November 22nd, 2019 – 422

It’s been a long week, but I managed to keep my head on straight. I’m writing this a few hours later than usual as I have engrossed myself in task to task today. If I get that flow going I don’t like to break it. It’s the same reason I write 1,056 words or there abouts most days I’m writing main story content. When in a total sense of swing I can sail past 2K. I get that pretty often at work, which is why if I write full time one day my estimate would be about six to eight novels a year. I intend to get to that point anyway in time, but you can see why that would maximise my capability.

TSS is still going strong. I have a decent idea what I want the new midpoint/false victory to be and I’m not far off writing it. That all said, I do have some anxiety that I’ll end up in the weeds if I make it what I’m planning to. That is because it’s a somewhat mellow midpoint. For this story though it kind of needs to be, a major theme of the story is escaping chaos and the overwhelming. Still, this is subject to change as I rewrite it again nearer to publication. But for now I’m happy with the story, and enjoying the flow. 

When I do get around to doing a Showtime edit, discussed in an earlier post, I have a lot of work to do. I’ve been rereading VOL as I  upload, and while my writing is readable and flows well, I need to evoke a lot more. This is one of the last big hurdles I need to clear before I can call myself a “good” writer. Until I do, I see myself as an ok one, a step above amateur but not by a huge leap. This whole process is about getting better at the craft, but I hope I get past this obstacle soon. My fear of purple prose means I don’t delve anywhere near deep enough for the stories I want to tell.

November 21st, 2019 – 421

This week has been a challenging one from a personal and professional standpoint. New systems at work mean teething issues, and me needing to internalise new routines. On this front I’ve been exemplorary. That’s not big headed, I stuffed well over a thousand envelopes in the course of one work day, got them all posted out. I also did so while managing the helpdesk for those letters as requests flew in. It’s been hard, but I can hold my head up high.

And on my writing, well pretty much the same story. I still haven’t had a single day this month where 1K wasn’t 1,000 or more words of TSS. When considering November’s boogyman status for me in the past it gets better. It also goes to show I need to be a lot less superstitious. I’ve been this way my whole life, but 1K showed me any day can be a good day, and a Month is a collection of days, nothing more. I don’t have to fall apart because it’s November.

In the space of a month, with 10 days pinched from the end of October, I have written 33,000 words. That’s a new 30 day record. It’s not NaNoWriMo or anything, but to be fair, that’s only counting my main content. My total word count including the stuff I either exclude from 1K or otherwise comes after is about 48,000. I’m not aiming for 50k months, not while I have a full time job anyway. But this is heartening. The great news is it isn’t burning me out to keep this chain up. In fact, it doesn’t feel like a ‘chain’ at all. It feels like, well, 1K.

Today is a bit of an odd one. I want to write target on my lunch break, because I am going to be out tonight with dad. Going out at 5 takes away my prime 5-6 writing window, and while that’s not a problem, it does set up a potential one. Each night I have managed to get enough sleep as I am pushing myself to shut down sooner. That is going to get a bit pushed back tonight anyway, but if I also have to write target when I get home? I’ll burn out in an instant under those conditions. So rather than headspace I’m putting writing into that bloc today.

I’m combining this with a housecleaning time at work. I have a queue of tasks that for whatever reason have pushed further and further back in my workload. Several of these tasks are so called “quick wins”, and I need to get them done to maintain professional face. So as well as remodeling my lunch break, I am also pushing all incoming work to next week. This is, well something I dislike doing. I like to try and get tasks done as fast as possible, so I dislike even the most necessary pushback. But of course, oh irony of ironies, that is what I have done to these tasks. So for now it’s time to get my head down into some markbooks and assorted requests. Gonna be an intense day. Wish me luck.

November 20th, 2019 – 420 (nice)

Wow I am not on form today. So far I’ve managed to send an email early by mistake – curse you CTRL-Enter! I’ve also gotten lost helping someone on a call, left half a markbook switched off and, well that’s it. I’m so tired though it feels like I’ve broken everything. This was, not my fault to be honest. I went to bed at 10, which is becoming the new normal. My quality of sleep was abysmal though. If I’d had a Rennie I bet I’d have slept fine, but shoulda woulda coulda. 

My actual work is under control, it’s only my head that isn’t. I’m experiencing the joys of sleep derp vs caffene. I’ve long since figured out having a lot of coffee is fine for me – the indigestion last night was food related. The problem is, coffee is an enhancer for me, not a replacement for sleep. It heightens whatever my current sense is, and right now that’s bleugh. That’s why after two coffees I still feel rough as ever. Not ideal, but if I am careful then within the hour I’ll be back on form. That’s because like my writing, I pace my work. If I don’t sprint for a bit, do a few chip-n-done tasks, I’ll be alright.

I made a decision about my writing schedule that won’t come back to bite me at all. I found that VOL will finish uploading to WattPad on April 4th, but that I don’t start WHT until April 11th. That means the 8th has no scheduled content, and I didn’t know what to do about that. Then I decided to say “screw it”, and lifted “A Planet Named George” out of my Want to do list. I now have a task on Trello to upload the entire story, planned at 12,000 words, on the 8th. That’s a bit insane, but here’s how I see it: it is a short story. It isn’t main project. It’s a bit of fun, and if I finish TSS in good time, it gives me a buffer before I launch into another huge project.

I also love the story. It’s silly, but emotional too. It’s the kind of tale that, done right, could be my break out moment. I’ll upload it as its own story rather than in “Misc Short Stories”, and put the whole thing up at once as a 10-12 chapter story. Call it a practice run for when I put up WAN all in one go. Does that count as a pun? I don’t even know at this point, depends if you pronounce the codes. I tend to call VOL “vol” but TSS “tee-ess-ess”. And how would you pronounce WHT? Like, whut? Ok that was a pun and I need to stop and get back to work now.

November 19th, 2019 – 419

When I get a chance, what I want to do is to go through all my published content, and do a bit “showtime”. That is, a series of edits where I reread the work, and try and spot where I’m doing too much dense “telling”. Show don’t tell is a worn our – and at times inaccurate – trope, but I am pretty sure I still have a ways to go on this one. At worst, a reflective task on my descriptions and evoking of senses would be a useful excersise.

That brings my “Want to do” list on Trello to 51 cards, and I don’t know how to feel about that. This list is the one I expect to bulge and go on and on. In a way that should be a good thing: I’m overflowing with ideas. At the same time, I am aware how much in that list I’m itching to do, and that I won’t for ages yet because of my have-tos. I guess this is a normal angst to have when it comes to productivity and yearning in general. Even so, I wish I could barrel through that list and do a ton of it right now.

It used to be normal for the Want to do list to be 25 cards, so this marks more than double the old normal. Of note, this does not even include the three stories in my effective “Want to write” column. That is: “A Planet Named George”, “Magic: the Squirreling” and “The Write Way”. I intend to write all three, but with both my job and my main stories, they’re either a long way off, or I need a fresh approach. So I guess what I’m mulling today is how do I make more time for my “Want to do”s? And well, I don’t have an answer for that.

On the plus side, I have continued making progress with TSS. I was feeling drained by 5pm yesterday and still wrote another thousand words of the story. We’re about to enter a stretch of the unknown though, as the original skipped a lot of the middle time. That was because I used to “rush” stories, and did not understand the whole point of most stories is that “fun and games.” I decided to skim this because I didn’t get how to write engaging stories. Now I get it, but there’s a lot to come up with. I have some ideas, some intriguing, some adorable. I guess we will see what lands.

I’m saying “I guess” a lot today. That’s not a good sign. When I do that, it often means I’m low or about to burn out. I don’t get the feeling as if that’s about to happen if that makes sense, but I guess we will see. 

November 18th, 2019 – 418

I love Mondays. I know that life changes, and that jobs change and even roles within them are always in flux. But I love arriving at my desk on a Monday and getting into my job. I don’t know if that’s a square or sad thing to say, but meh, when my workflow is under control, my job is fantastic. Difficult yes, but there’s a great deal of satisfaction that comes from feeling in control of work.

I realise now I was wrong in the past I thought I was burning out from “not enough creativity left after work”. I was using up my creativity trying to find order. Now I have a bulletproof system, even the tough tasks are fun. Anyway enough gushing over work, I do too much of that on the whole. I wanted to say that though as with the intensity of the start of term, I tend to lose sight of how good I have it at the moment. Its important to recognise the positives around you, and to be thankful for them.

So on writing: I hit 30,000 words of TSS yesterday. That’s a pretty great milestone on its own, but what’s neat is I haven’t yet hit a wall. I am sure by 40K I will do, but in the past, the first and last 30K have shown themselves the hardest. As I prefer 80K stories, that doesn’t give me a great deal of breezy writing. It’s nice to see that I was looking for patterns where none existed, another way that I can say I am in control. And yes as I said yesterday, even this rewrite is awful, but it’s better than version 1.0 written in 2014 was.

I’ve rearranged my priorities list again on Trello. I realise this is an aspect of my productivity I have not discussed much. One day I’ll write a book on 1K that covers all these little tricks I’ve used and refers to where they came from in detail. For now, I thought it would be cool to talk about this part of my organisational system in a bit of detail.

So on Trello – list-making tool that’s based on the Kanban method – my first list is “Projects”. For me, a project is a heading that encompasses a broader goal that I’ve set for myself. I use the GTD/general good practice mindset of having “as many of these as I need, and as few as I can get by with”. That’s paraphrasing Getting Things Done by David Allen, a book I recommend to anyone. My list looks like the one below:

Projects example

You’ll note I have nine projects, and they’re listed in priority order. Of note, you may spot my placement of CPD at work at the bottom. You got me, this is why I made a point in paragraph one and two of this entry saying work is important to me. That’s not only because I encourage people at work to read these entries if they like my work, but because, well, it is. Placement does not denote I do/don’t care. If I care, it’s on here. I care a lot about staying in shape, I just don’t need to do much on that right now. And as I said, I’m on top of work.

1K is always at the top by contrast, because I build my whole mindset around my writing. I’ve never moved it from my top spot because 1K is my whole life. It’s why I get up in the morning, why I do what I do, including this blog. So second, you’ll see my main not-writing priority is sorting my flat. The flat has become a metaphor for my general health at the moment, and it’s almost there. I want to nail keeping it tidy though, so I need to keep working on this point. As a result, it tops the list, beating out even “Survive the GE”. You’ll note the grim colour choice for GEs, I reserve that for elections.

So what I do, is at least once a week, I look at this list, and ask myself a few choice questions:

– Do I still need each of these projects?

– Putting each against the card above and below it, are they in the correct priority order?

– What can/should I be doing as the next step towards this?

– Have I given the card the correct name?

That last one is important, as you’ll note, excluding 1K, each one is an action. 1K’s action is the entire mantra poem I wrote for the lifestyle. By reordering these, I can say to myself things like the below:

“Yes, I do want a gym membership, but my budget is more important, and I still need to work on maintaining the flat. This interferes with both, so this is not a priority.”

“I need to go out canvassing and delivering. This is more important than working more leisure into my life right now. I can let my personal organisation and routines slip for this because it matters a lot. The flat, by contrast, is more important to me right now. So, I need to prioritise tidying the flat over electioneering.”

You get the idea. It lets me comb what I should be doing at any given time, and makes a lot of the decisions for me, which avoids me burning out. And, it also makes it so no matter what, my writing comes first, which is a critical symbolic gesture.

Anyway, I hope that was interesting. I’m debating spinning off a series of articles on these kinds of topics. That’s with an eye toward consolidating them and my journal entries into a book on 1K one day. But for now it’s time to get back to work,  I have a busy day ahead.

Oh, and on reviewing this in WordPress as I added the image, I have a slight grievance with HemingwayApp. I didn’t realise how much the spellchecker misses, which is annoying as it means I must have several work entries riddled with errors. Darn, maybe worth a clean-up one day…

November 17th, 2019 – 417

Writing a first draft is always a strange experience. You create brand new scenes. You imagine whole different worlds. You find characters leap off the page that you never realised you needed to read before. And as you read the words you’re writing, only one word can describe it:

Awful.

The more I embrace that, and how most problems not only should be finished in post, but can only be tweaked there, the easier the words come. I haven’t written yet today but I feel pretty confident what I’ll write is TSS. I think my “too long streaks” burnout came from trying to make draft one good. I need to stop doing that.

This weekend saw one big plus. I now have a whiskey I like. As a bonus it’s Jim Beam, so not going to break the bank on this. Also I’m now going to go out campaigning on Thursday at last. Feel like I’m more or less back on my feet.