This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us: A Time Management Story

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us: A Time Management Story

Another year, another Daisho Con in the books! I had a lovely time. I learned from last year’s mistake and did not schedule anything for any particular time in order to minimize the anxiety I get trying to get into cosplay. (I am very slow at cosplay makeup, so not having a deadline removed a ton of stress) That being said, boy did the weekend fly by. I feel like I didn’t have enough downtime to chill with my friends, and our schedules didn’t always align, which was a bummer but no one’s fault. I didn’t go to any panels, but I rarely do. I didn’t even make it to the vendor hall till the last day. The new layout with the convention center expansion was cool but the vendor room still needs a little work. The artist alley aisles got really congested really quickly. Still, it was a marked improvement over last year and I hope the con continues to improve and find ways to better use the space.

I loved seeing a lot of cosplay friends I’ve met through Instagram. (And quite the accomplishment for one as introverted as me) All told, it just feels like I didn’t do a whole lot before the weekend was over. I did get some killer pictures of two of my favorite cosplays- my old standby, Haruko from FLCL, and a dream debut of Sesshomaru from Inuyasha. I’m so grateful that my boyfriend is patient enough to help me get around with my cosplays and be my personal photographer. He has a really good eye. And I think my editing is starting to improve.

That being said, I’m ready for a break. I love cosplay and I’m sure I’ll always participate in some fashion for a long time yet, but I can’t see myself doing another big build like Sesshomaru anytime soon. I always underestimate how complicated these builds will be and they never get done on schedule. I was supposed to have it completely finished by Halloween so it wouldn’t interfere with my participation in NaNoWriMo. But work was so hectic in October with working six day weeks, I didn’t make it. Then, since I had underestimated its complexity, I tried to do the build and NaNo and ending up having to almost drop NaNo entirely and still ended up finishing the build the night before the con. Never again. I can’t be both a writer and a crafter. They both take up way too much time on top of working full time. I can only do one- and I know that. I want to focus on writing. Which means cosplay has to be shelved for a while. And I’m fine with that! I have plenty of costumes I can re-wear if I want to go to a con, plus I love just running around and taking photos. I’m sure I’ll get bit by the build bug again someday, but writing has to come first if I want to seriously pursue my dream of being published.

So while I’m very proud of my cosplay this past weekend, I’m ready to switch gears. NaNo was bit of a loss, though not terribly surprising given my track record. I’ll still write the rest of the week for whatever its worth, but it just means I need to work that much harder in December. I want to get my book ready for querying in the new year and I’m honestly excited to get to work. I refuse to be discouraged or down on myself anymore. It doesn’t accomplish anything. I can’t change the past, I can only focus on moving forward.

Life’s Too Short

Life’s Too Short

It’s been a high stress couple of weeks but I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was feeling overwhelmed to the point of depression and now I think I’m finally treading water again.

I’ve sorted my money situation, I think. I reevaluated my budget, revised my payment strategy, and I should be out of this hole I’ve dug by summer’s end. It just meant cutting back on some of the things I’m able to do this summer and delaying some cosplay and convention aspirations till next year. But that’s ok, it’s necessary, and I feel good about it. So that’s one cinder block off my chest.

I’ve made a ton of progress on my WIP. Part three ended up being about 50 pages and it’s a few solid hours of work away from being totally finished. That will put me at 150 finished pages or about 50,000 words. I have 25,000 words in the partial parts five and six to go over and add to in the coming months. It’s looking like the finished product will be around 90k. (for comparison’s sake, the first Harry Potter was 76,944 words) So that means I’m officially over half-way done and I’m honestly pretty proud. I’ve never had a writing project so close to completion. And at this pace, I know I can finish it this year. Plus I just got some positive/constructive feedback from my favorite beta reader and that put some wind back in my sails.

Now all I have to do is make it through this Sunday. Sunday is my Dad’s memorial and it has been gnawing away at me for months.

My father passed at the end of April after a long and ghastly sickness. Born with a hereditary kidney disease, my Dad’s had poor health all his life. He was in and out of hospitals since I was a baby, so it’s something I was used to- it never affected his spirit and he brushed off each incident, his personality unaffected. About five or six years ago, he moved south to be with his long-time partner (basically his second wife though they never had a ceremony) and my young half-sister. She had moved back home to be close to her own family, which made sense. I know he felt like he was abandoning my brother and I, and as hard as it was to be so far away from him, I believed he was making the best decision both for himself and his daughter.

And then he got sicker. About two years ago he got into a car accident and began behaving strangely. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first signs of vascular dementia- brain damage caused by the lack of blood flow and multiple mini-strokes, which were side effects of his kidney disease and the treatment involved. The only way I can describe it is… it’s like my Dad began to fade. Every time I saw him or spoke to him he was a little bit less himself. And it utterly dismantled me. My father has been a pillar in my life, an unshakeable force, a constant. I was terrified of talking to him, I dreaded visiting him. I couldn’t stand to see what was happening to him. And he only got sicker, his body failing just as quickly as his mind. He ended up in a nursing home, which was a relief in some ways, knowing he was safe and surrounded by those best suited to care for him. And it was awful. My brother and I would drive down and visit once a month, about 8 hours in the car round trip. I’d get so sick to my stomach seeing him that way, I’d barely eat the whole weekend. He had gotten so bad, he didn’t even recognize us the last time we visited. So it was almost a mercy when he passed, but still my heart feels shattered.

The way I deal with this kind of grief is to squirrel away- to be alone with the things and people I’m close to. I do not like to put my sorrow on display. I do not know how to deal with both my feelings and strangers at the same time- I’m too introverted and too awkward to do both. So planning this memorial, as simple and casual as we’re making it, has still been trying. I don’t know my dad’s partner or her family all that well- I lived mostly with my mom as a kid, so we never got super close. That makes planning the event an emotional tightrope of trying to take care of as much as I can and constantly feeling like I’m overstepping my bounds. Plus I haven’t been to many funerals (only one as an adult) and though this isn’t really a funeral, per se, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I worry that I won’t be prepared, that I won’t know what to do or say when I get there. I realize, as many have reminded me, that there isn’t much for me to do beyond receive those that want to come say hello and be myself, but still I feel lacking. So though I know logically that the event will go fine, I can’t wait for it to be over, for the relief of knowing I can move on and deal with my grief privately. I know it’s not the right way, bottling stuff up like this, but it’s my way and I can’t imagine I’ll be changing anytime soon.

And we’re almost there. I read something this week that, oddly, gave me such peace of mind: Life’s too short to give a shit. Don’t laugh- I know it’s crass but it honestly made me stop and take stock of what I was worrying about. It sounds like something my dad would say. My dad is gone; he’s at rest. All this other bologna doesn’t really matter. I know I’m doing the best I can, and that’s all that counts. Whatever happens, happens, and I need to disengage and keep on moving. It’ll be all right.

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Thanks for the insight, Geoff. I needed it this week.

Reignited

Reignited

I’m excited to feel excited again! This past year it seemed like all my interests went to sleep- I was still into writing and reading but it felt somewhat subdued and many of my other hobbies had fallen by the wayside. I lost almost all interest in cosplay and conventions and was struggling to feel social. I don’t know if it’s the warm weather returning or if I just needed time to rest and regain my energy but I’m suddenly reinvested.

I felt the cosplay bug nibbling me again and I’m thinking about what I want my first new build to be. I’m leaning toward Sesshomaru from Inu yasha- it’s one I’ve always wanted to do. I want to look into picking up a cheap entry-level sewing machine and trying my hand working with EVA foam or worbla.  I definitely want to hit a con or two this summer, I’m just not sure which ones. I was kind of getting burnt out on Acen. Maybe I’ll check out Anime Midwest for a day? I love the Rosemont venue either way.  I definitely don’t want to do C2E2 again. I’m used to cons being crowded but last year was ridiculous. It was so busy I could barely move and it sucked out all the fun. They either need to restrict badge sales or better yet, open the other side of McCormick and expand the con space. I’ll for sure do Daisho again- it’s my favorite con, but it’s not till November. Beyond that, I’ll have to ask around, see if there’s any others that people recommend.

I was really hoping to get back down to RTX in Austin this August but I think I’ll have to put it off for another year. Comparatively speaking, it’s a really expensive trip and I think I want more time to build myself back up financially- plus the dates this year conflicted with work so it made more sense to wait.

Other summer goals include: go to Bristol Ren Faire a few times, maybe check out the Janesville Faire, ride the bike some more and get better at it, plan a cheaper trip to visit a city I’ve never been to, get down to Chicago a couple times or up to Milwaukee, practice with the camera and try to improve, and just be more active.

I’ve also joined a book club (which I love and gets me reading things outside my normal tastes) bought a PS4 for gaming, and I got back into D&D! So I think I have the whole spectrum of indoor and outdoor, social and solitary hobbies covered. I’m feeling really positive and I want this year to be all about learning and growing, getting better at the things I love and making the most of my time. Here’s to hoping it goes that way!

Fear & Self-Loathing in Las Veg- Er, the Midwest

Fear & Self-Loathing in Las Veg- Er, the Midwest

Week one of keeping a progress journal and, of course, I’m a little late with my entry. But here it is, it exists! PROGRESS.

It’s almost amazing how, the more I want to write, the more difficult it seems to be to find the time, energy, and motivation to actually do it. Yes, they appear to be directly proportional. (I’ve found it’s an often bemoaned reality in the writing community, so at least I’m not alone on this)
So it goes, I get myself all hyped up to work on my book. I’ll set aside time, make a schedule, set some goals and then, when it finally comes time to put pen to paper, I find an excuse to do something else. Anything else. It’s madness.

And yet, I find myself doing the same thing when it comes to practicing on my motorcycle. I’ll tell myself tonight, after work, I’m going on a nice long ride- really push the boundaries on my comfort zone. But then there’s laundry, and dishes, and boy golly the shower could use a scrub, and gosh, look at the time! No motorcycles tonight!

And I know why I’m doing it- I’m still a bit afraid of the bike. I still don’t have a lot of trust in my fledgling abilities- even though I know the only cure for that is, duh, MORE PRACTICE. But fear is a powerful distraction. And so, it’s easy to extrapolate, to assume fear plays a large part in my procrastination with my writing. But it’s more subtle, less sensible. My fear of practicing on the bike makes perfect sense- it’s bloody dangerous! But writing? What exactly am I afraid of? Fear of failure, of confirming my own mediocrity? Something like that.

But the solution is just as straightforward. Get your butt on the bike and ride, dammit! Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately as a compromise for when I can’t bring myself to write, and I’m finding it really helps. The more I read, the more I really, REALLY want to write, and it starts to tip the scales, my excitement beginning to outweigh the fear. My productivity is on the rise!

Now, if only I could find a similar strategy for the bike…

I’mmm baaaaaack! 

I’mmm baaaaaack! 

Ooooh boy- If this was a physical journal, the dust on it would be three inches thick. To be honest, I kind of forgot this thing existed. But I’m trying to get myself reorganized and I want to get back into blogging, if not only to strengthen my writing habits. And I haven’t stopped writing. Progress on my rough draft has been crawling along. It hasn’t come quickly, but at least it hasn’t stalled. 

 I think I’ll try to start penning little weekly updates, just to keep myself accountable as I try to finish my editing. Writing for a blog that no one really reads feels a little like screaming into the void, but even that has its purpose, I think. I’d like to kick my editing into overdrive and get the lion’s share finished before November. That’ll free me up to participate in NaNoWriMo again.

 That’s the plan anyway. I just need to become a little more disciplined.

5 Ways To Make Writing Easier

5 Ways To Make Writing Easier

Some days the writing comes easy- I can’t help but write. I scribble ideas and excerpts in the margins at work, on napkins at coffee shops, on scraps in the parking lot. Other days it’s a real battle. (Let’s be honest, most days are like that) I avoid writing till it’s too late and I’m tired; or I sit down and stare at a blank page, frustrated. In those instances, it’s important to set myself up for success by blocking out the things that might break my focus, and using any means to make writing fun and easy, er, easier.

So if this scenario sounds a bit too familiar, here are my own personal five easy steps to a better writing session. Maybe they’ll help!

1)      Add Some Allure-

pens
I’m addicted to these things.

This is going to seem overly obvious, but when I buy things to make writing more fun, I am more likely to write! (crazy, right?!)  I think I used to avoid or feel guilty about buying the fancy notebook or the nifty pen because I knew it wasn’t necessary- it certainly wasn’t going to improve my writing.  But when you’re going to sink a lot of time and energy into something, you should splurge! Get that leather-bound number with the fancy clasp or the gold-leaf paper and don’t be afraid to fill it with your messy, haphazard first drafts. Get that twenty dollar pen with the luscious purple ink! I even went so far as to drop eighty dollars on a spiffy little Bluetooth keyboard that attaches to my hand-me-down iPad. Now I can edit on the couch without heaving the laptop out of my office, and guess what? I edit more! Take your writing seriously- if you have the money to buy yourself a neat toy, do it! I know I don’t need any of it, but I also know it definitely helps. Make it fun!

2)      Do NOT Edit-

I know I’ve touched on this before, but I can’t stress it enough. When trying to write a first draft, it is imperative that you do not go back and self-edit. I know it’s tempting; it was an incredibly hard habit to break. I, like most writers I’ve met, am a perfectionist. I write something and immediately want to start dissembling it, searching for the perfect word, the ideal phrasing. It absolutely destroys any momentum I’d worked up and progress skids to a halt. I’ve learned that I have to suck it up and push through. Never reread, never look back, no changes or corrections, no matter how small. I have to get that rough draft down and on paper with all its imperfections before I can allow myself to dig in and start pruning and polishing. Editing has to be it’s own separate step or I’ll never finish.

3)      Positive Reinforcement-

Since writing doesn’t pay the bills, my writing sessions naturally occupy the same space as my free time. That means writing is directly competing with my more frivolous, effortless hobbies. (video games, reading, youtube, pointlessly wandering the  internet, etc) This means the only way to ensure writing actually takes place is to do it first. I don’t allow myself to do anything unproductive until I’ve gotten something on paper. And the times I haven’t done this are proof of its effectiveness- If I let myself play before I work, I’m far more likely to see a big fat zero on my daily word count. So I let all my other hobbies become rewards for writing. I draw a lot of my inspiration from what I’m reading and what I’m playing, so these hobbies are actually an important part of the creative process, so long as they don’t encumber that process. Write first, play later.

4)      One Small Step At A Time-

After work, the commute, feed the pets, dinner, clean-up, and whatever else life throws at me, there’s often not a ton of time left in the day. Sometimes I only have ten minutes of writing in me before I feel burnt out and desperately need to enter the wind-down stage of my evening. And I’ve learned to accept that there’s nothing wrong with that. I set a monthly word goal that breaks down into small, bite-sized daily sessions; but some days I can’t even muster up enough creative energy to make those meager goals. So long as something, anything, hits the page each day, I’m happy. And I still sometimes miss days entirely.  Which is less happy. But each and every day is a new start and a new chance, and I can’t carry those failures with me- they’ll only weigh me down. I have to keep moving forward, one little step at time. Which means tiny writing sessions nestled in the nooks and crannies of my daily life.

5)      Stay Focused-

IMG_7264Even when I’ve successfully willed myself to sit down at my desk or hide away with a notebook, distraction still threatens to disrupt my work. Music is a must so I always have a pair of headphones handy. (I talk about my theory for selecting writing music here.) Then there’s the ever-present lure of the internet. When I’m on my laptop, I turn off my wifi. Since I use my phone to listen to music, it’s always near me while I write, tempting me.  To solve that issue, I use the app Forest. I highly recommend it- not only does it lock me out of my apps while not disrupting my music, but it also serves as a handy little timer for my session. (Plus I get to grow a cute little forest of productivity, so bonus)

 

And that’s how I do it! I hope some of this stuff helps. Happy writing and good luck!

Finding Time to Write (And Failing)

Finding Time to Write (And Failing)

Well, February has come and gone and I’ve fallen miserably short of my lofty 20,000 word goal, rounding out the month with a measly 8k. It probably goes without saying but I’m incredibly disappointed with myself.

I know dwelling and stressing won’t help, and with the start of a new month, I have another chance to live up to my own expectations. And I know I’m capable! The problem is frustratingly simple: I don’t write every day. If I did, I would hit my goal with ease.

For example, I’m aiming to hit 15k by the end of March which, when broken down into little bite-sized chunks, means I’m only writing around 500 words a day. Super manageable. Very doable. Until I start missing days. Then those bite-sized chunks turn into choking hazards. I reach the end of a long work day and I don’t feel like writing; I promise myself I’ll do double tomorrow to make up for it. Then tomorrow’s work day is longer and I’m daunted by the larger word count so I avoid it another day. And that’s how I end up with a freakin’ 8k total when it should be 20!

Exasperated, I vented about this toxic cycle to a non-writer friend and they seemed confused. “I thought you loved writing? Why are you always avoiding it?” It’s hard to explain, because it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I do love writing! I’m also terrified of it. There’s nothing scarier than an empty page. I just want what’s in my head to magically appear on the lines before me and I know that’s not how it works. I’m going to write a mountain of crap that will have to be pared, plucked, and polished before it comes even close to resembling what I set out to create. And that’s how it’s supposed to work! But when you’re a perfectionist with a crippling fear of failure (and in my experience, most writers are) some days it feels easier to just flip on the TV, surf the web, or even stare at the wall than face that fear and get that crappy first draft on paper.

The solution? Self-discipline. And let me tell you, I don’t have much. With only personal deadlines to meet and only myself to disappoint, it’s far too easy to blow off a writing session in favor of something more relaxing.

That’s where accountability comes in. I need to rely on my friends and family to get on my case and start checking up on me. If they see me with 3DS in hand, nose in a comic, or hiding behind a laptop (one that’s emitting decidedly non-writing noises) they need to ask me, “Hey! Did you write today?” And the answer better be yes! And, when they’re not watching, I need to start asking myself that question. And answering it, honestly. Otherwise, I’m only bound for more failure.