I was a bit more accurate with my reading estimate this year compared to 2018.
I set an initial goal of 100 books and read 109.
We’ve talked about how hard goal-setting is. Looking back on my 2019 Q4 goals, I was a little overly ambitious given all the HOLIDAY SEASON FAMILY stuff I ended up doing.
I did braindump ‘the croc thing’ and I did rough in a couple chapters, so that was great. I did not finish any first drafts, though I did end up iterating a few thumbnail sketches for my possible Silk and Steel sub. From a process perspective, things went much better: I read on DevOps, continued using Notion (which has been great), and reassessed my workflow (despite the chaotic energy, non-structured, routine-killing black hole that is December).
And on top of all that, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and am working on management strategies and treatment. That was a huge game-changer for me.
I’ve been using Notion consistently since the end of October, and I still cannot yell enough about how amazing it is. I have stopped using Trello, Todoist, AirTable (except for my reading tracker because I haven’t gotten around to migrating that database yet), and WorkFlowy. I still use Pocket, but mostly for personal reading now; all my writing related resources go into Notion.
Here’s a breakdown of my usage of it so far.
Congee (or xifan) is my go to winter comfort food — it’s super easy and quick to make, and it’s highly versatile and customizable. So when the weather turned cold and I had the urge to make some, I thought it would be fun to riff on the toppings and see if I could come up with at least 12 different variations. Here are the results (and here’s the Twitter thread, if that’s more your speed):
The toppings, from left to right, top to bottom:
Var 1 is pretty classic, and I really enjoyed 7, 8, and 9. The Mulan variation was fun to make, but difficult to eat. The roasted squash variation was the most different of the bunch (I have been very into roasted squash this season), and I think it looks the most interesting.
Main lesson? You can never have enough scallions. Or enough variations of furikake.
I am 33 years old, and I have ADHD. I was diagnosed at the beginning of December.
But we need to go a little further back than that.
When I left medicine, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do, but I was lucky to have the circumstances to be able to take some time and figure it out. What I settled on was this: I want to write and tell stories full time. And with any luck (and a whole lot of hard work), I’d manage to get published at some point. I wanted (want) to be an author.
So I threw myself into it at the tail end of 2017, reading craft books, figuring out metrics, setting up daily goals. I’d be able to do it consistently for a month, two months, and then there would be an emotional and mental slump that would last anywhere from a couple weeks to a stretch of months. A slump during which it was so hard to get started and put even one word on the page. I didn’t understand what was happening.
It must by my processes, I thought. My systems. After all, the shift from externally driven structure and goals to purely internally driven ones is a difficult one to make. I had a lot of learning to do.
So I read more books. I read process book after process book about hustling, about struggle, about passion and productivity. I heard over and over again, if you can’t do this every single day, you don’t actually want it. Because the flipside to the message “If you love something enough, you’ll just do it,” is that if you can’t, it’s your fault. You didn’t love it enough. You didn’t want it enough.
We don’t talk much about what is hidden in that “just.”
I accidentally picked up a new thread crafty hobby.
Things I learned: Satin stitch is hard (and this thing was mostly satin stitch). French knots are kinda fun. Stabbing yourself with a needle is startling no matter how many times you do it.
Finished most of this while listening to MRK copy edit.
I can’t believe I haven’t yelled at you yet about Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It is about a skeleton cult disaster lesbian swordswoman who gets caught up in a murder mystery romp in a gorgeously gothic palace. There are skeletons and swordfights and creepy necromancers and skeletons and weird doors and also more skeletons. (Seriously. There are a lot of skeletons.) The contrast between the beautifully rendered prose and lush language and Gideon’s trash (hilarious trash, but trash nonetheless) sense of humor is surprising and fun.
I highly recommend this book. It is delightful and also creepy, action-packed with a strong emotional core in the characters. I was sold on the premise and the cover (it’s such a perfect cover), but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do. Go grab a copy, read it, and then impatiently wait with me for the sequel about Harrow which comes out next year.
I spent the last week and a half or so in Taiwan on a family trip. We spent a few days in Hualien, visited Taroko Gorge National Park, and then spent the rest of the time wandering around Taipei. A ridiculous number of steamed buns were consumed. (Also, shaved ice. So much shaved ice.)
Now I’m back home and jet lagged and looking forward to not taking another 16 hour plane ride for a long while. That’s entirely too long for any human person to be on a plane.
But! If you’re looking for a fun place to vacation, I’d recommend checking out Taiwan. The geography is interesting, the food is great, and it’s surprisingly affordable to tourist in.
Now, despite the fact that it’s around 8p, I’m going to go to bed. I managed to not take a nap today though, so I count that as a victory.
Guys, Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is so. freaking. good. I started it and then couldn’t put it down until I had completely devoured the entire thing.
Alex is the son of the US president, Henry is a prince of England–SHENANIGANS ENSUE. Enemies to lovers, a ruse, forbidden love, and so much delicious, delicious ANGST. I just CANNOT.
This book is sweet, charming, adorable, and hilarious. I laughed out loud and startled my cat multiple times.
It hit me right in the Texas feels. It made me hopeful again. And it unbroke a little piece of my heart. I didn’t know I needed this book, but I NEEDED it. (Stories have power, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.)
Also, it has one the best lines ever: “Stop trying to Jane Austen my life!”
Also, Zahra is a goddamned treasure.
Drop whatever you are doing and go read it RIGHT NOW. It will brighten your entire life.
PS. Someone make this into a movie immediately.
Saw this from C. L. Polk a couple days ago. (She just won a World Fantasy Award for Witchmark, which is a fantastic book that you should definitely read!)
It seems like a great opportunity to do a guided reading and discussion of a writing-as-craft book. A couple of my writing buddies and I are going to read along, participate in #ficcraft, and do our own book club type discussions with each other. If I get ambitious, I may put a few blog posts up as well.
It starts December 1st.
Here’s an Indiebound link to The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass if you’re interested in following along.