don’t want to make it about money. We’re doing well, better than a lot of people our age, and I won’t complain about finances here.

It’s been quite a few weeks since I’ve had a real weekend. It’s not anyone’s fault, but I’ve been switching a lot of shifts and requesting a lot of weird days off. And it’s only going to be worse as hurtle toward the wedding day.

If I could get a real weekend off, you know Saturday and Sunday, it would give Trevor and I time to really pack and clean and plan out wedding stuff. And it would give us some quality time together.

We’ve done well with the time we have together, and I love it. But there’s nothing quite like sleeping in together on a Sunday morning. Or going out on a Friday night, when neither of us have obligations the next day.

I want to have a normal person’s schedule. But, I can’t have that and write. At least not while I depend on Starbucks for a paycheck. Now, if I could write full time… talk about a dream.

Anyway, I should try and get some work done. Though, I’ll be honest, I’m not really feeling it right now.

It’s like I’ve been hurtling, blind, through this bog of work. And because I couldn’t really see it, I could continue. But, I’ve had several people ask me about my workload lately, and their shock at my output has made me stop and consider.

Am I working myself too hard? Probably. But I’m getting the results I want. Mostly. I’ve proven that I can take a four hour block and bust out a chapter, start to finish. I can take a chapter from rough draft to 2nd draft in two hours. It’s not a lack of ability or determination, or even discipline.

It is genuinely a shortage of time. I could write 20,000 words a week if I didn’t have a day job. But, I can’t afford not to work, nor can I afford to work part time. So my life has become a balancing act. How many things can I juggle while walking a tightrope with one arm tied behind my back?

More than I would have guessed. It’s the longevity I’m worried about. I just have to make it to August, after that I will suddenly have a lot of free time. I hope.

This post is getting a little ramble-ific, so I’m going to end it here. Wish me luck for this week. There’s a lot going on in the coming days, and I still want to make my goals. I’m in need of the good vibes.

 

BZ

Symptoms of the Learning Process

Mornings.

Generally, I’m not a fan. But, some are better than others. Those mornings I open my eyes, and they see. Blurry, because I don’t sleep in my corrective eyewear, but the images the magic of my eyeballs capture is filtered and understood by my brain. Those mornings my brain functions, and well. I’m filled with purpose, and ambition, and goals.

And on those mornings, I tend to achieve them.

And then there are the other mornings. Mornings like today. Where I open my eyes, and everything’s blurry, and it means nothing to me. I don’t see the ceiling of my bedroom. I don’t register the smell of the spring breeze.

I just know that I’m awake, and I am not amused.

These mornings are slow. They start sluggish, with me lying in bed for much longer than necessary, blinking away the remnants of interrupted dreams. I flick through techno-news, but don’t really understand, or form thoughts about the things I read.

Because my brain isn’t there yet.

I’ll get up. Dress. Brush my teeth. Drive to work. It’s the drive where I seem to come to. I think it’s the music. Today’s wake up song was Johnny Cash’s rendition of ‘Hurt’. A depressing song to start my day to, but sitting in the warmth of spring sunshine, it wasn’t so bad.

So, two and a half hours after opening my eyes, I’m sitting, freezing in the Starbucks lobby. Seriously. It’s 55 degrees outside, why in the dickens is the AC on? And everyone else is wearing shorts, trying to get as much UV as their pasty skin can handle.

Anyway, I’m up. I’m here. And it’s time to get to work.

In my last post I made some lofty goals. I planned to finish chapter 10 of ‘Cards’, as well as edit both chapters 3 and 4 of ‘Vessels’.

I’m here to say that I killed it!

Chapter 10 is done, and awesome, building characters and the world. And it was FUN. A new-ish character has asserted himself, and it turns out, he has a good sense of humor. And he’s good natured. He helps temper all the darkness in my other two leading men.

And, I edited both chapters, as planned. It’s been an awesome week.

Yesterday I took a day off from writing and editing, and focused on my ‘Alloy of Law’ experiment. I’m just over halfway through the book, and I’ve learned a lot. Mainly, I am way, way, way too critical on my writing. And it’s keeping my word counts low.

A typical Sanderson chapter

A typical Sanderson chapter

I could write a six page short story and not have a single adverb, ‘was’ nor ‘as’. And I could make it work. But, trying to do that with a 50,000 word novel is just brutal.

Sanderson averages four ‘-ly’ adverbs per page. Now, I haven’t actually done the math to say that, but, it’s the number I seem to write the most. I’ve been a circling fiend, and I figured out something.

There’s a difference between using passive voice and bad writing.

Passive voice isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes you have to say how it WAS. There is no other way to say it, unless you take all the voice out of your work, and create these clunky sentences that just don’t quite work.

But, if your entire story is in passive voice, then that’s bad writing. There is a balance to be struck. A line to be walked.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to delete ‘bad writing’, that I didn’t see that the sentences I crafted instead, though technically stronger, weren’t actually helping the story.

I’d forgotten that I chose to leave the literary short fiction world behind. I’m reading and writing ‘popular fiction’, aka slumming it. And I love it!

Sure, my prose isn’t the most poetic. But, my writing is clear. You can read it and see the world, know the characters and be transported. That’s what I want.

I’m a little bummed that this realization has come after editing 4 chapters of my manuscript, because I fear I’ve done more harm than good, but I refuse to go back. All the chapters need to be in Draft 2 before I go back to chapter 1.

Ready for Retype!

Ready for Retype!

That’s the deal I made, to keep from getting caught in the editing loop. And, despite what I’ve learned from my critical approach to ‘Alloy’, I’m still going to circle and count these potentially offensive words. Because, while they aren’t synonymous with bad writing, they could be symptoms of it. I still need to be aware of their presence, and just how many I have. But, my perspective on how to use them, and how many can be in one chapter have changed dramatically.

I’m looking forward to editing future chapters.

Also, while I like ‘Vessels’, and think it’s good, I don’t think it’s good enough to publish. My mother will despair at the idea that Val and Ethan won’t someday be in print, but I see ‘Vessels’ for what it is.

It’s my first novel. It’s the start. Where I made all the rookie mistakes that I can’t quite see right now. It’s where I learned to write a piece of any sort of length. And where I learned and developed a writing process that works for me.

And that’s why I’m going to continue to edit it. I’m going to get it as close to ‘done’ as any other piece I’ve worked on, and treat it as if I want it published. Because, let’s be honest, you never know what you’re sitting on.

Ready for Retype!

This chapter took some work!

And because, if ‘Vessels’ taught me my writing process, it can teach me my editing process. It’s a learning experience.

And I won’t throw that away.

Anyway, my brain has finally caught up with my day, and it’s time to get some fiction in!

 

BZ

Mid-Winter Meh’s.

My brain is jumpy today.

One moment I’m considering a trip to the gym, the next I’m munching carrots in my Starbucks lobby, going over the last segment of chapter two.

I like where it’s going, but it still feels incredibly slow. But, this isn’t writing short fiction anymore. Chapters are long. Hell, the chapters I’m writing now are longer than most of my short fiction. So, I can’t tell if the scenes are in fact slow, or if I’m just letting my short story writer show.

This past weekend was gorgeous. Sunshine and blue skies and a temperature hanging in the high 40s. Not bad for January. But this week Oregon is back, reminding all of us just who’s in charge here.

Dense mercury clouds spit rain against my window as a brisk wind tears at the barren trees across the street.

Is it summer yet?

I’m feeling cold and a little stir-crazy. Cooped-up. I want to go tanning, to absorb more than my fair share of UV, but with my new cartilage piercing, it’s just not a good idea. Maybe in a couple of weeks.

I feel like nothing is ever quite enough. I’m never warm enough. The music is never loud enough. I never get enough hours at work, but I never have enough time off. I don’t write enough, and that one’s true. I’m in a constant state of quandary.

But, this seems to be normal for this time of year. It’s just my mid-winter blues. Though I’m not really blue. Not sad at all, just tired and irritable. Frustrated. For no other reason than there isn’t enough sunshine.

But, I’m here today, and I’m looking forward to finishing this chapter. Over 1,000 words to go  to make that happen, but I have about three hours to do it. If I’m good, and I focus, it should happen.

Plus, the next scene is where the ball really gets rolling. A new murder to add to the string Whit’s investigating, and this one right under his nose!

Right after I nom on a Spinach Feta Wrap.

Later Blogland,

 

BZ

No! Sleep! Till…

Here I am, sitting in my Starbucks bright and early on this dreary first day of fall. Clouds and rain and wind all come together to make my right hip ache with a fierce thrum. But, it’s nothing a little iced coffee and writing can’t fix. Or least help me ignore.

So, I’m sitting at my usual table with a mound of notebooks and binders on my right, lying in wait. Today is the day I start something new. Ish.

Yes, you read that right. Yesterday, I finished my first novel! I was typing along, trying to reach a point that wrapped things up effectively, and suddenly realized I was mid-sentence. I kept typing until the last period fell into place.

Then I immediately had to quell the urge to puke. Nausea rolled through me, but faded quickly, leaving behind moist eyes and a tingling sensation running along my entire body. It was almost like I’d had a beer too many, at least for a moment.

I guess you could say I was pretty emotionally invested in my novel.

But, once all of these bizarre physical reactions faded I was left with an amazing sense of accomplishment. I did it! Six months (ish) later, I finished the rough draft of a NOVEL! My innards are doing happy dances as we speak.

So, having accomplished what I set out to do, you’d think I’d take a break. Sleep in. Play Mass Effect. Read a book.

Nope.

Gotta keep plugging on. Luckily my next project is neither so long, nor quite so creatively challenging. It’s not entirely new, which I think helps. It’s a short story, currently referred to as ‘The Ghost Story’, which is a sad excuse of a title. I tried to write it nearly four years ago in my Intermediate Fiction class. But, I think the idea was a bit too ambitious for my writing skills then. And so there’s just pages of handwritten scribble, a rough sketch of what the story could be, and it never reached the end.

So today, and over the next few weeks, I’m going to type up what I have so I know what I’m working with, and start refining and finishing this short story.

That should start today, but work is chock-a-block full of distractions, so we’ll see what progress gets made.

And, even with a new project looming, I’m still glowing with that wonderful sense of success!

Just gotta keep on writing!

 

BZ

Finishing Touches

My mind is quiet today. I think I emptied it yesterday. I wrote 2,044 words yesterday in one sitting, and find myself staring at the computer today, wondering what it is I expect from myself.

Firstly, I woke up late. I slept through two alarms, and awoke to the neighbor’s dog barking its brains out. Just another morning. Fall is approaching, ushering out the splendid summer sun and leaving me shivering, even under our comforter. But, I’m still drinking iced coffee and complaining about my appendages being frozen.

I talked to my mom for awhile, catching up over FaceTime and killing time. So, instead of getting to work before noon, as per my usual schedule, I didn’t leave the house until 12:30. The whole drive I debated what I should have for lunch. Chipotle? No, it’s always packed between 12-1. Muchas Gracias? No, just passed it. Jimmy John’s? Had that yesterday. Ok, what about McDonald’s? Maybe, if the line’s not too long.

Well, the line was ridiculous, so I ate at work instead. A bacon breakfast sandwich and a protein plate. Probably the best dietary decision I’ve made lately, but somehow it’s just not as satisfying.

So, I’m sitting in the lobby, freezing as I sip my venti iced coffee, trying to focus enough to start the last chapter.

And there’s the problem. It’s the LAST CHAPTER. How is that even possible? Over six months of my life, and especially the last three, I have lived and breathed this novel. And I’m about to end it? What will I do with myself?

I know that I have a plan. That there are other stories that need working on. And still I’m terrified to put an end to this novel.

And thrilled. I’m actually going to finish the rough draft of a novel! But, I don’t think today is the day. My brain isn’t quite here. I know that’s a sad excuse, but I did write over 2,000 words yesterday, I think I can skip a day.

I don’t know. Even as I’m trying to decide to set the novel aside today, my brain wakes up and says, ‘oh yeah, we were finishing that today, weren’t we?’

But, it’s 1:15. I start work at 3:30. I’m running short on time. So, I guess I’ll  wrap this up and try to finish my novel today.

Finish my novel.

Sorry, I just wanted to say that one more time.

Wish me luck,

 

BZ