Category Archives: Time management and goals

Embrace the disorder, learn how to bend

(Title adapted from the theme song of Psych).

Sometimes my 1,000 words of fiction a day rule needs adjusting. A week and a half ago, when I accepted the Vampire Diaries romances list from Screen Rant, the due date was this past Tuesday. To get that done and get in my Leaf articles, I had to focus on them Monday and Tuesday and forget about fiction (I’ll do the same next week, with my article on Shatterstar). Under the circumstances that was okay, so long as I made up the extra wordage later in the week, which I did.

Without the demands of doctors and plumbers that bedeviled me last week, this was a productive five days. I got in my Leaf work and the Screen Rant. Plus about 4,000 more words on Undead Sexist Cliches. It’s definitely easier to make my chapters coherent when I have a big block of time to work on it.

On the fiction side, I went over No One Can Slay Her for a final review and it’s done … subject to any feedback from the writer’s group in a couple of weeks. I redrafted Angels Hate This Man; it still needs a lot of work, but I think I’m finally getting somewhere. I finished The Cheap Assassin‘s first draft and started rewriting a story called (for the moment) Neverwas (time travel, bookstores, the apostle Luke — it all makes sense!). I didn’t get any further with Southern Discomfort, but I’ll be back on that horse next week.

I also found a cover for Atoms for Peace. I’ll post it soon.

It took me over my usual 35 hours a week (or is that my theoretical 35 hours a week?) to get it all done, but I didn’t feel stressed. So yay.

#SFWApro. Image is George Frederick Watts’ Chaos via Wikimedia commons .

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Life vs. Art Round Two: This week it’s a win-win!

A very busy week, but very productive. Wisely when I saw the IRL stuff I had to do, I asked if I could skip a Screen Rant (normally I do one a week) which freed me up to concentrate on other stuff. While I’ll be back on the job next week (a Vampire Diaries list), it really paid off for all the other stuff I do.

But first, the IRL. Tuesday, I had a dentist appointment. Nothing serious, just a regular checkup; my teeth are fine though they’re starting to edge toward gum disease again. If I’m not in better shape next time (I will try — gums actually respond to heavy cleaning) — it’ll be a round of scaling, where they clean all the way under the gumline. Not pleasant — it has to be done under anesthetic. I’d rather avoid it, so positive thoughts toward my gums are welcome.

Second, Tuesday I took my first Alexander technique class. My friend, drama teacher/director/actor Laley Lippard, recommended this school of movement training to help me with my voice-straining problems. I finally booked some time with a local teacher. I can’t really describe the training without making it sound dumb, but I think I see how it can help my voice (other things too, it’s a full-body technique). My teacher sent me home with some lessons to work on until I can find time for another class (July, after my Leaf work wraps up and I have more time in the week).

Third, we had three plumbing problems to deal with — clogged toilet, leaking tap, possible gunk leak from another toilet — so I had to deal with plumbers. It went well (though expensive of course): new tap, snaked toilet and the gunk, whatever it was, doesn’t appear to be a leak (yay! One less expense).

Despite which, I got a lot done on writing besides my Leaf pieces and submitting my list entries for the Vampire Diaries article:

The biggest is that I started work on the final draft — and it will be final — of Southern Discomfort. I wasn’t able to print it out at the library last weekend, so our rickety printer churned out the first 10,000 words at home instead. As usual for final drafts I read it aloud, made changes, entered them in the computer. My goal for this month was 10,000 and it’s now done — though I’m not stopping there. This is the part of the story I’ve gone over the most so it’s not surprising it went fast. If I keep going through May it’ll make up when I get to the later parts that need more work. Yay, me!

I made my thousand-words of fiction a day goal, and not just the Southern Discomfort stuff. I also finished rewriting No One Can Slay Her and about 2,000 words of Angels Hate This Man. I resolved the How’s He Doing It question that stumped me last week by deciding yes, Rev. Lennier really is freeing people from Hell. So far it’s working — we’ll see if it steers me to a satisfying end. I also got in a couple of thousand words on a new story, The Cheap Assassin.

I rewrote 4,000 words of Undead Sexist Cliches. Having a solid block of time to focus on it worked really well.

And I tackled a couple of paperwork tasks. I got a question about our state taxes resolved, and I went ahead and commissioned someone on Fiverr to draw up a cover for Atoms for Peace. It’s the first time I’ve commissioned anything along those lines. Wish me luck. And I submitted Schloss and the Switchblade to Allegory—more luck, please!

Getting all that done took a lot of evening work, which I normally dislike, but I’m very satisfied with the results.

Below, a Gervasio Gallardo cover to look at, just because it’s cool (don’t let the HPL name fool you, this was 90 percent Derleth).

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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April Goals: 57 percent

Less satisfying than January or February, but better than March.

I got most of my writing goals accomplished, which was great. I didn’t submit Questionable Minds but I should have that done this week. I’m nowhere near finding a cover for Atoms for Peace, though. Time to start hunting for an artist. And I didn’t make the time to post at Atomic Junkshop as I’d planned.

My nonwriting goals? Not so good. I kept up the most important ones, like wearing sunscreen, bicycling regularly (though not as many long rides as I wanted)and putting more emphasis on fruits and vegetables in my cooking (even with a vegetarian diet, it’s easy to skimp on them). But I bought as many books as I read (I’m working on going in the other direction so when I buy a book it won’t sit on the shelf for four months), and almost as many of my unwatched DVDs as I viewed (same. I just feel silly if I spend the money and don’t watch them). And by the end of the month, I got way more stressed out than I wanted to. Everything I try to do with mindfulness and meditation practice just flew out the window. I got so wiped I even fell behind on my cleaning schedule, which is rare — I don’t do a lot, but I usually accomplish what I plan to do.

Checking over my goals for the year, I see that with one-third gone, several projects I want to work on — some research for nonfiction books, a couple of personal things — haven’t gotten anywhere. That’s a combination of all the deadline stuff I’ve been working on for Leaf and Screen Rant; having a lot of activity on the weekends; sick dogs, social events, travel; and TYG sometimes working late. It’s a lot harder to focus on anything when I’m dealing with the pups on my own.

Plus, of course, I had a pretty large goal list.

As I have no travel in May and a relatively light weekend schedule of activities, I’ll see if things improve.

One of my minor goals is to periodically flip through my old photos. Having read through my hard-copy albums last year, I’m now going through digital ones. Here’s a couple of Bactrian camels from the Gulf Breeze Zoo, a picture I took in 2008. Below that, a siamang with its throat pouch at full expansion.

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It was one of those life vs. art weeks

So TYG’s and my car is a VW Golf with a diesel engine. We learned last year that it was one of the cars where Volkswagen rigged the emissions system to show it ran cleaner than it really did. Having been caught, they gave us (and everyone else) the choice of a buyback or an emissions fix with a cash compensation. We like the car so we went with B. I took it in Tuesday for Phase One (it’s a two-phase fix). As I’d set the appointment early, I went without TYG, which meant she couldn’t sign for the loaner. That would require me to run her in to work (the fix would take most of the day) but I figured I’d take the day to get various odds and ends done, so it should work out (I took the day off from writing).

First odd-and-end was donating blood. I’m about a six weeks overdue, so I figured I’d seize the opportunity. I went apheresis, where you donate double the normal amount of blood cells, but I’d forgotten how much that leaves me wiped out. Suffice to say, I didn’t get anything else done that day.

Still, no big, except that very day VW finally greenlighted the Phase Two part of the fix (don’t ask me, I don’t know the tech). We became the local dealer’s first customer to receive it. As a result, we wouldn’t get our car back until Wednesday. While it was good to get it all taken care of in one trip, this cut into Wednesday big time. Drive TYG to her office, a couple of other errands, pick TYG up, it added up. Plus we had the plumber in.

I made up the time with some work in the evening, but I felt really wiped. And still do. I’ve been feeling out-of-balance much of the month; things do seem to be coming back into alignment, but I think this week set things back a ways.

I did finish another draft of Angels Hate This Man, and I finally finished the redraft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I believe I see how to work out the kinks, I just have to pick one of the two or three options and go with it for the next draft.

I finished my newest Screen Rant, on superheroes who teamed up with Thanos. Hopefully the tie in with the new Avengers film will grab some eyeballs.

One anthology returned Schloss and the Switchblade, though expressing copious regret they weren’t quite large enough to include it (it did get to top 26 out of 700 submissions). It went out again, and came back again. And will go out again, eventually.

And of course, Atlas Shagged is out. I did not get around to submitting Questionable Minds — should have it done next week though.

Plus I got in my slate of little articles for Leaf.

So I think Art held its own against Life. But I sure feel worn out by the struggle.

#SFWApro. Comic book panels by Jim Starlin, all rights remain with current holder.

 

 

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It is the little rift within the lute/That by and by will make the music mute

“And ever widening, slowly silence all,” according to Tennyson in Merlin and Vivien in Idylls of the King. Which is why my illustration is Julia Margaret Cameron’s Vivien and Merlin.

Tennyson’s point is a version of chaos theory: a very slight crack can shatter something big and strong. Which is why I’m a little obsessive about scheduling and goals: I always feel that if I ease up, the stuff I miss will throw me so far off course I won’t get anything done. Which leads me to this week’s writing .

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been having trouble focusing on my reading in the evenings. So on the mornings I woke up early, the first thing I did was read. It was much easier to concentrate, and as insomnia usually  leaves me with more hours in the week than I planned, it didn’t seem like a problem (normally I work until I fall back to sleep, which more than compensates for naps during the day).

But this morning, TYG had a sudden schedule conflict so I had to walk the dogs. She would have been fine if I just took them out for a squat in the yard, but I hate doing that, so they got an hour-plus walk. That was a chunk out of the morning, and when I got back, I just could not get my head into writing. I wound up settling for some research reading instead. As I’d hoped to get a lot of fiction done today, that was frustrating.

And that brings me to my second Little Rift. I realized this week that because I keep missing my “1,000 words of fiction a work day” goal, I’m beginning to ignore it completely. So this Wednesday, when it was very tempting to give it another skip, I made a special effort and got it done. Only today, due to the extra walkies and losing focus (there were a couple of other non-writing things I had to do too) I didn’t get it done. Next week, I’ll be back to shooting for all five days.

So other than my Screen Rant column and my Leaf articles, not much accomplished to talk about this week. A lot of things almost accomplished (I almost had Questionable Minds submitted) but not beyond that. I look forward to resetting and starting over next week.

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Filed under Personal, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

The Whisper of the Tax

So this week my writing time was distorted by having to finish the state and federal tax forms. Tuesday I went over them and caught a bunch of errors. One was from entering the same deduction twice; one was from writing down a deduction but not subtracting it from my writing income; and several were just math errors. I went over that last lot several times, just to be sure they were finally right.

(Title, by the way, borrows from Richard Condon’s terrorist thriller, The Whisper of the Axe)

After that was all done, I printed them up yesterday and mailed them off today. So they’re done!!! But that did cut into my writing time, so I missed my 1,000 words a day goal for Thursday and Friday. I had a productive week just the same.

I got out my latest Screen Rant, on superheroes and villains fans didn’t know had siblings. Swamp Thing’s brother from a dreadful mid-1970s reboot. Dr. Strange’s vampire brother. And Thomas Wayne Jr., the brother Batman didn’t know he had. I still find that slightly incredible, because unlike Dr. Strange, Swamp Thing and some of the other characters in the list, it was well established Bruce Wayne was an only child. But then World’s Finest as edited by Murray Boltinoff saw nothing wrong with claiming Superman and Batman had kids, either. Below, courtesy of Dick Dillin’s art, Batman learns the truth.

Nick Fury’s brother Jake, on the other hand, has been well established since the Silver Age, he just hovers right below the awareness of the average comics reader. And wow, he’s been really heavily retconned, as I discovered researching the article. Below, writer/artist Jim Steranko introduces him killing Nick.

I completed ten Leaf articles, and got about 6,000 words done on Undead Sexist Cliches. And I finally figured out how to fix No One Can Slay Her and finish it. I still want the writer’s group (or someone) to give it a beta reading, but I feel very pleased with it. I’d hoped to get some work in polishing Questionable Minds, but the taxes took care of that. I did give the green light to publish Atlas Shagged but it won’t be up for sale until next week.

On the downside, my mind could not seem to focus in the evening, so I got next to no reading done. I hate that. As of last night, though, I seem to be over it.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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A productive, yet frustrating week

I feel pleased with my work this week. Just getting a good day’s work out of today despite having some sort of allergic reaction to the spring pollen (nothing serious, just kind of wiped out) or maybe the vaccine I got at the doctor’s yesterday makes me pleased with my own commitment.

But the one thing I most wanted to get done was finish No One Can Slay Her, and I didn’t. There’s a problem with the third quarter, and things were hectic enough (very needy dogs, annual medical checkup) that I couldn’t clear my mind enough to pinpoint it. And the downside of my “1,000 words of fiction a day” guideline is that the writing can suck up the time I’d otherwise use to plot, replot and think. That’s not a bad thing — it’s easy to spend lots of time thinking and have nothing to show for it — but in this case it was frustrating. Still, I got a lot done, so I shall take pleasure in that.

Part of the reason I didn’t have time was that my new Screen Rant on Nickelodeon’s Victorious took longer than most of them. It’s a kid’s show I’ve never even heard of (hardly surprising at my age) so I had to do a good deal more research than usual to put it together. But now it’s out, and next week’s should be simple. Below one of my photos from the article, showing future singing star Ariana Grande as space cadet Cat.

As to the checkup, everything looks good, though I definitely need to get back to a more consistent exercise schedule. The past month it’s been a little too chaotic and I keep missing. Today I just felt tooo wiped out.

I did complete the proofing of the Atlas Shagged paperback (I discovered a couple of final changes to make) which will be out early next week. Below, the cover reveal!

I worked on one story about a writer working on a raunchy buddy comedy with werewolves (not sure where it’s going yet). And another about a bookstore with a very strange staff, and as of the last scene, St. Luke as the proprietor (I think I know where it’s going. Maybe). And worked on the next draft of Angels Hate This Man. But I really want to finish No One — the more stories I have out, the better, obviously.

I completed edits on The Grass Is Always Greener requested by the editors at Strange Economics, which had accepted it. I submitted a reprint story to Digial Fantasy. And I got some work done on Undead Sexist Cliches.

Like I said, productive. I shall take pride in what I did and not let the frustration gnaw at me.

#SFWApro. All rights to the Victorious photo remain with current holder. Rights to cover are mine; Atlas image is from John Singer Sargent’s Atlas and the Hesperides.

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So did my new planner really help me? March and quarter goals

So March, I did okay. 50 percent of my goals, but given Trixie being ill, my birthday and our Mensa trip, that’s a lot of days my mind was on other stuff. While some goals I missed eat at me (I really wanted to have No One Can Slay Her done), others I missed by inches (I need one last look at my hard copy Atlas Shagged before greenlighting it). And some were partly out of my hands, like finding an artist for the Atoms for Peace cover.

March 31 also wrapped up the first quarter of the year, which I’d planned out using the Plot Your Work Planner (well, February and March, I didn’t have it for January). Obviously it didn’t make me a flawless, frictionless fiction-producing machine, but I didn’t think it would.

What it did do was help me take my year goals for the biggest projects and break them down. Quarter by quarter. Month by month. Week by week. I found that a large help. I’m not always good about turning my year-goals into month-goals. I can also lose track of goals within a month; saying Finish X and Y by the 31st doesn’t always translate into “I need to do X this week, Y next week, proof both the week after.” Having a hard-copy journal with spaces for this week, next week, and for steps in each project — turns out that’s a huge help.

Reviewing the first quarter it’s obvious that having the planner doesn’t stop me setting slightly more goals than I can manage. But I hadn’t anticipated all the Leaf work I did last month. It looks like I’ll continue doing Leaf for the next couple of months, so my second-quarter goals (plus catching up what I didn’t get done first quarter) are probably a stretch. But what the heck, it’s not like there’s a penalty if I miss them.

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I did not slide smoothly to the end of the month

I was feeling relaxed, rested and ready after last weekend’s trip to South Carolina. Still am (not today though) but I must admit my mind is resisting when I try to focus, much the way it did before the trip.

This was just a bad week for focus. Early Tuesday morning, Trixie got up and needed to go outside to poop. As usual, I woke up while TYG was zonked, so I took the little one. By the time I got back in I was wide awake. Even if I could have gotten back to sleep, Trixie had a couple more trips to make as time wore on, so I’d have gotten up anyway.

My plan for Tuesday had been doggy day care for both pups, then I’d settle down and finish the tax returns. Handling and sorting through the 1099s and other forms just gets awkward working around them. But we obviously weren’t going to take Trixie, for fear she was having a return of her stomach upset. And then Plush dog puked up his breakfast, so we didn’t take him either.

The logical thing to do, of course, was switch and work on something else, like Screen Rant or Leaf articles. But I was so zonked by lack of sleep I couldn’t focus on that stuff at all. End result? Very little got done.

So the rest of the week I’ve had to push myself, and my mind has been pushing back. Oh, and it turns out we still don’t have one piece of information we need — TYG will have to contact the relevant company for the right form.

That made my plan to wrap up various projects this week a no-go. I did get some work done on No One Can Slay Her, but didn’t finish it. Contacted an artist about the cover for Atoms for Peace but she’s too busy.

Finally today I decided to just wrap up whatever I could. I submitted one short story, checked on two that have been out a while (one still under review, the other got lost in transmission) and I finally edited and finished Atlas Shagged. Assuming everything goes smoothly, the paperback will be up for sale next week. That is actually pretty cool, and it feels great to have it (as far as I can tell) wrapped up.  I’d wanted to do a little more but my schedule had to allow for extra puppy care for various reasons, and naps (mostly broken up by pups).

My policy of not reading email until late in the day has proven effective. It helps keep me from just stopping when I’m tired and checking email, and then rechecking, and then rechecking …

I shall post next week about the overall performance of the year’s first quarter, based on use of that planner I bought a couple of months back.

In the meantime, here’s a photo from Significant Mother, one of the Bad, Forgotten CW Shows on this week’s Screen Rant.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Wow, Wednesday felt wonderful

Not that the rest of the week was awful. But between the added stress from those deadlines and one weekend getting eaten up by sick Trixie, my mind was really balking at work this week. I got my stuff done, but it was definitely slower and more sluggish.

Wednesday though, was great. Because of a morning snowfall (abnormal for Durham this time of year), TYG didn’t go into the office. She stayed on the couch with the pups, I stayed upstairs and worked in peace. Plus I didn’t have any Leaf articles to do (I worked on them late the night before) and I didn’t have a Screen Rant (I should have, because I’m supposed to turn in one a week, but for various reasons that didn’t happen). So for the first time in a couple of months it was just me working on my stuff all day. It felt incredibly liberating.

As far as the week’s accomplishments go, I’ve proofed most of the Atlas Shagged paperback, and found more errors than I expected. So taking the time to proof was definitely the right call (I may eventually go back and fix the ebook too). I contacted one artist about the cover for Atoms for Peace, but I didn’t hear back, so on to the next one.

I cleared up some of my Impossible Takes a Little Longer problems ; instead of my stereotyped Comanches, I’m using a colony of ET warriors along the lines of a bad 1980s syndicated cartoon (think Silverhawks). I’m still not entirely sure what I want from the villain, but I have some ideas.

I worked a lot on straightening out Undead Sexist Cliches (The Book) prior to the next rewrite.

I looked at some possible markets for Space Invaders, and so far McFarland is looking like the best option. Several other small publishers that take film-reference books have some requirements that won’t work for me, like providing a list of seven peer reviewers who can critique the proposal (or the book, I’m not sure which). I imagine if I were an academic writer, that would be easier, but I’m not.

I’d have gotten a couple more things done except I took today off for some stuff. But it looks promising for getting my last writing tasks for March wrapped up next week.

For your entertainment, here’s a shot of Trixie, in my lap and under my lap desk (don’t worry, it’s not resting on her).

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