Tag Archive for Getting Organised

Streaking: 7 Days In

StreakingWeek1I’ve written a minimum of 1,402 words every day for the last seven days. There’s nothing special about that. I’ve done it plenty of times before. But I’m noting it, in this instance, because one of my goals for 2014 is to put together a writing streak.

This is predicated on the Seinfeld approach to productivity, where you get a calender and built up a chain of X’s marking the days where you’ve achieved a certain goal. After a while, the Xs accumulate, and the desire to keep from breaking the chain becomes part of your motivation to keep working.

I’m actually using my calendar to track two different streaks. The first half of the cross gets put in when I clear five hundred words for the day – a kind of minimum viable productivity level that’ll keep me in touch with project du jour – while the second half is put in when I clear the 1,600 words I need every day to hit my goals for the year.

Once I break the chain – and lets be honest, I’ll break it eventually – it becomes the goal I chase. I start a new streak the following day and try to build a longer one.

Discovered immediately after writing this post: Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t want credit for the Seinfeld productivity secret.

WRITING STATS FOR 2014

Current 1,400 word Streak: 7 days
Current 500 word Streak: 7 days

Project Du Jour: Exile (Flotsam, Book 1)

Dear Google: Thank You

I try to be pretty sanguine about changes to the tools I use to access the internet. A lot of them are free, for certain values of free that translate to “we make money by getting you to come here and generate data,” which means I’m generally pretty low-key in my responses to, say, Facebook changing the layout of its feed.

Various Google tools have always been the exception to this. For a few years there I worked from a suite of Google apps that pretty much ran my life: Gmail; Reader; iGoogle; GoogleDocs; Calendar; etc. They pretty much let me run my online life like a ninja, filtering everything I wanted to see through a single iGoogle page that was there when I loaded up my computer.

Then the Gmail layout changed, and it bothered me. Fortunately, this was back when I was working for the dreaded day-job where I didn’t actually do anything, so I had the spare time to Google a work-around and put together an interface that more-or-less did what I wanted it to do. Google tools are frequently handy like that – they’re stripped down, but if you take the time, you can pretty much add in the features you’re looking for.

Then the news came down that iGoogle was going away, and that bummed me out a whole lot. That customized home-page was pretty freakin’ sweet, even if the vast majority of the information I got through it was now available on my phone. There were few irritated hours following the update, but I rolled with it.

I pretty much lost my shit when they announced the death of Google Reader through. I soak up a shit-load of information through RSS feeds; they’re one of the most valuable resources I have in both my day-job and my time spent online away from work. It always struck me as surprising when other people didn’t use them, in that what do you mean you *still go to the website to check out updates* kind of way. When I heard Google Reader was going away (via twitter, which is, oddly enough, probably the reason RSS has lost its importance), I got angry for a good long time.

Now, I pretty much want to kiss whoever killed off Google Reader, ’cause the act of having to migrate to a new RSS reader and actually engage with my feeds in an active way has been kinda awesome. I finally got around to organizing my feed into categories, so the stuff I want to read carefully is all segregated off from the stuff I usually breeze through looking for interesting stuff. I’ve added all my work feeds (previously handled by Outlook RSS) into the same reader, since the set-up was easy enough and there’s a lot of cross-over in the stuff I read for work and the stuff I read for home.

It’s not that the current reader is superior to Google – it’s different, but I’m kinda digging the differences – but Reader was one of those tools I’d grown complacent about. My tangle list of feeds had grown in fits and starts, mostly in the days after everyone abandoned livejournal and started blogs instead; I’d always read the feed in exactly the same way, from start to finish, ’cause that’s the way it showed up on my iGoogle page and there wasn’t an impetus to do anything different; I never bothered learning how to use the damn thing beyond the most basic level, because there was never a reason to do so.
It’s easy to get so familiar with one particular aspect of a tool that you forget about it’s other aspects. Kinda how I’d owned a hammer for about six years before I figured out what the claw-thing on the other side of the hammer was used for (really, given how often I hammer stuff, I’m surprised it only took me that long). Being forced to engage with my RSS feeds in a new way has streamlined the process of getting through them considerably – it used to take me about four hours to get through streams of data on a bad day. Now, I can pretty much knock it over in a hour.
I owe someone at Google a thank-you. And an apology for the many bad things I said about them when I first heard the news.

 

 

 

Rain

More rain, today, and I do love the rain. Last night I turned off all the lights around nine o’clock, trundled off to bed with Fritz the Laptop, and wrote things while it was deliciously cold and wet and almost rainy. There were houses in the neighborhood who’d lit their wood fires, filling the air with a piney-smokey scent. It was…kinda awesome really. A deeply satisfying end to the evening, and one where I felt utterly justified in finishing my writing stint after hitting the thousand word goal I’d set myself.

Completely satisfying days at the keyboard come along so rarely that I celebrate them when they happen. My default state is…anger, I guess. Desperation. An incessant need to do more. Doing *enough* is a foreign concept. There is never enough, really, just nights where I feel like I’ve reached the outer borders.

This morning I’ve been plugging dates into calendars, marking off deadlines. I’m plugging in things I’d like to go do, writers festivals and gaming conventions and catch-ups with friends, many of which have been floating around my subconscious for months without me ever plugging them into a calendar and figuring out whether I can actually go to them, or I just think I can. I’ve been at it for an hour now, and I’m still nowhere near done.

I’m looking askance at things like, say, the Queensland Poetry Festival, trying to figure how much time I can spend there without utterly blowing the next Flotsam deadline (some, but less than I’d hoped), or whether I can afford to duck off to a second convention this year (nope), or indeed at any point inside the next year (maybe).

I’m looking at the things that need to be fit into the deadline calendar. Projects that…well, projects that I want to start. And projects that I want done. And projects that need to be done, but haven’t actually had to fit in for a while now.

There’s something enormously satisfying about the calendar. It’ll remain satisfying until it all goes wrong.

I just walked up these stairs and, man, I’m buggered…

Once upon a time I didn’t own a car and I lived in a city with a laughable idea of public transport. Since I was also young and broke and generally wanted to go to places buses didn’t really go, I ended up walking everywhere and got quite good at it. It became a big part of my identity. My name was Peter and I walked places; any trek that required less than an hour or two meant I didn’t really bother with public transport.

Naturally, the walking went away after I acquired my first car, even if the mental image of myself as a guy who walked didn’t. And about a year after driving everywhere I walked fifteen minutes to the shops down the street and it utterly wiped me out. I found myself huffing and puffing my way home, two liters of milk tucked under my arm, wondering what the fuck, exactly, had happened.

Because I am not terribly smart, this kind of thing happened a couple of dozen times before I made the connection. I no longer walked, and thus I was no longer a walker. Being surprised that walking now took considerable effort was kind of idiotic.

I write five thousand words over the weekend. I was utterly exhausted when I finally hit the end of the story on Sunday night. This isn’t the first time this has happened, but it seems it’s this time where I’ve finally made the connection. Two and a half thousand words a day used to be an average, not something to strive for.

So I’m no longer a guy who writes a lot either. Which shouldn’t been a surprise, because there’s been many excuses not to write over the last year, and I’ve taken almost all of them, but it still came as a surprise.

Writing a lot, incidentally, means far more to me than walking ever did.

So it appears my creative muscles have atrophied considerably. If you need me, I’ll be over here, having a startling revelation that shocks me to the core of my sense of self. After that I’ll be planning the writing equivalent of going to the gym.

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According to SF Signal my short story, Say Zucchini, and Mean It, should be sent out to DailySF subscribers  on May 17th. I mention this because subscription is free and gets you all sorts of interesting stories sent to you via email every weekday, which seems a far better way of procrastinating at work than spending yet another hour on facebook.

I’m also pretty sure that Say Zucchini, and Mean It will be my last non-Flotsam story for a while. There’s nothing else waiting to be published, nothing else doing the rounds of submission, and I’m not writing any new short fiction until Flotsam is done with.

And, sure, every time I said something like this in the past, I immediately go into a mad panic and write a bunch of stories to try and correct the situation, but it’s entirely possible that this time I mean it. I have a dayjob now. More than one. I can eat without selling short fiction, and so it’s entirely possible I’m slowing down 🙂

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Lest this be entirely bogged down in mournful observation, allow me to say this: we played our weekly session of Deadlands early this weekend, and it was awesome. I make no secret of the fact that I adore my Deadland’s peeps and the campaign we’re currently playing has been a cracker, so much so that it’s successfully transitioned the regular Sunday night game into Deadland’s night rather than C’thulhu night when I put it into my calendar.

Finally, after many months, we hit the scenes I’d identified as the mid-point of the campaign, which is probably best identified as “Aliens in the Old West, if the Xenomorphs wore cow skins as a disguise.”

Afterwards we feasted on roasted pork, courtesy of our hosts.

And really, when your weekend includes good company and good food and a horror-western filled with cattle mutilation, life is pretty good.

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This is my four hundred and eighteenth post to this blog, which I guess means we’re on the downhill slope towards five hundred blog entries (whereupon I probably turn into a pumpkin).

The last few days have settled into a comfortable kind of routine – I get home from the dayjob, I don’t turn on the internet, I read a book until five o’clock or so, then I eat dinner and force myself to write 1000 words before I go to sleep. My brain’s resisting the latter – last night I wrote the first five hundred words with ease, then scrambled for the last four hundred or so for hours before admitting defeat and collapsing into bed.

Tonight there is teaching, which means I’ll have to forgo the reading, and the 1000 words will be an even bigger challenge. It needs to be done, because at this point 1000 words a day is pretty much the line between me and wholesale insanity, and I’d prefer not to be going into guilt-induced craziness as the year progresses. I am far too fond of drama, after all, and I really need to get over that.

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In my spare time, at the dayjob, I’m trying to figure out how to sculpt a horse out of paperclips. Not a terribly good horse, for I’m not that artistically inclined, but something that’s satisfyingly horse-like. I’m currently struggling with the tail.

So if anyone knows any good sculpting-horses-out-of-paperclip type tips, I’d be happy to learn them.

And now that I typed that, man, I really miss working from home. At least there my time-filling exercises were things like cleaning the bathroom or baking cupcakes.

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I did make chili last night, and it was quite good. Unfortunately, I left out the bacon. Fortunately, this means I’ll be eating bacon and eggs for lunch today, which is one of those side-effects that make me happy.

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I’m listening to the Prodigy a lot this week, which is kinda weird. It’s been years since I last plot-danced to Voodoo People. We’re talkin’ the fricken’ nineties.

I would imbed the video, but apparently that doesn’t work for this site anymore (which means, I suppose, there’s a redesign in the works somewhere in the future). I guess you’ll just have to make do do-do do doo, do do-do do-do sounds yourself, then whisper the words magic-people-voodoo-people yourself to get the right effect. Or you can follow a link.

Bookshelves, Write Club, and Interesting Things Said About Cities

I wasn’t going to spam you with dodgy phone-camera records of the Great Bookshelf Reorganisation of 2011, but I got a phone-call from my dad and at some point he asked for an update, and I like my dad enough that I’m going to oblige him.

The photograph above contains the first seven shelves of the reorganisation – top left is the brag shelf, the first two on the right are the selected nonfiction shelves, and the rest are just books by writers that remind me why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. The vast majority of books on those shelves were written by about a dozen authors, and in a year I’ll have to reorganise the whole thing because many of them are still releasing books.

I’m still not entirely sure what to do with the bottom shelves, though. I tend to fill bookcases based on a theme, but bottom shelves ruin that by being the place where no-one (well, me) goes looking for things. It’s usually where I hide folders and old RPG  books and other stuff that doesn’t get used terribly often.

That isn’t going to work this time around.

I suspect the bottom right will  be given over to art-books and comics and really big hardcovers, although I’m not entirely sure I have enough of them to make an entire shelve work because it’s a deceptively large amount of space that’s also very narrow. The bottom left may remain a haven for folders, should I figure out a way to keep them looking neat.

Tonight I start work on the noir and pulp bookshelf, then figure out where I’m planning on putting the rapidly growing pile of YA novels and short story anthologies in my collection.

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Last night there was write-club with Angela Slatter, who is normally there, and Kathleen Jennings, who is one of the new write-club recruits that we keep forgetting to talk about. As befits the write-club tradition ate chilli and drank coffee and put  a dent in the chocolate supply while nattering about writing.

Not a large dent, since more people means more chocolate, and the uneaten candy will now sit around the house tempting me until the next write club.

Somewhere amid all that we admired Kathleen’s home-made paper doll that can be eaten by butterflies (she’s giving away prints to those who donate to the various natural disaster recover funds), Angela found her books sitting next to my Kim Newman collection on the bookshelves and was summarily pleased by the location, and we sat down and wrote a couple of thousand words apiece.

All in all, it was a pleasant kind of evening, and a short story that’s been plaguing me for the last month finally snapped into focus and became writable.

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There’s a fascinating and brilliant interview with China Miéville over at the BLDGBlog that covers the use of cities in his work and the way inhabiting a space changes it. There’s something endlessly fascinating about the intensity with which Miéville approaches things like this; the way he thinks about genre and narrative, drawing inspiration from academic theory without being bogged down with it, is phenomenal. If he’d been around back when I was an undergraduate, it’s entirely possible I would have paid more attention in University.

The Great Bookshelf Reorganising of 2011

Reorganised Bookshelf

On Saturday night, around 4 am, I started reorganising bookshelves. It seemed like the thing to do, since I’d been studiously not-sleeping for five hours after going to bed.

Bookcases are one of the places where mess accumulates in my flat, largely because there’s so many of the damn things and I’ve developed a bad habit of taking things down, reading a couple of paragraphs, then putting them back somewhere else. What starts as a workable system quickly devolves over time, and every couple of years I have to start from scratch and reorganize the entire system.

The whole process tends to start around 4 AM, ’cause insomnia is my response to doing to much and thinking too much and generally feeling like things are out of control. Reordering shelves is my way of figuring out what is and isn’t important in my life, and everything goes on from there. It’s a mental reset, fighting back against my natural tendency towards entropy.

So far I’ve got two shelves down. There are many, many more to go.

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I mention this primarily because my friend Alan, and possibly my dad, were interested in knowing when the issue of Weird Tales with my story in it was available. And it now seems as though Weird Tales #357 is out in the world, and when all your friends are Lovecraft geeks this is about as cool as it gets.

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This has been doing the rounds of twitter and facebook recently, but for those behind the curve: a guy tries to sell “a story to topple Star Wars and Harry Potter” on ebay with a starting bid of $3,000,000.

There’s also a pretty good take-down of his sales pitch over at Bleeding Cool, but essentially what’s going on  is a new iteration of an old conversation that goes something along the lines of “oh, wow, you’re a writer? I’ve got a great idea, let me sell it to you and we can split the money it earns once you’ve written it.”

For those of you out there with a great idea: please don’t do this. It irritates writers and perpetuates the myth that ideas are somehow all it takes, rather than work and persistence and the occasional stroke of luck

Most writers will reply with something along the lines of “ah-huh, great, but I’m a little busy right now,” after which the writer walks away and mock you with their writer-friends, who understand that ideas are the cheap part of the equation and worth very little until someone builds a book/movie around them.

When you try to sell your idea on ebay for large sums of money, it just means you’ll be mocked in public. The internets are like that, sometimes. So are writers, really. I suspect we’re subconsciously bitter about the fact that our career is so frequently undervalued, both socially and monetarily, that the three million asking price is like a red cape to a bull.

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I tweeted this a little earlier this morning, largely ’cause I suspect there’s more gamers following my twitter/facebook feeds than there are following this blog, but just in case I’m wrong: RPGnow is raising funds for the NZ Earthquake victims. Folks who donate $20 get a bundle of over $320 RPG/gaming  ebooks donated by gaming publishers.

This is, as they say, a good cause worth supporting and the RPG ebook community has been very successful with such things in the past (and a tip of the hat to Melinda, who comments here occasionally, for giving me the heads up).

Swancon 36

A few months ago I decided to do the sensible thing by my financial situation and give up any plans of going to Swancon 36 (aka Australia’s nat-con). It was the right decision back that – I was unemployed and broke and heavily in debt, and although there were all sorts of good reasons to go to Perth (Peeps! Ellen Datlow!) the money just wasn’t there. Admitting that fracking hurt too, ’cause occasionally I’d talk to Alisa over at Twelfth Planet Pressabout using Swancon as a rough launch date for Claw, and I do so love being around when a new book goes out into the world.

Several things have changed since then. For starters there’s no chance that Claw will be out by Swancon, largely because the recent mess of dayjob and parents having heart surgery meant I just wasn’t able to meet the original deadline*. On the other hand, Swancon still has a chance to catch up with peeps and Ellen Datlow as a guest, and my recent acquisition of a day job means there’s the possibility of being able to afford to go without crippling myself financially for the next three years.

I spent most of the week running numbers, just making sure that it was possible, and what it came down to is this: I can afford the flights, I can afford the membership, and I can probably afford to eat while I’m in Perth. What I’m struggling with is the attempt to find accommodation that’s within my budget and still close to the con site. Which means, should I commit to going, I’ll need to find someone to split a room with.

Which brings us to you, dear peeps – if there’s  anyone going to Swancon in April who’se looking to split a hotel room for four nights , could you maybe give me a shout?

*something I still feel bad about, for all that Alisa was understanding when I e-mailed. For all that “my dad just had a heart-attack/open heart surgery” is a reasonable excuse, I’ve learned my lesson – the possibility of an unexpected emergency need to be factored into how I meet deadlines from now on. Especially since 2011 has a *lot* more deadlines than I’m used to. For there are always going to be emergencies, and I dislike the feeling of not getting things done on time.

On the Appeal of Easy Targets

So I’ve set myself some modest goals this week: 500 words a day of writing; three blog posts*; at least one day where I limit myself to two coffees**; buy one Christmas present so I don’t get stuck shopping during the evil December shopping crush. Thus far, I’ve failed horribly at all three, although I can at least make progress the first of my list by clicking publish. This is the curse of modest goals – it’s too easy to let them slide, figuring there will always be a moment later where you can get things done, but for the moment they’re a necessary evil because the immodest goals were just too damn intimidating for me. Monday was a rough day for writing; Tuesday was much improved, largely courtesy of a 3k night at write club, but today I’ve been letting the side down again, focusing more on planning than writing new words. Still time to rectify that before bed, just, but we’ll see how I go.

I keep reminding myself that the size fo the goals isn’t important at the moment, it’s the routine I’m chasing. Figuring out ways to get things done, finding an hour or so to write when I need it, getting used to putting words on the page again. I suspect that none of the three thousand words I wrote yesterday are going to be used, but the frustration of the story failing to come together eventually served as the catalyst for figuring out what the story may well be about.

* this would be the second.
** upgraded from one coffee a day because drinking coffee at work is a necessary evil – I work downstairs and the rest of the staff are upstairs with the coffee alcove, so it gives me a legitimate excuse to see my workmates and let them know I’m off for the day.

Writing Space

And so I have hit the point where I need to tackle that debacle that is my writing desk, which has been looking like this since I got back from my cat-sitting adventure:

The irony of this is that I rarely spend much time writing at said desk, even when it is cleared off. I can chug along quite happily for weeks, writing in bed and on the couch and at the computer set up on the computer desk. Cleaning off the desk is a mindset thing more than anything else – having the dedicated space where I can retreat where’s there’s no internet or television or, well, sleeping to be done is a large part of doing more than the bare minimum of writing.
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Current Writing Metrics

Consecutive Days Writing (500+ words): 4
New Short Stories Sent Into the Wild: 9/30
Rejections in 2010: 15/100
Black Candy Word Count (Finish Date: 31st August)