Tag Archives: work

The Things That Are Happening

Let’s start with a question I feel is important:

Where did July go?

Was it not just Canada Day a week ago, give or take? I mean yes, a lot has happened, but I’m honestly confused about how it can be almost August already.

Let’s think this through.

I guess there were a few weeks spent on minor revisions and edits to Sworn, getting that ready to go to my editor. That was all done at the dining room table (because my office was packed) while various neighbourhood children ran through the house hollering and distracting and FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING WOULD YOU ALL JUST GO OUTSIDE. And at the same time as I was doing that, I was also cleaning the house so we wouldn’t be too embarrassed when people came to move our furniture. There were phone calls and notes and a trip to Corner Brook to sign the papers to buy our first house. The moving stuff didn’t leave a lot of time for work, but I fit it in.

There was also something about cover art… I dunno.

I guess that explains a bit of me not noticing time passing.

Then there was last week, when we actually moved. Packing on Monday, loading the truck on Tuesday (and hours spent cleaning AGAIN), unloading in a new town on Wednesday, unpacking… well, every day since then.

It’s coming along. The kitchen was a disaster, but I fixed it. Here’s a tip for anyone lucky enough to have someone paying for your move: Don’t let the movers unpack everything in the kitchen. When they run out of counter space they have no choice but to shove things into random cupboards, and this triples the work for you.

At least.

The bedrooms are livable. The man cave is all geeked out and ready for my husband to retreat to. The living room and dining room are lacking in decoration, but they’re not completely embarrassing. The family room is… well, the TV is set up, and that’s the important thing for now.

The only room we haven’t touched is my office, because I’ve been working on everything else.

But this week. THIS WEEK, guys. We’re going to build my desk and a new bookshelf, I’m going to hang my beloved NaNoWriMo posters, I’m going to get organized, get comfortable, and get back to work.

Wait.

*checks calendar*

Actually, I’m not. I just finished formatting and spell-checking, and Sworn goes to Joshua on Friday. This gives me two weeks, give or take, without that project to work on. Normally I’d dive back into my next project, but the kids are home, the house needs attention, and there are neighbours to meet, dogs to walk, and a birthday party to plan.

Know what that means?

READING TIME! Sure, I’ll be working on brainstorming ideas for the next big project, and I’ll be getting ideas about things I really should have done with Sworn before it went for edits. There will be notes. Oh, so many notes. But for the first time since before Bound came out, I’m kind of going to be taking a vacation.

Sort of.

And like… reading and stuff.

My TBR list for the first half of August: A Court of Thorns and Roses, The Queen of the Tearling, Anna and the French Kiss, and For Love or Money (non-fiction book on advancing an indie writing career, because I can’t leave work behind completely).

You know. After I get this mess sorted out.

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Chill, Monkey Brain

 

Distraction.

We’ve talked about it here before, specifically in terms of me craving it. I can’t help it, you know? My brain doesn’t like to focus. Even when I’m working on something I’m excited about, it’s irresistably tempting to click over to Facebook every five minutes (no exaggeration), or to answer the ping of the e-mail notification just in case it’s a message that will grant me a hit of some feel-good brain chemical, or perhaps give me a novel (ha) distraction.

It’s not just a will-power issue, either. People joke about internet and social media addiction, but it’s not far off. I get anxious and irritable when I’m disconnected, even though I know on a rational level that I’m missing absolutely nothing of consequence.

Seriously, the pictures of my mom’s kitten can wait. He’s adorable… but will still be adorable after I finish working.

But even though giving in to temptation isn’t rewarding 99% of the time, I keep doing it, like it’s a compulsion. An addiction. I scroll through Facebook posts I’ve seen three times already, waiting to see whether something new will pop up. I read Cracked articles that are interesting or amusing, but make absolutely no difference to me in any practical way. My life is not better for looking.

It’s all distraction.

Well, I’m done complaining about it.

This morning I picked up a book called The Distraction Addiction [insert REALLY long subtitle here], by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. $14.99, more than I’ve ever spent on an e-book before, but as of 50% through the book, I think it was money well-spent.

It talks about a lot of things, in a semi-Gladwellian tone: Multitasking (good) vs. stitch-tasking (not at all good), the ways technology shapes culture, mindfulness, meditation, using technology instead of being used by it…

…and Monkey Brain.

From the introduction, emphasis mine:

The monkey mind’s constant activity reflects a deep restlessness: monkeys can’t sit still because their minds never stop. Likewise, most of the time, the human mind delivers up a constant stream of consciousness. Even in quiet moments, minds are prone to wandering. Add a constant buzz of electronics, the flash of a new message landing in your in-box, the ping of voicemail, and your mind is as manic as a monkey after a triple espresso. The monkey mind is attracted to today’s infinite and ever-changing buffet of information choices and devices. It thrives on overload, is drawn to shiny and blinky things, and doesn’t distinguish between good and bad technologies or choices.

 

Sound like anyone you know? Not a flattering comparison, but an unfortunately accurate one for me.

So as I read, I’m making some decisions. I want to chill my monkey brain. I want to use social media as a tool, not let it capture more of my attention than is healthy.

I want to change the way my mind works, not just fight distraction.

I want to use e-mail as a way to communicate with people who are important to me, not as a means to be fed more distractions.

I want Facebook to allow me to catch up with everyone… maybe twice a day, not every five minutes or when I’m in line at the grocery store.

I want to focus on my work for hours at a time, not in ten-minute bursts.

It’s not going to be easy, but here’s the plan as I see it so far:

  • Remove Facebook app from my phone. I can still access it via the internet, but it’ll be a little more difficult, and I’ll have time to think about why I’m looking. (Also, I can access my pages here and messages without a separate app. HA.)
  • Turn off the WiFi when I’m working.
  • I’m going to *deep breaths* not check e-mails until lunch time, giving me a chance to work without being side-tracked before I even get started. And no Facebook before getting out of bed.
  • Turn off e-mail and WordPress notifications on my phone. I’ll respond to them, but on my time, not my phone’s.
  • Get up early every day and try meditation. I expect I’ll be horrible at it, but it sounds like even a little practice at it really helps calm the need for distraction and helps with focus on practical and creative tasks. Ding ding! Just what I need, and this might be the key to the whole problem. And wasn’t mindfulness one of my goals for this round of ROW80? Hmm.
  • Stop carrying the phone around the house with me.
  • Stop notifications on Facebook groups that are just distracting me or (occasionally) stressing me out.
  • Put the phone/computer away when I’m with my family… and take a full break from the internet on Sundays.

 

  • And… okay, this might take a while. I’m going to break my habit of checking for reviews on Amazon, and I’m going to not check sales numbers every day. I’m turning my focus back on the work, on bringing my visions to life and putting my stories out in the best way I can, and I’m going to try to let go of the world’s reactions to it.

Whew. That’s going to be rough.

That’s not to say I don’t care whether readers are happy. I do, and I love it when readers are happy. It’s kind of why I publish, and why I do silly things like having an editor. But I don’t think basing my mood or my self-esteem on how people feel about my work (a thing that is not me) is healthy. Sure, good reviews make me feel good, but I can’t accept that boost without also allowing bad ones to make me feel crappy. I’d rather have good feelings come from flow, from focusing on something challenging and overcoming those challenges, from creating something worthwhile and beautiful, and then letting it go.

And also, it’s just another distraction from my actual work and life.

Know what this means for you guys? Nothing, unless you care to join me.

Okay, that’s a lie. It might mean a few, hopefully interesting posts here on how things are going with this. It might mean less angst from me over not being able to focus for crap (YAY!).

It will mean that when you e-mail me with a question, or comment on a post here, or say something wicked on my Facebook page (I do love when you do those things), that it might be a few hours before I respond.

And I hope (God willing) that it will make me a happier, less-distracted, more productive person. I hope it will mean better blog posts and better stories for you all. I hope it will mean a nicer, more focused mom for my kids, and my husband getting a wife whose mind is actually in the same room as him.

Because I’m going to be the boss of my technological extensions*, not the other way around.

Big dreams.

Let the experiment begin.

 

—-

*You’ll have to read the book for more on that.


Writing Process Blog Hop: Evolution

I was tagged by the lovely, talented, blogtastic Melissa Janda (hello!) to participate in the writing process blog hop, where we write a post about our own process, then tag three other writers to participate. I admit, I have declined this one in the past because I worried I wouldn’t find anyone to tag who hadn’t done it yet. Thanks to a group I’m in on Facebook, I’ve met some more authors, and here we are.

YAY!

Interesting note: I picked my topic before I read Melissa’s. I pretty well could have copied and pasted hers for mine… but I won’t. 🙂

 

 MY WRITING PROCESS

I wonder whether I’ll ever get to a place where my process is stable, just a regular thing that happens. So far, it’s been all over the place.

There was the ideas-and-that’s-all phase, when I knew I had just the BEST ideas for books that would totally be best-sellers if only I could find the time to write them. I could daydream with the best of them, playing stories through my mind like movies. I thought I had writing talent (people had said so, hadn’t they?), but with depression and a job and a sleep disorder and… well, I never did it.

That was not a good phase. Sure, the imagination exercise was important, but I wish someone had told me that ideas are a dime a dozen, as common as cliches. It’s what you do with them that matters. And “talent” means absolutely nothing without hard work. I’d say the work is more important. Talent is highly overrated, and none of us are as talented as we think we are.

I kind of want to slap past me sometimes.

Then came the trying-to-get-it-right phase, in which I tried to write stories, but my perfectionism pulled up a chair beside me for every session and whispered horrible things to me. You can read more about that here. Essentially what was happening is that she (don’t ask why my perfectionism is a she) had me convinced that I had to get it right on the first try, or I wasn’t a good writer. There was no room for revision. The thought of someone critiquing my work horrified me. No, it had to be perfect before I showed it to anyone.

Maybe it’s obvious to you what happened, but I’ll say it anyway. I wrote first chapters. I wrote a few short stories. And I gave up when they weren’t perfect. I re-wrote those first chapters until I got sick of the stories or lost hope of ever finishing them. I tossed short stories in a drawer, never to be seen again.

Learning experiences, right?

Then came the children, and more (and worse) depression, and exhaustion like I’d never known before, and the writing stopped. I didn’t write anything for about three years save for fat journals that I’m a little scared to read over now.

Next stage: Salvation.

That might be putting it just a little dramatically, but that’s what it felt like at the time, and still does. I learned that the only way I can finish a book is to just write the damned thing without editing as I go, without second-guessing myself. Momentum is the key, and thanks to NaNoWriMo, I finished writing a novel draft in… seven months.

Okay, it’s not exactly the “novel in a month” that we’re supposed to be aiming for, but I had found a method that worked. I mean, the first draft was shit, but it was something I could work with. I learned that you can’t revise what you haven’t written, and until the story is laid out on paper, I can’t see its flaws.

In the 3.5 years since that first NaNoWriMo, my writing process has evolved in great, confusing leaps. I plan more now, but still need three drafts before I’m comfortable sending a larger, more complex work to readers. Two for a novella, so far. Then more revisions. Then edits.

No, I’m not of the “just throw it out there and see if it sticks, and do better with the next book” school of thought. Only my best work makes it out there, and that’s something that’s not likely to change. So though I’ve learned to tell Perfectionism to shut up during early drafts, she still has work to do around the office.

THE BIG BUMP

A few weeks ago, my process got jostled just a little with the launch of Bound.

I told myself that releasing a book was not a big deal. Well, it was to me, and to my friends and family, and you lovely people who have been waiting for it. But I thought we’d party and go home, and things would be quiet, and I’d get right back to work on the second book. I didn’t have big plans for promotions, didn’t want to pimp this book until I had more to offer.

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Yeah, I got thrown off.

Things went a little better than I’d expected, and I found myself compulsively checking sales and Amazon rankings. I hid under the bed in fear instead of retreating to my editing cave like I should have.

BUT. I do have a deadline now, and I need to get back to work. For anyone interested, here’s what the process for my current WIP looks like:

  • Draft one: November and December 2012 (80K words, just getting the story out)
  • Draft two: November 2013 (find flaws, improve the story)
  • Draft three: July and August 2014 (approximately 105K words. Kick the story up SO MANY NOTCHES*. Rewrite/revise each character’s POV scenes separately to maintain flow and voice. Aren’s up next… Eek!)
  • To readers September 2014
  • Revisions October/November 2014
  • To Editor end of November
  • Edits: January
  • Proofing: Early February

After that, it’s publishing mechanics (formatting, cover art, etc). This is an ideal timeline, of course, and I’m sure something will come up to thwart my best-laid plans. But that’s what the process looks like for me right now.

So there you go. That was… lengthy. But maybe you found something that will inspire or encourage you.

LINKAGE

So now I have the pleasure of introducing you to the three writers I’m tagging for this blog hop. I met these fine humans through the Indie Author Group on Facebook (which is a fabulous resource, and blessedly promo-free). Stop by their blogs, say hello, make a new friend! They’ll be posting their writing process stuff on the 21st, but they all have blogs that are up and running right now.

Sabrina Giles is a Paranormal Romance author (expanding into other genres with her works in progress) who blogs at sabrinagiles.wordpress.com. Her novel Ensuing Darkness is available now at Amazon and Smashwords.

Mariella Hunt blogs at Baiting the Muse Trap (mariellahunt.com). She will be publishing her YA Urban Fantasy novel Dissonance and a collection of short stories this year.

Sabrina McClure is a new, indie author who writes paranormal & mystery novels. She blogs at authorsabrinamcclure.wordpress.com. Her debut novel Hades Sent is available now.

 

 

*This is why I don’t release early drafts. Even if they’re “good enough,” I know that they could by so much better.


Fun with Skedjools

Or shed-yools, if you’re feeling fancy. I’m not, particularly.

The kids are out of school for the summer! Hooray! I’m not going to get anything done! Hoor– wait a minute. Ack.

New challenge, then. I have a book to revise this summer. I’d like to have it out to beta readers by the beginning of September, which means I have a LOT of work to do in terms of re-writes and self-editing. I’m looking forward to the work. This story is rather exciting, and I hope that will help me focus.

But that’s hard with “Mom? Mom? Hey, Mom? Look at this! Mom? No, look again. MAAAAAA!!!” happening all day long. I need a plan. I need…

A SCHEDULE!

*groans*

I don’t do well with schedules. I’m easily distracted, and I procrastinate. Following a schedule feels like some kind of temporal/experiential oppression, and generally, I won’t stand for it. But if I want to have this thing out on time, I might need to make that sacrifice.

Hey. I got Bound out in spite of a flooded basement, an evacuation, and the destruction of my office. I can deal with a few kids for this one.

So why am I talking about it here? Because I need to be accountable to someone. Specifically, to you. I’m going to report back on this once a week or so. This could be inspiring, or just really entertaining for everyone but me.

Here’s a look at the schedule as I doodled it up a few nights ago:

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I can’t resist the siren call of glitter crayons. :/

Yep, that involves getting up early and working. I have no idea how this will work out. My brain already wakes me up between 6 and 6:30, but I usually doze a bit, day dream, plot noodle, and generally laze about until I have to get up. This plan involves, like… getting out of bed. And using my brain before 7:00.

Ick.

But my body clock also makes me crash by 10:30 most nights, anyway, so staying up late isn’t really a better option. Besides that, I have my biggest kid husband around a lot of nights, and I like to hang out with him when I can. He’s pretty cool. So this is what we’ve got.

In theory, this gives me 2-4 hours of working time a day (writing and social media), while still giving me time with the kids and time for housework and like… food and stuff. And adventures in the real world. That’s important.

—–

Schedule:

6:00 – wake up. Caffeinate.

6:20 – *write*

8:30 (approx) – kids up. Breakfast. Housework. Family stuff. Errands.

12:00 – lunch

1:00 – write (or social media promo stuff if the kids are around and not easily distracted)

3:00 – do stuff with kids

5:00 – supper prep, supper

7:00 – clean up kitchen, tidy, read with boys or on own

9:00 – kids to bed. Hang out with AJ or work if he’s not home

9:45 – prep notes for next morning’s writing

10:00 – bed

——

I’m hoping that few minutes of pre-bed prep will help me focus in the morning. Normally I have to spend an hour a few minutes finding my focus. I’ll let you know if this helps.

Added rules:

  • no e-mail before noon (so if you don’t hear from me, I’m not ignoring you!)
  • no facebook/twitter during work time (except for word sprints)
  • read at least 30 minutes per day

Obviously this is all subject to change. It is summer, which calls for spontaneous trips to the beach and the walking trail, overnight visits to the in-laws’, a wee vacation trip, and various other upsetters-of-schedules.

But I’m going to try.

Wish me luck.

Have any tips or tricks to share that help you get work done in the midst of distractions? How do you stick to a schedule without going insane? Please share!


Sunday #ROW80 Update: Writing, Reading, and… Cleaning?!

Hello! First Round of Words update since JuNoWriMo started yesterday, so I guess it’s time for those updated goals, isn’t it?

Yes, Kate. Yes it is.

ROW80Logocopy50,000 words in a month breaks down to 1667 words a day, which isn’t so bad on good days. Sadly, they’re not all good days, so I set my goal at 2,000+ words a day so that there’s some wiggle room when family stuff comes up and I can’t write, depression decides to kick my ass into the corner, my personal muse decides to sit his own ass in the corner and pick the dirt from under his fingernails instead of doing his share of the work… whatever.

So here are my goals for June (which will take me past the end of this round of ROW80):

  • write 2,000 words a day on TORN
  • read one novel a week
  • continue edits on BOUND after writing is done for the day so I can get that out to my dear darling special reader friends and start looking for an editor (eep!)

We’ve had some not great news concerning my husband’s job. He’s not losing it, and I’m probably not supposed to share details, but it looks like he’s going to be having a very stressful summer. Not pleased. So in addition to my writing goals, I’m making a set of goals focusing on making his home life easier and less stressful, since there’s bugger all I can do about his work life. He’s been my biggest supporter (and to be honest, my hero) through a lot of my tough times. Now it’s my turn to be at my best for him. It might affect my writing, but there’s not much I can do about that.

  • full menu plan for each week with healthy meals (eating out/getting pizza still allowed, but should be planned)
  • 10-minute tidy (or 15 on bad days) with the kids every day before AJ comes home (clutter REALLY stresses him out) and before bed
  • get the basement in shape so the kids want to play down there more and keep the upstairs tidier
  • save extra money so when he does get days off we can get out of town and he can relax (I hope), and also to buy an elliptical for days when he can’t get out to exercise (and days when I can’t get out with Jack)

That’s all I’ve got for that so far. I know from experience that if I set my goals too high I’ll fail and give up, so I’ll leave it at that for now. If you have any suggestions, though, I’m open to them, and prayers and happy thoughts over the summer would be much appreciated.  And no, he’s not a drinker, so I can’t greet him at the door with something alcoholic in hand when he gets home (and he’s going to be on-call anyway, so no drinking even if he did. Which he doesn’t. I, on the other hand, might take up drinking as a hobby. YAY!)

So what have I achieved since my last update?

  • Not much on Thursday or Friday, but yesterday was a good day. I woke up with a migraine (bloody weather), but I took a frightening amount of painkillers and cranked out 3800 words over the course of the day. Were they good words? Darned if I know. I think they were.
  • Started reading Fallen. It starts out with one of my least favourite set-ups (people who are DESTINED to fall in love and they JUST CAN’T HELP IT!), but I like the writing, and I’m going to keep going to see what happens.  It might lose me if an IMPOSSIBLY GORGEOUS AND PERFECT BOY shows up, but I’m giving it a good chance. 🙂
  • Still struggling with reading fiction on the Kobo. I’m about 12 chapters in on First of Her Kind by K.L. Schwengel. I like the story, but the format makes me put it down a lot, and that makes me sad. Would be better if I was travelling. Great for reading in the bathtub, though (except that my husband thinks I’m nuts for having the Kobo near water)
  • Holy crap, how is the living room a mess again? Nobody is doing anything! Ugh, guess I should go round up the troops to take care of that…

I hope you’re all having a fantastic weekend wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. Take care, and I’ll see you later (I’ve scheduled posts for Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Will there be Engrish? Stay tuned to find out…)


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