Swimming, Open Water and Writing

There’s something just innately satisfying about swimming a mile. Well, I swam an 1800, so that’s slightly over a mile. Took me 48 minutes and change.  No, I am not a fast swimmer!  For swims like these, I’m grateful for my Otterbox (waterproof casing for an iPod).  I was listening to Jim Dale’s reading of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

I wish there were some marathon open water swims where I live. You’d think with all the lakes around… I mean hell, Lynne Cox, that crazy1 woman who swam in the Antarctic spent her early childhood in Manchester, NH!

I’m not in the least interested in participating in a triathlon, though.  I remember bitching last winter and swearing I was gonna try to start an open water swim event.   Looks like to get such a thing going, I may have to do just that.  Feh.   Maybe I could talk to the Master’s team over at my pool and see if there’s something doing I didn’t know about.

I got some good news.  I’ve got a month more on my gym membership than I thought I did.  Gives me another month to dig up the money to continue it.  I haven’t been doing worth a damn on the weights — at least getting my butt to the gym.   For some reason, I’m more likely to stumble outside my bedroom first thing in the morning, and take 20 minutes six days a week to do an upper or lower body workout than I will go to the gym to do a full body workout three times a week.  I suppose I shouldn’t sweat it.  My body doesn’t care if I lift heavy stuff in a gym or in my home as long as heavy stuff gets lifted!

But, I am swimming, which is also important.  Lately I’ve been swimming on the days I’m not teaching computer classes.  Gets me out of the house on days I don’t have to work away from my writin’ chair, and ensures I do something besides sit in my writin’ chair all day.

I have to finish outlining a document for a client today and study for a class in MS Access I’m teaching tomorrow.

1I use the word “crazy” with the upmost respect. I love to swim and all, but that woman is hard core!

Be Yourself

Yesterday was fantastic, professionally. I delivered some kick-ass service that’s really helped a couple of clients get to where they wanna be. Projects like that are just plain fun.

I learned an important lesson, too.

You get advice as a youngster starting out in the world that seems conflicting. Goodness knows I always thought it did! You’re told on the one hand to “be yourself”. Then you’re told “be professional.”

Well, “myself” is hardly the image of the professional woman. All suits, sobersides and cool efficiency isn’t me.

I didn’t claim the stuff I did in the poly community on my resume.

I would even tone down my accent in the office1. Now, I did that even when I lived in Virginia, because there is a perception that thick accent indicates a lack of erudition.

When I quit working as an administrative assistant, I was taking a big risk, and I really decided to go whole hawg. I re-wrote my resume as a CV. If I had relevant experience, I claimed it, by God! That means my CV2 shows the polyamory stuff.   And I found out that it worked.  It got me shots at work I wanted.

When I teach?  I let the accent run wild and free.  It doesn’t make me appear stupid.  It makes me appear approachable.  The colloquialisms that come out when I relax my diction are funny.   When you’re teaching something as dry as computer applications, humor is necessary or your class goes to sleep.     Approachability?  That’s even more important.  Students have to ask questions to learn!

Part of it had to do with a misunderstanding of what “professional” means.  To be professional only means you’re delivering a good service in the context of your environment.   If you’re a lawyer, it might mean a suit.  But, I know of at least one lawyer, however, who has her own version of a writin’ chair and probably works in her robe and slippers as often as I do.   Your eccentricities are assets if you take the trouble to understand them.

Being yourself just as hard as you can is really what works, because then you’re centered in the joy of what you’re doing.   As foo-foo and woo-woo as it sounds, the other rewards come when you do it.  Every dollar joyfully earned is worth two earned with grudging effort.   When you’re centered in being you you’re delighted to work as hard as is necessary to get what you want, but it doesn’t feel like work.  You’re just doing what you do and it’s great.

1 Mostly Richmond, VA with overtones of Stafford County.
2A Curriculum Vitae is not only for the academic or the medical professional. If you have a “nonstandard” life of any sort, if you do volunteer work that is experience in something you’d be interested in being paid to do (organizing cons translates into events planning!), if you’ve written a lot… All these things are life experience you can put on a CV. It’s more useful than a resume and gives a clearer picture of what you have done and can do.

Why I Do It

Just got back from my swim for today.

I skipped yesterday because I was going to be on my feet all day teaching and I figured I didn’t want to be too tired.

Feh. I’m sorry I chose that. Not that it’s not possible to get too tired. It is. Not that is it not sometimes wise to pick and choose daily activities to keep from overtaxing yourself. It is. But I was tired and spazzed last night, and I think that if I’d gotten up and taken my swim, I just would have been tired.

The simple fact of the matter is that when I swim most days, I am clearer-headed and have calmer energy throughout the day.

I don’t swim to get skinny. I’ve been swimming for a year and a half and I ain’t skinny, nor even “not overweight”.

I swim because A) It feels good and B) I’m clear-headed and relaxed after one.

I did have a long and exhausting day yesterday, and had promised myself I was going to work from bed all day, only leaving it to swim.

Changed my mind and moved to my writin’ chair after my swim today. It’s a sunny day, my living room has lots of windows and I propose to enjoy it while I work. Also, wanna bake some bread and I’d rather be working where I can actually hear the kitchen timer. I think it felt like some sort of mental dissonance to be working in bed once I got dressed.

Swimming Hair Care

Swimmers, here’s a little trick:

Get thee some Mane ‘ n Tail (it used to be marketed as shampoo and conditioner for horses, but people use it with good results, too), wet down your hair with non-chlorinated water, put a little Mane ‘n Tail on your hair and work it through, then put on your bathing cap and do your workout. Afterwards, wash and style as usual.

Your hair will be all soft and shiny.

Don’t use too much or your cap will slide off and you’ll be leaving a trail of conditioner scum and make no friends at all in the pool.

But it really is a good treatment for hair abused by chlorinated pools.

I’ve been reviewing my goals for this month.  I’m quite on track.  It’s hard for me, sometimes, to let go of the big picture and concentrate on the day.    Now don’t get me wrong.  The big picture is crucially important.  I refer to it each time I plan my month.   But when I’m planning a week or a day, I’ll look at my goals for the month or the week rather than the year.  I try never to look more than one step up timewise to keep myself from getting overwhelmed.  I try to look at my yearly goals only 12 times a month after I made them.  I know it sounds funny, but I think this is going to work.  Making sure your dailyness is leading you where you want to go, it’s all good.

I’ve always been lousy at “slow-n-steady”.  I’m trying to teach myself this, as if I do a little slow and steady and do accomplish everything I plan to for the year, I’ll have had a happy, productive and balanced year!

Repeat after me: I brought this all on myself! [1]

My kids are going to be with me this weekend, and I don’t often get a whole weekend to play with both of them. They wanna game. I made up this diceless game based on the Discworld many months ago. I’d call it more interactive storytelling than “gaming” per se, but the kids really enjoy it. I’m just glad I have had the experience of being a GM before so that I knew to take notes. I suppose there are advantages to have a Mama who is a writer.

Speaking of being a writer, this is the weekend that the Universe has decide to gift me with a lot of work. I guess I can scratch the goal of writing an effective proposal off my to-do list. This is my opportunity to make sure I can use effective time management skills, right? Unlike the cliché, I don’t miss deadlines!

However, I am going to be spending a lot of the weekend doing fun stuff with the children, ’cause, well… I have my damn priorities straight! Hello coffee, my old friend…

It’s funny. I’ve sat at the very desk at which I am now sitting2 writing queries to magazines that were (I now know) way the hell out of my league before I graduated from High School, for God’s sake, because this is what I wanted to do. At the time, I’d read science fiction stories that portrayed technology that had… well, more or less the Internet as we know it3. I remember thinking, “God, that world seems neat! Too bad I’ll never live in it.”

Well, I do live in it now, and ya know what? It is neat!

1 RE: the title. One of the attendees of PolyFamilies CampCon 2004 had a habit of saying this. I found it both funny and oddly comforting.
2I have a laptop. I don’t always work in the same place. These are my two other common workspaces:

3Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein leaps to mind.

Being a Fat Athlete

I was doing some research on swimming and sore abs because… Well, I went for a good swim today and my abs are sore! Look, don’t you Google every damn thing you go through? You don’t. Fine. I’m a weirdo. Deal.

Anyway, as I was maundering around the Internet and avoiding finishing my last article for today (but I did send out a good query for AT THE FOOT OF THE THRONE three days early thnxsomuch!), I ran across Fat Girl on a Bike.

This chick made me ashamed of myself and face how damn’ vain and shallow I can be.

Vain? Yeah. You see, I’m fat. No, it’s not a value judgement. I am.

But I’m also an athlete, dammit. I never called myself that because I’ve always felt I “wasn’t there yet”. I played soccer, but I wasn’t great it at. So, I wasn’t really an athlete. I was a martial artist but I never earned a black belt, so I’m not really an athlete. I’m fat, so I’m not really an athlete.

This woman, who is doing triathelons not to “get skinny” or any other damn reason than she bloody well wants to compete in triathlons puts me and my scale stepping to shame. I’ve actually had to psyche myself out to go to the pool and swim, which I love because I didn’t feel like I really belonged in the pool with all the real athletes. It’s idiotic. Like you don’t deserve to claim a love of movement, which I do have, unless you’re committed to “getting skinny”. That’s gotta me more important than loving the movement for itself.

Now, I know swimming is good for me. How I feel after a good workout (and the sustained good mood for many hours) is a powerful motivator to get me moving. Yes, yes, yes, I’m all for the increased health benefits of being active.

But I swim because I love to swim. It feels good. I lift weights because I love to do it. I adore moving heavy stuff. When I was a martial artist, the love of having the guy a foot and a half taller than I am go THWACK! on the mat was immensely satisfying, and so was being knocked flying. (Hey, you know I’m a weirdo). Anything that requires finesse of physical control excites me.abbyestockton2.jpg

Will I get stronger and more fit the more I do it? Of course. But I don’t have to have goal of looking like Pudgy Stockton (I know, not fashionable, but I really, really like the way she looked) to just enjoy the workout for its own damn sake.

"Real Writer"

I remember reading something some years ago about being a “real” writer or a professional writer. It went something along the lines of:

If you write something and you get a check for it, it doesn’t bounce, and then you go pay the electric bill with it, you’re a professional writer.

I think it may have been Stephen King. I’m not a fan of his fiction particularly, but I’m very fond of what he has to say about being a writer.

Well, I’m a professional writer. It’s weird to wrap my mind around that. I don’t earn all of my living writing, but I don’t earn all of my living doing any one thing. I teach, give advice… buncha stuff. I was asked in the gym a couple of days ago where I worked. When I said I was self-employed, she asked me, “Doing what?”

Um… Everything?

I didn’t self-identify as a writer the first time I earned money as a writer1. To this day, I do not know why. I think I had the idea that “real” writers saw their work in bookstores. It bothers me, sometimes, that I did not embrace the label. I think I might have been more serious about my career. But I only saw it in terms of big magazine sales or book contracts.

I remember all the pre-Internet advice on getting started freelancing. What no-one said, and I wish someone had was, “Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t be afraid of the chump change assignments at first. Everyone pays their dues in a profession.”

I’ll be the first to say that the skill of good writing is shamelessly undervalued. A “real” published author of my acquaintance cautioned me that she could have earned more per hour working at McDonald’s than she did on a book I had been rather fulsome in praising.

True enough, but you cannot flip burgers from your writin’ chair, either! I mean, this is my office!

My Office

Honesty forces me to point out that this pic is somewhat neater than my office at present. There’s a sweater I am working on at the foot of the ottoman, and there is a coffee cup on the table as well as some balls of yarn. Oh, and there’s a phone and iPod cable on the arm of the chair. But, yeah, that’s where I work (cum laptop) unless I’m offsite for something. I don’t teach from that chair! No, I’m bouncing around the classroom throwing erasers and telling people clip art is the tool of the Devil2.

This is something I’ve wanted since I was in my late teens. Now, when I was sixteen or so, laptops did exist (they were invented in 1982), but hardly commonplace, powerful tools they are today. If I wanted to write somewhere besides a desk, I was writing on paper and in longhand. The internet as we know it really didn’t exist, either, so the virtual office or hiring people thousands of miles away wasn’t as common as it is now. I may do most of my work in that comfy chair (and god is it comfy!), but I could do it in an airport or on a beach just as easily.

Ain’t modern technology grand?

1It was a book on how to open a mailing business for a course my client intended to teach on the subject. I’ve since made extensive use of the research I did for it for my own business work. The fringe benefits of the profession can be amazing!

2 Don’t ask me why. This guarantees a laugh and a good review from the student.

Just total randomness

I’m choosing to be a little lazy and swimming later in the morning today, instead of getting my butt in the pool first thing. I had an idea that I wanted to put in some notes on right away. So I did.

I’m kinda stuck for an idea for a Misanthrope column for next week. Honest, it’s no joke trying to find a weekly topic on the theme of “Don’t be a fucking idiot”.

I got a pasta machine for Christmas, and I’ve been using it a lot. I’ve been doing an experiment with whole wheat pasta, and you know? It’s pretty good.

I need to think about sprouting some herbs soon, actually. I prefer fresh herbs in cooking and haven’t had an herb garden of any sort since the summer 2005 (which wound up being my “pesto year” as my basil went out of control). I’ve got dirt. I have a sunny, south-facing window. It’s no trick to get a seed try and germinate a few plants. I’ll even get myself a bukkit, and I’ll have a nice, portable herb garden for my porch this summer.

Has anyone had much success growing fresh herbs indoors? I do have a room where a philodendron, a Boston fern, a Christmas cactus, several spider plants and a calendiva are pretty happy. Would this be a place where herbs would do well? I’ve only ever cultivated them outside and in the summer.

I also want a bukkit for some mint. I’ve been yearning for a good mint julep lately.

What to do on a snow day? Swim!

I didn’t go swimming at 5:30 this morning.  It’s snowing and I don’t like driving in the snow.  I’ll walk to the gym later today when and swim then.

School is closed, so I’ll be taking my son with me.  Yeah, just the “snow day” treat — a long swim!

If I’d had somewhere I had to be later in the day, I probably would have gone ahead and gone swimming early this morning, but I don’t.    I usually get up early to get in my swim just because if I get it done, I’m up and going for the day, better.  Still, it’s nice when I don’t have to!

Got some site work to do.

I’ve mentioned it before, but if you’re a user of MS Office, I really encourage you to try One Note.  I find it a fantastic planning tool.

I’ve been collecting a book list for the Polyamorous Misanthrope recommended reading page, but it’s going to be very different from the usual Polyamory “recommended reading”.  It’s not that the poly books aren’t good.  Many of them are excellent.  But I’m going to be dealing a lot more with historical example of social dynamics (why yes, the Oneida Community among others), and modern practices in negotiation and interaction.  I’m increasingly of the opinion that the new business model for interaction works very well indeed in poly situations.  Yeah, I’ve got a Misanthrope article brewing on that, too.

I’m also looking at the shambles that is That Damned Book and wondering where to go with it.  I had it all plotted out and when I read what I’ve written, individual scenes are kinda keen.  But as a flow of plot and events, It Just Won’t Soar, Dammit.  I’ve been working on That Damned Book intensely for two years now.  (And have been noodling with it for more like twelve years).  Maybe I oughta just let it go.  I wrote At the Foot of the Throne, which is a much better story as far as plot and pacing, in about seven months.

Oh, for you writers?  If you really enjoy novel writing software, I encourage you to check out yWriter.  I do use and enjoy it.  It can’t solve my problems for me, but golly does it help with planning and plotting!

Pondering on the writing

I was re-reading At the Foot of the Throne today in preparation for re-writing the  query letter and putting together a better promotion package for it.

It’s better than Stoneflower, even though I did write it with the intention of being a potboiler.  I mean, the pacing and plot is better, and the characters are pretty cool.  I wrote it with the intention of just being this piece that isn’t Meaningful Writing.  You know, Just Telling The Damn Story.

I think maybe not caring about how damned profound a story is worked for me on that one.  It’s decent work.

I’m finding the ending a bit unsatisfying though.  I’d intended it to be a trilogy, but I’m beginning to think I could take 20,000 (it’s 90,000 words right now) words or so and just turn it into one fairly long book with a much more satisfying, well-rounded ending and screw the idea of a series.

I  could actually do with some feedback on it, if someone would like to read it.