Photo credit: Arek Socha on Pixabay
I really thought my online expedition would do the trick.
At least once or twice a day, I get an email from Road Scholar. This is a company that leads tour groups all over the world. One of the differences between Road Scholar and other tour companies is that Road Scholar is all about education. They don’t just show you the animals—they tell you what they are and lots of information about them. You may also learn about the history of the region where you’re traveling. For a certain species of geek (me), this is a ton of fun.
In late winter, I received an email for an online expedition to the Arctic. Four days, three hours per day, plus lists of reference materials and suggested reading.
By this point, I was painfully aware that despite my internet research, I knew practically nothing about the Arctic. When you’re writing a book set largely at the North Pole, this can be problematic. After all, it’s not realistic to assume that the characters will never go outside, so what will they see? What birds and animals will be around? Also, what will they eat? It’s not as though they’re going to be having chicken and pork since they don’t have pigs and chickens, so what will the menu look like?
So I signed up. For four days, I logged into Zoom just before 1:00 and spent the next three hours learning all about the Arctic—first the Canadian Arctic, then Greenland, then Svalbard, and finally Franz Josef Land and the North Pole. Lectures about everything from explorers to present-day inhabitants of the Arctic, polar bears to lemmings, puffins to eiders (whose down is harvested for—you guessed it—eiderdown), plus discussion of the effects of climate change.
The expedition was fantastic. The guide had spent years in Antarctica, and he had also led expeditions to the Arctic, so in addition to being engaging and entertaining, he was extremely knowledgeable. While I could have lived without some of the details of the history for purposes of my research, the photographs and videos were amazing. The only downside was that I couldn’t record the presentation, which meant I took copious notes. Luckily, at the end, they sent us a video containing dozens of photographs and videos as well as ensuring we had all the handouts and other materials.
My original plan was to spend my afternoons watching the presentation and the rest of my time writing. In truth, I barely wrote a word the entire week. Part of it was another round of family drama that consumed my attention; part was discovering that one of my beloved cats, Ned, has cancer and another, Olivia, has either IBD or lymphoma. I finished the week exhausted and largely unproductive, only to launch back into another crazy work week that left me completely worn out.
I thought I’d write this weekend, but in the end, Sunday night ws the first time I put words on the screen. Saturday, I bought this year’s impatiens for the window boxes and planters, after which I went to the Protectors of Animals fundraiser at a local vineyard. When I got home, I had an unusual urge to attend to housework and laundry. I felt as if my goal was simply not to think. After dinner, I settled on the sofa, binged an okay series I’d never seen, and snuggled with Ned until it was time to give him his meds. As happened is becoming more frequent, Ned engaged in what I refer to as “sniff-and-snub” where he expresses interest in food, meowing constantly, only to reject whatever I put down. Saturday night, for his bedtime snack, I added some water to his prescription food for a porridge-like consistency, and I gave it to him through the dosing syringe, and he was surprisingly receptive. I’m trying very hard to believe this is a temporary state of affairs although the reality is that I’ve done this with two other cats in the past, and it’s never ended well.
Sunday had the same feel as Saturday. I ushered at church in the morning and—unexpectedly—I stayed for the parish picnic and chatted with some people I hadn’t previously met. Although I’d put down food for the cats before I left, it was clear when I returned that Ned hadn’t eaten, so again, I gave him his porridge and pretended it was a perfectly fine way to feed him.
Saturday had brought torrential rains, but Sunday was clear and mild. Since it was that rare Sunday when I didn’t have to take dinner to Mom, I took advantage of the lovely day to plant my impatiens, pot a few herbs, and put a pair of small azaleas in the ground. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect—sunny, but not hot, with the occasional breeze. I listened to the latest episodes of two of my favorite podcasts, Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens and Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn. Then, a bonus episode popped up from a podcast that had been on hiatus, so I got to hear Kate Bowler again, this time in conversation with Sarah Bessey on the Evolving Faith podcast.
Planting in progress
By the time I finished all my planting and watering, it was past five o’clock. I took out the trash for Monday’s pickup, fed the cats (again, giving Ned his porridge), did another load of laundry, and made a seafood quiche. After dinner, I settled in on the sofa with my okay series again, and eventually Ned came out to jump up and cuddle for a while.
So in all this spare time–time spent on mundane chores and television binging–why haven’t I worked on my book? I have a ton of great information to weave in. I had a comparatively quiet weekend. The laundry wasn’t that urgent. Did I really need to go to the fundraiser? At the very least, I could have turned off the okay series. Surely some of this time could have been spent writing. Why didn’t I?
Could be that I’m tired. Could be that I’m distracted by the family drama. No doubt that I’m worrying about Ned. Could be that work was all-consuming (which it was) and I’m still reclaiming my mind.
Unfortunately, what looks painfully clear is that I’m not going to finish this draft by the end of the month.
I hate to admit this. I’d love to say I can still push through. I can’t picture it, though. Today would have been Dad’s eighty-eighth birthday, and there’s an event up at McLean, the facility where he used to go for rehab after getting out of the hospital. His (and now Mom’s) caregiver works there; in fact, that’s how she became part of our lives. Mom has donated a two-seater bike in his honor, and so McLean will hold a small dedication ceremony this afternoon. Like everything else, though, the plan couldn’t be smooth. Since my sister gave Mom’s caregiver the night off (without consulting anyone), I can’t just come home and get back to work; instead, I have to stay around, fix dinner for Mom, and get her ready for bed. To complicate matters, I have to finish all this in time to get out of there by six o’clock so I can get home and feed Ned, who has to eat early so he can fast before we go to the oncologist Tuesday morning to see what—if anything—can be done for him. After that, it’s work, work, and more work, except I imagine clients will be harder to reach since next weekend is Memorial Day weekend and in recent years, holiday weekends have taken to starting on Thursday instead of Friday afternoon.
So apparently, the reason I’m not going to finish the book on time is that I’m flat-out exhausted, physically as well as emotionally.
But I’m not going to despair, because there’s a glimmer of light on the horizon. Jami Attenberg’s 1,000 Words of Summer challenge is coming up. I did it last year even though my father died; the first post was about his passing and family drama. I don’t know if I’ll actually produce 14,000 new words in this two-week adventure since I’m doing a lot of editing rather than adding a ton of new materials, but whatever it is, it helps me to focus and carve out time to write. This will be the fourth year I’ve done this challenge, and every year, it’s been a hugely productive time. Here’s to hoping that between now and the start, I’m able to get some good rest so I can approach it with a clear mind.
P.S. If you’re in the position of needing a nudge to get started on (or get back to) a writing project, definitely consider #1000wordsofsummer. It’s a whole lot easier than NaNoWriMo, which runs for a full 30 days and requires you to write 1,667 words every day if you’re to write your 50K words by the end of the challenge. If you decide to do it, let me know. I’d love to cheer you on!
Photo credit: 358611 on Pixabay–not one of the many Road Scholar photos
Sorry to hear about Ned. 😦
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Hugs from Lola and Joey to Ned and a purrrr to you, too!
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Thanks, Dee! ❤️