“I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain…”

All I can say is, never say never… 🙁

I can say, though that May does look a bit better than April, which looks a damn sight better than March.

The life drama of the past few months is sort of heading toward better.  Some potential (good) dayjob drama is coming down the pike.  But life has eased up a bit, leaving me room to put some effort into my writing again.  Fiction, that is!

I’ve put the Serling project temporarily on hold for the rest of the week (although, I’ve already “failed” at this on a couple of occasions) and am working on a couple of short-stories, both for upcoming anthologies.  I almost forgot how good it felt!  After those first drafts done (I have a good 2-3 months for them), I’m hoping to use some of that momentum to finally get more done on my novella project. 

Yup, I think I feel like a writer again for the first time in a long time.

“Traffic was slow for the crash years/ There’s no other show like it ’round here”

I promised weekly writing progress reports, and I’ve fallen through.  On several levels.  So, here it is.  No excuses, no explanations, other than to say that my personal life has taken quite a few hits and it hasn’t stopped.

Prepare to be underwhelmed…

Pathetic, isn’t it?

I’m turning comments off for this entry.  I’m sure any number of friends will read this, cheer me on, and tell me not to be too hard on myself.  It’s so tempting to let them.  But the only person that’s going to get me writing again, despite everything else going on in my life, is going to have to be me.

With the help of my inner drill sergeant…

“I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain…”

I could also call this entry, like the last one, “a dollar short and a day late.”   More like, two weeks late.

So, there’s two weeks’ worth of progress.  There were good and not-so-good reasons I missed writing time for the past two sets of Wednesdays and Fridays in a row.  This week, I’m batting 0 for 3 so far.  Oh, I’ve made tiny bits of progress, but not enough to justify X-ing out my days.  OTOH, I did score a win by finishing the first phase of my seekrit non-fiction project. 

Oh, well.  Better to light an inch then curse the dark, right?

“That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang”

Leave it to me to lose writing days on the month with the fewest…

No, I’m not having a pity party.  I’m just saying that not only did I miss a couple of days, I even low-balled some of my goals just to make sure I had Xes to make.  Still, better to light an inch than curse the dark, eh?  I did make progress with the seekrit nonfic WIP and even started a new flash story.  Which reminds me, I should find something to do with my last flash, huh…?

“Chain, chain, chaaaaaain…”

I didn’t get much done last weekend.  It was pointed out to me that I do tend to overdo it a bit during the week, and that maybe it’s worth taking a night off during the week.  I’m starting to agree–better to lose an evening or two rather than two whole fucking weekend days!  And I gotta tell you, as evidenced by the fact that I’m not going to be able to check off yesterday and probably not tomorrow, this week isn’t looking so good, either.

Although I’m willing to cut myself a break tomorrow.  Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings are coming to town!

“I can STILL hear you saying you would NEVER break the chain”

As I said last time, I’ve had my head up a project, so this is a day late.  I think I’ve made up for being sick a couple of weeks ago.  Just gotta keep the chain going, right?  Or at least try to, what with the beginning of the semester at the dayjob.

I’ve promised that I’d actually go into what it takes for me to put an X through a day.  Well, here it is…

Everyone knows how much I love A Working Writer’s Daily Planner, so much so that I’ve resolved to buy one a year for as long as Small Beer Press continues to sell them.

But I have a confession to make. After a strong start last year, I didn’t even open up my 2010 planner after October, when life just got too damn busy.  My writing suffered.  Oh, not just I stopped using the planner.  Other things just got in the way, despite my best efforts to keep on track.

This year is going to be different.  Not because I made a New Year’s resolution, but because I’d given a lot of thought to revamping my writing workflow in general.

The one thing I probably love more than my writing planner is Getting Things Done.  I owe whatever minuscule amount of success I have to that system.  But I was sort of defeating myself.  I like to compartmentalize, you see.  There are ultimately two areas of my life: “writing” and “everything else.”  But my planning and execution of my tasks didn’t reflect that.  I kept my “writing” list of next actions together with my lists of “everything else” in a planner that I try not to consult when I’m writing. 

I love my “everything else”
planner, though.

My solution: I saw that even when I consulted my 2010 Working Writer’s Daily Planner daily (mostly to check out prompts and note upcoming deadlines), I wasted a lot of the calendar’s space. This was, after all, why I switched from medium-sized planners to something pocket-sized (i.e. a weekly pocket-sized Moleskine, around which I’ve wrapped a leather 3×5 index card case).

It finally hit me that I have all this space in my writing planner and not a lot of date- and time-specific things (‘cos I don’t log every submission deadline of every market under the sun), so why not use that planner, in large part, to keep a running next-actions list?

You know, for as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve struggled with a metric to track my progress.  Word count works, but only when you’re drafting.  What word count do you track when you’re editing?  Time?  I can waste an hour doing nothing, as a famous writer (Hemingway?) suggested, but stare at the blank wall until you start typing–which doesn’t always work for me.

Enter minimal GTD.  I define the two or three goals per week, and the two or three steps I can take every day to move any or all of my given writing projects forward–and then do them–then I can focus on, as Seinfeld suggests, not breaking the chain

Every writing session now, it sits open to the current week.  There are pages at the beginning of each month with enough space to list some projects I might want to consider for the month in question, as well as ticklers for things coming up in the next month.  And I can tell myself that “all I need to do are these two or three things.” Actually doing them, however, is a different issue.  For now though, it’s enough for me to know by my chain of Xes that I am.

“That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang”

Well, thanks to my sick days, the writing chain was broken.  As you can see from last week’s progress, I’m a couple of days behind.  I’m off to a good start this week, though.  I’ve made some major breakthroughs with my seekrit nonfiction project–in fact, that’s going to be my main focus this week, and next week as well, more than likely.  I don’t want to let the progress I’ve made with my fiction slide, but one deadline is a month before the other.

I have to say that I’m only recently getting over how ticked I am at missing two days of progress, sickness aside.  But all I can do is keep calm and carry on, right?

“I can STILL hear you saying you would NEVER break the chain”

I’m taking productivity advice from Jerry Seinfeld that came to me via Lifehacker, with a few changes.  What he does in order to write every day is to take a monthly wall calendar and mark a big red X on every day he writes. 

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

I’m doing the same thing, except I’ll be using the calendar at the front of my Working Writer’s Daily Planner from Small Beer Press (which can currently be had for $7.95).  I’ve decided to use my planner as a log, listing 3-4 tasks minimum for each day (which could be anything: a minimum word count, so many pages of MS edits, a particular research goal, submitting a story, whatever) and then marking off the day Seinfeld-style if and when I complete them.. 

And I think I’m going to keep posting this, every Monday, for the rest of the year.  Here’s how I did last week.  Tune in next Monday, and we’ll see if I did any better.

“You’ve changed the desktop theme, haven’t you?”

I’m proud of myself! I only have one “before” picture. The rest is (semi-) finshed product.

Still lots to rearrange, sort, and maybe dump. I’ve got my eye out for a new desk. Something without a hutch and with lots of space on top. But I consider this major headway on something that’s been bugging me for the better part of this year. I was finally inspired to do something after months at leering at the productivity pr0n that is the Lifehacker Workspace Show and Tell Flickr group.

Chapter XXXVI

Kinda like last year, I got some of the best presents a writer can get.

My favorite, I have to say, was the one I got for myself–the newest productivity tool. It’s not tech. I finally got the Moleskine Planner cover I wanted from Renaissance Art, which is the most stylish hPDA case you could ever ask for!

Other presents included…

1
Two vintage Doctor Who novelisations: Earthshock by Ian Marter, published by Target and Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks by Terrance Dicks, published by Pinnacle. The Pinnacle books were the ones with the cool introduction by Harlan Ellison.

2
Birthday love from family and friends via phone, email, snail-mail, messages in bottles, etc.

3
And as another present to myself, the opportunity to help the cause of highlighting the work of writers of color. Like me 🙂

Not a bad start, I daresay.