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

Review: PLAIN ENGLISH Podcast’s coverage of the war in Ukraine

I’ve never reviewed a podcast here before, but the more I find myself needing interesting and engaging information about in-depth topics, the more I turn to podcasts to get it. I simultaneously need to feel connected with what’s going on in the world without being inundated with opinion pieces, social media blather, and obnoxious punditry.

I was not following the major news outlets on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Instead, I had been getting bite-sized analysis notifications about once daily, but I needed more.

Plain English is a podcast on the Ringer where host Derek Thompson deep-dives into interesting topics. I had never listened to his podcast before, but after hearing about it from other Ringer shows (of which I listen to several) I noticed that he had done more than one episode on the ongoing war.

https://www.theringer.com/plain-english-with-derek-thompson-podcast

As it turns out, Thompson has done seven episodes on the war in Ukraine since its outbreak on Feb 25, speaking with military analysts, financial analysts, and even local Ukrainians about the war, its immediate impact, and its wider and longer-term implications.

I have listened to all seven episodes over the last four days, and I’m eager for more. Thompson takes a very complex subject that is destined to be shredded into a thousand opinions by a thousand talking heads on every network, and asks basic yet direct questions in his interviews with experts.

In the March 1 episode, for instance, Thompson speaks with two different financial analysts about the sanctions that the US and EU have slammed upon Russia, what they are really aimed to accomplish, and what the medium- to long-term impact could be.

What I particularly appreciate about Thompson’s concise narrative style is that he never loses sight of the very human tragedy that is unfolding in this conflict. Ukrainian citizens being targeted and killed in the action. And yes, Russian citizens’ outcries of protest being stamped out by their government, and the potential ruin that Russia’s economic crash could wreak upon people all over the world. (Listen to that March 1 episode).

This is not a case of “both sides”. Putin and the Russian government and military are obviously in the wrong, but their war, and the world’s sanctions against Russia will have real consequences for real people.

Thompson explains these points and much more without talking down to his audience, and with the goal of understanding above anything else. His discussions have made me feel like I can contextualize this conflict in more tangible terms without having to sift through the noise of an online news search or broadcast news clips.

Whether you are already well-informed on this conflict or not, I highly recommend this series of episodes on the Plain English podcast.

Слава Україні

Steve D

Communication and Identity: Waking Up with Sam Harris Reflection

Harris @23:45: “Yeah, that’s why I think identity politics is so toxic in my view, ’cause if identity is paramount, communication is impossible; like because you haven’t shared my specific experience or you don’t have the same skin color, same gender, there’s no bridge between us. And there’s no chain of reasoning from you to me, that should trump anything I currently think because what I think is anchored to identity, and we don’t share an identity.”  Continue reading “Communication and Identity: Waking Up with Sam Harris Reflection”

Friday Write-Day: Pre-Holiday Stress Time!

The holidays are usually somewhat stressful for me. Just making sure I’ve find appropriate gifts for people and can get to all of the family events is more than enough to think about.

Work has been stressful this week, largely because I was trying to wrap up a lot of things before being off for a few days.

But, I am off today, and thankfully, have some time to get shit done.

Continue reading “Friday Write-Day: Pre-Holiday Stress Time!”