The Plan, Part I

So it’s been more than two weeks since I completed my last big non-writing project , and I am starting to feel like a writer again, going back into essays, notes, messy chapters and deepening my relationship to this story of my grandfather and grandmother and me.

During those short, sporadic writing spurts throughout the summer and early fall, before running off to teach a workshop, I would spend the first several minutes reacquainting myself with the piece, trying to remember where I had left off. Why did I print this essay? What was I doing? Why am I here? It was like walking into a room, certain I had a purpose in being there, but having no idea what it was.

Yesterday I spent the morning reworking an essay about the quiet in my grandmother’s house after she died and another about all I wished I could give my grandpa to comfort him in her absence. There is little I will end up using from the house essay. I have said it better in another piece. The Grandpa piece is on the right track. I didn’t know this yesterday morning while I was writing or even yesterday afternoon when I had finished. I knew it when I woke up this morning because I printed out both pieces and re-read them just before going to bed. I knew it because I am, once again, living with this story and its characters. I knew it the same way I know that K. won’t wear shorts, even during the hottest time of the year, even to bed as pajamas; the same way I know that P. would rather have five dollars of allowance money to spend now than seven dollars to save for later; the way I know that Henry will almost always say yes to ice cream. I know because we live together, because we are part of each other’s day-to-day lives, because we pay attention.

It feels good to know again.

There are some things I want you to know about the writing of this book, how I plan to finish, what I need in order to get it done, and how we might all celebrate when I do.

First, a pledge.

I will:

  • write every day (except Christmas) during the month of December.
  • have a messy draft of Vessels by January 1.
  • spend the first month of 2011 revising.
  • send the book out in early February.
  • not eat chocolate until the book is done.

Yes, you read that correctly. As of this blog post, I, Karen Michelle Otero, will not eat (or drink) chocolate until I finish my book.

When I first posted this idea on Facebook, a number of you expressed your concern:

Isn’t that a bit extreme?

I thought chocolate was a requisite to finishing the book.

You must have a limitless well of courage.

Oh No! Chocolate is a powerful anti-oxidant and brain food- you might deprive yourself of the inspiration that chocolate provides!

I am Catholic. As long as I can remember, I have made a sacrifice for Lent. In junior high, Monica Gonzales and I gave up gum. Every lunch period, she and I walked to the lunch carts and bought a pack that we saved in my sock drawer until that glorious Easter when we opened every pack and evenly divided the booty, which lasted each of us well into summer vacation. This year, I gave up sweets.

I do not have a limitless well of courage, but I do like the idea of focus, of eliminating distraction in order to sharpen my commitment to a goal. I also like the idea of reward, of celebrating the sweetness of victory with the breaking of a fast. This is why I love Lent and Easter, why I love the structure of a semester of school, followed by vacation, of a hard day’s work followed by happy hour.

I would like you to join me in working toward the completion of my book. A friend from Santa Fe has vowed to go chocolate-free with me until I finish. I realize this is a huge sacrifice and could never live with the pressure of depriving my dearest friends and supporters of chocolate, so don’t freak out, this post has not been building toward that kind of request.

Maybe you want to write in your journal every day. Maybe you are training for a 5K. Maybe you’ve been wishing you read more poetry or cooked more at home or had a monthly budget. Maybe you just need a place to send some good energy on a daily basis. Let’s do it together. It’s easy. Just post a comment with your pledge, something you can commit to for the next two months. We can use this blog to encourage one another and keep track of our progress. And then we can celebrate with a chocolate pachanga in February.

P.S. If you don’t live in Albuquerque, no problem. You can have your own chocolate–or 5K or poetry or home-cooked meal–party wherever you are. We can even post some photos on the blog!

Read “The Plan, Part II” on Tuesday, December 7.

Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. UMMMM- You pose an interesting challenge, Michelle. So what goal do I have that I would be so committed to give up my absolute favorite things. I do think it is courageous to give up your absolute favorite thing. When I did a shoulder stand in yoga this morning, my belly slumped downward towards my lungs, like a big blob of bread dough perfectly kneaded, and I thought- damn- I need to lose about 5 to 10 pounds so I can finally get into that crow position. But what would I have to do to lose 10 pounds by February amiga so we could celebrate with chocolate- exercise more? stop drinking wine, giving up chocolate (no problem there- don’t usually hardly ever eat it although I love it)-but wine- whoa- I’m not sure. I will need to ponder what to do to lose this weight that feels like it is holding me back somehow. Stay tuned and I will let you know what I come up with.

  2. I commit to write every day, be it in my journal or poetry or Mama Tortilla or any other stories. Beginning tonight, I WILL write every day and send you good energy.

    ¡Hasta la victoria!
    Andrea the Poet (not to be confused with Andrea the Chicken, qepd)

  3. I have been in emotional and physical doldrums for a very long time. Like Andrea the Poet, I commit to write–journal, poems, manic urgent narratives–every day in December.
    More important, and v. difficult to write here: I will get out of bed every day in December and get dressed. This is the real commitment. Thanks, Michelle.

  4. I want to thank you very much for your words of wisdom you gave me an inspiring book writer. I to will pledge to, how did you put it… oh yeah, Write! I can’t say that I will finish at the same time as you, but I will, Write!
    Muchas Gracias

  5. Good for you Michelle. I love goals. I will also do something creative everyday. Luckily I’ve had an abundance of creativity lately and have been sketching.
    I vow to do something creative daily for an unknown period of time.
    I want to vow to exercise daily but can vow to be more consistent.

    • Maybe we can vow to exercise once we’ve got this creativity thing on track. 🙂

  6. I’ll write music every day. Maybe I’ll even finish some.

  7. I will wash my dishes every night!!!

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