Retreat weekend update: …

Retreat weekend update: I've been thinking about what makes the retreat weekend work -- I'm not actually in my host's place at the moment, but rather wandering around Oak Park, which presumably I could do any Saturday. I think the key thing is finding a way to be 'off-duty.' If I could do that while still sleeping at home, that would be cheaper. But I'm not sure I can -- even now, I find myself starting to think about logistical things, like "Oh, I should call Kevin and see if he needs me to pick up any groceries on my way back tomorrow morning." And while that kind of thinking is efficient and part of why my household generally runs pretty smoothly, having that subroutine running *constantly* is undoubtedly getting in the way of thinking about writing. I don't think people really want to read detailed accounts of my grocery and to-do lists. When I start sliding in that direction, I am resolutely turning my attention back towards writing. Kevin will be fine. The kids will be fine. If focusing on writing means someone has to make an extra trip to the grocery store tomorrow, so be it.

I *have* been writing. It took about an hour at Starbucks this morning to move the first twenty cancer logs from the blog to a Word file. Some of that was reformatting, some of that was just reading and thinking. I needed to redo the paragraphing, so I had to actually look at each paragraph, at least briefly, and ended up reading some of it again, and oof. It's draining, being immersed in it like that. I have another six hours or so of work, to move them all over at that pace -- I think I'm going to have spread it out, if I'm not going to be emotionally sledgehammered by the process. But it did make it clear already that some of it could be edited for greater effect. I don't really know if there's a book there -- doing it as logs meant that there was a certain immediacy and urgency built in -- "Will she survive? Tune in next week." With the book, that'd be gone. Would strangers still be interested in reading about my largely uneventful year of breast cancer treatment? I'm just not sure.

After that, I re-read the notes on how I'm planning to do the SF novel revisions. I've been working on it off and on for a few weeks, but strictly in note form. I needed to dive into actually rewriting, as I'm making major changes to the plot and to my protagonist's character. (She's going to be much more driven than she was.) Was feeling restless and not quite ready to settle into it yet (oh, so much procrastination about actually opening the file and starting to write, because until you start, it could be perfect, and once you start, it never ever is), so decided to go to gym and swim some laps.

Due to the stupid cold, I haven't been up for much exercise, but I'm feeling better now, and swimming is peaceful, contemplative, a good place to work out scenes in my head. Theoretically, I'm not supposed to be in a chlorinated pool during radiation, but I haven't noticed any skin irritation yet, so I think I'm safe for another day or two. Swimming was good. I look forward to doing it more when treatment is over. (I'm a terrible swimmer, so if budget permits, after all this is done, I'm thinking I may give myself the gift of swimming lessons in January. We'll see.)

After swimming, wandered over to Red Hen for lunch. Chili-chicken soup was remarkably filling and pretty tasty, if a bit over-salted (I forgot, this Red Hen has a tendency towards that on their soups and quiches). Spent an hour and a half doing a serious revision of chapter one -- I *think* it's in pretty good shape now, but could use some readers to tell me if it reads smoothly. I'm worried about whether the new material feels info-dumped in, or if I managed to integrate it well enough that it a) is clear to the reader, b) doesn't slow down the pace of the chapter. Ping me with your e-mail if you'd like to take a look. :-) It's about 6000 words, and I don't need a detailed line-by-line crit, just any quick thoughts, esp. on anything that seemed jarring or out of place.

Now I'm ensconced at the lovely library, and while I don't think I'm going to actually revise chapter 2 yet (I want some feedback on chapter 1 first), I *will* make some structural notes, as I think Maya may need a new scene in this chapter. After that, I'm hoping to start on an essay; we'll see. It is very pleasant here in this library (which kindly allows beverages in closed containers), and if I end up abandoning this table to go curl up in a chair with my chai and read for a while, that will be okay.

One thought on “Retreat weekend update: …”

  1. I would be interested in buying and reading any book that you would publish on your cancer journey, Mary Anne…from posts that are already raw and honest and all of which signify the value of self-worth during that difficult time. Such inspirations hold lasting power.

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