Monthly Archives: November 2014

NaNoWriMo: How I (almost) Wrote A Novel

This year, I took place in Nanowrimo, the month-long writing contest that doesn’t fail to turn November into an even more interesting month than usual.  The objective is to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch (outlining and planning are allowed, however) in a month.

Early on this past Thursday afternoon (Thanksgiving) I cashed in my chips verified my word count, because I started to get anxiety that if I didn’t do it right then I would either forget to do it over the weekend, or the file would get corrupted, or my laptop would die or any other unlikely – though possible (and unfortunately, some even repeatable from the past) – scenarios that would result in me not winning or, more importantly, losing the work that I have become so close and attached to over the last 20-something days. Yeah, I have come to regard the novel as something tangible, something I can get attached to. Weird…

My downloadable winner's certificate

My downloadable winner’s certificate. Boyfriend spelled “unnamed” wrong, LOL

So I verified it and was declared a winner. Now, the reason I hadn’t verified it sooner – and would have continued to delay, were it not for the previously mentioned anxiety – is that though I have crossed the 50,000 word threshold, it doesn’t feel complete.

Besides the obvious editing for both grammar and continuity issues, there is so much more description that I would like to get into that I feel I have barely scratched the surface of. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three scenes that I would have liked to include. Some are so specific, right down to what sign was on the wall, the expression of a character’s face, but I figured that to delve so deep into one scene when I had a whole plot to unfold would just – I don’t know – slow me down.

It’s hard to explain; on the one hand, I knew that I preferably wanted to write the 50,000 words, just to prove to myself I could, but on the other hand I wanted to make sure the story in my head was told.  And deep down I realize that for the tale to truly be told, if I want to do my characters justice – not to mention my parallel universe – it would take at least double that many words (who am I kidding; probably even more than that.).  The thing is, I’m not willing to make that commitment, at least at the moment.  I have too many other interests and/or responsibilities.  And it’s not just that; I can’t focus on just one project,  I just get bored or something like that that is so hard to articulate.

It’s not the writing itself either. I celebrated when I first hit 50,000 words by taking a break from the novel and …writing, and it felt so incredibly good to be writing about something because wanted to, not had to.  I even came up with numerous ideas for short stories and novels.  I love writing, I was just so over dedicating all of my writing time and effort to that novel.

Perhaps I lack maturity; perhaps I’m commitment-phobic. I still would like to see the novel completed. But since I technically verified the word count and won’t I feel like I have no deadline. So I may just procrastinate as I tend to do. That’s the reason I decided to even enter in the first place; with a deadline I thought surely I would complete the novel. And I did, a very bare-bones at times and detailed at others version of it.

When I first started writing the novel, I did so in a goal-oriented frenzy (some days writing 6 or 7,000 words) that can only mean one thing: there will be a burnout period. And yes,predictably, the day after I hit 50,000 I did not write a single word for the novel for several days. I even started to fear that I would not return to it ever and I don’t know what made me return to it at all: the desire to bring my story to life or the fear that it was either now or never. At the same time, I’ve grown to care about what happens to my characters, and the world I’ve created. Such an odd last few weeks…

When I had a clear defined goal, it was easier to just make myself get it done.  Afterwards, I just felt overwhelmed. It’s like there’s so much potential but I just can’t make myself focus and channel all my energy in only one direction.  And deep down, I worry that I may prefer unfinished projects; after all, every story I have ever created has not had an ending, just an endless combination of convoluted plot lines and complex characters.

My novel doesn’t even have a freaking title! That’s how indecisive (or whatever word is more appropriate) I am.

Ragardless, though, I won! That’s so cool. I do feel like I accomplished something, though not necessarily all I had set out to do. Unfortunately, I can tend towards an overachieving perfectionism at times, which causes me more frustration than anything else. Still working on it…

Wednesday Class; Some Exciting News!

A few weeks ago Teacher had announced that she will be teaching both beginning and intermediate level ballet next semester, back to back. So today, as I lingered after class to purchase a new theraband – away from other classmates prying ears (LOL) – I casually asked her if I could take both. And she said yes!

I was beside myself with excitement, but I kept my exterior cool demeanor – yay, introverts and our “powers” of Keeping Calm on the outside!  But I seriously wanted to do a little happy dance or something.  She said I need another semester before doing only intermediate, but that’s more than ok with me.  It’ll be two hour and a half classes in a row with a 10 minute snack break in between – 3 hours of ballet!  The best part is that it’s not on the days of my wednesday class (or else there’d be a time conflict), so I can continue going there too.

Up until the part when she said yes I had been worried she was going to laugh and say “You’ve got to be kidding!” or something along those lines…I had actually been putting off asking for that reason for a while now…

morning class

It was slightly less cold today, so my joints were not revolting as much as they have been the last couple weeks.

With the exception of our first combination (plies) we did both sides without stopping, by switching with soutenus.  Teacher also had us balance in first position releve, let go of the barre, cross over to sous-sus and then soutenu several times without holding the barre.

A new combination for tendues that involved 2 regular tendues then tendu to plie in 4th when going front and back, and in second when tenduing a la seconde with a brand new port de bra that involved the arm up in high fifth when returning back from the plie was challenging the first time through, fun tehe second.

We did 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 degages without the barre only today – no “practice” run through holding the barre – and afterward (also barre-less) 8 echappe releves, with a balance in the final echappe releve. My balance was actually pretty good today, way less shaky.

During our really fast tendus with piques (4 quick tendus, 8 piques) en croix, Teacher said “Good timing!”. Yay! Unfortunately, even though last semester Strict Teacher was really on us for our posture, this semester I keep finding myself sway-backing and get reminded/corrected on this often. I really need to stop standing in a “stick out your butt” kind of way at all times, not just ballet class, to get rid of this habit…

My fondues into releve were much better today. Still can’t balance on releve with no hands on the barre when my leg is outstretched in front or behind me, but today I was able to raise up much easier than on monday.  I made sure to squeeze my core so I wouldn’t tilt towards the barre when my leg was in front or away from the barre when my leg was in arabesque.

For center, we used a nice slow waltz for our 4 balancé, step into arabesque, pas de bourree, passe releve balance (optional pirouette), other side combination.  The slower tempo made it much more possible to stay on timing and it was so fun.  I’m still just working on the passe releve balance for now, since my pirouette still only goes around about halfway (see, why I was worried Teacher would laugh at the idea of me in intermediate; an “intermediate” student who can’t pirouette and still (occasionally) falls out of (two-legged) balances, not to mention my unpointed changements and soubresouts).

The echappe, echappe, saut de chat, soubresout, saut de chat, changement, other side, combination was faster today, and pretty much the whole class was lost the first time through. The second time through was much better, though.

Pique turns to the right are coming along, and I’m starting to get comfortable with spotting and doing them one right after another. To the left they are slower and I still pause in between each one.  My passe/retire position with my left leg up is not as open as with my right leg up – for whatever reason my left hip is tighter and won’t open as much – so my pique turns to the left don’t look as nice as the ones to the right. I’m hoping the theraband turnout exercises will eventually even out my leg turnout discrepancy.

evening class

Looks like tonight I didn’t make it in to evening class. Several out-ot-town friends were in town and I ended up helping them make – and eat – delicious foods and drinking hard cider.  And I wasn’t even sure if we were having class tonight for sure anyway…

Fun Monday Class, But The Cold Hurts!

Another fun class day! Teacher reminded us that after this there are only 3 more classes for the semester (this wednesday and next monday and wednesday) and then our final. So sad 😦 !

Once again, the cold was causing me to feel stiff, especially my bad ankle (not the left one that I sprained last July (which is doing great, like new); the right one that I hurt in a car accident 3 years ago).  As soon as I was warmed up it felt fine, and continued to feel fine throughout class – so much that I didn’t even remember that I have issues with it.  Due to the cold (excuses, excuses, LOL) I left my little warm up sweater on the whole class, and I felt so much more comfortable with my body – and by body I mean chest.  If I’d known all along this was what it takes I would have just gotten a warm up sweater the day I got my very first leotard!

At barre, after doing our rond de jambe and fondue combination, the second time around we were to fondue into releve. So instead of just fonduing and straightening our legs (the working leg en l’air), we also releve’d on our supporting leg. Now, I’ve been working on my passe releve from coupe at home, so I thought ‘Oh, I’ve got this’ but it was not as easy as it looked (well, duh, it’s ballet ); apparently the added challenge of straightening my leg away from my body made it so much harder to go up in releve. At least the first time through, by the second time it was a bit better.  Was not able to balance in the releve arabesque (arms in third arabesque) and definitely not in whatever it would be called when you’re in releve with the other leg stretched out in front of you (arms also in third arabesque).

I’m not feeling discouraged, oddly enough; I know I’m a slowish learner and it took me months and months to build up the strength to even passe releve – and that was facing the “barre” (at home, the barre is a countertop or the wall).  Today we did our releve arabesques with one hand on the barre, so it’s expected that it’d be harder.  It felt really fun, though, the beautiful coordinated folding and unfolding movements that look – when done correctly – so balletish (balletic?).

Teacher said that my cambres back are looking “Much better!”. I’ve been really focusing on not scrunching my neck but feeling like I’m pulling my head both up and out as my back bends. It is somewhat challenging, and the first time it felt so foreign. I’m one of those people who tends to look down or hold their head down somewhat – though not in ballet class, more like the rest of the time outside of class – so perhaps the muscles in my neck had not been getting an all-day workout before.  Even though in ballet class I try to hold my head up high, as soon as I leave the studio I continue to catch myself looking down.

In center, after we worked on our usual balancé combination – which I can do well at a slower tempo, quickly not so well – Teacher introduced a new jump.  The first time I head her say it, I thought she said Supersoak and I was thinking ‘Like the early 90’s water gun with a refillable tank you strap on your back?’. But no, it was actually soubresaut, which is a jump from fifth in which the feet don’t change but come together in the air (like a sous-sus mid-air).

The combination was 2 echappes with changement, saut de chat, soubresout, saut de chat, changement, other side.  The good news is I finished with the correct foot in front. The bad news is my soubresauts and changements look terrible: flexed feet in the air (or at least not as pointed as I can), not crossing over on changements.  It was fun though, and I really enjoyed the saut de chats – which actually looked somewhat decent. Also,  I was not panting or out of breath at all; in fact, I was ready for another round. Yay, newfound stamina!

My sautes continue to improve.  Today after the first run through of sautes, Teacher said we were going to do them again to a slower timing, which made some of the more experienced students groan (the rest of us are too new to know a difference).  Apparently done slower they are more of a thight workout, and it may be true because by the end my thighs burned – but in a good way!

Today Teacher broke down pique turns for those of us that had never officially been taught how to do them.  She said to take our leg and sort of rond de jambe it out then passe releve onto it and turn.  I went with the newer students and we went nice and slow, rather than connecting the turns into a series (like chaînes).  Spotting with pique turns is still tricky for me, but I’m working on it.

Pique turns are way easier than pirouettes, in my experience. It could just be that I like the across the floor part of center…

Wednesday Classes, Dancing In The Now

In order to not hit traffic (which increases by the minute, it seems) and be late, I usually leave home for ballet class fairly early, which means that I then get to sit in my car in the parking lot for about 45 minutes waiting for Teacher to arrive and open the studio.  Not one to waste time, I use that time for eating my breakfast and, unless I have to study, reading a book.  My latest read falls into the “motivational/self-help” category, and as I sat there reading and shoveling slices of plantain in my mouth, the words I was reading really hit home. I had a realization, an epiphany, you might say: if all we have is now, then it’s pointless to be concerned or obsessed about the “future” – or the past for that matter . In other words, applying it to ballet: dance because you’re loving it in the Now, feeling it in the Now, living it in the Now, not just dreams and wishes of future improvement (though it may still happen!), with “if only’s” and regrets,  with thoughts of “one day I’ll be good enough”, or with memories of past failures (hello, first ballet semester!).

No, I’m going to do it because I enjoy it, because I love it! How lucky I am to get to be doing something I love to do. I felt so grateful for even having the opportunity. So with those thoughts fresh in my mind, I happily walked to class.

morning class

Today we did promenade (which means to walk) at barre, after we did our developpe derriere. It basically involved keeping our leg out in arabesque, and then raising up on our toes – just a little, not a full releve – and somehow turning in a series of little up-down up-down movements.  It was my first time ever, ever, ever attempting to do this move, so I know it looked a little clumsy – ok, a lot clumsy. I started out with my leg in a nice arabesque position and then by the time I had completed my turn it was either way lower than when I’d started or not directly behind me or bent slightly.  Don’t know how far I’ll get on practicing this one at home, either; the floor in my apartment, though wood, is not as slick as the floor in the studio.

My petit battements still need work. It’s so hard to keep the knee still while swinging the lower part of the leg in and out, alternating front and back.  My First Teacher had taught us a similar move, also done immediately after frappes, but it involved a flexed foot instead.  I wonder if they’re similar moves, just different styles of ballet? Regarless, I’ll bet they’re a great thigh workout!

Today I also soutenued without holding the barre several times! I was pretty excited. And then, while holding a balance after 8 plie releves with arms in high fifth, Teacher came by and said “Now lean forward slightly, it’ll feel like you’re going to fall forward but you won’t,” So I leaned and she was right!

In center, I was watching the mirror when we did two changements, echappe, two more changements, echappe, etc. and it did not look right at all! Since my sautes have gotten so much better, I’m thinking it may be as much of a multitasking problem as it is a lack of being in shape problem.  If I could have the studio to myself I would practice them obsessively in slow motion (or in sets of 4 at a time or something), so I could get used to how it feels without the added stress of timing… or people watching me bounce.

The 4 balances, step to arabesque, pas de bourree, passe releve (optional pirouette), other side combination continues to come along, looking more graceful, fluid and dancey.  The passe releves are getting more and more stable every day. If we have the passe releve pirouette combination in evening class I think I may finally go for that elusive en dehors pirouette.

We also revisited the 3 grand battements (front, right leg), passe releve and bring foot down behind, 3 grand battements (front, left leg) passe releve and bring foot down behind,  3 grand battement derriere (left leg), passe releve and bring foot to front, 3 grand battemnts derriere (right leg), passe releve.  The passe releves, especially on my left supporting leg, felt stable but I’m still working on really “kicking” my leg up  without feeling thrown off balance.

Chaines went well.  There is not so much of a discrepancy between my stronger side and my weaker side as there was in the beginning of the semester. In fact, at times I even find myself forgetting which is my weak side which is awesome.  For me a lot of things are mental, and if I psych myself out by thinking “This is my bad side” before starting it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve been making a more concious effort to not put too much thought into it!

It’s funny, because one of the other girls – my “partner” for critiquing the balance combination – and I were talking about chaines and our weak side. She said she can turn better to the right, but she’s left handed; I (usually) turn better to the left, but write right handed.  It cheered me up to know that at least one other person is “backwards” when it comes to stronger side vs. dominant hand. It really irritates me how I have this big hang up about not wanting to be the “only one” that is a certain way, though. It’s irrational, and I know some other people (like Boyfriend) are the opposite; they want to be “unique”.  I still have so much to learn about maturity…

evening class

We had a sub today. No, not that sub, my ex-classmate from my first semester, of that horrible class two months ago.  This sub happened to be one of the studio’s owners and she was awesome! Lot’s of explanations, interesting barre combinations, really supportive and friendly vibe and absolutely no pressure yet encouragement.  I would definitely take more classes with her.

We did fondues at the barre (a rare thing in evening class) and not just any fondues but the kind in which the foot doesn’t touch the floor at any point after it has left the ground from the initial fondu.  My favorite kind!  I really need to find out if there’s a name for this particular kind of fondu… Anyway, that was really fun, and I liked feeling it in my supporting leg – and my turnout muscles as we held an extremely long passe releve after fonduing (fondueing?) en croix both en dedans and en dehors.

I successfully soutenued with  no hands on the barre a few times times (well, technically 4 times, if we want to get specific.). Keep this up and I may call it consistent!

In center, after chaînesing (look, I learned how to put the little accent thing on the “i”!) in both direction, Owner Teacher announced pique turns. Awesome! I’ve been practicing them at home hoping that I’ll get the green light to do them in morning class some day, so it was really cool to have the opportunity to practice then in an area bigger than my living room. Today I discovered that, unlike chaînes, my left side is not my good side. The pique turns to the right were not bad, but on the ones to the left I felt unstable and forgot to keep spotting.  I will practice more, but it was so fun. I love the feeling of turning – well, when I remember to spot, that is.

Oh, and if anyone wants to read about The Other Sub, here’s some links (yes I’m aware there’s a better way to link involving clicking on the text in the post; WordPress hasn’t let that function work on my browser since, like, 3 months ago. Sorry.:

The Class

The Aftermath

Cold Monday Morning Class

So cold in the morning, glad I just got one of those little flimsy dance warm-up sweaters! It looks like it wouldn’t keep anything warm, but when you’re freezing it does the job.

Little warm-up sweater. Remember, staying warm is about not letting the body's heat escape, not about the sweater providing heat.

Little warm-up sweater. Remember, staying warm is about not letting the body’s heat escape, not about the sweater providing heat.

Today, at barre, Teacher brought up a correction that I hadn’t received before – though now I realize that I’ve probably been needing it for a while: when I cambre back I scrunch my neck. Teacher said “Don’t keep your neck scrunched!” but I was having a hard time understanding what she meant until she got hands-on with me.  I like how at community college ballet classes the teachers are hands-on when necessary. Nothing scary, like the stories I hear about hitting a fallen elbow with a ruler, or slapping the side of your face if you’re not spotting correctly (!), or anything like that, just a good hands-one placement correction.  I think all my best corrections have involved some physical placing, sometimes spoken verbal learning and I just don’t mix.

After class I asked Teacher if there where any exercises I could do for the neck scrunching problem. She suggested that I put my hand behind my neck and then practice putting my head back, feeling the head go back and out at the same time.  The upper back/neck area is an area I carry a lot of tension in – my bra straps, especially my sport bras, kill me – so I’m going to be working on this area some more.

When we did our leg-on-the-barre stretches, today for the first time I used the higher barre! Well, only when putting up my right leg, the left was feeling just a bit too tight.  It felt kind of cool to have my leg up so high for once!

We passe releve’d at barre a lot today, as well as did longer barre combinations involving lots of releves. We also did both sides of some barre combinations without stopping in between, by doing soutenu turns to switch sides.  Luckily, we were allowed to hold the barre; I’ve technically done soutenus without hands before – with arms in high fifth, even – but it’s not a move that I’m confident about yet.

In center, for our 4 balance step, arabesque, pas de bourree, passe releve (or pirouette), other side combination, Teacher divided us into two groups, and assigned us a “partner” in the other group to watch us and let us know if there were any obvious corrections we needed. My partner told me that other than the arms when doing the passe releve – going from arms in third (prepare) to middle fifth (when up in passe releve) to arms in second (when preparing to do other side) – it was looking good!

These partner critique things are a somewhat nerve-wracking – it’s necessary to use lots of tact, I think.  There’s such a fine line between constructive crticism and just criticism sometimes.  I’d hate to go really hard on critiquing someone who’s only been ballet-ing for a few weeks, especially about center work.  It’s not necessarily about doing it incorrectly because you don’t know better, but more like not being able to hold your balance. So I focus more on things like hands (no “broken wrists”) or fallen elbows.

My passe releves are getting stronger and more stable every day.  I’ve been able to hold balances of varying lengths, as well as bring the foot from the back (from fourth) to passe, and then back in fifth.  My right leg standing left leg in passe side is still my stronger side for this move, but my weaker side is coming along too.

Sautes were looking pointy, but still not quite right.  There are so many intricacies to sautes, sometimes I wonder if the only way to get them right is to have been doing them since childhood.  If it’s not the lack of foot pointing, it’s that the feet land too far apart. If the feet land together in first, then they were wrong by coming closer in midair.  If all the distances are correct then the timing is off. If I land all the way down in plie, then I sound like a crashing elephant, but if I try to land lightly I feel like I’m not putting my heels all the way down. Arrgh, so frustrating sometimes!

The good news is that I’m consistenly landing in plie between jumps, pointing my feet, and definitely not running out of breath, even after multiple sets of 16 soutes. Progress is good…

Only two and a half weeks left in the semester. Then I’ll be down to one class a week (plus home practice) for a little while until the next semester starts. Unless I can find a different class to join, something not over an hour away otherwise inaccessible.

My New Shoes!

Haha, that's not my shoe! It's the free keychain that came with one of the pairs of shoes.

Haha, that’s not my shoe! It’s the free keychain that came with one of the pairs of shoes.

This past monday, since there was no school (ballet class or otherwise) for me, I took the opportunity to  make the long-anticipated 2-hour-plus drive to the Big City to check out a dancewear store. So much to see! 3 hours of rummaging  and trying things on later I came out with 2 pairs of shoes, some leotards, and a few other goodies.  This post will focus on the shoes; more to come on my other finds later.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about trying out split-sole shoes.  On the day that I forgot my shoes for evening class I had the opportunity to try out some cloth split-sole shoes and I really liked how the arch is way more apparent.  When I got my first pair of ballet shoes back when I started ballet I knew nothing about ballet shoes – or ballet, for that matter – so I had just gone with the first thing that fit. Actually, I have a confession: my first ballet shoes came from Payless Shoes, not a real dance store! To be fair, at the time I had no idea that I would still be doing ballet this much time later.

It’s about time that I got some “official” ballet shoes (tangent: is it pretentious or just plain innacurate to refer to them as “shoes” rather than “slippers”? Is the term “shoes” reserved for pointe shoes? Are both terms actually interchangeable?).  Also, for a while now I’ve been wondering, is it me or is it the shoes. (Answer: A little from column A, a little from column B)


Anyway, at the dance store I picked up 2 pairs of these shoes, by Sansha. The store had a pair of each size to try on, so I didn’t open the pairs I actually got until I was home.

Brand-new clean shoe!

Brand-new clean shoe!

Bottom view - split-soles!

Bottom view – split-soles!

The first thing I was struck by – besides how pristine and clean and pink they were – was the fact that the elastics were not sewed (sewn?).

Unsewn elastics

Unsewn elastics

I told Boyfriend “Look! The elastics, you have to sew them yourself! These shoes are legit!”

And he’s says, “Wait, it’s a good thing that the elastics are not sewn? Isn’t that, like, bad craftmanship or something?”

“No! It means they’re real ballet shoes! These shoes are for reals!” I seriously couldn’t get over the fact that I now own some real ballet shoes from a real dance shoe manufacturer (which looking back now seems kind of a dumb thing to get over-excited about. Ballet tends to make me giddy and regress my age by about 25 years. Whatever.).

So while I was thrilled with the new shoes, then came the challenge of actually sewing the elastics.

My sorry excuse for a sewing kit

My sorry excuse for a sewing kit

I used safety pins to pin where I thought the elastics should go, all the while hoping that I wouldn’t stab my foot or something.  Boyfriend suggested I use a Sharpie to mark off on the elastic where I need to sew, but I didn’t want to risk staining the shoes before I’d even worn them. That would’ve majorly sucked.

Safety pins near foot, perhaps not the wisest idea...

Safety pins near foot, perhaps not the wisest idea…

My final sewing job was not perfect, but I was really eager to get these on my feet and practice in them. So I may have rushed it a bit. It did not help that even though I was all “Yay, I’m sewing elastics like a “real” ballet student! LOL, at the same time I was in a hurry since rather than responsibly sewing them the night before I forgot and and had to rush through it before practicing time. I’m still not sure if I sewed them right, and Boyfriend said they look lopsided. But they are staying on my feet, so that’s the important part, I think (I hope?).

I wore the shoes to wednesday evening class. Compared to the thick leather (possibly pleather?) material of my last shoes, it felt like there was nothing between my foot and the floor. But not the same as being barefoot, either. So odd at first, but then I’ve just grown so used to my last shoes, and will probably continue to use them as well. For now I’m mostly going to use the new ones and see how I’m feeling about it by next class on monday.

Even if I decide that I prefer my original slippers, at least now I can say that I’ve tried them and sometimes it’s the opportunity that matters. The choice.

All done!

All done!

And I really like how they came with this little mesh bag for storing them, or taking them to class! Super cute and convenient.

I'm in love with these new shoes!

  “Real” ballet shoes have their pros!