RSS

Tag Archives: goals

(Personal) A Writer’s Almanac: July 2018

Self Improvement 150We’re in the second half of the year, and now would be an excellent time to review my progress on my New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not going to do that, though; I know I’ve done a terrible job with what I aimed to do in 2018 and I know why.

So July is going to be the month that I focus intensely on building a consistent writing routine by scheduling at least an hour a day towards working on The Writing Desk or the Jackalope Serial Company. But wait, there’s more! I’m setting a goal of at least 30 minutes a day for reading, and at least 15 minutes a day for meditation. This isn’t an “all or nothing” goal. I realize that there might be some days I just won’t be able to get something done. But this should at least be the minimum of what I’m doing every day as a writer.

The key, of course, is making sure I’m not in my own way. Every Sunday, I’ll take a bit of time to look ahead and see what might cause a problem with reading, writing, or meditation; then I’ll see what I need to do in order to plan around it. Maybe that means writing at lunch or getting up earlier to make sure I get my reading in. Maybe it means cutting out something else to make sure writing, reading and meditation takes priority. No matter what, I want to make sure I’m chaining together writing, reading and meditation days as often as possible.

THE WRITING DESK
This month, the goal is 13 posts here (including this one). I’d like to write ahead as much as possible, making sure that regular posts (like Fiction Friday) are written and edited well ahead of time. That’ll mean front-loading the writing here so that I’m not panicking the night before to make sure something’s done.

For Fiction Friday this month I’ll be writing about a ‘new’ werebear who finds out he has the affliction of ursanthropy in the most unusual of ways. Werebears are my jam, shut up. 🙂

THE JACKALOPE SERIAL COMPANY
This is another project that I would feel a lot better about if I could get ahead of it. Right now, the plan is to have a weekly serial that’s a bit looser but hopefully entertaining; then, for folks who have been donating at the higher tiers a longer-form serial that drops once or twice a month. First, though, I’ll have to be regular with the weekly serials.

Right now I’m “auditioning” four different ideas for the weekly serials. The next two will be up later this week with voting taking place next week. Patrons will get the most time to vote, with the poll going up on Monday; on Wednesday, the poll link will go up on Twitter; and on Friday, folks who follow me on SoFurry will be able to get in on the action before it closes on Saturday. Over that week, I’ll be doing my best to write ahead for whichever serial gets the biggest boost.

The high-tier serial will most likely start with “Boundaries”, which will run for seven parts at least. I don’t think I should start posting that until August, though — I really want to get into the rhythm of regular release, and I’d love to make sure I have at least three parts written before the first one is released. We’ll see how it goes.

OTHER WRITING
The big theme for this year has been self-rejecting out of a number of opportunities, just because I couldn’t get myself together in time. I’d really love to stop that and get better about writing for periodicals and anthologies I’m excited about with plenty of time to edit and get feedback; that’s going to take regular practice and a better eye on submission windows when they’re available.

For now, I’m using the Jackalope Serial Company as my chance to write towards a deadline on a somewhat regular basis, and to make sure that I’m doing my part to make sure the work gets done on time. Once I’m a bit more confident with that, I’ll start sniffing around to see where the most exciting chances to submit my work are.

READING
I’m reading “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach, and I think I’ll be working on that quite a bit this month. I’ve read the book before, but I’m going through it again because I gifted it to a friend to (hopefully) help with his Anxiety Disorder. I’ve been getting a lot more from it this time, which is a little surprising; I’ve loved the book for a long time now, but I guess the lessons needed a bit more time and experience for their intended impact.

I’m also reading “Steppenwolf” by Hermann Hesse to see if it might be a good novel for the Furry Canon project over on [adjective][species]. I’m not sure it is, but it is a fascinating read on its own merits. The main character presents his existential crisis in uniquely furry terms, and the deconstruction of it reveals a lot about the potential benefits and problems with constructing and inhabiting a furry identity for one’s self. I’m going to keep pretending to be a jackalope regardless, but the criticism helps me to be a lot more mindful of how that self-concept can go sideways.

Beyond the daily quota for writing, reading and meditating, I didn’t want to have very specific goals this month. The most important thing is putting in the time; we’ll see what needs to be worked on next once I figure out that part.

What about you, fellow writers and bloggers? What goals do you have for this month? And how did you do with your writing in June?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 2, 2018 in Reading, Self-Reflection, Writing

 

Tags: , ,

(Personal) In The Weeds

Writing 150So the last two weeks haven’t been very good for me, focus wise.

For the third week in a row, I haven’t posted a new part to the Jackalope Serial Company — something that I set out wanting to avoid at all costs. My story for People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction is practically dead on arrival, and with ten days left until the submission deadline there isn’t a whole lot of time for me to work on it. Work on New Fables has ground to a halt while I’m dealing with just about everything else, and the day job has been plenty demanding in its own right. With social obligations, exercise and other things, it feels like I just haven’t been able to get a handle on anything so far this month.

And you know what? That’s OK. There are some periods that will be like that — where things feel out of control, where another fire pops up as soon as you stamp one down, where you feel like you’re working as hard as you can just to break even. But those periods will eventually end; you will be able to take a breath, renew your focus and do the best you can to achieve what you can in the time you can.

I’m knocking on wood here, but I’m hoping that the worst of the busy season is over for a month or two. Last week was preparing for my first on-call weekend, which proved to be more challenging than expected for a number of reasons. The interesting thing about my day job is that there are so many new things to learn; the flipside is that almost every thing that comes up is new to me. It takes time to learn enough to feel comfortable with things, and during my on-call weekend time was something in short supply. It was difficult balancing the needs of my customers with the desire to understand just what the hell I was doing. The plans that I had made for an orderly workflow over the week were thrown out of the window by Friday evening; Saturday was mostly spent trying to figure out one or two issues; Sunday morning was the only day it felt like I could get ahead of things, so I took advantage.

I had hoped to at least spend a little time writing over the weekend, but that did not happen. It was all day job, all the time.

And that leaves me in something of a difficult position with my projects. I’ll need to make things right over at the Patreon any way I know how; I’ll need to shut myself away for a few days this week to power through a working draft of “The Tourist”; and I’ll need to use my newfound powers of Project Management to break down everything I’ll need to do in order to bring New Fables to publication.

So far, the ambitious goals I’ve set for 2016 have had to be rolled back a bit. I’ve taken a bit of time to panic about that, and to mourn the fact that I wasn’t able to do what I set out to do; now it’s time to regroup and re-dedicate myself.

Writing to meet tight deadlines; reading to learn how to be better organized; focusing on what’s in front of me to achieve what I want. That’s this week. See to it! Go do it!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Buddhism, Self-Reflection, Writing

 

Tags: , ,

My 35th Year

Myth 150Last Thursday I celebrated my 35th birthday. If I’m lucky, this puts me squarely in the territory of early middle age. That means that for the most part, I’m starting to have fewer days ahead of me than there are behind. It’s a sobering thought, but not a depressing one.

Unlike most I really don’t mind getting older. I think older people rule — they have a depth of knowledge and experience that can only be obtained one way, have learned what’s really important and what might not be worth paying attention to, have grown comfortable living in their own skin. I feel that happening to me as the days tick by; I keep learning new things, experiencing more things that I can compare to my previous experiences, and am more able to learn and accept my limitations. All of the regrets I have, instead of sending me into a paralyzing depression, are valuable lessons that help me strive for the ideals I treasure and the standards I’ve set for myself. I’ve made so many mistakes, and I continue to do so. But that is part of the imperfection that is my birthright.

I still have a long way to go before I feel like I’m where I want to be, but maybe it will always be that way. Maybe that’s what life is; a constant running towards a set of moving goalposts. And I know how futile that might sound, but it’s actually exciting — the goalposts only move once you’ve reached them to find they’re a signpost to the next thing. The idea that I’m standing in a place that was a goal somewhere in my 20s (stable job, self-confidence, a loving husband, a support network of smart, honest friends) is wonderful; and the idea that somewhere down the line, I’ll be that much further along towards places I’m only beginning to think are possible now is simply wondrous.

I’ve learned a lot this year — not only about myself, but about the world around me. I’m taking great strides in learning about my fear and overcoming it, and that is opening up an exciting range of new possibilities. I can sit with my discomfort far better than ever, which means I’m more willing to push through new experiences that make me feel stupid or uncertain (that means pretty much any new experience basically). I’ve learned that I probably have ADHD, and the treatment for that allows me to be focused and organized in ways I never thought I was capable of. I own a car, can drive all over town, and have (slowly and painfully) learned how to stop impulse buying. (Mostly.)

I’ve become more engaged with the world, both politically and personally. That engagement has pushed me further to the left at a time when it feels like my country is becoming more and more selfish, alienated and conservative. It’s more important to me than ever to try and connect people, to value understanding and compassion, even as it feels more hopeless and certain that we’re all going to die fighting for the few stunted scraps that will grow in polluted soil and poisoned water. I feel more passionate about the best of humanity even when I’m almost certain we will succumb to our own demons.

It reminds me of this parable: in the afterlife, all of us sit at a long table groaning under the weight of a tremendous feast. There are long forks attached to our left hand, long spoons fixed to our right. If we’re in hell, we cannot possibly feed ourselves; the utensils are way too long to bring the food to our mouths. If we’re in heaven, we’re feeding each other; we’re alleviating the suffering of our fellow man and accepting the charity of others. It’s the same exact situation — the only thing that changes is our reaction to it.

I want to devote my life to helping other people, however I can. I want to spend the time I have left helping people to understand themselves and one another, to feel less alone, to encourage them towards caring for themselves, their community and their world. I want to take all of the misery I’ve experienced and use it to ground myself in compassion for those who are having difficulty. I want to encourage active, positive change.

The personal is the political, of course, and vice versa. I believe that the best way to change the way our society operates is by reminding the people in it what their values are, and encouraging them to pursue that in a way that betters themselves and their fellow human beings. We can do this even if we hold different values in higher esteem. We can do this without judgment or hatred for our differences. We can feed our fellow humans whatever they want, and be glad to do it. That is what heaven looks like to me.

At the age of 35, these are my ideals. I know I will fail to live up to them; I know they might change by the time I reach 45, or 55, or 65. But that’s fine. What I do today will be the foundation for what I will have built in the next decade or two, and it’s taken me a while to realize just what that means. If I want to make sure that I’m one of those kick-ass old men who are smart and certain and passionate, then I’m going to have to build myself into that right now. One goal at a time, one day at a time, one small act at a time.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Whatever Your Heart Can Handle

Self Improvement 150As an online rabbit, I know about the importance of running and cardiovascular exercise to my overall health. And I’ve been trying to develop a good running practice for a little over seven years now — first by regular trips on the treadmill and then by carving out good routes around the burrow. As you might guess, it hasn’t gone too well. I’m sidelined by pains and injuries fairly often, and the constant push to run farther, faster makes the practice far less attractive than staying in my warm little hole and helping myself to a glass of wine.

And that’s not even to say that I dislike running — on the contrary, I really love that sweat-soaked rush of endorphins I get after I log a few miles. But there’s not denying that it takes considerable effort — to get myself out the door, to keep pushing when it feels like my lungs are going to burst or my calves are going to snap away from the backs of my knees, to keep running even if it’s cold or rainy, or I’m tired or stressed. Even though I feel great about it afterwards, running is often a deeply unpleasant activity marked by gasping for air, a pounding heart, and persistent pain around the joints and muscles.

In the interest of learning how to run better so that I can actually do it on a regular basis, I signed up for a Fitocracy Fitness Group called “Level Up Your Running”. I have to say, it’s already making a difference. We’re only three weeks into a twelve-week program, and my relationship with running is already changing. I really believe the key to this change relies on changing up my pace, and the expectation of what I should be doing whenever I lace up the running shoes.

My trainer is a big believer in pushing yourself, but not too much. She believes you should listen to your body while you’re running; if your focus starts to narrow to simply what’s in front of you and you can’t actually talk because you’re too busy panting then it’s no good. Instead, you should be able to carry a conversation when you run, and you should have your full range of vision. You should actually have time to notice your surroundings.

For an out-of-shape asthmatic rabbit like me, that means running ridiculously slow. If you were to see me out on the street, you’d see this dumpy guy taking quick steps (180 per minute, thank you very much) that are so short it looks like he’s shuffling. He glances around, occasionally taking a look at his watch to check his heart rate (which should be around 150 or so). It barely looks like exercise, but it is. And that’s the point. It’s not graceful, it’s not efficient…but it IS fun. At the end of my runs I get that nice rush of endorphins and I think “I could have done more. I can’t wait to run again.” As much as I love running, I never in my life thought I would say something like that.

The key, of course, has been pacing. I’ve had to let go of the standards I thought I should be maintaining for now. Gone is the idea that I should be running a ten-minute mile, or that I should be working up to four miles every single time I run. Right now I’m going a mile at a time, at around fifteen minutes a mile. It’s incredibly slow, and the running time is incredibly short. But for the first time in a very long time, the simple act of running is a thing I enjoy. That’s worth looking goofy and taking a huge step back from what I’ve been doing before.

Of course this philosophy works away from exercise, too. So many of us load up our plate with goals designed to push us as far as we can go because we think that’s what we need to do. But we burn out, or we start falling short, and our hobbies become these immense sources of guilt. To extend the running analogy, our hearts are beating way too fast, we can never catch our breath, and it’s only a matter of time before we blow a knee or an ankle under the stress.

The Art of Manliness has a great article on this that I think I’ve mentioned before. The 20 Mile March approach to goals prizes consistency over effort, so that you end up leaving quite a bit in your tank most days just so you don’t tire yourself out. There are going to be days where you don’t feel like doing the work to get yourself closer to your goals. There are going to be days where you can’t put in the work, for whatever reason. If you set a goal for whatever it is that’s low and easily reproducible, you can overcome most resistances to it or catch up easily whenever you’ve missed a day. That way, you can build a lasting habit that’s low stress and actually enjoyable. Setting a “maximum” limit for yourself each day is a great thing to do — it leaves you with the feeling that you could have done more, that you WANT to do more. And that leaves you actually looking forward to the next session.

So, if you’re trying to develop a habit but haven’t been able to make it stick, here’s what I would recommend: pull back. If you’re trying to write every day, make the goal so low it’s impossible not to do — a hundred words a day, or maybe even one sentence every day. Stick to that, even when you’re tempted to do more. You’ll find yourself doing more than cultivating a habit — you’ll cultivate the hunger to keep doing it, which is far more valuable.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The State of the Rabbit – April 2013

I’m not very good at those April Fools’ Day pranks that tend to make the rounds on the blogosphere today, so I encourage you to imagine that I did something appropriately awesome and/or crazy and you’re amused or annoyed by it. I’m sure that whatever you could come up with would be better than what I would actually do, so that way everyone wins and I can move on to my more earnest topics!

March was an interesting and harried month for me. I remember working hard a lot for the last four weeks, but I’m not entirely sure I have a lot to show for it. Most of my attention was focused on the Pathfinder game I run around twice a month (more on that later this week), and I think the work was worth it. I’ve hit upon a few veins of story that I’m really excited about, and I get to open up the world in ways I think my players will appreciate. The problem is that while your audience definitely appreciates the work you’re putting in, by nature it’s going to be very small. The adventures of your group of friends tends not to translate too well when you’re telling it to people who aren’t invested.

Maybe that would be a good challenge for myself as a storyteller, talking about my game in a way that hooks people, but that will need to be set aside for another day.

I’ve made progress on writing short stories, though not nearly as much as I’d like. I’m nearly done with “Tight Fit” for Rask, and after that I’d like to jump right in to the next ‘commission-style’ short story for another friend, Elrabin. I think I’d rather take a week or two to edit/rewrite ‘chapter two’ of the fluff story that I was supposed to burst right out of the gate with, just to have that done.

I would make excuses for not reaching my goals (again) last month, but to be honest there simply aren’t any. I didn’t prioritize writing in the way that I should have in order to get myself where I wanted to be and while there are a number of reasons for that it’s still the way it is. Even though things were a little crazy last month, there were still a number of times where I could have been writing and chose to do something else instead; I’m going to have to take a long, hard look in the mirror to determine why that is.

While I’m doing that, though, I’ll keep trying to push on — though with a little less ambition than before. I know what I want to do, and I’ll focus on doing it as quickly and well as I can. We’ll see where I am at the end of April, how many times I’ll decide not to write when I really was able to, and then we’ll go from there.

One of the reasons my mind has been taken away from writing is lingering health issues that are just wearing me out. There’s something wrong with my digestive tract — I’m not eliminating the way I should be, and that’s causing a complication or two that’s painful and awkward to deal with. I’ve been trying to self-manage for most of the month but I’ve finally thrown in the towel on that. I’ll be seeing a doctor today, a few weeks later than I should be, to see what’s wrong and what can be done about it. In addition to that I’ll take a couple of tests to see whether or not I have a gluten sensitivity and once that’s out of the way I’ll be moving my diet a little closer to the Whole 30 model I learned in February. A lot less grains for breakfast, more fresh produce for lunch, that sort of thing. I’m really hoping that the doctor’s visit and the dietary change will yield big improvements, because to be honest I’m ready to not be dealing with constant discomfort at this point.

The health issues have degraded my ability to cope with just about everything; I’m not quite as quick as I could be with work, and that’s a big deal because this would be a great opportunity for me to step up and rock the house right when my department needed me. We’re staring down the barrel of a fairly busy spring with not quite enough resources to manage things — that’s a pretty common problem in corporate America, I’m sure, but it’s my first time dealing with issues of quite this magnitude. I’m ready to step up. I WANT to step up. But my body is making it hard to do so.

To be honest, I’m not sure what this month is going to be like. A lot of that depends on what the doctor has to say and how quickly my digestive issues diminish. Optimistically, I’d like it to be the month where I finally kick it into gear, take strides to write regularly and get back on track in the office. But I know that may not be likely. Fortunately, this rabbit knows that slow and steady wins the race, and I’ll just have to take it that way until I’m ready to move a little faster.

 
 

Tags: , , , ,

January 2013 Goals: How Did I Do?

At the beginning of this month, I set a pretty ambitious set of goals for myself. I had planned to write or rewrite five short stories — two stories for friends to try out a commission scheme I had dreamed up, and a rewrite of three ‘fluff’ short stories that I felt I could do better with. That roughly equated to about 22,000 words or so, give or take a few.

There were a number of obstacles staring me down that I had acknowledged but thought would be easy to overcome. Further Confusion 2013 would be taking up a considerable chunk of time, but I vowed that I could find time somewhere during the convention to write. We would also have company staying in the Burrow before and after the con, but I didn’t think it would impact my ability to bang out a thousand words every day. We were also returning to work from the holidays, and who knows what would lie in store for us there?

Well, it turns out that confidence is great, but following through with action is much more difficult. Further Confusion took more than a week out of my writing time — even though I took my laptop with me to the convention every day, there really wasn’t much writing to be done. Not when there were so many people to see and so many things to do! I also thoroughly enjoyed the company we had the honor of hosting, and retreating to a quiet part of the Burrow to do something as anti-social as writing was much harder than I thought.

I returned to a very busy work environment that took a lot of my attention, and dear Ryan took ill for about a week after the con. It took us another week to settle down into our routine, and by then — well, January was almost over.

Out of the five short stories I had planned to have finished by the end of the month, I’ve only completed one. The rewrite of “The Big Game — Chapter 1” is put to bed, and I’m still working on Rask’s short story, “The Tough Fit”. It’s nowhere near completed, though. I hope to have it sewn up in a week’s time.

So I can only count this month as an unqualified failure, writing-wise. And what did I learn from that failure? Well, I learned that being ambitious is good, but being realistic is better. I definitely should have given myself an easier workload leading into Further Confusion, and abandoned all plans to get anything significant done. If I found a spot to work on a story? Great, but it would have been optional instead of ‘mandatory’. I’ll try to be more aware of such things in the future, and plan more accordingly.

Also, it might be nice to find alternatives to the laptop for writing — something a bit more portable and convenient. I do have an iPad, but without a keyboard or 3G connection, so I’m not sure how workable that is. A notebook is probably my best bet, but I’d need to get into the habit of writing longhand. My hand cramps just thinking about it at this point!

In a couple of days, I’ll submit my plan for February. But in the meantime, I have to apologize to the folks who were expecting stories out of me a lot sooner! I’m still learning as I go, and I have to ask for the indulgence of your patience a bit longer.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Self-Reflection, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Writing Plan for December 2012

Writing 150I took a bit of planned time off in November. I have a number of good projects I could be working on, but I thought it would be a good time to close out the end of the year working on fundamentals. I’d like to develop a consistent writing practice, where I’m at least banging out a few hundred words on something every day. I want to determine a good system where I have a list of projects to work on, and I know exactly where I am on each of them. One of the things I’d like to take the time to do is learn how to treat my writing like a professional. The big difference between me and a pro (besides talent and more money) is that ability to really nail down a schedule and stick to it.

So what I’ve been doing is trying to stick to a consistent publishing schedule for the blog — Monday, Wednesday and Friday if you haven’t noticed. In addition to that, I’ve been trying to come up with bits of short fiction in both the Bird and Sleepwalker universes just so I can get a better handle on the setting and the characters I’m working with. Finally, I’ve been writing bits of interactive fiction for some adult stories over on writing.com. They’re all rather low-stakes things I can work on, and if I need to focus on a particular thing — like deconstructing a particular type of scene, or dialogue, or working my fingers around a particular character type — then bundling in these writing exercises is the perfect excuse.

By using this time to experiment with my writing and how I develop my practice, I figure that by the time the new year rolls around I’ll have a good foundation for branching out a little bit. I already have an idea of what I’d like to do for January, but first things first. My “professional” development as a writer is still a work in progress at this point.

So! This is the plan for the next month. I’ll be working on this blog, trying to stick to my established schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I’d like to refine my movie and book reviews so that they’re more informative and/or entertaining. I’d like to make sure that my short fiction (500 – 1500 words) is tight and efficient. And I’d like to make sure that I write more entries about what I’m discovering about the writing process.

I’ll keep trying to write short fiction based on the writer’s prompt published by the Furry Writers’ Guild. This month, I’ll try to expand beyond the Bird and Sleepwalkers universes to whatever idea grabs me first. And I think it might be a good idea to actually plan to work on a different thing each week. What do you guys think I should work on? I’d welcome your suggestions!

In addition to the blog and short fiction exercises, I’ll keep working on the interactive chapters over on writing.com. I’d like to make sure I’m writing at least three a week, though I’m not sure that’s going to be possible towards the latter end of the month when the holidays end up getting crazy, but we’ll just call that a test of my discipline. 🙂

Later on, I’ll be focusing on editing a few short stories that I’ve put in a drawer for a little while. Most of them are related to what I’m planning to do in January, and I’d like to get a good head start on that. We’ll see how well that goes.

All in all, it’s a little ambitious, but I think it’s time I step up my writing. Hopefully by the time 2013 rolls around, I’ll have developed enough consistency (and cultivated my practice) to start publishing things on FA, SoFurry, Weasyl. Later on, I can think about actually submitting to other zines and publications.

For now, though, it’s all about being consistent with my writing and working on the things that I need to work on. Let’s see how well I can do that.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Writing

 

Tags: ,