Friday, November 20, 2009

Mother Knows Best (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Technology)

Kris and I recently gave a talk about how we write together. Like an old married couple (think the vignettes in When Harry Met Sally, finishing each other's sentences, saying the same thing at the same time), we told the story about how we met at the firm (a very pregnant Kris interviewed me), how we discovered we both loved writing (talking late one night while working at the firm, wine in hand), and the genesis of The Pecking Order (a particularly long, pointless, billable-hour-sucking meeting that ended in a decision to, yes, have another meeting). We praised the benefits of having a writing partner to share in the struggle, the disappointments, and the joys, and we also explained our process. And it goes a little something like this (hit it!): we loosely outline two chapters; Kris writes one chapter, I write the other; we switch and edit; we switch and edit again; and so on and so forth. And we do this all over email, putting our edits and thoughts in bolds and brackets, so our drafts end up looking like this (note, real live excerpt from early working draft of The Pecking Order): “You’re right. A little harmless flirting never hurt anyone. I should let myself have fun. I work hard and I deserve it,” I say [uncorking our first bottle of wine] [delete – we have a lot of champagne going on….popping the cork on our first bottle of champagne.]

Then we each put the latest version in our respective running documents (on our respective laptops), which may or may not match each other at any given point, depending on whether I remembered to email the most recent draft to my work account or Kris could access the document on vacation or the planets aligned and the heavens smiled on us, making all things domestic and career-related run smoothly. Goodness gracious, it's a lot of work just to type our process . . .

Some time back, my mom (who is ridiculously more technologically advanced than I am) questioned why we weren't using google docs. She might as well have asked why we didn't have the robot prepare dinner or why we didn't drive to work in a hovercraft. We ignored her. For years. Until we finally tried it last week. And people, let me tell you, google docs is all that. You can store documents online and choose who to share them with. Much like a yahoo or gmail email account, you can access your document from anywhere with internet access. Now, we have a single running document and anything we write, be it a single sentence or entire chapter, goes into that document. No more passing bolds and brackets back and forth through email - one of us can open the document and make edits that the other can see simply by logging in. It's genius, I tell you, and not just for writing teams--it's a good back up system for any writer, and ensures you have your manuscript at your fingertips anytime, anywhere.
So, yea, I guess I should have listened to my mother the first time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Haiku

Steady rain grey skys
Lovely Seattle hotel
I forgot to blog

Sunday, November 8, 2009


You know MTV Unplugged--that show where a major musical artist sits on a cozy stage with only a guitar or piano or ukulele (or whatever instrument he or she uses), plays, and sings without benefit of amplifiers, background tracks, or bubble machines? It's just an artist and his or her craft, and more often than not it is moving and raw and real. Well, guess what fellow writers? We need to unplug every now and then, too. Not from sound enhancers or the whammy bar (thank you, Guitar Hero, for my current state of musical literacy), but from all those things that are necessary and helpful, but often get in our way. I'm talking about you, Facebook and Twitter and Writing Blogs (but feel free to finish reading this blog before heeding my advice).
I don't know about you, but when I sit down to write, my process usually goes something like this: Make tea. Sit on chaise with laptop. Open manuscript. Read the last paragraph. Check email. Open Twitter. Log on to Facebook and read multiple status updates from friends stressing out about their NaNoWriMo word count. Open and wonder, once again, why these girls aren't my best friends. Read Inkygirl's latest blog and comic--if there's a new caption contest, spend the next few minutes trying vainly to come up with a witty caption (girlfriend is hilarious, btw . . . I know I'm telling you to go offline, but you really should check her out.). Maximize manuscript. Write a few lines. Send email to Kris telling her I'm writing. Refresh gofugyourself. Refresh Twitter. And so on and so forth . . .

Sound familiar? Sure, I've read all about how we need to cut the electronic leash--heck, my pastor literally wrote the book on simplifying our lives, on saying yes to the important things and no to meaningless distractions. And yet, I rarely put it into practice. But this past week was different. I attended a legal conference at a lovely hotel with lovely, child-free rooms and lovely, squishy, crumb-free beds . . . and wireless internet access priced at $9.95/day. I've mentioned I'm a public sector lawyer in California, right? And you've heard of a little thing we like to call CALIFORNIA'S MASSIVE BUDGET CRISIS, right? So, yea, I can't rationalize ten bucks for internet access when words like furlough and pay cut and phasing out are bandied about my office the way we used to talk about American Idol contestants and how Jon and Kate seemed like a cute couple. (Of course, I tried every unsecured network that showed up on my laptop to no avail. . .curse you kittyboy17 and your weak signal). So I sat in bed, ate a $3.00 bag of cheese crackers for dinner, and wrote. I wrote 500 words in about 40 minutes. I nearly finished an entire chapter in one evening. I unplugged and, oh my gosh, it worked.

And then in the morning (after discovering the lobby has free internet) I read a tweet from @inkyelbows (InkyGirl's twitter alter ego) announcing, "when you're reading about writing, you're not writing." Amen, sister.