Still writing that novel?

Hi friends,

I wanted to send an update since it has been over a month since my last report. Yes, I am still wearing the sweatshirt (though it is warm today so I just opened the windows to let in some fresh air). The rest of the ham is in the freezer awaiting combination with red beans (mom, can you bring me some red beans when you come to visit?). Yes, we have been visited by another dread virus but this one was significantly less laundry-intensive. In other news:

The novel: Total word count is 52,291 words at present. The goal was to reach 70,000 by the end of Feb but that’s a pretty tall order on the 21st. I’m aiming for 8,000 additional words this week and think that is achievable (as a stretch goal) because I don’t have another contract to work on and both kids are just getting over the most recent sickness so they will probably not be home from school again this week. The novel (and a recently concluded contract) is the reason you have not heard from me on the blog lately; I’m learning to prioritize and also to live in a bit of an artistic bubble. Apparently this is somewhat necessary to actually produce something.

I am really enjoying writing the novel and the exercise is completely different to what I would have guessed it would be like. You learn a lot about yourself. You pay attention to the world in a different way. It is not always comfortable because you have to BE in a particular feeling to write about it well. Or pretend at least for that time that you are feeling that feeling. And maybe it is your subconscious or what I’m calling “infinite intelligence” but you are typing away and stuff is happening in the story and then you go back and read it and think — who wrote that? — where did that come from? And it doesn’t feel like it came from your mind, but you like it (or maybe you don’t).

My original expected word count for the first draft was somewhere around 80-90,000 but it is looking like the first draft will be over 100K. I think about sharing excerpts sometimes, but I’m not quite ready for that.

Clean eating: Every year (for three years running), Dave and I spend three weeks in January/February eating “clean” — that means we don’t eat gluten, dairy, sugar and a number of other foods (coffee, corn, soy, alcohol, it’s a long list) during that time. We did this as an experiment three years ago and it fundamentally changed the way we eat. What happened was that we found it to be sort of tough the first year (though much easier when you do it together) but after about a week we stopped craving sugar (and stopped craving much of anything really) and we figured out a few standard meals that we love that meet the criteria and now we eat this way 85% of the time until life gets too stressful or we are visiting friends/traveling.

We have finished our three weeks this year and as usual it was eye-opening and beneficial. This year, we followed the protocol in the book Clean Gut (with our own modifications) but for the two prior years we followed the protocol in Clean (again, modified). There are recipes in both books but we’ve also learned a lot about clean cooking in the book Clean Eats. Here’s what I noticed: My mood and energy are SIGNIFICANTLY better while eating this way. You don’t necessarily notice the improvement until you go out for breakfast and get a sausage, egg, and cheese bagel with a vanilla chai after the program is completed. You swim through that day totally exhausted and realize that you would rather spend your life feeling optimistic and energized.

At some point I would like to share recipes for the six “clean” dinners that our kids are now very happy to eat and that I would choose over just about any other dinner (other than dinner at a friend’s house — I would always rather go to a friend’s house and have dinner, no matter what is on the menu). I would also like to share our meal planning system because it is super simple and a game changer (for us anyway).

French food challenge: We have started playing a sort of game with our kids to encourage them to approach new foods with curiosity and also to be more interested in the different ingredients that go into different meals. I call it the French food challenge because, as we’ve all heard, “French kids eat everything” – my kids are really enjoying it and soon I will share it with you. It’s been a great thing.

Reading List: I’ve read a few books so far this year that have really shifted my habits and behavior in a positive way. In order, I’ve read: You Are a Badass, Think and Grow Rich,  The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.

I’m still slogging through Don Quixote but not because it is not amazing, it’s just dense and these other books have been from the library. I’m also currently reading 1491 (about the pre-Columbian Americas) and I haven’t quite finished my Dickens biography or my E.B. White. And I’m listening to Mark Twain’s autobiography (20 disks) in my car when I’m on my own — I’m on disk 4.

The largest changes I’ve made so far in 2018 have to do with prioritizing fewer things instead of spreading myself too thin, being more decisive, and what I’m calling “living like a pro” — based on the concept of a pro in another great book, The War of Art. It has always been easy for me to act when someone else is holding me accountable but difficult when I am only accountable to myself. But the things that I want to accomplish require me to hold myself accountable, so that’s what I’ve been doing so far in 2018 and it is working pretty well.

That’s a thousand words which is taking up enough of your time for one day. My bulbs are starting to come up and a few perennials are barely peeking through. I’m definitely ready for spring!

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