To tell a compelling story…

Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category

My Google Reader contained a cool link on Monday afternoon. Sean Ferrell, a brilliant author and Twitter pal, posted an essay about the many desks in his life. Sean notes he has a desk at work, a desk at home, but writes his fiction on his lap while riding the subway. I thoroughly enjoyed his post because except for one detail, our stories are pretty much the same. I told him this in an email and he said I should put this on my blog, so now you know who to blame (wide grin).

Like Sean, I have a desk at work. Mine is standard cubicle furniture. An L-shaped counter with a bank of drawers at each end, an overhead shelf with a light under it, and in the corner, a slide-out tray for my keyboard. I have two monitors: a flat panel and the laptop’s built-in display. I have an adjustable chair with a Velcro lumbar cushion that I constantly adjust throughout my day. I love this cushion. It helps me focus on the technical writing work I must do at this desk instead of on the pain in my back that results from too many hours spent at it.

The walls are covered in tack surface. In addition to the few dozen pictures of my sons, these walls are covered with company awards and memos, a heart-shaped love note from my youngest that says “Brown-eyed girl” in shaky, kindergarten printing, a sign that says, “This technical writer is powered by chocolate”, and a treasured print-out from the blog of author Jeff Somers, an author I greatly admire and whose books I thoroughly enjoy, because he replied to a comment I’d posted with “Patty-that’s genius!” Beside that is a print-out of a screen shot I took one day after returning to my desk to see several of my Twitter pals discussing someone in glowing terms. “Triple-threat,” one said. “Talent, brains, beauty,” said another.

They’d been talking about ME.

I’m not ashamed to tell you I shed tears that day. I hung up the screen-shot so I’d never forget the emotions those few tweets stirred in me, or forget to thank the kind people who posted them.

On the left side of the L, I have a pair of Slinky toys, the glasses I never wear, a corporate version of a Magic 8 Ball, and a stress ball. When I write technical instruction, much happens inside my head before I put fingers to keyboard. I find playing with toys helps me to focus on these mental tasks. On the other side of the L is an empty candy dish. I ate all the candy that was once inside it and can’t bring myself to discard it… or refill it. Beside my phone is a dainty cup with my name on it. Patricia – Enchanting spirit, full of grace and honor. Hmm. They must have forgotten the chocolate.

Unlike Sean, I do write fiction at this desk, but it’s technical fiction, which is often what the first draft of any user guide really is… until we work the kinks out of a new software product. By the time the software is released, my technical fiction is now technical instruction.

At home, I never had a desk of my own. I wrote on the dining room table, in my bed, on the sofa, on the deck, wherever I needed to be (praise the wonder of the wireless internet connection!). I lust after Twitter pal Tawna Fenske’s desk and love planning where I might, someday (when finances and the planets align) install a dream desk but those are long-term plans. To suit my immediate needs, I spent a wonderful weekend cleaning up my college-bound son’s room to take it over as my private writing office. It has a fairly large Ikea desk that was suitable for the kind of spreading out I like to do when I have a few hours of time to devote to a writing project. Tools like my “master the craft” books, my enormous newsprint pad on which I outline, Post-it notes of scene ideas and dialogue I want to use, cut-outs of celebrities and models who resemble my main characters to “get me in the mood.” It was perfect!

I used it once.

My dad, after a tiff with his fiancé, found himself temporarily homeless. He moved into my son’s room not three days after my cleaning spree and there went my dedicated writing space. As the weeks went by, Dad steadily cleared out a self-storage unit of various furnishings and brought me a desk. It’s gorgeous. An antique French writing desk with a drop-leaf and half a dozen little cubbies to hold Post-its, pens, maybe an emergency pack of M&Ms. I love that, finally, after all these years, I have my very own desk, but you know what? It was never built for a computer, so I find using it for writing marathons to be uncomfortable. Alas, I am still writing on the dining room table, the sofa, my bed, the deck when Mother Nature cooperates, even the kitchen counter while dinner simmers.

Unlike Sean, I don’t have a subway commute. But I do understand the point he makes about making the most of the writing time you have. I wrote my first novel at my son’s hockey games. It began because I’m not a typical sports parent. I hate when the tempers flare and the passion blinds people to the fact that these are KIDS. So, I began sitting outside in the snack bar area instead of in the stands. The rink is around the block from my office, and I used to meet the boys there after work. Since the laptop belongs to my employer, I could not leave it in my car and risk having it stolen, so it came inside with me. Out of boredom, I wrote PENALTY KILLER, a novel about a man found murdered in the parking lot of the local ice rink, after a very loud and public argument with another player’s dad gets him bounced from the game.

Coincidence?

Like most parents, I spend a lot of time driving one or both of my sons to various engagements. I drag the laptop with me because you never know when you’ll have fifteen minutes to wait. I’ve written entire chapters in these chunks of time. In fact, when I do sit down to write for an hour or two, I find myself unable to focus. I think the pressure of a deadline – whether it’s a subway stop or the end of a hockey game – provided that impetus.

Your turn! What’s on your desk?

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It’s Saturday as I write this. Saturday, the most wonderful day. I’m not dressed yet, though it’s ten thirty. After a hellish week, I deserve a few hours of unhurried sloth.

I was in a bad mood this week and by “bad,” I mean pea-soup spewing, head-twisting, stab-you-with-a-pencil-if-you-look-at-me-wrong mood. Now that it’s Saturday and I’ve had a few precious hours to decompress, I now know why my mood was so off. But Monday through Friday, I didn’t have a clue.

On Monday, I worked from home to record the narration for a few product videos that were due this week. Usually, this is a fairly fun and easy task but this time, numerous software issues from the buggy operating system produced by a certain mega-bazillionaire who-shall-remain-nameless tortured me, forcing me to repeat work.

On Tuesday, the same day I was scheduled to have a minor surgical procedure, my sister called me at work while I was juggling crashing programs, a conference call, and a problem with our website and said, “Clear your schedule. You’ll have to take Mom to the doctor tomorrow.” Mom lives with my sister in Connecticut. I live in New York. I work full-time, my sister does not.

If you’re reading this and thinking unkind thoughts about my sister, you’ll understand why this unleashed in me a whole new level of desire to do violence. Voo-doo dolls. In fact, I found one online that made satisfying little winces every time I poked it. With a nail gun.

After I’d calmed down sufficiently to discuss the situation, my sister and I arranged a better schedule. My niece is taking state tests all week and the doctor my mother must see is in New York. I am taking Tuesday off to accompany Mom on this appointment. See? I can be reasonable. Really.

On Wednesday, I dragged myself to work because I had to finish the product videos. The row of sutures on my back made driving a torturous experience. I was less than sunny when I arrived at work. I did, however, learn the website issue was resolved.

On Thursday, I was almost done with the videos. I wasn’t sleeping well since the sutures now ITCH like Alien is trying to claw its way free. A kind and unknown soul left a package of Dove Hot Chocolate on my desk. I’m following the Weight Watchers program and have eaten nothing but salad, fruit and yogurt, except for a moment of weakness when a chocolate chip muffin challenged me to a battle of the wills. I lost.

I put the hot chocolate in my desk drawer, vowing to stay on program.

And then there’s Friday. It promised to be a great day! I finished the videos, posted them on YouTube. I caught up with minor tasks I’d let slide during the week. And then I went to my Weight Watchers meeting, where I learned I’d GAINED two @$$%^*@!)*!~ pounds. I returned to my desk in a funk, picking at my boring salad. I checked in on Twitter, saw my son, an Islanders fan, having a public disagreement with a Penguins fan, who then threatened his life.

!?

This, people, this right here, is why there is a waiting period to buy firearms. Forget road rage or even ‘roid rage. Those aren’t rages, they’re tantrums from red-faced tots that only dream of being rages when they grow up beside a mother whose child is threatened. It took time, but eventually, my son assured me he was fine and the situation wasn’t serious. The rest of my salad got tossed into the garbage and I returned to work.

I opened my desk drawer and when I saw that package of hot chocolate, I succumbed, felt the tension leave my bones for the first time all week. After I finished licking the mug, I had an epiphany. During this week of deadlines and frustrations, there was one thing, one critical thing, I had not done.

I hadn’t written a word on Past Perfect. Not one new word. Writing isn’t just this thing I do when the house is clean and the bills are paid and the moon aligns with the stars in just the right way. Writing is an essential part of my composition; it’s an activity that centers me, that fills me with a peace I desperately need to handle all the balls I’ve got in the air. (Go ahead. You may smirk. You know you want to.) When I write, I’m in control of the universe. What happens, and then what happens next – I get to decide it all. It’s an escape from real life and one even I did not realize was so important to my own well-being until this moment.

So. It’s Saturday morning. I’m not dressed yet even though it’s now eleven o’clock. There’s dust in the corner of my bedroom I can see from across the room. The hamper is over-flowing. Housework waited all week, it can wait an hour or two longer while I do this thing I need as badly as I need air to breathe.

Oh, and maybe some chocolate to roll around in, since I can’t eat it.

Please share: how do you make time to write when real life gets in your way?

Chocolate.

Posted on: June 14, 2010

Those who follow me know I am serious about my chocolate. Saying, “Patty likes chocolate” is an understatement of profound proportion. It’s like saying, “The universe is big.” Duh. My predilection for chocolate goes much, much deeper than this… it’s not just an addiction. It’s an obsession. I plan my day around chocolate. I diet to make room for chocolate. Some people drink, others smoke. My vice, my crutch, my friend, my heart’s desire is chocolate. Chocolate never lies to me, it never makes promises it has no intentions of keeping, like “Patty, you’re my best friend” before it never calls or emails me again.

Last week, my twitter pals told me about the Great Wall of Chocolate at PF Chang’s. Just hearing the word triggers a whole Pavlovian sequence of CRAVE in me. Mouth watering leads to thinking, thinking about the way chocolate feels in my mouth and melts on my tongue triggers hunger pains, the hunger pains mean I cannot concentrate on anything other than chocolate, chocolate bars, chocolate kisses, chocolate pretzels, chocolate raisins, chocolate cake, chocolate strawberries, chocolate!, CHOCOLATE NOW.

Um. Sorry about that. My eyes glazed over for a second. Or, perhaps, the better word is ganached.

I therefore called a friend and made plans to have dinner at PF Chang’s last night. Dinner was great. I think. I honestly don’t remember it much.

Dessert, I remember. The plate was placed on the table in front of us, an enormous slab of the dark stuff – six or seven layers – I lost count – of dense chocolate, each between a thick coating of chocolate icing. It was covered in chocolate chips and then drizzled in a fruit syrup. A heavenly host sang an Alleluia chorus. Suddenly, a fork was in my hand. I have no memory of picking it up. I pressed the fork to the cake… No. Calling this a cake is like calling the Mona Lisa an arts & crafts project. I pressed the fork to this masterpiece, felt the weight of it. My tongue was already tingling as I moved fork to mouth.

Oh. My. God.

I think I died for a minute. Well… lost consciousness. That moment, that split second when chocolate caresses taste buds… Oh! I’m sure I saw God.

Mmmmmm

In seconds, the Great Wall had been reduced to a Small Barrier and then to mere Ruin. There were four of us at dinner last night. Conversation came to a complete and utter stand still during Consumption of the Great Wall. I’m told a war broke out over the last crumbs. I have no memory of this so cannot confirm or deny.

The Great Wall in Ruins

When it was gone, I thought I’d feel regret or sadness. But I didn’t. I was in a post-chocloidal bliss, a state of nirvana not matched since Godiva’s monster chocolate-covered strawberries. Now, you might think being in such a state would compel me to rush home and make sweet love to my husband.

No.

Yep, I even licked the fork.

I did rush home, but it was to my laptop where my manuscript had languished for days. I wrote for an hour, word after word, sentence after sentence, page after page and it was some of the best writing I’ve ever done. Apparently, my muse likes chocolate more than I do and that’s really saying something.

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve a few thousand calories to exercise off now.


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Hi! Welcome to my blog. I’m Patty.

I'm a writer represented by Denise Little, The Ethan Ellenberg Agency. I love to tell stories, to boast about my sons, to indulge in a serious chocolate obsession. (I often combine these passions.)

During the day, I write software user guides, but at night, I let my hair down... and write whatever I want. (I know. You expected something else. Sorry.) I'm currently working on a YA story about sexting gone horribly bad called SEND. I use this blog to explore my passions.

Contact me at pattyblount3 at gmail dot com.

You're also welcome to link to, quote, or cite anything you find here. You're NOT welcome to copy it outright for your own use. 'Cause that's plagiarism, no matter what you heard on the internet.

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