On Presence

I’ve been thinking a lot about presence recently, and especially how much I’ve caught myself not being in the present moment in recent weeks.

February was a tough writing month for me in part because I spent more time thinking about stories I haven’t written yet than thinking about my actual current work-in-progress. Even now, one week into this month, I find myself thinking a lot about the end game for The Herb Witch Tales. Not just how I want part 2 to end, but about how I want to reread parts 1 and 2 together and think of them holistically, how I might need additional drafts just to ensure I get them right before I publish, and how my publishing timeline seems to be in a state of constant expansion.

I haven’t even finished a full draft of part 2 yet.

A similar feeling has passed over me while spending time with my three-year-old. A moment at the park when he is playing a game with me but I’m thinking about what time we need to leave to be home for dinner. Or a moment where I’m watching him interact with his six-month-old brother and wondering if the two of them will make each other laugh as teenagers the way they do now.

Neither of those are “bad” distractions, but they are distractions nonetheless.

Even in writing this post, I can’t keep my fingers off my phone until I’ve settled on a song that both suits my vibe and allows me to focus. (The correct answer is “Monumental Holiday” by Dead Sara.)

What I have tried to do is take those distracting thoughts, let them pass through me, and let them go — a lesson I’ve taken from the meditation intro I listened to last month.

Am I going to be able to publish my stories this year? Maybe. Keep writing. What will my kids be like at X age? Impossible to know and always fascinating, but don’t lose sight of who they are right now.

What I can’t say for sure is whether I’m more distracted than usual, or I’m just noticing it more. This site is ostensibly A Writer’s Blog, but these things tend to bleed into each other.

Steve D

On Writing in a Year without Big Goals

Each of the last couple years I’ve started January with big ideas for what I wanted to accomplish for that year. My goals tend to be ambitious, but still within the realm of possibility. Still, I’ve learned that it’s difficult for me to project progress on any long-term project more than a few months out–or sometimes more than a few weeks out.

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

Looking at my annual goals posts from 2020 and 2021 may give the impression of a writer who overshoots and under-delivers, and that’s not inaccurate. I have had some big goals in mind over the last couple of years, notably the publishing of my still-in-progress novellas in The Herb Witch Tales series. I just also know that there have been other factors at play. The usual suspects come to mind: family, work, existential dread, a global pandemic.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s tough for me to project my progress on something more than a few months out. Projecting how much I can write in a year is a murky endeavor. Trying to throw the entire editing, revising, proofreading, and publishing process on top of that is basically insane.

At least, that’s what I’ve learned over the last couple years.

I’ve also learned that I am not the publish-something-every-year-or-two type of writer. My last meaningful publication was my 12-part short story, “The Grand Mythos of Úr’Dan“, which I ran as an experimental monthly serial throughout 2019. It’s probably more like every “few” years, depending on when I click Publish next. Basically, I’m closer to Patrick Rothfuss than Brandon Sanderson–in publishing cycles, not skill level!

The Year without Goals

That all is to say that I will not be posting an ambitious book marketing/publishing post this year. I definitely have goals, and I will detail them through my monthly Write Day posts. What has changed for me recently is that those monthly goals are enough for me at this moment in my life.

My long-term goals have necessarily and totally predictably shifted to bigger things: navigating the whole *waves arms emphatically* world right now; raising two boys, one of whom has learned the f-word from daycare (yea!); beginning the house-hunting process in the next year; family and friends and holidays, which all require a lot of extra planning and consideration and fuckin’ caution than they used to.

It’s a lot, and it means that thinking about where I might be in the publishing process in autumn 2022 is just not a concern for me today.

Writing Rhythm

However, that all doesn’t mean I haven’t picked up on a few of my writing habits…

  • I know that I can be a productive writer by writing immediately after work, or right after getting the toddler to bed.
  • I know that writing a couple days in a row or more than three times per week motivates me to continue, regardless of how much or how little progress I make in those sessions.
  • I know that once a character is embedded in my brain I find it easier to write them, which just takes practice and patience–not trying to churn out an entire novella in a month.
  • I know that motivating myself to write regularly helps my self-confidence, my self-worth, and my overall mental wellbeing.
  • And I know that writing 10,000 words each month is very doable if I stick to each of the above points.

That’s really my only writing goal this year–not to write 120,000 words on the dot, but to aim for 10,000 words each month, to build consistently and steadily until, come December 31, 2022, I will have written a whole hell of a lot.

I’m currently on pace for about 9,000 words in January, so maybe in February or March I aim for 11,000. The point is, it doesn’t matter much right now.

I’m moving forward. I know what the ultimate goal is, but I also know I need to focus on the day-to-day first.

Steve D

January Write Day: Keep Plugging Away

Man, another month, another year. December was a solid month. Our holidays were festive with plenty of time spent with family. We also got to experience our first real Christmas through our oldest son, who is three and at the perfect age to get excited for Santa and presents and Christmas lights and all that.

It was a decent month on the goals front as well.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 8,000 words for New Earth.
  2. Read through Uprooted.
  3. Read 3 books.

So how did I do?

Write 8,000 words?

Not quite. I tried to cram a bunch of writing into the final week of the month and came up short at just over 7,000 words. Still a decent output, overall. The first half of December had me stressing a bit about getting everything ready for our holiday celebrations, which knowingly kept me away from writing. I thought I could make up for it in the final week, but no such luck.

I still did all right, though.

New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2 is progressing nicely at around 15,000 words, and I’ve hit a stretch where I already have a lot of content from my first draft I can pull from. That should help me stay on track and catch up a bit this month. I just want to get off to a stronger start and not fall behind again.

I did start to find a writing schedule again, slotting in time right after putting my oldest to bed, and then knuckling down on the weekends for bigger word count gains.

Read through Uprooted?

I seriously forgot about this goal. December was a busy month! I definitely want to complete this read-through, so perhaps I’ll have to pay to print it out — all 70-some pages of it – so I can focus on it when I’m away from my computer.

Read 3 books?

I’m going to say yes…? But let me check my Goodreads first.

Success! I finished three books in December, including book 12 of The Wheel of Time series, The Gathering Storm. Look out for that review next week. Spoiler alert: I loved it.

I also achieved my Goodreads 2021 goal of reading 24 books. That may sound paltry based on a lot of the book blogs I read, but that’s a lot for me, damn it! I’m aiming for 26 in 2022.

Goals for January

I feel like I rushed through this post, but this might be a good indication of where my head is at currently. I have a lot I want to achieve in the next few months, primarily finishing a solid draft of New Earth, and I just want to get down to it.

  1. Write 9,000 words. This feels achievable to me based on my writing progress the last two weeks, and it may be the start of escalating writing goals to start the year off. We’ll see how it goes.
  2. Read 3 books. Currently waiting for my copy of Towers of Midnight to arrive 😀
  3. Start working out again. My exercise routine really fell through the last couple months, so I want to get back on track. This is an open-ended goal for now until I can establish a decent routine again.

Happy New Year!

Steve D

NaNoWriMo Progress: Halfway Point

Every year, I seem to forget that by the time we get halfway through November, it’s a week before Thanksgiving, and the month is effectively over. National Novel Writing Month started off pretty well for me, and then took a nose-dive. I will be revising my goal for this month at the end.

While I wasn’t churning out 2,000 words per day, I was making solid progress on my draft of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2 for the first ten days or so of the month. I saw early on that the 50,000-word pinnacle was slipping from my grasp even as I continued writing, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I was still writing every day, sometimes multiple times per day.

Then, two things derailed me simultaneously:

  1. My writing schedule got thrown off
  2. and I got sick

No writing schedule?!

Up until this month, I had been pretty diligent about logging off from my work laptop (working from home) and logging on to my home computer to write for short sessions in the evenings. This worked well, because my wife would pick up our toddler from daycare and start getting dinner ready while I had 20-30 minutes to write before spending the evening with them.

Then, our youngest son, the three-month-old, started daycare, and we flipped our schedules. Because my work schedule tends to be top-heavy with meetings each morning, we agreed that I would pick the kids up from daycare. It didn’t occur to me that this would erase that precious, if short, writing session I could lean on at the end of my work day.

Now, I logoff from work and pretty much immediately have to run out to get the kids.

I try to write at night after dinner, with some success, but I’ll need to find a new way to carve out time from my day. I’m considering writing early in the morning before I logon to work…

…but early mornings have never been easy for me.

The sickness

I caught a stomach bug over the weekend from my toddler that sapped my energy and basically took away 3.5 days of writing time. I’m still recovering, although doing much better.

It’s completely out of my own or anyone else’s control, but it was frustrating to lose a weekend to being sick — not just because of writing. I missed a family birthday celebration and basically didn’t move for three days.

NaNoWriMo the Second Half

So, here I am just over halfway through the month having written 7,000 words. There is no way I’m hitting 50,000 at this point, and I had accepted that even before I got sick. 7,000 would still rank in the top half of my monthly word count totals for this year, so it’s definitely not nothing.

However, I still want to finish strong. With Thanksgiving being my favorite holiday of feasting and family, I’m not going to have the pressure of writing over that weekend hanging over me. So I’m already cutting four more days of writing time in favor of other priorities.

That gives me about 10 days to eke out a writing schedule and make some more progress on this story.

Revised NaNo Goal: 15,000 words total

NaNo Stretch Goal: 20,000 words total

It’s always good to have a realistic goal and a stretch goal, just to motivate a bit more, so there it is. 15k feels doable to me, and if I’m really disciplined, 20k might be, too.

Steve D