First work day after VONA

One of my Facebook friends remarked this morning that the weather feels like “July-vember.” She’s in Oregon, but it’s the same thing here. I woke up still feeling sluggish and sleepy. While I stood on our deck holding the watering can under the tap, I felt the fog blow across my face in tiny particles of mist. I hate heat, but it’s a pretty sorry July when I need to wear a hoodie over my t-shirt all day long.

I didn’t think at first that I would be able to get anything done, feeling so out of it, but I forced myself to my morning pages and they were the start I needed. After I finished those I did (not in this order) my weekly review, revived my napping LiveJournal, exercised just a tiny bit, did laundry, planned minor alterations to the dress I’ll wear to this weekend’s wedding, wrote for an hour, and made my first proper self-portrait in eight months!

It doesn’t look a whole lot like me, but my pencil work is improving, and the individual facial features are inching closer to my own. For comparison, here’s the last one I did, in November.

I used to try to do a self-portrait every two months, but now that I’ve committed to working more diligently, I’m thinking I should try them more frequently. Would once a week be too crazy? Today’s attempt took me 45 minutes but the time just flew by, and the focused drawing made a beautifully meditative start to my day. Drawing from life is rather like rock climbing, in that when you’re really doing it, it’s impossible to do anything else at the same time, or even think about anything but the task at hand. There’s something very freeing about that.

The writing went well, too. When I made my recent list of things I wanted to change in my life, one of my end goals was to get in at least two solid hours of work every day. This sounds absurdly lightweight, but by solid work I mean serious, focused, (figuratively speaking) get-my-hands-dirty work, not those unenlightening but necessary side tasks like answering emails or doodling or looking stuff up on the internets. All too often my day slips away into these kinds of activities, so committing to two hours a day should have a major impact in a few weeks’ time. I’m hoping that after that, I’ll be able to see my way to even longer work sessions. It’s all a matter of rearranging my time and my priorities. Today I began work on a piece (still don’t know yet whether it’s a story, an essay, or what) that will, I hope, become a fuller explanation of what VONA has done for me. I wrote two pages, single-spaced (a little more than a thousand words), and actually cried while writing, which is a first for me. I was describing a time (in my past, not at VONA) when I felt really miserable in a visceral, little-kid way, and to do that I had to conjure up what that emotion felt like. I got it, cried, and wrote it in about five minutes, and then I felt instantly better, as if I had just put on the emotion like a cloak and then taken it off again — which I guess I had. It’s strange to know I can do that.

One thing I realized at VONA was just how inexperienced a story-writer I am, in spite of my experience and facility with writing in general. I don’t really know how to shape a story, how to draft it and then revise it. I haven’t much practice in writing about conflict, and I tend to do either all exposition (“tell”) or all scene (“show”), instead of putting them strategically together. When I think about this I feel so out of my element and so hopelessly amateur, part of me wants to just give up, but I know the only way to get better is just to keep writing and writing and writing. It’s the same for drawing, for yoga, for losing weight, for sewing, for anything. I didn’t learn this when I was young and precociously good at everything. I’m learning it now.

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