Carrie v. Monday


This is what I feel like doing today.

Instead, I am having one of those exquisitely Mondayish days. And Monday is winning. Damn you, Monday! The hours are cruising past while I blither away at apparently endless and infinitely finicky odds and ends that must be done somehow by someone and soon. I’m telling you, spreadsheets are involved.

“This is the most disappointing advent we’ve ever had,” said one of the children this morning.

And I’ll admit, I have not found a good way to fill those little slots with daily seasonal activities, despite having an envelope full of ideas in my office. We had the “candy cane meltdown” last week, wherein a slip of paper promised candy canes we proved not to have. We’ve had way too much hot chocolate for breakfast. The Christmas decorations never got made. The snowflakes for the front window did, but remain as clutter on the dining-room table. And for the past two mornings, the children have found nothing in their advent calendar. Nothing. Serious seasonal fail.

I should at least write on a slip of paper, “Make toast!” or “Pet the dogs!” I think the kids would prefer that over nothing. They might even prefer to imagine that we’re going to do activities that I know in advance we won’t have time for, such as “Bake cookies!” or “Go skating!”

All of which is to say that this Monday finds me quite entirely overwhelmed by the details of the season. Who has bought gifts for whom? What’s our budget? What’s happening when? Can we split childcare over the holidays? Is everyone happy? Will everyone be happy? I know, I do, that it will all come together, and that the time I’ve spent today will help make it so, but oh, this is tedious.

Meanwhile, the novel waits patiently (or maybe not so patiently; I’m pretty sure the novel has the bit in its 210-pages-of-teeth and is begging me to gallop for the finish line. But listen, novel, we’ll just have to go back to the beginning and start the race all over again, so, really, what’s your hurry?). I hear, from a novelist much more experienced than I am, that I should look into Scrivener, a program that helps keep track of all the book’s bits and pieces. Unlike Word, which makes me feel like I’m composing one insanely long drawn-out thought that may have completely gone off the rails way back when and is missing several dozen terribly important pieces but I can’t stop now and must simply forge ahead til I reach the end. Writers out there — thoughts? (Also, it occurs to me that I could really use a Scrivener-like-program to organize my entire life. Talk about bits and pieces.)

Pulling teeth
The ten-minute post


  1. Tudor

    Using Scrivener has changed my (writing) life! To me a full-length novel in Word has always felt totally out of control and unmanageable and, in the past, I’ve contemplated printing out the entire thing and physically laying the chapters on the floor so I could move them around and rearrange them.

    Scrivener lets you do all that electronically. It keeps your work in control. It makes edits less daunting because when you write something in Chapter 30 that contradicts something you wrote in Chapter 12, it’s easy to find the first bit and change it.

    Scrivener helps me keep my writing brain organized…

    • Carrie Snyder

      That’s a good endorsement, Tudor! What I’m doing right now is keeping a spreadsheet of info. After each chapter, I write up all the tiny details, loose ends, etc., and put them into the spreadsheet. It’s helping, but it’s unwieldy and awkward. And does nothing to help me with the inevitable rearranging of sections that is to come.

      A question: can I import my text from Word into Scrivener?

    • Tudor

      Although I don’t use it that way, I’m positive you can. You can also “compile” from Scrivener into Word. The way I’m using it these days, is I get back my revisions from my editor in Word and then I import them into Scrivener chapter by chapter – working on each chapter as I go. That really gives me a concrete feeling of how far I’ve come in my revisions.

      I’ve only scratched the surface of what Scrivener can do but a couple of good things – it has a “Notes” section so whenever something comes to mind I quickly click on Notes and jot it down, referencing the relevant chapter. You can also do a “Corkboard” view so that all your chapters appear as file cards on a corkboard and you can just drag and move them into a different order.

      Revising used to really overwhelm me just because of the sheer organizational challenge but now I find my only worry is the actual writing 🙂

  2. Margo

    My co-worker told me this morning that there are 2 weeks until Christmas. Whaaaaaa? Freaking out – I’ve barely scratched the surface of Christmas feelings and activities! My kids and i keep forgetting to do the Advent calendar in the mornings. Humph.

  3. AlisonG

    I’ll put in another good word for Scrivener.

    I love how it lets you divide the manuscript into pieces, jump around and work on different things at different times. It’s really helped me to think about structure — how a book should unfold in sections. It also organizes extra-textual notes (I have character sketches and setting descriptions, for example). And it lets you have two windows open at a time, a feature that I use when I’m rewriting or drafting from notes.

    You can import text from Word into Scrivener, but you will have to do the “dividing up into scenes” work yourself. Might be a good job to start that with your next rewrite.

    One recommendation: do the tutorial! It takes a while but it makes the learning curve a lot flatter and less frustrating.

  4. Kate T.

    Is planning advent activities something you would consider outsourcing to your kids? Like, giving them a tiny budget and a time limit per day, then mixing up the suggestions in the calendar? I ask only because I never did this as a kid, and the thought of planning it for mine makes me want to weep quietly into the shortbread.

  5. sheree

    Blither blither whither thou blitherist I will follow.

  6. Kerry

    We have an advent calendar with pockets-to-be-filled and I didn’t put it up this year (though we do have a paper calendar with little doors, and our house is fully Christmas-a-fied, of course). Anyway, you’ve inspired me to start making not putting out the advent calendar an annual tradition. Thank you!

    • Carrie Snyder

      Now I’m feeling guilty! I should add an addendum to the post because in fact I managed to fill every slot yesterday — it was the only task I really completed, truth be told, and it was rather satisfying, even if what’s written on the pieces of paper aren’t exactly inspired. “Look at photo albums” was what the kids got for Monday after school. “Write a family Christmas letter” was today’s, and by golly, we’ve done it! Now to print and post them …. that should be tomorrow’s …

  7. Kerry

    See, I just can’t be bothered. I think it’s important to know one’s limits. I managed to write and post 40 Christmas cards this week though, so I think my seasonal job is done. Oh, except for the baking. The baking has only just begun…

    • Carrie Snyder

      Oh, there will be baking! It might even be in the calendar. Congrats on writing and posting those Christmas cards. That’s a big job. (Wish I were done …)


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