Early Bird Efforts

bfd60-2010-02-07_feeder_snow_144a

Mr. Grackle in snow –  Picture by: Lausanne Davis Carpenter

The best remedy for surviving a twelve-hour day in cubicle-land is to spend my early mornings on my own goals. I have posted on LDavisCarpenter about the challenges of writing historical fiction and am starting a Flash Memoir side-project while chipping away at my novel.
 

I am reasonably confident in my non-fiction abilities but creative writing is – whew. I know how long it takes to develop any new skill so I want to use my life experiences as material for word-crafting practice – before I am faced with final edits of my long fiction. Flash Memoir seems like a good choice for distilling memories into words that transport a reader to another’s time, place, thoughts and senses. I also think it will be fun to capture snippets of my own crazy life in this form.

 

Meanwhile, you can see last summer’s mural on the Marsh Hawk Studio blog. I still plan to do a process post showing the steps to creating it but those pictures are on my other laptop which an Office update recently corrupted and can no longer access the internet. (Yes, thank you very much.) I will soon update the Long Ago & Far Away blog with notes on Conn Iggulden’s Genghis Khan series.

 

If I can ever get my blogs up to date AND have a day off – I’ll be back to writing my novel.



***About Mr. Grackle – just a fellow at my feeder on a snowy morning back in VA. Those eyes look like I feel most mornings before tea.

Writing and Responsibility

desk and candle

There’s a certain martyr’s pride we risk when forcing ourselves out of bed in the wee hours to get our writing done.

I’m back to the Day Job – the traffic, the hours (the paycheck! old friends! new friends!) Thankfully, this time I have a shorter commute which is allowing me to find a few minutes in the morning to think about writing. So far I’ve managed to read some research material and scribble a couple of posts on my writing blog.

I could get up even earlier but, working six or seven long days every week, less sleep would reduce my ability to help the people who depend on me at the office. They depend on me for training in order to stay in their assignments as long as possible. But, my sense of responsibility goes beyond their urgent questions. My employer depends on me to keep our people in their roles because that’s the core of our business. Our client depends on our people to serve their customers well, in support of their brand. Those customers depend on our people to be professional and accurate during their time of need and sometimes great stress. And, my people have others in their lives depending on them to bring home a paycheck.

I owe them all seven hours of sleep every night.

Dickens-at-the-Blacking-Warehouse

In the Meantime –

studio 2

 

My studio has returned to chaos.

You can see the results of the Studio 3.0 Mural Commission posted on my Marsh Hawk Studio site.

As I mentioned there, once I completed that project, I was immediately out of town to work as a trainer/manager of independent insurance adjusters in Atlanta, GA. After six months, I returned home to move my parents from their rental to the finally ready “new” home. We’ve been working long days, every day to get them moved in. We’ve also changed every one of their doctors and dentists in this last 3 months. I hope to never see another “New Patient” form.

But, how about a few detail shots of our hard work?

back porch1a (3)

This shot was taken the day James and I first saw the house. You can see the monster tree and the rotting deck that wrapped around it. I remember thinking as I took this picture, “One day, that tree is going to cost us a whole lot of money.”

Two weeks after closing, we received a notice from the city that our neighbor had complained about it dropping limbs into her yard.

$6500.00 later, the tree and the liability hazard deck were gone.

The house had no laundry room. So we added that plus a mud room in the area of the old deck, then added the stoop. Pardon the ladders. Work yet to do.

back entry

Along the way, the house was gutted and essentially rebuilt from the inside out. New wiring, plumbing, everything. When they started to tear out the  interior plaster on the exterior walls, they discovered there was no lath, just plaster on terra cotta block walls. So, they left the plaster and stick built from the inside in order add insulation.

terra cotta block

Add new roof, new windows and attic insulation and the folks are now snug.

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The ceilings throughout had been dropped. The new ones have been returned to their original 9’6″.

 

living room 1 (3)

Living room with dropped ceilings.

picture wall

Same wall with ceilings restored to original height.

entry and wall of writers

Showing the exposed upper glass block and the display of Mom’s favorite writers around the door to her writing room.

 

Raising the ceiling in the living room exposed the top row of glass block at the entry. Their exterior had been painted gray. Now they sparkle inside and out.

The exterior still needs some wood rot replaced and paint. But my parents are now ensconced, mostly unpacked and starting to get on with living.

Now for me: I’ve made myself available for work adjusting again but I may have to wait for tropical storm season to spool up before I can return. That makes me financially broke but anxious to use these slivers of free time to update my blogs and drag out my historical fiction project.

Studio 3.0 – Mural Commission

Messy Studio

Messy Studio/Warehouse

In the midst of my personal madness, I got an email requesting a small-ish mural. As it happens, I think I can actually squeeze one in between the time I get the parents physically deposited here in Florida and when I will make myself available for adjusting work again. There is going to be a phase of getting the folks settled – finding doctors, learning the roads, etc. when I don’t want to be in a 12hrs x 7days work gig.

A mural could be just the right diversion.

However, in the last 18 months, my studio has turned into a warehouse. So, the first task was to clear it out and sweep up the leaves that blow under the door.

All Better

All better – the black splodge on the floor is a permanent spill of some mystery substance from before my time.

Client meeting went well. Proposal completed and passed. Next step is a detailed drawing.

Meanwhile, I drive to Virginia tomorrow to start the final phase of loading the folks’ furniture in containers, deep cleaning the house in preparation for the market and getting them and Sally-dog into the car.

Of course, it’s going to be in the 100s in Florida and the 90s in Virginia this week. All good fun.

I think that’s enough for now.

What I Did on My Summer Vacay

Front Range Viewed from Greeley, CO

Front Range Viewed from Greeley, CO

Summer is officially over if you consider Memorial Day and Labor Day the boundaries – rather than looking to celestial events. Neither work here in Florida – it feels very much like summer from April through October.

As for what I did: two months of Day Job in hot, dry Colorado. Then one month in hot, humid Tidewater, Virginia troubleshooting various challenges for my parents. I have now been back in my own home for three weeks.YAY! The laundry and housework are caught up, the new storage barn’s rafter tails are primed (note the evidence of oil primer in my hair) and tomorrow morning I start another round of Day Job.

This next assignment is a new role for which I am very thankful. The hours will be brutal, as always. However, I was able to complete a lot of research this summer so I hope to scrounge some minutes before work to convert story ideas in my head to scenes on digital paper.

I missed cross-posting a prior blog entry from Long Ago & Far Away to here so that will follow.

The Day Job Wins

Forty-eight hours after release from Adjusting Gig 1, I received notice of Gig 2 and am making my way across country to the new location. The first 30 days of each assignment means zero days off but I should be well rested by the time I report for duty again.

I am driving west for the first time since 1985 (road trip!) and when I get my Sundays off I will meet up with several dear friends who have migrated that way in the last few decades. I am excited for the continued excellent work opportunity and a bit of adventure. Woo Hoo!!!

But, once again, the constant zig and zag leaves me feeling that large portions of my life have been wasted pouring time and energy (and money) down paths that end in brick walls. I am now 18 months behind on writing my novel (or 20 years!) and again mothballing my painting business that I hadn’t even thought to reopen until it came barrelling at me uninvited last fall.

My recent mural clients want to promote my work. I’ve had several other project inquiries before I’ve even made new business cards. The decorative items in my antiques mall booth sold out while I was in my cubicle these past four months. This all indicates that there is a market for what I do. But now I am not able to produce more products for retail. Although this last office gig was in my own town, the work is long hours, 7 then 6 days/week and exhausting. Add the rest of life’s responsibilities and there was no way to get into the studio and still function on the job. The day job wins – I’m being paid to be sharp and make good decisions, not come in sleep deprived and zombified.

This next gig is out of town – that’s the end of even pretending about 5am studio time. I will not be able to complete the paintings I have started. And why discuss murals that I can’t schedule because of the day job’s unpredictability?

And the novel – it is set in an obscure time and place, meaning I still have stacks of research to do before I can move further with the rough draft. I can’t scribble a sentence without three significant research questions popping up. I am bringing some of the neglected research materials west with me in hopes that if I can’t paint at 5am, I can at least read and make some notes.

So why not quit the day job and go full focus on the painting business? There is evidence that there is a market for it. I’ll tell you why: money. That’s the nasty truth of it. I do believe, given the time to spool up and build a clientele, I could make a go of it in the Jacksonville area. But for now I must go for the bird in the hand – the desk job. We have too many demands for money right now and I cannot take the months/years required to establish my painting business again that this time.

I guess I have to accept that my life goes in circles and hope that the painting phase comes back around before too long. Part of my brain is making plans for that day, getting excited about the possibilities, thinking through a new business plan. The other part is trying to tamp that down and stick with the present: stay focused on the now, work really hard to capitalize on the current opportunites, make good decisions that will put me in the best possible position for when the next zag comes. And try to chip away at that novel.

Getting Your Work Done

I have started a new blog just for my writing adventure: LDavisCarpenter.

I will cross post some of the new blog’s contents here – since this is my catch all blog.

Here’s the latest post from over there:

Getting Your Work Done

Posted on January 4, 2014

I am fascinated by the methods other people use to get their creative work done in the midst of life’s demands. I am especially amazed at people who can produce art while enduring the worst of this life’s burdens – their own or loved one’s illness, broken relationships, war and death. Not trying to be morbid, I’m just amazed at how some people manage to carry on.

Even the daily routine of better days fills life to the edges with activity – all urgent and consuming.

Most artists/writers advocate getting up in the wee morning hours to get the writing/painting done and I have found it to be true for myself. Once the regular day begins there seems no way to disengage.

So, up early. And what else? Creatives establish little rituals. For me, it’s a humongous mug of PG Tips (that’s English tea) with half & half.

And goals. Many writers have daily word count goals. I have been participating in an online group of writers whose only connection is a commitment to write 250 words per day, every day. When you’ve done your words, you enter your daily total into an online Google document. People with the longest unbroken stretches and highest word counts get to be in the leader board. That’s it. No prizes. But, we cheer and spur each other on. It works wonders.

Last Spring I managed 53 days in a row. Then I went into research mode and then was consumed by my resurrected painting business.

That’s 250.

Whew. Made it for the day.

How do you do it? How do you make the time, energy and emotional space to do the creative work only you can do?