And So, Here We Are

I hate making shopping lists, because I am ADHD. Okay, stop laughing.

It’s like this: I make the shopping list. Then my brain decides I’ve already done the work. Oh, and I’m covered. I can’t forget anything.

So, I promptly forget the shopping list. Go to the store. Wander around disoriented, thinking “I can’t remember a think I meant to get.” Buy some random stuff. Come home. Find shopping list on the counter. Realize I haven’t bought any of it.

Go out again, if I’m lucky this time with the shopping list, buy half the list, get confused. Think of other stuff I need. Go back to list, maybe.

This process results in buying 3x what I meant to buy and if I’m lucky ALSO what I meant to buy.

As opposed to the normal process: Go out, in horror and fear of forgetting what I meant to get. Get into store, grab the things I absolutely need. If there’s extra time, get a couple of other things.

I know this is insane, but it’s how (apparently) I work (or don’t.)

To an extent this extends to books. Not QUITE, because books are different for me, possibly than for any other human being who writes books. I have friends who are “Pantsers” and friends who are “discovery writers.” And of course plotters.

I can plot like nobody’s business. Some of the ultra plot books are even belo– No, I lie. Every book I carefully plotted to the last word up front either never sold or hit the market and SANK like a stone. So, you know, plotting in detail seems to be a good way to write books, provided they aren’t my books.

Mostly because if it’s plotted in detail, my brain thinks it’s done the work, and congratulates itself and goes to sleep. So most of the writing is “fill in stuff and yawn I’m so bored.” At best the books are lifeless.

I’m not a discovery writer, because the books are already fully written in my head. I know exactly what happens. I just don’t “see” the words till I get to that chapter. (I’m aware this sounds insane, but it’s hard to explain.) I do know the plot, and what points hit how, and might get stray words from here and there. Now, sometimes as I’m writing I discover “minor corrections or links” but that’s not the same.

OTOH if I’m sick or very tired I become a discovery writer, meaning I might end up with chunks of three separate books and have to smooth/integrate in post. which is usually doable.

Annoying, but doable.

Anyway, what I didn’t realize is that this mechanism also applied to life. As in real life.

As I’ve said beore, in the beginning of 2020, for the first time, I felt in control enough to make out a publishing plan for the year.

And then…. we know how that went, mostly because I was watching in horror as the world went crazy, but being under house arrest and high altitude didn’t help.

2021 was when we realized we had to move, and finding a house, moving…. well, we won’t even be mostly unpacked by Christmas, and I doubt the house will be sold (Long story.)

So–

So it’s come to this. I’m making absolutely no fixed plans for 2022. I have a general list of what I need to write in my head, and I’m going to run at it, in terror and panic to get it all finished.

With luck, it might work.

39 comments

  1. I’m probably going to have to start outlining my novels, if only because I’m coming back every time when I write and realize that I’ve been missing something.

    The current process of “checkpoint” writing worked reasonably well when they were smaller stories, but if the scale of some of these things is going to go up…well…

    1. I started to outline because my stories kept dying on me in the middle.

      Think of it as a very rough first draft.

        1. I find that some stories even need some kind of plot skeleton because the middle is a muddle. I need to figure out what can be some high points and plot turns.

            1. There are a lot of them out there. If you want to try this, some testing may be needed to find one. The “Save the Cat” beat sheet, for instance. (Yes, it’s used for movies. It generally works for me.) Or the “Hero’s Journey.” Or “Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot” — John C. Wright introduced me to that one, but it’s not useful to me.

  2. Nothing to add to the actual point of the post.

    I have stopped forgetting my shopping list, though– I make it in Discord with my husband, pin that and edit stuff in as needed, then when I get to the store I wander around staring at my phone. BUT! I get the stuff on the list!

    1. I write shopping lists, and try to review them with $SPOUSE, but still, there are things I forget to write down. The current victim is the banana line item. We always buy bananas, but much of the time, I forget to write them. *Most* of the time, we’ll catch it, if only at the store. Having to spend an hour and a half for a round trip gives incentive to get it right.

      The Costco list is well written and vetted, largely because it’s now a twice-a-year thing.

  3. I with you on outlining. The brain goes “Ah! Nice Story, what shall we write next?” and refuses to write that one. At the most, a page of bullet points that need to be in there somewhere. I may be half a “discovery writer” because things keep happening that I didn’t see coming. I surprise myself regularly.

    Sorry to hear about more delay with the House. Sounds like an exorcist might be in order. Or anti-Murphy spray or something.

  4. Definitely there with you all on the if it’s plotted/outlined, it’s done!
    I thought I would try the Katytastic (youtube) 27 “chapter” version of outlining on a story that got stuck, and I did get to an ending in the outline finally (okay, I already had the basic ending…just didn’t know how to get there), and…..again, even though these are just bullet points, the brain is off doing art.

    1. I haven’t figured out how to edit a post yet…

      Anywho, as for grocery lists…What I did since we always shopped at one store (Walmart for us), was go through the store and jot down the aisles and what was on them that we used. (Yes, this is a difficult, two-part process, but, wait! once it’s done, it’s done for a LONG while). Then I made a table in Word (or whatever I had at the time that did tables). And I put the order of the aisles in along with the things that I bought in those aisles, in the direction that I did my shopping. (Around the outside to the back and then back and forth through the aisles to the front.) Things that were in other areas (like lightbulbs, or dog food) were in a separate area.

      Then, I put down the cost per item in a column. (I did that over several shopping sessions (you can look at the receipt if you like). And a blank column for how many I needed, and a blank column for total. If you are clever you can make it sum and everything (I was not that clever.) Then when it was time to grocery shop, I pulled up the already made list, marked out what we DIDN”T need, put quantities on what we did need, and if I got excited, I could add it all up. (Sometimes very important, with a limited budget and 5 teenagers, 3 of which were boys, and one who ate like a boy).

      By having the master list, I never forgot anything, because EVERYTHING we used was on the list and I just had to mark out what we didn’t need that time.

      Over time, I removed some things we never used anymore, and added things we did. (When Walmart changed their aisles that was a pain, but mostly just had to change the order of the groups on my list). When we switched to Keto, then I removed more items.

      IF you haven’t had to stress over the list, it might be easier to remember to print and bring it with you. OR you can put it in your dropbox or email or whatever you have on your phone to look at there.

      I have the old master list online I think (the kids wanted a copy when they moved out), Let me see if I can find it for anyone who would like a base to start with. The prices are older, so will have to be updated. Okay, this should work for folks: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/glgwc5fgsgddh93/AAC1msvpxkrkNyGMsZLjJbrza?dl=0

      If it doesn’t, let me know, and I’ll try again a different way

  5. I’m yet another one of those whose brains go, “Welp, DONE!” if I plot in advance. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that to other people and their response is … dismissive, at best. The blog posts I’ve read that mention it are even worse, sometimes completely denying that I might have a point or that my brain might work differently than theirs.

    I usually have a sense of the whole story in my head – at the very least the beginning and a rough ending (Public Enemy No. 1 defeated, couple end up together, or similar) – but woe betide if I try to outline it.

  6. Every time I plot in advance, the characters take one look at the outline or sketch, laugh in my face, and go hightailing off in their own directions. The rat b-st-rds.

    As for 2022? I want to get to FoolzCon and LibertyCon, and to survive the spring semester with most of my remaining sanity still intact. The rest is gravy.

    1. That’s what mine do. “Oh, no. Nopenopenope. We’re not doing that. You can forget it old man, we’re going over there.”

      They’re lippy too. 😡

  7. We use To Do list for multiple purposes, shopping lists, task lists, notes, lists of serial numbers, tag/plate #s, paint color #s, etc.
    You can set up many lists, share lists with other users, (grocery lists are good this way, as we can both be shopping, and items will disappear from both lists when either of us checks it off).
    Keeping the rest of the world under control, or finding the time and spoons to actually DO the things on my lists, well that’s another issue. 🙂
    John in Indy

  8. I seem to write stories all out of order. If I get a scene in my head, I write it, and figure out where it goes later. Because if I don’t write it down, it won’t be there when I need it.

      1. When one word or action begets the next, that next word or action can’t happen until it’s spawned by the one before it, therefore has proper foundation. I’m that way about individual scenes (tho I write said scenes in complete lack of order). So I can understand having to lay your bricks in order, so to speak, for an entire work. It’s nothing to do with blueprints; it’s to do with everything building properly and fitting together correctly, and not getting off track.

        And I can’t just write garbage to make it go (in fact I’ve become convinced that’s mostly a counterproductive process that encourages paralyzing or machete revisions); it has to be right, and the right words, at least close enough to framework details onto when they develop.

        1. I can be paralyzed in an outline and unable to go on.

          (What I find helps is taking whatever I thought would happen next, and reversing it. That often works.)

    1. This. Totally. Never put off writing down what will be forgotten in ten minutes. It will never come to you again quite the same way.

      And pants? Hell no; I write commando.

      But I think I know what Sarah means… one word begets the next, and orphan scenes spawn entire books, but… the right words are already there, I just have to dig them out. Because once they’re HERE, I know them.

  9. Don’t forget to yell “Kreegah” or something similar as you charge 2022. That should distract it enough to give you a good start.

      1. Oooh, ooh, there’s one that was used in Texas…. ARgh, it’s what security yells on ship, kind of (MAKE A HOLE!!!) but in Gaelic….

        https://civilwartalk.com/threads/schoolkids-hear-the-irish-brigade-war-cries-many-decades-later.90886/
        On quizzing the students, the majority told him they heard the caroling near the sunken road now called Bloody Lane, a place made famous by the Union Irish Brigade, who suffered terrible losses in their charge there. When asked exactly what Christmas song they heard, they were united in saying “Deck the Halls” with its chorus of “fall-a-lalla-la.” It was then a light suddenly went on in the teacher’s brain: “Faugh a Ballagh!” was the war cry of the Irish Brigade—yet none of the students could have known that!

  10. I don’t make many “to do” lists anymore, because almost as soon as I finish writing one out, my sneaky subconscious utters an obscenity and kicks me into doing something that wasn’t on the list. Shopping lists I can handle. Mostly. Writing? Well, I can plan and plot the life out of a piece. For my best nonfiction writing, Ideas come in apparently random order and I rearrange them with a lot of snipping and pasting, until I’m satisfied. It’s a bit tougher when I’m attempting fiction.

  11. I used to write To Do lists and then go and do ten different things that I had “forgotten” to write down. Result at the end of the day was misery… I didn’t get anything done! Now I write everything on the list that I did do and then check it off.

    Also, what is the origin of the pantsing phrase? I thought it was doing stuff by the seat so the pants but my son said I had to stop saying I was a pantser. He said it gave him visions of someone running around pantsing people — whoop, surprise! –here’s what happens next! He’s not sure that’s what I’m trying to say.

    1. Comes from the “flying by the seat of your pants” phrase.

      Amused at the mental connection, though; FWIW, I know people who object to the word “apologetics” applied to religious discussions because there’s nothing to apologize for. 😀

  12. I kinda hate my process.

    It offends my sensibilities to be so erratic, fussy, and needing to be driven by something that I can’t calculate out by hand.

    But, considering the failures with every other way that I have tried, ‘works’ has to be enough.

  13. Heh, this is something else I can relate to… My mind eventually starts skipping over individual things on grocery lists so I always ended up forgetting things anyway. I eventually just did away with them for normal shopping, though that doesn’t help with forgetting things I know I need. Sometimes it takes two or three days before I remember to pick that thing up, though! No wonder I have trouble with anything beyond my vignette contributions… I still feel completely blocked on anything novel-length and still find the idea of pulling it off myself to be completely absurd and laughable, much less pulling one off that’s actually readable. Not sure what it’s going to take to get to that point.

  14. Grocery lists are easy to make. We have list pads with a magnet on the back stuck on the refrigerator and a pen on the top. Whenever one of us thinks of something or we open (_not_ finish) the last of something, it goes on the list. Remembering to take the list to the store is trickier. The list is also just the must-have set. Anything that catches attention in the store is fair game. “An additional staple for the pantry or something on sale for the freezer” is not written down because that is always “on the list”.
    Our new kitchen will (eventually, the wait time for cabinets is ridiculous) have a tall, narrow cabinet next to the refrigerator (to move that away from the wall). Getting to the back of it will be inconvenient, at best. That’s where all the in case emergency canned and dry goods are going to live.
    Or maybe it will become a broom closet so we don’t find out – during the emergency – that all the food expired 10 years ago. A non-trivial number of cans were thrown out during the move. I don’t really like canned vegetables to begin with. I had no desire to pack and move cans that had a Best Used By date in 2006. Clearly a process is needed; perhaps a list…

    1. Every December – Jan, I do my very best to not buy anything when grocery shopping except milk and eggs. Everything else comes out of the pantries and the freezer.

      Now, part of this is I’m so peopled out that I don’t want to shop, because people. Part of it is I have so many things going on the time spent shopping would be much better spent elsewhere. A large part of it is that I do a yearly inventory of the food reserves, including sticking a sticker on each item, so I know at a glance when it entered the kitchen. (To the year.) So I’m motivated to use up all the one-offs rather than having to catalog them when I get to that shelf…

      But a large motivator is also to turn over the pantry stock, so I don’t lay hands on anything shoved to the back and forgotten for 5 years. After all, if I physically lay not just eyes but hands on everything, then when I’m casting about for food ideas, I have it in the mental inventory of possible items to use.

      And it also drives down the year-end/year-start grocery budget, and provides me with a way to be a little more creative. “Wait, how did I accumulate all these spice mixes? How can I use this, and this, and this, and this over the next couple weeks? Won’t use any of them up, but I can give it a good run!”

  15. I’m finding I write like this too. If I write anything about a scene, it’s done and that is the scene. And, even though I think them up out of order, if I write the end first, it’s done. I’m having to start at the beginning, and keep going until it is done, or it is done.

    Had two weird fanfic around the same time. One of them I wrote the beginning and the ending, but not the middle, and even though I have a basic idea how the muddle should go, it just doesn’t feel that interesting keeping it going.

    The other one, even though I know roughly how it wraps up, I didn’t actually write any of that down yet. I just started at a beginning and kept going. Actually, that wasn’t even the beginning; it was late in the thing I was originally thinking, but it morphed into a cold open, and just went tearing off into left field and hasn’t stopped since.

    And that’s the one that’s keeping me up until two in the morning trying to get it all on paper before I lose the threads…

    1. And that ending I thought I had, just spontaneously rewrote itself…

      The themes weren’t meshing. That because I was leaning on the wrong ones.

      And why isn’t this character doing anything? That’s not like them at all. Well, clearly they did X, which means it must be because of Y, which implies Z, which means C can’t happen. Oh… oh dear.

      Wait, Z fits better with the themes shift, though… We’re going in a different direction now, aren’t we?

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