writing recap 2019: w2

Not very productive this week. I worked on plotting for a couple short stories, started season 11 of Writing Excuses, and wrote a poem. I’ve been dragging my feet on getting the requisite structures back in place — the inertia is no joke. I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too badly, but that’s kind of difficult too.

Episode 11.04 of Writing Excuses was about Newton’s Laws of Writing (or, rather, Howard Tayler’s Laws of Writing). They are:

  1. A word count at rest tends to remain at rest. A word count in motion tends to remain in motion.
  2. Word count equals motivation times focus.
  3. Writing is its own reward.
    • Sanderson variation: Every word you write is worthwhile.

For the last couple of weeks, my word count has been at rest. And I’m starting to think that, while breaks work well for many people, they don’t work as well for me. At least not right now. I get kind of drifty and mopey and self-flagellating. MRK mentioned that sometimes the easiest way to get out of a funk is to simply start small, because it doesn’t end up staying small once you get going. Maybe three sentences. Maybe 250 words. But just starting there and letting it build. And, of course, the gentle reminder that time spent thinking about your story is still work towards your story. It’s not always just the new words (though those are obviously very important).

As for law two, my issue right now is the focus bit. I’m letting too many things distract me, and I’m being too lax with some of the rules that I know work for me.

So this week, getting structures back in place, and figuring out how to set some writing goals.

read it: not that bad

9780062413505_p0_v4_s1200x630

Not That Bad is an anthology of essays about rape culture edited by Roxane Gay. It is heavy and heartbreaking and critical. It touches on so many different aspects of rape culture, the parts that get overshadowed or justified or excused because they are (eponymously) not that bad. It’s hard to read, and it should be, because it’s hard to face up to the truth of how our society views and values women (which is to say, not as people, and not as much as men).

Because sidelining women’s stories/voices/visages, and also glorifying—thus neutralizing—their suffering, are not only prerequisites to sexual violence against women, but also ensure that sexual violence isn’t seen as sexual violence but as totally normal, sanctioned behavior.

– from “Why I Didn’t Say No” by Elissa Bassist

Shelve under required reading. Take your time with it. Think about the different experiences and how they are all unique and all the same. Take breaks and take care of yourself when you need to.

ow, my legs

This year, I’m trying to work on prioritizing my health and fitness. I have a tendency to let exercise be the first thing to go when I get a little stressed, or when my routine/framework/structure gets stressed (i.e. travel). Prior to the Europe trip last year, I was pretty good about consistently exercising, but as soon as we went on a trip, everything fell apart and I could never quite get back on the bandwagon.

My cardiovascular fitness is terrible. Just, pretty terrible.

I’m planning to jump back into a full routine starting next week. As part of that, Adam and I are going to do a couple of workouts together (for accountability reasons and because otherwise I will be highly unlikely to drag my ass to a group exercise class), and we decided to try Orangetheory because Sam absolutely loves it and recommended it to us.

We went to our first class on Sunday, and my legs are still dying from it. So that’s… good? The HIIT involved treadmill stuff, and I hate treadmills. So, so much. Mostly because I hate running. Mostly because my cardiovascular fitness is terrible. It’s all just a full, slow, wheezy, intermittently nauseous circle. But in theory, the slowness and wheeziness and nausea will get better with practice. (Right?) And then maybe I will hate treadmills less.

Either way, we’re doing it. (Time to find more supportive sports bras…)

writing recap 2019: w1

I spent most of the week reading and reflecting and figuring out how to actualize my plans for the new year. Finished setting up the new bullet journal. Did some more beta reading.

The short story intensive for this weekend got postponed, so I spent a good amount of the week kind of at a loss. My original plan was to kind of take it easy since it was a shorter week due to the NYE/NY holiday and since I was going to essentially have a writing jam this weekend. So that was just my general mindset the rest of the week. I did some edits on short stories and went through the rest of the feedback DVA gave me, so that was useful.

I still have trouble knowing what to do when I have some plot issues. My best (in my own opinion) stories so far are the ones that feel like they come easily and naturally. I tend to write relatively clean prose, so it feels like flowing. But I have a couple of story ideas that I really believe in that I haven’t been able to get into that headspace for. And when that’s the case, my inner editor comes alive and I spend time line editing when I should be pushing the story forward, writing from plot point to plot point. That’s a big thing I need to consistently work on this year.

2018 year in books

I read a lot of books this year.

I set an initial goal of 50 and woefully underestimated how much I was going to read. Especially since one-third to one-half of my work day is reading now.

reading challenge

Here’s a review breakdown on the books from this year (pulled from Goodreads).

2018 book stats

This was honestly kind of all over the place because I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted a rating to mean. What makes something three-star vs four-star? Solely story and plotting and characters? Does prose factor in? I just made it all overly complicated for myself. This year, I’m going back to the scale that Goodreads uses basically: 1 = didn’t like it, 2 = it was okay, 3 = liked it, 4 = really liked it, and 5 = loved it.

And for fun, the first 12 and last 15 (because of how the page ended up being formatted) books I read in 2018.

2018 first 12

first 12, read bottom to top and right to left (for some reason)

2018 last 15

last 15, read bottom to top and right to left (because formatting)

Because, as you already know, I have an AirTable and also a spreadsheet for tracking reading data, here are some of my stats from 2018:

  • Total read: 123
  • Author gender (M/F/NB): 15/49/1 = 65 different authors (roughly a 24%/75%/1% breakdown)
  • Authors of color: 19
  • Nonfiction/fiction: 18/105
  • Owned/Bought/Borrowed: 76/13/32 (2 read online for free)
  • Re-reads: 9

I still ended up buying more books than I should have, but it was a vast improvement to my behavior in previous years. But now I have ALL THE LIBRARY CARDS, so this year should be even better.

I had more re-reads than usual because I went back to read all of T. Kingfisher’s stuff since her tone very much inspires the project I’m currently working on.

Also, I ended up reading mostly on my Kindle this year. I still love all my analog books, but I have to admit that the built-in backlight of the Kindle (note to self: consider upgrading Paperwhite at some point) makes reading under the covers so convenient. Plus, I always just have another book ready and waiting. Mostly, this just means I’m a bit more choosy about which analog books I’ll buy or borrow.

Next year, I want to read more authors of color and nonbinary authors. I also want to push my genre boundaries a bit. I’ll read just about any genre, but my go-to one tends to be fantasy. But since my writing dabbles all over the place, I’m planning to make a deliberate effort to read more horror and sci-fi. And more non-fiction, I think.

My book goal for next year is 100.

2019: looking forward

Resolutions, goals. Goals, resolutions. Who knows.

I went back and re-read my resolutions from last year, and they still generally apply. I think I’ve done a pretty good job with my mindset this year, but there’s still always more work to be done. Most of my systems started degrading and falling apart after the Europe trip, and it was hard to get things back on the rails totally. Which makes sense, but I want to figure out how to make my own systems and structures more robust and much less fragile.

But resolutions are different from goals.

I think of goals as discrete tasks that can be accomplished. I think setting goals is almost more difficult than making resolutions (though the difficulty of execution may be flipped there) because it’s very easy to fall into a trap of working towards something that isn’t actually helpful.

For example, word count. It’s important to recognize that a word count and a complete, coherent work are two different things. Fulfilling a word count doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve completed a story. Which isn’t to say that word counts aren’t helpful — they very much can be if you are using them to measure what they should measure. But I think that there has to be a clarity there that is often missing when I talk to other people about their goals and when I’m thinking about my own.

My plan this year is to have three month goals, revisit and re-evaluate, and then refocus periodically throughout 2019. Most of the three month goals are project related goals. Originally, I had come up with some deadlines for certain things, but then I realized that most of those were completely arbitrarily decided. I don’t have enough context for how I work and what this whole writing process is to set reasonable timeline goals.

Continue reading

so let’s start

Remember that in order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.

When I make this point in teaching, I am met by instant, defensive hostility: “But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?”

Yes… the same age you will be if you don’t.

So let’s start.

– Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way