Friday, December 14, 2007

Starbucks Experiment Day 3

What the hell? Monday was a big time suck of 953 words, but I came out of it with a plan. A plan that I proceeded to ignore for the next two days.

I did the 5 minutes, but after I got home, nothing. I would tell myself "Go wash the dishes if you're not going to write" and the dishes didn't get washed either. I was trying not to beat up on myself but it was still maddening. "You know what to do, now just do it!" And me not doing it is the equivalent of blowing a giant raspberry at what I have to do. What I want to do.

Thursday, it vanished. While still at work, I got the first draft of the first short project done. At Starbucks, I worked on the Educator's Guide and ended up clearing off 5 next action steps. Course, I created a slew of more next action steps but the ultimate size of each step is small. I ended up with 150 new words and two revisions I'm really happy with.

So now I'm wondering if it is the home-is-too-distracting problem cropping up again. I have the study carrel in the Library, but holiday hours don't conform well with my schedule. Working at home is my only option, I can't afford to eat out every night. So this weekend I have a new project: make the office less distracting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Starbucks Experiment Day 2

Found an outlet, set up laptop, slurped down a peppermint hot chocolate (can’t make a habit of that one), I’m here until 7pm in an attempt to beat the traffic, and now am feeling really overwhelmed. In GTD, that means it’s time for a review of the project list. But I have a shitload of projects—even the writing-only breakdown feels huge—and I’m not sure what’s the best use of my time.

On the physical side, it’s not so hard. I’ve already picked out 4 projects that will probably last me the rest of the month and the fifth is technically all the projects I have in the kitchen. I am getting the dishwasher in January, so I need to get cracking on other items. But that’s all good because projects may not take as long as I’m giving them. I’m allotting a whole month to clean up emails and make it where I can actually turn on Outlook without freaking out (not how it is currently). It may only take two weekends. I probably need to move more off the Projects List to the Someday/Maybe List. What I else saw with this review is the Projects List is a lot longer than it needs to be because I a) storing things on it that belong on another list (oops, that goes on the Wish List) and b) I forgot to erase completed projects. I’m still learning. :p

Time for my own music selection, mp3 player ready. I will give the piped-in music points for not being Christmas songs. Also need to add a folder for fantasy inspirational music. OH, that’s how you get it to play a new folder, hit the play button! I’m sure this would be a lot more intuitive if I played with it more. Need to save up and get the car setup for it.

Yeah, I’m getting a lot of writing done. *Sigh. But school is out until January, so that means 7 days to squeeze writing time out of. I need to plan in order to accomplish the most out of it. Right. So this is me planning silently, by typing and pretending to have a conversation with you who are reading this much later. (For the record, I don’t claim to be sane. I just play nicely with others.)

So the full project list with a few of their sub-projects as well.

  • Effigy Corset post (see blog folder for notes)

  • Canterbury Murder Mystery Fundraiser
    1. Is there one to adapt?

  • Thesis

  • "The Hitchhiking Highwayman"

  • 2008 AMF Educator's Guide
    1. Getting original art

    2. Add Wade's notes to Knights section.

    3. Write the Canterbury Cathedral section.

  • "Underneath the Colored Lights"

  • Letter to Mr. HandyPerson about bathtub

  • Letter to BR Mayor about public transportation (article is in project folder in tickle file)

  • Piper of Shadows Universe
    1. World building

    2. Character Clinics

    3. Create a Culture

    4. Create a Language

    5. Short story
      1. Start writing

      2. Start revising

      3. Finish revising

  • Biker Mice From Mars: Evil Jack: For Worse

  • Biker Mice From Mars: Wars Are Won: Turbo

  • Zy's Novel
    1. Create a Language for Mealte

    2. Create a Culture for Mealte

    3. Create a Language for Bekth

    4. Create a Culture for Bekth: inspired by the Sicilians

    5. Create aliens

    6. Create worlds

    7. Character Clinics for the universe

    8. "Blue Man on the Porch"
      1. Finish revising

    9. Zy's vacation story

  • Strix
    1. Character Clinics for the universe

    2. Short Story
      1. Start planning

    3. Webcomic

  • Capt. Kate's universe
    1. Character Clinics for everyone in "Covenant"

    2. "Covenant of the Restless"
      1. Start planning

      2. Start revising

      3. Finish revising

Before anyone starts yelling at me for being crazy and biting off more than I can chew, this is the Writing List. I have a Story Ideas Folder for the “this name sounds interesting” or “this news article has potential,” you get the idea. The Writing List is the collection of writing projects that are much further along the process with plot concepts, characters, setting, scraps of dialogue, and possibly full scenes. I am not writing all this stuff at the same time. (Though sometimes, I think my brain really wants to.)

My initial idea was to spend the nights in Baton Rouge working on one project and the nights I get home early working on a different one. Now looking at the list and how many of them have sub-projects and seeing all the small ones I had forgotten about, I’m not sure that is a good idea any more.

Need to apply the how to prioritize criteria to this list, but until I can do that this will have to do. First deadline is on the Educators’ Guide. Shortest are the letters. I’ve decided to write my thesis stories in the Piper of Shadows universe (unless my thesis advisor just hates it), so I need to have a robust world ready to fall into. Hell, I want that even if I didn’t have the thesis riding on it. “BMFM: For Worse” is really occupy my headspace hard. Most of all I want to start crossing stuff off the list and move the projects to their final stages: submission and publication (hopefully).

Even with dividing things into their next physical, visible actions, I don’t think I should have more than two going at a time: one small and one large, replaced with another one once completed. I’ll probably get through all the small ones before I finish the large one but at least I will feel like I’ve gotten progress.

So tomorrow, I work on the next actions for the Letter to Mr. Handyperson and the Educators’ Guide. Now I have to break down what the next actions are, after I go home. It’s going home time.

It took 953 words, but I’m not feeling overwhelmed any more.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Evening at Starbucks

Written while in Starbucks last night from about 5:30pm to 6pm.

I should have gotten the passion iced tea sweetened. I don't think it will bomb out my blood sugar, but I also don't think I'll order it without sweetener again.

Found an outlet! But I left my laptop at home. *headdesk* I feel better about being here now, scoping the place out. Nobody's too loud, there's no cast of Friends on the center couch being annoying. The tables big enough to be used as desks have already been nabbed by laptop users. And they stock bottle water and Izza Soda for me and the whole anti-coffee thing.

The only bad thing is no real food. I will have to eat before I come here and that costs me thirty minutes. It's also expensive to keep eating out. I suppose I could spend an hour writing. Traffic can only be better at 6:30pm than 6:00pm, right? But I have to leave at 6pm tonight because I still have to grocery shop.

Biker Mice From Mars: Evil Jack: For Worse

New words: 200
Total words: 3225
What I hate about my writing: I'm going to bore the readers with this scene.
The Good: Audio/visual setup reveals the obsession.
The Bad: Jack is back
Fave Jack line: And he had the video proof of just how boring it was.
What I'm looking forward to: Nookie in the scoreboard, since the POV is the sadistic loony bird voyeur take the opportunity to be raunchy!
What I'm not looking forward to: Having to edit the Voyeur scene from the POV of the sadistic loony bird to not offend my gentler readers

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

30 Days of At Least Five Minutes

Once again, November was a lousy month for me to participate in NaNo. I think I can safely participate in 2009, unless it corresponds with thesis deadlines next year. So I find myself doing my reaffirmation to writing exercises in December without the company. Oh well, writing is a lonely business and I need to workout my butt-in-chair exercise. (And everything lately is thought of in terms of exercises and workouts, feel free to substitute "session" or "practice.")

Butt-in-chair is defined simply as the time spent putting the words on paper. You spend all waking hours--and some sleeping ones--writing, but to paraphrase Laurence Block, the only time that counts is churning out the daily word count. And this is where I have problems with consistency. And so far every time I have tried to discipline myself into doing better, I flub it.

What I have figured out about myself is I do better with improving myself with something I can track. I'm more consistent with housework with a checklist, projects get finished with GTD, I keep track of money when I feel I'm going to be graded. Keeping word count tallies is good, but doesn't help me with the consistency. I usually meet the goal by having a mad dash of writing for an assignment. So after deciding I needed a better system of accountability, I went looking in my library.

Most advice books leave daily work at the you-need-to-do-it-but-everyone-is-different stage. If you're lucky, the author will cover what works for them. unluckily, most are full-time writers who can sit at the computer for a couple of hours until the word count is met. I'm not in that position and may never be. Writing has to exist in my life as a second full-time job.

What I found among the books I haven't read yet was Jerry Cleaver's Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course. "Time Management was listed in the blurbs, so I decided to read what he says about it. Cleaver sets up his book as a writing course, complete with exercises at the end of every chapter. His writing style is this-is-the-problem-here's-the-solution. No feel-good waffling and right now I want a method to apply. If it doesn't work that will be the time to modify the method.

In this chapter the techniques are tailored to helping you overcome the particular difficulties you face in making writing a part of your daily life. If you're serious about writing, you can (and should) start now. If you do, when your life opens up (if it ever does), you'll be ready and able. But what if it never opens? Well, you don't need to wait around for such an opportunity. This system makes it possible for you to do it now. (161 - 162)

It doesn't take much to hook me, I'm afraid. He calls this system the 5-minute method. Cleaver also created the Writer's Loft and the "Write Your Novel Now" Internet course. So I believe him when he says this method has been the most successful.

First step is to take five minutes out every day for writing. Now you don't start a timer and put the pen on the paper. These five minutes are to put yourself in a meditative state. You can tap into your creativeness much easier when you're relaxed instead of hearing the must-write screaming in your head. I'm having to train myself out of this screaming because it's counter-productive. I do more and better writing back when I just wrote and didn't spend all my time telling myself I had to write.

I once sat down to try meditating for 5 minutes and nearly jumped out of my skin because, in my world, you were never supposed to be doing nothing, and if you caught yourself doing nothing, you damned well better not be enjoying it. (This is all very Western. The Eastern cultures have a tradition of meditation, of letting go of the mind, or letting it settle down, to achieve an inner state of emptiness and relaxation that brings on insight, and enlightenment. Now, I'm not talking about religion or spirituality, but simple a way to reach a deeper level of your mind.) So, if the Puritan is in you, it usually helps to be aware of it and consciously tell yourself it's OK to just sit. (164)

Huge problem for me too, made worse by not having time to do butt-in-chair nor the desire to do butt-in-chair. It has been worse than my don't-wanna-exercise apathy. Cleaver's first counter to that is to spend the five minutes doing nothing but meditation. "This whole relaxing, letting go, do nothing approach should assure that you will do your five minutes, that you will put in your time, because you can never use the excuse that you're not up to doing it, that you don't feel you can accomplish anything, that you're not in the mood, or that you can't handle it today, etc., since the only thing you have to accomplish when you don't feel up to it is to do nothing, and you can't claim you're incapable of doing nothing, can you? (164-165)" You commit to doing this for "thirty days straight before you evaluate or reconsider it or debate with yourself about the value of it. (165)"

"The CARDINAL SIN in all this is skipping the 5 minutes a day (181)." But it does happen. So far I have missed one. "BUT if due to forces beyond your control, you do miss your 5 minutes, never, never,never do extra to catch up (181)." It only feeds into the feeling-guilty cycle if you do.

I suppose what comes next sounds like I'm disobeying the don't-talk-about rule right now, but I have that accountability problem. I have to commit in public to do what's best for me.

I started following the 5-minute-method December 3rd. I created a Joe's Goal for it, so I can track the chain of doing the five minutes until it reaches thirty days. This is my public commitment to following this method.

The 5-minute-method isn't the only thing to be committed to. I've been trying to fit writing time with dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays and now that classes are over, the rest of the week has opened up. But I haven't found a spot (or an outlet) where I can pull out my laptop and work while eating. Plus always getting the feeling that I should vamoose after paying the check. Tonight after I eat, I'm going to have to squash hating myself for giving airs of pretension, find something on the menu that's sugar-free and decaffeinated, ask if there is an outlet, and write in Starbucks. The coffeehouse scene is about as me as the bar scene is me, which is in the shocked-and-dismayed-to-find-you-here category. So I'm sucking it in my own fashion for my writing. At least, I can honestly say that TV is not a big time suck for me. The Internet however....

Well, time to do my five minutes.