September Write Day: Time for a Reset

I can’t recall much of August, except for a couple of things that seemed to take up most of my mental capacity for the month.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 4,800 words.
  2. Take the next writing step.
  3. Read 3 books.
  4. Exercise 3 times per week.

So where are we at?

Write 4,800 words?

No. I think a fair bit of it had to do with stress from work distracting me. I had a big presentation and a work trip within a week of each other towards the end of the month, and I think these were just hanging over me. I could feel it during the work day, and it bled into non-work things.

I’ve felt much better overall now that I’m over those hurdles.

And yet I have been unable to craft a decent ending to New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2. I generally know how I want this story to land, but I’ve become stuck on the mechanics. I’m thinking I need to step back from this story for a bit until I can work out the ending.

Take the next writing step?

No, but I think that’s what I need to focus on for this month. As I said above, I’m going to step back from New Earth and focus on something different for a change. Switching projects can often be refreshing.

Alternative projects include:

  • Transcribing notes from a small bear up journal into a newer nice one
  • Revisiting my partial draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy to outline that novel.

I honestly haven’t yet decided what I’m going to work on, and I’m okay with that. It could be a little bit of everything.

Read three books?

No. I’m 100ish pages into A Memory of Light, the final book in The Wheel of Time, and I find myself not rushing through it. I’m definitely enjoying reading it. I guess I just don’t want to gloss over sections just to get to the end.

Exercise three times per week?

I’m getting there, but not quite there. I like my mini routine and may be looking for something additive this month.

Goals for September

  1. Progress my writing. Honestly, I just want to pick away at one of the projects I mentioned above. No quantitative goals. Just forward movement to keep my brain working.
  2. Read 3 books. We’ll see. I definitely want to read more things. I’m just not holding myself to finishing A Memory of Light, so I’ll need to find something else.
  3. Exercise 3 times per week. Same same. Like my other two goals, this is more about consistency than anything else.

Steve D

August Write Day: Closing In

July was a fun month. We started it off with a two-week road trip seeing various parts of our families from northwest PA, to Michigan, and Wisconsin, which came with some great time spent on both shores of Lake Michigan. It was fantastic to just be with our boys for two whole weeks, and convinced us to do more family road trips in the future.

Coming back to work was not so great, of course. I feel like I’m still getting used to wok again in my third week back, but we have a relatively quiet month ahead. So that’s encouraging.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 3,600 words.
  2. Read three books. Road trip audiobooks! I’m already thinking about which books I want to download to my phone for uninterrupted listening time while we’re on the road.
  3. Exercise at least three times each week. That’s kind of my bare minimum right now, to the point that I’m counting 15-minute runs as a full workout. I’m basically starting from scratch at this point.
  4. Disconnect. I feel like I really need to disconnect and just enjoy time with my family for an extended period, and I’m looking forward to it.

So how did I do?

Write 3,600 words?

YES! I wrote just over 4,000 words, in fact. Almost all of that came from two long writing sessions this past weekend, but it still counts! July was the first month this year that I actually hit my word count goal.

Part of the reason is that I’m closing in on the end of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2. I always get excited to be nearing the end of a story, and I’m more motivated to finish it.

Read 3 books?

Nope! I listened to far fewer audiobooks on our road trip than I had anticipated. I’m nearly finished with Tower of Midnight, and not really reading much else at the moment.

Exercise 3 times per week?

I don’t think so. While on vacation, I was pretty good about being physically active most days. Aside from the loads of walking we did, I kayaked, swam, hiked, ran, and still did some stretching. Outdoor activities are my favorite way to exercise now. I just wish I had more time to do them.

Disconnect?

Yes. Two full weeks — the longest vacation I’ve taken in ten years — allowed me to just focus on being with my family. Traveling with a 3-yaer-old and an 11-month-old is still hectic, but we made sure to enjoy ourselves and appreciate our time with the boys as much as possible. We did manage to relax a little bit, too.

Goals for August

  1. Write 4,800 words. I think this should be enough for me to finish New Earth, so that’s my real goal this month.
  2. Take the next writing step. This will probably be to read through Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1 and incorporate some edits/details that I know I need to flesh out more. But, this will depend on me finishing goal #1 above.
  3. Read 3 books. Same as usual. I already have the hard cover of A Memory of Light on my shelf waiting.
  4. Exercise 3 times per week. I have a basic routine formulating. I just need to stick to it.

Steve D

July Write Day: Distraction Summer

Some distractions are important, but they are distractions nonetheless. June has felt very distracted for me. I feel like I spent a lot of mental energy on work, for a variety of reasons, and the rest of my mental energy on things other than writing. Sometimes, it was on spending time with my kids. For a couple of relaxing weekends, it was on disconnecting, which is distraction of a different sort.

I don’t really know where June went or what I did throughout the month, but I know that it felt very full of such distractions from my writing.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 8,800 words.
  2. Read three books.
  3. Continue the exercise climb.
  4. Reorganize this site.

Write 8,800 words?

Nope. I’m actually writing this post a few days before the end of the month, and I already know I’m not hitting that goal. I might get halfway there.

Distractions!

Read three books?

No, but I read a novel and a graphic novel and Did Not Finish another shorter one. The second half of the month was mostly me deciding what my next read would be while otherwise distracting myself with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+. I liked it, but it had blatant storytelling flaws, which I’ve come to expect from most Disney+ shows in the Marvel and Star Wars universes.

Continue the exercise climb?

No, and at this point, I’m just frustrated. I’m generally bored with whatever I’ve been trying to do with exercise for the last several months, and really don’t know where to go next.

Some combination of yoga, resistance training, mobility training, and something aerobic seems like a good mix for what I want right now. I’m just not motivated enough to build a routine at the moment.

Part of it is also the time commitment. I find it difficult to stash away an hour-long break during my workday, and by evening I’m just tired. I need a reset.

Reorganize this site?

Not quite. I’ve started using my new category tags for each post, and I think it’s working well enough. I just haven’t gone back to re-tag older posts, because I’m not sure if I want to do that yet. Another project for another day.

Goals for July

  1. Write 3,600 words. We have a road trip coming up, from which I will try to post at least one haiku with a cool photo, so the writing goal is light this month. Road trips are the ultimate distraction of the best variety. Can’t wait.
  2. Read three books. Road trip audiobooks! I’m already thinking about which books I want to download to my phone for uninterrupted listening time while we’re on the road.
  3. Exercise at least three times each week. That’s kind of my bare minimum right now, to the point that I’m counting 15-minute runs as a full workout. I’m basically starting from scratch at this point.
  4. Disconnect. I feel like I really need to disconnect and just enjoy time with my family for an extended period, and I’m looking forward to it.

Steve D

June Write Day: Oops

Holy crap it’s June. Apologies for my recent absence. A week of time off and the holiday weekend threw me off. I forgot to post a haiku on Sunday for the first time in like… three years. And then I forgot to schedule this post for this morning. So now I’m cramming.

June is off to a great start!

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 6,600 words.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Continue the exercise climb.

Write 6,600 words?

NOPE. I think I write about 2,000 words to start the month, and then did not write again. I was away from home for the week before Memorial Day without reliable internet access, so I knew I had limited writing time in May.

My adjusted goal for available writing time was supposed to account for this, but I need to tweak it to a lower weird count goal.

I’ll probably try for 400 words per available day, or some such.

Read three books?

Almost. I finished two books in May, and I’ve made good headway on three others. One of this might be a comic volume, but who’s keeping track?

Continue the exercise climb?

Another hiccup in May. My week away consisted of virtually no exercise. That was due to the renovation work I was helping a friend with on his Thousand Islands cabin. Turns out that tearing out drywall and old wood, carrying supplies, and installing new flooring is damn tiring. Thus, I didn’t really need the extra exercise.

I had a great week in cabin in the river with a few friends, though.

Goals for June

  1. Write 8,800 words. This is my adjusted goal, counting 400 words per day for twenty-two available writing days. June is (hopefully) a slow month for us.
  2. Read three books. As I said, I feel like I have enough of a head start to reach this.
  3. Continue the exercise climb. I’m back on track, I think, so I feel pretty good about this.
  4. Reorganize this site. You may have noticed some new headers on this site’s navigation. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m shifting my writing topics to themes rather than formats. I’m debating whether I want to re-tag my archive with these new themes, so there may be more changes to come.

Steve D

May Write Day: Restart

After two years of avoiding it, I tested positive for COVID this week. And I’m furious with the Supreme Court, liberal Democrats who continue to do as little as possible to improve the lives of Americans, and the Right for… actively bringing suffering to the lives of Americans for the last 20 years.

I also forgot to write this post last night and schedule it for this morning. So I’m going to keep this short.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 9,600 words. Oddly specific and yet not random. (See above)
  2. Read 3 books. My new podcast notifications have settled the last few days, so I’ll obviously need some other form of storytelling to distract me. If only I could look at words on paper and hear them said by the voice in my head… I’ll think of something.
  3. Continue the exercise climb. I think success here will look like me running/working out or yoga-ing 4-5 times per week for the month. Plus remembering to meditate.

Write 9,600 words?

No. I think it was somewhere around 4,000, but I’m not going to check. Too many distractions, and not enough focus time. I have a trip coming up in May that will keep me away from writing for a week, so my word count goal will be much smaller.

Read 3 books?

Also no, but I made some progress on a couple that I’ve been enjoying.

Continue the exercise climb?

Yes, until I got sick this week. I started a core-strengthening yoga program in April that I was really enjoying, and it helped me figure out a daily routine to build onto.

I’ve generally not been a preset routine type of exerciser — I always created my own routines and evolved them as needed, so this is new territory for me. But without a gym membership and with limited equipment at home, I think this is the type of thing that can keep my motivated day to day.

I would just like to stop coughing so I can get back to it.

Goals for May

  1. Write 6,600 words. I promise these numbers are not arbitrary. I’m just calculating 600 words per day that I anticipate being available to write. This still feels like a lot, honestly, so I need to get off to a good start to close out this week.
  2. Read 3 books. I will actually have some downtime to do this during my week off (I hope).
  3. Continue the exercise climb. I’m optimistic that I’ll be feeling much better tomorrow and able to get back to my yoga program. It’s not like I’m doing anything this weekend until I test negative.

Steve D

April Write Day: Fitting into a Routine

April has arrived and so has spring in Maryland (I hope). March was a surprisingly long month.

I spent a grand total of five days at the office last month, which is more than twice as many days as I had spent there in 2021. It was a chance to meet some colleagues in person for the first time, and it was nice being in that environment again.

Then everyone went home, and I returned to working from home.

Goals-wise, March was, on paper, less than great. But I feel like my mindset on these things has started to shift for the better. I feel like I know where I’m at in my writing endeavors, what I really need to focus on, and that what comes down the road should not distract me.

More on that next.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 10,000 words.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Continue the exercise climb.

Write 10,000 words?

No, and this shortcoming has led me to a slightly new way of thinking about my monthly writing goals.

I wrote 7,122 words in March. The obvious problem, as always, is that I had three gaps in my writing progress that exacerbated how far behind I fell until I effectively gave up for the month. This happens basically every month when I fall behind early, or when something in normal life takes me away from writing for a few days.

To this point, my writing goals have been rather un-scientific. But that’s changing. One thing I’ve learned over the past few months is that if I really sit and focus, I can easily write 600 words (or more) in 30 minutes or less.

I realize how unimpressive that looks when many writers do 2,000 words per hour, but this is the first time I’ve really time-boxed my writing sessions with a clear goal to achieve.

I also now know that weekend writing is increasingly difficult and unreliable, because we just tend to have things to do. My twice-weekly posts on this site do not count towards my writing goal, but they definitely take up precious writing time, so I also need to account for that.

So here’s my new calculus:

  • Total days in a month
  • minus number of Saturdays and Sundays
  • minus Tuesday blog writing
  • minus days for any other or prior non-writing commitments
  • x 600 words

For April, that gives me 9,600 words as a writing goal, which is right on target with my usual un-scientific goals. It also saves me the self-loathing of not finding the time to write on weekends or days when I have other things to do.

After two years of trying to shoehorn writing into my daily life and largely underachieving, it finally dawned on me that I need to ensure my writing routine actually fits around my daily life, too. So that’s what I’m doing.

Read three books?

I did not finish a single book in March. I have been reading, but my Audible listening has hit a dry spell, and I’m still taking my time with Towers of Midnight. I’m also really enjoying it at the moment and, strangely, have no desire to plow through it.

I definitely listened to a lot more podcasts than usual in March, primarily because that’s how I followed the early weeks of the Ukraine conflict.

I’m on the hunt for something different. Probably some non-dystopian sci fi or fantasy. The world is dystopian enough for me, at the moment. I’ll gladly take your recommendations though!

Continue the exercise climb?

I feel like I’m on the right path. I’ve finally decided on a pseudo-routine to guide me throughout the week. Basically, I want to alternate between longer (20-40-minute) yoga sessions and resistance training/running. My cardio is completely shot, so I’d like to start running 2-3 times per week, paired with push-ups and pull-ups for a more complete workout. If I feel physically tired or mentally drained, then I’ll do yoga.

I did not maintain a meditation routine, so I likely need a daily calendar reminder to… not forget.

The climb continues.

Goals for April

  1. Write 9,600 words. Oddly specific and yet not random. (See above)
  2. Read 3 books. My new podcast notifications have settled the last few days, so I’ll obviously need some other form of storytelling to distract me. If only I could look at words on paper and hear them said by the voice in my head… I’ll think of something.
  3. Continue the exercise climb. I think success here will look like me running/working out or yoga-ing 4-5 times per week for the month. Plus remembering to meditate.

Steve D

March Write Day: Rough Pass

So March is here, and I’m feeling pretty meh about it at the moment. If I had to use one word to describe my February with respect to my goals for the month, I would go with… distracted. I just didn’t give much thought to any of my goals during the month, and it’s not for lack of trying. I just had other things on my mind.

Our seven-month-old isn’t sleeping through the night, and we spent a good portion of February trying different bedtime strategies to nudge him in that direction. The closest we’ve gotten is him sleeping in his crib for a couple hours, then one of us bringing him into our bed when he wakes up for his midnight comfort snack. Now, we’ve just accepted that he’s a particularly cuddly kid, unlike the toddler.

My computer has also been BSOD’ing on me with such regularity that I compulsively save my work every sentence or so. Dear Micrsoft, please fix the REFERENCE_BY_POINTER error, or at least give me some more guidance other than “update drivers”. This computer is probably not even two years old and I’m already contemplating a replacement.

Anyway. Neither of those things are crises, but they’ve taken up my head space recently.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 11,000 words.
  2. Read three books.
  3. Continue the slow climb to a decent exercise routine.

Let’s get this over with.

Write 11,000 words?

Holy crap, no. I didn’t even get close. I could try to blame the extended time we spent in the mountains this month, but that’s not even accurate. Look at this:

Look at that! That’s nine days in the middle of the month where I didn’t write squat. That’s terrible. And I can’t even tell you what I was doing during that stretch. It wasn’t catching up on shows or reading. The second stretch is mostly when we took an extra long weekend in the mountains. I worked mornings for a few days which meant I didn’t want to be on the computer much extra time.

Ugh. Moving on.

Read 3 books?

Technically, yes. Two of those three were one-hour shorts on Audible, and the third was a not-as-short study on meditation to increase productivity. That’s ironic, now that I think about it. Still, I’m counting it!

And I’m into meditation as a balancing effect on the stressful mind. I just need to start up a daily practice.

Establish a decent exercise routine?

I was on a solid pace of resistance training until our little vacation, but that pretty much always happens. I definitely want to jump back into it, so that’s a positive sign.

I might also want to (gulp) start running again. I have always found running boring, but I know I’m not doing enough at the moment, and if doing a loop through my neighborhood gets me outside and moving for 20 minutes, I might just take it at this point.

Goals for March

  1. Write 10,000 words. We’re not doing a ton of traveling this month, and I have three extra days compared to February. I just need to get back on track.
  2. Read 3 books. I’ve made solid progress on Towers of Midnight, even if I’m not reading it as quickly as I had anticipated. I’m kind of savoring this book a bit, knowing it’s the second-to-last in the series. Still, I’ll probably finish it this month.
  3. Continue the exercise climb. And add a meditation practice. My goal is 2 minutes per day. I feel like I’ve talked about exercise a lot, and I just want to do it at this point.

Steve D

February Write Day: The Climb

January was a long month. I don’t know that is was particularly fast or slow, but I definitely don’t remember the first half. We spent those couple weeks mostly traveling and recovering from the holidays. The last two weeks have been much quieter, in a good way.

February is promising more on the quieter front, which I’m okay with, too.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 9,000 words.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Start working out again.

Write 9,000 words?

No, but I got my days mixed up! For some reason I thought Monday, January 31 was actually February 1, so I took the day off from writing. How embarrassing.

I wrote 8,616 words in January, so if I had sat down Monday evening, I could have easily beaten my goal. Ugh. Oh well. I did manage to finish the month on a surge after not writing much for the first week or so, so that’s good news for my February writing goal.

Check out my progress on my NaNoWriMo goal tracker. You can see I only had two writing sessions in the first half of the month, but I still managed to nearly catch up with several sessions of 500+ words. I felt like I hit a rhythm, too, so it became easier to write larger chunks at a time. Maintaining that rhythm is the key.

Read three books?

I read two books in January, but one of them was a fairly dense historical audiobook about the Ancient Celts, so I’m okay with it.

I had started reading Towers of Midnight, book 13 of The Wheel of Time, but fell off for some reason. I am definitely still reading the book, but for whatever reason, I found it easier to do audiobooks in January.

Start working out again?

Kind of, but I don’t really feel like I have a routine yet. I have a plan in my head for more consistent exercise, but it includes cleaning out the garage and buying some boxing equipment. Really, I just need a free weekend. And to buy the equipment, of course.

I’m still into yoga, but I haven’t been doing it as much, or only in shorter sessions to stretch out. And simple resistance workouts are easy enough to fit into my days. Boxing was always a great workout for me, and I definitely need to find something aerobic again, so I’m on the lookout for a double-end bag.

Goals for February

  1. Write 11,000 words. I ended up with a solid writing pace towards the end of January. I just need to start February stronger and try to write more consistently.
  2. Read three books. I am reading The Last Kingdom… again… sort of. Turns out I unwittingly listened to the abridged version on Audible, which is less than half the length of the unabridged version. I’m not going to get into it, but I’m not happy that I spent money on a watered-down version of a story. I enjoyed the abridged version, but now I’m listening to the unabridged version. I’m not currently tracking this reading on Goodreads, but maybe I should. I don’t know. I do really like this book, though, so there’s that.
  3. Continue the slow climb to a decent exercise routine. That’s what this feels like now. I’ve been out of a decent routine for so long that I’m really starting over at this point. This month, I want to create a space where I can workout in my garage, and continue doing yoga and resistance exercises more consistently.

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