Camping on Lake Cushman

After seven months living in Seattle, I finally went on a West Coast camping trip. One of my original motivations for moving out here had been the wide mix of outdoor destinations: from Puget Sound and the islands, to the Olympic Peninsula, to the Pacific Ocean, to the Cascade Range. But a long, wet winter didn’t exactly make me enthusiastic about getting outdoors for multi-day stretches.

So when I finally got a good opportunity for a camping trip into the midst of the Olympic Mountains, I jumped at it. However, the trip was unusual for me in that it wasn’t a backpacking trip. Instead, it was a car camping trip, to a place that was essentially a small RV resort on the shore of Lake Cushman.

For me, there are pros and cons to car camping instead of backpacking. Here’s a quick summation:

Cons: Noisier campsite (including stereos blasting ’til the wee hours). Less natural setting. My camping skills (largely learned through backpacking) are not as useful.
Pros: It’s easier to bring beer.

So in the end, it evens out. It was a really fun group of people, though, and we ate well, drank well, and entertained ourselves well. The weather was pretty good– we only had a few showers’ worth of rain, although we didn’t exactly have a lot of Sun, either. It was also, according to longtime Seattle residents, unseasonably cold, even for the Pacific Northwest. The weather sort of reminded me of November camping in North Carolina: not exactly the dead of winter, but still plenty cold. On the first night, one girl started to go into hypothermia, and had to finish the night in the car.

As for me, I basically just threw all my camping clothes into my backpack and went– at first, I was thinking that I had brought too much, but I was glad I had it all. The temperature probably got down close to 40 degrees at night.

During the days we went hiking, although on Sunday one other person and I elected to rent a motor boat and take it out across the lake instead of going on the hike. This was pretty cool– I had never driven a motor boat before– although we had some drama when the motor died on us, and we resorted to paddling with the oars for a good fifteen minutes. (As it turns out, paddling a motor boat is much harder than paddling a canoe.) But after we got fed up with paddling, I tried the motor again, and with considerable fidgeting, was able to get it started– huzzah! Just call me “Cap’n Andrew.”

So all in all, good times. One other benefit of the trip: a couple of the guys I met on the trip are avid backpackers, so hopefully I made some connections that will lead to more serious backpacking excursions later this summer. Maybe some hiking around Mt. Rainier? Here’s to hoping.

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MyNoWriMo 20-Day Status Report

As of last night, here’s where my word count this month stood:

Starting Word Count: 91,484
Current Word Count: 116,936
Words Written: 25,452

Keen-eyed observers may note that in the past ten days, my word count has only clocked up by about 7,000 words, which is well below the 2000-a-day pace I was hoping to set. And it’s true; the last ten days of MyNoWriMo have not been nearly as productive as the first ten. To an extent, it’s felt like standing on the beach and taking a running start into the ocean: at first you’re skimming along easily, then the water gets deeper and you slow down, then you start to trip, barely keeping your balance, and finally you fall down face-first into the waves.

During NaNoWriMo last year, I stalled on the novel partly because I wasn’t sure how the two main protagonists would end up falling in love. When I began MyNoWriMo this month, one of the first things I did was confront that problem head-on, and I actually ended up writing a scene I really liked in which the protagonists were able to acknowledge their feelings for each other.

Now I’ve run into a similar situation in which I’m having difficulty setting up the reveal of information to allow the characters to proceed from Act 2 of the story into Act 3 and the Climax. I’ve written a few scenes which I’m pretty pleased with, but haven’t quite gotten where I need to get to– I think I just have to do what I didn’t do during NaNoWriMo, and power my way through it with discovery writing. Even if I what I end up with doesn’t work, hopefully I can revise it into something that DOES work in the second draft.

In the meantime, there have been other distractions as well. I went on a tear through the last five Dresden Files novels, getting through all of them in about two weeks. And there’s been a batch of sunny weather, which has led to long reading sessions lying outside in the grass, and sightseeing excursions during what is ostensibly supposed to be writing time. But for weather and views like this, it’s totally worth it.

MyNoWriMo 10-Day Status Report

It’s been 10 days since I started MyNoWriMo, my own personal mirror of National Novel Writing Month. Since then, here are the stats:

Starting Word Count: 91,484
Current Word Count: 110,007
Words Written: 18,523

I’m a little behind schedule if I want to hit 150K by the end of the month, particularly since I’ll be camping for three days over Memorial Day Weekend. But I’m so chuffed at having written something over 100,000 words long that I don’t really mind too much.

In addition to helping me get re-started on the novel, MyNoWriMo has been supremely valuable because it’s helped me find a schedule that works. For the past six months, I’ve been trying to balance writing and my 20-hours-a-week contract work, and it’s never really been smooth. I try to do 4 hours of solid work each weekday during the day, so I’m free to write in the evenings, but what often happens is that I spend most of the day procrastinating, or trying to get started with the day job, and often failing, so that when the evening comes I can’t really focus on writing, because an inner voice says “you really should work on the day job.”

I know, right? Most people (especially writers) would probably kill to be in a situation like I’m in, where the part-time job earns you a living wage, but here I was, with even less time to write because I was having so much difficulty mastering that whole “working from home” thing.

At the start of MyNoWriMo, I decided that the term “day job” no longer needed to apply literally, and gave myself permission to be a writer during the day. Now I go to the library each day to write, then come home and work on the day job in the evening, with a rule that I have to do 4 hours of work before I go to bed. This has actually worked much better– I’m more productive at both writing, and the day job.

In addition, by treating writing as a day job in and of itself (which I had thus far failed to do), I’m in essence already living the dream! I’m spending my days as a professional writer. Admittedly, it’s a job that pays downright crap (given what I’ve made so far on short stories, a fraction of a cent per hour), but hey, no one goes into fiction writing for the money.

MyNoWriMo has also been supremely valuable practice for prioritizing: previously, when I had writing time, I would often let myself get distracted by other things: paying bills, planning my social life and my schedule, and various other little tasks that accumulate as part of day-to-day life. Now, when I have writing time, the writing is always the number one priority. I don’t let myself work on anything else.

On top of that, I’m staying focused on one project. Right now, it’s the novel. After MyNoWriMo, it’ll be a short story. But by focusing on one thing, and not spending my writing time worrying about which writing project I should be working on, I’ve also been more productive. Let’s face it, focusing on writing is hard enough without letting distractions get to you.

I haven’t even touched on the actual writing yet. There have been plenty of instances of writer’s block, and entire multi-hour sessions just spent tweaking the story outline. I’ve had some scenes flow smoothly, and others make me feel like I’m bleeding from my forehead. I’ve got a fairly comprehensive story outline, but I’m discovery writing an entire subplot, with only a vague idea how it’s going to resolve. Plus, I have to set up an informational reveal at the climax of the subplot that I need to proceed to the climax of the main story, and I really don’t have any idea how that’s going to happen. But slowly, steadily, despite the hardships, the first draft is materializing on the page.

And it will continue to do so, because MyNoWriMo demands 2,000 words a day. Good times.

Quick Thoughts on Bin Laden’s Passing

Intellectually, I know Osama bin Laden’s death doesn’t change anything. Al Qaeda still exists. The Taliban is still as strong as ever. Our troops won’t be coming home from Afghanistan tomorrow, or probably anytime soon. Iraq is still a mess. Libya is still a mess. Nor will the death of Bin Laden solve the Israel/Palestine crisis.

Tomorrow, the Patriot Act will still be in force. Large segments of the population will still think torture is okay. And all of the people killed during 9/11 and the resulting wars will be still dead. No one’s coming back.

Killing Osama bin Laden won’t stop a single person from going hungry, nor will it educate a single child, or grant a single underprivileged person access to medical care. America is still massively in debt. Corporations still wield huge amounts of influence on our elected officials. And tomorrow, the right wing will still be inventing conspiracy theories about Obama.

But amidst all the problems, sometimes you just have to stand up and sing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

I don’t know if evil really exists in the world, or if it’s simply a human construct. But if any individual could be said to be evil, Osama bin Laden certainly qualifies. Well… qualified. So with that in mind: Huzzah! Major props to everyone involved; thanks for delivering us some good news.

Just revenge is sort of like soda. The calories are empty, but it sure tastes sweet going down.

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“I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”
– Mark Twain