September Write Day: Stretch Goals

August was pretty chill, despite the blazing heat for most of the month. I was on paternity leave for three weeks, having only returned to work on Monday, meaning I was off for almost the entire month. It was great to really disconnect from work and just spend time at home.

The infant is doing well. He’s grown more than two pounds in his first few weeks, and the toddler is adjusting to his new baby brother well… so far.

I’m happy with the progress I made on both writing and reading, and we (meaning I, since my wife has been recovering from childbirth) managed to get a lot done around the house.

Let’s get to it!

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Actually enjoy paternity leave.
  2. Write 8,000 words.
  3. Read 3 books.

So how did I do?

Enjoy paternity leave?

I did! There was little sleep to be had, but it was great being home with the family all day. The toddler is really sweet with his baby brother, saying hi and goodbye to him and even kissing him on the forehead at bedtime.

We do not expect that to last. As soon as the baby is crawling around and grabbing at all the toddler’s toys, it will be a different story. For now, though, it’s lovely.

It has been a long time since I’ve been able to completely disconnect from work for such a long stretch. I have the type of job where even a week-long vacation can be interrupted by an “urgent” meeting that I call into from the basement of a beach rental wearing only a bathing suit.

So being required by law to not respond to any work messages, turning off email and chat notifications on my phone, and not being called with “emergency” questions worked wonders for my mental health. My supervisor also did a great job protecting me from any such nonsense while I was out.

Write 8,000 words?

Yes! I beat my goal! I wrote 8,409 words in August, and I had actually been somewhat hoping for even more.

I got off to a good start and was never out of reach of my goal. There were still a few too many gaps between writing days for my liking, but I’m just picky like that. I wrote 18 of 31 days, and I had a good spread of volume, ranging from 44 words to 900+ with a good mix in between. That means that even when I struggled to write much, I was able to rebound pretty quickly.

The one downside to being able to focus on writing so much without work is that I now wish more than ever that I could write full-time. I’m not financially prepared for such an endeavor, but it will definitely linger in the back of my mind. Even if I can retire a few years “early” to focus on writing, that would be awesome.

Mini Update on Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1

My draft for this story now sits at just over 40,000 words, and I anticipate another 3-4k to finish the story. I ended up writing a large portion of this draft from scratch, scrapping entire chapters from my previous draft because of changes I decided to make to the plot.

I definitely want to finish this draft quickly, but then I want to reread and revise it a couple times to ensure I have the main plot points and details worked out. That will be the goal for September before I begin the second draft of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2.

That’s the title I’m probably going with, by the way.

Read 3 books?

Not quite. I read two books in August, both of which I published reviews for: one a historical fiction set in Roman Dacia, and the other being Jurassic Park.

I’m about 80% done with another story on Audible and will definitely finish it in the next few days. I didn’t read much in print copies, but with a week-long beach vacation coming up, I plan to remedy that.

Goals for September

  1. Finish current draft of Uprooted and write 5,000 words. I don’t know exactly how much I’ll need to write to complete THW1, but 5k should get me there. If I finish the draft having only written 3.5k words, I’ll be satisfied. I’m also not planning on writing much more than that because we have a busy month, including the aforementioned beach vacation, where I will be staring at the ocean instead of a computer screen.
  2. Read through Uprooted. This will be a self-editing phase for this story. I already have some notes I want to make, but this will help me see the entire story together as one piece, rather than the little sections I’ve been writing for months. I will likely print out my manuscript so I can read and mark with red pen while on vacation.
  3. Read 4 books. With one book nearly completed, this shouldn’t be too hard. The bigger difficulty may be in deciding which books to read. I might be ready to jump back into The Wheel of Time.

Steve D

August Write Day: Turning the Corner

July was a solid month, writing and otherwise. I had a lofty goal, but I also had a plan to meet it. That plan went… alright. There were some bumps in the writing road, but I met my goal for the second month in a row!

And I made some crucial progress on my story, both in the actual writing and in figuring out where it’s headed as I plunge into the third act.

Let’s get to the goals already!

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 10,000 words.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Enjoy parental leave.

Write 10,000 words?!

YES! I wrote 10,054 words in July, in fact. How did I do it, you ask?! With a pretty hefty push in the final week of the month.

The middle two weeks or so did not go well for me, writing-wise. I fell behind and struggled to keep up, and then to catch up. Our toddler hit a new phase in July where he’d get home from daycare with my wife and pretty quickly throw an ear-shattering tantrum over basically nothing. It’s clear that these tantrums were (and are) because he’s hungry, but somehow the toddler will not listen to reason and sit down to eat a single bite of food. Weird, right? Who knew that toddlers were completely irrational gremlins.

So, I’d hear the tantrum start as I was finishing up work upstairs, and instead of staying upstairs to write as has become my routine, I more often went down to morally support my wife and emotionally support our meltdown-having son. That’s honestly the reason I didn’t get much writing done for the middle part of the month.

HOWEVER…

I still hit my goal.

There’s my progress chart from NaNoWriMo. You can see I started to fall behind almost immediately, but the wheels really came off around the 12th. I just could not sit down to write each day, and even when I could, it was for a pittance of words at a time.

But, I decided to knuckle down at the end of the month and try to close out strong. Over the final five days I wrote 6,000 words. That final spike on July 31 took three writing sessions, one around 12-1am, one around midday, and one that evening.

The other great piece of this is that, even with all the writing struggles, I still wrote 17 of 31 days. That persistence throughout the month was key to me striving for that goal at the end.

Read 3 books?

Nope. I think I technically finished Return of the King on July 1, but my reading was pretty lacking. Part of that was due to my focus on writing, but I also didn’t have any books pulling me in. I had started reading a work about the importance of nature in children’s lives, a fascinating read, but not the type to really call out to me. I’ll finish that in due time.

I started listening to The Fort, the first in another series by Adrian Goldsworthy, the same author who wrote The Windolanda Saga, following the same main character. I’m nearly finished that on Audible, but that’s about it.

Enjoy paternity leave?

No, because the stubborn kid hasn’t come yet! My wife is nearing 42 weeks, and our midwife already told that if we got to this point, our options were either to induce labor or have a c-section. We’re headed to the hospital Wednesday morning (I’m writing this Tuesday night) for the planned delivery.

Unlike our first, who literally kicked his way out of the womb almost a month early, this one has no interest in facing this capitalist dystopian hell-scape wonderful world. So my paternity leave starts next week!

Goals for August

  1. Actually enjoy paternity leave. My three-week leave officially starts next Monday, and I’m really looking forward to getting to focus on time at home with the family. The toddler will stay in daycare so as not to disrupt his schedule, but I’m excited to see him interact with his new sibling.
  2. Write 8,000 words. I feel really good about this one, considering I wrote 10k in July even with some hiccups. I have no idea how this will go with an infant and, oh yeah, the toddler, but I’ve gotten a head start.
  3. Read 3 books. I don’t like how little I read in July, but that’s the trade-off sometimes. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the time during my leave.

Steve D

Leaning on the Small Things

Have you ever started writing something without knowing at all where it was going? That’s what this post is.

Today (Tuesday) was my first day back at work after a 5-day vacation to a family lakehouse. Five days doesn’t seem that long, especially over an extended weekend, but it was a strange return anyway.

I’ve found it more and more difficult to let go of work. Difficult is not the right word. I look forward to letting go of work things at the end of the day. But I feel more and more guilty about it. I don’t think anyone is placing that guilt upon me, except myself.

Our lakehouse vacation was supposed to be an escape from work, from our recent spate of home improvement projects, and from the occasional monotony of semi-quarantined life.

It was all of those things, for the most part. I just had one afternoon where I selfishly decided not to spend a lot of time with my son, and it’s been bugging me. I don’t think anyone else felt I was ignoring my family, but that’s how it felt to me.

All this is adding up to the notion that I am often too hard on myself, and I have trouble letting go of little things that have more to do with my perception of myself than with my interactions with other real people.

So I spent much of today (again, Tuesday) trying not to stress over things that are either done and in the past, or completely out of my control.

Fortunately, a few things made me feel better over the course of the day:

  • a solid yoga session, which is really the only reason I can be productive for 8-10 hours a day
  • reading and chatting with my son before his bedtime
  • This song, by an incredible singer/songwriter from somewhere near DC:

I’m going to listen to this for the third or fourth time tonight and then go to bed.

Steve D

Burnout Story #1: The Post-College Glow

Back in December I posted a review for one an Audible Original, a short interview-style listen called “The Burnout Generation”. Aside from being an interesting listen, this short had me reflecting on the various points in my life I’ve hit burnout, particularly post-college and as an adult.

So I’d like to follow up on some of those ideas and tell my first burnout story: the year or so after I finished undergrad.

Continue reading “Burnout Story #1: The Post-College Glow”