Category Archives: Time management and goals

Defying gravity! Will I fall off the cliff? (#SFWApro)

This was a good writing week.

I wrote last Friday that I was nervous about Southern Discomfort because I didn’t have a clear path, plotwise, as I progressed through the book. Surprisingly, that wasn’t even slightly a problem this week. If anything, writing was easy. I finished one chapter, asked myself “Okay, what next?” and presto, I got the answer. That’s surprising — I very rarely get into that kind of flow state — but it’s really enjoyable.

However I know from experience, that’s not a guarantee I’m on the right path (though it certainly feels like I am). Hence the use of the Fool of the Tarot’s Major Arcana (Arthur Waite version). According to one interpretation of the card, it represents the quester passing through the spiritual stages of the other Arcana. Walking to the edge of the cliff, he may be the naive, beginning quester who doesn’t realize the danger he’s in. Then again, he may be the enlightened quester who knows that if he walks off the cliff, he’ll land safely.

And it’s possible I’m either one. If it keeps going this well, I’m the enlightened quester. But it’s possible that 10,000 words from now I’ll discover everything I wrote this week has steered me into a dead end. One potential problem is that several key events, while they flow much better in this draft, now take place about 15,000 words earlier. If I don’t make up the 15,000, I’d end up about 68,000 words, which is way too short.

Nevertheless, writing the book this week felt very good.

That consumed most of my writing week. I also got off one query (as And magazine stopped using my columns, I’m hitting other markets), worked some on Undead Sexist Cliches—the Book, and started a new draft of the short story Trouble in Glass. I also tackled various paperwork issues (taxes and other financial stuff) I needed to catch up on.

I’d planned to take about four hours off to use up some of the extra hours I’d built up, but I just didn’t get around to it. Still with Memorial Day coming up, if TYG takes time off, maybe I’ll use it then.

 

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Filed under Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Mental static (#SFWApro)

I’m increasingly frustrated lately by not being able to focus when I’m reading.

I do most of my reading in the evening. Downstairs with TYG (if she’s home) and the pups, then upstairs in the bed. If I wake up early and I’m not under deadline pressure for anything, I’ll read for a half-hour before starting work. Sometimes that’s enough to put me back to sleep.

I’m finding, though, that I’m getting all monkey-mind during the evenings. My mind wanders and I don’t focus.  Not because of the quality of the book, either, or because I don’t want to read. There’s just too much static in my head and I find myself checking the computer or doing something else that isn’t reading.

(Don’t worry, she’s just squishing against my leg. My photo, please attribute to me if you use)

Part of it is that there’s a lot to distract me lately. The dogs have been needier for some reason (in Plushie’s case it’s because he needs to lose weight, so fewer treats). We have some eyedrops we give Plushie in the evening. Throw in a couple of other distractions and it slices and dices time so I can’t really sit for very long. That said, there are lots of nights where I have an hour or ninety minutes to read. I think even then, my mind may be conditioned to not focusing on the reading.

Another aspect is that I spend most days sitting in the living room with the dogs, then I spend the evenings sitting in the living room with the dogs. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m off work and free to relax. I’ve used various tricks to relax and mark the end of the work day in the past, but they don’t work with the dogs around (taking a walk by myself, meditating, stretching out. Trixie takes stretching out as body language for “sit on me immediately please.”). That works against relax-and-enjoy, much the same way they say working in bed all the time makes it hard to feel it’s a place of rest.

I could solve the problems by going upstairs and reading alone, but I really prefer to be downstairs with my family.

A possible solution might be to do more reading during the day — morning break, say. Shifting my schedule so I take an hour off in the day to read, then work at night would be fine, but I don’t want to work if TYG feels like talking. That’s why I do most of my work when she’s at work.

This has been a problem for a while, but I think it’s getting incrementally worse. So I’d better work on a solution. Life without reading is miserable.

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

The tide has turned and caught me at full flood! (#SFWApro)

So as I mentioned a while back, I picked up three different paying gigs in addition to Screen Rant: the Leaf project (now wrapped up), freelance work for a network of legal papers and money management how-to articles for GOBankingrates. Only the latter two of the four never assigned me anything.

But then the week before my trip to Greenville, GOBankingrates asked if I was up for an article. I had to pass until after the trip, but earlier this week they called again. So I took the assignment (how to get pre-approved for a mortgage). The information was simple enough — it’s similar to the stuff I’ve done for Leaf — but like Screen Rant, they have their own format and style rules, and getting it written to comply with them consumed a lot of time. Not that they’re unreasonable, but it always goes slow the first time I try to follow a style guide. But it’s done, and assuming no problems, it will work out to a great hourly rate.

But all that work on mortgage pre-approval sucked up a lot of time I’d have spent for fiction. And the irrational conviction I Have No Time, I Can’t Get It Done when I have a tight deadline kept me up early. Plus I was working on two Screen Rants, this week’s (not out yet) and a big Wonder Woman article due in a couple of weeks. So it was a little frantic.

And today, the early rising got to me. I went to sleep right after lunch and when I woke up I just lay down with the pups for another hour. Then read for another hour instead of writing. I was in overtime for the week, so I don’t feel bad about it, but I almost never blow off an afternoon even so. Guess I was more tired than I thought.

So what did I get done?

•I reread Undead Sexist Cliches — the Book, because I did almost nothing on it last month and I needed a better sense of what I’d already covered.

•I got another 5,000 words done on Southern Discomforts.

•I had a great idea for my short story, Trouble and Glass, that will resolve some of the problems I’ve been having with it. I’d hoped to actually work on the text, but that time got lost in the nonfiction push.

•I was supposed to talk on the phone with someone I applied to for another nonfiction gig. And that we jumped to phone is a good sign, I think — however, life intervened on his end. Next week, hopefully.

On top of which I managed to keep up exercising, and to give the kitchen a really thorough cleaning while the dogs were in day care (it’s not the best way to spend my dog-free day, but it beats having them try to nose around me while I’m spraying cleaning products).

Next week, now that I know to budget time for the GOBankingrate, perhaps things will go smoother. We shall see …

Oh, and Digital Fantasy Fiction just reprinted my short story He Kindly Stopped For Me. If Death knocked on your door and asked to use your phone, how would you react? Feel free to check out the Story Behind The Story from when it first came out.

Cover art by Jack Kirby, all rights reside with current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Story behind the story, Time management and goals, Writing

I had a fabulous weekend. What happened next will shock you! (#SFWA)

Last weekend was awesome. Friday (apr. 28) I drove down to Greenville SC to visit my friends Neil and Courtney (that’s their dog, Watson, in the photo) . Every year there’s a Mensa trivia contest, Culture Quest, and I go down and play with them rather than with the local Durham teams. No disrespect meant to them (they often outscore us), but it’s nice to spend time with people who know me from back before I moved up here.

We hung out and lay around a lot, watched movies (see tomorrow’s reviews) and TV (Westworld, which will get a review of its own eventually), competed in Culture Quest, visited the Greenville Zoo (very nice!) and Neil’s comic book store plus hitting the Greenville library’s book sale. Everything’s cheap and the last day everything’s half-off the cheap price. There’s more stuff to do, and sometimes I’ve spent the whole week there as the Greenville Mensa gathering takes place the following weekend. This time, though, I came back Monday, planning to come back with TYG for the gathering on Friday.

(A brief aside: Gaffney, SC is on the way and has a ginormous water tower painted into a peach. It’s a real shock seeing it when you’re not prepared, like someone in a movie confronting a giant kaijin).

So I spent the three days I had to work concentrating on my Screen Rant column, and doing some more research reading for Southern Discomfort. Plus taking time out for Plushie’s noon eye appointment on Thursday.

But then Thursday morning Trixie suddenly sat on the ground midway through her walkies and refused to budge. She didn’t eat when she got home. And she was lethargic and withdrawn, which is very un-Trixie. We called and got a 10:30 appointment at our vet. Unfortunately they were slammed so TYG had to leave and take Plush dog to his appointment while I waited on Trixie’s results.

The long and short of it: Trixie had eaten something (cloth, hair, grass) which had filled up her stomach. Fortunately it had passed out by 4ish. However we still have to wait and see whether it passes out her intestines or sticks (which could require surgery).

I was still fairly comfortable with boarding Trixie at the vet’s for the weekend, but TYG wasn’t. She volunteered to stay behind and watch Trixie while I went to Greenville, but I decided I’d be too worried about Trixie (and guilty about leaving) to enjoy myself. So I stayed. I wasn’t happy with the decision, but I wouldn’t have been happy going either …

While the stuff hasn’t passed out yet, Trixie is back to her normal high-energy self again, so yay! And I did get a little extra work done (submitted a couple of stories, applied for an editing gig, worked on Trouble and Glass for the first time in forever) which made me feel less disappointed in my choice. I do miss seeing all our Mensa friends though. But Trixie’s my little girl, so there you are.

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

April goals: No covering myself with glory (#SFWApro)

Goals accomplished: 45 percent. My lowest so far this year. Even given I spent a week sick, I should have done better.

Part of the problem was that I still had the last of my Leaf work to wrap up, which took a lot of time. And then I compensated by focusing heavily on Southern Discomfort, which meant lesser stuff — marketing, short stories — didn’t get done. I’d have caught up (maybe) last week, but the sick thing kicked in. Likewise lots of little things — exercise, for instance — got lost here and there in the rush.

I did get 25,000 words written on Southern Discomfort, which is great, and I finally saw Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast out in hardback. Plus my Screen Rant columns were all turned in.

May will suffer from having very little time this first week of May. I got back Monday from visiting friends (details in this afternoon’s post), I’m taking today off (details later), and I had multiple appointments and errands during the three work days. But I think I’ve calibrated tasks to time available effectively. Or so I hope.

For your entertainment, I’ll conclude with a cover by Richard Courtney (all rights retained by current holder). Michael Moorcock novels often promote imaginative covers though I’ve seen wilder ones.

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Filed under Personal, Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

Inspiring news! (#SFWApro)

So Tuesday I read some of the latest draft of Southern Discomfort to the writing group (Chapter Two, which introduces Maria). The response was enthused.

The people who’d read the previous version said I’d fixed a lot of their criticisms. The people who hadn’t read it liked it. A couple of people said if I finished it and released it now, they’d buy it. That’s very cool. And gives me a big incentive to put in the hours and get this done at last.

A little intimidating too, of course. If I’ve set that high a standard for the opening, now I want to keep it up the rest of the book. And the scene with Maria is one I’ve worked on extensively, so it’s not surprising it’s in good shape. A lot of the later scenes are going to be new material, and doing that well will be difficult. Then again, everyone liked the second scene in Chapter Two with Sean and Susan (a couple of teenagers. Young, happy, in love and with everything to live for — uh-oh) and that was new. So onward!

Oh, and I’m now well up over 25,000 words, so I feel a little better about all the time I spent recently working on other gigs.

Speaking of which, I had a heavier-than-usual Screen Rant schedule this week. I’d been working on “Super Hero/Super Villain Team-Ups” which was my assigned column for this week. But then one I’d pitched — 15 WTF adaptations of King Arthur, to coincide with an upcoming movie — got bumped on the schedule. I don’t know why they wanted it so early, but I trust they know what will grab eyeballs. And in case you’re wondering here it is. Learn how Merlin became Dr. Strange’s teacher in a 1978 TV movie. The amazing link between Galahad and Superman. How Merlin had his own sitcom. The times MacGyver, the GI Joes and the Thundercats met Merlin or the Lady of the Lake. And the physically impossible sex scene in Excalibur (source of the still below — all rights to image with current holder).

I also completed the CreateSpace process for Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast.It is now available in hard copy via Createspace. Done!

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Filed under Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

So I was going to write a post about all the extra time I’ve put in … (#SFWApro)

Because due to my nights of insomniac waking up at 2 am or 3 am, and all the work I’ve put on the various paying gigs the past few weeks, I’ve been consistently putting in more time than the 35 hours I shoot for. And so I’ve been wondering if I should take an extra day off, an hour here or there, or just forget about it. It’s not like claiming comp time at work, after all, seeing as I’m the boss.

But then yesterday I hardly got a lick of work done. Not that I wanted to slack off, but between the demands of the Leaf legal articles and my Screen Rant work, I wound up with an assortment of tasks I hadn’t gotten done:

•Pension paperwork from my years at the Destin Log (yes, I qualify for a pension, though with Freedom News’ bankruptcy, it’s coming from the government pension-guarantee agency).

•Some health insurance paperwork.

•Dealing with contractors for a possible refrigerator problem (fine as it turns out) and some weatherstripping issues with the front door.

•Coping with an Internet outage.

•Catching up on exercise (yes, I actually prioritize that over writing, unless there’s a deadline).

•Paperwork for our pet insurance.

•Getting a haircut, picking up some meds and depositing checks all during my morning bike ride (part of the exercise). Plus I stopped off for tea and a cookie at a coffee shop on the way (that one I can’t justify except I felt like it).

•Cleaning.

•Sorting through yet more paperwork (what can I say? Paper accumulates).

So the end result was, nothing but my next Screen Rant submission accomplished. Even so with my multiple early mornings this week, I didn’t actually have to reduce my bank of extra time? Or will the plumber coming today suck up some of that? We’ll see what time sends at me next (cover by Gil Kane, all rights reside with current holder)

 

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Filed under Personal, Time management and goals