Preparing for a 3-Day Weekend

Next weekend I write a novel in 3 days. Not this novel! I’ve been working on this one for 2 years. Three days to finish it would be ridiculous. But a whole new novel? No problem! I speak of the 3 Day Novel Contest, something I didn’t make up. It’s a thing! Click on the link! I’m paying money to do it!

My mindset going into it is one of naive confidence, something I’m hoping to cultivate for my first year of teaching, which starts the day after I finish my 3-day-novel. It’s a frame of mind I’m actually trying to cultivate in all areas of my life.

I spent a weekend by a pool in the middle of summer. I kept cannonballing into the pool, telling myself before I took the leap: this is you jumping into everything.



I know that for my first day of teaching I need to look like I know my stuff. I need to have the right amount of desks. I know that for the 3 Day Novel contest I need to have an outline. I need a main character with a cool name.

But there’s something else I need for both these journeys, something so much more important than anything already mentioned. I need to be absolutely crazy! I need to go feral. I need to trust my instincts before my tired, sketchy, rigid mind. I need to keep doing cannonballs even if no one’s watching, even if I’m paying thirty-five dollars to sit alone all weekend writing something that will undoubtedly have such poor grammar.

But that’s what it seems to come down to. I need to keep doing what makes me happy, in the strange, clumsy way that I do it. It’s only then that I’ll find the things I’m looking for (or what I didn’t know I was looking for, but happened to find). If I don’t whisper maxims to myself before jumping into a pool by myself, then I’m not being me! I’m not putting all of myself into it. And what better thing to teach, to write about, then the feeling of power that comes from giving it all?

Coffee Shops at Night

I would always do this in Paris (were I to live there) but in Vancouver? A coffee shop at night? To write? But I found one! Here I can drink a sweetened ginger tea and stare at hipsters. Such interesting people! And in between droughts in that activity, I can write.

Writing is so much more magical at night. Words seem meant for each other; ideas seem to fall from someplace important. No sentence is too flimsy at night – it’s emphatic! No character too flat at night – she’s mysterious! I don’t know what I’ve done to my story, tonight, but there is a ghost where there wasn’t before, and my main character changed relationship tactics.

At night, there’s the  concern that one might fall asleep when writing, but also the hope that the series of letters spelled out from a cheek on a keyboard might reveal something worthwhile.



(photo from

I always try and do writerly things when I’m writing (not only when I’m in public), in some attempt at being less inauthentic than I feel. I lay out papers around me, I move too quickly, I twitch. It started (hopefully) as a show, but has become a part of my writing personality. To make it good, I have to be good.


So I don’t know if I’ll drive here every night for $3.50 tea and the admission that I’m not doing anything fun tonight because I brought a computer with me, but I think I’ll come here sometimes, when I haven’t yet eaten a doughnut that day (whoops!) and when I need something different imbued in my text – a ghostly presence, a night feeling.

Remedies for Harder Days

Just print the document to let yourself feel as though you’ve finished it. Don’t look at it! Don’t look at it!!!

Start a blog post; leave the room; start a new blog post.

Stare at a cat.

Achieve small victories: wash your sheets, kill a fruit fly.

Go to a coffee shop and pretend to write it.

Say you’re tired; say it’s the full moon.

Talk to the cat.

Yell out, “I’m bored!!!”

Do the other important thing you’re supposed to be doing with your life.

Stare at your phone; stare at the city; stare at the fridge.

Know too much about too many people via Facebook.

Write a different chapter.

Change the font.

Open old notebooks for advice.

Lie down so your face is next to the cat and ask him questions.

Achieve small victories: make your bed; find the source of the fruit flies.

Download the new John Mayer album! Dance and weep!


Reason that you’re tired, that it’s the full moon.

Do a blog post about all the awful things you did today.

Go back to writing.

Virginia Woolf’s Exclamation Marks

“In love!” she said

He was in love!

And there’s no flesh on his neck; his hands are red; and he’s six months older than I am!

“She is beneath this roof … She is beneath this roof!”

“Good morning to you, Clarissa!” said Hugh, rather extravagantly, for they had known each other as children.”

The way she said “Here is my Elizabeth!” – that annoyed him. Why not “Here’s Elizabeth” simply? It was insincere.

He had escaped!

I haven’t felt so young in years!

“Well, and what’s happened to you?” “Millions of things!” he exclaimed.

But it was delicious to hear her say that – my dear Peter!

“How heavenly it is to see you again!” she exclaimed. He had his knife out. That’s so like him, she thought.


The Reading Fad

I admit I walk around carrying a book in my  hand more than I used to, though I used to read more than I do now. I admit I don’t read as many classics as I should, but I always name classics as my favourite books. I admit I bought glasses that make me look like I’m reading and I get shivers in trendy used bookstores. But I will not admit that I am a part of this new trend called reading.

I’ve had a few different people lately tell me they are reading a book out loud as a couple. That’s great! I wish I was in a couple in which we read books out loud! But it also seems to signify something: is reading a becoming a novelty?

When someone walks by me wearing a Great Gatsby tee-shirt, I’m usually pretty sure it’s not an English Lit major. Why would someone who studied English feel the need to wear a tee-shirt announcing they like books? They decided that already, probably early in life, and it has since been their identity.

Second question: why am I so defensive of books? I didn’t write any of them! Maybe I’ve read more than some people, but I’ve also not read most of them, and I read them pretty poorly.

But books are my thing. They are a thing for people who don’t have many other things. But someone who rides a funny-looking bike and sketches and, like, has a horse, already has so many things! You can’t take books too!

So I propose this: we just all keep reading. Don’t stop when the other member of your couple has moved on to partner yoga (even though that’s so last year). Just keep reading until it stops becoming a trend. Until you missed the next trend because you were so busy reading.



Until you become a real smoker, not just one who smokes at parties, you don’t know all the downsides of the trade. You don’t know that you slowly lose your eyesight. You don’t know that there are some books that will plague you, consistently looming over you to get you to finish them. And even if you’ve seen the Dracula movie and you read all of Atlas Shrugged except for the 100-page-long speech by John Galt, you know that one day you will just sit there, miserable, reading those two books instead of whatever book is on everyone’s tee shirt.

And it will become a part of you (not every book you read, but the fact that you do weird little things, like accidentally buy two copies of the same book or bring ten with you on a trip) and you will never stop reading, because it’s the best trend ever invented. It offers a way of seeing the world and of seeing yourself: through words, beautifully arranged, on these little sheets of paper you carry around in your hand for everyone to see.

The Still-Living Moment

I was a vegetarian until a few weeks ago when I ate a sausage. I have since eaten a lot of sausages. My sister thinks it’s funny if I say that I’m a vegetarian who eats meat. It actually makes sense: I didn’t change opinions on eating, I just eat more.

So tonight, for the first time, I cooked meat for myself. I walked to the grocery store thinking about meatballs. They didn’t have any! So I walked to another grocery store thinking about meatballs. And then I walked home thinking about meatballs.

I had to Google “turkey meatballs.” I put them in the oven for the suggested amount of time and even longer because they were still a bit pink. But they continued to be a bit pink! Ten minutes later they were still the same pink, but definitely browning around the edges as though they were burning. I shouldn’t let them burn. So I ate them. They were delicious. I ate them over a nice vegan dish of spaghetti squash and green beans from my parents’ garden.

As I ate my last meatball I thought wow, this meatball is really pink. And my stomach began to turn. Was I going to be sick? Did I poison myself with my first attempt at cooking meat? And the paranoia set in. I became very hot. I lay down with a cat on my stomach and thought about tonight and tomorrow. In essence, I planned my death.

Everyone has a moment every so often where they almost get hit by a car. Or they aren’t sure about a strange pain in their heart. Or they feel something tingle at the back of their throat. And if that moment passes, and you are still alive, you become thankful. You begin to live a second life.


(photo from

Tonight I lived a second life. I had a bath. I enjoyed a television show. I got so much planning done, like I was going on a sick leave. I smiled often to myself and told the cat my secrets. But the stomach pain never came. In fact, I have just eaten more.

In the still-living moment I always think about what it is I really want to accomplish. And after things like a bath and a TV show, it is always to do with writing. I picture myself finishing a novel on my death bed, because that’s what probably what I’ll do no matter when I die. How sad, for those visiting me! I will be in such a terrible mood.

What is it that you do in your still-living moment? Call someone you love? Petty! Eat something delicous? Pig! Write something long and tedious ostensibly about yourself? Egomaniac!

One Hour is Not Enough

I must confess. I’ve been patting myself on the back; I’ve been bowing low to my new habit. I’ve written one hour a day for 40 days. I was at school, it was summer, but I wrote for one hour a day. One day I woke up early because I knew I would be busy that day! One night I wrote tired!

I come now to the realization, on an open Saturday afternoon, that one hour isn’t a big part of my day. One hour over forty days is forty hours on my novel. How long is a novel? 180 pages? How many times do I have to rewrite a page? Three times? This novel is never going to end!

Because really, one hour isn’t an hour. It’s a period of adjustment, in which I get into my writing brain. It’s an early finish, especially if I have to blow dry my hair. It’s a couple turns on Facebook, a few peeks at the news and maybe a bite to eat. It’s definitely not an hour, that’s for sure.

So am I supposed to write two hours a day? Am I supposed to write first thing in the morning and last thing at night? I thought I was doing so well; I thought I was doing so much.



What I know about things is that setting goals makes things happen. I would not have memorized 50 digits of Pi without deciding to do it. So maybe I shouldn’t write in time, but in goals.

Maybe I sit down and I don’t stop writing until I have that scene right. I’m not a perfectionist, and I’m a good cheater, so I won’t be there forever. But maybe I’ll be there until that scene gets done. I hope so! That was my goal!

And maybe I’ll start looking at my novel like something made up of pieces, not of time. And maybe it will keep building on itself instead of just continuing. And maybe over time I’ll learn that two hours isn’t very much of my day either, or maybe I’ll just forget about time. And then at some point, somewhere down the line, I won’t be counting hours because writing will be the thing that I do, and something else the job in which I count hours, waiting to get back here.



Where I’m At

I’m not sure what I’ve repeated, but at least I’ve said it.

Halfway between Chapter 1 and Chapter 3.

Littered with CAPS LOCK and sentences that start with “She.”

I just found Jillian and lost Gil and am now trying to keep them together.

Today I hit on the latest explanation for why she’s sticking with Gil: she thinks he knows her secret (and she doesn’t know it). Now how do I put that in?

I ran to a notebook tonight because I realized Gil is actually very successful. He just works at whiskey (not whisky) tastings as a hobby!

Making Gina too extreme. She swears a lot – can I swear in my book?

Reading through Gaelic folklore. I know that it fits my story and is integral to it, but I am still unsure how to bring it in.



Dreaming of Nye; dreaming of Gil.

I am able to prepare for the 3 Day Novel contest by writing Jillian’s opposite: Cleo is happy, Cleo doesn’t want to escape.

Ready to write for two hours a day starting Monday.

Handing in Chapter 2  to writing group for review September 7! I better spell check.

HP Sauce

A couple friends and I are rereading Harry Potter. My friend did this a few years ago and I was so jealous – how did he have the time? He had the time, I realized, by letting Harry Potter and his childhood overtake his life. I grew up on Harry Potter. I left a best friend’s birthday party to go to the midnight release of the seventh book. I like being in on something so childish and esoteric. I like books!

Remember how big Hermione’s hair was in the first book?

And how you never see Scabbers coming?

Remember when you realize that instead of a murderer, Sirius Black is just a sex bomb?

Sirius-Black-sirius-black-7017004-1000-725 (sexy photo from

I don’t always remember that Professor McGonagall is an animagi!!

Wouldn’t there be some practices where you just don’t find the Snitch?

They don’t even know about the tournament yet!! People are going to DIE!!

Yesterday somebody had a portrait in their room that looked like You-Know-Who but it might have just been a deceased grandfather!

Did Joanne see the Ginny thing coming? Because Harry sure didn’t!

Is it just me, or does travelling by Floo Powder make no sense at all?

Who IS Dean Thomas??

The Day My Computer Slept

Everyone needs a day off! My computer took an elective vacation day yesterday. It was going through some issues with a new processing system and it just sat there, breathing heavily, putting me out of work.

It took hours before I forced myself to open a notebook and write in there. What? A pen? To write with?

I immediately rationalized my fears of all of my novel being lost with the old “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was thrown in the fire” story, which I think about mostly every day. Did no one else ever have to rewrite a book? I wish there was some more modern example of a computer crashing and a novel living on that I could go to, instead of staying clear of fires.

flames background


I wrote six pages by hand in my journal last night – nonsense pages, not prose but explanations to myself, little tidbits of emotions mostly centered around my computer. Then I got to page six and I started doing crazy writing (all over the page! non-linear!) and I came to a revelation that I might not have come to were my computer well. One of my characters is illiterate! She tells her story through images!

And I recognized (and wrote down, in the embarrassing way I do, talking to myself in my notebooks) that maybe every once in a while I need to write by hand instead of with the tips of my fingers. Maybe the circular hover of my palm over the page can create things that the choppy pulse of my nails against the keyboard cannot. Maybe I get at different places, write through different tones.

This morning I felt okay, thinking that a computer in the fire wasn’t the end of the world. If my computer didn’t wake up today, then I still would. But alas, I write a blog post, which means I am either typing on that very small keyboard on my iPad mini or my computer has decided to serve my sweaty palms one more day. And so here are my linear, peckish thoughts, about imagine if I could just write by hand and drop my notes into the fire, instead of allowing them to sit perpetually in the cyber world. How much less embarrassing, how much more poetic and tragic.